human life

The Non-Covenant Relationship with God

One of the difficulties…that Christian theologies have not really grasped, is that Rav Yeshua’s gentile disciples don’t actually participate in any covenant whatsoever. Perhaps that is why they invent fictitious covenants. What they have instead of a covenant is an individually-based responsibility to rely on HaShem’s unchanging character and graciousness. They must trust HaShem Who wishes all humanity to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, as Rav Shaul wrote to Timothy in 1 Tim. 2:3-4. They, and their children, and their children’s children, each must approach HaShem as trusting individuals. They may pass to their children a heritage of knowledge about how to trust HaShem, but each must choose to embrace and employ that knowledge afresh in their own lives. They may form collective communities of faith-filled individuals, and they may covenant with each other to serve HaShem, but they do not possess a collective responsibility under a covenant with HaShem in which HaShem has bound Himself by His Oath.

-ProclaimLiberty
from one of his recent comments

I’ve written about the “connection” (or lack thereof) between Gentile believers and the New Covenant many times before, and I agree with ProclaimLiberty (PL) that we non-Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua (Jesus Christ) are not named participants in the New Covenant (see Jer. 31, Ezek. 36), and thus we have no stake in those covenant promises.

That might come as a shock to some of you.

MessiahBut through Hashem’s grace and mercy for the human race, He has allowed any of us who attach ourselves to Israel through our Rav to benefit from some of the blessings of that covenant.

We know that Hashem wants all human beings, not just Israel, to come to a knowledge of Him, to become His servants, to worship Him alone as the God of Israel:

That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.

Isaiah 45:23 (NASB)

For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

Romans 14:11

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:3-4

These are just a few scriptural examples illustrating God’s desire for all people, both Israel and the nations, to be devoted to Him.

But what PL wrote made me think. The Jewish people are collectively Israel, and the covenants apply to all Israel. Yes, each individual Jew has his or her own responsibilities to fulfill under covenant, but ultimately, God doesn’t covenant with each individual Jew, but with all of them, past, present, and future.

A Jew is the only person to be born into a covenant relationship with God whether he or she wants to.

Not so with the rest of us.

NoahExcept for the Noahide covenant, which Hashem made with all living things, we are born into no relationship with God at all. If we want a relationship with Him, we have to choose that for ourselves and then act on it (not that the Spirit of God can’t send us certain “prompts”).

Good thing we have free will to make that choice.

But then I thought about the “Church,” which is something of an artificial construct, so I dug back into the concept of the “ekklesia”.

Nearly two years ago, in a fit of insomnia, I started exploring the meaning of ekklesia:

noun, plural ec·cle·si·ae [ih-klee-zhee-ee, -zee-ee] Show IPA .

1. an assembly, especially the popular assembly of ancient Athens.

2. a congregation; church.

Origin: 1570–80; < Latin < Greek ekklēsía assembly, equivalent to ékklēt ( os ) summoned ( ek- ec- + klē-, variant of kal-, stem of kaleîn to call, + -tos past participle suffix) + -ia -ia

Also:

— n , pl -siae
1. (in formal Church usage) a congregation
2. the assembly of citizens of an ancient Greek state

[C16: from Medieval Latin, from Late Greek ekklēsia assembly, from ekklētos called, from ekkalein to call out, from kalein to call]

the crowdI tend to think of the ekklesia in its broadest sense, as that world-wide body of people, Jews and Gentiles, who have answered the call of Rav Yeshua to follow his teachings and draw nearer to Hashem. For Jews, this is the next “evolutionary” step or the next logical extension of their covenant relationship with Hashem, since Rav Yeshua is the mediator of the New Covenant.

For non-Jews, we are allowed to draw near to Israel and be “grafted in” (and being grafted in to the promises doesn’t make us Israel) to stand alongside Israel within the body of the ekklesia so that we can benefit from many of the blessings of the New Covenant.

Here’s where things get blurry.

PL describes we non-Jews as coming to Hashem through Rav Yeshua individually. It is true that in the Church it’s said that “God doesn’t have grandchildren.” This means that even if you are a Yeshua-disciple, your kids may not be. They don’t inherit a relationship with God  just because you have one.

This is the exact reverse of a Jew’s covenant relationship with Hashem. When Jewish parents have a child, that child does inherit a covenant relationship with Hashem by virtue of the fact that he or she has Jewish parents (or a Jewish mother in the case of my children).

As non-Jews, one-by-one, we come to faith and trust in Rav Yeshua and it is our custom to gather together with other individual non-Jewish believers in a congregation to worship and fellowship. In and of itself, a “church” is an expression of part of the world-wide ekklesia, the larger body of Jewish and Gentile believers.

PL said of we non-Jewish disciples:

They may form collective communities of faith-filled individuals, and they may covenant with each other to serve HaShem, but they do not possess a collective responsibility under a covenant with HaShem in which HaShem has bound Himself by His Oath.

synagogueI believe this is true, but it’s still difficult to reconcile with emotionally. Reading this statement, makes me feel disconnected and unattached.

I know my attachment is symbolic and metaphorical, even though it has real, tangible results, but it draws a sharp distinction of what happens when Jews gather together in a synagogue on Shabbos, and what happens when Christians come together in church on Sunday.

The former are bound not only to each other but to Hashem by covenant, a formal, specified, and direct relationship between Israel and their God. We “Christians” voluntarily covenant with each other and are beneficiaries of the kindness of the God of Israel, though we have no formal relationship with Him.

It made me realize just how fragile that relationship is.

Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?

Romans 11:22-24

I believe being born into a covenant relationship with Hashem has a cost. If you are Jewish and choose to disregard the covenants and your responsibilities relative to them (Shabbat, kosher, davening, tzedakah, and so on), I believe that at the judgment, there will be consequences. None of my children are even slightly religious and my wife’s observance is “so-so” and I worry about that.

