We may not realize that sin is a crime against God. Sin is lawlessness (1Jn 3:4); that is, it does not accept or live by any law that governs society, or that establishes what is good and what is evil. It is disobedience and rebellion against God and His Word. (Is 1:18-20) It began with Lucifer, now the Devil, and he brought it into Eve and Adam. Sin separates us from God our Father. (Is 59:2) Yeshua came to destroy the works of the devil, and to restore us to a relationship with God, knowing His holiness and righteousness, His goodness, His love. (1Jn 3:8) Continue reading “Gen 4: Crime and Punishment, With Redemptive Hope”
We are influenced by the world we are born into much more than we realize. Young children today have an intuitive grasp of some modern technology than many adults who are their parents and grandparents. The current generation is also entering and growing up in a world that is increasingly ignorant of the true God and of His Word, of His covenants, and with an evolutionary mindset and world-view that has displaced a general consensus of the fundamental truths of morality expressed in the Bible, even within the household of faith (at least in the western, Christianized, gospelized world). We have a natural tendency to subject God’s word to the teachings of men – or to the lies of the devil – rather than to subject all things to the Word of God. If we do not believe what God says about the beginning, we may not believe what He also actually says about the ending. If we twist His words at first, we will probably continue to twist them at last.
Many believing Christians want to accept evolutionary “facts” as a means by which God created and made the world as it has “evolved” to be. Mostly they do this because of the amount of time they think is needed to “evolve” to where we are today. Yet, the issue is much more than a matter of time: the evolutionary explanation of origins and destiny are totally incompatible with what YHVH God has revealed to us – especially through the Jews – regarding what He alone knows: He IS the Creator, and the Redeemer, and has a plan that He is carrying out, no matter what anyone may believe or not. “Let God be true, and every man a liar!”
For those who “keep and remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”: if you do not believe that God created the Heavens and the Earth in six days, and rested on the seventh, then you are not keeping the Sabbath, since this is the initial reason He gave it to Israel as the sign of His covenant relationship with them. And the Jewish people are His witnesses for who He is. This is so, also, for believing Christians, since they are in a new covenant relationship with the God of Israel, YHVH God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob/Israel. We bear false witness of Him if we deny His own testimony of what He did, how He did it, when He did it, why He has done it! The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world!
When God, who is unapproachable light, created in the beginning the Heavens and the Earth, the “raw material” was in darkness. The creation was outside of Himself. Then God spoke and called the light out of the darkness, as He began to form and order His creation. This was not created light, for God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. Jesus said that He is the light of the world. And in the New Heavens and New Earth – in the New Jerusalem – there will be no night there, for the Lamb will be its light for the eternal day, without darkness: the day after the Sabbath. The sun and moon are temporary lights for this creation, which God placed in this unique solar system within the universe on the fourth day to serve their purposes in His sovereign wisdom.
We must, like Elijah called upon the false prophets of Baal in Israel, make a choice: if Yeshua/Jesus is our Lord and God, let us believe and follow Him. We can not be of two opinions when God has spoken to us, if a serpent, or a man, or even an angel, comes to us with a different word which contradicts His.
Here are some articles which are helpful on this subject of “the gap”:
Gen 18:16-19 And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. And YHVH said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of YHVH, to do righteousness and judgment; that YHVH may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
The righteousness and justice of God: His ways are not ours; His thoughts not ours. Repentance begins with agreeing with Him and learning from Him. The truth sets us free, and humbles us to first judge ourselves of the log in our own eyes, so that we can better help others with their specks. Glory to our Father in Heaven and the Lord Yeshua the Messiah/Jesus Christ!
Heb 7:8-10 Here men that die receive tithes; but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receives tithes, paid tithes in Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. Continue reading “Generational Transference: We and Our Fathers”
Israel remembers tonight all her sons and daughters who have died in the numerous wars and terror attacks since her birth as a nation 70 years ago, according to the Hebrew calendar. (The Western calendar Independence date is May 14/15.) Every war and attack against Israel is an existential threat to her existence. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Through many tribulations we enter the Kingdom of God!” (Acts 14:22) There is much suffering, even death, before entering into glory.
YHVH God of Israel called and destined His people to be separate from the Gentile nations, a holy people to Himself, and a priestly nation to the nations. But in the days of Samuel the prophet, the Children of Israel asked for a king like the Gentiles have, to judge them and lead them in war. God gave them what they asked for: He gave them Saul to be their king. (Shaul in Hebrew, which means, “asked for”.) Continue reading “Whose Right of Determination? – 17 Apr 2018”
The State of Israel is preparing to celebrate its 70th Independence Day this April 18-19.
