Returning to the Tent of David: An Introduction

serpentThe serpent enticed Chavah by predicting beneficial outcomes. “Your eyes will be opened… The fruit will awaken a new desire and appreciation for the pleasures around you. It will be a source of intellectual benefit.”

Chavah longed for this new knowledge and exciting awakening, and she ate the forbidden fruit. She then used her persuasive powers to convince her husband to eat it as well.

Chavah’s downfall began when she expanded upon and distorted G-d’s command, which she did not personally hear.

-Chana Weisberg
“Woman and the Forbidden Fruit”
Chabad.org

Beginning the Returning to the Tent of David series

This depiction of Chavah (Eve) and her interaction with the serpent casts her in a more favorable light than we typically see her by in Christianity. Rather than being disobedient and rebellious, she is either a bold explorer of new knowledge, or an innocent dupe of the serpent who physically pushed her in to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and after all, it’s not her fault because God did not tell Chavah directly not to touch the tree or to eat from it.

Chavah added the prohibition of touching the Tree of Knowledge. The serpent then forcibly pushed Chavah against the tree, and victoriously claimed, “See, just as death did not ensue from touching, so it will not follow from eating.”

In this way, the serpent introduced doubt into Chavah’s mind. It now became easier to dare Chavah to taste the forbidden fruit. He convinced her that G-d did not actually intend to kill her and Adam, but merely threatened them to intimidate them.

I know, I know. The Torah reading for Beresheet (Genesis) is behind us. Why do I continue to write about it now? Shouldn’t I be preparing my commentary on Noah? Be patient. There’s a reason.

That’s my ministry in a nutshell; it’s a not-so-interesting and rather Baptist-intensive story. I am eternally grateful for my family and for my Baptist heritage. God has used both to lead me to commit my life to Christ, to follow him with my life and to serve him through the church. However, the past eighteen months have opened up for me a more complete picture of who I am and where I came from. Through a series of circumstances, curiosity, and new friendships, I am being exposed to my Jewish roots. I have no doubt that all of these circumstances and friendships, and even my own curiosity that opened me up to the Jewish roots movement, are all God-ordained.

-Durwin Kicker
Senior Pastor at Marshfield First Baptist
From the Foreword (pg 10) of Boaz Michael’s book
Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile

tent-of-davidYou may think it’s terrifically unfair of me to compare Chavah’s situation to Pastor Kicker’s. I’m not really, but it occurs to me that, at least in midrash, we all have something in common with the wife of the first man. When exposed to be brand-new world with seemingly endless possibilities, we want to explore. However, like Chavah, we may also have reservations, since some of the things that we are tempted to explore may not be what God wants us to investigate, even when we get a “helpful” shove.

God has used Boaz Michael and the ministry of First Fruits of Zion to impact my life in a profound way in a very short amount of time. It is my great honor and privilege to call Boaz my friend. His passion and love for Messiah and his gentle spirit have struck a chord in our church family which has served to open many of our people to our Jewish roots, God’s everlasting covenants with his people, and our place as Gentiles in God’s family through our Jewish Messiah.

Boaz’s desire is that this kind of loving impact will be repeated over and over again in church after church. I join with Boaz in saying, the church needs you! The church is good, yet the church needs to change. Each individual who comes to know our Jewish Messiah in his Jewish context can play a part in lovingly and patiently helping brothers and sisters in Messiah come to know him in this way as well.

-Kicker, pg 12

I reviewed Boaz’s book about nine months ago in several blog posts, the two most notable being Return of the Christian and Returning to Faith. I had read an advanced copy of the book months previously, and it was instrumental in overcoming my inertia and inspiring my own return to a local church.

And now it’s been nearly a year later. The progression through the Jewish holiday season and the beginning of a new Torah cycle seem a very good time to review my own “Tent of David” experience and to see how things actually have ended up (not that anything has really ended yet).

Pastor Kicker seems enthusiastic about pursuing the vision of the “Messianic Gentile” in the church by way of his friendship with Boaz but of course, he’s been in the church for quite some time and as Pastor, he is a fully integrated unit within that cultural, social, and theological construct. In other words, he “fits.” Boaz’s book speaks of “Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile.” For me as a recent “returnee,” what has been healed, if anything?

My perception of Boaz’s book (I can’t speak directly to his intent, nor would I ever try…this is my own opinion) is that there are two kinds of healing going on, at least in theory.

There’s the healing of the “Messianic Gentile,” the Christian (non-Jewish disciple of Jesus Christ) who often has left the church because of some emotional or spiritual injury or hurt (real or perceived) caused somehow by the Christian church or some of its members. Many people in Hebrew or Jewish roots congregations believe they have sought refuge in a “safe place” outside of “the Church” and continue to view church and people who identify as Christians as adversaries. Finding a mechanism to have the Hebrew/Jewish roots Gentile return to church in a safe manner and to share who they are with their fellow Christians certainly opens the avenue for healing between the parties involved.

