When Pete Rambo asked me to review the book Ten Parts in the King which he co-wrote with Albert J. McCarn, I didn’t think much of it. I’ve reviewed a number of books on this and other blogs over the years, so I figured it would be just one more. Once it arrived in the mail, I pretty much ignored it until I had the bandwidth to give it a look. Then I realized that the topic and I weren’t going to get along very well.
Ten Parts in the King offers an explanation for the Torah Awakening among Christians, linking it to the prophecies of Israel’s restoration. Every part of Scripture, from Moses to the Prophets to the Apostles, points to the restoration of both parts of Israel: the Jewish House of Judah, and the non-Jewish House of Israel, also known as Joseph and Ephraim. The Jewish people have been the visible portion of the nation for millennia, but now in the latter days the House of Joseph/Ephraim is becoming visible as Christians embrace the Hebrew roots of their faith. For millennia, these Two Witnesses have provided testimony of God’s sovereignty, faithfulness, and desire to fulfill His covenant promises of redemption. Without both witnesses, the testimony of the Creator and the fulfillment of His redemptive plans remains incomplete.
In other words, it was written in support of what is called Two-House Theology, the idea that those people who are not Jewish but who are believers and attracted to the teachings of the Torah are or must be the figurative or literal descendents of the “ten lost tribes of Israel.”
I like to think of myself as a fair reviewer, but as I was reading, I wondered how was I going to be impartial about a topic with which I disagree?
I took copious notes while reading, the majority of which I’m not going to use in this review. If I did, I might as well write a book of my own.
Much of the book builds a case for the literal existence of the “lost ten tribes” not only in the distant past, but during the time of Jesus and into today. The explanation for what the authors call a “Torah Awakening” among non-Jewish believers is that such a population is naturally drawn to the Torah due to being “Israel.”
The book makes a strong distinction between being Jewish and being “Israel” stating that all Jews are Israel but not all Israel is Jewish. But then who is non-Jewish Israel?
To cut to the chase, the answer is presented on p. 138:
So how does one get to be part of this New Covenant? This is where our Christian training is of such great value. We enter by faith in Messiah Yeshua, by the grace of YHVH his Father. It is not by works or by any act designed to attain our own righteousness, but by appropriating the free gift of God which Christians call salvation, and which Jews call redemption. Once we attach ourselves to the King of Israel (Yeshua, Son of David and heir to David’s throne), then we become his subjects and citizens of his kingdom. That means we become Israelites, regardless of our ancestry. (emph. mine)
That sounds suspiciously like “Christians are spiritual Israel” which I’ve heard before both in the Church and within Hebrew Roots communities.
The authors insist this isn’t a form of Replacement Theology or Supersessionism since they are not replacing the Jews but rather standing alongside of them as part of Israel. And yet, the only qualification for being an “Israelite” and thus inheriting all of God’s Covenant promises to “the House of Judah and the House of Israel” is to be a Gentile who professes faith in Jesus Christ.
So now all Christians everywhere are Israelites. But what about the rest of the world?
On page 95, it says that:
As we shall see in our investigation of the New Covenant, YHVH did not extend salvation to any other nation than Israel. More specifically, when he declared the New Covenant, he stated that he would make it with the House of Israel and the House of Judah (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:8-12). Therefore, whoever will avail themselves of this salvation must somehow become affiliated with the nation of Israel.
That seems to totally ignore all of God’s promises of the redemption of the non-Israelite nations of the world and God’s concerns over all the people of Creation. After all, God created all human beings in His image and Adam, Havah (Eve), their children, and Noah and his children all were considered precious by God before the time of Abraham, and of Issac, and of Jacob.
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely separate me from His people.”
Nor let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
To minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord,
To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath and holds fast My covenant;
Even those I will bring to My holy mountain
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”
-Isaiah 56:3, 6-7 (NASB)
If, as the authors suggest, only Judah and Israel are considered by God, how are we to understand this prophesy? After all, Israel would not be considered foreigners or strangers, so the object of the prophesy must be another people group and, as verse seven states, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” (emph. mine).
Even during the time of Jesus, Gentiles were, with some restrictions, allowed to bring sacrifices to Herod’s Temple, and in his dedication of the Temple, King Solomon (I Kings 8:41-43) also addressed the prayers of “foreigner who is not of Your people Israel,” so it is not only possible, but within God’s plan to minister to all the nations of the Earth.
Also considering Isaiah 45:23, Romans 14:11, and Revelation 22:1-5, “Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess.” If it’s just the House of Judah and House of Israel, then where does “every” come from?
I could say a great deal more. After all, I did take several pages of detailed notes, but I think I’ve hit the key points. While it is obvious that the authors put a great deal of time, energy, and research into crafting this text, in the end, if your basic premise is off base, so too will be your conclusions.
My personal opinion is that God has a plan for the redemption of the nation of Israel (and in this case, the modern expression of that is the Jewish people) and the rest of us, that is the non-Jewish/non-Israeli/non-Covenant nations of the Earth through God’s New Covenant promises to the Jewish people and our devotion to Rav Yeshua, Jesus Christ, the mediator of the New Covenant.
You don’t have to be Israel for God to love you and plan to redeem you. Yes, it all flows through Israel as central in God’s plan, but as the light to the world, Israel’s King is available to the rest of us if we are so willing.
So does all this mean I think the book was horrible? No. Like I said, it’s obvious Pete and McCarn put a lot of effort into it and the text is a work of their hearts. Certainly if you really want to find out what adherents to “Two-House Theology” believe and why, this will tell you in great detail. Perhaps, in spite of my review, you’ll even be convinced (and I sort of wonder if one of the reasons Pete sent it to me was to see if I could be convinced).
On the other hand, the book also has serious problems in terms of having to rather creatively interpret who and what “Israel” is in order to figure out how the non-Covenant nations can also acquire the blessings of salvation and the resurrection to come without being of “the House of Judah” and “the House of Israel.”
