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Ruminations

Rumination #49: How can the followers of Messiah make Israel jealous?

In Romans 11:11-14, Paul says that G-d will use Gentile believers to make Israel jealous. If you were to visit any Messianic congregation in the world today, you might wonder if possibly the reverse of this is true. You might think that, by what appears to be Gentile Messianics' "Jew wanna-be" behavior, it shows that Gentile Messianics are jealous of Israel. Of course, in some Christian circles they make that very point, that Messianic believers have it backwards. But of course, they are focusing on the wrong aspect of "jealousy." Yes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but Gentiles that have embraced the roots of their faith are motivated not by the green-eyed monster, but by love and zeal for HaShem.

Traditionally, Christianity has considered that all Jews everywhere are somehow jealous of the Christian life. With some exceptions, that has not proved to be the case. Certainly all Israel is not jealous in any way of Christianity. Although Christianity is rightfully secure in knowing their Messiah, Israel is content to wait for their own rather than be jealous of Christians. Which begs the question again: How can the followers of Messiah make Israel jealous?

Maybe we are focusing on the wrong meaning for the word "jealousy." The word Paul uses in Romans 10 and 11 is the Greek word "parazeloo" which literally means "from zeal or envy." In English, zeal and envy are not even remotely related, but in Greek the same word can be used for both. In the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, parazeloo is most often rendered from the Hebrew "kana" [zeal]. Is it possible that Gentile believers could be making Israel zealous? That, beloved, is what I believe is happening and will happen to an ever greater extent as more and more Gentiles follow their Master, Yeshua, into reverence for, and obedience to, the commandments of the Almighty.

Beloved, there are people on three sides now that tell Gentile believers that they should not be crossing those Jewish "lines of identity." Normative Judaism considers it an abomination for Gentiles to dress, eat, and live as "Jews." Some in Christianity mock those same Gentiles as "Judaizers" and "legalists." Within Messianic Judaism there are now those that use inviting language to Gentiles, but in the end discourage and even forbid them from the "Jewish" commandments. What a shame. I believe that the best testimony of the Gospel is that Jew and Gentile are made one. One King, One People, One Torah.

Invariably, when less religious Jews observe Gentiles embracing Judaism as a matter of their discipleship to Messiah Yeshua, they are made zealous themselves. As in every case, the commandments of HaShem, when lived out, are the best testimony of our wise G-d. No number of tracts, sermons, or street corners can compare to this:

Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as HaShem my G-d commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." For what great nation is there that has G-d so near to it, as HaShem our G-d is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this Torah which I set before you this day?"
Deuteronomy 4:5-6

Parashat Va'yeilech - 'And He Went' (Deuteronomy 31:1-30)

The title for this parasha comes from the first word of verse 1:

Va'eilech Moshe vay'daber et ha-de'varim ha'eleh el-kol Yisra'el

Then Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel.

Deuteronomy 31:1

Moses is about to say, "good-bye." Our year-long journey through the Torah is drawing to a close. Like the generation standing on the Plains of Moab about to go into the Promised Land, we have a lot of history behind us. Like them, we have been reminded of our abject failure in faithfully following HaShem. And if that is not enough, we are presented with this week's parasha to make us feel even worse... At least that is what we are often led to believe.

Throughout the book of Deuteronomy Moses has alternated between outlining the responsibilities of these Covenant people - and the terrifying prophecies of their future failure, and the curses that accompany their sin. If we are not careful, we will fall into the same despicable pit of spiritual snobbery as so many Bible commentators have. So many of history's most notable theologians and commentators have read these passages and concluded that:

All in all, they seem to have learned nothing from the "Old Testament" (as they put it) other than the fact that they are glad they are not Jews living in such a "dark dispensation" as some put it. And in that state of spiritual snobbery, they may have missed much of the point.

Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were immersed into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Messiah. But with most of them G-d was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Messiah, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
1Corinthians 10:1-12

Let's briefly look at a few things that Paul is trying to tell us in this passage.