As far as being “natural branches,” I don’t know their state at present. But I do know that even as they are, they are still members of the covenants simply because they’re Jewish.

ShabbatI’ve heard it said that Judaism isn’t an all or nothing religion, so every time my wife does go to shul, davens, lights the Shabbos candles, or observes other mitzvot, I’m pleased. But there’s always more to do.

Even a secular Jew is a Jew, and even being non-observant, has a relationship with Hashem (even if they’re totally unaware of it).

We non-Jews, on the other hand, though we don’t have a formal relationship with Hashem, also don’t have as many rights and responsibilities. We get a lot of the same benefits (the Holy Spirit, the promise of the resurrection in the world to come, the love of Hashem, prayer) without the obligations shouldered by collective Israel (and there’s no other way to think of Israel except “collective”).

But our “attachment” to that metaphorical olive tree isn’t as secure as is Israel’s. The covenants are a lock. They don’t go away just because Israel as a whole or any individual Jew is not observant. The only thing that changes are the consequences, one set for obedience, and another set for disobedience.

For the rest of us, we need to watch our “Ps and Qs” so to speak. As Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul) wrote (Romans 11:18), if we are arrogant and put “the Church” ahead of Israel, we can easily be knocked off the root. The root (and I believe one way to look at the root is as Israel’s covenant relationship with God) supports us, not the other way around.

The root belongs to Israel by covenant right, and we Gentiles are merely “resident aliens” among Israel (metaphorically speaking). We have no rights. We are granted guest status just because God’s a “nice guy,” so to speak. Not that God would do it, but if any one of us gets out of line, God could blow us off the root with a (metaphorical) sneeze.

That should make you feel a little insecure. I feel a little insecure.

But that’s not the end of it. PL finished his comment this way:

Curiously enough, because HaShem is faithful to those who place their trust in Him, and because He values the voluntary commitment of people who cling to His precepts without the demands of a covenant (as described of the foreigners in Is. 56), gentile disciples may benefit practically in a manner that is very similar to the benefits promised to Jews under the covenant. The advantages possessed by Jews, which Rav Shaul described to the Romans in the third chapter of his letter, are still very much valid and effective, and “grafted-in” wild gentile olive branches have no reason to boast of their position relative to native acculturated Jewish branches on his metaphorical olive tree of faith, but the wild branches are no longer merely fodder to be fed into a fire. One does not require a covenant to accept HaShem’s benefits, but one should not be jealous merely because someone else (namely the Jewish people) does have one. In fact, one may be grateful that HaShem’s covenantal faithfulness toward Jews demonstrates that He may be trusted even without a covenant. And this enables gentile disciples also to pursue faithfulness in response to HaShem’s gracious provision of all manner of blessings.

interfaith prayerWe non-Jewish disciples are living proof that God can be trusted beyond the covenant promises to Israel. Covenants are highly formal and specific agreements between two parties, but every word the comes from the mouth of the living God is trustworthy, carved in stone, immutable, unchangeable, and utterly reliable.

We may only come to God one-by-one as non-Jews outside of the covenants, but we are more than just individuals. We are part of something greater. We voluntarily come to Hashem, and we may voluntarily covenant with each other when we gather together, but we are more than just a group of individuals. We are members of the ekklesia and we make up a huge portion of the ekklesia alongside of Israel. We are different from the sum of our parts because the grace of God has made us children and family of the Most High.

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46 thoughts on “The Non-Covenant Relationship with God”

  1. If I might return once again to Is.56 relative to your discussion here of insecurity — perhaps that is why Isaiah includes, among HaShem’s promises in this chapter, statements like v.5 in which “eunuchs” (who may be viewed metaphorically as those who cannot bear sons and daughters who might automatically inherit a relationship with HaShem) are promised “… a monument and a memorial better than sons and daughters; … an everlasting memorial, that shall not be cut off”. This follows v.3 in which the foreigner is promised that one “… that hath joined himself to the LORD”, is not to feel an insecurity that would express itself as if to say: “The LORD will surely separate me from His people”. Clearly Isaiah recognized the very same sort of insecurity that you described above, and expressed HaShem’s plan to gather and include such foreigners together with His covenanted people and “… bring [them] to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

    Thus we have Rav Shaul’s exhortation in Rom.11:22 to “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.”. Those who are tempted to be arrogant need this reminder about severity; while those who have already taken it to heart may comfort themselves with the reminder of HaShem’s kindness and His intention to nurture the wild, “foreign”, branches whose willingness to trust binds them to the olive tree of faithful-ones.

  2. I agree. I emphasized the “insecurity” because I think far too many Christians feel too secure at the expense of Israel and the true meaning of Hashem’s covenant relationship with the Jewish people. I did try to end this blog post on an “up note”.

  3. “We may only come to God one-by-one as non-Jews outside of the covenants…”

    This tells me four things:

    1. G-d does not actually “see” nations in his deliverance, just gentiles.
    2. People cannot have a nation without a constitution.
    3. All gentile nationhood is an unreal construct.
    4. Gentiles are under no obligation to meet or assemble at all.

  4. @Drake — All four of your inferences are logically unjustifiable. Nationhood and covenant are separate notions even for Jews, let alone the formulation of a constitution. Approaching G-d individually has no bearing on the existence of national identity, just as being a member of the overall human family does not obviate the existence of national families, tribes, clans, etc. The lack of a covenant for which G-d is its Guarantor does not prevent the formulation of national covenants or constitutions that bind nations together, nor is ethnicity an absolutely distinctive factor. The lack of such a covenant does not prevent HaShem from taking action either for or against an entire nation or people such as the Medes, the Persians, the Canaanites, the Greeks, the Romans, the Germans, the Russians, the Americans, or whomever, in response to group behaviors. Covenant is not His sole consideration for action, though certainly it features centrally in His dealings vis-à-vis Jews. I believe the statement you cited from James’ essay is merely intending to say that gentiles do not approach HaShem via the Jewish covenant(s) or any other covenant, but rather less formally and without any constraint except that of HaShem’s character.

