Va’eira: Is This Egypt?

hebrew_slaves_egyptSay, therefore, to the Israelite people: I am the Lord. I will free you from the labors of the Egyptians and deliver you from their bondage. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and through extraordinary chastisements. And I will take you to be My people, and I will be your God. And you shall know that I, the Lord, am your God who freed you from the labors of the Egyptians.

Exodus 6:6-7 (JPS Tanakh)

G‑d reveals Himself to Moses. Employing the “four expressions of redemption,” He promises to take out the Children of Israel from Egypt, deliver them from their enslavement, redeem them, and acquire them as His own chosen people at Mount Sinai; He will then bring them to the land He promised to the Patriarchs as their eternal heritage.

from “Va’eira in a Nutshell”
Commentary on Torah Portion “Va’eira
Chabad.org

I had coffee with a friend after work on Wednesday. We see each other irregularly these days, but our conversations are always good. The main reason we met was because he wanted to borrow my copy of Boaz Michael’s book Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile. This, of course, was also one of the primary topics of our talk as I sipped my coffee and he sampled his tea.

One of the things I value about our relationship is that we don’t always see eye-to-eye. We never argue and conversations never become heated, but we do see things from different points of view. I think he’s interested if not intrigued about my return to church (although this could be projection on my part) and he struggles with the implications of going back into the church after having been “redeemed” from it. It’s an interesting metaphor.

In our discussion, he likened leaving the church to the Children of Israel leaving Egypt. It’s not a complementary picture of the church that he’s painting, but it’s one that I’ve encountered on numerous occasions during my sojourn in the Hebrew Roots movement. Egypt represents nothing good spiritually and morally and leaving Egypt is always seen as a positive action on the part of God toward the Israelites. But can non-Jewish believers leaving the church be seen in the same way? If the church equals Egypt, torment, and slavery, and being released from all that means coming closer to God, then when a Christian leaves church, where do they (we) go that is better and what do they (we) do when they get there?

Let’s back up a minute. In Judaism the process of God rescuing the ancient Hebrews from their slave status in Egypt and bringing them to Himself at Sinai involves what is called the “four expressions of redemption” based on the above-quoted Exodus 6:6-7. But what are these four expressions and what do they mean?

According to the Ask the Rabbi column at Ohr Somayach, they are:

  1. “I will take you out from under Egypt’s burdens – Vehotzeiti
  2. “And I will save you from their servitude – Vehitzalti
  3. “And I will redeem you – Vega’alti
  4. “And I will take you as My nation – Velakachti

This is actually a commentary on the four cups we see during a traditional Passover seder. The Ohr Somayach Rabbi further states:

We didn’t go from a slave nation to being the Chosen People at Mount Sinai overnight. There were different stages of redemption. The above phrases described these different stages. Each cup of wine represents one of these levels.

leaving_egyptThat’s fine as far as it goes, but to me, it’s not very revealing, especially if we are trying to compare these four expressions to how we might view a non-Jewish Christian leaving the church (which is being equated to Egypt).

OU.org expands on the meaning of the four expressions thus:

According to R. Bachya (Spain, 1263-1340), the explanations of the Four Expressions are as follows:

  1. “I will take you out” – Hashem would remove the slavery even before the Jews left Egypt, from all the Tribes of Israel, because of the growing perception by Egypt of Hashem, the G-d of Israel, as the One Almighty G-d.
  2. “I shall save you” – Hashem would take the Jews out of Egypt with plagues visited upon the Egyptians, their Pharaoh and their gods, “with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.”
  3. “I shall redeem you” – Hashem would perform the miracle of “Kriat Yam Suf,” the Splitting of the waters of the “Yam Suf,” and the creation of a dry path for the Children of Israel to walk upon as they crossed the Sea of Reeds. Then Hashem caused the piled-high waters to descend in a tidal wave upon the Egyptian Army, to permanently crush the World-dominating power of Egypt.
  4. “I shall take you” – Hashem took the Jewish People to Himself as a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation. This was the spiritual component of the Redemption from Egypt. In fact, the spiritual Redemption was the Reason for the Physical Redemption.

The fifth expression, “I shall bring you to the land,” refers, of course, to the Land of Israel…

I must admit, I’m having a tough time mapping what I’ve been quoting from above to any image of why Christians should leave the church and where they are supposed to go. On the other hand, I’m kind of biased and truth be told, it wasn’t that many years ago that I might have accepted my friend’s metaphor relative to the Hebrew Roots movement.

But consider this. If Hebrew Roots is supposed to be the “Sinai” for Christians leaving the church, is it an attainable goal and is it right and accurate to say the church is Egypt in a spiritual (or any other) sense?

The Christians who, throughout the ages, have propagated this message and tried to soothe the hurting, feed the hungry, and speak to social injustice have been keeping the weightier matters of the Torah. Both Yeshua (Mark 12:31) and the Sages (Rabbi Hillel in b.Shabbat 31a and Rabbi Akiva in Sifra, Kedoshim 4:12) taught that love of neighbor is the essence of Torah. These are non-trivial accomplishments which speak to the robust, biblical ethical system which many devout Christians have embraced.

