LET GO, SEND OUT: shalakh. Verb. (Strong’s 7971).
Sound like: shawlawk
We have been wanderers our whole lives and we send ourselves out constantly. We send ourselves out for groceries; we send ourselves out to go to work; we send ourselves out to garden; and, when we are able, we send ourselves out to visit with friends and families. Perhaps one of the reasons we have struggled so hard during this pandemic, is that we cannot freely go where we would like to go. We like to move with purpose, but now our sending out has become staying in, and maybe we’re not so sure of our purpose anymore.
For centuries, humanity has been obsessed with finding the purpose of our existence. We seem to want more than our daily tasks of going from A to B. Why are we here? What’s the point of our lives? Could it really just be a daily pattern of sending ourselves out and coming back in?
Maybe the better question is, what are we really sent to do? And who is sending us out to do it? And why? Instead of diving into a deep metaphysical and philosophical ocean regarding the purpose of our existence, could the answer perhaps be much more simple?
A study of the Hebrew word for sent, may help clarify. YHWH’s people, in the Bible, were constantly being sent out by Him. And so, if we are YHWH’s Sent ones, what are we sent to do?
The word shalakh, meaning to let go or to send out, is one of the most common words in the Bible, showing up over 800 times!
The very first time this word shows up in the Biblical narrative, Eve and Adam had reached out and took the wrong thing: they took the fruit that God asked them not to take. This condemned fruit was poison to their souls and with one bite they were no longer fit for the Garden. Now that their souls were tarnished the worry was they might stretch out their hand and take from the Tree of Life, living forever in an imperfect state. The only way to heal and redeem them, was to send them out of the Garden:
Then YHWH God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out [send out: yish’lakh] his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore YHWH God sent him out [way-shall’khehu] from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.
Eve (meaning life) and Adam (meaning human) were sent out to serve the ground from which they had come. Humans would toil in the earth to eke out an existence, but some humans were sent out to prepare the land, and the people, for God’s Kingdom.
As soon as Adam and Eve made their terrible choice in the garden, YHWH put a plan in motion to bring them back. But the plan wouldn’t be easy for humans. It wouldn’t be a walk in the park… they would be sent on a be a long and arduous journey.
Sent out to Preserve Life
For Joseph, the son of Jacob, his journey was filled with turmoil. His jealous brothers sold him into slavery. He went to Egypt and worked very hard to move out of servitude and into prosperity, with many bumps along the way.
Sometimes terrible things happen in our lives, but Joseph identified that these things could be part of God’s plan. Ultimately, in the end, all the pain and hardship would be worth the reward:
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me [sh’lakhani] before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me [way-yish’lakheni] before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent [sh’lakh’tem] me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”
God sent people out to complete His plans and sometimes that meant great hardship. But YHWH’s plans, in the long run, would lead to reward.
Although Joseph’s story had a happy ending, the twelve tribes of the Hebrew people would eventually fall into slavery under a hard-hearted Pharaoh of Egypt. But YHWH did not forget them. This was part of the road to redemption and He had a plan for them too.
Egypt: Let My People Go!
After many years enslaved in Egypt as manual labourers, things were about to change drastically for the Hebrew people. Moses, who had been raised in Pharaoh’s court had turned against his adopted Egyptian upbringing and reclaimed his Hebrew heritage. YHWH chose Moses to carry His plan forward:
YHWH to Moses: “Therefore, come now, and I will send you [w-esh’lakh’ka] to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?”
And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you [sh’lakh’tika]: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.”
Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me [sh’lakhani] to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you [Eh’yeh sh’lakhani a’lekem].’” God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you [sh’lakhani a’lekem]. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.
YHWH then explained that He had a plan to bring the people out of Egypt and towards a land of “milk and honey” (Exodus 3:17) but not before the stubborn Pharaoh would try to stop them. But YHWH had a plan:
YHWH: So I will stretch out [w-shalakh’ti] My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go [y-shallakh].”
And so YHWH sent Moses to face Pharaoh, saying “Let My People Go”:
Exodus 5:1 ‘Let My people go [sallakh et ammi], that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.’
Exodus 7:16 ‘Let My people go [sallakh et ammi], that they may serve Me in the wilderness.’
Exodus 8:1 ‘Let My people go [sallakh et ammi], that they may serve Me.’
Exodus 8:20 ‘Let My people go [sallakh ammi], that they may serve Me.’
