Tag Archives: boaz michael

A Brief Introduction to Tent Builders

The church is the biggest stumbling block for the people of Israel to see the true message, the redemptive message of the Messiah.

The church is fundamentally good but the church needs to change.

-Boaz Michael
from a short video introducing his
Tent Builders Seminar

I have inserted the link to the YouTube video at the bottom of this page, so you can see Boaz’s entire presentation below. It’s not quite seven minutes long, so it won’t take much of your time to review.

I’m writing this for a couple of reasons. The first is that I received a DVD in the mail from First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) that contains an eighty-two minute “sampler” of Boaz’s eight-hour Tent Builders Conference, which he presented in various venues across North America (registration is now closed so I assume there’ll be no additional conferences).

This is, or was, the training companion piece to Boaz’s book Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile, which I most recently reviewed last October 6th and October 10th.

I haven’t had a chance to view the DVD yet, but I feel it’s necessary because in spite of all of my efforts and my reading and re-reading of Boaz’s book, something’s still wrong.

I’ve gotten this sense of “wrongness” most recently from writing the first part of my review on MacArthur’s sermon series From Judaism to Jesus. If you’ve read that review, you know that I’m appalled and dismayed at MacArthur’s approach not only to the early Messianic Jews of the apostolic era, but to their modern-day counterparts, the Messianic Jews of the twenty-first century.

Boaz MichaelI’ve already read the second part of MacArthur’s three-part series and have written the review (it will appear online next Sunday morning). I can’t say my opinion of John MacArthur or any of his perspectives on Judaism has improved. More’s the pity, because Pastor MacArthur is one of the significant voices if not “the voice” of the modern Evangelical Fundamentalist movement in Christianity today. He’s been writing and preaching for over forty years and even though I had never heard of him before  last year, his name is practically a household word among the members of many churches.

I wanted to view the Tent Builders DVD sampler but only have the ability to currently hear Boaz’s brief introductory video on YouTube. He describes Tent Builders as a missionary effort which provides a purpose in which each Christian can participate. The “mission field,” so to speak, is the Church. Christians in the church or “Messianic Gentiles” who have left the church, can find in Tent Builders, a path back, a path that can lead to teaching that the church must see itself in partnership with Israel, not in competition with or as a replacement for Israel.

Another question that comes in…in relationship to something that’s happening in our current church scene today is explain why we have Messianic Jewish temples. What is the need for them? Are you familiar with this? Recently, there has been a…a…a surge of Messianic Jewish temples.

But what’s happened is, I think that many well-meaning Christian people, evangelical people, are catering more to a sociological minority movement than they are to the Word of God. Because the Bible would never tolerate a Jewish church and a Gentile church.That is the one thing that the Apostle Paul spent the last months of his ministry trying to resolve…

Dr. Feinberg said to me one day, he says, “I don’t know why everybody thinks because we’re Jewish Christians, we’re something special. We’re not.” Something special to God. Something marvelous to be Jewish, but not something for which you deserve an entire church all to yourselves. And now they have Christian bar mitzvahs. What is a Christian bar mitzvah?…You know, there were some people who filled out applications to go to Talbot Seminary, and they applied because they wanted to become Christian rabbis. Dr. Feinberg said to me, “What is a Christian rabbi?” They’re out of their mind. They think a church wants a Christian rabbi? They think a synagogue wants a Christian rabbi? No, neither want either.

So you know what they do? They start their own Messianic temple. Some of these dear people really mean well; and I…I pray God that they’ll win people to Christ; but that isn’t what it’s all about.That’s, in a sense, Judaizing. I don’t see any need for that at all. I praise God for the Jewish people in our…in our church. All you have to do is read Acts chapter 13, and you read about the five pastors there. Some of ’em were Jews. Some of ’em were Gentiles. Some of ’em were white. Some of ’em were black. Read it, Acts 13. They all pastor the same church. We don’t have the Grace Community Irish-American Church. Don’t see the point.

-John MacArthur
“Bible Questions and Answers, Part 5”
Grace to You: Unleashing God’s Truth One Verse at a Time
scribd.com

Well, tact isn’t exactly one of MacArthur’s strong suits but beyond that, he obviously has definite, though incredibly uninformed opinions about Messianic Judaism. Do you think a few Tent Builders graduates in his church are going to make much headway?

In the video I’m referencing, Boaz does say that the goal is to find receptive churches who may have never considered the Messianic perspective on the good news of Jesus Christ and help them understand what it is to partner with Israel. The implication is that not all churches are going to be receptive based on a variety of factors, not the least of which is the doctrine of the church and how married they are, especially the Pastoral staff and Board of Directors, to said-doctrine.

Boaz says it’s important, even vital to change the church for the sake of Israel.

But what can one person do?

Tent BuildersYes, I did hear Boaz’s “pep talk” in the brief video, how easy it is to get discouraged, how we can be part of the hope for the future in summoning the Messianic Age.

Either God introduced me to a brick wall I’m incapable of breaching in any respect, or He put me in a situation I should be very capable of managing, but instead, I’ve managed to fail.

True, I’m not in John MacArthur’s congregation, but his thoughts, opinions, and presence are written all over the walls of the church I do attend.

How important is it to you that your children follow in your footsteps as Jews and that they marry Jews? If it is important, then you have to realize that you are their role model. Your love of Judaism and things Jewish is what will communicate to your children. You can’t legislate feelings — they are felt and internalized. When Jews came to America and found the difficulties facing them in living Jewishly, the lament was often heard, “Oy, it’s tough to be a Jew!” If it’s tough to be a Jew, then why would your child want to be Jewish? You have to feel the joy, the meaning, the beauty in being a Jew — it’s GREAT to be a Jew! Then you have hope with your kids.

-Rabbi Kalman Packouz
“Shabbat Shalom Weekly”
Aish.com

MacArthur would never understand in a million years that even as a Christian husband and father, it is very important for me that my Children live as Jews. I’ve really dropped the ball on this one, especially when my kids were growing up. If I knew twenty-five years ago what I know now, the course of my life and their lives would be very different, but in a universe created by God, you don’t get “do overs”. There are no time machines, and I can’t send radio waves back to the past to talk to my younger self.

Boaz called the church “the biggest stumbling block for the people of Israel to see the true message, the redemptive message of the Messiah,” but the church, or at least MacArthur’s version of it, is also a stumbling block for me. If he were the only example of what it is to be a Christian when I was about to come to faith nearly twenty years ago, I’d have dropped Christianity like an angry rattlesnake.