-Boaz Michael
“Chapter One: The Church is Good,” pg 49
Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile

You’ll have to read all of Boaz’s book to get the full flavor of why the church is good, but I believe he paints a very convincing picture of the modern “body of Christ” as it lives and breathes within the multitude of churches in our communities and around the world. Even today in the lives of people I know, Christians are doing wonderful acts of kindness in the name and spirit of Messiah.

We are seriously getting love aimed at us by a little church nearby. Out of the blue, the pastor had contacted me wanting to know if some of their members could do anything for us and he wouldn’t take no for an answer unless it really was no.

Today some amazingly nice folks showed up and hauled off to the dump our junk too big for our own vehicle, in one of the guy’s large truck.

Meanwhile, the ladies scoot in to do some cleaning while visiting with Heidi.

And meanwhile another great guy is walking me around our deck, explaining to me how he is going to prep the bannister and then paint it for us.

And they’re coming back tomorrow!

-Joe Hendricks

I originally quoted Joe in a blog I published last June. Sadly, since that time, Joe’s wife Heidi passed on, but the church he mentions continues to be a support in his life as he grieves and as he yet looks to the future by the grace of Christ.

afraid-of-churchThe church isn’t perfect. In fact, It’s taken quite awhile for me to overcome my own misgivings about going back to church (which can be reviewed in all their glorious details in my recent “Days” series, which culminated at Day Zero). In fact, I still periodically have to review Pastor Jacob Fronczak’s blog post Why I Go to Church to remind myself that a community can be imperfect and still be the will of God for the good.

So if the church isn’t Egypt, then do we have to be delivered from it? Is there someplace better to go to and what do we call it?

I can’t answer for every person out there who has once been in the church and, for whatever reasons, left it, either for some other religious organization or to pursue God as a solidary individual or family. I can only speak for myself and how I express my evolving understanding of God’s will for my life.

I don’t think we can get back to the “root” of our faith. I know that’s disappointing and maybe some of you disagree with me, but hear me out. At some point about 2,000 years ago, a sect  called “the Way” rose among the other movements in Judaism in the late Second Temple period. The Jewish disciples were devoted to a “dead Rebbe” rather than a living teacher, one who they said not only died, but rose again. He is the Mashiach, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16), who sits at the right hand of the Father (Psalm 16:8, Psalm 110:1, Acts 2:33), and who is the High Priest in the Court of Heaven (Hebrews 4:14).

The “Christianity” of that moment in history was a wholly Jewish religious movement and it co-existed with numerous other Jewish movements in Roman occupied “Palestine” in those days. Acts 10 shows the first non-Jew who came into discipleship under Messiah within this sect without converting to Judaism, and the “ministry” of Paul, who as an emissary to the Gentiles, preached a Gospel not given by men but by Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-12). As more and more Gentiles in the diaspora began to hear the “good news” of the Jewish Messiah and apply it to their lives, slowly the Gentiles and Jews within the “Jesus movement” began to trace somewhat divergent trajectories. Those slight deviations in trajectory would later lead them on completely different paths through the progression of history, and for centuries now, they have both identified themselves as two completely different religions that once shared a common point.

Should Christians seek to leave the church and travel backward across the timeline, trying to recapture whatever idealized or “perfected” Christianity that may (or may not) have existed somewhere around the mid 40s CE? Is it even possible?

Or does the path that God has set before us lead forward into the future…a future that will summon the risen Messiah to come out of the sky in the clouds (Revelation 1:7), who will redeem his people Israel, and who will also gather his disciples from the nations? If this future-oriented path is the true one, then perhaps there is no “perfect Christianity” to go back into upon “leaving the church.” Regardless of whatever Christian or Jewish worship venue to which you are attached (including any form of Hebrew Roots or Messianic Judaism), chances are, you don’t belong to a perfect community. Chances are people in your congregation make mistakes. Chances are, when scrutinized by the King of All Glory, your theology may not be absolutely and totally 100% “kosher.”

Chances are, there is no perfect church, synagogue, community, or congregation for you or for any of us to join upon leaving “church.” Face it. All congregations that involve human beings and human relationships are “messy.” We have to start with where we are, not where we’d like to be.

Yes, the church could be improved. That’s the other very valuable (to me) chapter in Boaz’s book, “Chapter 2: The Church Needs to Change.” Frankly, we could also probably say, relative to God’s perfect understanding, that the synagogue needs to change as well. A better way to say it is that we all need to change, to be better, to draw nearer to God, to refine our understanding of who He is and who we are in Him, Jew and Christian alike. We travel upon our divergent trajectories but we have one Shepherd and one King, and God is One. Not that our ultimate unity under Him as His “peoples” means uniformity, but it does mean unity of devotion and fealty.

The Messiah will come. He will return Israel to its place as the head of all the nations, rebuild the Temple, defeat evil, and establish a reign of peace and tranquility for all peoples of the earth. All the Jewish people will be gathered unto him in their nation Israel, and we believers who reside across the four corners of the Earth will bow our knees to him and call him Lord over all (Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10). That is our future.

