I’m not a public person. I would far rather stay in the background and speak to people one on one, but time is getting short, and many need to hear this. At this point, I have an obligation to cry out. Please excuse me if I step on toes by not adhering to your personal pet dogmas about Hebrew names, etc. I’m going to use terms we have in common, that we all grew up reading. You know Whom I am talking about. Please set differences aside and hear me out.
Since I’m pretty much a stranger to social media, I will start with a brief introduction for a little background. I was born during Israel’s 25th anniversary celebration, in May 1973. I was exactly 5 months old, the day the Yom Kippur War broke out. I was born into a Christian family passionate about serving God, and came to know Him at a young age. I came to an understanding of Shabbat, the biblical festivals, and Torah at age 15, through my own independent study as a homeschooler, and began attending a Messianic congregation with my family at Shavuot in 1989. I studied Hebrew at university, and went to volunteer in Israel with a Christian service organization at age 22. I met my husband upon my return, and he proposed the day after Yom Kippur. We married in May 1998, just as Israel was celebrating 50 years. We have been blessed with 9 children along the way, whom we have homeschooled, and have been blessed to take three trips to Israel with them – one as independent tourists, two as volunteers with another Christian service group. This year, I turned 50 as Israel turned 75. Their celebrations have been my celebrations, and it’s hard to miss my assignment to grieve when they grieve, as well. My heart is crying now, with the families who live in the land.
On one of our trips to Israel, the Lord opened my eyes to the story of the prodigal son, and how it relates prophetically to these times. We have the same Father/Creator, but the gentile believers are the prodigal in the story, coming back into their Father’s household and accepting the “house rules,” after living in rebellion and squandering our inheritance, hanging on our Father’s grace and mercy for generations, while willfully refusing to walk in the Way He laid out for us. The Jewish people are the older brother, who have remained in the Father’s house the whole time. He made a covenant with them long ago, and told them, “all that I have is yours.”
Not that all with Jewish blood are perfect, by any means (they’re as human as we are), but they deserve our respect for carrying the title of “chosen,” in silent witness to the world, of God’s faithfulness. We can respect the observant to an even greater degree, for having been “in the Father’s house,” studying His word for hundreds of years longer than we ever have. They have strong traditions of in-depth education in His Word, and know it better than most of us do.
I see objections raised, to following “the Jews,” regularly. “They study the rabbis and Talmud, NOT the Torah! They are adding to it!” These accusations are cast without knowledge or research and grieve my heart. Orthodox observant children in Israel memorize the Torah in its original language before the age of 10. I have personally heard them singing the words of Torah together, during a school visit in Shiloh. How many of us can claim to have memorized the entire Torah, in any language? After memorizing something as a child, letting it form who you become, you will naturally want to move on to discussing what it means and how to apply it. That’s all the Talmud is – the record of Torah discussions and application of past generations.
We need to approach the Jewish people with humility and gratitude for centuries spent maintaining the Word of God for all of us. We need to not presume that our pitiful Strong’s numbers or year of Bible school Hebrew and Greek somehow give us an edge over a people with not only linguistic but cultural understanding from centuries of soaking in the Torah and applying it to their daily lives.
It ruins the story of the prodigal son, to have him come back and tell his big brother to step aside, because he understands their Father’s instructions better. So often, we are ungracefully getting in his face and telling him “you’re doing it wrong!” regarding the Feasts, Sabbath, pronunciation of the Name, calendar disagreements, etc.