Then there’s the more historic healing between the traditional church of Jesus Christ and the historic and Biblical Jewish Jesus and the Jewish and Gentile body of Messiah. A great deal of damage has been done to Jewish and Christian hearts, and that has sustained the separate trajectories believing Gentiles and the Jewish community (including Messianic Jews) have been traveling for twenty centuries.

church-and-crossA non-Jewish believer possessing a Hebraic view and even a passion for the “Jewishness” of Jesus, and one willing to communicate that with his or her Christian counterparts in a church community could facilitate a great deal of healing, ultimately between Christianity and Judaism. Certainly, great strides have already been made in this area between some churches and various expressions of Messianic Judaism, although a lot of work still needs to be done.

But what about me and what I’m doing in the small church I attend? I’d like to completely re-read Boaz’s book before venturing to answer that question in full, but I did want to keep my promise and at least introduce the journey I’m taking in returning to the Tent of David and Boaz’s vision of the healing of Christian and Jewish communities. His book speaks on a larger scope by necessity, but nearly a year down the road,  how has Boaz’s vision worked “on the ground,” so to speak. I can only lend my own single, small voice and my individual experience. As this series progresses, I’ll share my insights with you. Perhaps you will return the favor.

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25 thoughts on “Returning to the Tent of David: An Introduction”

  1. Am attending a ladies Bible Study at the church where we attend Sunday school but not Sunday services (it’s a long story). We’re studying Deuteronomy with Beth Moore and it’s wonderful; I’ve been able to share about Sukkot and soon the teacher will ask me to speak on why I’m Messianic. Over the years we’ve made small inroads here and there but are still strangers in a strange land. I gave Tent of David to the pastor … not a peep so far. There’s no place like home. But no place IS home ….at least, this side of the return of the King. Meanwhile, He keeps it interesting ….

  2. My Pastor also read TOD and he told me while he agreed with some of it, he disagreed with other portions. We never got a chance to discuss it in detail since we’re supposed to be discussing D.T. Lancaster’s “Galatians” book in detail.

    When I mentioned that I build a sukkah in my backyard every year, I think it was perceived more as a novelty rather than a living example of drawing closer to Messiah. Of course, having a Jewish family also makes it incumbent on me to build a sukkah for their sake, so maybe that’s how it was seen.

    I’m about halfway through re-reading TOD and already have notes for at least one blog post, maybe two. In the next few days, I’ll publish “Return to the Tent of David” series blogs describing the promise and the pitfalls of my experience over the past year (well, not quite a year). In re-reading the book, Boaz gives the impression that one must become thoroughly immersed in the local church for many, many years, but I’ll address that issue, probably on Sunday’s blog post.

    Especially after my last conversation with my Sunday “coffee buddy,” everything has become more intense and involved than I imagined.

    I figured this blog post would either attract a lot of traffic or gather cobwebs. So far, the latter.

  3. I can relate a lot to what MicheleBartlett says, especially about being a stranger in a strange land. It’s been this way for several years.

    Honestly, I read this book hoping it would tell me what I wanted to hear. I wanted Boaz to say that it was okay to “come out from among them, and be ye separate”… but he didn’t say that. I’m trying to do what I can, but I’ve mostly been met with either silence or scattered “umms” or “well yeah but,…”.

    I think it would help if I could just find at least one other “tent builder” in my Church or area. But it seems as though everyone is following the official denominational platform.

  4. I don’t want to be too big a downer in this conversation, Rodney. Granted, there are challenges and the “Tent of David” experience may not be accepted in every church. I agree that finding another “tent builder” to compare note with would be helpful. I haven’t found any in my little corner of the world either, though to be fair, I didn’t expect there’d be any others.

  5. I believe James was called to that community for a purpose, both to receive from them and to impart to them. This is different from someone expounding a theology of what entire group should or should not do. Some people take issue with his, “bilateral ecclesiology,” but you already have a bilateral ecclesiology via HR vs. MJ divide. Those who go out from us are not of us. That is my take if someone believes they can follow torah with any involvement with Jews, either face to face, or the historic wisdom of our people.

  6. “Especially after my last conversation with my Sunday “coffee buddy,” everything has become more intense and involved than I imagined.”

    Didn’t I tell you that in the end they will kick you out? You are not a novelty to them, you are a nuance…Boaz had big dreams with his invention (DI). almost 5 years later how far did he go?

  7. Sorry, I was writing too fast because I had to pick kid up. It should read, “entire groups,” and “follow torah without and involvement of Jews.”

