“This is what YHVH of armies says, ‘In those days ten men from all of the nations will grab hold of the corner of the garment of a Jew, and say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:32).
In days to come, the entire human race will be drawn by cords of spiritual affection to the Jewish people. Mankind will seek out and make it a priority to get to know individual Jews, because the Hebrew nation will characterized by an unusual walk and intimacy with the God of Jacob.
Those days are not yet at hand. Instead, our era sees the fast-growing spread of an anti-Semitic virus throughout the world. Yet at the same time a parallel outpouring of love for the Jewish people is also burgeoning. Gentile believers across the globe are rediscovering the original Jewish roots of the gospel, Jewish expressions of faith, and styles of worship, dress and celebration that are identifiably Jewish.
Many in the larger Jewish community do not quite know what to make of these trends. Of course, Jews feel somewhat safer when Gentiles are nice to Jacob’s children – as opposed to when the nations attack Jews and commit pogroms against them. And we have seen with our own eyes how many Israelis are deeply touched to see believers from the nations arrive in Jerusalem from far away islands and continents carrying Israeli flags and praying for the peace of Jerusalem.
Though there will always be some cynical Jewish leaders who mistrust the motives of even the most benign Gentile believers, the majority of Jews are profoundly touched when confronted by Gentile lovers of Zion.
Yet love of Israel and love for things Jewish need to be coupled to discernment, An undiscerning embrace of anything and everything Jewish could have some potentially negative implications, and that could lead to some confusion.
- Not everything Jewish is godly, and not all Jewish traditions can easily be adapted for New Covenant use.
Let’s look at some of these issues in greater depth.
These are the days of Elijah
During the days of Elijah’s ministry on earth, the nation of Israel was torn by its own divided heart. The majority of the northern ten tribes were swept under by tidal wave of Baal worship, while only a small remnant remained faithful to YHVH in their hearts. Elijah at one point thought in a fit of depression that he was the only Jew still loyal to God (1 Kings 18:20-22). But then YHVH revealed to him that He had reserved for Himself a remnant of seven thousand Jews “whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:14, 18).
God was revealing a spiritual mystery to Elijah – that in every age there is a portion of the Jewish people (called “the remnant of Israel”) which remains faithful to God’s calling. Paul echoes this thought in referring to the Messianic Jews of his own day (as well as of today): “In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice” (Romans 11:5).
In the days of Joshua, mighty miracles were seen by the twelve tribes through the hand of Moses. Yet only two Jews from Joshua’s own generation (Joshua and his comrade Caleb – the “Joshua generation” consisted of only two people!) were allowed the privilege of crossing over the Jordan and entering the Promised Land – and both were over the age of eighty.
The rest of the Jewish people of Joshua’s age were believers, yet were disqualified from entering into the Land. Many of these Jewish people were what we would today call “saved” – part of the faith community – yet their generation still had to bear a national judgment (Numbers 1:3; 14:19-38). That discipline fell on everyone who was twenty years of age and over, on that fateful day in Kadesh of Paran (Numbers 13:26).
Though Joshua and Caleb were a tiny minority, a very small remnant in their day, and though Elijah and his seven thousand were also a remnant in their day, it was these heroes of the faith who were the authentic voices of Israel.
- Not everything Jewish (or even the majority of Jewish opinion) carried the day from God’s point of view – it was the voice of the obedient Jewish remnant.
Not all that glitters is gold
In the excellent film “The Princess Bride”, Miracle Max points out that “there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.” In the same way there is a big difference between gold and fool’s gold. Gold is the mineral symbolized by Au, with an atomic number of 79 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold). Fool’s gold, however, is iron pyrites (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrite), a non-kosher look-alike.
When believers begin to investigate Jewish expressions of faith and styles of worship, it is of utmost importance that the Jewish expressions they choose and build on are “kosher” – biblically sound, faithful to the New Covenant and to the Messiah who has given us new life – pure gold, and not iron pyrites!