Seventy years of the impossible being made possible. After nearly 1900 years of exile from the land God promised on oath to give to the children of Israel; after prayers and hopes of one day returning to Jerusalem; after centuries of suffering persecutions and unending dislike and mistrust; after forced expulsions from other countries; after trying to show that they are like the Gentiles among whom they live; after failures of other nations to keep promises to assist them in their return to the land; after the Holocaust which sought to destroy their aspirations once-and-for-all; after wars against their surrounding enemies throughout the 70 years of statehood: Israel and the Jewish people here are thriving and prospering beyond all expectations, and blessing the world through its acquired knowledge and innovations born of necessity. Continue reading “Pride Comes Before A Fall – 19 Jan 2018”
A couple of days ago the Jerusalem Post carried an interesting article on the plight of Jewish believers in Yeshua/Jesus:
This situation is nothing new, as the article makes clear. Before my wife and I got married (and before we were believers in Jesus) , we went to speak with a progressive rabbi — liberal beyond Reform Judaism (I was raised Conservative). She (who is not Jewish) asked him who is a Jew. He said that anyone that wanted to be a Jew could be one. She said that she didn’t believe that, but that a Jew is one who has the DNA: someone might convert to the Jewish religion, but that did not make him/her a Jew. The rabbi said that’s not so: “anyone could be a Jew that wanted to be, as Ben-Gurion said”! Then I asked about those Jews who believe in Jesus (such as the organization Jews For Jesus), and say that they are still Jews. His face changed…..and hardened: “You can not be a Jew and believe in Jesus Christ!”
Mk 11:11-26 And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the Temple. So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve.
(12) And on the next day, they going out of Bethany, He was hungry. (13) And seeing a fig-tree with leaves afar off, He went to it, if perhaps He might find anything on it. And when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season of figs. (14) And Jesus answered and said to it, No one shall eat fruit of you forever. And His disciples heard.
(15) And they came to Jerusalem. And entering into the temple, Jesus began to cast out those who bought and sold in the Temple. And He overthrew the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves. (16) And He would not allow any to carry a vessel through the Temple. (17) And He taught, saying to them, Is it not written, “My house shall be called the house of prayer for all nations?” But you have made it a den of thieves. (18) And the scribes and the chief priests heard. And they sought how they might destroy Him. For they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His doctrine.
(19) And when evening came, He went out of the city. (20) And passing by that morning, they saw the fig-tree dried up from the roots. (21) And Peter, remembering, said to Him, Rabbi, behold, the fig tree which You cursed has withered away.
(22) And answering Jesus said to them, Have faith of God. (23) For truly I say to you that whoever shall say to this mountain, Be moved and be cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he said shall occur, he shall have whatever he said. (24) Therefore I say to you, All things, whatever you ask, praying, believe that you shall receive them, and it will be to you.
(25) And when you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive it so that also your Father in Heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (26) But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses.
Yeshua has just made His triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, the common people acknowledging Him as the Son of David who they believed had come to be the King of Israel. But His time had not yet come for that. He left the city and the Temple, and went to Bethany, probably to the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
We come now to the story about the fig tree that Yeshua cursed. I am sure that all of us have read this and been uncomfortable that He would curse a tree without fruit at a time when it was not the season for fruit. When we do this, it reveals again how our thoughts and ways are not the same as the Lord’s. In our discomfort at His act, we are judging Him for doing what we think is wrong or unfair, does not make sense.
Why did Jesus curse the fig tree for not having fruit before its season? This event occurred probably in April, whereas figs are a summer fruit, the first and best ripening happening around June. The fig tree is used in the Bible as one of the symbols for Israel, and in it are both good and bad figs. (Jer 24:5-10; Hos 9:10; Mk 13:28-31; Lk 13:6-9) Normally the fig tree begins to blossom before its leaves cover them, or there are hold-overs from the previous season. So, in the case of this particular fig tree on the road between Bethany and Jerusalem, it had leaves, and therefore it should also have had some blossoms of fruit before their full growth to maturity. However, Jesus found no fruit on it. In response, He said (cursed; judged) the tree: “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard Him.
Mark then goes on in his account to Yeshua and His disciples arriving in Jerusalem. Yeshua went into the Temple and began to drive out all those who bought and sold in the Temple, and overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He also would not allow anyone to carry wares through the Temple. Then He taught, quoting from Isaiah and from Jeremiah the prophets: “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? ‘But you have made it a ‘den of thieves’!”
For this “presumption”, the scribes and chief priests, who heard Him, sought how they might destroy Him (get rid of Him/finish Him off, and His doctrines). They were afraid of Him, because all the people were astonished at Yeshua’s teaching. At this point, Yeshua’s popularity was a protection, but it was only a matter of time before those in power would act anyway, as envy and hatred took control of their spirits. Here we see the beginning of Pharisaic/Talmudic/Rabbinic Judaism’s cursing of Yeshua – both His name and memory (Yeshu).