Exodus 9:1 ‘Let my people go [sallakh et ammi], that they may serve Me.’
Exodus 9:13 ‘Let My people go [sallakh et ammi], that they may serve Me.’
Exodus 10:3 ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go [sallakh ammi], that they may serve Me.’
After repeated demands to let His people go, Pharaoh would eventually cave… but not at first. His initial response was short and quick:
But Pharaoh said, “Who is YHWH that I should obey His voice to let Israel go [l-shallakh et Israel]? I do not know YHWH, and besides, I will not let Israel go [et Israel lo a’shalleakh].”
In fact Pharaoh retaliated with severity which startled Moses. With sorrow Moses lamented his role in the whole event:
Then Moses returned to YHWH and said, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me [sh’lakh’tani]? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.”
Moses was being a little short-sighted; God does not always do thing instantaneously. This was an epic event in Israel’s history and epic things don’t happen in a blink of an eye.
YHWH had a message for Pharaoh: either you send My people out or I will send something in! In response to Pharaoh’s stubbornness ten plagues were sent in to Egypt:
- Exodus 7:17 Water to Blood!
- Exodus 8:2 Frogs!
- Exodus 8:16 Gnats!
- Exodus 8:21 Flies!
- Exodus 9:3 Pestilence on livestock!
- Exodus 9:14 Plague/Boils on people!
- Exodus 9:23 Thunderstorm & Hail!
- Exodus 10:4 Locusts!
- Exodus 10:21 Darkness which you could feel!
Although Pharaoh, over and over, decided not to let the people go, his servants were ready to say goodbye to them. They had experienced enough suffering.
Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the men go [sallakh et ha-a’nashim], that they may serve YHWH their God. Do you not realize that Egypt is destroyed?”
But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, so YHWH sent one final plague:
Now YHWH said to Moses, “One more plague I will bring on Pharaoh and on Egypt; after that he will let you go [y’shallakh] from here. When he lets you go [k-shal’lekhoh], he will surely drive you out from here completely.”
Every firstborn would die. After Pharaoh (and everyone in the land not passed-over under the signs of YHWH) lost their firstborn, the Egyptian people were more than ready to see the last of the Israelites. This was the final nail in the coffin, so to speak, and so Moses and God’s people left in haste:
The Egyptians urged the people, to send them [l-shal’lekham] out of the land in haste, for they said, “We will all be dead.”
So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders.
And so YHWH’s people were hastily “let go” out into the wilderness. They were sent out of Egypt to go to YHWH’s promised land, but it wouldn’t be an easy journey. It would be another epic, arduous, journey.
Sending the goat into the Wilderness
Along the path, and over many years, the Hebrew people rebuilt themselves as free people of God, and the Israelite culture grew and strengthened. They incorporated feasts to celebrate God’s love for them, most notably Passover, which celebrated their escape from Pharaoh under the powerful hand of YHWH. They built a roaming Tabernacle (tent of meeting) to worship God and they set up a system of sacrifice. One particular sacrifice was part of the Feast of Atonement (Yom Kippur):
Leviticus 16:7-10, 20-22
“He shall take the two goats and present them before YHWH at the doorway of the tent of meeting. Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for YHWH and the other lot for the scapegoat [l-a’zazel: the goat (ez) to go (azel)]. Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for YHWH fell, and make it a sin offering. But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before YHWH, to make atonement upon it, to send it [l-shallakh] into the wilderness as the scapegoat.”
…“When he finishes atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat. Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away [w-shillakh] into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.”
The scapegoat was, by name, the gone goat or the goat to go. In later texts (apocryphal books, extra-canonical books, and rabbinic literature) Azazel was the name of a demon (see the Book of Enoch) which has aroused a lot of scholarly debate about just who this scapegoat was meant to be.
Many suggest that this goat of atonement was symbolic of the coming Messiah; the One who would be sent out of the Temple by the people who controlled it, and would carry the sins of everyone on His back, facing the wilderness alone on the cross. He would go back to the beginning of creation when it was formless and void and he would carry the entire weight of the history of humanity’s horrible choices on his back… to die, utterly alone with God’s face turned away from Him. After His death He was sent to the grave (Sheol).
Sheol was as far away from the Garden of Eden as you could get, but the Messiah wouldn’t stay there. The Messiah would be the forever King, who would conquer the grave. He would end the servitude of death that plagued the people, ever since Eve and Adam were sent out of the Garden. God would send a Saviour to fix our seemingly unshakable pact with death.