  5. Historically in a religious world, nations were only seen as legitimate if they proceded from divine headwaters. Divine foundation proved that a nation’s existence was not an accident, no afterbirth of Fate, but that it had a purpose that it never had to “guess” at. Telling the nations of the world that their foundations are a lie would simply delegitimize them completely.

    In light of absence of covenant or a family god, the gentile concept of nationhood must either secularize, or take on a myth that arrogates the covenants of HaShem. Should it do neither, it will continue to endure a weltering illegitimacy problem.

    I like to fancy that HaShem was in Valley Forge and Iwo Jima, inter alia, picking America as a winner, but that’s all myth. There’s no way of knowing that or claiming it for sure. A gentile is just a single individual approaching G-d alone. That’s it. The majority of interactions G-d has with gentiles collectively in the Tanakh suggests they are raised up only to destroy each other. Not much about their inner worlds, virtues, or particular destinies.

    Israel is destiny.
    The nations are chances of history.

    I grew up a conservatve believing in the greatness of my country, but a Biblical worldview paints the stars and stripes all as random and meaningless entirely. It saddens me to suspect that Americana means nothing to G-d on the balance, if we can even know that.

    Meaningless, meaningless, sayeth the Teacher…

  6. Maybe “[g]entiles are under no obligation to meet or assemble at all,” but all humans do it anyway in some capacity… with consequence.

  7. I’d say that’s unnecessarily bleak, Drake — The original European settlers of the USA may have been mistaken technically about participating in an actual covenant ratified by HaShem, but certainly they covenanted with each other to obey His ways as best they could understand them. Do you think HaShem ignored that entirely and did nothing to bless their nation accordingly? Now, the USA has always comprised a mixture of secular Enlightenment values and biblical ones, which were not all mutually exclusive, and no one should suggest that all Americans were equally devoted to them, so one could never fault HaShem for any lack of support for their nation — though I think, on balance, that the USA has been, in fact, greatly blessed because of its aggregate positive values. Further, I would credit the departure from American ideals within the past century for much of the trouble currently plaguing the land. I don’t view your historical touchstones of Valley Forge and Iwo Jima as random events, nor the view of HaShem’s intervention to support the American experiment as mythical. I think a relative analysis of the values in play at the times of both events would favor the notion of HaShem’s favor of the side that was given victory. But the calculus underlying such an analysis about what may tip the balance of HaShem’s favor is complex, to say the least.

    I would suggest that, from HaShem’s perspective, the legitimacy of any nation at any time depends on its adherence to values that correspond with His own values. How those nations view themselves or their neighbors, regarding their legitimacy, may well depend on those values and whether they view them as rooted in what you called “divine headwaters”. But none of the nations of the world would view themselves as “chances of history”. Always one may trace human decisions and responses to events in the formulation of any given nation, even for Israel, and even for nations that no longer exist.

    But none of the above political musing is affected by HaShem’s sovereign choice to select one people, as descendants of one man and those who might become intimately absorbed into their civilization, for special treatment. The rest do not become meaningless or, as one of James’ previous blog essays termed it: “merely so much chopped liver”. There is no need to engage in “either-or”, “all-or-nothing” masochism. That was certainly not the conclusion reached by the Preacher of Ecclesiastes/Kohelet. He wrote, in Eccl.12:13 — “The end of the matter, all having been heard: fear God, and keep His commandments; for this [applies to] the whole of mankind”. In this, he promoted the notion that would be cited also by the prophet Micah (Mic.6:8) — “He has told you, man, what is good; And what does HaShem require of you; But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” The rabbis note that this is addressed to “you, man”, generically and not just to Jews per se. It is a legitimate requirement for all humans; and as such, it demonstrates HaShem’s broad perspective and concern for all of us, that He shows His concern for “Jews and Greeks” even if Jews are primary in certain schemes of His priorities.

  8. It would seem that Hashem not only recognizes nations in general as they are apart from Israel, but specific nations as well. He also appears to specifically bless other nations besides Israel for their fidelity to Him.

    All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
    And they shall glorify Your name. For You are great and do wondrous deeds;
    You alone are God.

    Psalm 86:9-10 (NASB)

    In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord near its border. It will become a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the Lord because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them. Thus the Lord will make Himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day. They will even worship with sacrifice and offering, and will make a vow to the Lord and perform it. The Lord will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to the Lord, and He will respond to them and will heal them.

    In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.

    In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.”

    Isaiah 19:19-25

    Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This will be the [h]punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.

    Zechariah 14:16-19

    Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

    Matthew 28:19-20

  9. “In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.”

    Good point. I was going to bring up Zech 14 but I must have forgot. The few passages that actually seem to acknowledge gentile nationhood and purpose (and not simply as teeming masses of otherness) warm my soul.

    But again, it seems that’s a present for the next age. No gentile nation on the planet can ever claim they are called “His people” in the way Isaiah does. For any people to ever hear something like that from the Allfather would be amazing.

    G-d bless America *snark*

  10. I don’t know what “the departure from American ideals within the past century” is. We have largely left behind anti-Semitism (as compared with the early twentieth century). We have moved away from racism overall. But I would say we have moved within the last half-century in a sad direction. I hope it is apparent or obvious, all of these statements have to do with moves only within the larger population (not as the whole population); there is not homogeneity. The negative movement has been a drive to hate whomever can be found to hate.