Boaz said that if there is not a healthy Messianic community available to a “Messianic Gentile,” they should join a church for the sake of fellowship. After all, the mission of Tent Builders only works in the context of relationship.

But given men like MacArthur and the Calvinistic and supersessionistic shroud he has cast over church worship and teaching, what am I supposed to do with that relationship now? I’m hoping Boaz’s DVD has some answers.

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How Far Can We Explore the Bible?

The Bible is not a book but a library. It abounds with a spectrum of complementary, contrasting, and conflicting views, preserved by different sources and traditions. Diversity is not anathema. The Talmud records that books like Ezekiel, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Esther made it into the canon of Hebrew Scripture after much dispute, because they often contain often large chunks of theologically objectionable material. The editors did not put a premium on consistency and uniformity, but rather on assembling clashing voices driven by a hunger for the holy. A tolerance for diverse opinion and practice is imbedded in the foundation text of Judaism and in the vast exegetical literature that it inspired.

-Ismar Schorsch
“Conceiving of God,” February 13, 1999
Commentary on Torah Portion Mishpatim
Canon Without Closure: Torah Commentaries

Sounds kind of like how I relate to the Book of Hebrews and why I feel is it so problematic, but Schorsch’s commentary on the “theologically objectionable material” and its “clashing voices” in the “foundation text of Judaism” speaks to me of the whole Bible and especially those portions, like Hebrews, that “clash” with other portions. Perhaps that “clash” is deliberate (at least on God’s part) and exists not just to inform us, but to challenge us.

I must admit to being bothered by John MacArthur (yes, him again) and the Sufficiency of Scripture crew, because for them (as least as I read them), the Bible is to Christians what an auto repair manual is to a car mechanic.

You’ve probably heard of the “Bible” described by the acronym Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Cute. There’s even a song with that title.

But it’s incredibly reductionistic and highly limiting of the power and the depth of the Word of God, as if the record of God’s interaction with man is just a history book, as if God were describing the workings of an internal combustion engine, which a sufficiently skilled human being can completely disassemble, describe the role and function of each and every part, and then reassemble and start-up with relatively no creative effort at all.

God is just a machine and the Bible is the instruction manual.

OK, it’s probably kind of unfair of me to say that, but there seems to be so much more “encoded” in the Bible, not necessarily though some arcane mystic means by which we must enter into an extraordinary metaphysical process to pry loose, but that requires we look at the scriptures as more than a book and even more than a library. If we believe that “all scripture is God-breathed,” (2 Timothy 3:16) then we must allow for the “breath of God” to be experienced as we open its pages and immerse in its waters. In other words, there’s a lot more to the Bible than meets the eye.

Even MacArthur’s commentary on scriptural sufficiency heavily, actually almost exclusively, references Psalm 19 and Psalm 119, both lyrical monuments to the glory, wisdom, and righteousness of the Torah of Moses. MacArthur just removes these passages from their original context and reforms them to suit his purposes.

This is probably why I have problems sometimes in Sunday school class. I expect to dive into a bottomless ocean of Biblical mystery and find myself wading in the shallow end of a swimming pool.

I’m being unfair again, but frankly, the Bible can take us just as far as we want to go and then, even farther. But just how far is that?

You’ll get a good idea of what I’m talking about if you’ll read Part 1 and Part 2 of my review on Boaz Michael’s lecture Moses in Matthew:

The two-hour seminar introduced many of the typologies throughout Matthew to Yeshua’s “Moses-like” fulfillment. The Gospels are composed in a thoroughly Jewish manner and need to be understood within that context to fully see what and why things take place and are said. The Moses in Matthew seminars are currently being offered at various locations and if you have the opportunity to attend one of these seminars, definitely do it! I found myself not only intellectually engaged and enlightened, but spiritually encouraged by this discussion.

-Rabbi Joshua Brumbach
“Moses in Matthew”
Yinon Blog

Gateway to EdenI’ve written before about the implications of treating Matthew and the other gospels as Jewish literature rather than Christian documents about Jesus and admittedly, the former is where my heart lies. It’s also where my head goes when I want to know more, learn more, see more clearly the path of God as He walks (metaphorically speaking) from Gan Eden (Garden of Eden) across early creation, on the road down to Egypt with Jacob, on the road up to Sinai with Moses, across the path of the Judges and the Prophets, and into the time of the apostles and beyond.

Why should God be so “Jewish” up until the end of the “Old Testament” (Tanakh, Jewish Scriptures) and then abruptly exchange His tefillin (and in Jewish legend even Hashem lays tefillin) for a cross around His neck (again speaking metaphorically)? Why would God set fire to the Torah scroll and when the flames have died out and the embers have cooled, sweep away the ashes and set a good ol’ King James Bible on the bema…uh, pulpit in front of Him to read to the Christian faithful as He evicts the Jews not only out of paradise but out of significance, love, hope, mercy, and completely off of the path of eschatology?

You think I’m kidding?

When Jesus came, everything changed, everything changed.… He didn’t just want to clean up the people’s attitudes as they gave their sacrifices, He obliterated the sacrificial system because He brought an end to Judaism with all its ceremonies, all its rituals, all its sacrifices, all of its external trappings, the Temple, the Holy of Holies, all of it.

-John MacArthur
“Understanding the Sabbath”
Grace to You

In other words, according to MacArthur and Protestant tradition, God destroyed everything that made the Jewish people Jewish, the Temple, the Torah, everything that defines Judaism, everything that sustains Jews. If you destroy what gives a people their life, don’t you destroy the people too?

My Pastor encouraged me to listen to some Christian sermons, probably since so much of my information comes from Jewish sources. I’m not sure that was such a good idea and the experience doesn’t seem to be producing the result I think he hoped for.

Why am I rehashing stuff I’ve rehashed and reheated many times before? What new information can I hope to produce? What new insights do I think will appear?

I suppose it’s one way to continue on the journey I declared couple of months ago. Challenged to stop sitting on the fence, I decided to hop off but not on the side I think my Pastor and the Church desired of me.

I’ve also been meaning to write some sort of commentary on Tzvi Freeman’s and Yehuda Shurpin’s series Is Midrash for Real?.