Therefore thus says the Lord YHWH, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level; then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies and the waters will overflow the secret place. Your covenant with death will be canceled, and your pact with Sheol will not stand.”
The Psalms: What would God send?
But long before the Messiah would grace the planet, the Psalmists used the word shalakh to tell us what YHWH would send of Himself.
YHWH would send us…
- His Help (Psalm 20:1-2)
- His Light and His Truth (Psalm 43:1-4)
- His Lovingkindness and His Truth (Psalm 57:3)
- His Spirit (Psalm 104:29-31)
- His Word (Psalm 107:19-21)
- Redemption to His people (Psalm 111:2-9)
- Signs and Wonders (Psalm 135:6-9)
- His Command and His Word (Psalm 147:15-19)
Although He sent all these wonderful things of Himself, sadly His people did not pay much attention to Him at all. And so He gave them up (let them go) to their obstinance:
“I, YHWH, am your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide and I will fill it. But My people did not listen to My voice, and Israel did not obey Me. So I gave them over [let them go:w-ashall’khehu] to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices. Oh that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways!”
But YHWH did not give up on them completely. He used select humans to carry forward His plan of Salvation. One of the key elements of YHWH’s plan was choosing the family of David to be the line of the Messiah. YHWH sent Samuel to find David:
1 Samuel 16:1
Now YHWH said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you [esh’lakh’aka] to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.”
So Samuel headed to the home of Jesse and took a look at seven of his sons; but YHWH made it clear to Samuel that none of those sons were the ones He was looking for:
1 Samuel 16:11-12
….And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are these all the children?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Send [shil’khah] and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.”
So he sent [wa-yish’lakh] and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And YHWH said, “Arise, anoint him [mi’shakhehu]; for this is he.”
As image-bearers of YHWH humans, such as Samuel, were sent by God to be His hands and feet. He also sent many people, over the course of many years, to be His voice. The prophets boldly claimed YHWH’s words and helped put His plan of salvation into action.
Isaiah: Send me!
Isaiah recalled when he volunteered to be sent:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send [esh’lakh], and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me! [Sh’lakheni!]”
Isaiah shared the words that YHWH laid on his heart, even when those words sounded wildly inconceivable, such as the time when he announced that Egypt, who had been the enemy of the Hebrew people for centuries, would some day choose YHWH to be their God. Originally YHWH delivered the Hebrew people from the Egyptians, but there would come a day when YHWH would send a Saviour that would also deliver Egypt. He would not just save the Hebrew people, He would save all the nations who chose Him. All of humanity could be saved:
In that day there will be an altar to YHWH in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to YHWH near its border. It will become a sign and a witness to YHWH of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to YHWH because of oppressors, and He will send [w-yish’lakh] them a Saviour and a Champion, and He will deliver them.
YHWH sent the prophets to put a spotlight God’s path and to express His words. Isaiah shared the words of YHWH, and in the case of the forty-eighth chapter, he shared the words of the Messiah:
Isaiah 48:12, 16-18a
“Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I am also the last… Come near to Me, listen to this: from the first I have not spoken in secret, from the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord YHWH has sent Me [sh’lakhani], and His Spirit. Thus says YHWH, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, ‘I am YHWH your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to My commandments!’”
The Tanakh is a collection of beautiful words that tell the epic story of humanity. YHWH sent out prophets to share His words… words which would triumphantly bring forth the Kingdom:
YHWH: “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it [sh’lakh’tiw].
For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up, and instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up, and it will be a memorial to YHWH, for an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.”
Jeremiah & Ezekiel: Sent ones during the Babylonian Invasion
Jeremiah was consecrated to be a sent one before he was even born:
Now the word of YHWH came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Then I said, “Alas, Lord YHWH! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.”
Unconvinced, Jeremiah dismissed himself from this commission because of his youth, but YHWH set him straight:
But YHWH said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ because everywhere I send you [esh’lakh’aka], you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you,” declares YHWH.
Jeremiah obeyed and was sent out among the people during the most trying of times, the Babylonian invasion. Not dissimilar to today, in times of trial many false prophets rise up and claim to be the voice of God. This was, and is, a serious problem:
Jeremiah 14:14-15 (see also Jeremiah 23:21-28a)
Then YHWH said to me, “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them [sh’lakh’tim] nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds. Therefore thus says YHWH concerning the prophets who are prophesying in My name, although it was not I who sent them [wa-a’ni lo sh’lakh’tim]—yet they keep saying, ‘There will be no sword or famine in this land’—by sword and famine those prophets shall meet their end!”