    I think there is a bit of misconception trailing through this thread. Non-Jews may only come to God one by one, but so truly do Jews. We need to be careful not to make comparisons on different plains. So, as Drake pointed out, we can’t really switch from saying Israel is God’s people over to treat the future hope of some other nation being God’s people too as if this is an answer to what we do now. Certainly, this would not be “permitted” in any other context — and contradicts the thread. And people posting have been corrected on other days.

    Back to “America”: there was slavery, officially, and rape (more informally), disregard of female agency, and other horrid inclusions in the culture tolerated when it was established. We can say we have to consider the times and make allowance for people improving as they and the culture learn. Then, this is where I would say, yes, so we can make that allowance. Then we shouldn’t tolerate backward movement that traffics in the wistful hope for those better days (not saying that is what anyone was consciously doing), but that is what is subtly (and now not so subtly again) used to get a groundswell.

    I wrote this earlier, before the recent posts, and wasn’t going to post it. But now I will… the first paragraph, anyway:
    I bought a rather sophisticated book of mazes for my oldest son when he was very young, maybe five. I don’t remember how exactly we started talking about this, but one of the early pages had a drawing of a historical type maze that was a building of sorts. It was explained to have something to do with religion. There are no such buildings in biblical faith; in that moment, I said that many religions around the world (even possibly all other religion) were made up by some elite who no doubt became elite of power thereby…

    to fool others…
    …at best (likely rare), made up to rally an otherwise hapless population to some positive behavior and comradery.

    I am fine with the United States being secular. It does say in the Constitution that there shall be no establishment of religion. I was brought up patriotic, conservative too, so I know about the Bill of Rights (and additional history)…

    [“America” is a combination of the types of heritage England and the rest of Europe have in government. We include precedent (more like the U.K.), constitution, and legal code.]

  11. @Marleen — Anti-Semitism and slavery were never American ideals. Neither was rape. The notion of women’s suffrage may be derived from the notion of universal suffrage which *is* an American ideal (and always was, even if other cultural conditions kept it from being obvious). As for the “establishment” clause in the Bill of Rights, it was intended to prevent the government from being ruled by any one particular religious establishment — it did not promote secularism, as demonstrated thoroughly in the religious views and language of foundational American documents and in letters preserved from various “Founding Fathers”.

    We might profitably consider the question of how the balance between the quality of a nation’s values and the quality of its aggregate praxis or implementation of those values may facilitate or inhibit HaShem’s ability to bless that nation and how He must balance His Justice, His Mercy, His longsuffering, and His lovingkindness.

  12. The Bible could simply use language like “people” and “men and women” where it puts “nation.” And as long as it uses that word, it foments the reasonable expectation to answer questions pertaining to that word. But it does not answer them.

  13. PL hit on something: these days many equate saying the right thing with doing the right thing.

  14. And somehow saying the right thing and not doing the right thing were not a downfall in the beginning of the American “ideal,” Steve?

    PL? Again, in what way has America strayed from its ideal? I was disagreeing with you, PL, not trying to support your claim.

    You gave a time-frame that I responded to. Don’t judge me or my statement based on you unsubstantiated assertion.

  15. I was reading something while putzing around with the Allfather concept in most religions, and it practically lept off the page. The last few lines of this section of Chief Seattle’s 1854 speech when offered land purchase and protection from Washington, DC. We all agree that “echad” describes G-d, and describes Him as the G-d of all peoples. But the lack of appearance, covenant, or law and how it can engender feelings of orphanhood and impermanence to a people.

    “Our good father in Washington–for I presume he is now our father as well as yours, since King George has moved his boundaries further north–our great and good father, I say, sends us word that if we do as he desires he will protect us. His brave warriors will be to us a bristling wall of strength, and his wonderful ships of war will fill our harbors, so that our ancient enemies far to the northward — the Haidas and Tsimshians — will cease to frighten our women, children, and old men. Then in reality he will be our father and we his children.

    But can that ever be? Your God is not our God! Your God loves your people and hates mine! He folds his strong protecting arms lovingly about the paleface and leads him by the hand as a father leads an infant son. But, He has forsaken His Red children, if they really are His. Our God, the Great Spirit, seems also to have forsaken us. Your God makes your people wax stronger every day. Soon they will fill all the land. Our people are ebbing away like a rapidly receding tide that will never return. The white man’s God cannot love our people or He would protect them. They seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for help. How then can we be brothers? How can your God become our God and renew our prosperity and awaken in us dreams of returning greatness? If we have a common Heavenly Father He must be partial, for He came to His paleface children. We never saw Him. He gave you laws but had no word for His red children whose teeming multitudes once filled this vast continent as stars fill the firmament. No; we are two distinct races with separate origins and separate destinies. There is little in common between us.”

    – CHIEF SEATTLE’S 1854 ORATION

  16. @Marleen — Allow me to refer you to a book: “The Light and the Glory: 1492-1793 (God’s Plan for America)”, by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, published June 15, 2009. You might find that the information it presents alters your perspective.

  17. @drake — It appears to me that the Chief’s perception was not unlike a Jewish perception vis-à-vis western Christian society, in that the treatment of non-whites and non-Christians did not reflect the Christian doctrine of a universal heavenly Father.

  18. As a gentile believer in Yeshua I, along with some others I am in fellowship with, have struggled with this identity issue in the whole plan of Hashem ever since we discovered the “Hebraic” way of thinking about 10 years ago. In fact, I think this identity issue is at the root of much of what we see in the the Hebrew Roots (broad category) movement as well as Messianic Judaism. As we have seen various people come to our group over the years, this subject comes up often and seems to be a contentious one. Sadly we have had several who broke fellowship with us over this issue.

    I have tended to think of myself as one of the “strangers” or “ger toshav” since I have read some of the pioneers of the Messianic movement (and you too James) have thought of Gentile believers in that way. I have also related to those called “God-fearers” in the book of Acts. (I just googled “God fearers in Acts” and there are an abundance of opinions on what that means. Wow!). We, if I can speak for our little study group, are all thankful for the grafting in of the “wild olive” into the root described in Romans 11.