But we’re not there yet.

two-roads-joinWe have to start where we are. If we are non-Jewish Christians in church, we should stay in church. We should bring our understanding of the Jewish Messiah King to where we are, not remove it from our fellow believers and hoard it for ourselves. If we are Gentiles in a Messianic community, then we should stay there (though there may be exceptions who will also attend a church) and use other platforms for communicating our understanding to the Christians we know or will come to know (compare to 1 Corinthians 7:18). For myself, I go to church not to change anything but to encounter God and His purpose for me, whatever it may be.

We may not always see the good in the church but it’s there. We may not see it because when we were introduced to the Hebrew Roots movement (for those of you reading this who are or were involved in Hebrew Roots), we were told the “church is Egypt.” However, if it’s been awhile since you’ve taken a look at the church, at the Christians in your community, at the believers you work with, live near, and consider friends, maybe it’s time you took another look. There are indeed two paths involved, but they’re not the two you have been imagining.

There are two paths:

One: Everything is for the good. Perhaps not immediately, but eventually good will come out from it.

The other: Everything is truly good—because there is nothing else but He who is Good. It’s just a matter of holding firm a little longer, unperturbed by the phantoms of our limited vision, unimpressed by the paper tiger that calls itself a world, and eventually we will be granted a heart to understand and eyes to see.

Eventually, it will become obvious good in our world as well.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Believing in G-d”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

To modify Rabbi Freeman’s commentary slightly, everything we encounter is for the good, and eventually good will be demonstrated by the church. We must be patient and help as we can. Also, everything in church is truly good because nothing else exists in our world but God who is Good (Mark 10:18). It’s just a matter of us holding on a little longer where we are, not allowing our limited vision of how we see Christianity to limit God’s work in the church.

Eventually, the good of God and of the body of Christ in our world will become obvious to us as the time for the return of our Master draws near.

Good Shabbos.

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32 thoughts on “Va’eira: Is This Egypt?”

  1. It seems to me that there are too many people who paint with broad brushstrokes and fail to make fine distinctions. Treating “the Church” monolithically with an “Egypt” metaphor is a case in point. It is not “the Church” that must be left behind, but rather, sin. Not everything is good, because sin and evil are most definitely not good, even when HaShem turns them toward good purposes to redeem bad situations. The prophetic warning is still valid: Woe to them that declare good to be evil and evil to be good. It should be obvious that such folk will suffer unpleasant consequences. Now, much of Church history is a record of sin, even more egregious than the Jewish history recorded in Tenakh that is often used to tar Jews in general. The sins of the Tenakh, primarily representing idolatry, have been repudiated by Jews long since. Modern Judaism has a different collection of foibles to combat. And modern Christians have the opportunity to repudiate the sins of Christianity’s history and leave behind the oppression of that metaphorical Egypt by redeeming the church communities around them. What, then, to view as their comparable experience of desert wandering and learning Torah? How are non-Jews to become disciples who learn to observe all (!) that Rav Yeshua commanded to his own, as instructed in Matt.28? Those who, during the past most recent generation of time, have left the comfortable confines of familiar church denominational communities to seek or form independent congregations, dedicated to re-constructing non-Jewish religious life as it should have been if it had remained connected to its olive-tree root, have had some opportunity to experience something akin to desert wandering. They may be deemed still not to have reached the land of promise. Those who have tried to redeem existing churches may have fared similarly, though I have had very little opportunity to observe progress in this realm. James’ experiment of entering into such a community may be invaluable in this regard. However, while I would never wish to minimize the value of non-Jewish dedication to morality and good deeds that are informed by a generalized Torah exposure, neither would I allow it to be an excuse not to pursue the greatness that Rav Yeshua envisioned in Matt.5:18-19, which is dependent upon even the finest details of Torah and exceeding even the diligence of the Pharisees. Long after HaShem took the Jews out of Egypt, the battle continued to get “Egypt” out of the Jews. Surely we can draw parallels for what may be expected of modern Christians.

  2. No community is perfect. No community has ever been perfect. Even as the Gentile church began to sprout from the “olive-tree root,” I’m sure there were difficulties. we can see them reflected in Paul’s letters. Divisiveness and contention were there from the beginning, not because of God and not because of Messiah, but because human beings are flawed and we live in a broken world.

    To what shall we compare the history (and flaws) of the church and the Christians within it? We can compare the church to a wild, galloping horse that is out of control of its rider. Should the rider simply jump off in order to reach his destination? He might be hurt or even killed. Even if he isn’t, the horse, so valuable, so beautiful, would run off and be lost forever. Should the rider stay on and do nothing? Then the rider would be at the horse’s mercy and never reach his destination. The horse would continue on it’s wild way until it died from exhaustion. Should the rider try to force the horse to slow down and change course by pulling strongly on the reins? The wild, out-of-control horse would continue to panic if it thought it was being threatened or opposed in any way.

    What is the answer.

    The rider can very gently use the reins to just slightly change the direction of the horse while still at a gallop, first just a tiny bit one way and then a tiny bit the other. If the rider is patient and persistent, he can very, very slowly begin to gain some tiny bit of control of the horse’s direction and speed, then a little more, and then a little more, until finally the horse after much time will finally be able to accept the rider’s direction.