I recently blogged about a Christian turned Noahide who I accidentally discovered on the blogspot The Torah Way. In describing this person’s “journey” away from faith in Jesus (Rav Yeshua) to a traditional Noahide or “Righteous Gentile” viewpoint and praxis, I neglected to examine what they wrote on their other blog Cozy Kitchen Chats believing it was more or less a collection of recipes and other food related articles.
As it turns out, this is an older blog and contains a lot more detail about this woman’s (one of the things I discovered) spiritual travels.
I’m not trying to pick on her or demean her in any way. I do, however, find that what she’s been through over the past several years is illuminating, because she comes from a place that should be familiar to many of my readers.
To formally introduce you to my Cozy Kitchen, I absolutely need to share with the you the Foundation of my world, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, my soon coming KING. I had always been brought up in the church, although I had bounced around from church to church seeking and hungering for something deeper. I tried small town churches, large Mega churches, Pentecostal churches, Baptist churches, even Catholic churches. Each had amazing truths and amazing people, but nothing felt comfortable to me. My heart was always drawn to the Church described in the Book of Acts.
This is a person devoted to Jesus as Savior and King in search of a church that reflects the Biblical “prototype” church, the ideal church where one can draw close to the Spirit of Jesus. Apparently, she couldn’t find it.
All I know is that I personally needed to walk away from everything I knew about the modern day church. I spent two years aggressively seeking God to show me the Truth, regardless what it may cost me, I wanted to know that I know Him and that I am following Him wholeheartedly. I read everything I could about the religions most commonly found in the United States. I set aside all that I knew, wiped away all the prejudice that I held and explored each asking the Holy Spirit to show me the Truth.
This part is funny in an ironic way, given where she’ll end up.
…at first I honestly didn’t like the Jesus I was learning about. Oh, I loved how others in the Bible would describe Him, but when I read His words, I thought they were harsh, aggressive and difficult to understand. I really liked Paul much more than Jesus, Paul’s teaching were soft and easy, Salvation by Grace alone, no actions or responsibility, once saved, always saved. Paul was much more appealing.
She goes on to say that in order to learn more from Jesus, she set aside Paul’s writings so she could sit at the feet of her Master. That’s how she started out her blog.
I am here exclusively to show the Love of God to you and to serve you and others in anyway I can. Opening up my Cozy Kitchen Chats with you, I will share with you the Gospel of Jesus, how to have a thriving Christian home, how to serve your community and how to make YOUR own Cozy Kitchen your personal mission field.
I know this is topic that can really set some “believers” off balance, since there has always been a belief that the Torah or the Life Teaching and Instruction of God, given to Moses was done away with at the resurrection of Yeshua (Christ)
Nowhere in the Prophets nor in the instruction that was given to Moses was it ever mentioned that the Law would be done away with. During Yeshua’s time on earth, He never mentioned that the Law or the Word would be dismissed. He actual said the following.
First, she described a general dissatisfaction with all of the churches and Christian denominations she experienced and was determined to study the Bible at the feet of Jesus and gain wisdom from the Holy Spirit alone.
Then she discovered the Torah, started calling Jesus “Yeshua,” and described her understanding in terms more familiar with someone who was just introduced to either the Messianic Jewish or Hebrew Roots movements.
A really critical point though, is that her attitude about the Apostle Paul (Rav Shaul) changed remarkably. Remember, at the very beginning, she loved Paul’s teachings, but thought Jesus was too harsh and aggressive.
Don’t allow the mindless teaching of man separate you from the TRUTH. The Pharisees over taught the law with man made regulations to overwhelm man so he would not honor it, then the new Pharisees (Paulines, followers of Paul’s teaching rather than Jesus’) discounted the Sabbath with man made doctrines so men would not follow it. Seek God’s instruction to find the Truth.
Here, she’s reversed her original position and now sees the teachings of Paul in opposition to those of Jesus. Ironically (again), she denigrates the “man-made laws “of the “new Pharisees” and believes only in seeking God’s instructions of truth in Jesus. I say ironically because when she became a Noahide, she had to accept the validity of the teachings of the Rabbinic sages and their authoritative interpretations of Torah, which most Christians call “man-made laws”.
And most Christians consider the Sages to be something like “the new Pharisees”.
A husband that truly LOVES his wife will catch on. Believers that are TRULY following, TRULY LOVING Him, TRULY READING Him will catch on. They will start to step away from Paul’s teaching or rather “un-teaching” and will seek to find out what the WILL of the Father is and what is meant by the “Word of God.” it’s an exciting time! An Awakening!
I’m emphasizing this because abandoning Paul is usually a major step in leaving Christianity, Hebrew Roots, and Messianic Judaism for a non-Jewish believer, since so much of our understanding of how to apply Torah to the Gentile and to live a life as devoted disciples of Rav Yeshua, depends on what he wrote.
I thought I should investigate what she was listening to in order to discover what was influencing her thinking and beliefs. The textual introduction to the “Deuteronomy 13 Test” states:
Have you ever considered why the Jews reject the Jewish Messiah, our Lord and Savior…What if it was because many today misunderstand Paul…Millions of Jews reject the Christian presentation of Jesus and Paul, alarmingly, because the Word of God says to. Sadly, if the misunderstanding continues, Jews are forever prevented from not only not knowing their Jewish Savior, but also from experiencing the blessings of the New Covenant. This teaching exposes the gap in the misunderstanding, and takes a first step into building a bridge…
The video (about 41 minutes long) wasn’t exactly what I expected. It seemed, at the beginning, to be both very pro-Jesus and pro-Paul. The video instructor said that although Jesus and Paul didn’t teach against the Torah of Moses, but they did teach against the Oral Traditions, what is known today, according to this “teacher,” as the Talmud.
