Redeeming the Heart of Israel, Part 2

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.

intermarriagePlease 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.”

Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh

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36 thoughts on “Redeeming the Heart of Israel, Part 2”

  1. You guys keep repeating the crypto-Jew nonsense. Do you guys ever grow tired of accusing fellow brothers in Messiah of falsehood? I guess if you repeat a lie long enough, it becomes truth to you.

    The reality of what people like me believe is that gentiles, through Messiah, are part of the commonwealth of Israel. (Eph 2) If gentiles wanted to be Jewish, One Law and Two House congregations would be pursuing Judaism. In reality, we have no desire to pursue Judaism or invent a new form of it. Our call in the Hebrew Roots and independent Messianic world is not to build another Judaism, but to seek after God, cling to Messiah, and keep the commandments Yeshua kept, and honestly, live holy lives. It’s what we’ve been after this whole time. I’m sorry that doesn’t fit with the Messianic Judaism agenda, but maybe God has different purposes for different people.

  2. Judah, I was specifically addressing some of the two-house arguments and I’ve personally spoken with people who felt that, because they were drawn toward Torah, they must have some sort of hidden Jewish heritage (what I somewhat dramatically referred to as “crypto-Jews”). That particular belief doesn’t allow for the possibility of people like me who are not Jewish to still find meaning and beauty in Jewish teaching, thought, and practices.

    I’m not accusing anyone of lying, just of being mistaken. I realize this is really emotionally charged and that I’m expressing a personal opinion, but there’s a difference between me saying, “I disagree with that opinion” and “You’re lying.”

    I understand that you are speaking from the perspective of your congregation and having never been there, I know little about it, so please don’t take my comments as if I’m aiming them at your group directly. I’m not. But as you know, there is a wide degree of variability in the larger Messianic Jewish/Hebrew Roots movement and some non-Jews indeed are pursuing Judaism. That may be why one outcome to non-Jews who exit the MJ/HR movement is to convert to a more traditional form of Judaism such as Orthodox.

    Gentiles and Jews together are indeed part of the Messianic covenant and as such we are all adopted sons and daughters of God. That said, it doesn’t mean (and I know I’ve said this before) that we are a totally homogenized group. If you read Gene’s latest blog post on the Temple and the Court of the Gentiles, you saw he made a point (though not everyone agrees) about Jewish and Christian (Messianic Gentile) access, even relative to the future Temple in the Messianic age.

    We all seek to cling to God and follow our Master Yeshua as disciples, but our discipleship is unique in the sense that Jews and Christians bear different but inseparably connected purposes in God’s plan for Israel’s restoration, the return of the Messiah, and the repairing of the world.

  3. Judah says, “Our call in the Hebrew Roots and independent Messianic world is not to build another Judaism, but to seek after God, cling to Messiah, and keep the commandments Yeshua kept, and honestly, live holy lives.”

    I think that this is great.

    I see that this is critically needed and important. There needs to be communities of people that can express their faith with and in support of others that share their views. I agree with Judah when he says, “It’s what we’ve been after this whole time.”

    I know that people have responded to God and that they are struggling, like all of us, to get it right and figure all of this out. At the end of the day, I fundamentally believe that everyone truly desires to live a life of holiness and to be pleasing to God.

    Building “another Judaism” is not the goal. Returning to and living out a Judaism that is sensitive to the current Judaisms as well as the historic foundations of the early Apostles and being sensitive to those among the Nations is the goal. It is difficult to find the balance. Yet it is a struggle and we do have a lot of things to work through. My lecture was intended to share a view of redemption that at times is not considered and needs to be understood.

  4. James,
    You said, “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!” I totally agree with you and I was thinking maybe the flip side of this would be that Judaism has been forbidding the words of Yeshua from their people for the last 20 centuries and thus separating them from the cure for the exile. I think both of these are intertwined and it makes me excited to be a part of something that is trying to reverse these two factors that prolong the exile. We live in a time where Yeshua’s words are being rediscovered in a small way by Judaism and on the flip side there are those who follow Yeshua who are encouraging the Jewish people to uphold the torah. May it continue and may we see the salvation of our G-d.

  5. You know, my Dad is up there in years and has not followed Torah for many years. Since he was a child I imagine. I’m well aware that he doesn’t have much time left in this life, you mean to tell me that if he was to go tomorrow without following the mitzvot he still has a place? Also my converted Mom?(No salvation needed) and all we have to do is encourage Jews to follow all the mitzvot for the messiah to come? Does this include that the men and women should not be marrying outside of Israel?(Non-Jews) And also the new temple will have to be built for the sacrifices.

  6. You make a good point, Troy. However, I’m a little more sympathetic as to why Jews would want to hold Christianity at bay, given the long history of church involvement in supersessionism, pogroms, and other anti-Jewish activities. That said, Messianic Judaism is uniquely positioned to be at the vanguard of change, promoting healing and forgiveness.