MidrashNow I’ve done it. I bet I’ve crossed somebody’s line in the sand. On the other hand, how do you get further into understanding the meaning of creation unless you break a few barriers and blow past a few “Do Not Enter” signs?

In a comment on one of my blog posts, I quoted from an article written by Adrian Kent called Our quantum reality problem or When the deepest theory we have seems to undermine science itself, some kind of collapse looks inevitable. I did this to illustrate how difficult it is for us to quantify and operationalize our observations of the universe. Shouldn’t our exploration into the deepest parts of a Spiritually inspired Bible, a Bible that was just as much authored by the finger of God as the pen of man contain just as much, if not more, difficulty and even “bizarreness?”

If God is truly infinite and unknowable in an absolute sense and even a created universe is only explained (and still imperfectly explained) by the shifting colors and currents described by quantum mechanics, how can we expect to experience the Bible as merely equivalent to the owner’s manual of a 1964 Volkswagen Beetle?

I’m not necessarily advocating for treating midrash as in any way the same as the Bible, but I am saying that we need to stop limiting ourselves by limiting the Word of God and thus limiting God. We must be willing to admit that God is God and He is not quantifiable. Even referring to God as “He” is a convention, just as the Bible describes God as having arms, or as walking. These are just literary devices to allow us to conceptualize the unimaginable.

“To claim absolute knowledge is to become monstrous. Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.”

-Leto, pg 275
Children of Dune by Frank Herbert (1976)

The Bible, among its other functions, sets up a basic framework for our faith. The framework exists as an environment in which to explore what that faith means, to discover our identity as God has given it to us, and what that identity means in relation to other people and in a relationship between the created and the Creator.

pathThe danger in this exploration is to read into the Bible what God did not put there, but there’s an equal danger in believing we have already discovered everything God breathed into the scriptures. Oversimplifying the matter, Christianity seems to be in danger of doing the latter and Judaism risks the former, at least in their most extreme expressions.

Somewhere there is a middle ground, a straddling path, a place where we can tether one foot in the pages of paper and ink and let the other one begin to stride among clouds. Even commentaries such as D. Thomas Lancaster’s Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series (now, as I write this, at thirty-nine recordings and still counting) is just slightly slipping away from the Bible as a repair manual and entering the Bible as the barest beginning of an exploration into the hem of the garments of God.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

Hebrews 5:12 (NASB)

If you think you have attained absolute knowledge of God and His Word, interestingly enough, you may still be dining on Gerber’s and have missed a few other culinary opportunities. The Bible contains an unending adventure of epicurean delights at the edge of uncertainty and I intend on tasting some delicacies.

“There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.” -H.L. Mencken

Gifts of the Spirit, Torah, and Gospel

Spirit, Torah, and Good NewsThe theme of this year’s conference is “The Gifts of the Spirit.” To be honest, when the First Fruit of Zion staff first suggested this theme, I was not excited about it at all. I’m not what you might call a Pentecostal type of person. Growing up, my Jewish background was secular and non-religious, until my family got involved in a Baptist church, and then eventually Messianic Judaism, but I have never been what you might think of as a holy roller.

So when the staff suggested this theme for the conference, I groaned. I thought, “What in the world would we possibly have to say about gifts of the Holy Spirit?” I pictured us trying to act Pentecostal and Spirit-filled.

-Boaz Michael
“Let’s Get Pentecostal,” pg 5
Gifts of the Spirit

Note: This book is a compilation of the presentations given at the “Gifts of the Spirit” conference, organized by First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) and held during the festival of Shavuot in May 2013 at Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson, Wisconsin.

I was surprised at the conference, and again by reading black text on a white background, that the modern Messianic Jewish movement was highly influenced by the Pentecostal church. Early Messianic services emphasized the Holy Spirit, called Ruach HaChodesh in Hebrew, but said-services were indistinguishable from their Charismatic Christian counterparts. Small wonder Boaz was less than enthusiastic when his staff suggested a “Gifts of the Spirit” theme for last year’s Shavuot conference.

But like so many other beliefs and practices in modern Christianity, the concept of the Holy Spirit was appropriated from ancient Jewish origins. After all, “Pentecostal” refers back, way back to the Acts 2 event which occurred on the Jewish festival of Shavuot, which in the Church is called Pentecost.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Acts 2:1-4 (NASB)

While the giving of the Spirit depicted above was a unique experience, Pentecost, or Shavuot, is an annual event, speaking to the Jewish people of the will of God and their response to Him. It is said that God gave Moses and the Children of Israel the Torah on Shavuot, so devout Jews consider it is the anniversary of the giving of the Law to the Israelites. But for Messianic Jews, and not a few Gentiles, it is also the anniversary of another gift, the power of the Holy Spirit, which enabled the apostles to fulfill their mission and their purpose of spreading the good news of the Moshiach to the Jews and Gentiles in Judea, Samaria, and ultimately across the globe.

And so we come to the Holy Spirit and what it means in Messianic Judaism today.

So that’s our objective at this conference. We want to recontextualize the role of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. To accomplish this, we must first understand the Spirit and the gifts from a Jewish perspective. What were the gifts? How did they function among first-century believers? Why? What was their purpose? What role did they play in first-century Messianic Judaism?

-Boaz Michael, pg 7

I quoted above how the Holy Spirit of God filled the apostles on an occasion which my Pastor calls “the birthday of the Church.” And yet, is this a completely New Testament concept?

This is not a New Testament idea. The Torah uses the same terminology to describe the endowment of God’s Spirit on Joshua, Caleb, Bezalel, and Oholiab. In those examples, the Torah compares a person to a vessel. God’s Spirit can fill a human being like water can fill a jar.

-ibid, pg 9

Receiving the SpiritThe Church believes that when a person truly becomes a believer, they are filled with the Holy Spirit, even though in the modern age, there are no visible or auditory cues that speak of the event; no rushing of wind or tongues of fire. Also, in Acts 2, the in-filling of the Spirit was like those more ancient days of which Boaz speaks, when the Spirit didn’t fill everyone, but only certain ones in order to enable those people to accomplish certain tasks, such as the apostles, the witnesses of the resurrected Messiah, to be able to spread the gospel message.

Boaz also writes of many other incidents in the Torah and the Prophets whereby a person or even groups of people received the Spirit.

And if we compare the events in Exodus 20 to the Acts 2 experience of the apostles, there are striking similarities, enough for Boaz to call the Acts 2 event a “second giving of Torah.”