This instructor’s first mistake was defining the traditions and praxis of the Pharisees in the late second Temple period as the Talmud, which would not actually exist for centuries (Mishnah c. 200 CE, Gemara c. 500 CE)
This is very much an anti-Judaism (including Messianic Judaism) lesson. I needed to understand a little more about 119 Ministries itself. According to their site’s About page:
Our purpose is to seek and bring the truth to all nations, unlearn false doctrines and traditions of men, and to equip the body to live and practice the Word as God originally intended.
We find that continuously examining the Scriptures (in the same Hebraic first century context and perspective in which they were written and understood) reveals to His people much more understanding, as opposed to the more common Greek mindset that is a couple thousand years removed.
Sounds pretty much the same as when a Fundamentalist church says their doctrine is the only “sound doctrine.”
It’s difficult to tell if 119 Ministries is specifically “One Law” or “Two House,” but their Faith Statement says in part:
Another purpose of Yeshua was to begin calling back the scattered 10 tribes of Israel that were divorced, scattered, and became Gentiles.
This at least suggests a Two House theology, although it’s hardly conclusive.
Frankly, in listening to the above-mentioned anti-Judaism video teaching, it’s amazing that this woman finally became a Noahide, since as far as I can tell from her blogspot, 119 Ministries was her primary and possibly her only source of information relative to Hebrew Roots.
Listening to the 119 teacher was hard for me since his lesson was not only almost totally opposed to my personal beliefs, but it was thinly disguised anti-Jewish rhetoric which not-so-subtly was also a presentation of supersessionism, misappropriating the Torah from the Jewish people and denying observant Jews the right to establish their own interpretation of Torah.
About halfway through the video, the teacher started hammering away against modern observant Jews. To be fair, he seemed just as prejudiced against normative Christianity.
The 119 Ministries video teacher says he wants to bring Jewish people to faith in Yeshua, but his attitude toward observant Jews is so poor that I can’t imagine any Jewish person wanting to listen to this fellow. In this, his concept of Jewish people who “reject Jesus” is pretty much that of normative Christianity, at least in its worst expression.
This teacher is a great example of how a person who continually quotes from the Bible (and he did so, scripture after scripture) can still grossly misrepresent the intent of Hashem, Rav Yeshua, and Rav Shaul (In doing some subsequent research, I discovered that the people behind 119 Ministries are well-meaning and kind, but I still have to disagree with almost all of their conclusions).
Toward the end of the video, the teacher cited Romans 11, Ephesians 2 and Numbers 15:15-16 as “proof” that the Law of Moses was meant to be observed by, not just the Children of Israel and their descendants, but by all humanity, so he tips his hand, so to speak, and reveals that his ministry supports One Law. He does it however, in a really easily refuted way, so I readily set it aside.
(I found this half-hour long YouTube video of an interview with the two guys who founded and operate 119 Ministries, Steve and John. They seem like really nice guys. If you want to get to know who they are and why they started their organization, click the link).
There’s a gap of over a year where something must have happened, where her fascination with 119 Ministries and what they teach must have waned in the extreme. She would never have become a Noahide if she was listening to their anti-Judaism, anti-Jewish people diatribes.
I wonder if she and her family (she’s married with two children) went through something like this:
Jewish Values vs. Other Faiths
I am struggling with the sense that on one hand I want to instill Jewish beliefs in my children, but on the other hand I feel this would be diminishing the value of other faiths. I feel that love, harmony and happiness are the most important values, and that we need to be accepting of everyone’s beliefs. People are different, so isn’t truth relative for each individual?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
This is an important question, one that I think goes to the heart of today’s society.
If you think about it, you’ll realize that “truth” cannot simply be everything that everyone wants.
I think this blog writer held on to the love and truth of Torah she discovered early on, but for some reason, everything else had to give way. Maybe she finally figured out that the video teachings she was consuming ultimately didn’t hold water and actually disrespected the Jewish people who are the sole human objects of the Sinai Covenant.
I don’t know. She took the path of many Christians who become disillusioned with the Church and find Hebrew Roots as an alternative. Eventually, it becomes too difficult to balance love of Torah but not of Judaism and Jews, as well as seeing Yeshua and Shaul being depicted as somehow against their own people.
Granted, a life either in Hebrew Roots or Messianic Judaism isn’t easy. If you’re a believing Gentile, being a Christian is the path of least resistance, and if you are an observant Jew, then Orthodox Judaism is probably a more understandable option.
But if you’re a Gentile who comes to doubt first Paul and finally Yeshua, and who believes normative, observant Judaism to be true, what do you do?
You either convert to Judaism or become a Noahide.
I don’t know if these individuals finally end their search for truth (or TRUTH as the subject of today’s “meditation” likes to write it). We all want to know who we are from Hashem’s perspective, and what His purpose is for our lives. We all want the easy, pre-programmed answer, where we don’t have to think, we don’t have to doubt, and we don’t have to be anxious.
We all want to settle down and relax, secure in the knowledge that we are finally “right” about everything and we have nothing else left to search out and study, and no other questions to ask that we might not find ready-made answers for.
Good luck with that.
Not to say that there aren’t plenty people in houses of worship all around the world who don’t feel settled and secure and who have stopped asking all but the most elementary of questions. But I think that a sense of insecurity, at least a little bit, is built into our relationship with God.
If we finally come to the point where we have no more questions, then we are saying that there’s a limit to God and His relationship with us.
I can accept a person who goes through a developmental process in their faith, exploring and seeking to understand what the Bible is really saying. I’ve gone through that process and am still progressing along that path. I probably never will arrive at a “settled” place, though there are a few things I accept in my understanding now.
But there’s a difference between that and moving around from one faith discipline to another seeking a “TRUTH” that answers “everything”. A human being’s relationship with Hashem is more “edgy” than that. Just look at anyone in the Bible who was close to God. Abraham wasn’t settled and comfortable, neither was Moses. None of the Prophets had peaceful lives. Paul certainly didn’t. If anything, when Rav Shaul was introduced to Yeshua, his life became remarkably “unpeaceful”.