Then Mark goes back to say that that same morning, on the way up from Bethany to Jerusalem, the disciples and Jesus saw the fig tree that the Messiah had cursed dried up from its roots. This was obviously a result of the Lord’s judgment of the tree, and not a natural drying up of a dying tree, which would have taken much longer. The roots were still there in the ground. God has not finished with Israel! And we are witnesses to that certain hope today, here in Beer Sheva, Israel! (In ch. 13 of Mark, the Lord uses the same symbol of the fig tree again, this time in reference to Israel’s revival in the last days leading up to His return. The curse is still there, the fruit is still not satisfying to God, but redemption and the Redeemer is on the way!)
What do we learn from this fig tree and from the incident on the Temple Mount that Mark records? Yeshua was the central figure in both of them, and His acts greatly disturbed both His disciples in the one, and the religious leaders in the other.
Both acts were judgments from God on the fruitless life and the corrupted religion of His chosen people, whom He had chosen for His glory, and to be His light to the Gentiles, and to be a holy people for His name, and to bear much good fruit from all of His fatherly care for them. (Is 5) Instead they professed to be outwardly ‘good’, especially in comparison to the ‘Gentiles’ (the goyim), while inwardly and outwardly dishonoring their God and His house. In this passage of Jesus taking control over the Temple Mount complex, He calls the house, “My house” (Is 56:7; Jer 7:11), whereas in the account in John, He calls the Temple “My Father’s house”. (Jn 2:16-17; Ps 69:9) He and the Father are one.
The marketplace that the people had set up was on the holy site in the area called the Court of the Gentiles. The buying and selling desecrated it as a place of prayer for non-Jews, as a house of prayer for all nations. The public and merchants were using the Temple area as a ‘short-cut’ to carry their wares to the abused area. Doves were the sacrificial animals for the poor, and the greedy merchants were selling them, probably at high prices. Yeshua had come to preach good news to the poor, who were being oppressed and taken advantage of.
So, too, the fig tree with leaves but without fruit. The tree looked good on the outside, but there was no fruit on the inside. The leaves were a covering for their fruitlessness. Remember when Adam and Eve knew that they had done wrong, and wanted to cover their naked shame, they put fig leaves over their private parts. So, too, this tree, and Israel and the Jewish people – and by extension, the church and Christians (Rev 3:1-6; 14-22) – can look good to the eye of man, but cannot satisfy genuine [spiritual] hunger. Israel is blessing the world in amazing ways today, but good works can be “dead works”, and they do not save unbelievers; or they can be good works of believers, but motivated by wrong motives or done without love. (Heb 6:1; 9:14) Religious life without love, or without intention to honor the name of our Lord, is empty. As a prophetic and priestly nation, the Jewish people are not consciously drawing people to know the one true God. No one can eat from such a tree and be nourished with the life of God. The good works are a ‘fig leaf’, a cover-up for the lack of God’s righteousness and fruit. The God of Israel will not grant His people peace and tranquility as long as they/we continue to seek it, to buy it, apart from Him – apart from Yeshua.
God cannot, and will not, bless fruitlessness in those who are called by His name. (Jn 15:1-12) We cannot satisfy the need in others – whether believers or unbelievers – when our hearts of flesh become hearts of stone again. Praise to our God and Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ: He is not finished yet, neither with Israel and the Jewish people, nor with those who profess to believe in the name of Yeshua/Jesus for salvation! Yeshua asked the Father — when He was nailed to the cross – to forgive that very people and nation, for they did not know what they were doing. He still calls His people to repentance, and to bear fruit of that return to HIM. This is especially regarding the state of our hearts towards God, and towards our fellow man. Israel, as represented by the fig tree, is also a sign of the last days that the end of the age is near, and that the Lord is coming again “soon”. (Mk 13:28-31; Mt 24:32-35; Lk 21:29-33) The same cursed fig tree is redemptively revived in the last days!
Yeshua took the opportunity of His disciples’ reaction to the cursed fig tree to teach them about believing prayer, but even more about the necessity and the power of forgiveness. (Mt 6:9-15) The Messiah, when He taught His disciples how to pray, told them and us that we must forgive others if we want our Father in Heaven to forgive us. To the measure that we forgive others, He will forgive us. Also in this passage from Mark, He says the same thing. We can pray with all faith to have God do miraculous things in our lives or for others – including the restoration and salvation of Israel – but if we are not forgiving someone – not loving Jesus above all, and others as ourselves — for what we think or know that he/she/they have done to me, I will have no peace with God my Father, and He will not be pleased with me, His son through Messiah. (It is very interesting that in the matter of divorce, which YHVH hates, Yeshua gave one exception for allowing it: adultery. But in the matter of forgiveness, there is no exception. A very challenging commandment and commitment!)