YHWH emphatically stated that He did not send these so-called prophets. Jeremiah, when he faced the false prophet Hananiah, clarified who God’s Sent ones were:
Jeremiah to Hananiah: “The prophets who were before me and before you from ancient times prophesied against many lands and against great kingdoms, of war and of calamity and of pestilence. The prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, then that prophet will be known as one whom YHWH has truly sent [sh’lakhoh YHWH beh-emet].”
It was simple, the words of YHWH’s prophets would come to pass, but nothing would be fulfilled from a false prophets mouth. YHWH’s prophets would follow up their declarations by championing peace (completeness) unlike any others who claimed to be prophets.
But there was no guarantee that the people would listen to the God’s prophets, on the contrary, most would not:
Ezekiel 2:3-5 (see also Ezekiel 3:4-7)
Then He said to me [Ezekiel], “Son of man, I am sending [sholeakh] you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. I am sending [sholeakh] you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord YHWH.’ As for them, whether they listen or not—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them.”
Although it would seem like his words were not heard, they would eventually recognize that they had been under the guidance of one of YHWH’s prophets. They needed to hear it, regardless of whether it would sink in or be ignored.
Prophets weren’t exclusively sent to give bad news, but during the time of the Babylonian threat the scales certainly tipped in that direction. The burden of being a continual bearer of bad news must have been emotionally exhausting for people like Ezekiel and Jeremiah, but the message had to be sent:
Jeremiah 29:17-20 (see also Jeremiah 26:4-6)
Thus says YHWH of hosts, “Behold, I am sending [mi’shalleakh] upon them the sword, famine and pestilence, and I will make them like split-open figs that cannot be eaten due to rottenness. I will pursue them with the sword, with famine and with pestilence; and I will make them a terror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse and a horror and a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, because they have not listened to My words,” declares YHWH, ”which I sent [shalakh’ti] to them by My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them [w-shaloakh]; but you did not listen,” declares YHWH. “You, therefore, hear the word of YHWH, all you exiles, whom I have sent [shillakh’ti] away from Jerusalem to Babylon.”
Although they were forcibly sent out of Jerusalem and into Babylon, it was not all bad news. Some of the exiles would use the horrible experience to build up and strengthen their faith, so that one day they could be transplanted back to their land as heartfelt followers of YHWH:
Then the word of YHWH came to me, saying, “Thus says YHWH God of Israel, ‘Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out [shillakh’ti] of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am YHWH; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.’”
God sent them out of Jerusalem, just like He sent out Adam & Eve out of Eden. They made terrible choices and, in essence, exiled themselves… but God would find a way to bring them back.
Thus says YHWH of hosts, “The sons of Israel are oppressed, and the sons of Judah as well; and all who took them captive have held them fast, they have refused to let them go [shall’kham]. Their Redeemer is strong, YHWH of hosts is His name; He will vigorously plead their case so that He may bring rest to the earth, but turmoil to the inhabitants of Babylon.”
And so eventually, after 70 years in exile, a remnant of the Israelite people returned to Jerusalem.
Zechariah & Malachi: The Post-Exile Sent ones
Zechariah was a prophet during the time of the great return to Jerusalem, when a remnant of the exiles were allowed to go back and rebuild the Temple. It was a time of incredible joy and anticipation, and also a lot of hard work.
It was also a time of renewed hope and one of the most hopeful statements from YHWH was sent out by Zechariah. Take note how the Speaker in the second chapter of Zechariah morphs from YHWH to the Sent One of YHWH:
“Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares YHWH.
“Many nations will join themselves to YHWH in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that YHWH of hosts has sent Me [sh’lakhani] to you.”
This prophecy was one of great Messianic hope. YHWH would dwell among us, walking in our midst.
The book of Zechariah is full of Messianic overtones. Through the crowning of the high priest, Joshua (Yehoshua), Zechariah prophetically announced the kingly priest, called The Branch, who would one day sit on YHWH’s throne:
“Take silver and gold, make an ornate crown and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, ‘Thus says YHWH of hosts, “Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of YHWH. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of YHWH, and He who will bear the honour and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”’
Now the crown will become a reminder in the temple of YHWH to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah and Hen the son of Zephaniah. Those who are far off will come and build the temple of YHWH. Then you will know that YHWH of hosts has sent me [sh’lakhani] to you. And it will take place if you completely obey YHWH your God.”
