Tag Archives: Redemption

Romans 11:26 And What “All Israel Will Be Saved” Means

For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved…

Romans 11:25-26 (NASB)

I hold a minority opinion in terms of understanding what “all Israel” means in this context. I think that, based on the New Covenant promises (Jer. 31, Ezek. 36) God intends to save all Israel, that is, all of the Jewish people. But if you’re a Christian, this doesn’t seem quite right. Shouldn’t I mean “all of the Jewish people who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior?”

That could be interpreted as meaning “all Israel” is all those Jews who have abandoned their Jewish identity, abandoned their Jewish heritage, abandoned all of the covenants God made with Israel, who have converted to (Gentile) Christianity and live like the goyim.

But that doesn’t seem right either, because this flies in the face of the language in the aforementioned New Covenant, which promises a return of the Temple, the Levitical priesthood, and the sacrifices. If the “law were nailed on the cross with Jesus,” then all of those covenants, including the New Covenant, and the attached promises don’t make sense.

In fact, I could argue that a Jew who converts to Christianity, a Hebrew Christian, might not be considered “Israel” at all if they have been taught (by well-meaning but misguided Gentile Christians) to abandon the very covenants that define the Jewish people and Israel. There’s a lot more to being a covenant people than just your DNA.

Fortunately, I came across a comment made by reader “ProclaimLiberty” (PL) on the Rosh Pina Project blog post Messianic Jews Must be Consistent in Our Reverence of Scripture:

Insofar as I can interpret Rav Shaul’s phrase “all Israel shall be saved” (or, “πᾶς Ἰσραὴλ σωθήσεται”) in Rom 11:26, it includes everyone. The term “πᾶς” may be rendered: “1) individually 1a) each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything 2) collectively”. Hence, “all Israel” seems to refer to each and every individual in the collective of Israel.

And the term “σωθήσεται” may be rendered (from “σῴζω”, verb, {sode’-zo}):
“1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction
1a) one (from injury or peril)
1a1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health 1b1) to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue
1b) to save in the technical biblical sense
1b1) negatively:
1b1a) to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment
1b1b) to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of the Messianic deliverance”.
Jerusalem
It seems to me to be a consequence of HaShem’s unwavering faithfulness to keep His covenanted promises. Certainly the record of the Tenakh shows that it cannot be the result of 100% faithfulness by 100% of Jews throughout our millennia of history as a people. I can only infer that this was Rav Shaul’s intended meaning, based on his understanding of the prophecies cited (viz: Is.59:20-21; Is.27:9; Jer.31:33-34). None of it appears to be conditioned by the individual or collective state of any Jew, thus one must infer that HaShem has some plan by which to accomplish the redemption of the unworthy Jewish souls who will nonetheless benefit, and none will be left out. Personally, I envision a massive crash-course in Jewish messianism for a whole host of Jews swept up together into a special state outside of the time-stream immediately after their deaths; but, hey, it’s not my job to second-guess HaShem.

This is helpful since my knowledge of ancient Greek is non-existent, and it does establish that there is some justification for my beliefs and my hope that indeed, all Israel, every individual Jewish person, will be redeemed by God, just as He promised.

The promises of God are real and wholly reliable. We just need to make sure our theology and doctrine map to this Biblical truth.

The Spiritual Responsibility of the Church to Israel

In a closed Facebook group, someone mentioned recently that the Noahide Siddur completely omits the Mussaf, probably because the wording is so closely associated with the exclusive relationship of the Jewish people to Hashem and the avodah of the Temple.

And while I’ve said in the past that Gentile Talmidei Yeshua are not Noahides (though I have been since corrected that a better title would be “more than a noahide”), this does bring up a boundary line between non-Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua and the Jewish disciples (and Jewish people in general). There are just some things we can’t claim to share with Israel because they are the exclusive property of Israel.

Very recently, I wrote a blog post about a Christian’s duty to support and defend Israel and the Jewish people, even from the “war” being waged against them by our nation’s current administration.

It’s not always easy to do.

No, we’re not Israel. We’re not Jewish. But we still have a duty.

But what is the duty we Christians and/or Talmidei Yeshua have relative to the Jewish nation and her people?

The Jewish people are considered as one “organism.” What happens to one limb affects the entire body.

Every Jew recognizes that all the Jewish People are bound together. When there’s a terrorist attack in Israel, we all feel it. The Talmud says “Kol Yisrael areivim zeh la-zeh” – Every Jew is responsible one for another.

The story is told of the religious man who died and went to heaven. There, he appeared before the Heavenly Tribunal to hear a listing of his good deeds and bad. The man was quite satisfied to hear of all his mitzvahs. But he was shocked to have included amongst his transgressions the prohibition of eating pork.