In fact, it has gotten so bad that instead of returning as a servant like the prodigal son did, we don’t even recognize our brother’s role at all! I have heard people argue that our older brother has been disinherited because of abandoning the Word for the teachings of men, or just plain, “Those aren’t the real Israelites. They’re imposters!” As if they don’t deserve our love and support, even with what they are going through! This blind (and usually generational) anti-semitism needs to get out, so that the stick of Ephraim can unite with the stick of Judah. (Ezekiel 37)
The Torah movement is an unmistakeable move of God, waking up His gentile followers to the fact that His whole Word still applies, and we should be doing our best to live by it. It has been a glorious awakening for many. However, it has led to an identity crisis, because we are now caught between the Christian and Jewish worlds. Many joyfully went to learn from Jews at first, then got upset when rejected over the Messiah issue and decided they must be the “synagogue of Satan,” and we have replaced them in God’s plan. Others are so burned by being lied to by their prior religious system that any institution of religion is automatically suspect and to be avoided, in preference to every man doing what’s right in his own eyes (not looked on kindly by Scripture, in the contexts of Judges 17 and 21). God intended the Torah to be kept by community, and yet the Hebrew Roots movement continues the grand tradition of protestantism, through its habitual splits and splinters over inconsequential issues only tangentially related to the two greatest commandments, to love God and love your neighbor. (Matthew 22)
Some claim that we must be the physical descendants of the 10 lost tribes who were scattered abroad by the Assyrians. Umm… this may very well have some basis, but it’s not something to be proud of. Take a look at Kings and Chronicles. The tribes that broke off from Judah NEVER had a righteous king. They were idolaters from the get-go. Their “front man” was Ahab, for heaven’s sake! If being one of the lost tribes is your claim to fame, you probably have some generational junk to repent for. “Ephraim,”often used as shorthand for the 10 tribes of Israel, was infamous in Scripture for drunkenness and pride (Isaiah 28).
Others say “that nation can’t be of God, because they aren’t holy and righteous.” But the prophets clearly say that God will gather them together, and THEN cleanse them from their uncleanness (Ezekiel 36, Malachi 3).
The issue of who are genetically the “real Jews” is – sorry – ridiculous. The 10 tribes were scattered long before Yeshua visited, and He said nothing about those in Judea not being legitimate—just that they were forgetting the essentials of justice, mercy and faith, in their quest to be zealous and stringent with their tithes of spices. We need to take a critical look at ourselves. Could it be that we are doing the same at this major juncture of history? Arguing amongst ourselves over their legitimacy as a nation, refusing them our help and excusing our responsibility in a bout of Cain-like sibling rivalry? That, in itself, is cruelty.
People argue that the current nation of “Zionists” was set up by ungodly Rothschilds, so they couldn’t be the true prophesied return. Is God’s arm shortened, that He could not use an ungodly tool to accomplish His purposes? He has done it before. (See the story of Balaam, for one.) If He had to wait and only use people who were self-made righteous, He would never accomplish anything. “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10, Micah 7:2) Only Messiah is blameless. Isn’t it even more miraculous, and to His credit and glory, that He can use the foolish of this world to confound the wise ? (1 Corinthians 1:27)
As for the argument that some make, that all the trappings of Judaism today are Babylonian, have you read Jeremiah 24 lately? The GOOD figs are the ones carried away to Babylon and brought back to be re-established in the Land. Historically speaking, those who came back from the Babylonian captivity never again worshiped idols, as a people. Those who returned were Nehemiah, Ezra and others – who actually established many of the daily prayers that are still offered in synagogues three times a day. How many of us can claim that level of faithfulness? Those prayers are almost entirely scriptural truths that were determined by Ezra’s great assembly to be foundational to the faith. Yeshua said, ‘For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) Let those of us without sin cast the first stone! (John 8:7)
All of this leads up to my point: what is our role in the current conflict? If you find yourself in any way justifying the heinous evil of these cruel butchers, saying the Jews “deserve this,” or it “doesn’t matter” because they are illegitimate in their ancestral land that God Himself promised to return to them, you are guilty of violating the Torah’s command to not stand idly by when you see evil being perpetrated! (Leviticus 19:16) We are acting like Job’s “comforters” (no help at all, and only making things worse!).