    The metaphor isn’t perfect (and I’m borrowing it from the late Milton Erickson), but it can give us some idea of how we can recognize those elements of the church that may continue to speak against its Jewish root and slowly be a part of a change for the better.

    I believe the church is changing or at least some churches. No one at the church I currently attend has said even a single word against Jewish people or against Israel. The church, for all its history of difficulties, is progressing along a course that is leading to the Messiah and to God. It has preserved the Gospel of Christ for 2,000 years and does many fine works of charity and kindness in the name and in the spirit of the teachings of Jesus. We can choose to dwell on the past and on the imperfections we see, or we can choose to be part of the change we want to occur.

  3. I’m afraid I must challenge the metaphor of a galloping out-of-control horse. Christians (so-called and self-identified) created, controlled, preserved, defended, and deliberately conformed with a religious cultural movement during the past 19 centuries, and cannot escape responsibility for it as if it had a mind of its own that merely swept them along. In fact, the history of the Protestant Reformation, the nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century revivals and awakenings, the Pentacostal and Charismatic renewals, and the late twentieth-century Jesus movement are all representative of Christians who attempted to resist perceived errors in the system they had inherited. They made many improvements along the way, but failed to address the root cause of the errors. Some are trying to do so currently, and their degree of success remains to be determined. It is also a false broad-brush whitewash of Christianity to claim that it “has preserved the Gospel of Christ for 2,000 years”. At best, it may be said that it preserved some documents from which it is possible to re-construct the good news about the Jewish Messiah who can benefit the entire world. But there really is no such thing as a “Gospel of Christ”, because the very nature of its phrasing represents bad news due to distortions and consequent loss of any possibility to understand what it purports to preserve. It is not a spirit of preservation and self-justification that will lead Christians to return to a place where they might undo the ancient errors. Only a spirit of awakening and reformation may do so. The result is not a progression, as if progress were already occurring; it is a series of cataclysmic leaps that break from the status quo to seek movement in a better direction.

  4. So should we make it our calling to infiltrate churches to attempt to steer them in a new direction towards their root OR do we go and accept them as they are with their traditions and typical grace based teaching with not much regard to God’s commands?

    Are we to believe since we are seeing the hungry being fed by a church group that makes us feel good about being a part of it. I see organizations that are not faith based at all doing the same thing. I know you said James that you are going to church to encounter God and your pastor seems to be giving you good Biblical points to ponder. That is great.

    It is something that I have thought about a lot over the years. I was brought up in a church that really put an emphasis on how one looked (dressed). Men with short hair cuts, women dressed in skirts, etc. So when I look around at people in general, just because I see a woman modestly dressed, I can’t assume “Oh, she must be a believer and dressing modestly as the church teaches” No, that may be just the way she dresses without giving thought to what a particular church teaches.

    I still attend my Sunday church for the most part and I also attend a Messianic congregation on the Sabbath. Last year I asked one of the pastors in my church if our church would be acknowledging any of the feast. I was told No, that they had their own traditions.
    So what am I suppose to do with that. It frustrates me. Do I just smile and say great…ok…. and be happy they do a great job feeding those homeless families, and do the big church wide service projects in the community. Am I suppose to keep coming back because we are so good at these things, but yet we forget and ignore God’s appointed times and teach the church members that most of the Bible doesn’t apply to them. It was nailed to the cross…..

    I don’t know James, its a tough one. I struggle with it.

  5. I choose to be the change I want to see.
    I choose to live in relationship not religion.
    I choose to bring the kingdom of heaven into my own life that I may see it grow from there.
    I choose to love Yeshua, my messiah, and follow Him, no matter where it leads, acknowledging that I don’t follow Him perfectly, and that I’m pretty sure I don’t even know what it means to follow Him perfectly.

    God bless you all

  6. I’m afraid I must challenge the metaphor of a galloping out-of-control horse. Christians (so-called and self-identified) created, controlled, preserved, defended, and deliberately conformed with a religious cultural movement during the past 19 centuries, and cannot escape responsibility for it as if it had a mind of its own that merely swept them along. In fact, the history of the Protestant Reformation, the nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century revivals and awakenings, the Pentacostal and Charismatic renewals, and the late twentieth-century Jesus movement are all representative of Christians who attempted to resist perceived errors in the system they had inherited.

    @ProclaimLiberty: That’s OK. It’s not a perfect metaphor. Truth we told, “the church” is just the people inside of it. However for many centuries and even into the present, a lot of people just let the church leaders and hierarchy define what it is to be a Christian, including what is right and wrong and how to interpret the Bible without questioning anything. We can either let the horse take us where it will, or we can take responsibility and work toward a more positive direction.

    I’m not sure how you can say that Christianity hasn’t maintained the Gospels. How else to we have the New Testament writings? The church, in one manner or another, has preserved the record of the Messiah, the acts of the apostles, and the ministry of Paul to the Gentiles for nearly 20 centuries. Who else kept the record if not Christianity?