“What?!” the man protested, “but I never once ate pork!”

“True,” spoke the Tribunal, “but for 20 years you lived next door to a man who ate pork, and you never made an effort to discuss it with him. For that, you are responsible.”

from the article “Responsible One for Another”
posted in the “Ask the Rabbi” column at
Aish.com

OK, that’s the responsibility of one Jew for another, but what about the rest of us?

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

Matthew 25:34-40 (NASB)

MessiahI once knew a Christian who had a unique interpretation of these verses. While on the surface, it seems as if the disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) are commanded to provide assistance for people who are hungry, thirsty, without clothing, or who are otherwise in distress or disadvantaged, this older Christian gentlemen (and one of the most steadfast doers of what Jesus commanded that I ever met) said he believed that we merit the reward spoken of by our Rav (he didn’t word it this way, of course) when we provide this sort of care specifically to the Jewish people, not just to people in general.

I’m not sure that’s likely, considering that Yeshua’s audience consisted of Jewish people and that Matthew’s Gospel is widely considered to have been written specifically to Jews, but on the other hand, it makes a sort of sense.

The Rav himself said that “salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4:22), and if Israel can be said, particularly through our Rav, to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6), then we owe that light a great debt.

The Apostle Paul (Rav Shaul) believed that there were many advantages to being a Jew, as he chronicled in his Epistle to the Romans (Romans 3:1-2). Paul also commended the largely non-Jewish communities (“churches” if you will) in the diaspora for donating charity (tzedakah) to the Holy Ones in Jerusalem (see 1 Corinthians 16 and 2 Corinthians 8 for examples), as if the Gentiles owed it to the impoverished Jews in the Holy City.

Of course, there are other reasons we owe the Jewish people a debt:

On this day in 1601, Hebrew books that had been confiscated by Church authorities were burned in Rome. This was an unfortunate theme throughout the Middle Ages: In 1592, Pope Clement VIII had condemned the Talmud and other Hebrew writings as “obscene,” “blasphemous” and “abominable” — and ordered them all seized and burned. Centuries earlier, Pope Gregory IX persuaded French King Louis IX to burn some 10,000 copies of the Talmud (24 wagon loads) in Paris. As late as 1553, Cardinal Peter Caraffa (the future Pope Paul IV) ordered copies of the Talmud burned in the Papal States and across Italy. Yet despite all attempts to extinguish our faith, the light of Torah shines brightly till today.

from “This Day in Jewish History”
for Shevat 11
Aish.com

OK, you might say that you’re not Catholic or that this happened a long time ago and we don’t do this to Jewish people anymore, but the inherit memory of the Jewish people and the history of the Church’s “relationship” with the Jews is very long lived.

And sadly, even to this day, we can often find the spirit of Haman in the Church.

It’s so easy to wallow in the mud, to get tangled up in Israel’s final redemption and the current political landscape. It’s easy for non-Jews in Yeshua to experience jealousy over the advantage of the Jews (Romans 3:1-2), which I suppose is why Christianity developed the doctrine of supersessionism (or cryptosupersessionism as the case may be).

Rabbi Noah Weinberg of blessed memory wrote an article over 15 years ago called Free Will – Our Greatest Power. It’s somewhat lengthy, but here’s a summary of his five main points:

  • Level One: Don’t be a sleepwalker. Make decisions actively.
  • Level Two: Don’t be a puppet of society’s goals, or a slave to your old decisions.
  • Level Three: Be aware of the conflict between the cravings of your body and the aspirations of your soul.
  • Level Four: Identify with your soul, not your body.
  • Level Five: Make your will God’s will.
Rabbi Weinberg
Rabbi Noah Weinberg

If you read the entire missive, you’ll see that having free will and making Hashem’s will our will results in an intersection between the mundane and the Divine. We learn to see past the physical reality of our world and the things (and people and nations) we often fight against, and perceive them (things, people, nations) through a spiritual lens.

By the way, this isn’t an either-or affair:

Given that we live in a physical world, much of the goal of Judaism is to infuse the physicality with holiness. We say a blessing before eating our special kosher food, we have a framework for sanctifying our marital relations, etc.

from the article “What is Holiness?”
posted in the “Ask the Rabbi” column
Aish.com

In the western mindset, we tend to think of things in binary terms. Something is either this or that, we turn left or right, we can choose this one or that one. But that mindset, including within the Christian Church, is based on ancient Greek philosophy.

Judaism and Hebrew thought is much more comfortable with dynamic contradictions in which seeming opposites can live together, if not at peace, then at least under a flag of truce.

Observant Jews don’t choose between the material and spiritual worlds, they infuse the physical with the spiritual. In my own dim little way, I can see Israel as both the present political reality and the Holy Nation of God given to the Jewish people as their perpetual heritage.