Should we support Israel? Yeshua said we could know them by their fruits. Let’s take a good look at the fruit of both sides. Israelis have been left to largely fend for themselves, as throughout history, yet they come together as a family, along with Jews around the world, despite disagreements, in times of crisis. I saw a story about a non-kosher restaurant in Tel Aviv that is kashering their kitchen so they can serve their Orthodox brothers and sisters. When 6,000 families from the south needed safer places to stay this week, they put the word out, and had places for ALL of them in 45 minutes!! Israelis are some of the warmest, truest, deepest people I have ever known. They place cultural value on life, family, truth, and joy in the midst of heartache. When they are forced to carry out bombing runs, they always first drop leaflets warning civilians to get to safety. In times of tragedy, they strengthen each other and mourn together. One of their “non-biblical traditions” is to visit the homes of the bereaved and sit in silence with them, to offer support.
And we get on our high horses of Ephraimite pride and tell them to stop adding traditions to Scripture. Excuse me? I thought people were supposed to know we were Christians by our love!
Meanwhile, their enemies sneak in and slaughter civilians – to the point of beheading babies! – while we shrug and say, “It’s sad, BUT . . . “ I have even seen “believers” online, questioning whether Israel is “faking it”! Answer: NO! I personally know many there who are suffering, hiding in bomb shelters from rockets, but also going themselves or sending their children into the fray. One man I have met sent his 16 year old to dig graves all day yesterday! There wasn’t enough manpower to bury all the Jewish bodies. And Hamas is as usual, using human shields, endangering their own people by setting up in schools and hospitals.
(Side note: Does the slaughter of innocents ring a bell with anyone? It should, since it happened in both Moses’ and Yeshua’s babyhoods. How about the fact that there were 40 of them? This time IS biblically significant!)
The prophets are clear about what the role of gentile believers should be, in these last days:
“Thus says the Lord of Hosts: In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, and say, ‘Take us with you, for we have heard God is with you.’” (Zechariah 8:23)
“The gentiles shall come to you from the ends of the earth and say, ‘Surely our fathers have inherited lies, worthlessness and unprofitable things.’” (Jeremiah 16:19)
“Comfort, yes, comfort My people! says your God. Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2)
“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.’” (Isaiah 35:3-4)
There is a lot of misunderstanding, and our identity crisis is exacerbated by a lack of studying the prophets. People focus on Torah or the gospels and Paul (even Enoch) and forget the middle. We are not left out. These assignments are for us! All this accusation and disunity is actively fighting against our two sticks becoming one in His hand. (Ezekiel 37) Let’s do our best to prepare the way by reaching out in love for our brother, especially at this time of national heartache. We are grafted in. When the root suffers, so should we.
We should be humbly grateful if they accept our help in their desperation, as it is hard for them to trust anyone coming in Yeshua’s name. The past is riddled with heinous acts of “Christians” against Jews – crusades, pogroms, multiple national expulsions, and the Holocaust, to name just a few. (Don’t even get me started, deniers – you are believing propaganda!) Let’s redeem the name of our Savior in their eyes. He told us that the sheep will be separated from the goats, based on how we treat “these, my brethren.” (Matthew 25)
These ARE the descendants of the same Jews who were on the earth in His day. Is not their history of calamities and persecution evidence enough of the curses enumerated in Deuteronomy 27-28? Yes, they said, “His blood be upon us, and upon our children” (Matthew 27:25), and that has been used by the church as an excuse to persecute, but did you ever stop to think that His blood as Passover lamb should bring a blessing and protection, and not a curse?
Yeshua’s final prayer in John 17 is a cry for unity among His followers. In the story of Joseph, Judah (patriarch of Yeshua’s tribe) is the brother who stands up, takes responsibility, and offers himself as a substitute for his brothers. Can we just appreciate that? Let’s bring back Ephraim to oneness with Judah in humility, and honor our older brother by acknowledging his long-standing faith and the price He has paid to stay in the Father’s house. Thank God, it’s not our job to judge their level of “savedness.” We have enough to worry about, working out our own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)
For such a time as this, people! “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.” (Esther 4:14) We can sit by, breaking Torah by not helping in any material way, joining their enemies by our silence, or we can step up, humbly helping them through one more trial, while we have the chance. “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)
First published on the Fruitful Vine Wife Blog of Amy Mucklestone