    @Joy: I’m not saying each and every church and all individual Christians are going to be accepting of Judaism or the exploration of the Jewish roots of the faith. Yes, it can and is and will be frustrating. I’m also not suggesting entering into a church with the idea of being some sort of “covert agent” for change. That’s hardly a way to engender trust and transparency. What I am suggesting is that the church doesn’t exist at either end of an extreme, being either totally good or totally bad. The church is full of human beings, just like any Hebrew Roots or Messianic Jewish congregation is, and as such, it has human flaws.

    But the church is the sum of its members and if we want to see change in the church, then we can only accomplish that goal by being in the church and being who we are in the church. Some churches won’t accept that and I’ve known people who were asked to leave their church home because they decided they weren’t going to celebrate Christmas as a family. Yes, it’s hurtful and frustrating. But there are other churches who can see past the institutions, and into the humanity of each person who attends. I believe part of what we are supposed to do is to try and see other people as God sees us, not with abject condemnation, but with compassion and understanding. If God didn’t have that ability, we’d all be dead already.

    I choose to be the change I want to see.
    I choose to live in relationship not religion.
    I choose to bring the kingdom of heaven into my own life that I may see it grow from there.
    I choose to love Yeshua, my messiah, and follow Him, no matter where it leads, acknowledging that I don’t follow Him perfectly, and that I’m pretty sure I don’t even know what it means to follow Him perfectly.

    God bless you all

    @Dree: Well said. Blessings upon you and yours as well.

  7. Hebrew Roots folks are a form of Christianity, so we are still “the Church” in a sense, just one that sees the ongoing relevance of the Torah and Messiah in an Israel-centric perspective.

    When Hebrew roots folks speak of leaving “the church”, and liken it to leaving Egypt, we speak of leaving behind the often-anti-Semitic, anti-Torah doctrines of the church, not the good people within. We speak of God leading us into a Torah-faithful lifestyle.

  8. Hebrew Roots folks are a form of Christianity, so we are still “the Church” in a sense, just one that sees the ongoing relevance of the Torah and Messiah in an Israel-centric perspective.

    When Hebrew roots folks speak of leaving “the church”, and liken it to leaving Egypt, we speak of leaving behind the often-anti-Semitic, anti-Torah doctrines of the church, not the good people within. We speak of God leading us into a Torah-faithful lifestyle.

    Judah, I think your point of view as a Hebrew Roots proponent is more ‘enlightened’ than that of others who tend to bluntly denigrate anything having the label “Christian” attached to it. I agree that Hebrew Roots is a form of Christianity and as such, is as much part of the body of Messiah as any Baptist or Lutheran. I think it’s possible for congregations that identify themselves as a traditional denomination to also leave behind anti-Semitic and anti-Torah doctrines. Just as Judaism isn’t a single entity, neither is Christianity. Some churches maintain a legacy of supersessionism and others are progressing to a post-supersessionist position (sorry to express my “supersessionoia,” Judah. 😉 ).

    I’m not suggesting that all Hebrew Roots groups lack validity or a spirit of community with the larger church. Obviously you represent a very balance perspective relative to other Christian communities. All I’m saying is that for those folks who see Christianity as something one must leave into order to pursue the “true roots of the church,” that they may be missing the point.

  9. James,
    “We should bring our understanding of the Jewish Messiah King to where we are, not remove it from our fellow believers and hoard it for ourselves”

    It did my heart good to see you come to this thinking. God is indeed alive, and transforming something in you. You resisted this very thing not too long ago.

    Blessings!

  10. Well, up to a few years ago, but I hadn’t been really dogmatic about it for awhile, Lw. Methinks you know a lot more about me than I know about you. 😉

  11. Messianic Jews are also Christians. I think Messianic Jews and Messianic gentiles should form assemblies apart from the traditional Church for the same reason: assimilation. It’s hard to keep Torah when no one else is.

  12. Well that opens up a whole other can of worms, Judah. I wasn’t planning on addressing the whole “to keep or not to keep Torah and if so, what parts” debate between believing Jews and Gentiles.

    However, I could draw on Boaz Michael and his wife Amber as examples of Messianic Jews who observe the mitzvot and yet attend a small Baptist church in their community. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No.

  13. JOY,

    “Are we to believe since we are seeing the hungry being fed by a church group that makes us feel good about being a part of it.”

    Oh, you mean the sheep of Matthew 25?

    Based on Matt 25:31-46 I’d say absolutely YES! If an organization or group of people did nothing BUT feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the infirmed, it’d be something to participate in because according to Messiah, there’re doing it to him. What a blessing. Notice, he didn’t make the criteria celebrating biblical feasts.(not that I too don’t lament the absence of them in Church, but God chooses to bring healing and redemption over time)

    “And what did Yeshua use as his example when he said
    I see organizations that are not faith based at all doing the same thing.”

    Joy, who do you think influenced them to do such things?

    Eighteenth Century England turned a blind eye to the black slaves and continued to ignore the suffering right in front of them everyday. William Wilberforce and his band of less than perfect Quakers resisted this in their society, and over much time, suffering, and trial, stuck to the “good fight” and eventually was able to abolish the slave trade in England which had far reaching effects on the rest of the world too. My point? It wasn’t fashionable to care about the slaves and it took WW to stand up in his “Christian” Country, go against the tide and bring change. (Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas is a great read btw).

