Posts tagged ‘Messianic Jews’

The Church & The Old Testament Law

I have been on a journey.  It started when a friend introduced me to the idea that there was insight to be gained by studying the Scriptures through Messianic Rabbis.  Then while reading through the book of Romans, God revealed quite plainly that the Jews are still His chosen people, and that the Gentile church should honor them as the root of our spiritual blessings (since our Savior was Jewish, and it is through the Jews that He came, ultimately offering salvation to the Jew first, and then to the Gentile).  I had never been taught that the Church had replaced Israel as God’s people (Replacement theology), but in fact, I had never really been taught anything about Israel, the Jews, or their role in the world, or in the Church.  As I continued to study throughout this journey, God slowly on taught me about His plan for the Jews and the Church.

About a year ago I wrote a couple of posts detailing the 7 feasts of Israel…those Israel was commanded by God in the Torah (specifically Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy) to observe every year.  My posts explained the direct link between the feasts and their purposes and prophecy, half of which have been fulfilled by the first coming of Yeshua (Jesus’ Hebrew name…the one given by God).  Those feasts are the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of First Fruits, and Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks.  They were each prophetically fulfilled in Yeshua’s death (as Passover Lamb), sinless life (unleavened bread; leaven/yeast representing sin), resurrection (first fruits of those raised from the dead to eternal life), and Pentecost.  At the first Pentecost, God gave the Israelites the Law.  Salvation was obtained through obedience to the Law.  On Pentecost after the resurrection of Yeshua, He gave believers the Holy Spirit, marking us as obedient/righteous through the righteousness of Messiah.

These four feasts are in the spring, and all have been prophetically fulfilled.  The remaining three feasts are the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).  The spring feasts are at the time of planting.  The time of growth follows.  In the fall, the remaining feasts are at the time of harvest, and they have yet to be fulfilled.  They will be at the 2nd coming of Christ.  The seven feasts bookend the Church Age, which is the “summer” of growth period between the spring planting and the fall harvest.

Back to my journey; as I studied and wrote about the Feasts last year, I wondered what the Gentile Christian is supposed to do about them.  And what about the Law, which is the Torah?  Is the Church supposed to be observing the Old Testament Law, including the Feasts?  The laws regarding clean and unclean?  The Sabbath?  Other?  More and more as I continued my Bible study, I was increasingly plagued by the question of how closely the Church and the Jews should be connected.

All of this was compounded this spring when I came under conviction by the Holy Spirit that I am to observe Passover in place of Good Friday.  If you follow my blog, you may recall the post I wrote as a result.  This led to more questions on my part.  Since I felt led to observe Passover, did that mean I should observe all of the Feasts?  And then of course, did that mean I needed to observe all of the Law.

After a long time of prayer and study, I believe that I can say with certainty what it is that God has been slowly on revealing to me over the years, and what His message is for the Church.  Let’s begin with some basics.

First and foremost we need to understand the Yeshua, as I stated earlier, was Jewish.  He was born to Jewish parents who observed the Jewish Law of Moses.  We know this because they observed Passover (when he went to the temple as a 12 year old boy), and he was circumcised on the 8th day.  Yeshua Himself said that he was sent to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” in Matthew 15:24.  In John 4:22 He said that salvation was from the Jews.  So Jesus was a Jew, who was sent to the Jews, and it was through the Jews that salvation would come to all the world.  In Luke 24, Yeshua walked with 2 men on the road to Emmaus…remember?  While He walked with them, He revealed to them all the prophecies from the Jewish Scriptures regarding the Messiah and how He had fulfilled them, so Yeshua is also the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy.  There is a direct correlation between Jesus, our savior, the bridegroom of the church, and the Jews.  This connection did not end when the Church began, nor when it began to spread to the Gentiles.  The connection to the Jews will continue into eternity.  This we know because Revelation tells us the great city that comes down from Heaven will be called…the New Jerusalem.  It’s gates will be named after the 12 Jewish tribes and the 12 Jewish apostles.

God had a plan for the Jews which He fulfilled in sending Messiah.  But that plan did not end there.  It will continue into eternity.  God has not given up Israel, nor has He replaced her in His plans with the Church.  Read Jeremiah 31:6-9, Jeremiah 33:34-36, Romans 11:1-2, 10-26.  Note Romans 11:28 TLV – “Concerning the Good News, they [the Jews] are hostile for your sake [the Gentiles]; but concerning chosenness, they are loved on account of the fathers–for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”  (Emphasis mine.)