I think if we choose to put on that pair of lenses and see the many aspects of our world, and particularly Israel and the Jewish people, the way God sees them, we would have no doubt in our minds (or hearts) at all that we should be doing all we can to assist an Israel under siege, or at the very least, not to get in Israel’s way.

I said that the physical and the spiritual can co-exist in dynamic tension, but looking at Level Four of Rav Weinberg’s summary, it seems like that co-existence isn’t exactly 50/50. If we can perfect our vision, it means being biased somewhat toward the spiritual side of our sight. In this context, that means seeing more of Israel’s spiritual reality than her current physical and political reality. It means seeing Israel more as what she’ll be when her full redemption arrives.

For when Israel’s redemption arrives, ours will arrive with him.

If your bread fell out of heaven, you might be afraid to make a diet of it. Sure, it’s convenient, but most people would rather sink their teeth into a steak, or at least a potato—something that feels like a part of their world.

That’s also the way many people feel about any topic that touches on the spiritual. It is the unknowableness of it—that you can’t grasp it in your hand or tally it up with your assets—that causes people to shun it, to run from it, to even deny it exists.

These people are running from who they are. Far more than we are a body with a bank account, we are spiritual beings. Without nourishment for our souls, we are plagued by insatiable cravings—like a body lacking essential nutrients.

For the human being, inner peace is achieved by first surrendering to the unknown.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Grasping Bread from Heaven”
Chabad.org

If we don’t feed ourselves with “bread from Heaven,” not only will our spiritual self be starved, we won’t be able to recognize what is truly, spiritually real, and then act upon it in the present world.

How Is The World Blessed By The Offspring of Abraham?

I was sitting in the airport in Dallas reading my daily page of the Talmud when an elderly priest, readily identifiable by his collar, stopped by my seat and asked me a question. “I hope you don’t mind my interrupting you. I see you are reading a Hebrew book and you are wearing a hat. Are you by any chance a Rabbi?”

When I responded that indeed I am, he continued, “I hope you don’t think I’m out of place but all my life I’ve been hoping that someday I might meet a Rabbi. You see, although I’m a priest I’ve always felt that Jews are the people of The Book and enjoy an especially close relationship with God. You are God’s chosen people and as a Rabbi you are one of their spiritual leaders. I’ve always wanted to ask a Rabbi for a blessing. Would it be possible now for me to ask that you honor me with that favor?”

I cannot convey in words how moved I was by that request. I gave him the priestly benediction from the Torah and recited it to him in the original Hebrew. He was moved to tears. In all humility, I understood that for him I was the link to the original Torah. Whatever theological beliefs might separate us – and there are surely many – he clearly recognized the unique role of Judaism, in the words of Isaiah, to serve as “a light unto the nations.” Jews are the direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the nation that stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and received the Torah to transmit from generation to generation. Jews were “chosen” not to claim superiority but to accept the responsibility to convey God’s messages to the rest of mankind.

-Rabbi Benjamin Blech
“5 Greatest Gifts of Being a Jew”
Aish.com

birchas-kohanimThere may be some of you when reading the paragraphs above who will be taken aback by a Catholic Priest (or any Christian clergy) asking a Rabbi for a blessing. There may be others among you who will cringe at the idea that Rabbi Blech not only responded to the request by conferring a blessing, but that he used the Birkat Kohanim, the priestly blessing.

Historically, Judaism and Christianity have had a somewhat “uncomfortable” relationship (I say that using tremendous understatement) and at least vestiges of that remain in the modern era.

But I found the transaction between R. Blech and the Priest to be rather heartwarming. Nearly twenty centuries of enmity between Christians and Jews was simply swept aside, a Christian (a Catholic Priest no less) openly recognized the special and unique relationship a Jew has with God, and a Jew (a Rabbi no less) blessed not just a Goy, and not just a Christian, but a Catholic Priest, and was happy to do so.

In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.

Genesis 22:18 (NASB)

Indeed, the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are to be a blessing to the people of the nations, and in R. Blech’s case, it became both fact and truth.

But then again, we have this:

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.

Galatians 3:16

From a Christian point of view, that blessing from the offspring (“seed”) of Abraham could be considered specifically issuing from one Jew, our Rav Yeshua (Jesus), as opposed to Jewish people in general. However, I don’t have a problem assigning multiple meanings and applications to the aforementioned blessing.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Rabbi Benjamin Blech

Drilling down into R. Blech’s quote, let’s take a look at the following:

Whatever theological beliefs might separate us – and there are surely many – he clearly recognized the unique role of Judaism, in the words of Isaiah, to serve as “a light unto the nations.” (emph mine)

A Catholic Priest, who, by definition, believes that Jesus Christ is the Jewish Messiah King who will redeem the world, also recognized that modern Jewish people, including and especially Rabbis, have a unique role to play relative to God and to humanity.