  7. Hi Liz,

    That’s not really what I’m saying. It’s a complicated message that I’m trying to pass along. I’m not talking about individual, personal salvation, I’m talking about the national redemption of Israel. When I say “redemption,” I’m talking about the restoration of the nation/people of Israel as the head of the nations, not whether or not someone is going to go to heaven. This was a point that Boaz really stressed in his lecture and I’m probably not doing it justice.

    I don’t think I understand what you’re saying about men and women marrying outside of Israel. This wee series has nothing to do with that. I do believe that a third temple will be built and that sacrifices will be offered there, but I don’t know the exact details about how all that will work.

    As far as a person’s salvation goes, I’m in no position to make any sort of judgment. That’s a matter for God. I’m sorry if my words were confusing and I have been concerned that I wasn’t adequately communicating Boaz’s message. It’s really a very involved message and you can consider this blog post just an “introduction.”

  8. James, I would agree that, “Messianic Judaism is uniquely positioned to be at the vanguard of change, promoting healing and forgiveness.”

    I would even go as far to say, that Christians are the only group of people that can inform Judaism of the teachings of Yeshua that brought on and will end this current exile.

  9. I’d really like to see your initial lecture expanded upon, Boaz. At least from my perspective, it’s a taste of things to come, but it’s only a taste. Since Christian evangelism of Jews has already been problematic, I’d like to hear more about (it doesn’t have to be right now, obviously) how to integrate Christian support of Israel’s national redemption with transmitting the message of the Good News of Messiah to the larger Jewish world.

  10. “I would even go as far to say, that Christians are the only group of people that can inform Judaism of the teachings of Yeshua that brought on and will end this current exile.”

    Boaz… it’s certainly true today for individual, mostly secular Jews (most of whom, however, end up leaving the Jewish people as a result of anti-Judaism and supersessionist slant in the teaching they receive). However, will Christians be the ones that will bring about the change in Israel as a nation? I doubt it. Christians had two thousands years to do that, and Christendom today is on the decline in all the areas where Jews reside. I think something far greater will happen, something of world-changing proportions, that will finally enable the Jewish people as a nation to see Yeshua as the promised Messiah. Yeshua may reveal himself just as Joseph did to his brothers, directly, without outsiders getting in the way:

    “Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers.” (Genesis 45:1)

  11. Gene, agreed. I see a critical aspect in redemption is for the Nations to repair Jesus’ reputation (and his teachings) so Israel CAN recognize him. I see this happening daily with Gentiles returning to a Jewish understanding of their faith. In that I have hope. But, I also see something of “world changing proportions” that will need to take place to facilitate a NATIONAL response of Israel.

  12. “I see a critical aspect in redemption is for the Nations to repair Jesus’ reputation (and his teachings) so Israel CAN recognize him. ”

    Boaz, no doubt. Things just can’t go on the way they have for the last two millennia. This is the only generation of Christians who are finally starting to see and acknowledge the ongoing relationship between Jesus, the Jewish people and even Judaism (I say “even” because for many Christians, even those who support Israel and the Jews, Judaism is still viewed as false and as “lost” as any pagan faith).

  13. This is the only generation of Christians who are finally starting to see and acknowledge the ongoing relationship between Jesus, the Jewish people and even Judaism (I say “even” because for many Christians, even those who support Israel and the Jews, Judaism is still viewed as false and as “lost” as any pagan faith).

    I see part of the “mission” of some folks in the Messianic Jewish/Hebrew Roots movement in general and part of FFOZ’s goals in specific to communicate this message to the church from within, helping to support them in changing their viewpoint of Judaism and Jewish people to one that will allow Christianity to fulfill their assignment to promote national redemption for Israel. As you pointed out Gene, this generation of Christians is better placed than any other generation in the past 2,000 years or so, to actually overcome supersessionism and negative perceptions of Jews and their role in God’s plan.

  14. “Returning to and living out a Judaism that is sensitive to the current Judaisms as well as the historic foundations of the early Apostles and being sensitive to those among the Nations is the goal. ”

    What do you mean by that Boaz? Returning to what? You have never been a Jew, what are you returning to?

  15. Dan, your opinion of Boaz’s Judaism aside, it would be helpful to stay on target and deal with the topic at hand. We’ve managed to keep from personalizing our disagreements in this conversation so far. I’d like to maintain that. Thanks.

  16. Hope you have enough patching material….This is the problem with all you guys, no one really wants to cut to the chase….How sad…..

  17. Personalizing conflict is *not* cutting to the chase, it’s diverting the course of the conversation from the original topic.

  18. I do not personalize anything. Boaz made a statement and I called him on it. falling on a barb wire for him will not endear you more to him….