All in the family
Levi’s name is internationally known today, but more for blue jeans than for being one of the twelve sons of Jacob. In Exodus 6:16-21 the genealogy of Levi mentions two of his descendants who were brothers – Amram (father of Moses and Aaron) and Izhar (father of Korah). Moses and Korah were first cousins. Both were involved in worshipping YHVH in the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 16:9-10). Yet Korah’s ambition and spirit of control had become demonized to the point where he wanted to steal Aaron’s high priestly office as well (Numbers 16:10-11).
Though both Moses and Korah were Jews, and though both were Levites, in the conflict described in Numbers 16 only Moses was the “kosher” choice, while Korah was definitely non-kosher or “treif.” His rebellion led to the death of his immediate family in a supernatural earthquake, as well as heavenly fire destroying 250 incense burning Levites who sided with the revolt. A further 14,700 Jews who sided with Korah’s attempted putsch were destroyed in a divinely mandated plague.
- It is not enough to choose “something Jewish.” One needs to choose from those Jewish expressions which are “kosher,” which are approved by the God of the Jews! Korah and Moses were equally Jewish, but one of them was definitely not the kosher choice.
A goat may have a beard …
I have been told that my grandfather Shmuel (of blessed memory) used to say, “A goat may have a beard, but that does not make him a rabbi!” My zayde (Yiddish for grandfather) was conveying the same “Korah versus Moses” principle here. What makes a rabbi’s pronouncements kosher (acceptable to God) is not his beautiful, long white beard but if his declarations match up with God’s word.
- It has become fashionable among some Christians who love Jewish roots and ways of expression, to accept rabbinic authority and practice without question in various areas.
Here are three areas to consider, as to whether or not these practices match up to God’s word: conversion to Judaism, use of the rabbinic calendar, and gematria (numerological calculations influenced by kabbalah or Jewish black magic – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gematria).
Driving under the influence
In Yeshua’s day the practice of converting Gentiles to Pharisaic Judaism was well known. Yeshua addresses some Pharisaic teachers of the Torah who “travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are” (Matthew 23:15). It is obvious that Yeshua is stating that not all was well with Pharisaism.
For the sake of accuracy, it is important to emphasize that not all Pharisaic expressions of faith were negative. There were outstanding godly examples of Pharisaism that the New Covenant Scriptures bring to our attention (Acts 5:34; 23:6-9, etc.).
Nevertheless Yeshua was addressing a very real problem rising up within Pharisaic Judaism, one which would eventually crest in Pharisaic rejection of His Messiahship. He warns of an anti-prophetic and anti-Messianic faith system which nevertheless was seeking Gentile converts. This counterfeit conversion movement, Yeshua said, actually shuts “the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to…” (Matthew 23:13).
It was this strand of Pharisaism, Yeshua declared, which also had a hand in the death of so many of God’s prophets – especially in the rejection and crucifixion of Messiah Yeshua: “You testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets” (Matthew 23:31).
Forty years later the city of Jerusalem and the Temple (where the Sadducees had their power base) were destroyed by Roman armies in 70 AD. By 80 AD the leaders of Pharisaic Judaism went on record rejecting the Messiahship of Yeshua, excommunicating His followers from mainstream Jewish houses of worship and prayer (through the Tanna Shmuel Hakatan who authored the Birkat Haminim curse circa 80 AD – still read daily in the synagogue prayer Shmoneh Esrei; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birkat_HaMinim).
- For a Gentile believer in our day to put himself or herself under the spiritual authority of today’s rabbis (whether Orthodox, Conservative or Reform) is to submit oneself to the spiritual descendants of those who reject Yeshua’s Messiahship, divine Sonship and atoning work.
The Apostle Paul in his letters used the full extent of his apostolic authority to clearly forbid Gentile believers from converting to rabbinic Judaism (1 Corinthians 7:18-20; Galatians 5:2-4, 7-12; 6:12-13), saying that such a conversion is like chometz oyf Peysach (leaven on Passover), “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough” (Galatians 5:9).
Travelling on a lie
An old Yiddish proverb wryly notes that one can travel a long way on a lie, but one can never come home. With that in mind, let’s consider the rabbinic declaration that one who converts to Judaism is no longer a Gentile, but a member in good standing of the Jewish people.