    The atheists today are deluded into thinking that they can be “good” and “moral” apart from God but what they neglect to recognize is that they’re basing that “goodness” and “morality” on Christian perspectives as taught by Yeshua, in other words, they’ve been influenced by Christianity. I say “jump in!”

  14. For that reason, Hebrew Roots communities exist for Messianic-minded believers.

    I’ll buy that. After all, if I support believing Jews forming their own synagogues in order to live as halakhic Jews, then I can understand the rationale in “Judaically-aware” Gentiles forming their own communities as well. I just object to the rationale that “Judaically-aware” Gentiles *must* form their own communities because the rest of Christianity is hopelessly corrupt and pagan.

    Good Shabbos.

  15. “Well, up to a few years ago, but I hadn’t been really dogmatic about it for awhile, Lw. Methinks you know a lot more about me than I know about you. ”

    Umm, I think if you look at the beginning of your “Days” series, actually, just prior to launching it, you will see me exhorting you to this position about the church and your attendance. You were resistant, at least in the blog environment, I have no way of knowing if that was actually a cliff-hanger set up for your readers or not though. 🙂

  16. If anyone has forgotten what “the church” looks like and what we aspire to, take 5 minutes and watch this on youtube:

    I’d be proud to stand by any of these as brothers and sisters. True believers standing for our faith in Yeshua haMashiach. Will anyone lay a charge against one of these?

  17. Revelation 20:6
    Favored and holy are those who have a share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will rule with him for one thousand years.

  18. Hi Steven. Welcome back.

    I normally discourage video links being posted in the comments of my blog but I’ll go ahead and allow it on this occasion (I’m at work and not in a position to review video content…I’ll review the links later on and may comment back on them).

    I’ll also take this opportunity to say that when you “liked” this blog post, I followed the link back to you blog and was very favorably impressed with your Feed the Hungry blog post. In my opinion, this is the sort of commentary that you do best and your perspective is spot on. It is never wrong to show compassion to the hungry, the desperate, and particularly the dying.

  19. @ Judah Gabriel Himango:
    You are terribly in error to say: “Messianic Jews are also Christians.” It is false statements like this which contribute to persecution of MJs by anti-missionary groups and which keep Jews away from Rav Yeshua. Such a viewpoint has also restrained the progress of MJ in its return to its proper place within Torah-true Judaism. The followers of Rav Yeshua in Antioch, where the label “Christian” was first applied as an epithet, were non-Jews. The term appears only three times in the entire corpus of the Messianic Writings, and never as an acceptable term for Jewish followers. The Hellenistic culture that it represents is inimical to Judaism. The attempt to apply it to Jewish believers represents triumphalist Christian hegemony against the distinctiveness of Jewish believers. Jews do not follow a “Christos”, but they do honor their Messiah even when they don’t know who he is. The term “Christian” is NOT generically applicable to all of the Messiah’s followers.

    @Dree:
    I appreciate your choices, except for the misconception that “religion” is something that can be contrasted with “relationship”. The English word “religion” is derived from the Lain “relegio”, meaning “a vow”. It represents dedication to something or someone. For religious Jews, it represents dedication to HaShem and His Torah, without which their “relationship” with Him cannot exist.

    @James:
    I explained that Christianity can, at best, be credited with preserving documentation of the Rav Yeshua Messianic Writings, from which it is possible to re-construct the good news about the Jewish Messiah who can benefit the entire world. But there really is no such thing as a “Gospel of Christ”, because the very nature of its phrasing represents bad news due to distortions and consequent loss of any possibility to understand what it purports to preserve. Christianity did NOT preserve the original good news, but created and promulgated an alternative or counterfeit of it. Preserving documents is not the same as preserving their meaning, though it is commendable that the documents were preserved sufficiently to recognize by later analysis that their meaning had been falsified and distorted in a variety of ways.

  20. >> “It is false statements like this which contribute to persecution of MJs by anti-missionary groups and which keep Jews away from Rav Yeshua”

    Anonymous, you must not speak with Jews very often. One of the primary criticisms of Messianic Jews by anti-missionaries is that Messianics are being deceptive by saying they’re not Christians.

    Messianic Jews and Messianic gentiles are both Christians: followers of Christ. That “Christian” has become to mean something of a pork-eating, church-goer may be true, but if we’re being honest, every follower of Yeshua is a Christian.

    Taking off for shabbat, have a good rest.

  21. ProclaimLiberty, as far as whether or not Christianity and Messianic Judaism are one thing or two, I refer you to Rabbi Dr Michael Schiffman’s blog post Messianic Judaism and Christianity: Two Religions With the Same Messiah.

    I made the following statement on this point in a Google+ community this afternoon:

    Yes, faith in Yeshua as Messiah did not start out as two religions, it started out as one of a number of Jewish movements in the late second temple period that contained only Jews. As Gentiles were called in and time passed (long story short), Jewish faith and Gentile faith in Messiah began to describe differing vectors and finally they did become two different religions (with Jesus being “appropriated” by the Gentiles and the Jews still waiting for Messiah’s coming).