Why should our lives be any different?
A final word. Paul’s life was unsettled and violent and yet in his relationship with Messiah, he said he found “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension” and that guards “your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” ( Philippians 4:7 NASB).
There’s a peace that goes beyond our day-to-day lives, and even beyond our occasional crisis of faith as we continue to study the Bible. There’s a peace we only find if we lay aside our doubts and turn to Him in trust, knowing He desires that we draw close to Him. All the religious pundits in the churches, synagogues, on streaming video, and in the blogosphere don’t hold a candle to authentic trust in Hashem and the peace that He brings to our troubled souls.
I hope the anonymous woman whose journey I’ve attempted to chronicle finds peace in God.
This is the actual time of the “footsteps of Mashiach.” (the final age prior to Mashiach’s advent) It is therefore imperative for every Jew to seek his fellow’s welfare – whether old or young – to inspire the other to teshuva (return), so that he will not fall out – G-d forbid – of the community of Israel who will shortly be privileged, with G-d’s help, to experience complete redemption.
Monday – Sivan 18 – 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan Chabad.org
Previously, I wrote about how privileged Gentiles associated with the Messianic Jewish movement (and in theory, all Gentile Christians) are to be able to support and encourage increased Torah observance among the Jewish people united in Messiah, in order to bring nearer the coming (return) of the King. Although the small commentary above states that it is important for every Jew to seek his fellow’s welfare, I believe we can extend that sentiment to all of mankind.
There are two interrelated principles here. The first is for all disciples of Jesus to seek the welfare of any other person, as it is written, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18, Mark 12:31). The second is like it in that we non-Jews should seek out the welfare of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel, as it is written, “And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).
As I also said, within the unity of the body of Messiah, we are all one and yet we are all distinct. Just as men and women are distinct, so are Jew and Gentile, for Paul in his various epistles, never stopped distinguishing between the Jew and the Greek (Gentile). Therefore, we have no excuse to fail to make such distinctions as well.
And yet, both within the larger body of the Christian Church and certain subsets of what is called Hebrew Roots, it is considered unfashionable and even offensive to continue to make such distinctions. However, if we fail to do so, either by eliminating the primacy of national Israel and replacing it with the Church, or forcibly inserting Gentiles into the nation of Israel, we violate God’s unique calling to the Jewish people to remain a set apart people before Him forever.
Thus says the Lord,
Who gives the sun for light by day
And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar;
The Lord of hosts is His name:
“If this fixed order departs
From before Me,” declares the Lord,
“Then the offspring of Israel also will cease
From being a nation before Me forever.”
–Jeremiah 31:35-36 (NASB)
For the New Covenant was made with the house of Judah and the house of Israel, not the people of the nations, and it is only by coming alongside Israel rather than replacing her or co-opting her unique relationship with God, that we can enjoy blessings of the covenants God made with the Jewish people.
To deny this on any level is to bring a curse upon yourself, but to bless and uphold the nation of Israel and the distinct nature and character of the Jewish people is to bring blessings upon yourself from God, who selected Israel for His own.
The early sages, who were like angels (may their merit protect us) have already determined that the healing of the soul is like the healing of the body:
The crucial first step is to identify the location of the illness, whether it is caused by the crassness, grossness and corruption of his physical body or by a failing in his soul-powers, the person being inclined to undersirable traits like arrogance or falsehood and the like. Or, the source of the malady may be habit – inadequate rearing or unwholesome environment having brought on bad habits.
Shabbat – Sivan 16 – 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan Chabad.org
This relates to another quote I cited before:
A person who worries about how others view him will have no rest. Regardless of what he does or does not do he will always be anxious about receiving the approval of others. Such a person makes his self-esteem dependent on the whims of others. It is a mistake to give others so much control over you. Keep your focus on doing what is right and proper.
-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Given the current context, applying R. Pliskin’s words to me, I see that those who disagree with my words are not in control of who I am. Those who disagree with the uniqueness, sanctity, and distinctiveness of the Jewish people; the nation of Israel before God, cannot affect the nature and character of the chosen people, even as they either seek to eliminate Israel in God’s plan or dilute Israel by inserting masses of Gentiles into her midst without continuing to uphold her distinction.
But R. Pliskin’s words can also be applied to those who oppose Israel in that these people and groups may see their self-esteem and self-assigned identity as being worthwhile only if Israel is diminished either by elimination from God’s plan, or by needing to be included and even fused with Israel, not allowing Israel to exist apart from Gentile inclusion.
To the Christians, including some groups within Hebrew Roots, it is important and even vital to realize that our distinctiveness apart from Israel does not diminish us. Quite the opposite. Our vital role in supporting Israel and heralding the return of Israel depends on our distinctiveness.
If a Gentile “keeps the Torah” in some manner or fashion, that may benefit the individual involved but it does nothing to summon the Messiah’s return. If, on the other hand, the Gentile were to support and encourage Jews in Messiah, including those in the Church referred to as “Hebrew Christians” in observing the mitzvot, then we are fulfilling our purpose and passion and performing a mitzvah “only Gentile disciples of Messiah may accomplish”.
As a young boy, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe) would go with his father on walks through the woods. One time, as they talked, the boy absent-mindedly plucked a leaf off a tree and began to shred it between his fingers. His father saw what his son was doing, but he went on talking. He spoke about the Baal Shem Tov, who taught how every leaf that blows in the wind—moving to the right and then to the left, how and when it falls and where it falls to—every motion for the duration of its existence is under the detailed supervision of the Almighty.
That concern the Creator has for each thing, his father explained, is the divine spark that sustains its existence. Everything is with Divine purpose, everything is of concern to the ultimate goal of the entire cosmos.
”Now,” the father gently chided, “look how you mistreated so absent-mindedly the Almighty’s creation.”