Brokenness – knowing how much we have been forgiven – produces the Holy Spirit fruit of love (God’s measure of love) towards others, especially towards those we think do not deserve it.
What then can we learn from this passage in the plan of God to redeem His people?
–The fruitless fig tree and the corrupted religious worship and ministry are indicative of the spiritual state of the Chosen People: there would be no more [godly] fruit from that again! Only when Israel repents and sees Jesus whom they pierced will that finally produce the broken heart and contrite spirit needed to produce fruit for YHVH their God. (Zech 12:10-14; Ps 51)
–This is also true of believers in Yeshua – of those who say we believe and follow Him. Some of us have let our own spirits push away the Holy Spirit, and we have let our new heart of flesh become like stone again. We then become hypocritical like the Pharisees: demanding of others what we ourselves will not do, nor help them to do. We separate ourselves in self-righteousness (which is the meaning of Pharisee), and do not love the brothers and sisters, and can oppress the poor. We look good on the outside – the leaves – but inside we are in rebellion against our holy and gracious Father and Savior.
–The Lord’s acts in this passage should put the fear of God in us, whom He has chosen to be the Lamb’s beloved Bride, obeying His commandments with thanksgiving, and loving one another as He has loved us.
Yeshua is our Judge and our Savior. Thank -you, God!
Redemption of Jewish Identity and Hope
Jer 29:11 For I know the purposes which I am purposing for you, says Yehovah; purposes of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Lk 2:34-35 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also), so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
My identity as a Jew was settled in June 1967, during the Six-Day War. I saw once again that the Gentiles wanted to kill us, and I didn’t know why; and I identified with my people and our land. Despite the Synagogue and the Church both historically telling me that a Jew cannot believe in Jesus, or that a Jew who believes in Jesus is no longer Jewish, the answer of the man whom God used in February 1981 to finally bring me back to Himself regarding the Jews and the Chosen People was good, it gave hope, and the Jewish people had a promising future.
–Judaism – Pharasaic, Talmudic, Rabbinic – rejects the Yeshua/Jesus of the Bible as being the Messiah.
–Juda-ism is self-oriented, culture-oriented (as is Christian-ity if separated from living faith and union with God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ)
–Messianic Judaism does not mean only faith in Jesus/Yeshua as being Messiah, the Son of God; e.g., Chabad, Temple Mount Faithful, Bar Kochba, Shabbtai Tzvi
–YHVH God, though, gives hope to the Jewish people, and to “all Israel”
–He will be their God, and they will be His holy people
–the Land of Canaan/Israel as an everlasting possession and inheritance
–a rich heritage
–a kingdom of priests who will all know the LORD and serve Him faithfully, a blessing to other nations
–Yeshua came as the Seed of David, of the Tribe of Judah: Jesus came as a Jew, under the Law/Torah
–He fulfilled the Law perfectly, but also differently than other Children of Israel, in that Jesus never sinned, and had no sin. The Law is for sinners.
–the first believers and disciples of the Lord were Israeli Jews; until Cornelius, apparently all Gentile believers converted to some form of Judaism (Ex 12:43-49)
–app. 50 AD, the apostolic Jerusalem Council agreed with the Holy Spirit that Gentile believers in Yeshua could remain Gentile, but with some conditions regarding food and sex so as not to offend God or godly Jewish sensibilities (Acts 15)
–first Jewish believers were called Nazarenes (Notzrim) and Christians (Meshichi’im) (Acts 11:26; Acts 24:5)
–God gave a weaning period to the early Messianic Jewish believers to come to terms with the New Covenant (Letter to The Hebrews)
–first persecution of [Jewish] believers came from Jewish unbelievers
–the gospel is neither Jewish nor Greek, but a direct revelation from Yeshua the Messiah/Jesus Christ (Gal 1:11-12)
67-70AD Jewish revolt against Rome and the destruction of the 2nd Temple brought a definite separation between Jewish people who believed in Jesus and what He said, and between those who did not: the former fled Jerusalem when it was surrounded; the latter committed suicide on Masada
–in the New Testament, there was already an excommunication of Jewish believers in Yeshua from the synagogue (Jn 9:22; Jn 12:42; Jn 16:1-4)
132-135AD Final Jewish revolt against Rome, led by Rabbi Akiva and Simon Bar-Kochba: the former a false prophet; the latter a false Messiah
–both still celebrated today within mainstream Judaism at Lag B’Omer: fire; no Jewish weddings from that date until Shavuot/Pentecost
–final internal split between the Synagogue and Messianic Jews who believed in Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior from sin(s), LORD, King of the Jews and of Israel
2nd CentAD more splits within the “Gentile” Church over Jewish practices, Passover/Easter, Sunday worship
