By Sam Nadler
The story is told of U.S. President Ronald Reagan showing Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin his phone service in Washington:
Reagan began: “This red one is the hotline to Moscow, the black one is for nuclear war…” He then paused and said with a flourish: “…but this gold phone is a direct line to the Pope himself!”
Later in Jerusalem, Begin had a chance to show Reagan his own communication devices: “This red phone is a hotline to Egypt, the blue phone is to call out the troops…”
Begin stepped back, then pointing to an ordinary looking black phone, he said, “and this one’s for spiritual matters.”
“Oh, really,” said Reagan, “and to whom does that phone reach?”
“Well,” Begin smiled, “it goes through directly to God Almighty!”
“How do you have a phone that can get to God?” an amazed Reagan inquired.
“No big deal, really”, Begin chuckled. “for you it would be long distance, but from here in Jerusalem it’s a local call!”
This little story reflects what many people believe: followers of Yeshua (Jesus) need Yeshua as a mediator to get to God, but Jews have no need of a mediator and can go directly to God themselves. Though many of my people may think this assumption is true, the Jewish Scriptures teach otherwise.
Past Mediation for Israel
It may be a shock to our spiritual sensibilities, but at least from the days of Moses onward there has always been a mediator for an Israelite to be able to properly approach God to hear His truth as well as to find forgiveness from Him. Moses himself acted as a mediator:
“At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the Word of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 5:5).
In fact, Israel did not want to go directly to God, but implored Moses:
“Go near and listen to all the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.” (Deuteronomy 5:27)
Though today God is considered by some to be so insignificant that anyone can “barge” into His presence, the Scriptures make it an awesome and dangerous consideration for a sinner to stand before the Living God. (See Psalm 24) Unlike us, God is holy. A sinful person cannot stand in His holy presence without an appointed mediator.
Thus, Moses was the recognized mediator of revelation from God to Israel. The Levitical priesthood (the cohenim) was also ordained by God to be the official mediators for Israel’s relationship with God, first through the Tabernacle, and then through the Temple in Jerusalem:
“Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary must be put to death.” (Numbers 3:10)
Only the priests could sprinkle the offering before the altar, enter the holy place, burn incense, or perform any of the other religious ceremonies that were necessary to worship God and find acceptance in His presence (Leviticus 1:5; etc.). It was not merely ineffective for someone other than the priest to enter the presence of God, but was in fact condemned- even for a king! (2 Chronicles 26:16-23)
When an Israelite was back home on the farm and away from the Temple, it was only the continual daily morning and evening offerings that the priesthood presented “as a regular burnt offering” that gave any basis for Israel to have an ongoing spiritual life with God (Numbers 28:1-8). The mediation of the priesthood was necessary for Israel’s spiritual existence.
Promised Mediation for Israel
Through the ancient prophets, the Hebrew Scriptures pointed to a future mediator for Israel. Here, we will cover three ways this was predicted. First, God would not provide revelation directly to each Israelite, but rather to them all through a prophet like Moses:
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your countrymen” (Deuteronomy 18:15, c.1400 BCE).
This way the people would not have to “hear the voice of the Lord” themselves and “surely die” (Deuteronomy 18:16). God would not provide revelation directly to each Israelite, but through the prophets, and ultimately, as this text was seen to point to, through Messiah, who would be “a light for the Gentiles” and “a covenant for the people [Israel]” (Isaiah 49:5-8).
Second, God has promised an eternal priesthood, which originates with Messiah, and which is foreshadowed by the Levitical priesthood:
“The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind: ‘You [Messiah] are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek’ ” (Psalm 110:4, c. 1000 BCE).
God would not leave His people without priestly mediation, for His desire is that we would have a proper way to draw near to Him.
Third, God promised to provide a perfect intercession for transgressors in the Messiah:
“He will divide the spoils with the strong, because He [Messiah] poured out Himself unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors; for He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12, c. 700 BCE).
Messiah would be the perfect sacrifice for sins, as He “bore the sin of many.” Therefore, as our Mediator, He would be able to provide perfect intercession for all who trust in God through Him.
Provided Mediation for Israel
With both the past and predicted mediation taught in the Hebrew Scriptures, it should come as no surprise that God has fulfilled His Word: Messiah has come! When Yeshua taught His followers, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6), He was declaring what was to be expected from the true Messiah, our Mediator. Therefore, the New Covenant, in accordance with principles of the rest of the Jewish Scriptures, states:
“ …it is declared: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek’…because Yeshua lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him, because He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:17, 24-25, See Isaiah 53:12).
The fulfillment of this need for mediation, promised by the God of Israel, and foreshadowed by Moses, David and Isaiah, has come. The Messiah of Israel is ever ready to intercede for those who will turn to Him, allowing them to “draw near to God through Him.”
For more Messianic questions, we’ve got answers for you!