”He formed it with purpose and gave it a Divine spark! It has its own self and its own life! Now tell me, how is the ‘I am’ of the leaf any less than your own ‘I am’?”
-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Purpose of a Leaf”
Based on the letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M.M. Schneerson Chabad.org
Everything was created by God with a unique purpose, even a humble leaf, and must be treated with respect. How is the Jewish ‘I am’ any less than the Gentile (Christian) ‘I am’?
Exodus 20 commands Israel not to covet the things that belong to a neighbor such as his house, his wife, his servants, or his animals. Far be it from me to add to or subtract from the Bible, but my personal “midrash” on coveting includes the “commandment” not to covet thy neighbor’s mitzvot. Just as Korach and his followers coveted the position and mitzvot associated with Moses, the Prophet of God, and Aaron, the High Priest and was judged in error by God, so we too will be judged as in error by coveting positions, roles, and mitzvot we do not merit because we are not Jewish.
And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
–Luke 14:7-11 (NASB)
It is not shameful or diminishing to seek humility in the presence of God and in our daily lives. In fact, as we see from scripture, it is ultimately honoring, though we should not seek honor for ourselves, for in taking our proper place furthest away from the head of the table, how might the host of the banquet choose to honor us by placing us in a much better seat. But that selection of a better seat is not for us to make, it is for him, for Messiah, Son of David. For even he, though he deserves great honor and glory, chose to be humbled.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
–Mark 10:45 (NASB)
The Master said that all those who choose to glorify themselves in this world already have their reward, but those who choose to humble themselves now will have great reward in the coming Kingdom:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
–Matthew 6:1-6 (NASB)
Serve God in all humility, placing the needs of others before your own. Realize that Paul always went to the Jew first, for the Good News of Messiah is the Gospel of Israel and only afterward the good news also to the nations.
If you seek to take what is not yours, when Messiah comes, will he not seek justice and remove from you that which you have usurped? Better to pursue nothing for yourself, and when Messiah comes, let him gift each of us with whatever we may merit according to his grace, kindness, and wisdom. Consider the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30):
For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.
–Matthew 25:29 (NASB)
Also, the Master taught:
So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
–Matthew 6:34 (NASB)
To God be great honor and glory, and to Moshiach our King, let him be raised high above us. Let us walk in the dust of his feet (Nahum 1:3) and be satisfied with our lot.
Ben Zoma would say: Who is wise? One who learns from every man. As is stated (Psalms 119:99): “From all my teachers I have grown wise, for Your testimonials are my meditation.”
Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations. As is stated (Proverbs 16:32), “Better one who is slow to anger than one with might, one who rules his spirit than the captor of a city.”
Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot. As is stated (Psalms 128:2): “If you eat of toil of your hands, fortunate are you, and good is to you”; “fortunate are you” in this world, “and good is to you” in the World to Come.
Who is honorable? One who honors his fellows. As is stated (I Samuel 2:30): “For to those who honor me, I accord honor; those who scorn me shall be demeaned.”
-Pirkei Avot 4:1
May we make teshuvah and repent of our failings before God, then pursue the path of Messiah as he and he alone has set it before each of us. Amen and Amen.
Addendum: Sadly, this blog post did nothing to resolve conflicts and in fact seems to have added fuel to the fire. Thus, I’m forced to write a “part three” to this series. Please see Briefly Revisiting Gentiles and the New Covenant for details.
I’ve heard it said that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who define themselves by what they’re for, and those who define themselves by what they’re against. I know it’s really more complicated than that, but if you’ve spent any amount of time in the blogosphere, it might seem just that simple. I sometimes get the feeling that the Internet was created to assist the latter sort of person to quickly, easily, and sometimes anonymously express their opinions about who and what they oppose.
I try to define myself by what I am for and generally post blogs on whatever happens to be rolling around inside my skull at any given point in time. I also have participated in debates about the relative merits of Christianity, Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and Hebrew Roots (I’m using these terms in the most general way possible). I want to talk about some of the differences between certain groups, primarily Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots but first, I’d like to provide some links that quickly define Christianity and Judaism just to be able to set them to one side.
The next set of definitions are based on well over a decade of experience in the Hebrew Roots movement. Not everyone is going to agree with me, but as I’ve suggested, that’s the nature of the blogosphere and probably human nature as well.
Nearly a year ago, I wrote a blog post called What is Messianic Judaism, so you can refer back to that for additional details, but as far as a thumbnail sketch goes, the following should serve fairly well.
Messianic Judaism, in its ideal form, is a stream of Judaism that operates alongside the other branches of Judaism such as Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and so on. It’s principle difference is the belief by the Jewish adherents within that stream that Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth, as we see him in the Apostolic Scriptures, is the prophesied Messiah, who came once to redeem humanity from sin, and who will come again to liberate Israel, restore the captives to their Land, and usher in an era of worldwide peace.
In its current form (again, I’m speaking generally), the majority of members of Messianic Jewish congregations are non-Jews who have chosen to come alongside the Jewish believers while maintaining the distinction between Jews and Gentiles worshiping within a Jewish context. Messianic Jewish groups are led by the Jewish membership, and established by and for Jews in Messiah. Additionally, like other Jewish streams, many traditional and cultural practices are upheld, such as common halachah observed by many religious Jews. Both Torah and Talmud are studied, the traditional festivals are observed, observance of a Saturday Shabbat is practiced, and worship services are what would be found in any synagogue setting.
Hebrew Roots is a general umbrella term defining groups of primarily non-Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus) who adopt some Jewish/Hebraic religious practices and traditions to varying degrees. There are a number of sub-sets within Hebrew Roots, the two primary groups being:
One Law: This group tends to practice what they call “Messianic Judaism” and believes that the New Testament supports Jewish and non-Jewish believers having no distinctions in identity and practice. In the ideal sense, it makes no difference if the groups are organized and operated by Jews or Gentiles, although the vast majority of One-Law groups are almost always Gentile driven. One Law groups distinguish themselves from Messianic Judaism and the other Judaisms by a general dislike if not disdain of anything that isn’t “written Torah,” although it is impossible for them to practice any religious, synagogue-like service without borrowing heavily from Jewish tradition. One Law groups also tend to dislike if not disdain the traditional Christian church and claims that Christians are universally “anti-Judaic” and even apostate.