How much more should we “Judaicly-aware” disciples of our Rav also recognize that unique role of Jews in general and Jews who share our understanding of the revelation of Rav Yeshua in particular, whether we choose to call ourselves members of Hebrew Roots, “Messianic Gentiles,” or anything else?

In his article, R. Blech listed the 5 greatest gifts of being a Jew as:

  1. Our Unique Mission
  2. The Torah
  3. Progress
  4. Optimism
  5. The Gift of Others

Although the Torah does not apply to the rest of mankind, even the Gentile disciples of our Rav, in the same way it applies to Jewish people, it does define a general pattern of ethical and moral behavior along with the establishment of monotheism, the realization of One God, Hashem, Creator of Existence. Without the Jewish people and the Torah, there would not be such revelations, and certainly, there would be no plan of redemption for our world.

JerusalemUnder “Progress,” R. Blech cites Irishman Thomas Cahill’s book The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels to illustrate the impact of Jews and Judaism on the entire planet.

In it he credits the Jews not only for monotheism and the idea of a personal relationship with God; it is these concepts, he reminds us, that led us to the understanding that we have a personal responsibility for ourselves and our relations with our neighbors, as well as to our respect for history itself.

While the Church likes to think history began with the birth of Christ, in fact, while the coming of Rav Yeshua certainly was and is an apex in human history, everything in the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings had to occur to set the stage for our Rav’s entry, including the existence of Israel and the Jewish people.

Under “Optimism,” Blech states:

To be a Jew is to know that the world has not yet reached its divinely ordained end. God has a plan for us and eventually it will be fulfilled. No matter how long it takes, Jews remain the eternal optimists.

Golda Meir put it this way: “Jews cannot afford the luxury of pessimism.” Ben Gurion reminded us that in Israel “In order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.” And Maimonides included the belief in messianic redemption at the end of days as one of the thirteen Cardinal principles of our faith.

jerusalem dayWe non-Jewish devotees also wait for the Messiah, though some of us have a radically different idea of what that means than most Jews. Social media has made it easy to complain about practically everything, and conservative Christians complain about everything from A to Z, which is why it would be helpful if we would learn optimism as Blech describes it.

Finally, under “The Gift of Others,” while R. Blech is describing the relationship Jews have with each other, we “Judaicly-aware” Goyim might want to set aside any “Torah-envy” we may experience ,and approach our Jewish brethren in Yeshua (as well as Jewish people in general) in the same manner as the Priest who approached Rabbi Blech in a Dallas airport as described at the top of this article.

At the very start of his write-up, R. Blech said:

Albert Einstein once startled an audience when he announced, “I’m sorry I was born a Jew.” The people were shocked. How could this great man make such an outlandish statement? With a smile, Einstein then impishly continued, “Because it deprived me of the privilege of choosing to be a Jew.”

As a tenth generation Rabbi, I did not choose to become a Jew; it was my natural birthright. But with the wisdom of age and the perspective of worldly experience I have come to recognize that my identity conferred precious divine gifts that we should never take for granted.

MessiahJews, whether religious or secular, are the only people who are born into a covenant relationship with God. The rest of us have to choose to become associated with God and arguably, we have no covenant relationship (long story…start reading this five-part review for the answer, or if you’re pressed for time, this short summary) apart from the Noahide Covenant God made with all living things in Genesis 9.

But we are allowed and even encouraged to choose God. We just need to remember that it was through the Jewish people, the nation of Israel, and the (Jewish) Moshiach that we are redeemed, not through the power of our choosing alone.

“You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.”

John 4:22

After the Meal of the Messiah has Ended

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the ekklesia, in filling up what is lacking in Messiah’s afflictions. Of this ekklesia I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Messiah in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Messiah. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Messiah Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Messiah.

Therefore as you have received Messiah Yeshua the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

Colossians 1:24-2:7 (NASB – adj)

I’m temporarily interrupting my reviews of the Nanos and Zetterholm volume Paul within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle in order to address a conversation I had with my friend over coffee last Sunday. Yes, this is the same friend who previously issued the pesky challenge (I say that tongue-in-cheek) of considering a return to church or some such congregation for the sake of fellowship.

Last Sunday, the challenge was to consider all that Messiah has done for me.

No, it’s not like I don’t have a sense of gratitude, but the way he put it, it’s like I am to consider only two beings in existence: Messiah and me.

The Death of the MasterSo often in the Church, over and over again, I’d hear “It’s just me and Jesus” like the rest of the human population of this planet didn’t matter. It also sounds like God’s overarching redemptive plan for Israel, and through Israel, the world, wasn’t important. All that’s important is the individual Christian and Jesus.