  8. Dan, I am not talking about movements or doctrines or following this or that MessyWorld celebrity. Those who belong to Messiah will know his voice and follow him. I do not believe that voice would say to try to live according to torah while separating yourself from the people of torah. I believe the divide is only going to get larger. There is nothing new under the sun. This happened in the first century, so why shouldn’t it happen again?

  9. Dan, no one has kicked me out. I’m still going to church, Sunday school, and meeting weekly with my Pastor. On the other hand, no one said that we’d all agree on everything. Heck, no one in any congregation anywhere agrees on everything.

  10. What I hear in Boaz’ voice for the believing community in his day is what I hear in Jesus’ voice for the believing community in His: love. The how and when and why all merge into one through this word, love. It is always patient and kind. And it never fails.

  11. That’s the ingredient that is easy to lose amid the struggle for doctrine or interpretation of the Bible in a particular direction.

  12. That much is true, Boaz. But for me, it’s not so much a matter of being liked or not liked as whether or not I’m making a mess of things. Striking a balance in these sorts of transactions is very delicate. I want to be forthright and not obnoxious (and you know I can be obnoxious from time to time). I think that re-reading TOD is a good way for me to re-establish my focus and compare where I am now to what I expected when I started out.

  13. @Boaz Michael, I don’t expect people to like me or agree with me, and I welcome challenges, because it stirs my own thinking. I also don’t delete posts of people who question or disagree with me, and I don’t lie to people either.

  14. I remind everyone that the comments feature is active on this blog to invite relevant discussion, not to go “people bashing.” Boaz makes a spectacular target whenever he comments on a public blog but I will edit or remove comments that cross the line.

  15. I shake my head everytime I read these “My Pastor” blog posts. I’m glad I have a legit MJ congregation in my area to go to. I quickly relized that the TOD thing wasn’t going to work for me. In my opinion, what you are chasing, James, is a pipe-dream. One can become obsessed with it. “If I just show them this video. If I just remember to say this in our converstions. If I can explain it this way or that way. If if if if if.” It’s a farce. You will not change people with words or videos. People change because they choose to change. Not because you convince them. This isn’t something like convincing someone that this computer is better than that one. There are no “spec sheets” on MJ. After saying all this, though…I really do wish you the best of luck.

  16. I shake my head everytime I read these “My Pastor” blog posts. I’m glad I have a legit MJ congregation in my area to go to.

    Hi, Keith. Even if I had a “legit MJ congregation” to go to (there are several Hebrew Roots/One Law groups, but nothing like Beth Immanuel) I wouldn’t go to it, at least on a regular basis. My wife is Jewish and not a believer and having a “Messianic” husband is a big embarrassment for her in relation to her Jewish friends and her connection to the two synagogues in town.

    Boaz Michael said in his book that the “TOD experience” wasn’t for everyone, so I don’t doubt that you are correct in your self-assessment. However, you sell short the vision of TOD in reaching the church with the Messianic viewpoint. It is “Christian” to see Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. We can’t continue to make two camps for believing Gentiles: one being the Church and the other being Hebrew Roots/Messianic Judaism. The two communities at least have to learn to talk with each other and eventually, share a similar perspective on Messiah, the Bible, and everything.

    If we don’t, then there are going to be a lot of shocked and dismayed Gentile believers when Jesus comes on the clouds and lo and behold, he’s Jewish.

    As far as change goes, it’s not that I or anyone else has the ability all by ourselves to change even one other human being. God provides the change. We’re just the tools. If that weren’t the case, then no one at all would become a believer in the first place.

    Please see both “meditations” for today (Oct. 3). They adequately show both sides of the coin, the Messianic struggling in the church, and the responsibility of the Messianic to rely on God and not his own strength.

  17. “We can’t continue to make two camps for believing Gentiles: one being the Church and the other being Hebrew Roots/Messianic Judaism. The two communities at least have to learn to talk with each other and eventually, share a similar perspective on Messiah, the Bible, and everything.”

    I understand what you are saying. I just choose to have those kind of things occur on “neutral ground.” I still engage with Christians. I just choose not to attend a church with them. Allow me to give an example. A friend of mine had a sibling getting married. She was invited to the wedding, but it was a same-sex ceremony. My friend faced a dilemma. Should she go and support her sibling, but been see as endorsing this type of behavior. Or not go and explain loving to her sibling why she wasn’t going and hope that she understands. I know it isn’t the greatest analogy, but you get my drift.

  18. I agree, the analogy needs work. The church as it stands today represents a significant amount of “mission drift” when compared to its original creation nearly 2,000 years ago. However, we make a mistake, especially the non-Jew, in thinking that Messianic Judaism or Hebrew Roots is free of any sort of errors, personal and group politics, or anything else we tend to complain about when we think if “Church.”