Two House: This group tends to believe that non-Jewish people who are attracted to Judaism and the Torah are the descendants of the “lost ten tribes” of Israel and that God has supernaturally inspired them to return to a Jewish/Hebraic worship practice and lifestyle. They do not believe that non-Jewish Christians have the same obligation to the Torah as Jewish people do, but they believe that, because they are “Israelites,” they are not truly non-Jewish, and therefore are part of the modern Jewish people. A different stream of two-house doesn’t literally believe that they are the biological descendants of Israel, but that they are spiritual descendants and thus not really Gentiles.
I want to make clear that my definitions are extremely general and within those two groups, there are multiple (probably hundreds) variations of belief and practice. Also, “Hebrew Roots” can include any congregation of Christians (though most won’t claim that particular label), that incorporate some “Jewishness” in their religious lives. This could include church services that use certain Hebrew words, keeping a “kosher-style” diet based on Leviticus 11, wearing kippot and tallitot during services, but not necessarily believing that the full yoke of Torah is incumbent upon them, let alone any significant number of traditions. The one element that unifies all Hebrew Roots groups is the belief that something went wrong in traditional Christianity, usually its historic rejection of the Jewish/Hebrew identity of Jesus and his teachings. The label “Hebrew Roots” is used to separate this group of non-Jewish believers from what they see as the flawed theological, doctrinal, and cultural identity typically associated with the “Christianity” label.
Just to give you an idea of how some Hebrew Roots groups define themselves, I culled the following comments from a One Law blogspot:
As for Seventh-Day Adventists…don’t know much about them except they are Christian and, therefore, anti-Judaic.
In short, the Christian message to Jews is anti-Judaic: “Stop practicing Judaism!”
Yeshua kept the Law, but not any form of Judaism.
Christians believe that the Sinaitic Torah has been abolished; Messianics believe it is valid. Christians believe that the New Testament is anti-Judaic; Messianics believe that the Apostolic Writings are pro-Judaic. And there are divisions with the system of Christianities and also within the Messianic movement. These are all caused by certain convictions.
Are these convictions worth dividing over?
I believe so. We can’t build Messianic communities in the same way that Christians build their communities.
Admittedly, these comments were taken out of context (I added the emphasis because it was apparently missed before), but as you can see, they communicate a less than complementary attitude toward any form of Christianity and sometimes Judaism (although arguably, each and every one of the non-Jewish followers in this movement are Christian by definition).
Now that I’ve got all that out of the way, what good can I say about Hebrew Roots? It’s not a matter of whether or not I agree with their basic doctrines. What we all share is faith in Jesus Christ. In that sense, Christianity, Messianic Judaism, and Hebrew Roots have a common Messiah and thus a common bond. Where we differ is how we conceptualize the meaning of the Messiah in our lives and what we believe our response should be to him and to the human beings around us. Probably thousands if not tens of thousands (or more) books, blogs, and websites have been created and dedicated to waging the “war” between Messianic Judaism vs. Hebrew Roots, or Hebrew Roots vs. Christianity, or Christianity vs. Messianic Judaism. I don’t want this to be another blog post carrying on the battle.
I’m not saying I won’t complain again, but I want to take this opportunity to say that in spite of our different outlooks, we must admit that we have things in common as well…all of us who claim the name of Christ, though others call him Messiah.
We believe in the God of the Bible. We believe that all of the Bible is “inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). We believe that Jesus (Yeshua) is the Messiah spoken of in the Jewish prophesies, that it was necessary for him to come once to redeem us from sin, and that he’ll come a second time to establish the Messianic Kingdom and bring world-wide peace. We believe that Jesus taught from the Torah and the Prophets, and that we all have a responsibility to follow teachings such as feeding the hungry, clothing the unclothed, visiting the sick, comforting the grieving, and performing many other acts of kindness as “the weightier matters of the Torah.”
Hebrew Roots folks also uphold the “Jewishness” of Jesus and his Apostles, the continued authority of Torah, the continued Jewish practice of Paul, of Paul not teaching against Torah, the continued vital importance of the Jewish people and Israel in God’s plan. Traditional Christianity isn’t as good at recognizing this and although some of the details between Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots differ, we all should recognize what we hold as common beliefs.
But as long as we continue to define ourselves by who we oppose, we will always be stuck inside our little silos and the only people we will ever talk to is ourselves. One of the reasons I chose to return to a church worship setting is that I didn’t want to get stuck in a silo. I wanted to talk to people who didn’t always think like me, in order to build bridges, share information, and contribute to mutual learning “across the aisle.”
Given my regular meetings with my Pastor and some other relationships I’m nurturing within the church I attend, I think I’m headed in the right direction. Nothing is perfect, and sometimes I become frustrated and discouraged, but overall, I’ve been able to express a number of my opinions and beliefs and not only have I not been given the boot yet, but some people seem authentically interested in continuing our dialog.
That wouldn’t be possible if I took the attitude that anyone who isn’t like me or who doesn’t think or believe as I do must be “bad.”
I once heard President and Founder of First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) Boaz Michael say (this isn’t an exact quote) that hitting someone over the head with a Torah scroll won’t give them a different insight into the Torah. We can’t just beat people up with our beliefs. Plenty of atheists complain that Christians are hitting them with their Bibles in their evangelical efforts and guess what? Hostile or aggressive behavior doesn’t change people. You can’t yell at someone as an effective method of convincing them your position has merit. You certainly can’t inspire someone to listen to you if you call them names and denigrate their faith and their worship context.
But we all do that all the time.
