For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days. -Hosea 3:4-5 (ESV)
In Part 1 of this two-part series, I introduced some really interesting concepts, linking Jewish redemption not with recognizing Jesus as the Messiah but rather, in recognizing and obeying his teachings (perhaps whether first century Jews saw him as Messiah or not). This goes contrary to how the church sees redemption and salvation, which is primarily having a cognitive and emotional belief in the Messiahship of Jesus (and only secondarily in obeying his teachings). To a Christian, it’s all about faith. To a Jew, it’s all about the mitzvot. But if salvation for the Jews and redemption for Israel comes from Jewish obedience to the Torah, and the Messiah will only return when all this comes to pass, what possible role could the church have in this process?
Boaz Michael gave me the answer to that question last Sunday night and it was very elucidating. I can’t directly quote from his presentation (I’m writing all this from memory so any errors found in this blog post are entirely mine), but he did confirm that he believes Israel’s redemption will come only when all of Israel turns back to the Torah. When he said that, I looked around the room and saw some shocked faces. Some people reacted as if Boaz said that Jews only needed the Torah and that Jesus as Messiah was totally beside the point.
This is absolutely NOT what he said. I was there and believe me, I was listening most intently.
He was saying, and I agree, that the Messiah is critical to the return of his people to their Torah but he, the Messiah, will not actually return until all of Israel observes the mitzvot. Here is my personal understanding of what Boaz was saying. Jesus is the teacher for Israel; Jews would call him “Yeshua Rabbeinu”, just as he is also a teacher for the people of the nations. He taught the Torah of Moses to his people and he will return when, in full obedience to Torah, his people will bless his name (Luke 13:35).
But if this has not been accomplished in 2,000 years and Israel’s “house” (Land) remains “desolate,” how can we expect it to be done at all?
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. -Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)
I’m sure that the vast majority of Christians believe Jesus came to save us from our sins and to offer salvation to both the Jews and to the rest of us as individuals. I don’t doubt this as far as it goes, but what if there was another priority built into the “great commission?” What if the great and astounding mission of the Gentile Christian people was and is to support and encourage the return of the hearts of the Jewish people to the Torah? What if this is how we ultimately participate in tikkun olam, the repairing of our broken world? What if our sole destiny is to support Jewish return to Torah so that Israel can be redeemed and then to bring about the return of the Messiah? If the church has been trying to separate the Jews from the Torah for the past nearly 20 centuries, no wonder the Messiah hasn’t come back yet!
When I grasped the core of Boaz’s message, I was blown away. Here’s why.
My wife is Jewish and I’m a Christian. My wife is not a “Messianic” anything. You could say that she’s “straight up Jewish.” I’m a husband in an interfaith marriage. She’s a Jew who needs to turn her heart to the Torah. She is of her nation Israel. As a Christian husband, if I support and encourage her exploration of her Jewish heritage and her understanding and performance of the mitzvot, on a “micro” level, I am participating in Israel’s redemption and the return of Messiah. At the “macro” level, if all of us as Christians were to support and encourage Jews to follow their “Moshe Rabbeinu” and return to the commandments of Sinai, they would be finally heeding the voice of their “Yeshua Rabbeinu” and restoration of Israel would happen, flashing across the skies like lightning.
And the Messiah would come.
Please understand this. If all the non-Jewish people in the Messianic movement (i.e. “Christians”) or even in the world were to keep Torah flawlessly but the Jewish people didn’t, while we non-Jews might receive many blessings and benefits, our observance would do absolutely nothing in terms of Israel’s redemption. Only Gentile support and encouragement of Israel’s Torah observance will lead to Israel’s national restoration and redemption, and the coming of Messiah.
I know there are probably more than a few shocked facial expressions happening out there as you read this. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that many Christians are going to be turned off by what I just said. I don’t doubt at all that there will be at least a few people who will comment and give me a piece of their mind about what I’m saying here, or worse, try to rake Boaz Michael and FFOZ over the coals again.