Romans 11 is the chapter in which Paul (a Jew) explains how the Church is a wild olive branch grafted into the “cultivated olive tree” which is Israel.  He stresses that we are not to be arrogant, thinking that we are better than the Jews because we have seen the Messiah and believed when they have not.  It is because of them that Messiah came in the first place, but also we must remember that God allowed their hearts to be hardened so that salvation could go out from them to the Gentiles through a Jewish remnant who would believe.  Remember that the first church fathers were the Jewish apostles, and the first church members were Jewish.  And in fact, in Romans 15: 25-27 Paul commands the Gentile church to financially support the Jews.  Recall, too, that God told Abraham that those who blessed him (and his descendants) would be blessed, and those who cursed him would be cursed.  God is very serious about how the Church (and the world for that matter) treats Israel, and it would behoove us to examine our attitude and actions toward her.

The second point in this is that Jesus never intended for the Church and the Jews to be two separate entities.  The Old Testament Law is the basis for Judaism.  It is a religion that has been fulfilled.  The religion in its entirety points to the coming Messiah.  Thus, when Jesus came, He fulfilled Judaism.  The Church is built on the foundation of the original Old Testament Judaism.  The two, Old Testament Judaism* and the Church, are intended to be a union, two parts making a whole.  Ephesians 2:11-22 explain this.  In particular notice verse 14 which says, “For He is our shalom, the One who made the two into one and broke down the middle wall of separation,”  and verse 15b-16 which says, “He did this in order to create within Himself one new man from the two groups, making shalom and to reconcile both to God in one body through the cross.”

*Old Testament Judaism:  I am using this term to refer to the very specific written law that God gave to Moses in the desert and commanded the Israelites to obey.  This is the Law that is recorded in the first five books of the Bible.  Between that time, and the time that Yeshua came, many additional legalistic regulations were added to that written law.  They were called the Oral Law; Jesus referred to them as the traditions of men.  Since the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, there was also added the Rabbinical Law which was established to give guidance to Jews who wanted to practice the faith, but could not fully do so without the ability to include animal sacrifice without the existence of the Temple.

So far we have established the Jewishness of Christianity/the Church through our Jewish Savior, and as the very source, or basis of it.  And we have established that Jesus intended for believing Jews and the Gentile believers to be united as one body.

Next we look at the Law, or the Torah.  The Torah is contained in the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  It begins with creation, including the Sabbath, the 7th day of rest; includes the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai; and it also includes all of the laws regarding cleanliness, sacrifices, and the Feasts.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18 TLV – “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets!  I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.  Amen, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass.”  He continued on to say in verse 19:  “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  But whoever keeps and teaches them, this one shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

It is clear that the Yeshua intended for the Law to continue and to be obeyed; obedience making righteousness.  When Yeshua was asked what the greatest commandment was, He said that it is to love God, and the 2nd is to love your neighbor as yourself.  All of the law is summed up in those two.  Paul refers to this as Messiah’s Law in Galatians 5:2.  If you consider the commandments (do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, honor your father and mother, etc.) this makes sense.  However, one commandment does not fit in under the love God and love your neighbor umbrella.  That is the “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” command.  This is really a topic for another post, so I won’t go into it in great depth, other than to say that God set the Sabbath aside as holy at the time of creation.  That was before the Israelites existed.  It is not a command just for the followers of the Jewish Law.  It is a command for all mankind.  Since Yeshua also said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, I understand that to mean that we are to observe a day of rest, and keep it holy, but we should not allow legalism to rule it.  In other words, whether it be on Saturday or Sunday doesn’t matter as much as whether or not you have a Sabbath rest.  Try to limit your work, spend time in worship, and rest.

Now back to the rest of the Law.  The Old Testament Law had three primary standards:  the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the Temple.  These three standards were all the responsibility of the tribe of Levi.  The priests were Levites.  The sacrifices were performed by the priests.  And the Temple was cared for and maintained by the priests.  These standards were necessary to fully observe the Law.  What do we know about Yeshua in light of the standards?  We know that He is the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14).  We know that His death on the cross was the sacrifice that was once and for all (Hebrews 10:10).  And we know that our bodies (those of believers) are now the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).  All three standards were met, fulfilled, in Yeshua.  Where the Old Testament Law pointed to righteousness, Messiah’s fulfillment of the Law became righteousness, which we receive by trusting in Him (Galatians 2:16).