While I agree there are some lines in the sand I am not willing to cross, I also must admit that it is important to acknowledge good in someone when you see it, even if you don’t agree with that person on other occasions. In the blogosphere, we all get caught up too much in being theology police. Building the road to accepting each other as members of the body of Messiah requires a willingness to talk to people who are different than you, and to listen to them as well. You may never come to a place where you will always agree on everything, but you may build a place where two people who both love Messiah can get together and share who they are with each other. Once you do that, who knows what you could end up learning and building upon the foundation you’ve started?
Every person you meet has a wellspring deep inside.
If you can’t find it, your own wellspring needs clearing.
Remove the rust from your shovel, sharpen its blade, and dig harder and deeper.
-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson Chabad.org
Addendum: August 8, 1:15 p.m. Mountain Time: Peter, the person who commented below, chose to take our conversation back to his blog. To be fair, I thought it was important to display the continued results of our dialog which can be found in the comments section. I see we have a long way to go.
Gentiles in Messiah have been transformed by Yeshua’s redeeming work and, as we shall see, are more than just mere Noachides or first-century God-fearers. Those of us from the nations should be proud of who God created us to be. We have an important opportunity to be a light for HaShem and his kingdom that only we can be. Together with our Jewish brothers and sisters in Messiah, we must work towards establishing Messiah’s kingdom and the rule of Torah, while at the same time accepting our own unique roles. At the same time, some may wonder whether it matters if a person is called a Jew or a Gentile.
Aren’t we all one new man in Messiah? Doesn’t the Torah say that there shall be one law for both the stranger and the native-born alike? In the next chapter, we will consider the context of those passages that seem to apply the same standard and obligation of Torah law to both Jews and Gentile believers.
This book just became available from First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) but I managed to get my hands on an advance copy last week at the FFOZ Shavuot conference, so I was able to read it several days ago. The first thing I thought of when I finished chapter one was the 1992 Newsboys pop song I’m Not Ashamed (boy, it was good to hear that song again). Of course the song focuses on Christians who are hesitant to share their faith in a world dominated by secular values, but I applied it to how a lot of non-Jews in the Messianic movement seem “ashamed” or “embarrassed” just to be Gentiles in a Jewish religious context. I’ve met more than a few non-Jews in the movement who somehow feel that being a Gentile just isn’t good enough. They seem to think that being Jewish is where the “action” is.
I’ve already written about the absolutely fabulous role that Gentiles play in God’s plan in the redemption of national Israel and the return of the Messiah (see Redeeming the Heart of Israel, Part 1 and Part 2). That means I certainly believe we have no reason whatsoever to be ashamed, embarrassed, or put off about not being Jewish and still worship and honor God in Messianic Judaism. Nevertheless, these emotions are ubiquitous among Gentiles in the various flavors of Messianic Judaism. I suspect this is the motivation, conscious or otherwise, for some Gentiles to be attracted to either the One Law or Two-House theologies (although I know this isn’t true of everyone in those two traditions), each of which require some “equalization” of Jews and Gentiles within Messianic Judaism though a process of homogenization of Jewish and Gentile distinction.
About the only other “cure” (besides just getting past this insecurity and being delighted in who God made you to be) for this condition among some (but far from all) Messianic Gentiles, is to leave the Messianic movement entirely, abandoning faith in the Jewish Messiah King and converting to some other form (usually Orthodox) of Judaism. This is pretty much “throwing out the baby with the bath water” and our movement has been torpedoed (yes, I said “our” since even though I’m a Christian, I can still embrace Jesus as the Jewish Messiah within his correct context) on multiple occasions by people who are struggling with personal faith and identity issues.
I must admit, I can hardly be critical of these folks since more than once I’ve been severely tempted to “throw in the towel” myself, not only in terms of the Messianic perspective, but as far as any faith tradition at all. This life can be miserably hard and lonely and it would be easier to follow the path of least resistance and to either join and blend into a traditional church or just forsake Jesus altogether and enter into the masses of the secular herd.
But I just can’t make myself do it. I can’t make myself walk away. Some incredible drive keeps pulling me back, like an enormous elastic band holding me to the center of God so that I can only run so far away from Him before being snapped back.
The marketing material for Toby’s book wasn’t available from FFOZ when I originally wrote this “meditation,” so my full review won’t appear for the next day or so. I will tell you though, that the direction this book takes dovetails quite nicely with FFOZ’s current and future vision and frankly, it works very well with my vision, too.
Like many Christians who have been involved in the Messianic movement for a while, I’ve gone through the “developmental phase” of almost hating being a Gentile and longing to discover some hidden “crypto-Jewishness” in my genealogy. I never found any, which is fortunate, because if I did, it would have robbed me of the opportunity to discover that God loves Gentile Christians, too and that He has a very specific and incredibly vital role in His plan just for us.
But the most important gift I received over the past week that I want to share with you, is that we don’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed because we’re not Jewish. We don’t have to be jealous of envious of Jews and their unique covenant relationship with God. We have something that is better even than sons and daughters. We have the right to be called God’s sons and daughters. We have the right to be the precious crown jewels among the nations.
I’m not ashamed. You don’t have to be either.
Addendum: I’ve been reminded recently that there are many congregations of non-Jews in Hebrew Roots who are not looking to create their own “Judaism.” Instead, they seek to express their worship and devotion to God in a manner that acknowledges the Jewishness of Jesus. If that’s you and you are perfectly fine being a Gentile Christian in a Messianic Jewish or Hebrew Roots congregation, then this blog post may not be speaking to you. That’s OK, too.
The book of Revelation describes New Jerusalem as having twelve gates named after the twelve tribes of Israel. Through which gate will you enter?
The Two-House movement teaches that many modern Christians are in reality descendants of the ten lost tribes. Its followers consider themselves ethnic Israelites. The idea that anyone might be the biological descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and therefore entitled to the promises of God, is inherently attractive. The emotional and apocalyptic appeal of Two-House theology is obvious.