But I urge you to please, please think about it first. I know this is a radical thought, but if it’s true and we don’t do it, then we are failing the Jewish people, failing Jesus Christ, and completely failing God the Father and the mission he established for the church of the Messiah among the Gentile nations.
When I came home from the conference, I talked all about it with my wife. My experiences there renewed my desire to share my spirituality with her and to worship the God of her fathers with her, whether in a synagogue or a church setting. As a Christian husband, it is my heart’s desire to worship God with my Jewish wife. I asked if she would be willing for me to go to synagogue with her and here’s (more or less) what she said:
Why would you want to go to my shul? I wouldn’t want to go to your church.
OK, that sounds kind of harsh, but let me explain. Like a lot of Jews, she believes Christians are one thing and Jews are something else entirely. It’s not like we can’t be neighbors and friends and even loved ones and spouses, but at a fundamental level, Jews are Jews and Christians are Christians. A Jew belongs in a synagogue, but Jews have a tough time imagining why a Christian would desire the experience. Most Jews don’t desire a church experience because it is simply incompatible with their identity as Jews.
This is where my wife is coming from. She’s not being mean and there was no hostility in her intent, she was just explaining the facts as she understands them. But it finally made me realize that something I had set my strongest desires upon as a foundation had just been totally shattered into a thousand, thousand pieces, leaving my still beating heart to collapse and bleed on the cold, bare dirt.
But it also immediately reminded me of what my duty is, both as a Christian and a husband to a Jewish wife. I am responsible for how I react and respond to my wife being Jewish (and by extension, how I respond to all Jewish people). This is both for her sake and ultimately for Israel’s and the world’s. If I can take nothing else away from this transaction, I must take away the fact that I cannot stand in the way of my Jewish wife being Jewish. Like the rest of her people, she must return more fully to the Torah. If that’s something she has to do alone, or at least without me, I cannot insist that it be otherwise.
I wish I could do more.
We in the church, have a critically important role and an incredibly powerful purpose in the plan of God and the coming of Jesus Christ. If we fail to fulfill our mission, absolutely everything is lost. Our responsibility is just unimaginably awesome. I cannot state this strongly enough.
In the Messianic movement, a great deal of dissonance has been created between Jews and non-Jews. Christians in the movement have generally been rejecting of, not the Jewish people, but the quality of their Jewishness, causing these Jews to push back to the point where some have suggested that no non-Jews participate in Messianic Judaism. Jews are made to feel that they should be ashamed when they act like ethnic, cultural, and religious Jews, and many Christians in the movement feel ashamed for being Gentiles, seeing themselves as “inferiors” to their Jewish brothers. This drives the need of many non-Jews to believe that “one law” fits all or that any Gentile attracted to Torah is a “crypto-Jew” from the lost tribes.
Now we see that both Jews and Christians are vital to the realization of God’s plan and the return of the Messiah. The nation of Israel must be the centerpiece of the world so that Messiah can rule and reign. Christians must support Israel’s return to the Torah or the nation will fail and we will never see the Messiah’s return. No one has to be ashamed of who they are, whether they’re Jewish or Christian, and I’m indebted to the brilliant, young Jewish scholar Jordan Levy for presenting this point just prior to Boaz’s final teaching. I also thank her for saying something I hope I’ll never forget and something I don’t want you to ever forget. She said that in fulfilling our role as supporters of the redemption of Israel, we become “the crown jewels of the nations.” What a wonderful blessing for us to have as we bless Israel and play our part in restoring her to God.
Although it breaks my heart, I know now that I can never turn away from who I am and who God made me to be. I can never turn away from who He made my wife to be, and I will be proud to be one tiny, shining gem in the glorious crown of my Jewish wife, even if we can share nothing else in our separate journeys of faith.
Blessed be the nation of Israel and may she return her heart to God and the Torah, that she may be redeemed and restored. And may the Messiah come soon and in our day.
“A Jew never gives up. We’re here to bring Mashiach, we will settle for nothing less.”