I look at Messiah through the lens of the entire Biblical narrative and what his death and resurrection means in terms of that narrative. I think of Messiah less as dying for me the individual, and more as dying and being resurrected as a definitive confirmation of God’s New Covenant promise to Israel; His promise of Israel’s personal and national resurrection and the life in the world to come. Messiah’s resurrection is definite proof of the resurrection for the rest of us. It certainly was to the direct witnesses of “the risen Christ,” and by their testimony, was accepted as evidence by many other Jews and Gentiles who through faith, became disciples of the Master.

I have a problem pulling Messiah out of that context, isolating his death and resurrection from God’s global redemptive plan, and making it all about “saving” me. When Paul wrote about “salvation,” he was talking about reconciling humanity with the God of Israel, not saving my one little soul so I could go to Heaven and live with Jesus when I die. Paul was “preaching” the New Covenant promises and their blessings to the Gentiles, who needed to do considerable catch-up work not having the benefit of even a basic Jewish education.

I think that’s what he’s saying in the above-quoted block of scripture. He’s writing to Gentiles. They/we who were once far off (Ephesians 2:13) and who had/have been brought near to the promises of God through the faithfulness of Messiah.

There’s no denying that without Messiah, the Gentiles are totally cut off from the God of Israel. The Jews were already near based on being born into the Sinai covenant. Yes, even they could be cut off (Romans 11:20) due to unbelief, but since they are natural branches, think of how much more easily can they be reattached to the root.

My friend said that those who deny Messiah, Jew and Gentile alike, are cut off from God. This at least suggests if not outright demands that God’s presence be manifest only with those Jews and Gentiles who have become disciples of Yeshua and He is apart from everyone else.

working handsI don’t believe that. For the Jews, I believe there’s close and closer. No, it’s not like there is no benefit for Jewish faith in Messiah. I outlined how unbelieving Jews can still be close to God and how believing Jews have a great benefit in being disciples of the Master in my review of D. Thomas Lancaster’s sermon The Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Faith Toward God. Mark D. Nanos characterizes the text of Romans 11:25 as unbelieving Jews being temporarily “callused” against Messiah. But the text continues:

For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”
“This is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Romans 11:25-29

Paul, in part, is referring to this irrevocable promise of God to Israel:

They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Jeremiah 31:34

So how do I understand my friend’s statement that all people, Jews and Gentiles, are alienated from God if they do not have faith in Messiah? Am I to believe that God abandoned the Jewish people at the cross?

I can’t do that.

I can believe, based on God’s faithful promises to His people Israel, that although many Jews temporarily do not see Yeshua for who he truly is as Messiah, one day everything will be revealed, and then they will all receive the promise of forgiveness of sins and thus “all of Israel will be saved.”

I have no problem believing that all means ALL! In fact, I’m counting on it.

However, God made no such promise to the Gentile nations of the world. We don’t directly benefit from those promises, though as Paul tells us, we do benefit from their blessings through faithfulness. In His mercy, God allows not just Israel, but also the Gentiles to receive the blessings of the resurrection, the indwelling of the Spirit of God, and the promise of life in the Messianic Age and beyond as members of the Master’s ekklesia and vassal subjects of the King.

But in my struggle to reframe the traditional Christian narrative into one that takes into greater account the first century Jewish context of Paul’s letters as they relate back to the promises God, I’ve gotten “stuck” with my panoramic view of the Messiah’s role in Biblical and human history.

Restoration
Photo: First Fruits of Zion

My fight has always been to communicate this Judaic view of ALL scripture, including the Apostolic Writings, as Jewish and centered on national redemption of Israel, and then through Israel, the nations.

Admittedly, I’m having a tough time changing my focus and allowing myself the “conceit” of realizing that there is (or could be) a personal relationship between me and the Master. Frankly, I don’t see why that shouldn’t intimidate the living daylights out of anyone, especially me. How can the King of the future Messianic Era also be, as many Christians might say, my “best friend?”

The presence of Mashiach is revealed on Acharon Shel Pesach, and this revelation has relevance to all Israel: Pesach is medaleg,1 “skipping over” (rather than orderly progress), and leil shimurim,2 the “protected night.” In general the mood of Pesach is one of liberty. Then Pesach ends, and we find ourselves tumbling headlong into the outside world. This is where Mashiach’s revealed presence comes into play – imbuing us with a powerful resoluteness that enables us to maintain ourselves in the world.

-Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

I too find myself “tumbling headlong” into unprotected territory. It’s become very easy for me to relate to Yeshua as a lowly subject relates to a King. But how can (or should) this “Messianic Gentile” gain an apprehension of a one-on-one relationship with my Master Yeshua?