    But I think much of the confusion comes from what Rav Shaul says in Ephesians 2:19: “So then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers. On the contrary, you are fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s family.” (CJB). So if we are no longer foreigners and strangers (I assume he his referring to the ger toshav), what exactly does it mean to be fellow citizens (I assume he means in the commonwealth that he refers to earlier) with God’s people and members of God’s family? I know it doesn’t mean we participate in the covenant in the same way as the Jewish people but what exactly does it mean?

    Maybe we are just dense and “don’t get it”, but you wouldn’t believe how many times our small group that studies together on shabbat seems to go around this same mountain. We are currently studying through the book of Acts using FFOZ’s Torah Club volume 6 as a guide and this subject of gentile identity comes up a lot. We have people who come from a couple different positions so, although it gets discussed a lot, we usually end up just having to agree that we disagree.

    Please forgive me if you have already covered this subject since I haven’t read everything that all of you have written. But to restate it again I think the problem we have is reconciling what Rav Shaul says in Romans11 with what he says in Ephesians 2. Any help would be appreciated.

  19. >>>I haven’t read your post, in full, yet, Drake. Looks interesting.<<<

    Since it appears there is a dedication to thinking these things through on uneven plains, mixing and matching subject, object, point, and so on at random will, let me spell out (in the maybe futile hope that we won't only end up or remain dizzy): I listed slavery (and we shouldn't leave out subsequent oppression not quickly far from slavery), anti-semitism, and so on because these are examples of how we have improved in the hundred year timeframe you gave. (I would add that lack of female agency can be not far from slavery or pretty close to the same as slavery even when not recognised as such.)

    Now, don't get distracted; I know such subject matter can stir up emotions where the actual discussion has no hope of moving forward (I've seen that when you've reacted to such topics before). Instead of accusing me of saying, both, that anti-semitism (etc.) is an example of American ideals [which I did not say, and wish you wouldn't throw in for confusion's sake] and that our founding fathers were not religious or (in many cases) very influenced by faith or familiar with Bible [which I also didn't say, but confusion may be your seeming friend in this {*}] (even if not religious) — Koran and other material too — how about you notice that I was myself giving examples of how we've improved over the last hundred years (the timeframe you chose)?

    * Helpful reminder: I'm now (because it’s subsequently been introduced by someone other than me) saying that I didn’t say they weren’t conversant — I’m not saying I didn’t say they were conversant. So, this I agree with PL on, although he presented as if not. Yet both were previously irrelevant, because the freshly-introduced argument is present as something to say instead of noticing that America has gotten better since the early nineteen hundreds (except that we are today at a specific crisis point). We could notice that I was saying we have come closer to proper ideals. But no, we have to pretend instead that I’m against faith in America and all that jazz.

  20. James,

    It probably sounds like too simple of a solution for some but this really gave me some peace this week when I started to remember some of the rejection I felt with some congregations. I ran into it in one of my readings this week:

    Mark 3:31-35 (CJB) :

    31 Then his mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent a message asking for him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.” 33 He replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 Looking at those seated in a circle around him, he said, “See! Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does what God wants is my brother, sister and mother!”

    So, what this means to me is that it doesn’t matter if we are Jew are non-Jew. As long as we are following what God wants for us we are considered family to Yeshua. That shows me that relationship IS important to him.

  21. Have you read I Am a Man: “Chief Standing Bear’s journey for justice” by Joe Starita, Drake? It’s heartbreaking.

  22. Peter, based on the title of your most recent blog post, I feel like you didn’t read the last paragraph of my blog post:

    We may only come to God one-by-one as non-Jews outside of the covenants, but we are more than just individuals. We are part of something greater. We voluntarily come to Hashem, and we may voluntarily covenant with each other when we gather together, but we are more than just a group of individuals. We are members of the ekklesia and we make up a huge portion of the ekklesia alongside of Israel. We are different from the sum of our parts because the grace of God has made us children and family of the Most High. (emph. added)

  23. Why is it fine with you, PL, to say (as you are saying is what you believe), at the same time, that we never were living up to our ideals and that we have strayed from our ideals like especially in the past full century (when to the contrary we have improved in huge ways)?

    Here, I’ll help you along… something we have done differently since the teens of nineteen hundred: We have gotten very involved in foreign wars and action. Maybe we should stick to ourselves. I’m not saying that’s my answer, but do you have one?

  24. Oh, one more thing. I’ve tried to make it abundantly clear that I am not affiliated with the UMJC or any other organization. Everything I write here belongs to me alone. David Rudolph some months ago agreed to publish links to specific blog posts of mine on the MessianicGentiles.com website, mainly to promote the idea of Messianic Gentiles (as opposed to specifically promoting me as an individual or to somehow put me under the UMJC umbrella), but he also included links to other content and, as far as I know, David hasn’t put anything new on that site in quite some time. I also have books published by Sybex, O’Reilly Media, McGraw-Hill and others, but that’s more of a consequence of being a professional author than any political or social statement. I know you have personal issues with the UMJC in general and David Rudolph in particular, but I really expect to be judged on my own merits, Peter. Thank you.

  25. Jill H,

    The story is a comforting one, but I don’t think it means there is no difference between Jew and non-Jew. His family had been embarrassed by and afraid for things he said, and they began trying to distance themselves from him and act like he needed to be restrained (as in he was crazy). The other people around him in the story were also Jews. And if it were not the case that his mother had said threatening things, Yeshua’s chosen response would have been disrespectful and off (he could have rather said nicely he would be ready to talk to her soon). We don’t want to be teaching disrespect for parents.

  26. I wasn’t teaching disrespect for parents, Marleen, just quoting a verse from the Bible.

    I know there is a difference between Jew and non-Jew and I am not going to allow anybody to make me think I’m not a part of God’s family just because I am one or the other.