What does it all mean? It means that the disciples of Yeshua experienced the day of Pentecost as a second giving of the Torah. They knew the rabbinic legends about the words of fire dividing into seventy languages as they left the mouth of God (Boaz references Shmot Rabbah 5:9). They knew the story of God’s voice speaking to all mankind in every tongue. Those legends gave significance to the miracles and signs and wonders that they experienced on Shavu’ot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah.

-ibid, pg 12

I’m reminded of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference and subsequent book which I know fails to address the ancient Jewish perspective on the Holy Spirit. But then, MacArthur’s purpose was not to examine the Biblical history or merits of the Holy Spirit, particularly from a Jewish point of view, but to more narrowly focus on the detrimental effect Pentecostals and Charismatics have on the larger body of the Christian Church today. Boaz Michael and the Shavuot conference “Gifts of the Spirit,” held five months prior to the MacArthur conference, took a completely different course. While Michael cites the Jewish perspective as linking Spirit and Torah (Bible), MacArthur declares that Pentecostalism divorces the Word of God from the Spirit of God, inordinately focusing on the later and all but ignoring the former.

But what if they were meant, as Boaz suggests, to go hand in hand? Moreover, what if the giving of the Spirit is the fulfillment of prophesy in a way MacArthur likely missed? Jeremiah 31:33 referring to the New Covenant, states that God will put His Torah within His people and write it on their hearts, while Ezekiel 36:27 says that God will put His Spirit within His people in order to cause them (the Jewish people in this context) to walk in His statues and to obey His rules (Torah).

R.C. SproulOf course, MacArthur and his conference presenters didn’t totally deny any activity of the Holy Spirit in the life of a genuine believer today, just that certain “gifts of the Spirit” were not carried over into the post-canonical world.

I guess I should mention that Strange Fire presenter R.C. Sproul did speak about Pentecost in relation to the Charismatic movement, but his perspective was hardly Jewish and he suggested (and I don’t know if he really meant this…I hope not because of its anti-Jewish/anti-Semitic implications) that only those Israelites (such as the prophets) who received the Holy Spirit were saved, not all Israelites who had faith and genuinely obeyed God.

Strange Fire speaker Tom Pennington did say that the work of the Spirit in today’s Church is not null and void, only that specific gifts have ceased:

The label “Cessationism” is negative, but the real problem is that it has been easily caricatured as believing that the Spirit has ceased his work. But the fact is that we who are cessationists believe the Holy Spirit has continued his work. Nothing eternal happens in a person apart from the Holy Spirit. Temporal things can happen, but nothing eternal. We only believe the Spirit has ceased in one function: the miraculous gifts, such as tongues, prophecy, and healing.

Church doctrine states that in order for believers to rightly interpret the scriptures, they must be helped by the Holy Spirit. It is also believed that the Spirit draws each person to God, indwells within each person as he or she comes to faith, and then enables them (us) to break free of the chains of sin and to live lives pleasing to God. While mainstream Christianity depends on the Holy Spirit to help us understand the words of God, the Jewish perspective, according to Boaz, goes even further:

It means that the work of the Spirit is fundamental to Messianic Judaism. If the Torah is important to Messianic Judaism, so is the Holy Spirit. We should not try to separate the two. They are married together.

-Michael, pg 13

It’s one thing to speak of the activity of the Spirit in the apostolic era and before, and another thing to apply it to the life of a believer in the 21st century. Unless you are deeply involved in the Charismatic movement, your experiences with the Spirit of God may not seem very tangible or even noticeable. We assent to the existence of the Spirit of God and we believe the Spirit is influential in our lives, but only invisibly, intangibly, unperceptively. In other words, when/if the Spirit is at work in our lives, chances are, most of the time, we can’t tell.

As MacArthur’s conference pointed out (at least to me), the different factions of Christianity seem woefully out of balance. The Pentecostals seek the Spirit above all else. Evangelicals/Fundamentalists rely solely on reading/studying the Bible for their understanding of God. Some people primarily pray. Some focus on preaching. Others believe evangelizing on the mission field is the only way to go. Boaz suggests that we need to be sitting on a three-legged stool to avoid falling this way, that way, or the other way. The three legs are:

  • The Spirit of the Lord
  • The Torah of Moses
  • The Gospel of the Messianic Kingdom

Note that each of the three legs must be of equal length, of the same strength, and equally secured to the platform upon which we are seated so we don’t start leaning in a particular direction or have our foundation break down beneath us. Boaz mentioned another “three legs” which we should be pondering.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (NASB)

white-pigeon-kotelIn reflecting on the “Gifts of the Spirit” conference, which I attended last May, MacArthur’s “Strange Fire,” and Michael L. Brown’s hastily constructed response to MacArthur called Authentic Fire, I can’t help but think that the FFOZ Gifts of the Spirit book, while not really a “response” to MacArthur, would have been a better way to speak to the Pentecostal community than the “Strange Fire” approach. In fact, as I recall, there were a number of Pentecostals at the Shavuot event, and they were made to feel welcome and participate fully. If FFOZ’s “Gifts of the Spirit” had received the same “press” as “Strange Fire” in the Christian media space, it might have made MacArthur’s efforts superfluous.

Something to consider at any rate.

FFOZ TV Review: Resurrection

FFOZ TV Episode 25Episode 25: In Jewish thought the ultimate expression of God’s power is the resurrection of the dead, and the ultimate resurrection was that of Jesus himself. In episode twenty-five viewers will discover that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was a foreshadow of the final resurrection of the dead that was prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures. Messiah rising from the dead was a promise, a guarantee that one day the great redemption will come, the great resurrection of the dead will take place, and the Messianic kingdom will arrive.

-from the Introduction to FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come
Episode 25: Resurrection (click this link to watch video, not the image above)

The Lesson: The Mystery of the Resurrection

One of the biggest mysteries of the Christian faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus. After all, there are no explicit prophesies in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible or Old Testament) that say the Messiah must personally die and then be resurrected three days later. In Christianity, we just take it for granted because it is a central if not the central tenet of our beliefs. But looking at the resurrection from a Jewish point of view, particularly a late Second Temple Era perspective, what did the resurrection of Messiah mean?

First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) teacher and author Toby Janicki started answering that question by reading the following:

And he began to teach that the son of man needs to suffer greatly, and the elders, the leading priests, and the scholars would reject him, and he would be killed, but at the end of three days he would surely rise. He spoke this word in the ears of all of them, and Petros took him and began to reprimand him.