1. Shir HaShirim 2:8. Midrash Raba on that verse describes the Exodus as medaleg, “skipping over” calculations and rationales for redemption, bringing Israel out of exile regardless of their merit, regardless of the length of the exile. Later in that section the Midrash applies the verse to Mashiach.

2. Sh’mot 12:42, as Rashi notes, the night destined for redemption.

The Cost of Serving the King: Lessons in Discipleship

For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

Luke 14:28-33 (NASB)

The twin parables of the Tower Builder and the King Going to War (Luke 14:28-33) focus on the self-examination necessary to make a decision for surrendering to the call of Jesus. The ultimate commitment is demanded of every disciple. No one should make such a decision rashly. Just as cost estimation is needed to build a tower in a field and intense strategic planning is required to wage war, the one considering discipleship must weigh the cost. To complete the task successfully, one must consider each demand in Jesus’ teachings concerning the kingdom of heaven. Only after intensive self-testing should the decision be made to follow Jesus in his call to radical discipleship.

-Brad H. Young
“Chapter 12: The Decision: The Tower Builder and the King Going to War,” pg 222
The Parables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation

I can’t believe the day after I published this blog post discussing, in part, what it is to truly surrender our lives to Messiah and acknowledge him as Lord, that I should read the opening words of this chapter which address the same thing.

Many Evangelicals consider their work done when they inspire a person to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord by making some sort of initial statement. That person is “saved.” Move on to the next poor, lost soul.

Except I think the process of “salvation” may be more than a point event. I think it’s a process, sometimes a long process, before anyone actually arrives at the place where they recognize the very real cost of becoming a disciple of the Master and what it will really take to “surrender all” and to follow him. We are told to count the cost of becoming a disciple, making what, for all intents and purposes, is an irrevocable vow, and then binding ourselves in servitude to him, following our Master in all he desires from us.

D. Thomas Lancaster in his Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series, addressed the ancient practice of teaching initiates into Messianic discipleship in two messages: Instructions About Washings and The Initiation. By comparison, what do we do today in the Christian Church to prepare those we have brought to the beginning knowledge of Christ to count the cost, leave their former lives behind them, pick up their cross and to follow him?

Not darn much, for the most part.

No disciple should begin training in the kingdom of God unless he or she has recognized fully the insistent demands of total commitment and has determined to shoulder the responsibilities with unrelenting resolve.

-ibid

How many of us, as believers, possess “unrelenting resolve,” especially in America where we are pretty much fat and happy? And if we are not prepared for the challenges of being a disciple, will be face the same consequences as one who starts building a tower and cannot finish or a King who goes into war and has his army smashed?

An ignominious defeat will ruin a king, destroy his kingdom, and cost him everything. The disciple’s defeat can be just as devastating.

-ibid, pg 223

FallingIn response to a “leap-before-you-look” kind of religious zeal that leads many people to “accept Christ” before knowing anything about him and what he requires, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his book Growth Through Torah (pg 358) responds with this advice:

“A Torah scholar should be consulted whenever questions arise.”

In the case of Christianity, the very people who are out evangelizing should be the ones urging each potential initiate to be cautious. Do not be premature. Learn. Study. Discover who this Jesus Christ is and what you must truly pay in order to follow him on his path.

For Luke these parables form a complex of teachings focusing on radical discipleship. Hating one’s parents or dying for one’s beliefs are concepts that perplex and challenge.

-Young, pg 223

Unfortunately, potential disciples are not told the truth of Messiah upfront. Often they (we) take months, years, or even decades to discover (if we are fortunate ever to do so) the cost of following the King of the Jews.

For Christianity, the cross has become more a symbol of salvation than a call to radical discipleship.

-ibid, pg 224

We tell people about salvation, forgiveness of sins as a free gift of Christ, an eternal life of bliss up in Heaven with Jesus, and all the really attractive stuff. We never tell them what they have to do once they “sign on the dotted line.”

But the danger of diluting Jesus’ radical call to action by spiritualizing his practical teachings is never very far removed from the preaching of salvation through the cross. In the teachings of Jesus, in contrast, the image of the cross was a call to radical discipleship. One must hear and obey. The stress was not on salvation but on obedience. The fear of God is rooted in the wisdom obtained through Torah learning and active involvement in fulfilling wisdom’s teaching.

-ibid

By wisdom a house is built,
And by understanding it is established;
And by knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches.
A wise man is strong,
And a man of knowledge increases power.
For by wise guidance you will wage war,
And in abundance of counselors there is victory.

Proverbs 24:3-6 (NASB)

Knowledge and wisdom are absolute requirements before beginning to design and build a structure, whether it be a tower or a house. If you go in blind, depending on taking someone else’s word that everything will work out fine if you just “accept Jesus into your heart,” the walls could end up falling down around your ears.