    However, whether you can reasonably call a halalach Jew who has a fully realized ethnic, cultural, and religious identity as a Jew and who has come to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Jewish Messiah King a “Christian” is up for debate (and I’ll probably get some blow back for expressing it that way).

    All that said, we serve one Messiah and we have one shepherd, and God is One. The truth is out there…and it will come with Messiah.

    The relationship between Gentile Christians and Messianic Jews is at best “complicated” and in many ways, we’re still trying to figure it all out. Part of the matter is that Gentile Christianity has been around in a variety of forms for nearly 2,000 years while Messianic Judaism (as opposed to Hebrew Christianity) has existed in the modern era for around a century or so and particularly since the 1970s.

    I understand the history of the church and its terrible impact on Jews over the long centuries, but I can acknoledge that and also recognize that it’s not a black and white situation where the church has either been all bad or all good. We can also choose to focus on those believers over Christian history who have done good, supported the poor, built hospitals in places with no available medical care.

    As far as the “original good news” goes, we don’t have any of the original documents. Even the oldest ones are copies of copies. As far as the intent of the good news, you’re right, it has been distorted by the church but I also see great efforts in the last century or so to reclaim as much of that original message as we have available to us.

    If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to get a hold of a copy of the book Tent of David and then read the chapters about how the church is good and how the church needs to change. They will explain my points in more length and detail than I have room to include in a blog post comment.

    We each negotiate our own relationship with God through the Messiah. I know none of us has done it perfectly. We can either choose to allow anger, hurt, and frustration at “religious institutions” to inhibit our relationship with God and with other believers (Jewish and/or Gentile), or we can try to set that aside (not an easy task, I must admit) and try to move foreward. That’s what I’m trying to do with this blog post, my blog in general, and my own personal journey in the church.

  22. I agree, the body of the church/bride of messiah is made up of many denominations and we must all pay for a deeper revelation of Messiah to every extension of the body.

    I think there can be congregations that are really good and ones that don’t bear good witness within every denomination including messianic ones.

  23. @LW. Trust me I have “jumped in” and have for a long time and will continue to do so. I have a heart for service. I couldn’t imagine what my town would be like without the churches and the outreach they offer. I ask myself a lot what would this community look like without the churches. I can’t imagine it without their presence. The churches here where I am definitely have a heart for the lost, hungry, hurting and homeless.
    But also I sometimes have to choose now since a majority of these service projects are performed on Shabbat so everybody can be in church on Sunday. I now attend a Shabbat service so I don’t do as much of the service projects. I’m not saying there aren’t ways to serve on other days. There certainly are and I try and take part as I can. I’m struggling now because my Sunday School class does their “work days” which usually involve going to clean someone’s yard or paint or do some kind of good thing for a person in need, but they are always on Saturday. I feel bad because I’m not going anymore to those as I want to honor God and His Sabbath.

    One of my most frustrating moment in my Sunday School class happened back in November. We had a new believer come in and she is starting to attend church and make changes in her life and starting to read the Bible. She visited our SS class. We were currently studying the prophets. One of the ss class leaders suggested that the lady skip our class since we were in the O.T. and come back in January when we will start studying Paul’s letters. She felt she would understand and like Paul’s teachings better. I was about to explode but sat there and didn’t make a comment. I was heartbroken and it showed the heart of some of my church friends feel about the scriptures. Also showed me how they portray the O.T. to a new believer. SMH I’ve had a hard time returning to class since then.

    @ James But as for your original question. I don’t liken the church to Egypt. I liken Egypt to sin. And I need to get a lot of Egypt out of me and replace it with His Ways.

  24. @Judah Gabriel Himango:
    Like most participants in this blog, I am identified by an alias. But I’m no more anonymous than anyone else. I live in Israel, so I have no shortage of Jews with whom to speak. It is non-Jews whom I encounter rarely. Anti-missionaries accuse MJs of being deceptive Christians in order to deligitimize them and deny their Jewish identity. It is inappropriate for you to cooperate with their scurrilous false propaganda. I may be called a hasid and messianist devoted to the admor Rav Yeshua ben-Yosef ben-David, but I am not a “Christian”. I am not a non-Jew, nor even a Hellenized Jew, and the Greek term that was invented to attempt to translate the concept of a “messiah” cannot properly be applied to me nor to anyone like me. That is an insistance upon accuracy, not dishonesty. Even non-Jews should have rejected that Greek epithet long ago, when they were no longer in a position to be persecuted by being called by that somewhat insulting term that carries the connotation of “greasy” or even “slippery”. This has nothing to do with its later corruption to mean “a pork-eating churchgoer”, as you described it. Your statement that “every follower of Yeshua is a Christian” is an all-too-common falsehood, representing a severe misunderstanding of the origin, the meaning, and the application of the term; and it is a failure to recognize legitimate Jewish distinctiveness.

    It is a pity that during the past 40 years, even MJs have been misled and failed to separate themselves thoroughly from Christian-style religious behaviors while reclaiming Jewish ones.