Mark 8:31-32 (DHE Gospels)

Jesus himself taught that he had to die and be resurrected three days later, but the fact that at hearing this Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him, shows us that even Peter didn’t understand the meaning of Messiah’s death and resurrection. It must not have been an obvious belief common among Jewish people of that day (and it’s also not a belief in Judaism in our age). Peter certainly knew Jesus was the Messiah (see Matthew 16:16) so it wasn’t a matter of lack of faith or lack of knowledge. Even in the days of Jesus on earth, the death and resurrection of the Messiah was a great mystery.

A mystery we are trying to solve from a Jewish perspective today in this episode.

Jesus explained the meaning, at least partially, after he was resurrected:

These are the things that I spoke to you about while I was still with you. For every scripture about me will surely be fulfilled in the Torah of Mosheh, in the Prophets, and in the Tehillim. Then he opened their hearts to understand the Scriptures. He said to them, thus it is written and decreed that the Mashiach will be afflicted and will arise from the dead on the third day…

Luke 24:44-46 (DHE Gospels)

Toby points out that Jesus says his death and resurrection are prophesied in the Torah, the Prophets and the Psalms (Tehillim). But where? There’s nothing in these ancient writings that point-blank says the Messiah must die for the sins of humanity and be raised again three days later. What does Jesus explain to them that the Bible doesn’t explain to us? Won’t the Holy Spirit open our hearts to understand the scriptures?

Because You will not abandon my soul to Hades,
Nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

Acts 2:27 (NASB)

Here, Toby tells us that Peter is quoting Psalm 16:10 as proof that the Messiah would not die permanently and that God would resurrect him. This is only one of a few cryptic “proofs” in the New Testament that the Old Testament prophesies spoke, or at least hinted at, the Messiah’s resurrection.

He will swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 25:8 (NASB)

Your dead will live;
Their corpses will rise.
You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy,
For your dew is as the dew of the dawn,
And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.

Isaiah 26:19 (NASB)

ffoz_tv25_tobyToby quotes Isaiah as well as Ezekiel 37:3-6 to show that in the future Messianic Era, there will be a great resurrection of the dead, but this doesn’t specifically speak to the resurrection of the Messiah during his first advent.

There was no question among these ancient Jewish prophets that there would be a future resurrection of all the dead once the Messiah had come, and that brings us to our first clue:

1st Clue: The resurrection from the dead is a component of the Messianic Kingdom.

Toby makes a key point by saying that Jesus felt these prophesies also explained his own resurrection. But how? Is Toby employing more than a little theological sleight of hand in making such a statement?

To learn more, the scene shifts to FFOZ teacher and translator Aaron Eby in Israel for a short language lesson about the Hebrew word for “Life.”

Life, or “Chaim” is a gift from God. Aaron references the following to illustrate:

The Lord kills and makes alive;
He brings down to Sheol and raises up.

1 Samuel 2:6 (NASB)

This is part of Hannah’s prayer to God and shows us beautifully that life and death are from God and as He brings down into death, He also raises up back to life.

Today’s Orthodox Jews believe in the resurrection of the dead once the Messiah comes, even as the Pharisees did in the day of Jesus. Many Jewish dead are buried at the Mount of Olives where it is prophesied the feet of the Messiah will first touch the earth.

Three times a day, observant Jews pray for the resurrection, and the Mishnah states that if anyone does not believe the Torah speaks of the resurrection, that person forfeits their place in the world to come.

Aaron EbyAaron points out that in Acts 23:6, when Paul has been arrested in Jerusalem and brought before the Sanhedrim, he throws the whole court, which is made up of Pharisees who believed in the resurrection and Sadducees who didn’t, into an uproar by claiming that he was on trial for his belief in the resurrection. Apparently, not all Jews two-thousand years ago believed in the resurrection of the dead, but it was obviously a “hot button” topic.

The last of the Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith established by the Rambam, the great sage Moses Maimonides in the twelfth century is a declaration of faith in the future resurrection of the dead.

Back in the studio, Toby pulls all this together to form the second clue:

Clue 2: The future resurrection of the dead is a principle of Jewish faith.

But while all this certainly establishes that religious Jews, like Christians, believe in a future resurrection, what does it have to do with the resurrection of Jesus?

According to Toby, it goes back to the debate between the Pharisees and Sadducees about whether or not there would be a future resurrection. By God resurrecting Jesus three days after he died, it was supposed to settle the argument. Jesus, the Messiah, by being resurrected, establishes a future resurrection.

But there still one more connection to make, and it comes from the apostle Paul:

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.

1 Corinthians 15:12, 20-21 (NASB)

In verse 12, Paul directly links the resurrection of Jesus with the future resurrection of all the dead, stating that if you don’t believe in the former, you are also denying the latter. Then in verses 20 and 21, Paul says that the resurrection of Jesus was a “first fruits of those who are asleep” (dead).

The Torah commands that all Israelite farmers are required to offer the first ripe fruit of their harvest to God. This presupposes that the larger harvest of the crops is not yet ripe. The metaphor illustrates that the resurrection of the Messiah was a first fruits or a foretaste of the resurrection and when the rest of the harvest of humanity is “ripe,” the great resurrection of the dead will come. This happens in the Messianic Era.

We have arrived at the third and final clue:

Clue 3: Jesus’ resurrection is the first fruits of the final resurrection.

In other words, by the Messiah dying and then being resurrected, he was proving that all of the older prophesies about a great resurrection of the dead in the Messianic Age were valid, accurate, and will indeed occur.

What Did I Learn?

The major point I learned was how the purpose of the resurrection of Messiah was framed by Toby and Aaron. Basically, it was a theological and probably a legal proof to all of the Jewish people of that day that indeed there would be a great resurrection in the future age.

Today’s Orthodox Jews believe in that resurrection, but I’m not sure that all religious Jews everywhere do. All Christians believe not only in the resurrection of Jesus, but in the resurrection of all the dead, who will then be judged.

I don’t struggle with these concepts, but the great struggle today for non-believing Jews, just as it probably was among many of the Jewish people in the day of the apostles, was whether or not the Messiah had to die and then rise. While the focus of this episode was on the resurrection, to get a Jewish person to this point, you first have to get them past the death of Jesus, which wasn’t touched upon in this show.

