3 When the centurion heard about [Yeshua], he sent some [Judahite] elders to Him, requesting Him to come and save the life of his slave.
So this Roman centurion heard about Yeshua of Nazareth and decided that he would send to Yeshua some of his friends who were elders in the nation of Judah. He probably reasoned, "Yeshua is from Judah. He'll listen to these elders." Notice again (as I mentioned in the last post), this centurion loved his slave. He wanted his life saved, physically.
The elders got to Yeshua and pretty much begged him to come and heal the slave of the centurion. Verses 4-5 tell us at least two reasons (probably one, branching out to two) that they felt the centurion was worthy for his slave to be healed.
1. He loves our nation
2. He built us a synagogue
We aren't specifically told if the centurion did any of the actual building (as in carpentry or stone work with his hands) or if he paid for the synagogue to be built. Either way (the latter is more likely) he was responsible for one of their synagogues. The elders of Judah looked up to this centurion because he thought enough of their nation (he obviously was not a Judahite) to build them a synagogue.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard something like this: "The church isn't the building, it's the people." I used to think that was a pretty good cliche. I've come to believe that it's not really that good at all. I'm not saying that the people aren't important; they are. But I'm also not going the say the building is not important; it is. At least if you believe Luke 7:5.
You can read through the New Testament, and you can find where people met in their homes for worship. Sure, that's acceptable, but please don't pit one set of verses against another set of verses. There are numerous verses that speak of the first century synagogue, a special place, a special building, dedicated for the purpose of worshiping the Father on new moons and sabbaths.
It is healthy to have a place that is set apart for worship. A place different than where you hang out the other days of the week. A place that is holy, so to speak, in the sense of set apart. There's a sense of awe about it. A good awe, not an idolatrous awe.
The Old Testament tabernacle is certainly not the New Testament synagogue, but in studying about the tabernacle, the building, we see that Yahweh was very particular about a special place, and special "pods" within that place, where He was to be approached.
I think that having a place, building a synagogue (like the centurion did for the nation of Judah) is a good thing to do. It's not something to be discarded with a cliche like, "The church is the people, NOT the building." No, the church is the people AND the building. This doesn't mean people cannot meet under an oak tree or in a living room. It just means that we recognize that if we have the ability, the route to take is to have a designated place of worship where our families can "escape the world" for a while and come before the King.
"And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood" (Isaiah 1:15 KJV).
In reading Isaiah chapter one we see the house of Judah on trial in Yahweh's "court of law." Judah was in a terrible state. The Almighty had likened them to less than oxen (vs. 3), saying they were weighed down with iniquity (vs. 4). From the sole of the foot even to the head of the body, there was nothing uninjured (vs. 6). Considering all than went on in the days of the four kings mentioned in verse one (2 Kings 15-20; 2 Chronicles 26-32) we can see that Judah could be likened to nothing more than a lukewarm individual; one who serves Yahweh when it is convenient for him as a person, rather than serving Yahweh with his whole heart and mind.
In Isaiah 1:11-14 Yahweh expresses to His people that He is tired of their worship. Tired of their worship to Him. One may wonder why the Father would be "fed up" with having worship offered to Him, but once you recognize the form of worship given to Yahweh by the Judahites, the reason is readily seen. Yahweh does not desire for His people to live unrighteously, without Him in view, while away from the temple or tabernacle, and come and expect Him to overlook their lives because of the good sacrifice they bring. He instead asks us to live completely for Him in every sphere of life. Yahweh must be at the center of a person's life in all that they do. What was taking place in Judah and Jerusalem was that the Judahites were guilty of injustice, specifically in the area of the fatherless and the widows (1:17, 23). The people of Judah could not expect Yahweh to accept their sacrifices or special days of worship if they were going to continue to disobey His authority in other area's of their life.
It was for this reason that Yahweh summed up His rebuke of Judah by saying that even their prayers He would not hear. Here we have prayers given by Yahweh's chosen people, to Yahweh Himself, yet Yahweh would not hearken unto their prayers. This reminds me of Proverbs 28:9 where Scripture states that when a person turns away his ear from hearing the law, even His prayer shall be an abomination. The word abomination is extremely strong, and it is hard for me to fathom how a prayer to Yahweh could be described as such, yet it is clearly given this appelation in the Proverb. Yahweh wants prayer coming from a people who have heart-felt repentance. A person who genuinely, from the heart, desires to please the Father in all he does. But when an individuals hands are full or covered with blood (1:15) Yahweh turns away His strong right hand; not because it is to short to save, but because of the treason committed by such a person (Isaiah 59:1-3).
The awesome alternative of verse fifteen is that Yahweh is willing to forgive. Though our sins are as red as scarlet and crimson, He will make us white like snow and wool (1:18). Yahweh will forgive, but we must humble ourselves and seek Him with our entirety. We shouldn't just worship Him at the tabernacle, i.e. our local church. We should worship Him each and every single day.
In the gospel according to John, Yeshua the Messiah explains to the Samaritan woman that the true worshipers of the Almighty worship Him in spirit and in truth. Have you ever thought about what it actually means to worship Yahweh in truth?
Most people join a particular church because it makes them feel comfortable, or because they like the personality of the members, or maybe the pastor. Some even say that certain forms or modes of "worship" work for them, therefore they are satisfied with worshiping in that certain way. However, we must recognize that our worship needs to follow the divine revelation set forth in the written word of the Creator. If we do not worship Him on His terms, we are really not worshiping Him at all.
Matthew 15 comes to mind here. In the beginning of this chapter we have the Pharisees confronting Yeshua about His disciples. They were wondering why these disciples did not wash their hands before eating. These men were not speaking of hygiene or mere cleanliness principles, but rather a traditional, ritualistic act, noted by the phrase in the chapter, the "tradition of the elders." This is what was being "transgressed" by Yeshua's disciples. Yeshua responds to them by asking, "Why do you transgress the commandment of the Almighty for the sake of keeping your tradition?" He goes on to explain to them that when a person teaches a doctrine of men as a commandment given by the Almighty, their worship is in vain. Thus, the worship the person thinks he is giving to the heavenly Father, is useless and worthless in the sight of Yahweh. This is what the phrase "vain worship" literally means.
I've seen this various times in my life at particular churches. There are standards (non-Biblical standards) that are set for the people to abide by, and if these rules are broken the people are looked down upon enormously. This is nothing more than modern day Pharisee teaching, and doesn't place the emphasis of the Christian life where it belongs - on the standards found in Scripture.
I heard a story recently about a man who taught various grades of school, and he required many papers or reports to be written during his teaching career. This man would lay down certain stipulations for the report: it must be type written, double-spaced, title on top, name to the right side of the top of the page, and a bibliography attached, etc. He remarked that just about every time he would give such an assignment there was someone who would hand in a couple of pages that had been written in pencil, with no title, no bibliography, etc. Obviously the teacher could not accept the paper because they had not followed the instructions. Is Yahweh more lenient than a school teacher? Do you believe Yahweh accepts worship that violates His instructions?
We need to be careful about how we worship the Father, not making attempts to add to or take away from what He has prescribed. After all, we should be seeking to please Him.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.