    I certainly don’t deny that you have every right to attend a Messianic or Hebrew Roots group. Also, you are under no compulsion whatsoever (at least as far as I’m concerned) to go to a church, even occasionally (for weddings or whatever) or to talk with any individual Christian (although since I self-identify as a Christian, albeit an unusual one, you’re talking to one now).

    However someone has to break the ice. As long as all Gentiles in the Messianic and Hebrew Roots world considers “the Church” and everyone in it as “the enemy,” we will always be isolated in our own little silos from the vast, vast majority of believing Gentiles on earth, and it is they who are obeying the commandments of Jesus the most often by feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, comforting the grieving, all around the world everyday.

    Many non-Jewish in Hebrew Roots and Messianic Judaism have, at some point, encountered something painful in church (almost universally, any Jew or Gentile in HR or MJ have entered through a church experience). They can either stay wounded and hide or seek healing and reunification. This doesn’t even mean going back to church and taking up the mantle of “Christian,” but it does mean acknowledging that Christians do a tremendous amount of good in the world.

    As far as Christianity goes, healing needs to happen there, too, but in their case, it’s healing between the Church and the Jewish community. For nearly twenty centuries, there has been a lot of damage done to Jewish people by Christians and having a few “Hebraically aware” Gentiles in the church gently nudging Christians toward a better understanding of Judaism and Jewish Roots, perhaps that healing can begin or increase.

    The whole TOD vision will never be perfect and sometimes I’m sure it will fail. But it shouldn’t fail out of fear, animosity, or lack of effort. Even if I completely tank in my efforts, I know that I’m on the path God designed for me doing my best, however imperfectly, to communicate His will as well as live it out.

  19. It seems persons who receive their livelihood, as well as their status from the religious system really have an interest in the expansion and continuation of the system, and for some reason, uphold the idea of institutional unity as a necessary and worthwhile goal. Why? What would be the purpose of getting the CEO’s of McDonalds, Burger King and Carl’s Jr. together to agree? Better to warn the customers that they all serve unhealthy, although convenient fare. Stop buying their stuff. Open your own fresh, organic eateries where one can eat freely without cost. Think about doing your own cooking and growing. Call all who are hungry and thirsty to come in. Sorry, I won’t direct anyone to McDonalds, Burger King or Carl’s Jr., and don’t see much difference between what they serve.

  20. Um…hopefully the comment “persons who receive their livelihood, as well as their status from the religious system really have an interest in the expansion and continuation of the system” isn’t directed at me Chaya, since I don’t make a dime from my involvement at my church. Naturally, my Pastor and his staff make incomes, but a church is a non-profit organization, so they’ll never get rich by shepherding their flock.

    I suspect you are referencing Boaz Michael and First Fruits of Zion, but then again, as a non-profit organization, Boaz and his staff are certainly entitled to be compensated for their efforts and beyond that, any income generated is invested in producing educational materials for their constituents. Certainly Tim Hegg and his Torah Resource organization is in a similar situation. If we say that we only trust a religious person or leader who makes no income whatsoever from their endeavors, we will find very few that exist in our world.

    In fact, paying religious people is even in the Bible:

    For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing, and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

    1 Timothy 5:18

    All that said, I would never discourage you from following your conscience, Chaya.

  21. James, this is not directed at you. It is also not directed at persons who devote full-time to serving a group of people they directly minister to, and so should be materially supported by those who receive their ministry. Non-profit is just a method of financial organization, where profits are turned back into the company instead of being paid out to shareholders or owners. Charity Navigator and Ministry Watch do not list either FFOZ or TR, as I assume they focus on bigger organizations. FFOZ took in a record $2M plus in 2012, and this is their 2011 990. link removed by request Tim Hegg’s group makes substantially less; its 2011 income $174, 777. Hegg may sell his books outside the non-profit. link removed by request I am no expert on financials, but I believe it is possible to get a hold of documents that would detail salaries, etc.

    There is also an issue with the false dichotomy, as if one only has two (or more) choices, and one is bad, so the other must be good. There are always alternatives. One alternative is to pick none of the above.

    Blog owner’s note: It is sometimes difficult to balance competing interests and still avoid hurting anyone and in this case, I was and am unsuccessful. This is one of the dangers in blogging, especially in the religious space where statements can become quickly controversial and hurtful. I regret hurting anyone either through allowing information to be posted on my blog or by inhibiting it. This may be another indication of the growing suspicion I’ve been having that I have failed both as a religious blogger and a servant of God. Peace.

  22. OK, I want to stop right here, Chaya. I don’t want this conversation to turn into a commentary on the good or bad of certain organizations. I’ll be glad to have this conversation with you via email, but I don’t find that it’s appropriate for a public venue, at least as I define it for my blog. If you’d like to reply to this comment, please do so by email. Thanks.

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