A long time ago, in a German forest very far away, lived a brother, Hansel and a sister, Gretel. Their wicked stepmother decided that there was not enough food to go around, and so she forced her hen-pecked husband into abandoning the two children in the heart of a black forest. Hansel was quick on his feet and overheard the nefarious plot. Arming himself with a loaf of bread, he stealthily left a trail of breadcrumbs on their way into the forest. He counted on eventually leading his sister out of the woods and back home. In the meantime hungry birdies followed behind, pecking and eating up all the crumbs. The two sweet children were lost in the deep, dark forest.
This Teutonic fable parallels a tragic aspect of Jewish history. Stevie Winwood (of the rock super group Blind Faith) said something similar in his ballad “Can’t find my way home.”
Trails of tears and breadcrumbs
When Israel went into Exile – first the ten tribes to Assyria (northern Iraq) and then the remaining two tribes to Babylon (central Iraq) – the Jewish people sat down and wept beside the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. They remembered from whence they had come – Zion (Psalm 137:1). They remembered God’s purposes in irrevocably choosing Israel (see Romans 11:28-29) and treasured that calling and those gifts, even above their chiefest joy (Psalm 137:5-6).
But barely 70 years later, the mighty King Cyrus of Persia proclaimed “YHVH, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the House of YHVH, the God of Israel. He is the God who is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:2-3). But barely 50,000 Jewish people returned, leaving millions in Iraq for millennia to come. The Hebrew nation had forgotten the road back home.
The God of Jacob knew this would happen. People do get comfortable, even in exile. His first prophetic word to Israel was COMFORT: “Thus says YHVH, restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded, declares YHVH. And they will return from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, declares YHVH, and your children will return to their own territory” (Jeremiah 31:16-17).
But knowing human nature, the God of Isaac’s next prophetic emphasis was on pro-active PLANNING. Jews would not return to Zion without a ‘Zion’-ist focus: “Set up for yourself road marks! Place for yourself guideposts. Direct your mind to the highway, the way by which you went. Return, O virgin of Israel! Return to these your cities!” (Jeremiah 31:21). Israel needed to lay down a trail of indestructible bread crumbs – etched into the depths of the Jewish soul – remembering two points:
- the need to return from Exile
- the place to return to (Zion)
Today the majority of the world’s Jewish population is in somewhat of a spiritual fog about these two points.
Interestingly, the term ‘breadcrumb trail’ is used today by computer programmers A breadcrumb or breadcrumb trail is a graphical control element often used as a navigational aid in user interfaces and on web pages, allowing users to keep track and maintain awareness of their locations within programs, documents, or websites.
“Get back to where you once belonged”
The last live performance of the Beatles was on the rooftop of Apple Corps, 3 Savile Row in London. Their closing song was “Get Back” with the chorus of this song echoing “Get back to where you once belonged!”
Today many sons of Jacob would respond to God’s call to ‘get back’ with the words of Thomas (Yeshua’s disciple), “Lord, we do not know where You’re going. How do we know the way?” (John 14:5). But YHVH promises, “I will lead the blind by a way they do not know. In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, and I will not leave them undone” (Isaiah 42:16).
Who cares about identity theft when you lose your memory?
The Exile of the Jewish people began with Assyria and Babylon, and has continued into the 20th Century. The Jews of Exile (Persia, Rome, Alexandria, Baghdad, Paris, Berlin and London) had all had settled down for a long winter’s nap. They did pray for Messiah to bring the Hebrew nation back to the Promised Land in His time, but there were precious little pro-active moves. Jewish people began to describe themselves as “Germans of the Mosaic faith” or in similar terms. The horror of the Holocaust and the wonder of the rebirth of the Jewish state of Israel were catalysts which shook some of Jacob’s children into remembering the promises of return and restoration.
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov once said that “Forgetfulness leads to exile, but remembering is the key to redemption.” When Jewish people forget who they are – forget their calling and their culture, their language and their homeland – they no longer remember the most important things. David Crosby encapsulated this in the name of his 1971 LP “If I could only remember my name.”
Reminding the Jewish people
Gentiles who know the God of Israel have a calling to the Jewish people. Paul calls it ‘the ministry of jealousy’ (Romans 11:13-14). It includes reminding the Jewish people about their God, the God of Jacob, and their Messiah Yeshua, the Son of David.
Unfortunately, the picture of Jesus that is usually presented by the Christian world to the Jewish people is that of a non-Jewish Savior bringing a Gentile message. The religious terms are often based on Greek, Latin or German words (‘Christ’ is Greek for Messiah’; ‘Jesus’ is a Greek reworking of the Hebrew ‘Yeshua;’ ‘church’ is from the Greek kuriakē meaning ‘of the Lord’). The artistic depictions of Jesus and His disciples reflect Italians more than Galileans.
- For Jewish people to receive an original and user-friendly gospel (this word comes from the Old English gōdspel, meaning ‘good shpiel or message’), believers in Yeshua need to rediscover and recover the Jewishness of the gospel. And this goes deeper than merely using the word ‘Messiah’ instead of ‘Christ’, or ‘Yeshua’ instead of ‘Jesus.’
Using original Jewish terminology is important, for sure. But the matter goes much deeper than that. It includes other such points:
- realizing that Yeshua is not only the Messiah for Jews, but is Himself physically Jewish in His resurrected body (Luke 2:68-77; Revelation 3:7; 5:5; 22:16)
- understanding that over 90% of the Scriptures are prophetic words involving the physical and spiritual restoration of the Jewish people (Matthew 2:6; Romans 3:1; 9:4)
- meditating on the fact that a Jewish King will reign from a Jewish city surrounded by His Jewish people (Zechariah 2)
- grasping that the international language of commerce, politics and religion will be Hebrew (see Zephaniah 3:9)
- comprehending that the whole world (including our Arabic-speaking neighbors) will be delighted with these things (Isaiah 19:18, 20; 60:5,7,13-15)
The gospel is not only a message birthed in Israel. It remains a message with a Jewish priority. And it will come into its prophesied zenith when a Jewish King sits down on a Jewish throne in a Jewish city, and all the nations come up to Jerusalem, rejoicing in this prophetic fulfilment and worshipping the King of the Jews.
It is not only Jewish people who need to understand the Jewishness of the gospel. The majority of Gentile believers need to understand it and embrace it as well!
How should we then pray?
- Pray for an increased revelation to come to the Jewish people about their own Messiah Yeshua
- Pray for Messiah Yeshua to be revealed to and accepted by many hungry Jewish hearts
- Pray for followers of Jesus worldwide to receive and embrace the revelation about God’s heart and priority for Israel
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army throughout the earth
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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