  27. Marleen and Jill H., in my second response to Peter, I quoted from the last paragraph of this blog post. I am well aware that through Hashem’s grace and mercy, He has adopted even the Gentiles who are disciples of Rav Yeshua to bring them close to Israel. This doesn’t negate God’s special covenant relationship with Israel, but it does mean that we have a seat at the family table too, so to speak.

  28. I know you didn’t intend to teach disrespect for parents, Jill, but the story doesn’t teach the other thing you were saying (even if it’s true that gentiles are in God’s family, the story isn’t teaching it really). So, then what’s left — unless we take into account the specific sharing (also in the Bible) that his mother had a bout with literally acting like he was crazy and needed to be tended to — what we are left with is not so great.

    She seems to have gotten over it rather quickly, or we don’t hear more about it than the once, so it can be easy to forget (and maybe never even hear of it in the first place) that there was such a conflict. I know that preachers tend not to put the two things together, and they often thereby teach what is not constructive. Anyway, I did overstate what you implied: Even if the story wasn’t saying that specific thing, it doesn’t mean you would ignore Jewish uniqueness. And maybe we can extrapolate and extend the meaning past what it meant at the time.

  29. @ PL: The pagan Chief Seattle could not square his peoplehood with a G-d that never gave laws to nor directly interacted with his people.

  30. @Marleen — Somehow this thread of discussion seems to me to have departed from the topic of the current essay. I believe we got here by discussing Drake’s notions about a fundamental need for covenant as the basis for a nation (which does somewhat beg the question about the Native-American Indian “nations”). Nonetheless, you seem to want to argue that something or some things about the USA have improved during the past century while I was lamenting that the past century has seen significant departure from fundamental American values. I’m not sure that we couldn’t each find examples of both phenomena. My lament was, perhaps, a somewhat pessimistic view of impending judgment upon the USA, that may have been due even before this but that seems to be occurring in the form of growing pessimism and a “culture of death” that misuses the right to bear arms as a license for terroristic massacres in high-schools and public facilities, and personal liberty as an excuse for self-destructive abuse of chemical substances, disdain for law and order and those who work to maintain them, disdain of children and family life, disdain for productivity and a work ethic, and political corruption that makes truly suitable candidates for public office and service to public well-being virtually unavailable.

    You asked about the past century’s propensity for the USA to become involved in foreign conflicts, and seemed to suggest that the focus should be on the home front, instead. That raises questions about the role of a powerful nation in the mitzvah of “tikun ha’olam”. Would the world be a better place if the USA had not stepped-up into an international peacekeeping and problem-solving role? Had it not done so, would the Holocaust have devoured Great Britain and the Americas as it devoured Europe? The Nazis became mired in the Russian winter and whittled away by Russian troops, who may be credited with stopping their eastward advance and with contributing strongly to their ultimate downfall; but stopping their westward advance required American resources. The need to monitor the state of the world to prevent similar flare-ups required the USA to develop abilities to project power worldwide, which also enabled the provision of humanitarian aid and relief services in innumerable cases that do not receive the publicity that attends bloody conflicts. These also represent positive American values and the preservation thereof. An isolationist approach to foreign policy can have severe disadvantages. At the same time, an expansionist policy is expensive and prone to abuse and corruptibility, and it can distract attention from matters close to home that also require attention.

    Finding a proper balance is no simple matter, and it is perhaps the most severe test of a nation’s values. My point was that these values and how well they are pursued is what I view as HaShem’s criteria for blessing (or judging) a nation.

  31. @Drake — That’s not quite what I read in the chief’s oration. He simply denied that his people should accept a second-class status dependent upon charitable handouts in a world defined and administered by the palefaces, and demanded instead that his people should be viewed as separate and with their own destiny. Insisting on one’s own destiny is a way of asserting equal value with others whose view of their destiny would denigrate one’s own. That’s not entirely unlike the rationale whereby the American colonies asserted their independence from England. The chief might have spoken differently if he had realized that the palefaces to whom he referred were just as bereft as his own red men with regard to G-d having visited and revealed and shepherded and adopted them. He did not benefit from James’ perspective above that all gentiles, red and paleface alike, were required equally to accept the generosity of a small collection of olive-skinned middle-eastern tribesmen who had been singled-out by HaShem to carry the civilizing message of His Torah principles, who were the actual recipients of this “direct interaction”. Had he realized this, the chief might have recognized that honor for his people might have been achieved by means other than withdrawal and independence, and that it was no dishonor merely to be among the vast majority of peoples who were not themselves present at the epicenter of G-d’s earth-shaking activity.

  32. “He did not benefit from James’ perspective above that all gentiles, red and paleface alike, were required equally to accept the generosity of a small collection of olive-skinned middle-eastern tribesmen who had been singled-out by HaShem to carry the civilizing message of His Torah principles, who were the actual recipients of this “direct interaction”.

    He did benefit from James’ message.

    _________and ________ alike, were required equally to accept the generosity of a small collection of __________________ who had been singled-out by HaShem to carry the civilizing message of His Torah principles, who were the actual recipients of this “direct interaction”.

    Switching the teachers from Settlers to Hebrews just moves Chief Seattle’s dilemma.

    It’s very telling that an ancient-minded pagan like this Duwamish Chief discerned the source of all gentile angst in a land offer of all things.

    “How are my people named or recognized by a Father who never visited my people? Never gave us a covenant? Never gave us laws? Never had anything to say about us? How are we even a people to Him if he only promised national continuity to others? If he never ratified the mystic bond between we and our soil so that we could never sell it off without affronting Him?”

    The Bible keeps using the term “nations” instead of individuals and such. As long as nationhood is evoked in the text, national concerns come packaged with that just by extension.