We are not under a different standard, but the same standard. We are not reading about the "mean god of the Old Testament versus the nice god of the New." The account of the people who died in the wilderness was written as an example so we would not do as they did. They all had an apparent "spiritual experience" - they were immersed, they drank of spiritual drink, they appeared to follow Messiah. They were not as they appeared. Why? Their lives did not reflect their "spiritual experience." Notice their faults:

They were all "members" of the community of faith, Israel. They were not all as they seemed. Notice that nowhere does Paul say that their failing was in "keeping Jewish Law" (as our traditional commentators keep incorrectly identifying the Torah of HaShem).

Of course, so many traditional commentators treat the Torah, the Law, as a sort of punishment for Israel because of their hard-heartedness. In their approach, the Torah of HaShem as "Jewish Law" is to be explained away with all manner of theological machinations like dispensationalism, bilateral ecclesiology, or juristictionism. In so doing, they are doing the very thing that Israel sinned in - not taking G-d at His Word, and by not walking obediently after Him. In one breath they criticize Israel for not obeying G-d because of their "hard-hearts," and in the next breath they say, "Come on, eat some ham on Easter! You are not under the LAW." Such malice and hatred is stunning.

Instead, what does the traditional commentator take from the example of those who died in the wilderness?

"Whew, sure is a good thing that G-d lowered the bar!"
Or
"Aren't we glad we aren't like those hard-hearted Jews."

Beloved, G-d did not lower the bar, and we all find ourselves of the same sinful stock.

His challenge to Israel on the Plains of Moab was not merely a depressing reminder of their failures - and a future account of their more complete failure. No indeed. You see, the book of Deuteronomy is not only a history of past failures and a prophecy of future ones - it is a prophecy of complete redemption. In past weeks we have seen this very thing - a repeated promise of complete redemption for Israel. Not merely a redemption from the slave masters of Egypt, Babylon, or Rome; but a redemption that begins the earthly Kingdom of Messiah. Now I know that most "Prophecy Conferences" only focus on books like Revelation, Daniel, and Matthew; but as such they are missing the grand-daddy of them all: Deuteronomy.

We would do well not to take verses of Deuteronomy out of context, and to always remember that there is an ultimate end to the back and forth between obedience and disobedience. Watch the see-saw of emotion here in this week's portion:

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them [people of Canaan]; for HaShem your G-d, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.
Deuteronomy 30:6

Behold, you [Moses] will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them.
Deuteronomy 31:16

But where is the measurement of their failures (the Torah, the witness) to be found?

Take this Book of the Torah, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of HaShem your G-d, that it may be there as a witness against you.
Deuteronomy 31:26

Ah, yes. The witness and standard that speaks against their (and our) failure and sin is beside the Ark of the Covenant. Even with the Tablets within the Ark itself. Why? Because this is where it belongs - in the heart of the worshipper. At the very Throne of the Majesty on High. Beloved, the Torah is not banished from the Throne of Grace - it resides within it.

Without a doubt, it condemns the sinner. But without a doubt its provisions of redemption become the legal basis for our atonement through the Perfect Lamb, Messiah Yeshua. And as redeemed people, it is even now being written on our hearts as a witness of Grace. Remember what so many commentators have missed in the example of those who died in the wilderness: Grace is not permissive of sin. Grace is enablement to not sin. Grace is seen in the Torah being written on our hearts. This is one of the promises of the New Covenant.

Next week, we will glory in the Song of Moses. A song that was sung over 3,400 years ago on the Plains of Moab. It is a song that is united with the Song of the Lamb in Revelation 15:3. We would do well not to dismiss these words as so many do in theological arrogance. Until then, as you read this week's portion remember where this all ends up - in the Kingdom of Messiah Yeshua, with Israel acting as host to the nations.

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of HaShem's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of HaShem, to the house of the G-d of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the Word of HaShem from Jerusalem.
Isaiah 2:2-3

Prayer Focus for Va'yeilech - 'Arise HaShem'

As the Torah scroll is taken from the ark, before it is read each Shabbat in the synagogue, the following prayer is recited by the congregation. It comes from Numbers 10:35 and from Isaiah 2:2.

When the Ark would travel, Moses would say, "Arise HaShem, and let Your foes be scattered, let those who hate You flee from You." For from Zion the Torah will come forth and the word of HaShem from Jerusalem. Blessed is He Who gave the Torah to His people in Israel in His holiness.
-- Artscroll Translation

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Standing in Prayer with all Israel,

Rick Spurlock
Bereans Online
www.bereansonline.org

B"H