I’ve shared a lot of information, but I still have not clarified what the Church should do about the Old Testament Law.  I already talked about observing the Sabbath.  I also think it is obvious that we should be observing the Ten Commandments as they are summed up in Messiah’s Law.  The sacrifices are no longer necessary as Jesus fulfilled them.  That leaves the laws regarding cleanliness, circumcision, and so on.  Is the Church required to eat kosher meat, and consider themselves to be unclean after coming in contact with a corpse, or observe the 7 Feasts?

Paul declared in Romans 6:14 that we are not under the Law, but under grace.  The question is, how much of the Law are we free from?  This was a question that received quite a bit of discussion in the early Church.  Since Jews were inextricably linked to Judaism, or the Old Testament Law, there was never a question of whether a Jew was a Jew.  If he was a believer in the Messiah, it did not matter, he was still Jewish.  He still attended the Synagogue and still observed the Law of Moses.  He just had a new understanding of the Law.  When Gentiles became believers in Messiah, new questions arose.  Are they Jewish?  Do they need to be circumcised?  Do they need to follow the Law of Moses?  In Acts 15:19-21, we see it was decided that the Gentiles needed to obey some of the Law, but were free from most of it.  James, the brother of Jesus, said, “Therefore, I judge not to trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God– but to write to them to abstain from the contamination of idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what is strangled, and from blood.  For Moses from ancient generations has had in every city those who proclaim him, since he is read in all the synagogues every Shabbat.”  The Gentiles who were becoming believers were meeting with the Jews in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  It was the only way for them to learn about God the Father, and His plans.  The portions of the Law that James listed as the areas to observe, were the specific things that would prevent a Jew from keeping company with them because they would have been considered unclean.  By observing this short list from the Law, the believing Gentiles would be allowed into the synagogue and could study and worship alongside the Jews.

Aside from this, there is nothing in Acts or the Epistles that instructs the Gentile believers to follow the Old Testament Law, with an exception, which I will get to in just a minute.  In Romans 14, Paul makes it clear that the believer is to do as his conscience leads him to do.  This is the passage that talks about being able to eat food offered to idols if one does not feel convicted of it as a sin.  But if one does feel convicted, then it is a sin because that person has gone against his own conscience.  It is also wrong to partake in such a way while in the company of someone who considers it a sin even if you don’t.  The gist of this passage is that nothing in and of itself is unholy as it is made by God.  It is what we do with it that makes a thing holy or unholy.

The exception to the Gentile observance of the Old Testament Law is with regard to the feasts, particularly the Passover.  In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 NKJV Paul instructs the Gentile believers at Corinth in this way:  “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (emphasis mine).  

We know that Paul continued to celebrate the Feasts.  Aside from the above passage, we also see in 1 Corinthians 16:8 that he reported staying in Ephesus until Pentecost (the Feast of Weeks).  And in Acts 20:6 it is reported that he sailed from Phillippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which followed immediately after Passover, so we can conclude that he observed both.  We also know that Yeshua observed the Feasts.  In Luke 22:7 He instructs his disciples to prepare the Passover.  In fact, the Lord’s Supper, Communion, is a miniature Passover meal, and Yeshua’s followers are commanded to “do this in remembrance of Me.”  We also see in Zechariah 14:16 that all the people of the earth during the time of the Millennial reign of Messiah will travel to Jerusalem to worship King Jesus, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).

If Jesus observed the Feasts; and Paul, the disciple to the Gentiles observed the Feasts; and all believers are commanded to observe Communion, a miniature Passover; and Paul instructed Gentile believers to “keep the feast”; and the Feast of Tabernacles will be observed during the Millennium; and the Feasts are all prophecies pointing to either the first or second coming of Messiah…is there really a legitimate reason to not observe, or at the very least, recognize the 7 Feasts of Israel?  There is no place that I have found that specifically says Gentile believers are exempt from observing the Feasts.  Neither is there a place that explicitly instructs us to follow all of the Feasts.  But I do believe that instruction is implied.  Because sacrifices have been taken care of by Yeshua, they need not be a part of our observance.  It would be good to mark these dates on your calendar, though; study how God instructed them to be observed, and consider ways to observe at least some of each feast.  In doing so, won’t we be continually reminded of how Jesus fulfilled God’s promises for a Savior as the Passover Lamb, and be encouraged to look forward to the promise of the fulfillment of the remaining feasts in the return of the King?