3rd Cent the Synagogue codified directives in the Talmud against the minim (referring initially specifically towards Jewish believers in Jesus); http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0003_0_02999.html
4th Cent Constantine became a Christian and made Christianity the religion of the Empire
–Council of Nicea
–John Chrysostom: contempt and hatred towards Jews (Eight Homilies Against the Jews; http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/source/chrysostom-jews6.asp )
–Canons of The Apostles: legislated unbridled anti-Jewishness (see, for examples, Canons #65, 70, 71 http://www.holytrinitymission.org/books/english/cannons_apostles_rudder.htm )
–the Roman Catholic Church becomes “Spiritual Israel”; the New Israel
1000 years of suppressed Jewish identity within the Church
632AD Islam further weakened Jewish identity (became dhimmis, as did Christians)
787 Second Nicene Council, 8th Canon: Jewish believers could no longer be Jews in any of their traditions; http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Councils/ecum07.htm
15th – 18th Cent
–the Marranos (“pigs”) and Christopher Columbus
–the new availability of vernacular Bible translations increased interest in Jewish-Christian links
–Martin Luther urges violent persecution of Jews, and proclaims Protestants to be “spiritual Israel”
19th C: Rebirth of Hebrew Christian/Messianic Jewish movements: intuitively connected with the return of the Jews to the Promised Land in preparation for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ
—the desire and need to demonstrate and express God’s faithfulness to His chosen Jewish people, to covenant promises, to Jewish/Israeli aspirations and hopes as given through Moses and the Prophets, and through the Messiah Yeshua/Jesus and the Apostles
–1809 The London Society for the Promotion of Christianity Among the Jews (CMJ today) founded by Joseph Frey
–1813 Benei Avraham formed in London by 41 Jewish believers
–1820’s Joseph Wolff pioneers Jewish evangelism to the Jews in Middle East and India
–1842 First Protestant (and Anglican) church – Christ Church – in the Middle East built in Jerusalem in Old City, with the first Bishop a Jewish believer, Rabbi Michael Solomon Alexander
–1866 Hebrew Christian Alliance forms in London
–1881 first Aliyah (wave of immigration of Jews) to Eretz Israel (Palestine then)
–1883 Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein of Tisza-Eszlar, Hungary, becomes believer in Jesus, and maintained his Jewish identity
–1884 indigenous Messianic Jewish congregation founded by Rabbi Joseph Rabbinowitz in Kishinev, Russia
–1885 first Hebrew Christian Church of America founded in New York by Jacob Freshman
–1894 Chosen People Ministries founded in Brooklyn, NY by Rabbi Leopold Cohn, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant
–1897 First Zionist Congress convened by Theodor Herzl in Basle, Switzerland, in face of severe European anti-Semitism; called for Jewish State to become a realty in Palestine
20th -21st C
–1904 second Aliyah to the Land
–1906 Azuza St. Pentecostal revival
–1915 Hebrew Christian Alliance of America established
–1917 Balfour Declaration proclaiming intent to reestablish Jewish homeland in Palestine
–large numbers of Jewish people come to faith in Europe by 1939; many die in Holocaust
–many Jewish young people come to faith during 1930’s
–effort to create Messianic Jewish identity
–1920’s and 1930’s short-lived attempt to establish Messianic Jewish fellowship in Palestine by Moshe Immanuel Ben-Meir and Hyman Jacobs, but many missions did not embrace the idea of a significant distinct Jewish identity outside of historical churches, which also did not understand the significance of maintaining an identity as Jew by Jewish believers in Yeshua
–1948 founding of modern State of Israel
–most Jewish believers left Israel during the War of Independence
–Moshe Ben-Meir, Abram Poljak, Haim Haimoff – who remained during the War of Independence — committed to Jewish identity
–began to promote term “Messianic Jew” (Yehudi Meshichi) rather than Christian (notzri)
–mostly non-rabbinic expression of pattern of life, but honoring Sabbath, Feasts, circumcision
–a Hebrew Catholic Movement was fostered by Fr. Daniel Rufeisen and Fr. Elias Friedman, Jewish believers who identified as Christians
–1967 a watershed year with the Six-Day War stimulating Jewish redemption and messianic expectations, with more Jewish people coming to faith in Jesus/Yeshua
–about 200 Jewish believers in Israel till then
–perhaps passing 1000 during the 70’s and 80’s
–large numbers of believers connected with huge wave of Russian-speaking immigration in 90’s
–today most evangelical believers in Israel have Russian as mother tongue
–between app. 10,000-15,000 believers today in Israel among Jews and those identifying with the Jewish people
–1972 Jews For Jesus (organization) founded by Moishe Rosen in San Francisco
Most of the Jewish believers today in Israel have come to faith outside of Israel, and are immigrants from many other countries on all the habitable continents. Most of the native-born Israeli Jews who are believers now are children born to immigrants. Native-born older generation Jewish believers are still a small minority.
