(Israel Conference at Langensteinbacherhohe, Karlsruhe, Germany: “Radicalism and The Testimony of Christ in Israel”, 22-28 Oct 1999)
Mark 8:34-38; Hebrews 11:24-26; 13:13-14
In Israel the Supreme Court has determined that Jews who believe in Jesus/Yeshua as Lord and Savior are not entitled to immigrate to the State of Israel under the Law of Return. Our faith in Jesus places us outside the Jewish camp of this world.
In Israel, what are we going to do as rulers and principalities in the nation-state of Israel increasingly persecute believers in Yeshua and those who would protect our well-being (Mt. 25:31-40)? What are we believers going to do as the world–including perhaps Germany–increasingly comes against the purposes of God regarding Jerusalem and the regathering of His people back to the Land of Promise (Is. 62:6-7; Ezek. 36:19-29)?. . . We are to do good to all persons, but especially to those in the household of faith, that is, those outside the camps of this present world.
Jewish believers are caught in a dilemma: The LORD Himself has separated Israel from the rest of the nations (Num. 23:9), and within the people of God, the LORD has further separated unto Himself a priesthood of those who whole-heartedly are to serve Him and represent the whole of the people (Num. 1:49; 3:12). Unrepentant and unbelieving Israel has cast Yeshua outside the vineyard (Mt. 21:38-39), so it ought not amaze us when classical Judaism does not embrace Jewish believers in Jesus (Mt. 10:24-25). Many churches, too, have put Jesus outside the sanctuary of worship and life, and He stands knocking on the door to be let in by whoever hears what the Spirit is saying (Rev. 3:14-22).
Fears and ignorance amongst the Jewish people have bred many superstitions. The LORD says to Israel (and to Christians) through the prophet Isaiah, Your iniquities have caused a separation between you and Me (Is. 59:2). Evidence of sin is seen in broken personal relationships and fellowship (communion). Our God grieves that false prophets cause His people to forget His Name because of the baalim (Ps. 44:20-21; Jer. 23:26-27). Jewish people do not pronounce YHWH, but instead speak generally of God, Lord, Messiah. The orthodox will even just say “HaShem”– The Name– or distort the Hebrew and refer to “Elokim”, all supposedly to avoid taking the name YEHOVAH in vain (Ex. 20:7), but really proof of having no personal knowledge or relationship with Him (Hos. 2:16-17). Isn’t it an insult to someone when you keep calling him by any name other than what he prefers to be called? The God of Israel has become as the Unknown God of the Athenians (Acts 17:23).
Do not many Christians do the same? We can be more concerned with offending the sensitivities of those who do not believe with us that there is only one true Messiah, who is the very Son of God, than we are with offending the Lord Jesus Himself! Perhaps we feel embarrassed or ashamed that we or our ancestors have not lived and spoken in a manner worthy of His Holy Name. But we give credibility to the names of all the false gods and antichrists as we ourselves forsake the full and authoritative Word of God for all kinds of traditions and philosophies of men and of demons. Perhaps we are uncertain that it is Jesus alone who is Lord and Christ! We display a lack of fear of God and risk denying Him who has bought us with the price of His own blood. Too many believers who love Israel and the Jewish people distinguish between the Jew Yeshua and the Greek Jesus, between the Jewish Messiah and the gentile Christ. All of this indicates that the glory is departed, is not amongst us, is gone into exile (1Sam. 4:21), for God’s dwelling place is in the midst of His unified people. The question is not, Whose side is the Lord on?, but, Whose camp are we in? (Josh. 5:13-15). To side with YEHOVAH is to place loyalty to Him over the partisan interests of our own camps.
In Israeli society, the word notzri (Heb.) or Christian is a negative term, much like Jew has been amongst Christians historically. It is a name which is blasphemed amongst men, but a sweet smelling savor to God (1Pet. 4:14; James 2:7). The word notzri or Christian simply means belonging to and a follower of Christ (Messiah), who is Jesus (Yeshua), the “netzer” or branch from out of the roots of Jesse (Is. 11:1). Therefore, the term is messianic as a reference, amongst other things, to the Son of David. While both Jews and Christians have made the name of God a reproach (Ezek. 36:19-20), yet Jesus identifies with both when He bore the verdict against Him on the cross, Yeshua haNotzri, Melech haYehudim (Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews)(John 19:19). So we must humbly sanctify and honor His name upon us, and not be ashamed to be called Christian because of what has been done sinfully in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Similarly, for many centuries Jewish people wanted to conceal their identities because of shame or fears of rejection and hatred). In Israel we are called to honor the name of YEHOVAH God and of the Lord Jesus Christ–in whatever language.
The New Testament calls each believer to examine and judge him/herself (1Cor. 11:28-32) and to be accountable for my own sins and the sins of my fathers (Acts 7:50-53), as well as to our sins as a people and the sins of the fathers of our nations and cultures against the Creator and Redeemer God (Lev. 26:39-45). The Bible is clear that there is personal and collective accountability for our histories and a need to repent of sins. This is true for me as a human being in Adam, for me as a Jew in whose rulers and fathers we are guilty as a nation for the crucifixion of the Son of God, for you as Germans with respect to the Holocaust. We all have received forgiveness through our confession of sin and faith in the blood of Jesus who bore all our guilt and shame and curses in His body on the tree. God delivers us from the death sin works in us into the freedom to serve Him with a clean conscience in the joy of being accepted by Him in Jesus!
Today as we look back at and judge the bleak record of church history–often overlooking the many blessings by God’s own faithfulness to keep the covenants–we need to take heed, lest thinking we stand, we fall (Rom. 11:21; 1Cor. 10:12). Jewish believers especially ought to be the last to condemn and the first to forgive and to show mercy and comfort to our Christian brothers and sisters, for we rejected and killed Jesus before there even was a gentile church history; not to mention that over this history Jesus was Lord and within the Body of Christ the Holy Spirit exalted Him. Our sin will be the greater because we say that we see (John 9:40-41). This too puts us outside the camp as we forgive those who have sinned against our people because of our Father forgiving me for my sin against Him and His Son. When Jewish and Arab, or even Jewish and German believers can testify of the reconciliation we have through our common faith in Christ as our Savior and Lord, this will be a witness that peace agreements from within this world are unsatisfactory and unsatisfying, that we must find our peace in the righteousness of God. His terms of peace are signed with the blood of His cross.
To be outside the camp is to suffer misunderstanding and rejection with Jesus and with all others who are outside with Him, willing to be scapegoats who also make intercession for those still inside. Only as we grow in appreciation for the enormity of our own sinfulness which God in His love and righteousness forgave, and let our love for Jesus increase, can we guard against a hardening of our own hearts towards those who refuse the message of reconciliation. It is outside the camp where we meet with God and worship Him in Spirit and truth (Ex. 33:7). Pharoah wanted Moses to compromise and set his conditions for the Israelis to worship their God. Flee from idolatry, my brothers and sisters. God is a Spirit, and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth, looking to the New Jerusalem above, outside the camps of this world.