Who is Israel? And What Role, If Any, Does She Play in God’s Kingdom?

In a world that has been dominated for centuries by the Christian church, there are those who wonder what Israel has to do with anything anymore.  Many believe that Israel has been abandoned by God and replaced with the Church as His chosen people.  However, an increasing number of Christians are beginning to understand that God is not finished with Israel yet.  In fact, the Christian church has, for centuries, been not only wrong, but completely backwards.  In order to flesh all of this out, it is going to take more than can be contained in one article.

To begin, we need to examine who Israel is.  For that we turn to the Bible, specifically, the very first book, Genesis.  The first eleven books of Genesis chronicle the beginning of God’s work on earth, from His creation, through the fall of man into sin, to the earth’s (and man’s) destruction via a flood that covered the entire earth (save only Noah and his family).

The whole of mankind was repopulated through the line of Noah.  In this we see a pattern of God dividing and separating (a pattern that goes back to Adam’s children when Seth was set aside to be the line of righteousness).  Noah’s three sons were Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  Ham was cursed for not averting his eyes from Noah’s nakedness (Genesis 9).  It is from his line that the Canaanites came (as well as Babylon, Assyria, and Philistia, among other future enemies of Israel).  Shem and Japheth received a split blessing.  Japheth was to be materially blessed, and indeed, from him came the nations which became the western world.  Shem received the spiritual blessing to be the line of righteousness.  From Shem came Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and eventually Yeshua (Jesus), the Savior of the world.

At the end of Genesis 11, we are introduced to Abraham, and God’s process of dividing and separating continued.  Abraham was chosen and separated from his family and brother, Nahor.  He was a pagan who believed in many gods, yet when he heard the voice of Yahweh, the one true God, call him to leave the land of his fathers, he went.  Since gods were believed to be territorial, this meant that Abraham needed to leave the gods of his family behind.  It was a slow, lifelong process for Abraham to realize that Yahweh was God wherever he went.

Something different happened with Abraham right from the start that did not happen with people previous to him.  God blessed him in a very special way.  Genesis 12:1-3 (TLV*) says:  Then ADONAI said to Abram, “Get going out from your land, and from your relatives, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.  My heart’s desire is to make you into a great nation, to bless you, to make your name great so that you may be a blessing.  My desire is to bless those who bless you, but whoever curses you, I will curse, and in you, all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Even though God promised to make a great nation of Abram (whose name was later changed to Abraham), he had no son to carry on his name, and he was already an old man.  Ten years passed, and there was still no son.  In an effort to help God along with His promise, Abraham, at the encouragement of his wife, Sarah, took Sarah’s maid as his wife (more accurately a concubine).  Abraham, at the age of 86, became the father of a bouncing baby boy named Ishmael.  However, Ishmael was not the son that God had promised.  Not only was Ishmael not born of Abraham’s true wife, he was born of a woman who was from the cursed line of Ham, an Egyptian maidservant.

Thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael, God spoke to Abraham again.  He extended the covenant promise He had made to Abraham earlier.  In chapter 17:7-8 God said, “Yes, I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and your seed after you, throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, in order to be your God, and your seed’s God after you.  I will give to you and to your seed after you, the land where you are an outsider—the whole land of Canaan—as an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

(Note the two uses of the word “everlasting.”  This will come up later in this series.  God made an “everlasting” covenant with Abraham and his seed, and God gave Canaan to Abraham’s seed as an “everlasting” possession.)

It is in this same chapter (verses 16-19) that God re-affirms His promise to Abraham that he will have a son by Sarah.  Finally, in chapter 21, with Abraham 100 years old, and Sarah 90, the promised son is born.  He is named Isaac, as God commanded.  Here is the next step in the dividing and separating.  Even though Abraham now has two sons, God separates them.  He allows for Sarah to send Ishmael and his mother away without anything.  Isaac remains, and receives the full portion of the blessing to be the blessed seed of Abraham.

There is one more instance of God dividing and choosing to come yet, in this founding of a nation.  Quickly, though, we need to show that Isaac continued to receive God’s blessing, as was promised to Abraham.