  19. Hey James,

    I apologize if I seem to be veering off the subject a little. I guess I was just thinking about other posts on your blog along with this one in my response. It seems to be what I get from reading them. And as far as Israel’s redemption as a nation, can you think about a nation’s redemption as a whole without thinking of each individual that are a part of the whole? Also I may be understanding it wrong, but isn’t it said that Yeshua will reign on earth for a thousand years before heaven? Aside from going to heaven there is also that I was thinking of because those who don’t receive salvation will not be a part of that either, no?

    My thought about Jews keeping to their own kind in marriage comes from Nehemia 10 particularly verse 30 and also from what I’ve heard from my Dad from when he was growing up. It seems to be on topic as part of Jews following Law.

  20. No worries, Liz. I think I’m coming down with something, so my brain is a little fuzzy today.

    I don’t think I have as good a grasp of the differences between Christian community and Jewish nationality as I’d like but I’ll try to answer your question. The Children of Israel as a single unit accepted the Torah at Sinai. They didn’t really accept it as a collection of separate individuals although of course, it applies to every single Jew as well as corporate Judaism. However, as we see in the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, all Jews suffered for the shortcomings of the nation. It’s not that every individual Jew was guilty of the same sins, but because Israel accepted the Torah as a nation, Israel suffered the consequences for disobedience as a nation.

    Since Christians represent all of the rest of the nations, when we come to faith, we come to faith as individuals. No “national sin” really affects all Christians everywhere because Christianity isn’t a people group or a nation. This is why Israel’s national redemption (remember, I’m not talking about salvation at this point, just the full restoration of Israel as the head of all nations) is so important and why it’s so important for the church to recognize this and to support Israel’s restoration.

    Christians generally believe that the “afterlife” will all occur in Heaven but at the end of the book of Revelation, God’s throne is on Earth. At the beginning of Genesis, God walked among human beings in the garden and I believe (just my opinion) that at the end of it all, He will walk among us again, too in the same manner.

    You are correct that we tend to believe there will be a Messianic Age here on earth with living human beings being ruled by the Messiah King, but the thousand years may or may not be literal. Sometimes a long but specific time period in the Bible is a sort of “short hand” for a long but indeterminate period of time.

    Even today, Judaism discourages “marrying out” which means a Jew marrying someone who is not Jewish. This is probably for the same reasons Nehemiah had, since Jews married to non-Jews tend to stop their Jewish religious observance (assuming they were observant previously) and assimilate either into traditional Christianity or atheism, losing most or all outward signs of Jewishness. Jewish intermarriage is rampant currently and there is a terrific concern about what this will do to the future of Judaism. As an intermarried person, I’d be a hypocrite if I spoke against intermarriage and I’m certainly not going to divorce my wife for the sake of her being Jewish, but that also means I have a responsibility (which is largely what this blog post is about) to support and encourage her in living a Jewish, Torah lifestyle.

    I suppose things would be much better for Jews if they only married other Jews, but it is what it is. I can now only turn to God for help and strength to be a part of his plans for me.

  21. “No “national sin” really affects all Christians everywhere because Christianity isn’t a people group or a nation. ”

    James, G-d DOES judge the nations. The prophets testify to that. Up until last century, most Christians in Europe and Near East were part of national churches or churches that identified themselves with the nations of their origin or majority of their membership (Church of England, Dutch Reformed Church, Russian Orthodox Church, etc.). Americans could be said to be a part of the “American Church” (the patchwork of various churches).

    I think that if Christians/churches of Germany, to give an example, sinned against someone (e.g. Jews), G-d will judge them as a particular group.

  22. What I was trying to say was that any one nations sins don’t affect all Christians everywhere. No one nation represents Christianity. I agree that the Christians in any particular nation will be affected by the sins of that nation but it’s not like Germany’s sins that affected the Christians living there would have directly impacted Christians from Bora Bora or Thailand.

    You make a good point about the sin of anti-Judaism, but that’s the failure of the church, not any one nation.

    My main point is that Israel is uniquely a nation, a people, and a faith bound together by God’s covenant with them.

  23. Great article! 🙂 I think it touches on something so vast. We look to “Israel” to keep the Torah but of course “Israel” is more than just the State of Israel. Should the State of Israel turn back to the Heart of the Torah?, Yes! Should Jews everywhere turn back to the Heart of the Torah?, Yes! And Gentiles should be supporting them to Keep the Commandments, most especially Love thy neighber as thyself.

    This is not just about Israel but the whole world.

    As far as all of the discussion regarding “crypto-Jews,” it’s starting to sound like semantics.

    One day we will not concern ourselves with which “mountain” to worship the Lord on.

    Peace be to all. 🙂

  24. Christians calling Israel to repentance….I love it! Jews calling Christians to repentance….I love it!

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