  33. One might hope, the chief might have, but I recommend Starita’s book (largely surrounding Chief Standing Bear — a chief who did — and his people). Can we really imagine that the people who were carrying on the religion (or pantheon of variations on it) that couldn’t communicate well with or live with Jews could be trusted (as we look back and assume) to pass on truth to Native Americans? We can better expect them to martyr their own converts (which, obviously, is not what Jews would be, converts… unless they did fall for that pantheon of religion). Indians would be converts either way.

    We’re back to the latter (“object”) and former.*

    * from a different thread

    [I will respond to your other post when I have time later.]

  34. That was an after-note that I would respond to PL’s other post (the one addressed to me). I hadn’t seen your last post, Drake.

    Thanks to you, Drake, for sharing what Chief Seattle said.

  35. * (clarification on my 10:14 AM post) @PL: “….chief might have recognized that honor for his people might have been achieved by means other than withdrawal and independence, and that it was no dishonor merely to be among the vast majority of peoples who were not themselves present at the epicenter of G-d’s earth-shaking activity.”

    Also, understand these people, chief and all, weren’t really in charge of their destinies to some full(ish) extent we might imagine…
    such as on a par with the men of another skin color.

    Here is the completion of one sentence from what I posted some number of posts ago, when I said I wasn’t posting all of what I had written earlier in the day:
    …not a mythology of being established by the direct will of God.

  36. Marlene,

    That is how God worked with me about Mark 3:31-35. He may be showing you different things but I know he was trying to get the point across to me about spiritual family through that (and yes I know about the Scripture that surrounds it). Yeshua’s spiritual family may have included many people from his physical family also. I believe that gave him the opportunity to teach about the importance of who our spiritual family is during that moment, and that he is included in our spiritual family when we do what God wants (follow what he says).

    So as long as I am following what God wants for my life (what he says) Yeshua is my brother. It doesn’t matter if I am non-Jewish or Jewish. Again, that was my learning experience with it and nobody will take that teaching away from me because it was so deep.

  37. PL said:

    @Marleen — Somehow this thread of discussion seems to me to have departed from the topic of the current essay. I believe we got here by discussing Drake’s notions about a fundamental need for covenant as the basis for a nation (which does somewhat beg the question about the Native-American Indian “nations”).

    I’ve been kind of busy lately and haven’t had a chance to do much more than scan comments to makes sure they could be approved. I do agree with PL though that the conversation has drifted away from the original topic and intent of this blog post. We’ve been talking about how non-Jews can have not only a connection with Hashem without a specific covenant naming us, but how we can be considered children of the Most High.

    I believe I’ve already demonstrated in an earlier comment that God recognizes the sovereignty of other nations with which He doesn’t have covenants with, so I don’t think we need to fret too much that nations like the U.S. are somehow irrelevant to Him.

    I suppose we can be upset over the various injustices the American government has been guilty of historically and in the present, but that doesn’t take away our glorious future in the Messianic Kingdom as disciples of Rav Yeshua who will one day be King of Israel and the world. No nation is perfect just like no person is perfect. However, as individuals, we can strive to be better tomorrow than we are today by focusing on the positive and what contributions we can make to tikkun olam.

    @Drake: Some years back, I was admitted to a private indigenous peoples group in Facebook, the consequence of writing a blog post (which has sadly disappeared from the Internet) highlighting poverty among certain tribals people in our nation. I don’t recall how I and this other fellow entered into communication, but one of the things I’ve learned from reading the various entries in this group, is that they see Christian mission work among the tribes as just another white man’s effort to destroy them and steal their land.

    Sadly, this is true in many cases, and not just here in the U.S. either. Unfortunately, at least historically, missionary efforts have gone hand in hand with the wholesale destruction of the cultures of indigenous people all over the world. Only now I think do modern missionaries understand that spreading the Good News of Messiah to the world doesn’t mean simultaneously spreading the “good news” of the standards and values of European and American culture as well.

    The problem still remains that different denominations that engage in missionary work communicate somewhat contradictory information about the “details” of what the “good news” means, thus the various nations and sub-groups in our world today have a fractured understanding of what Christianity is and what it means to the nations of the world as a whole, with some rejecting that message completely because of the past crimes of European expansion and the role Christian missionaries have played.

    The fractures most likely won’t be healed until Messiah comes, defeats Israel’s enemies, and then begins the process of bringing us all back together under his rule.

  38. No. Now I’m a tad irked.

    You’ve all deviated to make this a question about past grievances against natives without addressing what I highlighted in bold. What I posted is integral to the dilemma of non-covenant relationship of Gentiles to G-d. It has nothing to do with treatment of Native Americans, and everything to do with the theological proposition placed before gentiles by the Bible. Replace Native American with Greek and you are left with the same problem.

    If we have a common Heavenly Father He must be partial, for He came to His paleface children. We never saw Him. He gave you laws but had no word for His red children whose teeming multitudes once filled this vast continent as stars fill the firmament. No; we are two distinct races with separate origins and separate destinies. There is little in common between us.”

    The noble chief does not see a future for his own as distinct people in the new belief, and not only that, the new belief undermines and de-legitimizes his people’s tie to the land.

    A modern example: If Isaiah considers Egypt G-d’s own handiwork, etc. His people, etc., why do they no longer exist? Today it’s a country of Arabs and most Egyptology agrees that their actual race and language are extinct from successive invasions. I guess Egypt could have used a covenant after all…

    “Unfortunately, at least historically, missionary efforts have gone hand in hand with the wholesale destruction of the cultures of indigenous people all over the world.”

    How can missionary work be anything but? It is intrinsically so.

    1. Most of your religious assumptions, divine covenants, ancestral rites, distinguishing norms and ideals that make you a unique people are wrong and should be abandoned.

    2. Replace the unique way of life with a few universals. Adopt a Book that never addresses you, never founds you, and never distinguishes you. Indeed one nation is unique…but not you.