Messianic congregations are mostly not connected with a mainstream denomination. Yet there is a sense of unity and mutual support – we are ‘family’! – despite great diversity of positions on important doctrinal and other issues.
There are still on-going efforts by some to shape and define what it is to be a Jewish believer in Yeshua/Jesus. In the U.S., some Messianic Jewish leaders estimate that there are 250,000 (?) Jewish believers in Jesus, and of those, only 22,000 (?) who belong to a Messianic congregation/synagogue.
Where does the NT truth of one new man in Christ Jesus come into all this?
When I first became a believer, I saw everything through Jewish eyes. I knew I was still Jewish, despite what the rabbis and preachers taught. I thought I should keep kosher, keep the Sabbath, and keep the Jewish holidays – now that I believed in the God of the Jews. The Holy Spirit said to me, “I didn’t tell you to do that.” This in no way diminished or weakened my identity as a Jew; in fact, the Word of the Lord also came to me to “go to Israel”, and He made it home on Earth. In Israel, of course, we are immersed in Jewish culture!
I thought that the Gentile Christians had stolen everything from us. Then the Lord opened my eyes and understanding and heart to the parable of the vineyard, where we killed the Son of the Owner, thinking to take the inheritance for ourselves without Him, and threw Him out of the vineyard. God took His kingdom [for a time] from the Jewish people, and gave it to believing Gentiles, most of whom have probably never met a Jewish person, know Jewish customs, or have any real sense of Israel as God’s chosen first-born nation! (Ex 4:22; Mt 21:33-45)
–God’s righteous judgment according to His covenantal conditions
–not many Jewish people for the small number of Jewish believers to fellowship with or to identify in a meaningful “Jewish” way
–the gospel is neither Jewish nor Greek, and the New Covenant has brought in changes and differences to the Sinai covenant, e.g., food, priesthood, Law, complete equality between Jews and Gentiles as born-again believers in Yeshua/Jesus. We are a new creation, and one new man corporately.
Most information gleaned from MJAA, UJMC, Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Gershon Nerel, Dan Juster, TJCII, Kelvin Crombie
(11 June 2014 – For some comments and responses to this article, see http://www.kehila.com/articles/589-holidays-like-they-have-in-judah)
1Kg 12:32-33 “And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.
“So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.”
When the Kingdom of “all Israel” was divided into the northern Kingdom of Israel (Joseph/Ephraim), and the southern Kingdom of Judah (Judah/Judea), God left His place of worship in Jerusalem in the oversight of the Tribe of Levi and House of Aaron, under the sovereign control of the House of David, of the Tribe of Judah, the messianic family line for the Messiah, Son of David and Son of God. YHVH gave the northern kingdom of Israel to be governed by Jeroboam, while the southern kingdom of Judah was left in the hands of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.
In order to prevent and discourage those under his rule from continuing to worship the LORD in the only place that He had established to place His name there, i.e., Jerusalem, King Jeroboam of Israel, as written in the Scripture quoted above, established feasts according to his own heart like those in Jerusalem, but not in Jerusalem, the center of worship for all the Children of Jacob/Israel. This severed the unity of the nation even further, and instilled idolatry and unfaithfulness towards God and His instructions about His feasts/appointed times.
The Bible is written for us living at the end of the age, and for our instruction and admonition in learning from the examples given from Israel’s Holy Spirit-inspired written history. (1Cor 10:11)
I believe that we in the Messianic movement of God to restore all things to His people have allowed ourselves to do what Jeroboam did: we have adopted some of the holidays of YHVH which He set times for, but for which those set times have been altered; we have also over emphasized some of the feasts of the LORD which He gave to Israel, while minimizing or ignoring others which He also gave; we have given too much weight to “Jewish thinking” as to what is important – even if in unbelief towards God the Father and His Son – rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to give us the mind of Christ/Messiah about these matters in the present dispensation. (Yes, I do believe that there are dispensations, but am not a classic dispensationalist.)
We are not learning from the example of Jeroboam, but seem to be following his lead: we are diverting attention from the centrality of the New Jerusalem above for our true and spiritual worship in these days prior to the return of the Lord (Jn 4:19-24), and from celebrating the open revelation of Yeshua/Jesus having already come in the flesh in fulfillment of those holidays which point to Him and to God’s redemption of His people, and which He has given to the whole Body of Messiah/Christ under His welfare in the Commonwealth of Israel.