In order to be a member in good standing of the Jewish people, one has to be a physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (1 Kings 18:31). This biblical definition is also a racial definition – one actually has to be descended from one of the twelve tribes.
The same is true if one wants to be a recipient of the prophetic blessing given by Jacob – one needs to be descended from one of the twelve tribes (Genesis 49:28).
A Jew could not live wherever he wanted in the Promised Land of Israel. He needed to live in the inheritance given to his own tribe, and those boundaries were mapped out by God through Moses the prophet (Joshua 11:23). These tribal allotments are not only part of ancient Jewish history; they will again be in force in future days – in the coming Days of Messiah (Ezekiel 47:13).
No convert to Judaism wakes up to discover that his/her own DNA has miraculously been converted into Jewish DNA. A Gentile convert to Judaism remains a Gentile in the same way that Ruth was described as a Moabite, even months after her declaration of faith (Ruth 1:16-17; 4:5,9). There is no magic wave of the hand or a hocus-pocus incantation that joins the convert physically to Israel, or even to one specific tribe in Israel.
- The biblical truth is that conversion cannot turn a Gentile into a Jew, and converts belong to no specific tribe in Israel. Conversion of Gentiles to Judaism never was never mandated by YHVH anyway. There are better options available to Gentiles who desire to stand with the Jewish people.
Positive ID check
There are many ways that Gentile believers can positively identify with the Jewish people. Corrie ten Boom, Orde Wingate and tens of thousands of Polish Christians during Nazi occupation serve as amazing examples of how Gentiles can constructively stand with the Jewish people.
Positive identification can take various forms. It begins with developing an appreciation for things Jewish. For some, identification could involve acculturation – the joyous yet discerning embrace of a Jewish lifestyle, language and culture. Standing with the Jewish people can even lead to losing sleep (“give Him and yourselves no rest until …”, Isaiah 62:1, 6-7). At its zenith, it can include being prepared to die for the Jewish people, or even with them (Ruth 1:16-17).
As the same time, loving the Jewish people and appreciating their roots, does not mean denying or devaluing one’s own roots. God has scattered bejeweled facets of grace among all the nations of the world. Women can appreciate masculine expressions and perspectives without denying their own femininity. In the same way Jews and Gentiles can appreciate God’s creative handiwork in the other – without denying their own God-given national identities.
- One does not have to deny one’s own background in order to honor the Jewish people’s time-honored roots.
Fire on the mountains
In the days before Yeshua’s birth, the Jewish Temple leadership in Judea would need to communicate the arrival of festivals and new moons to the exiled Jewish community in Babylon in record time. Bonfires would be lit on the Mount of Olives and then successively across the Middle East, beginning with Mount Sartaba, continuing to Aggrupina, Hauran and Beth Baltin, and finally ending up in Babylon (Mishna, Rosh Hashana 2:2-4).
This system worked well for many years until the Samaritans (sworn enemies of the Jews and the first promoters of Replacement Theology) disrupted the Jewish calendar by lighting counterfeit bonfires on a mountain adjacent to Sartaba – and on the wrong day to boot! After that fiasco, Jerusalem decided to use pony express, a longer method for sure, but one less susceptible to identity theft.
Just as the Samaritans tried to alter and disrupt proper adherence to the Jewish calendar in their day, one should understand that the biblical Jewish calendar has also undergone a certain measure of alteration and disruption since Yeshua’s day.
One of the first steps here involved the replacing of the original Hebrew names of the months (Aviv, Ziv, Bul, Eitanim etc.; see Deuteronomy 16:1; 1 Kings 6:1; 6:38; 8:2) with the names of Babylonian deities and demons (Tammuz, Heshvan etc.). A similar process occurred with the modern Western calendar, which uses monthly names of Roman deities (Janus, Mars, Julius and Augustus Caesar, etc.), and weekday names of Norse gods (Wodens-day, Thors-day etc).
Does anybody really know what time it is?
What we today call “the Jewish calendar” has been influenced by a combination of both biblical and Rabbinic elements. Some Jewish holidays (as well as most liturgical blessings and datings of biblical events) were only created in the Talmudic and medieval periods, centuries after Yeshua – including the supposed year of Creation, the year of the Flood, etc. Though we may admire rabbinic zeal in these matters, there is no way to accurately ascertain the precision of their conclusions. Rabbinic speculations on these matters cannot be the basis for New Covenant theology, history or prophetic perspectives.