I’ve tried to write to this issue using Jewish and Christian sources in blog posts such as The Death of the Tzaddik and The Sacrifice at Golgotha.

Jews, like Christians (and just about everyone else), find the idea of making a human sacrifice to God abhorrent, and from a traditional Jewish perspective, the death of Jesus to pay for our sins looks like a human sacrifice. Christians don’t consider this an issue in our faith, but from an outsider’s point of view, it’s a huge stumbling block.

tallit_templeThere are some aspects of Jewish faith that support the idea of the death of a great tzaddik or righteous one atoning for the sins of others, up to and including the sins of an entire generation of Jews. When we people of Yeshua faith attempt to cite those sources, we are sometimes accused of misreading the ancient Jewish sages for our own ends. I can see how some Jewish people would get that impression but this also illustrates that it is Jewish to believe a human death can atone for others, therefore, it’s not completely outrageous to believe that the Messiah’s death, the death of the greatest of all tzaddikim, could atone, not just for the sins of a single generation, but for the sins of all generations across time.

But I’m going off topic. Toby and Aaron were focusing on the resurrection, not the death of Messiah, and they’re addressing primarily an audience of traditional Christians, not traditional Jews. To that end, it’s almost as if Toby and Aaron were “preaching to the choir,” since the resurrection of Jesus and the future resurrection of all the dead are a “given” in the Christian faith. However, they did establish that the resurrection is not an uniquely Christian concept, but is founded strongly in Judaism and the Old Testament. They also showed, as I said above, that the resurrection proved to the Jewish people in the apostolic era, that the prophesies of a great, future resurrection would be fulfilled.

At the end of the episode, as usual, Boaz Michael, FFOZ’s President and Founder, came to announce the next and last show of this television series, which teaches the literal, physical restoration of Israel that is yet to come. This will be my last opportunity to review this television series and I will certainly miss it.

I’m not unmindful that this blog post is being published on Christmas Day. For all of my readers who celebrate Christmas, I give you warm greetings and may the Spirit of Messiah be with you on this day, inspiring love and generosity.

May the light of Messiah continue to illuminate our paths and to open our eyes to who he is and who we are in him.

FFOZ Friends: Become Part of the Promise that is to Come

Boaz MichaelPerhaps at some point this month you would find it a worthy blog to talk about the FFOZ Friends program and encourage your readers to join with you, with us, by becoming an FFOZ Friend. If we are all going to make an impact we need to work together…FFOZ is a worthy cause to invest into with funds that have already been designated for giving. FFOZ as you know and noted today in your review are creating materials that are communicating a balanced and challenging message.

-Boaz Michael, President and Founder of First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ)
from a private communication

I’ve been reviewing the FFOZ educational television series A Promise of What is to Come for almost half a year now, and have covered the vast majority of the available episodes. I’ve found the teachings offered by Toby Janicki and Aaron Eby to be informative, well-balanced, and provocative. They’ve expanded my understanding of the Bible and gone a long way to helping me see that the truly inspired Word of God cannot “jump the tracks,” so to speak, between the Tanakh and the later Apostolic Writings. The scriptures can and must be interpreted rightly and in a way that does not require the ascendency of Israel and the Jewish people we see in the Messianic prophesies of old to be reversed and replaced with “the Church” as “the Church” interprets the New Testament.

Through Boaz’s graciousness, I am an FFOZ Friend. What’s that?

Basically, it’s a method of participating in a support structure that allows the “Friend” to donate a specific amount of funds on a regular basis in exchange for access to FFOZ’s printed and online educational material. It’s a “win-win” in which the participant receives a view of God, the Messiah, and the Bible that is edifying, rewarding, and summons the coming Messianic Kingdom, while also supporting and enabling this ministry to not only continue its operations, but to produce even more innovative resources, and additionally, to expand its scope in order to reach greater numbers of Gentile Christian and Jewish audiences.

The FFOZ Friends main page describes this opportunity far better than I can:

An FFOZ Friend shares our vision and mission with us, and is a co-laborer with us in this work of restoration. FFOZ Friends facilitate the development and dissemination of our shared vision, and invest into this work as we labor daily towards the kingdom of heaven, “a promise of what is to come.”

The generosity of our FFOZ Friends helps meet the core operating needs of the organization and makes outreach efforts possible. FFOZ Friends are the source of funding for the development of books, teachings, educational resources, television programming, and extensive commentaries on the Bible from its historical, linguistic, and cultural context. These resources bring together the latest scholarship, ancient Jewish sources, and extra-biblical literature to present a Messianic Jewish reading of the Bible and early Jewish-Christianity.

I described generally about what you can accomplish by joining this program, but this FFOZ Friends infographic lays it all out for you (yes, please click the link).

In short, by becoming an FFOZ Friend, you will be supporting four key missions:

  • Jesus is Jewish
  • The Kingdom of Heaven
  • The Validity of Torah
  • The Jewish People

The infographic provides the details of each of these missions, but what I’ve listed in four short bullet points contains a vast span of information, knowledge, and wisdom that expands both Christian and Jewish thinking about the identity of the Messiah, the promise of the Kingdom to come, the continuation of Torah in Jewish lives and its application to the Gentiles who are called by His Name, and the restoration of the Jewish people and of Israel.

ffoz-teaching-teamI can’t think of any other single ministry that is accomplishing so much and opening eyes in such a unique, beautiful, and illuminating manner. So what does it take to be an FFOZ Friend?

Basically, there are three different monthly support levels. Each support level provides access to a different set of resources (you can find additional details by clicking the links I’ve provided):

  • Companions: $25 (or less, or more)
  • Allies: $50 or more
  • Pillars: $100 or more

If you are a member or regularly attend a church, chances are that you tithe a specific amount on a regular basis, say, once a week. If you are a member of a synagogue, you probably pay annual membership fees. If you support a particular charity (for instance, my wife and I have supported World Vision and other such worthy causes over the years), you probably don’t just mail them a check once and then ignore them. If that charity or ministry is indeed worthy, you probably budget so that you can make regular donations for their continued support.

Becoming an FFOZ Friend is just like that. It’s supporting a cause you find worthy, a cause you believe in, a cause that not only gives to others but gives back to you.

In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, what will you be supporting? The FFOZ main website gives you access to a fund of information about who they are and what they do. There are a wide variety of online materials, books, and other resources. Sure, you can purchase all of these separately, but being an FFOZ Friend, depending on the support level, will allow you to receive many of these resources just by participating in the program.