I will give some examples:
Sabbath (Shabbat) (Gen 2:1-3; Ex 20:8-11; Dt 5:12-15)
The Sabbath is given to observe and to remember that YHVH God created the Heavens and the Earth in six days, and rested on the seventh (the Sabbath); and, to remember that YHVH redeemed and delivered His people Israel out of hard labor and bondage in Egypt to give them rest in the promised Land. This first of the appointed ‘Feasts of YHVH’ given to Israel (Lev 23) is a holy day to remember (and to act accordingly) our Creator and Redeemer, and the beginning of all that He created and made, and His mighty acts of redemption. So, in remembering the beginnings, we are also brought to remember the first day of the creation week, when God called light to shine out of the darkness.
In the plan of God, the day after the Sabbath is the first day of the week, or Sunday/Sonday – the day of light. As born-again new creation children of light and of the resurrection (1Thes 5:4-6; Lk 20:35-36), we have been redeemed, and reconciled to God by the blood of the cross, being brought back into the uncreated Light that is God: Messiah Yeshua/Jesus is the uncreated Light of the world even before there was a sun. The seventh-day Sabbath is not the end of God’s plan; the day after the Sabbath, the eternal day of no darkness is the new beginning of eternal life in the new creation that the Father is preparing for those who love Him and His Son. The Sabbath day is a day to look back, in anticipation of the future judgment and the world to come. Yeshua/Jesus is our Sabbath rest, in whom we cease from our own works to do the works of God. (Heb 4)
First-fruits (Lev 23:9-11)
This holiday has to do with resurrection, the day after the Sabbath (Mt 28:1; Lk 24:1; 1Cor 16:2); it has nothing special to do with the 1st day after Passover, nor with a particular date after the Passover. The counting of the omer (sheaves of wheat) was to begin from this day: the firstfruit of the harvest is showing itself, and is waved before God: Yeshua is alive, first-fruits from the dead! (1Cor 15:20-23) It is the Son‘s day! This is the day that the LORD (YHVH) has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in the Lord and in His day! (Ps 118:15-29; Rev 1:10)
Weeks (Shavuot)/Pentecost (50 Days) (Lev 23:15-17; Acts 2:1)
The Word of the LORD to Moses for Israel tells them to begin counting the appearance of the living wheat harvest from the day after the Sabbath which comes during the Passover week, regardless of what day Passover may actually begin. Seven complete Sabbaths, and 50 days from the day of first-fruits/resurrection, is to be celebrated as a presentation of a new grain offering unto YHVH: two leavened loaves of bread. Shavuot/Pentecost should, therefore, always be celebrated on a Sonday, just as God commanded Israel. This celebration is expressive of our unity in Messiah/Christ, all knowing that we are sinners for whom the Lord died. The holiday displays the power of the life of God in the redeemed and forgiven believer in the gospel. Yeshua is glorified, risen from the dead and seated in glory! It is a time to rejoice together in Him by the Holy Spirit who has come to dwell in us who are born-again from above!
Yet Israel has changed the day of beginning the count of the 50 days and the 7 weeks, by beginning the count from the day after Passover; that is, on the 16th of the first month, Nisan, on the Hebrew calendar. Doing so brings them to celebrate Shavuot always on the 6th day of the third month, Sivan. This is not what God instructed them through His Torah, and, by doing so, the Jewish people have been blinded to the clear connection with Jesus/Yeshua and with His resurrection. This is not a disconnect caused by the “Gentile Church”, but by the Jewish Synagogue. (Some believers, who are caught up in turning away from all things ‘church’ and taking on all things ‘Jew-ish’, have begun the count on the 17th of Nisan, reckoning the three days and nights of Yeshua being in the grave from the 14th, as the starting point of counting. But that date is neither the day after the Sabbath of the Passover day, the 15th, nor is it what God said and Moses wrote. As the apostle Paul admonished, there are those who would be teachers of the Law, but do not know what they are talking about.) (1Tim 1:5-8)
The Holy Spirit is fulfilling the Word of God. A serious problem has come because Christians have not been able to explain the fulfillment of these appointed holiday feasts from the Bible, often out of ignorance, but sometimes due to reliance on faulty Jewish custom and tradition; again, sometimes in ignorance, other times in rebellion, like Jeroboam. Jewish people don’t know either. But Messianic Jews, and Gentile believers in Jesus who connect with Israel and the Jewish people, should know, and act in humble and thankful obedience to God, who magnifies the truth that Yeshua is the Messiah, and He has come! We are His witnesses, and if we are going to celebrate holidays, then we should at least be able to say what and when they are, even if we are free, for the gospel’s sake, to celebrate, or not to celebrate – unto God — as situations present themselves. (Col 2:16-17) There is a powerful testimony when believers across streams and cultures celebrate corporately as one body and family the mighty acts of the one true God!