Zechariah sent the best news to the Hebrew people: YHWH declared that they would be free!
YHWH: “As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I have set [shillakh’ti] your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope; this very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you.”
Setting prisoners free came from the same word as sending out… YHWH was sending prisoners out of bondage and into freedom.
Malachi was a sent one during the time of the Persian empire, after the Babylonians were defeated. Through Malachi YHWH put a spotlight on a sent one who would clear the way for the Messiah:
Malachi 3:1 (see Luke 7:27)
“Behold, I am going to send [sholeakh] My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says YHWH of hosts.
Malachi also announced that Elijah the prophet would one day come back and restore the people’s hearts so they would be prepared for God’s Blessing:
“Behold, I am going to send [sholeakh] you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of YHWH. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”
The Sending of John the Baptist
The B’rit Chadashah (New Testament) painted a fairly direct picture, spotlighting John the Baptist as the New Elijah. An angel announced to the priest Zachariah that his son, John, was born with the spirit and power of Elijah:
Zachariah was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zachariah, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
John fulfilled his mission as a forerunner and announcer of the Messiah. When he saw Yeshua (Jesus) he announced:
John 1:29, 34
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!… I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
John recognized the Messiah, and Yeshua recognized Malachi’s prophecy of Elijah as the messenger who would clear the way for His coming:
And His disciples asked Him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
And He [Jesus] answered and said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.
John was sent by God to light the way for the Messiah, and Yeshua proclaimed it:
“You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.
But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.”
The Sending of the Messiah
John was the spark that lighted the lamp but Yeshua came to be a light unto all the nations. He was sent to be the Passover Lamb, a sacrifice to redeem humanity:
Isaiah 16:1, 5
Send [shil’khu] the tribute lamb to the ruler of the land, from Sela by way of the wilderness to the mountain of the daughter of Zion… A throne will even be established in lovingkindness, and a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David; moreover, he will seek justice and be prompt in righteousness.
Yeshua boldly lived His live as the sacrificial lamb. At the beginning of His ministry He walked into his hometown synagogue in Nazareth and read from the scroll of Isaiah (chapter 61):
And He [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of YHWH is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent [Greek: apestalken. Hebrew: sh’lakhani] Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favourable year of the LORD.”
And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
The Greek equivalent to shalakh was apostello, where we get the word apostle from… meaning the sent ones. Yeshua maintained that God had sent Him regain the sight of His people, to free them and to gather apostles into His Kingdom:
Luke 9:46-48 (also Mark 9:35-37)
An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest. But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent [apesteilanta] Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”
Yeshua also announced exactly why He was sent by God:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send [apesteilen] the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
He was sent to save. Just like the meaning of His name, Yeshua, He was Salvation. This wasn’t just His mission, this was His prayer:
“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me [sy me apesteiles], and loved them, even as You have loved Me.
Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me [sy me apesteiles]; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
After Yeshua suffered horribly on the cross He went to the grave, but the Gospels tell us that the grave could not hold Him down. He was in the Father and the Father was in Him. He rose up, conquered death, and set the captives free. And then He went to His apostles (the sent ones) and gave them a commission:
So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side.
The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent [apestalken] Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.
The apostle John understood the story. He saw, with his own eyes, John the Baptizer, who heralded the way for the Messiah, and He saw Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus the Messiah), the Son God, who was sent to save the world by dying on the cross. And then John witnessed the resurrected Yeshua, and saw that even with his pierced hands, He lived! John then received the Holy Spirit in His presence and, years later, wrote a letter which described just how amazing it was that YHWH sent Yeshua to save them… and that the core of that salvation, was God’s great love for us:
1 John 4:7-14
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent [apestalken] His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent [apesteilen] His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent [apestalken] the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
Thank you, YHWH, for sending a Saviour so that our covenant with death no longer has a hold on us. At the end of our days on this earth, and because of Yeshua’s sacrifice, we may freely enter into God’s presence and see Him face to face.
May we be Your sent ones on this planet to bring love and compassion and generosity and good news to a suffering world. Send us out to be Your hands and feet and voice, bringing freedom to the captives and shouting “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace and goodwill to all humankind”.
Next week: orphan