In Genesis 26:3-5 God confirms the continuation of His Abrahamic covenant:  “Live as an outsider in this land and I will be with you and bless you—for to you and to your seed I give all these lands—and I will confirm my pledge that I swore to Abraham your father.  I will multiply your seed like the stars of the sky and I will give your seed all these lands.  And in your seed all the nations of the earth will continually be blessed, because Abraham listened to My voice and kept My charge, My mitzvot [commandments], My decrees, and My instructions.”

To see the next divide, we actually step back to chapter 25 and the birth of Isaac’s twin sons, Jacob and Esau.  Esau was born first, and should have received the birthright blessing.  However, God chose Jacob, the younger.  Verse 23:  “ADONAI said to her [Rebecca, Isaac’s wife]:  “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from your body will be separated.  One people will be stronger than the other people, but the older will serve the younger.”

Jacob does indeed receive the birthright blessing in chapter 27, which includes a refresher on the curse to those who curse him, and blessing to those who bless him.  More than that, he receives the continuation of God’s original Abrahamic covenant.  In chapter 28:13-15 God said to Jacob, “I am ADONAI, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.  The land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your seed.  Your seed will be as the dust of the land, and you will burst forth to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south.  And in you, all the families of the earth will be blessed—and in your seed.  Behold, I am with you, and I will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I promised you.”

Finally, we come to the birth of the nation.  Genesis 32:29 records God’s words to Jacob.  “Then He said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but rather Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men, and you have overcome.’”

Thus the nation of Israel was born.  Divided from the rest of the nations of the world, and chosen by God specifically to be blessed and to bless.  This series of articles will contain essential information for the Church to know.  Although this first article has had much the appearance of a Bible study, future ones will begin to tie this history of Israel to Yeshua, the early church, the Reformation, and the Church today.

PART TWO

Part one of this series looked at how God divided/separated and chose members from one family or another to found the nation of Israel.  Seth was chosen from Adam’s sons. Noah was from Seth’s line, and his son, Shem was picked to continue the line of righteousness.  Abraham came from Shem’s line, and was hand-picked by God to begin the nation of blessing.  God made a covenant with Abraham that promised more children than the grains of sands, the lands of Canaan as a possession, and that any who cursed Abraham or his seed would be cursed, while those who blessed them would be blessed.  From Abraham’s two sons, God chose Isaac, and from Isaac’s sons, He chose Jacob.  God confirmed with them that He would keep the covenant He made with Abraham as an everlasting covenant with them and their seed.  Finally, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and the nation was born.

In Part two, we will skim over the stories we all know and come to some really interesting verses.  I’m getting excited, so let’s get started!

Jacob/Israel had two wives, two concubines, and a total of twelve sons.  He was often an example of how not to behave.  However, in his old age, he learned to follow the God of his fathers.  In brief summary, Jacob had a favorite wife, and two favorite sons (Joseph and Benjamin) from that wife.  When she died, he favored them even more.  The less-desirable sons were naturally jealous, and when the opportunity presented itself, they sold Joseph into slavery.

God was with Joseph.  Through an amazing series of events, Joseph became the second in command under the Egyptian Pharaoh.  During a famine, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt for food.  The entire family was eventually reunited, and moved to join Joseph there.

[As you read through the Old Testament, watch for the over-arching theme of how God patiently and deliberately fulfilled His plan of salvation for the world through one chosen group of people.  For example:  The story of Joseph is more than God’s faithfulness to one man, or even his family.  It is the story of how God preserved His chosen nation from a famine.]

Israel’s family remained in Egypt for 400 years.  They grew into a large nation.  They were so large and successful that a later Pharaoh enslaved them in order to maintain control.  However, God rose up a leader, Moses, to bring the entire nation of Israel out of slavery.  Tens of thousands of Israelites were organized into twelve tribes, one each to represent the sons of Jacob.  God gave them laws, and established a calendar and Feasts that set them aside as a unique people.  After forty years, they came to the land of Canaan; the land God had promised to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob nearly half a century earlier.

To say that the nation of Israel struggled with being faithful to God would be a gross understatement.  While making the trek from Egypt to Canaan, they grumbled and complained, time and again.  They accused Moses, God’s chosen leader, of bringing them into the desert to die.  They lamented that they would have been better off back in Egypt in the cruel conditions of slavery.

