Jewish spice – a little dab’ll do ya
Some people look upon the subject of Hebrew roots as a marketing strategy. Others truly are interested in the Jewish perspective on the Gospels. More than a handful see it as akin to a food additive – a ‘hamburger helper’ which will spice up a bland scriptural diet. Throw in a fast reference here and there to some ancient Jewish practice – it could help season an otherwise dry Christian message by adding an interesting ‘authentic’ touch. Like the old Brylcreem ad (www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6F4GtyRfto), a little dab’ll do ya.
There are those who are suspicious of the whole matter. They would say, “Let’s not get carried away here. A little dab of Jewish spice is ok, but let’s not go overboard! The Jews were once the main focus, but now what’s really important is the nations and the final harvest. Jesus may one day reign in Jerusalem, but we feel more comfortable envisioning Zion as more of an international Christian city.”
There’s fear lurking just under the surface for some that ‘this whole Jewish thing could get out of control.’ Irritation can surface when the Jewishness of the gospel and the kingdom are emphasized. Some are convinced that Messianic Jews are too pushy, too positive about the fulfilment of the Jewish promises. They feel that Messianic Jews need to ‘know their place’ and ‘mind their manners.’ “After all,” they say, “isn’t the body of Christ over 99% non-Jewish? A passing reference to Jewish customs and the occasional Messianic Jewish worship song should be quite enough! Let’s not forget that our foundations are Christian!”
It needs to be said that not everything in the Messianic Jewish movement is biblically based or in line with the Scripture. My grandfather used to say, “A goat may have a beard, but that doesn’t make him a rabbi!” In the same way, Messianic teachings and teachers need to be sifted and weighed with care: “Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).
Foundation stones and construction costs
The Apostles describe the Body of Messiah as still being a Jewish organism. The foundations of our Messianic faith were Jewish at the outset, and they remain Jewish to this day:
- “Paul, a bond-servant of Messiah Yeshua, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, . . . through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake” (Romans 1:1-6)
- “Remember Messiah Yeshua, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel,for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned” (2 Timothy 2:8-9)
- “For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things” (Romans 15:26-27)
- “Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh . . . that you were at that time separate from Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.But now in Messiah Yeshua you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah” (Ephesians 2:11-13)
- From the standpoint of the gospel (and) God’s choice (the Jewish people) are beloved for the sake of the Patriarchs. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:28-29)
Many Christians have difficulty accepting the continuing apostolic and Jewish foundations of the Messianic faith. This is largely due to their traditional embrace of Replacement/Rejection Theology. But the Scriptures take pains to explain that Jewish roots are not an added piece of software meant to spice up the church. Jewish roots are actually the original OS (operating system) for the body of Messiah.
The Apostle Paul says, “you (Gentiles) were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree” (Romans 11:24). This much is clear: the olive tree is Jewish, the promises are Jewish (Romans 9:4), and the Messiah is Jewish (Matthew 1:1). Messiah’s throne will be established in a Jewish country (Jeremiah 3:17), and at the Marriage of the Lamb the Groom will certainly be Jewish (see Revelation 22:16)!
The Apostle tells us that God’s household is “built on the foundation of the (Jewish) apostles and prophets, Messiah Yeshua Himself being the corner stone” (Ephesians 2:19-21). It’s true that the majority of the Body of Messiah is not descended from Jacob. God planned it that way. He is delighted in the multifaceted expressions of grace and creativity found in the mosaic of the nations. Yeshua all the same defines the Body as “the commonwealth of Israel” which has ongoing Jewish and apostolic foundations. And YHVH has chosen Israel to be the key to world revival (see https://davidstent.org/books/), to bring light to a dark world by being a servant to the nations.
Jewish architectural plans
In the New Testament, the apostolic gospel is described as being foundational:
- According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Messiah Yeshua. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work (1 Corinthians 3:10-13)
The Jewish roots of the gospel message are not an afterthought in the construction process. They are cemented into the original foundation, rooted in God’s covenants with Israel (see Romans 9:4).
Yeshua shares some divine wisdom with us regarding house building. Before we start the project, we need to ask ourselves, “How much will this cost me?”
- For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ (Luke 14:28-30)
To build solidly on a biblically Jewish and Messianic foundation will exact a cost from us. What is that cost?
The Scriptures are over 95% written by Jews. The audience at the time of its writing was nearly entirely Jewish. The subject matter of biblical prophecy is over 92% directed to the Jews and most of it concerns the destiny of the Jewish people, their homeland and their calling. If leaders in today’s Body of Messiah start teaching the Scriptures this way – the way they are written – and courageously communicate God’s heart and the scriptural strategies concerning the Jewish people, it will cost them. There will be derision, rejection and persecution.
Some people don’t want a gospel which is rooted in God’s heart and priority promises to Israel. They will vote with their feet and choose less radical paths. We should not be surprised, because it happened to Yeshua as well:
- And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.So Yeshua said to the Twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:65-69)
The time for hesitation’s through. We need to do more than grant verbal assent to these biblical truths. An occasional nibble from a few crumbs of Jewish roots won’t supply adequate nutrition. Why not eat haute cuisine from the Messianic Jewish banquet table! As Luke 5:4 says, it’s time to put out into the deep water and let down our nets for a catch. There are riches awaiting any believer who begins to delve into the Jewish foundations of the gospel.
Back to the salt mines
“S’iz shver tzu zayn a Yid!” (It’s hard to be a Jew), goes the old Yiddish proverb. It’s also hard to be a disciple of Messiah Yeshua.
- Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them . . . “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple . . . So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Luke 14:25-27)
Part of the cost of discipleship is holding fast to God’s heart and strategic priority concerning the Jewish people. This is not a negotiable issue.
Messiah Yeshua sadly explains what happens when we (who are supposed to be salt and preservative in a rotting world – see Matthew 5:13) lose our distinctive taste and flavor:
- “Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:34-35).
Tweaking our priorities
God’s apostolic priorities are underscored in Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew with priority (prōton – chiefly, especially, with priority) and also to the Greek.” As the Apostle said, the promises given to Israel are not an appendix, neither are they obscure. They are God’s priority and at the foundation of YHVH’s strategic heart: “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:28-29).
The Bible’s focus should be our focus. There is no benefit in shying away from God’s priority teachings concerning Israel. Whatever our present focus and calling, let’s walk in step with what Yeshua tells us in the word of God about Israel and her destiny. Israel is not an appendix, but it is close to the very heart of the Lord.
The parable of the ten virgins stresses the need for spiritual alertness in times when we are dull to what’s really happening spiritually:
- Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them. But the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ . . . Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour (Matthew 25:1-6, 13)
The foundations of the New Jerusalem are Jewish. The twelve foundation stones under the twelve gates are glowing with the names of the twelve Jewish Apostles, while the twelve gates are eternally engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of Jacob:
- And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Revelation 21:10-14)
In light of these amazing future realities, let’s get back to basics and make the plain things the main things in the outworking of our lives and ministries!
How should we then pray?
- Pray for a wave of revelation and repentance to sweep the body of Messiah concerning Christian Replacement Theology
- Pray for leaders in the body of Messiah to help re-establish the apostolic and Messianic foundations of our faith
- 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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