When Messiah Yeshua returns, He will correct any errors that we may all have in our dating systems. Whether Yeshua was born in 4 BC or in 3 BC, in the month of December or in April, whether the correct year since Creation is actually 5772 or 6773, let us make sure that we keep our focus on the most important thing – being about our Father’s business until Messiah returns (Luke 2:49 KJV).
Are Hebrew letters really that mysterious?
Rabbinic Judaism has its mystical schools of interpretation. Some of these offshoots are considered heretical by some Orthodox Jews, though still other Orthodox Jewish streams are passionate aficionados of these mystical movements. One mystical interpretative stream is kabbalah (a form of Jewish black magic that has attracted pop personalities from Madonna to Demi Moore). Another mystical method of interpretation involves gematria, an attempt to uncover supposedly hidden spiritual meanings in the Bible by means of a comparative study of the numeric values of Hebrew letters,
Ancient writers often gave numerical values to letters in their alphabets. Most of us are aware of ancient Roman numerals, and can speed read dates of release in the credits at the end of motion pictures (where Roman numerals are used). In the ancient Near East, numbers occasionally substituted for letters in order to avoid “spelling it out” due to religious, political or artistic sensitivities. It is possible that the prophet Jeremiah used such a poetic parallelism in Jeremiah 51:41 (the technique known as atbash, where Sheshak stands in for Babel).
In Jewish mystical writings dating from the 200’s AD and onward, rabbis would occasionally add up the numerical value of all the Hebrew letters in a word, and then compare that total to the total value of another Hebrew word. For example, the word zemer (wordless song) has the same numerical value as remez (spiritual hint). A practitioner of gematria might draw connections between these two words, connecting them because of their similar numeric value. He might then try to posit a gematria-based conclusion – that hints (remez) of redemption can be found specifically in wordless songs (zemer).
This gematria process is not based on accurately explaining the clear meaning of the text (exegesis and exposition) but by pasting together a patchwork of unrelated thoughts and concepts, while trying to establish mystical connections between very different words and contexts.
The presupposition behind gematria is twofold – one, that straight biblical exposition is not as exciting to people as gematria studies; and two, that free-standing Hebrew letters have intrinsic mystical value, and that the God of the Hebrew intended us to uncover the Hebrew Bible’s deepest secrets not by understanding the clear teaching of the text, but by looking for arcane and hidden (or occult, a word which also means “hidden”) meanings in the mystical values of Hebrew letters.
The whole gematria process raises some very red flags. One, the gematria method is never recommended in Scripture. Even among many rabbis it is considered as nutritious as junk food. Two, there is an inherent danger here of a new Gnosticism – hidden revelation that can only be uncovered by those sufficiently trained in the “mystical interpretation of the Hebrew alphabet.” Three, a subtle de-emphasis on Scripture is created, while dependency is created for even wilder and more allegorical flights of fancy based on rabbinic mystical methodology.
One should remember that most Israelis are fluent in Hebrew – including all Israeli children! Yet most Israelis would consider gematria methods of interpretation and its fruits to be a dead end, out of touch with reality, a fanciful dream world having little to do either with logic or with the Biblical text.
How can we pray?
- Pray that God would guard the hearts and minds of those who love Israel and Jewish ways, from getting caught up in false teachings of men and demons that come with a Jewish veneer.
- Pray for those believers who are presently deceived regarding conversion to Judaism, that YHVH would grant them revelation, deliverance and strength to obey the Messianic gospel.
- Pray for believing pastors, teachers and leaders of spiritual movements who have been negatively influenced by rabbinic perspectives on gematria and the Rabbinic calendar, that God would purify their understanding and bring them even greater revelation about these matters.
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!
In Messiah Yeshua,
Donations can be sent to:
FINAL FRONTIER MINISTRIES
BOX 121971 NASHVILLE TN 37212-1971 USA
Donations can also be made on-line (by PayPal) through: www.davidstent.org