Many are following those who teach that the New Moon is a sighted crescent, rather than the two to three days of a darkened moon, which typifies the Biblical life which is by faith, and not by sight. As all of YHVH’s appointed times, the New Moon also relates to Yeshua and also to Israel.
Memorial of Blowing of Trumpets (Lev 23:23-25)
The Jewish religious authorities added a day to Rosh HaShana, and call it the New Year rather than the 1st of the 7th month. In adding a day, it puts hardship on poor people who are dependent on daily wages for work. In emphasizing the Memorial of Trumpet Blasts as the beginning of the Jewish calendar year, it brings in confusion in the people’s mind regarding the redemptive plan of the God of Israel, and His time-table.
Day of Atonements (Lev 16; 23:26-32; Is 53; Zec 12:10-14)
On Yom Kippur, the Jewish religion places its emphasis on this holiest day in God’s calendar for the people’s civil and religious life on bodily fasting from food for 25 hours, in the hope that their names will be inscribed favorably by God for the coming year, rather than on one’s genuine sorrow and regret for unbelief and disobedience against YHVH and His commandments. For those who are justified through faith in God and in His provision of the sacrificial atoning sacrifice by His Son for our sin, transgression, and iniquity, it is a new beginning, transformed by an affliction of soul to be converted, healed, and fully restored even beyond what we could have thought possible; and, as usual with God, it is all connected with Jesus! Jubilee! (Lev 25:8-12)
Hanukkah/Birth of the Messiah the Lord (Jn 10; Is 9:6-7; Hag 2; Lk 2:4-20)
The true Light has come; all who came before must give honor and glory to the Lord of all. Yeshua/Jesus must increase; they all must decrease. (Jn 3:30-31)
There is the over-emphasis on the connection with the Jewish Passover (recipients of grace apart from sin) and not upon Yeshua’s death being also a sin and guilt offering, the atonement (all people, all sinners in need of a Savior), opening the way into God’s presence for both Jew and Gentile believers (Mt 27:51; Heb 10:15-25) There is no sound basis that the ‘Last Supper’ was a meal patterned after the modern Passover seder. Yeshua was closing out one dispensation, while ushering in a new and better covenant for His disciples and spiritual family, and giving us a better inheritance than the Law can give hope for.
Both the Old and the New are at present in force, as God works to fulfill every jot and tittle that is written in the Law and the Prophets, to be brought to completion during the Millennial Kingdom. (Mt 5:17-18)
Other holidays have been added to the Jewish calendar, such as Tisha B’Av (Zec 7:1-13; 8:19) and Lag BaOmer, which have become more sacrosanct to the Israeli Jewish people than God’s own memorials; yet there are those within the Messianic movement who give even these credibility, despite their being instituted in direct opposition to the judgments of God against His own people for their unbelief, rebellion, and consequent gross idolatries. (Is 1:10-20; Amos 5:21-24; Rev 3:14-22)
We need to beware of the mote in our own eyes with respect to holidays before we think we can help others with specks in theirs. Those who say that they see will be judged more severely than those who are blind. (Jn 9:39-41; Ja 3:1) The devil is a liar, deceiver, murderer, and destroyer. It is for us to honor the Lord, and bear witness of Jesus/Yeshua to His people – whether unsaved Jews, or whether misguided or unsaved Christians – as we celebrate our great God and Savior.
Jewish believers generally do not recognize or celebrate/observe Sonday/Sunday; First-fruits/Resurrection Day; Pentecost/Shavuot according to the Lord’s timing; the birth of the Messiah. Shavuot as dated in Judaism is instead of Pentecost; Hanukkah is in competition with Christmas, and given meaning that seeks to decrease the greatness of the Lord’s coming in the flesh into the world; Saturday is considered as the Lord’s Day, and given prominence over the significance of the ‘day after the Sabbath’ prophetically of new birth and eternal life after death for the believer in Messiah.
The Hebraic and Jewish roots of the Messianic/Christian faith are found in the Word of God given to Israel and the Jewish people. But the roots have produced a whole plant that looks much different than the seed that was planted to sprout those roots. (1Cor 15:35-49) The flower and fruit are more interesting and glorious than the tangled roots, for all their fascination that God has created and made! God is calling out a people for Himself from every nation; the gospel is neither Jewish nor Greek, but a new thing in the Earth which YHVH is creating in Christ/Messiah. His appointed times which testify to Messiah having already come – and coming again — bring all believers from any and every nation outside of our camps to Yeshua, uniting us in His love as we suffer with Him and bear His reproach, hoping in His return and the resurrection. (Heb 13:12-16; Rom 8:18-24) Neither Jewish believers nor Gentile believers are called to bring anyone into our purpose; but God is calling out one new man into His purpose, which He has planned before He created anything.