There are also a lot of educational assets that are being planned or under development right now that are scheduled to become available in the next year or two. FFOZ is working hard to make information about the coming Kingdom, about Messiah, about the relationship of the Gentile and Jewish believer to the Sabbath, to the Torah, and to God increasingly accessible. I’m personally looking forward to Season 2 of the FFOZ TV series which is currently being filmed, as well as their book “The Apostolic Decree” (Acts 15 is a favorite topic of mine) which should be released late next year.

Other projects you can look forward to include making information that was only previously available through The Torah Club formatted in multi-volume book form, book and audio resources to support Sabbath observance among Messianic believers, commentary on the Didache, and a great deal more.

Becoming an FFOZ Friend is more than just donating regularly and receiving and consuming resources. The ultimate goal is to change the world and to pave the road upon which the Messiah will walk on his triumphant return to Jerusalem and his ascendency to the Throne of David. It’s the road upon which the exiles will return from the four corners of the earth, it’s the road that we, the disciples of Messiah, will line in droves as we exuberantly cheer the victory of the King and the restoration of Israel, his Kingdom, and the final truth of God living among His people at last.

Becoming an FFOZ Friend is joining an effort to bring all this about and to contribute to repairing the world, and preparing the world for the promise of what is to come.

Boaz appears at the end of each FFOZ TV episode to announce the topic for the following show and to encourage the viewers. He always ends his presentation with the words, “What are we waiting for? Let’s get busy.”

prophetic_return1Why wait? Join the laborers in the field which is ripe for harvest. The Master said the laborers are few but it doesn’t have to be this way. Join them, join us. Brighten the world by becoming a light, just as the Master commanded us. Illuminate the path as well as your spirit. Become part of something bigger than any one person.

Become an FFOZ Friend.

When Boaz asked if I could blog about being an FFOZ Friend, I knew that some people reading this would probably misinterpret my response and my intent, and would see all this as just some sort of marketing effort. Marketing is just a method of making information and opportunities public. It’s an offer that allows you, the reader, to become aware, to learn more, and to make a decision. If you believe in the missions FFOZ stands for and what they are doing, then being an FFOZ Friend is the perfect response. If you believe in the Messianic vision for Gentiles and Jews then don’t just stand on the sidelines and wait. Join. Participate. Help spread the word. Summon the vision.

Thank you. Peace.

FFOZ TV Review: Foretaste of the Kingdom

FFOZ TV episode 21Episode 21: The Apostle Paul calls the Sabbath a “shadow of things to come.” Most people usually think of it as a shadow of things from the past. However, viewers will learn in episode twenty-one that the Sabbath is a foreshadow of things still yet to come. Jesus and the Sabbath both provide rest and the Sabbath rest is a taste of the final rest we will have in the Messianic Era when Messiah returns to set up his kingdom. Thus for those who still observe the Sabbath today, it is a promise of what is to come, the Messianic Age.

-from the Introduction to FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come
Episode 21: Foretaste of the Kingdom (click this link to watch video, not the image above)

The Lesson: The Mystery of the Sabbath Rest

First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) teacher and author Toby Janicki starts out the exploration of this mystery with what most of us consider to be a familiar lesson from Jesus:

Turn to me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will cause you to rest. Accept upon yourself my yoke and learn from me, for I am humble and lowly in spirit, and you will find a resting place for your souls. For my yoke is pleasant and my burden light.

Matthew 11:28-29 (DHE Gospels)

There’s a lot we think we know about this teaching. We think we know that Jesus wants us to believe in him so that becoming a Christian will provide our souls rest. We think he means that his yoke, his grace, is a pleasant and light “burden” when compared to the Law of Moses. We think that Jesus is always humble and lowly rather than being like the vengeful God of the Old Testament.

But we’re probably not correct, at least not entirely. One of the points Toby made (and he’s made it before, is that when we use improper Biblical exegesis, we often come up with incorrect theology. That statement most likely won’t make some Christian readers happy since once taught, the traditional theology is the Church is set in stone. But sometimes examining a familiar view from an unfamiliar perspective yields new insights.

So too with this continuation of the investigation of the Sabbath, which was begun in the previous episode which I reviewed last week.

So if what we typically understand about the “rest” being described by Jesus isn’t correct, then, from a Messianic Jewish perspective, what is it?

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.

Hebrews 4:9-11 (NASB)

Toby says that there’s a link between Matthew 11:28-29 and Hebrews 4:9-11. They both talk about a “rest,” though in the case of the writer of Hebrews, it’s specifically a Shabbat rest. Toby leads his audience through a small Bible study on Hebrews 4:

Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.

Hebrews 4:1-2 (NASB)

Toby JanickiAccording to Toby, the writer of the book of Hebrews is referring to that first generation of Israelites who left Egypt and died in the wilderness.

They too had a rest they could have entered, the rest of the Promised Land, Israel. But they did not due to lack of faith. Toby next presents verses 3 and 4 as connecting this rest to the Sabbath:

For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,

“As I swore in My wrath,
They shall not enter My rest,”

although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”

The writer of Hebrews is actually quoting Exodus 20:11 which is the commandment of observing the Sabbath. But verses 9 through 11 are not specifically referring to the seventh day Sabbath or the rest represented by entering the Land of Israel. Verse 9 says “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” What rest is that?

According to Toby, these passages are sometimes used by Christians to “prove” that Jesus is our spiritual rest so we don’t need to observe an actual, physical day of rest, neither Gentile Christians nor any Jewish person. But the writer of Hebrews is clearly referring to something in the future, not something that’s already happened. If Hebrews 4 links back to the “rest” which Jesus was teaching about in Matthew 11, then we have reached our first clue.

Clue 1: The rest that Jesus offers us is something that is in the future.

Verses 10 and 11 in Hebrews 4 is a warning not to be disobedient to God as were the first generation of Israelites who disobeyed by refusing to enter the Land of Promise. Obedience of the people of God is required for them…for us to be able to enter into that future rest of Jesus. But again, what rest is that? To us, this represents a Biblical mystery, but to the original audience listening to Jesus or the original Jewish readers of Matthew’s gospel, it was probably self-evident. How would they have understood the word “rest,” which in Hebrew is “Menuchah?”

