When a child can finally differentiate between his left and his right hand, even God takes notice (see Jonah 4:12)!
Nearly 3,500 years ago the God of Jacob spoke to Joshua about having a clear vision regarding left and right: “Only be strong and very courageous. Be careful to do according to all the teaching which Moses My servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7). And again, “Do not turn to the right nor to the left. Turn your foot from evil” (Proverbs 4:27).
Johnny Cash sang “I walk the line!” God wants us all to walk a straight line. Turning to the right or to the left means getting off track, getting ensnared in moral compromise or spiritual disobedience.
Here comes the judge
The God of Jacob commanded Moses to appoint judges in Israel known for fairness and impartiality. Any bending of the rules would result in a miscarriage of justice: “According to the terms of the teaching which they teach you, and according to the verdict which they tell you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the right or the left” (Deuteronomy 17:11)
We have a promise that the Good Shepherd of Israel’s voice will tell us in each situation whether a veer to the left or a turn to the right is needed: “Although YHVH has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left” (Isaiah 30:20-21).
When Messiah Yeshua returns to Jerusalem, He will judge all the nations based on how they treat Israel – specifically, how they have long desired to divide both the Promised Land and the City of Jerusalem (see Joel 3:2). That judgment involves a separating to the right and to the left: “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him. And He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left” (Matthew 25:31-33).
Right and left often have deep significance in Scripture – vis-à-vis the past, the present and the future.
Front and center
To sit at the right hand of the king was to sit in a place of the highest honor: “So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king arose to meet her, bowed before her, and sat on his throne. Then he had a throne set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right. Then she said, ‘I am making one small request of you; do not refuse me.’ And the king said to her, ‘Ask, my mother, for I will not refuse you’” (1 Kings 2:19-20).
The desire to sit close to the center of power is very human. Even the Twelve Disciples and one of their mothers struggled with this desire – to be recognized and to have a measure of pre-eminence:
- Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Yeshua with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him.And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” But Yeshua answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to Him, “We are able” (Matthew 20:20-22) . . . Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. Calling them to Himself, Yeshua said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:41-45)
The Twelve Apostles were not the only ones who wanted to be power brokers sitting on the right and left hand of God’s Messiah. Yeshua addressed this same dynamic, speaking to wedding guests jostling each other to get the best seats:
- And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them,“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:7-12)
Sitting on the right and left side of an important Jew
Something surreal often transpires when the God of Jacob drops His heart for the Jewish people into our own hearts. We get hit by a stunning revelation – God is madly in love with Israel. The children of Jacob are a people close to His heart (see Psalm 148:14; Hosea 2:14-23; 11:1-4). Some of us know what it is like to be overwhelmed by His love for the Jewish people. The experience is as exciting as a wedding night!
Responding to that heart-revelation, some of us have tried to get close to the Jewish people. Along the way we ran into some bumps in the road – potholes on the way to paradise! Jewish people are occasionally suspicious of starry-eyed Gentile believers. It is not unusual for there to be wariness, disdain or scorn. This process can be very painful.
For those Gentile believers trying to befriend Jewish people, there is another potential hazard: if one tries to share the Good News about the Jewish Messiah, or if the discussion turns to Messianic Jews and their community – stress often results. The Gentile believer is presented with a choice – if you want to continue as a friend of the Jewish people, then you need to cut off all connection with Messianic Jews. This includes a full stop to sharing the gospel with Jewish people and turning a cold shoulder to the Messianic Jewish community. We know more than a handful of Gentile believers who have done just that. They have jettisoned the Jewish gospel. They stay far away from Messianic Jews. Some start pretending that they are actually ‘hidden Jews.’ Others embrace a new form of Replacement Theology, calling themselves ‘of the tribe of Ephraim.’ Still others try to live as Orthodox Jews, even converting to Rabbinic Judaism. These tragic situations are very real. Faces of former friends pass before my eyes.
Some of these Gentiles have chosen to get very close – to sit on the right and left side, as it were, of Orthodox Jewish people who vehemently reject the Jew Yeshua. This often involves buying into a lie and sometimes leads to the shipwreck of one’s faith. The price of admission that some Gentiles feel they need to pay to be accepted by the Orthodox Jewish community, can go as far as turning publicly against Messianic Jews and castigating them in Jewish circles. A recent example of this has surfaced in Israel in the past few weeks, revolving around attacks on GOD TV’s Messianic Jewish cable station Shelanu on the HOT network. Some Orthodox Jewish spokesmen (who have assiduously cultivated handfuls of pro-Israel Evangelicals over the years) have persuaded these Christian Zionists to publicly oppose Israel’s first Messianic Jewish-operated cable TV station – even to the point of pressuring Prime Minister Netanyahu to rescind GOD TV’s license:
Years ago, the Apostle John faced a similar problem with a congregational leader named Diotrephes. This man rejected the gospel and apostolic authority, loved the limelight and accused Messianic Jews with wicked words: “I wrote something to the congregation, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words. And not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the congregation” (3 John 9-10).
What is the threat to Jewish-Christian ties?
The Jerusalem Post newspaper recently posted an op-ed entitled “Is GOD TV a threat to Jewish-Christian ties?” The more accurate question would be, “Is the gospel a threat to Jewish-Christian ties?” (www.jpost.com/israel-news/is-god-tv-a-threat-to-jewish-christian-ties-627798).
Freedom of religion in the Western world is meant to safeguard the free practice of one’s religious faith. A central part of the faith of Messianic Jews and Gentiles is that the New Covenant scriptures (and Messianic prophecy in the Hebrew Scriptures) reveal the Jewish Messiah Yeshua as the only atoning hope for the world. In Romans 1:16 Paul declares that he is not ashamed of the good news of Yeshua. It is the dynamite-like power of God to bring salvation to all who believe. That passage declares that the message is to be preached with priority (according to the Greek word prôton) to the Jewish people and also to all other nations. This is the gospel, and its message is not a threat to Jews or to Gentiles. To speak clearly, it is the only way that Jewish people and Gentiles can come into a personal relationship with the God of Israel. According to the New Testament Scriptures, any attempt to suppress the Good News of the Jewish Messiah is a clear and present spiritual danger to mankind, including to the Jewish people.
Choose all three – Yeshua, the Messianic Jewish remnant, and the Jewish people!
The God of Israel is looking for a few good men and women with backbone. To love Him means to love His choices and also to love the Jewish people whom He loves. One of the ways YHVH demonstrates His love for the Jewish people is through His birthing of the Messianic Jewish community. When gospel-believers love the God of Israel in a biblical way, they will love the people of Israel and also love the Messianic Jewish remnant within that people.
- “Thus says YHVH, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one says, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is benefit in it,’ so I will act on behalf of My servants in order not to destroy all of them” (Isaiah 65:8)
- “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)
These three golden rings are inseparable. Let’s hold fast to all three and remain faithful to our calling!
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Messiah” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
“But in everything commending ourselves as servants of God . . . by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left” (2 Corinthians 6:4,7)
How should we then pray?
- Pray for a revelation of God’s love for the Jewish gospel and Messianic Jews to come to believers whose light is in danger of being extinguished
- Pray for an infusion of spiritual courage to come for those called to proclaim Good News to Zion (Isaiah 40:9; 52:7; Romans 1:16)
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army
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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