    @James:
    I’m quite aware of MJ history. I helped to make some of it, having begun my involvement with it in 1969, and participated in the voting that changed the name of the Hebrew Christian Alliance of America to the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America in 1975. I understand thoroughly the pursuit to recover Jewish identity and the role played by numerous non-Jewish fellow travelers, along with the confusions and trends and fads that have occupied the past 4 decades. I am familiar also with serious academic theological efforts to extract the original Jewish environment and discussions from the existing messianic writings, for all their pros and cons, and to develop (or redevelop) not only the original Jewish teachings of Rav Yeshua (and Rav Shaul) but also their application into a modern Jewish environment. I do not dismiss the broad view that Christianity has managed in some degree to bring Torah values and redemption to non-Jews, despite egregious distortions and other shortcomings. But neither can I ignore continuing Christian shortsightedness and outright blindness that still endangers the process of Jewish restoration and even sometimes still endangers Jewish survival. The more that MJs succeed in recovering and restoring their own identity clearly, the more clearly will be seen the goals for non-Jewish religious reconstruction. Meanwhile, along the way, we may appreciate and encourage goodness and progress wherever we encounter it (including within church and parachurch communities, along with other alternatives).

  25. I have a feeling that the limitations of a text-only communication venue are being felt here. I wish we could all get together in a room over coffee or something and have the same conversation. Unfortunately, since we all live in different parts of the world, that’s not very likely to happen. I hope everyone realizes that we aren’t as far apart in our conceptualization of God, faith, and religion as it may seem. If any one of you dislikes the church and feels that no Christian will ever amount to any good, especially in relation to any Jewish person, then I guess you’ll have to dislike me, since I self-identify as a Christian and go to a small Baptist church in my community (hopefully, that doesn’t make me too shortsighted or blind). The history of the church may be exceedly grim at times, but I believe the future is bright.

    It is my hope and desire that in this or any other dialog on my blog, disagreements don’t turn into personalizing conflict, and that differing opinions don’t become the basis for angry feelings or accusations. As far as Judaism’s only response to Christianity being one of circling the wagons (so to speak) ProclaimLiberty, there are other points of view. On Monday, my “mediation” will be commenting on an article written by a wonderful, young Jewish scholar named Jordan Levy called “The Crowning Jewels of the Nations” which will give a more optimistic point of view.

    I really do want to promote conversation that illuminates and educates. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional disagreement and presenting opposing viewpoints as long as those differences don’t become the foundation for hurting other people. We don’t all have to be cookie-cutter identical in order to realize that we have one Messiah and that God is One. We were commanded to love one another, which isn’t a “mushy” emotional love, but one where we can offer mutual respect and understanding.

    I hope you all had a restful and uplifting Shabbat. Blessings.

  26. This is not a defense but rather a clarification. Due to time constraints I was not able to fully develop my Egypt metaphor with James. So I offer this for consideration.

    Egypt has a special place in scripture and I believe also in the heart of YHWH. There were many other places (nations) that YHWH could have taken Yosef to, but He chose Egypt. In fact all of the Patriarchs had dealings with Egypt. Also keep in mind that because the first-born in Egypt were part of the price that was paid for the freedom of Israel, YHWH required the first-born of Israel as well.

    I do not see Egypt as a hated place in scripture. And in times of trouble or uncertainty it was the first choice of refuge for Israel. Most important is the fact that Yeshua went there for temporary safety under the direct guidance of His heavenly Father.

    With that being said I must also say that Israel was called out of Egypt. Which was my only point to both Boaz and James. The process of separation is on-going for Israel. And those who are called Christians are subject to the same process. I’m sure my reasons for thinking this are quite different than both James and Boaz, but that is not important now.

    I don’t see us (Messianics if you happen to think that term applies) as having been “redeemed” from the church system. I see us as having been called out from it. Separated. Do we undo the separation? Is YHWH not able to call out anyone He chooses? In any way that He chooses?

    If He decides that someone needs to go back to the church system and help someone understand the calling out, I don’t have a problem with that at all. But it needs to be done in a truthful and honest manner. Not sugar coated (watered down) so as to try and make the message more palatable for a certain culture group.

    I can change my conversation, use words that I know would be more acceptable to the hearers, even downplay the significance of what scripture is quite clear about when talking to Christians. But I know that’s what I’m doing. And I would not be honest to myself and others if that is my presentation.

    This issue is huge and will take time to sort out. Let wisdom and peace prevail while we do so.

  27. I appreciate the clarification, Russ. Also, since I’m very visual, it’s sometimes easier for me to consume and comprehend information in printed rather than verbal form, so what you wrote helps a lot.

    The concept of “being called out” of the church is still based on the idea that the church is a less desirable place and that there is another community that is more desirable. I agree that the “church system” is not a perfect system, but then, what system is better or or a more perfect system than whatever the church happens to be?

    Yes it is a huge topic and as I said, I didn’t write it just to “start something.” I really do want to understand why the church would be universally a less desirable place to worship God than something else and what that something else should/could be. God called Israel out of Egypt for reasons that are fairly obvious as we see in the early chapters of Exodus, and to a destination that is also obviously more attractive. If the analogy is supposed to hold up and the church is Egypt, assuming God is calling Christians out of the church, what destination represents Israel?

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