Boaz Michael, a leading voice in Messianic Judaism, looks at the history of the movement and examines the key biblical texts under dispute. Using the most recent scholarship about Gentile identity in apostolic theology, his book introduces a balanced alternative to Two-House theology. Twelve Gates welcomes Gentiles into the commonwealth of Israel, the New Jerusalem, and the Messianic Jewish movement.
This is one of the “secret, unpublished books”I quoted from but couldn’t talk about before. Now I can, so I’m publishing my review. This book is really interesting, but probably not for the reason you think it is.
First off, the book was written by Boaz Michael, the Founder and President of First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ). I’m only drawing attention to this fact to say that I will not accept any comments made on this blog post that are for the specific purpose of “Boaz bashing.” If you want to comment about my review and the potential implications of this book, please be thoughtful and respectful. As the blog owner, I will remove any comment I deem offensive. Thank you.
On the surface, this is a book providing a critical analysis of the foundations of the two-house movement. For those of you unfamiliar with this perspective, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:
Two House Theology comes from the idea that the “House of Judah” in scripture refers to Jews, and the “House of Israel” refers to the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, or Ephraim. Where scripture states the House of Israel and Judah will again be “one stick” (Ezekiel 37:15–23), it is believed to be referring to the End Times, right before Jesus returns, that many of those descended from Israel will come back to Israel. This theology postulates that the reason why so many so-called gentiles are coming into Messianic Judaism is that the vast majority of them are really Israelites and just don’t know it yet. They believe a majority of the people who considered themselves as gentiles coming into Messianic Judaism are those of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. Like One Law groups, the Two House movement appears at first glance to have much in common with Messianic Judaism because of their belief in the ongoing validity of the Mosaic Covenant. While much of the Two House teaching is based on interpretations of Biblical prophecy, the biggest disagreements are due to inability to identify the genealogy of the ten lost tribes.
What I really love about this book though, isn’t its coverage of the two-house movement, but its treatment of a topic near and dear to my heart: the identity of non-Jews in discipleship to the Jewish Messiah. In other words, “me,” or to be more complete, everyone out there who is like me, Non-Jewish people who are drawn not only toward the God of Israel, but the perspective of Israel on God. This is crystallized in the conclusion of Boaz’s book:
The prophets of Israel recognized that when the Gentiles began to attach themselves to Israel and to Israel’s God, not as members of Israel or usurpers of Israel’s destiny but as sympathetic worshippers of the God of Abraham, it was a sign of the coming redemption (Zechariah 8). It was a boon for the Jewish people. Paul understood that if he was successful in his ministry to the Gentiles, it would cause the Jews to see his ministry in this light, and they would, as a result, accept Jesus as the Messiah of Israel and initiate the resurrection from the dead (Romans 11:12, 15). Paul could taste the closeness, the imminence of this event even in his day; how much more should it ignite our hearts with passion today!
Messianic Jews and Christians who are sensitive to their Jewish roots stand at two ends of a great bridge across which Christians receive the greatness of the Torah and the centrality of the Jewish people in God’s redemptive plan, and across which the Jewish people can see, for the first time in untold centuries, Jesus as a legitimate Messianic candidate. When everyone on both sides of the bridge understands their role and the eschatological significance of their very existence, this interchange can benefit everyone.
The majority of Twelve Gates is devoted, not to the two-house perspective a such, but to the matter of Gentile identity. To the casual reader, it may seem as if the book is unbalanced and loses its focus halfway through its own narrative, but I know from talking to Boaz that the emphasis on Gentile identity is deliberate. It’s impossible to talk about two-house without addressing the Gentile identity issues because, if we non-Jews who are drawn to the Torah and Judaism are not “the lost ten tribes,” then who are we and why are we swimming against the current of traditional Christianity?
Boaz’s answer is simple, elegant, and thoroughly satisfying, at least to me. No, I won’t reveal it here, but instead, I encourage you to purchase this book and discover it for yourself. It surprised me that Boaz took this particular direction in his writing and addressing two-house, and I’m very glad he did, because it quiets some of the disturbing voices I’ve been hearing about who I can and can’t be in relation to the King of the Jews and to God.
For those of you who support or are sympathetic to the two-house movement, rest assured that this isn’t a “two-house bashing” book. Knowing Boaz as I do, I didn’t think he would write it that way, but I’m sure there are a few folks who are thinking that Twelve Gates is just a way for FFOZ to discount and disrespect the sincere beliefs of those Gentiles out there who claim the spiritual and ethnic inheritance of Ephraim and Manasseh.
That’s not to say what Boaz writes will be popular among two-house proponents. Certainly, there will be those who will deny Boaz’s assertions and people who will feel wounded by this book, even though its approach is quite gentle.
But if you’re looking for a straightforward and honest treatment of two-house from a “Messianic Jewish” perspective, I really think you should read Twelve Gates. As I said before though, for me, the two-house content is secondary to what the book really says to me.
The Bible teaches that in Jesus, “the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body” with the Jewish people (Ephesians 3:6), and “fellow heirs with Christ” Himself (Romans 8:17). The point of the vision of the New Jerusalem is not to exclude the non-Jews from the city; rather the gates of Israel stand open to the Gentiles, beckoning them to enter into the eternal reward that God has prepared for His people. The vision of New Jerusalem is not one of exclusion but inclusion, as it says, “the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day…They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the Gentiles.”
It says that though we are not all the same in function and purpose, we will all walk into New Jerusalem together as fellow disciples of the Master and fellow heirs of the Kingdom of God. It’s a book carrying the message, not of division, but of unity and the love of God. I said before that Boaz’s book pleasantly surprised me. Maybe it will surprise you, too.
"When you awake in the morning, learn something to inspire you and mediate upon it, then plunge forward full of light with which to illuminate the darkness." -Rabbi Tzvi Freeman