Once they finally took possession of Canaan, a new struggle began.  They now had all the food and water they wanted.  They lived off the fat of the land, and became a large and wealthy nation.  They were feared by their neighbors because God placed victory after victory into the Israelites’ hands.  Yet, even after the miraculous way God had rescued them from slavery, cared for them in the desert, and conquered their enemies, they still turned away from Him.

The Israelites began to live a pattern of worshipping false gods, often completely turning their back on Yahweh, the God of their fathers.  God patiently worked with them.  He sent leader after leader called Judges.  They would bring Israel to repentance.  Israel would be faithful for a time, and then turn away again.

Israel tired of being different from the other nations, and begged for a king.  So God gave them kings.  The books of 1st and 2nd Kings, and 1st and 2nd Chronicles in the Old Testament are a long list of “So-and-So was king, and he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

If you have any history in the church, you already know all of this.  These are stories that have been told in church classes for centuries.  The Old Testament is more than a series of stories of God’s miracles, however.  It is more than a list of commandments and laws.  And it is more than a list of kings; some who did good, and some who did evil.  The Old Testament is a history of a nation.  It is the story of God working through stubborn-headed, hard-hearted people with an abundance of love and patience, never giving up or deserting the people He had chosen.

After the third king of Israel, King Solomon, died, there was a civil war.  The twelve tribes were divided into two separate nations.  The tribes of Judah and Benjamin became the nation of Judah, sometimes called the Southern Kingdom, and its capital was Jerusalem.  The remaining ten tribes continued to be called Israel.  They were sometimes called the Northern Kingdom,or Ephraim (the name of the largest of those tribes).  Israel’s capital was Samaria.

It is at this point that the books of Kings and Chronicles list the good and evil kings.  More and more, the kings were evil.  Eventually, God gave them over to their evil desires to be like the other nations.  Israel was handed over to Assyria.  They were not just conquered.  They were scattered through the whole Assyrian empire. Tribes and families were split up, and intentionally assimilated in with all the other conquered peoples.  Their identity as a people was lost.  In fact, they became known as the Lost Tribes of Israel.  As far as anyone on earth knew, they were gone forever.

Contrary to appearances, Israel was not gone forever.  In Jeremiah 31, we read repeatedly the promise God made to preserve a remnant of each of the tribes of Israel, and one day restore them to the land He had given them.

  • vs. 6b-7a (TLV*) – Proclaim, give praise, and say: ‘ADONAI, save your people, the remnant of Israel!’ Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and I will gather them from the ends of the earth.
  • vs. 9 – Hear the word of ADONAI, O nations, and declare it in the distant islands, and say: ‘He who scattered Israel will gather and watch over him, as a shepherd does his flock.’
  • vs. 16 – “So there is hope for your future”—It is declaration of ADONAI—“when your children will return to their own territory.”

Judah soon followed Israel’s path.  God gave them over to Babylon.  This punishment was different.  Where Israel desired to be like the pagans, Judah still desired to be different, to be set aside by God.  They just failed in doing so.  Judah was taken captive by Babylon, but allowed to maintain their separate identity.  Jerusalem and the temple were utterly destroyed.  Jeremiah 25:11 tells us that the punishment would be rule under Babylon for 70 years.  After that time, they would return to Jerusalem, and rebuild. (Incidentally, it was during this Babylonian captivity that the people of Judah began to be called Jews.)

Jeremiah’s prophecies regarding Judah were fulfilled, in part.  The story of their captivity and ultimate return is told in the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.  Judah did return to Jerusalem.  The city and the temple were rebuilt.  That second temple was the same one that Yeshua (Jesus) threw the money changers out of.  It was the same one that was destroyed in 70 AD and has never been rebuilt…yet.

The prophecy concerning the ten lost tribes of Israel, until recently, remained unfulfilled.  In fact, the lost tribes have been gone for so long, most people assume that the Jews in the current state of Israel are all that is left of the original nation. However, (this is where I start to get really excited!) since 2005, groups of people from all parts of the globe; little pockets, tribes, from here and there, have begun to awaken.