Young ponders whether or not Jesus had Proverbs 24 in mind as he crafted his parables and believes it is likely. I suppose it’s possible Paul also was thinking in that direction:

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.

Romans 10:1-2 (NASB)

In my previous commentary on these verses, I mentioned that information was not lacking among the Jewish devout, but specific knowledge about how Jesus was and is the goal, the aim, the focusing crystal and makes the meaning of the Torah so much more clear was lacking in some, just as the basic, elemental principles of Christian faith are often lacking, not just in new converts to the faith today, but people who have been in the Church for years.

It is true that works without faith is dead, but what about an uninformed faith? Can you consent to give your life to something you don’t understand? Are you held accountable to words you cannot fathom? Actually, I believe you can.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Matthew 7:21-23 (NASB)

awareness-of-godJesus connects lawlessness with those who bear no fruit, that is, they do not lead lives transformed by their faith, and there is no evidence of the Spirit in their daily lives and no obedience to God. How can this be unless they have not actually, truly surrendered all of who they are (we are) to the demands of a very demanding King and Master. If Jesus is the Lord of our lives, then he may command anything and we must obey.

For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

Luke 7:8 (NASB)

The Roman Centurion “got it,” but that’s what we can expect of a man who served in a brutal military hierarchy under the reign of an unrelenting Emperor.

Like I said, in America, in the church as well as anywhere else, we’re too “fat and happy”. We think discipline is going to the gym three or four days a week.

R. Samuel bar Nahman said in the name of R. Jonathan: By what parable may the verse just above be explained? By that of a king who lived in a certain principality. When the people of the principality provoked him, the king was angered [and would not abide in their midst]. He removed himself some ten miles from the city before he stopped. A man who saw him went to the people in the city and said: Know that the king is angry at you and may well send legions against the city to destroy it. Go out and appease him before he removes himself still further away from you. Thereupon a wise man who was standing by said to the people: Fools, while he was in your midst, you did not seek him. Now, before he moves further away, seek him out. He may receive you. Hence it is said “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found” (Isa. 55:6)…

See Pesik. Rab Kab., suppl. 7:3 (Pesikta Derav Kahana, ed. Mandelbaum, 2:472; English trans., Braude and Kapstein, Kahana, 491). Cf. the discussion of McArthur and Johnson, Parables, 194, as quoted by Young pg 227

But it is also said:

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?

Romans 10:14-15 (NASB)

And yet in verse 13, Paul states, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

But you can’t call on someone you do not know. And you cannot know someone unless you learn of them, spend time with them, discover the desire of their heart. You cannot commit unless you are willing. You cannot commit unless you understand and agree to the price of commitment. We’re all taught about the “free gift of salvation” but never about the “real cost of discipleship.”

Joshua the son of Perachia and Nitai the Arbelite received from them. Joshua the son of Perachia would say: Assume for yourself a teacher…

-Pirkei Avot 1:6

It’s ironic that in considering the cost, some might believe it is too high and then choose not to follow. However in the end, the cost of refusing to become indentured servants of the great King is higher still.

Vayigash: Will the King Show Us Mercy?

king-davidAnd Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph!”

Genesis 45:3

The Chofetz Chaim comments that from the time the brothers first came to Egypt to get food — when Joseph spoke with them roughly and accused them of being spies — they were puzzled about what exactly was happening and why it was happening. In both encounters with Joseph they had many questions about their experiences. As soon as they heard the words, “I am Joseph” all their questions were answered. The difficulties they had in understanding the underlying meaning of the events — why Joseph accused them of being spies, yet treated them well, accused them of lying and stealing, but gave them a banquet, insisted on bringing the younger brother to Egypt, etc. — were now completely clarified.

Similarly, says the Chofetz Chaim, when the entire world will hear the words “I am the Almighty” at the final redemption of the Jewish people, all the questions and difficulties that people had about the history of the world with all of its suffering will be answered. The entire matter will be clarified and understood. Everyone will see how the hand of the Almighty caused everything ultimately for our benefit.

Dvar Torah for Torah Portion Vayigash based on
Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Referenced by Rabbi Kalman Packouz
at Aish.com

The brothers of Joseph discover a startling reality. The ruler of the Egyptians who has been treating them harshly all of this time is really their brother Joseph. In an instant, all the cruelty they showed him, including trying to murder him, must have come to the forefront of their conscience.

Before this, the Egyptian ruler had the power to do anything to them, imprison them, make them slaves, even kill them, but “it wasn’t personal.” That is, the sons of Jacob were no more or less significant to an Egyptian ruler than anyone else.