To answer that question, the scene shifts to FFOZ teacher and translator Aaron Eby in Israel. Aaron first reads from a portion of the Siddur (Jewish prayer-book) which describes the Shabbat as a rest of “love, willingness, truth, faith, peace, tranquility, stillness, trust,” and “a complete rest in which you find favor.”

Clearly, the concept of Shabbat is more than just relaxing in front of the tube or playing a few rounds of golf.

ffoz_tv21_aaronRest is used in a somewhat different context in the Bible. Aaron quoted from Deuteronomy 12:19 referring to Israel, 1 Chronicles 22:9 which refers to Solomon as “a man of rest” and a King who will reign over a nation experiencing rest, peace, and quiet, and 1 Kings 8:56 which is part of Solomon’s dedication of the Temple. These images represent the age of Messianic redemption and the Temple is a portrait of the fulfillment of all the Messianic promises. Aaron also links this to the poetic language of the Rabbis who consider the weekly Shabbat to be a tiny fraction of what will be experienced in the age to come…a forestate of the Kingdom of God.

Back in the studio with Toby, we receive the next clue:

Clue 2: The Sabbath rest is a foretaste of the rest in the Messianic Era.

I can certainly see why the seventh-day Sabbath rest is considered a blessing of both physical and spiritual rest for observant Jews. Not only is it a day to rest in the holiness and peace of God in our age, but it is a miniature representation of the full and complete rest that will be experienced when Messiah reigns in Jerusalem and over all the world, an age of total, worldwide peace.

But in traditional Christian interpretation, we encounter a problem:

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

Colossians 2:16-17 (NASB)

I mentioned these verses among others in my review last week as the “Christian defense” against acknowledging an ongoing Shabbat observance or any such keeping of a Sabbath in the future. When I typically hear language like “type and shadow” in a Christian context, it usually means that such “shadows” came to point us to Jesus, but now that he’s come, the shadows are no longer necessary. However, that interpretation is filtered through a great deal of Protestant tradition and ignores what Paul is actually saying.

Paul said that the Sabbath is a “mere shadow of what is to come,” not what has already come. If, at his first coming, Jesus “fulfilled” the requirement of the Shabbat, then why does Paul refer to the future?

Also, and I’d like to thank Toby for bringing this up, let’s talk about this “shadow” thing. Again, the typical Church teaching on a “shadow” is that it’s basically something of limited usefulness and utility, and was only a poor imitation of something that the Jewish people had to make do with until Christ. Once Christ came, the shadows were eliminated by the “light of the world” and what was temporary then passed away.

Shabbat candlesWhat is a shadow? In a common context, it’s just an area where light is being blocked by an object in between a light source and whatever the light happens to be shining at. A shadow generally renders the shape of the object blocking the light. If Jesus is the “substance” or body of the shadow, then, to extend the metaphor, the Sabbath is “Jesus-shaped.”

If we put all this together, then the Sabbath day is a “shape” or “outline” of something with more substance that will occur in the future and has something to do with the “body” of Messiah. Since that future event has yet to occur, we still exist in the shadow or rather, the seventh-day Shabbat still has purpose and meaning as an image of something even greater and more peaceful to come. Jesus has not replaced the Sabbath and perhaps he never will. In the future, he will fill to complete fullness what we only have a taste of in the current age.

Toby related a number of Talmudic references I’ll pass over (please view the actual episode to get those details) but concludes, using Rabbinic and poetic language, that such concepts link both to 2 Peter 3:8 and Revelation 20:1-6 in describing the thousand-year Messianic reign of Jesus. This is the third and final clue:

Clue 3: The Sabbath foreshadows the coming thousand-year reign of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The rest Jesus was talking about is the Messianic Era, and all who are devoted disciples of Messiah and worshipers of the God of Israel will enter that promised rest when Messiah returns to take up his throne. But we must remain faithful to the end in order to enter that rest.

What Did I Learn?

Something rather poignant. There are a couple of sequences in every episode of the FFOZ TV show that describe the learning materials and other products available through First Fruits of Zion. One of the things this show is supposed to inspire is a desire in the viewers to want to learn more, which can be accomplished through the many fine resources provided by FFOZ.

But in one of these sequences, the voice over said that a “prophetic restoration is sweeping through the Christian world.” I don’t see anything like that “sweeping” through my little corner of the Christian world. I’m glad it’s happening to someone somewhere.

I was also reminded of last Erev Shabbat. My wife made several loaves of Challah and she once again brought out the Shabbos candles…but she was late. My little reminder in Google calendar said that candle lighting began at 4:56 p.m. and at that time, the candles still hadn’t been ignited. I casually mentioned this to her and received a surprisingly sharp rebuke in return. Why should I, a Gentile Christian (she didn’t actually call me that), be keeping track of when Shabbat candle lighting is? She had abruptly (and not for the first time) put up a “Keep Out” sign over the entryway to Shabbat in our home.

She subsequently lit the candles but did not invite me to be present.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

Matthew 10:34-36 (NASB)

But a husband against a wife, Master?

“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

Matthew 19:6 (NASB)

I should say that in every other area, the missus and I get along and address a wide range of concerns and shared experiences. It’s just this one place, this religious place, where we are segregated and our worlds keep us apart. I know that, for a variety of reasons, she has good cause to be defensive, but I can’t say that it doesn’t still sting a bit for me to be relegated to one world where our faith is concerned, while my wife inhabits another.

Boaz in ChinaSo it is for many other Christians and Jews in the present age, when many Jewish people see Shabbat as a blessing exclusively for the Jews and to be jealously guarded against outsiders (even if they’re in the same home), and most Christians have no desire to participate in a “shadow” that has long since been replaced by Jesus on the cross.

An “exploration of the Christian faith from a Jewish perspective,” Boaz Michael said at the end of the episode. It’s what I’ve recently dedicated myself to, but it seems a journey I am destined to take alone, and a territory I’m trespassing in as an uninvited foreigner.

If I am to believe prophesy, then I am assured that one day, I will become a welcome stranger in that strange land, but in the current age, the citizens of that country, at least the “citizen” I am closest to, does not permit my entry, nor do my own “countrymen,” the people of the Church, believe my travel plans are valid. I can only trust that one day my determination will be justified. Otherwise, I must accept that my role is to escort the Jewish exiles back to their Land and their heritage, to the foot of the Throne of Messiah, and then I must turn around as the celebration begins, and retreat to where my Master would have me go.