They have followed laws, commandments and feasts that God established for Israel during the time of Moses for thousands of years, without completely knowing why.  But now God is awakening them!  They are recognizing that they are the people of Israel, the ten lost tribes!  One group after another, has made requests to the current nation of Israel to be allowed to return to their homeland.  They have been tested and examined.  Some have even had DNA tests to determine their Hebrew heritage.  Jeremiah’s prophecy that God would preserve a remnant of Israel is being fulfilled today!!!  (For a fascinating afternoon of videos, do a YouTube search of “the ten lost tribes of Israel.”  There are a number of videos of tribes that are returning to Israel.)

In the midst of all of the conquering, assimilation, and destruction of the Old Testament, God made a very important promise.  Jeremiah 31:34-36 – Thus says ADONAI, who gives the sun as a light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars as a light by night, who stirs up the sea so its waves roar, ADONAI-Tzva’ot is His Name:  “Only if this fixed order departs from before Me” –it is a declaration of ADONAI—“then also might Israel’s offspring cease from being a nation before Me—for all time.”  Thus says ADONAI:  “Only if heaven above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then also I will cast off the offspring of Israel—for all they have done.”  It is a declaration of ADONAI.

Remember this promise as we move forward in this series.  There is more to come as we explore what the Apostle Paul says about the Jews and the Church in part 3 of this series.

PART THREE

This series of articles has been taking a  look at the history of the nation of Israel as described in the Bible.  In part 1, we looked at how God took three men (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), and made from them an entire nation; Israel.  In part 2, we looked at the faithlessness of that nation, and their division and captivity by pagan empires.  We also saw that there was hope for their future.  God promised to preserve a remnant of Israel and return it to their homeland one day.  We saw that process has begun just in the last decade or two.  God also promised that Judah would return to Jerusalem after 70 years of captivity.  That happened as prophesied, and Jerusalem and the second temple were rebuilt.

After the books of prophecy in the Old Testament, which tell not only of Judah’s return to Jerusalem, but also of the first and second coming of the Messiah, there is a 400 year blank.  No record is made in the Bible of what happened to the people of Judah between the return from Babylonian exile and the birth of Messiah 400 years later.  We do know for certain that at some point, they came under Roman rule, because that is where the New Testament picks up with Jesus’ birth.  Of course it is in this last third of the Bible that we read of the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Messiah, as well as the beginnings of the Church and early church teachings.

What happened to the Church, and the Jews, after the time of the Bible?  In the beginning of the Church age, the believers were primarily Jews.  Jesus’ disciples were Jewish.  The first congregations were Jewish.  They continued to follow Jewish customs and obey the Law of Moses.  They continued to celebrate the Jewish feasts established by God.

Why wouldn’t they? 

Their LORD was, in fact, Jewish, and followed the same customs, laws, and feasts.  He set the example for them while He was still here.  Gradually, more and more Gentiles also became believers.  When Jerusalem and the second temple were destroyed in 70 AD, persecution against Jews and Christians was rampant.  The Jews were scattered, not to return for nearly 2,000 years.  Christians fled, Jew and Gentile alike, but they took the good news of Messiah’s coming with them.  Christianity spread all over the world.

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Somewhere in those first centuries a hatred for the Jews entered the Church.  They were blamed for the death of Jesus, and hated for rejecting Him.  By the 4th century, Gentile church leaders vehemently condemned the Jews.  Hilary, the Bishop of Poitiers, refused to eat with Jews because of their sinful state.  Saint Jerome stated that God had always hated the Jews.  Bishop John Chrysostom declared that God hates the Jews, therefore, Christians should hate the Jews.  Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan proudly proclaimed that he gave orders to burn down a synagogue.  Augustine of Hippo claimed that the Jews were sons of the devil, and were best represented by Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Jews who did become Christians were forced to publicly renounce Judaism and cut all ties with the Jewish people.  They even went so far as to change the Hebrew names in the Bible to Gentile names in order to remove its Jewishness.   Jesus is not the God-given name of the Messiah; Yeshua is.  The plaque Pilot hung over the cross read, “Yeshua, King of the Jews,” not “Jesus.”  Consider that the Bible says whatever we ask in His name, Yeshua, we shall receive.  And that there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name (Yeshua) under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

This hatred of the Jews continued through the Reformation of the 1500s, and sadly, is alive and well today.  Both Martin Luther, and John Calvin wrote vicious attacks on the Jews:  Luther in his “On the Jews and Their Lies,” and Calvin in his “Responses to Questions and Objections of a Certain Jew.”  Calvin declared that when Paul spoke of Israel in Romans 11:26, he was referring to the Church, thus solidifying the belief that the Gentile Church had replaced Israel as God’s chosen people.  The Church had become Israel.