    3. Now try to remain “a people.”

    That has to be the worst founding myth ever.

    All founding myth – all of it – is built on the idea of uniqueness, and that a nation exists in the world for reasons particular between it and heaven. Yet the Torah says that only one nation is unique to G-d. All nations had pacts with heaven at one point, now none of them do. So, how can missionizing become anything other than a homogenizing steamroller based on the content of the message itself?

    Messiah indeed. I hope and pray (when I remember to pray) that I am missing something. I hope Chief Seattle finds solace, smokes a peace pipe with Yeshua, and the Gentile nations are given continuity and their unique national purpose is returned to them. The Bible seems incomplete in this regard. There has to be so much left to be written.

    Good shabbos and G-d bless.

  39. @Drake: I think the problem is as I’ve stated it. This Chief doesn’t see a future for his people as his people “under God” because the white missionaries couldn’t or wouldn’t present the good news of Messiah apart from their own cultural values and norms. That is, they couldn’t reconcile with the idea that all of the nations could/should remain unique and intact and accept the revelation of Rav Yeshua as Messiah.

    But flawed, ethnocentric white Christian missionaries don’t, in this case, reflect the intent of God, which I believe is to preserve the nations and unique and individual into the Messianic Era, in which we will all become vassal nations to Israel and her King.

    That the citizens of modern Egypt bear little resemblance to the ancient Egyptians doesn’t delete present-day Egyptians and those who will eventually see the Messianic Kingdom. I admit, it’s difficult to take the ancient texts, some of which speak of people groups and nations that no longer exist, and apply them to the present, let alone the future, but that’s the problem with fixed text. At least some of it doesn’t adapt to the changes in history.

    In this, I have to trust God in knowing what He’s talking about and that there is a future, not only for individual human beings, but as citizens of specific nations in the world, some, many, or most of which will go up against Israel in the final war, nations that will be defeated, nations that will be healed, and nations and their citizens who will be reconciled with God through the Messiah King.

    No one of us is responsible for our nations, but we can still turn our trust and faith to God and devote our lives to be His servants and sons/daughters. If we do our own parts in tikkun olam, the “big picture” will take care of itself.

  40. Other than wanting to be directly communicated with by God, Drake, I’m not sure what you’re wanting. Is the craving for one nation to be the environmental engineers, another to be concrete managers, and another childcare experts and another something else, while Israel is to watch over Israel and the Temple functions?

    I happen to know — even if you say you don’t have anything in particular in mind but only want God to do his job or for the lost books addressing each else nation to be found… I’m brainstorming — there would yet be people who aren’t satisfied or in any peace because they resent the fact God hasn’t talked to themselves specifically.

    I don’t know, maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe just the founding myth matters (or myths matter)… maybe that’s the only dissatisfaction we need to focus on (in some unknown way). Or maybe — apologies to your irkdom and the outrage of others, but I have an observation — we can, outside Israel, tend to many unacceptable in Israel.

    We can probably think of specifics where the instructions written in the Bible say an outsider can have something… like meat not slaughtered properly, killed by a wild animal or such. Those outside of Israel aren’t instructed to put homosexual men to death, but reaching the point of forced submission can bring judgment (somehow related to greed).

    I see this as a role (albeit not roles for each of hundreds of nations or for each continent — rather single — unless we could think this through to further conclusions) for nations other than Israel generally, and each nation can work it out their own way. We can work with what we see; governance is well influenced by the scientific method and witness.

    Then we are free to evangelize in America, too, which means (as a given) that people are free to choose to opt in. [I’m not saying I’m an “Evangelical” by the way or that people should be but that people can learn nearness to God through Yeshua and Israel’s haShem.] Patience is a virtue — except in a situation of enforcement to save life and limb. isn’t it?

    There is an artist, musician and teacher in New Zealand who wrote a paper or book [probably as a theological dissertation, I’m not sure] postulating that humanity long, long before Yeshua’s birth had known of Allfather (to follow your preference, Drake); included some study of language (like Maori). I haven’t been able to find it (online) lately.

  41. Marleen:

    “Is the craving for one nation to be the environmental engineers, another to be concrete managers, and another childcare experts and another something else, while Israel is to watch over Israel and the Temple functions?”

    Ha. This somewhat describes Tolkein’s Middle Earth and all the peoples therein. A groundbreaking literary classic hailed by Christianity, used in sermons, honored as a breathtaking alternative vision of the world under G-d.

    This ultimately goes to a question of whether or not G-d “sees” nations or just sees saved gentiles individually. Religions like Mormonism fill that silent gentile craving to have been named and founded by G-d, gain legitimacy, and prove one’s peoplehood is no accident under heaven. Replacement theology exists for a reason.

    Nevertheless, I am of course grateful that G-d left the door creaked open for a rat like me. Of course Dayeinu. Of course rejoicing. Of course I owe G-d all and He owes me zero answers and silence eternal. I should never expect anything else even if I make the list. But at the same time, I worry for the endless goyim and their waywardness and perplexity.

    Yet you should also understand that blogs with comment sections by their very nature address problems, issues, difficulties, and uncertainties. Gratitude killing all angst makes a blog like this obsolete.

    I think I’ve said all I needed to say on the matter.

  42. “Angst” “for the endless goyim and their waywardness and perplexity.” I get that. Not to argue with you (or anyone else), but Jews demonstrate perplexity as well (although some people, both Jew and non-Jew, dont… and that in itself can cause “worry” in a truly complex existence — while Jews in Israel do seem to actually have more answers or defintions). Sometimes efforts to simplify make matters worse (and I’m not saying talking about it makes it worse). For instance, trying to treat America or the U.S.A. like Israel creates perceptions not based in reality — a reality of what is happening and a reality of what God has said.

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