Now they not only discover that this man has the power of life and death over them, but that he is their brother, who they left for dead, who almost surely has a personal motive for seeking revenge. The brothers knew they had no right to appeal to Joseph for mercy, for they had not showed him mercy. They could only hope that in the years he ascended from slavery and imprisonment to being a viceroy of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh in power and authority, that he had learned wisdom and compassion and would be willing to offer them something they did not deserve: mercy and the continuation of their very lives.

Now look at what Rabbi Pliskin had to say from the above-quoted text:

Similarly, says the Chofetz Chaim, when the entire world will hear the words “I am the Almighty” at the final redemption of the Jewish people, all the questions and difficulties that people had about the history of the world with all of its suffering will be answered.

How much of the non-Jewish world will tremble at the feet of God when they realize the Almighty has appeared at the final redemption and that He is not at all pleased with how His people Israel have been treated?

Over the long march of centuries since Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, since Joseph confronted his brothers, since Moses, Aaron, and Miriam liberated the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and set them before God at Sinai, and on and on across history, every people, tribe, and tongue throughout the Earth has been seeking to kill the Jewish people, God’s splendorous treasure, the apple of His eye.

This includes the Church of Jesus Christ. How confusing it will be in those days to be a Christian who has harbored hatred toward Jewish people, Judaism, and Israel, and to be confronted by an angry Jewish King. How strange it will seem to many Christians who have loved Israel but continued to deny the validity of the Torah, the Temple, and the adherence of Jewish people to a Jewish way of life for those Gentile believers to be faced with a Jewish King who upholds the “Jewishness” of his people Israel.

“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:41-46 (NASB)

Woman in the darkI used to think this was an injunction for believers to show kindness and compassion for all of the needy people around us (and I still think we should), but almost a year ago, I heard a good and kind Christian man in a Sunday school class interpret this statement as the duty we Gentile believers have to take care of all the needy of Israel.

And if that statement is true, then woe be to the many, many Christians past and present who have utterly failed to do so because those needy people were “just Jews.”

In the case of the brothers of Joseph, their kinsman who was also ruler and King over them was merciful after all:

Now do not be distressed or reproach yourselves because you sold me hither; it was to save life that God sent me ahead of you. It is now two years that there has been famine in the land, and there are still five years to come in which there shall be no yield from tilling. God has sent me ahead of you to ensure Your survival on earth, and to save your lives in an extraordinary deliverance. So, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of all his household, and ruler over the whole land of Egypt.

Genesis 45:5-8 (JPS Tanakh)

But was it for Jacob’s sake that Joseph spared his brothers? And for whose sake shall the King of Israel spare those among the nations and particularly those among the Church who have treated his little ones poorly?

…but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew 18:6 (NASB)

Mark Nanos in his book The Mystery of Romans defines the “weak” and “stumbling,” relative to Paul’s letter to the Romans, as the Jews in the synagogues of Rome who had not yet come to faith in Messiah. I’ll write a detailed “meditation” on this topic in a few days, but Nanos understands Paul’s admonition to the “strong,” the Gentile believers, as failing to uphold their responsibility to encourage the stumbling Jewish people, resulting in them stumbling even further away from faith. Paul never gave up on the stumbling, and he would have sacrificed everything for them.

For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Romans 9:3-5 (NASB)

It was the Master himself who called his people Israel “lost sheep” (Matthew 10:6, 15:24) and who are we to disdain those “sheep,” for it is obvious that even in their unbelief, God loves them with a great intensity and will violently protect them, even from those of us who are so arrogant as to believe their Father has cut them off from His care and compassion.

bk_kotelPaul says that all of Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26), though we in the Church cannot fathom this. But though the Jews have always been few in number (Deuteronomy 4:27) and suffered exile and dispersion (Leviticus 26:33), yet they shall be redeemed and live in peace (Micah 4:1-4), for God has declared that Israel shall eternally be a nation before Him (Genesis 17:7, Leviticus 26:43, Deuteronomy 4:26-27, 28:63-64).

It is within the power of the Jewish Messiah King, Yeshua, Jesus, to judge his Gentile Church and to cast out those of us who have failed in our duty to his people Israel in opposition to the prophesies and the commandments. The patriarchs were terrified of their powerful and very human brother for the vengeance he could exact upon them. How much more should we be terrified of an infinitely powerful and eternal King?

It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Hebrews 10:31 (NASB)

Tremble and sin not, reflect in your hearts while on your beds, and be utterly silent. Selah.

Psalm 4:4 (from the Siddur, nighttime blessings)

Let the world that has always hated the Jewish people learn to repent before it’s too late, and let each Christian who has hated or dismissed the Jewish people lie in his or her bed and tremble and be utterly silent before their King whose hand will always uplift Israel and whose greatest desire is to save his precious nation and redeem her as he has promised.

Good Shabbos.