Has God indeed turned His back on Israel?  Are they eternally condemned, forever rejected, never to receive salvation?  What does the Word of God say?

Let’s begin by looking at the first line of 2 Timothy 3:16 – All Scripture is inspired by GodWhy is this important?  Because the Bible is either true or it is not true.  If we believe that God is truth, then His Word must also be true.  It also must be noted that this was written by Paul before the New Testament existed.  Therefore, the Scripture he refers to is the Old Testament, for that is all they had.  With this foundation, let us now look at what God said about Israel.

Jeremiah 31:35-37 (NKJV*) – Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (the LORD of hosts is His name):  “If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.”  Thus says the LORD:  “If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the LORD.”

Also, Jeremiah 33:25-26 – “’Thus says the LORD:  ‘If My covenant is not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, then I will cast away the descendants of Jacob and David, My servant, so that I will not take any of his descendants to be rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  For I will cause their captives to return, and will have mercy on them.’”

God told Abraham, “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” (Genesis 17:7).

Did God lie to Abraham?  Israel?  He made an everlasting covenant to be their God, and He promised that as long as the ordinances of heaven and earth were still under His command, He would not cast Israel aside and cease to be their God.  Either God is a liar, in which case, I doubt that anyone’s salvation is assured since we are all as faithless as the people of Israel.  Or  God is faithful and true, and He is still the God of Israel with a plan to redeem them to Himself.  “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29).

God has not abandoned Israel.  What does that mean for the Church?  Romans chapter 11 is the best answer.  Paul, speaking to the Gentile church in Rome, described the Jews as the olive tree.  A few branches had been broken off because of their unbelief in Yeshua.  That was a good thing, because it meant there was room for wild branches (Gentiles) to be grafted in, and thus share in the blessings of God upon His chosen people.  As branches grafted in, however, they—we—are not to become arrogant, believing we are better because we have believed.  Rather, we are to be humble, remembering that it is the original olive tree that supports us, not the other way around.  We have become part of Israel, Jewish in spirit.  This is such an important concept!

Since the early centuries of the church, it has been taught and believed that Jews who became Christians needed to leave the Jewish faith, and become Christian only.  This is wrong!  It is completely backwards.  When Gentiles become Christians, we join the olive tree…the fulfillment of the Jewish Law.  Yeshua said He did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it—complete it.  Yeshua celebrated the Passover.  In fact, He completed it by becoming the sacrificial lamb, being       crucified on Passover!

We need to read the Bible in its entirety.  For far too long, Gentile Christians have viewed the Bible as being two parts.  The first part is for the Jews, and the second for the Church.  As spiritual brothers of Israel, grafted into their nation, the Old Testament is as much for us, as it is for them.  What better way to understand who Yeshua was on earth than to read and study the life and customs He grew up in, and continued to follow through His adult life?  Study those customs.  Each of the feasts instilled by God has a part in His salvation plan.  Did you know that key events in Messiah’s mission happened at specific feasts in order to fulfill their meaning?  There are still a couple left unfulfilled.  Find a translation of the Bible that puts the Hebrew names back in.  The Complete Jewish Bible and the Tree of Life Version are two that I know of.  Find an online study that looks at the Bible from the Messianic Jewish perspective.

As brothers of Israel, we also need to love them as God loves them.  Many still reject Yeshua as Messiah.  However, others are beginning to see the truth.  Jews who become believers are called Messianic Jews.  Congregations of Messianic Jews are growing larger and more prevalent in Israel, and around the world.  They are taking the good news of the Messiah to other Jews.  But they also face persecution.  Many are poor, as a result.  Paul declared that it is the duty of the Gentile believer to support our Jewish brothers materially (Romans 15:25-27).  It is important to remember what God promised to Abraham.  As we bless Israel, He blesses us.

God has started a movement.  Here and there throughout the Christian world, He is awakening individuals and groups to the truth of our relationship to Israel- I am one of them.  He is moving to restore Israel and the Church to their original unity; healing God’s nation.  Heed my call, for if branches could be broken from the olive tree, and wild ones grafted in, so can they be removed, and the original be put back (Romans 11:21-24).

*Scripture passages taken from the Tree of Life Version and the New King James Version

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