Blinded to the Torah: The Holy One’s Means to Preserve Israel

English: "A symbol that Messianic Jews be...

If you are a Christian, the last few weeks of posts may have been difficult to read through. Most Christians know in a vague way that the official Church and professing Christian nations persecuted the Jews. However, when Christians think of “the Jews,” they think only of those who rejected the claims of Christ and Christianity. It is shocking to realize that Christians also persecuted Jewish followers of that same Messiah with just as much fervor.

Many Christians are uncomfortable with those of us who reject the Christian label and insist on being called Messianic Jews instead. I remember being told, “If you believe in Jesus Christ, then you should be proud to be called a Christian!” Frankly, many Jews agree, and would much rather we stay comfortably on the “Christian” side of the divide. But since post-Apostolic Christianity is as much defined by its rejection of Jewishness as it is by its belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and since even today it is the expectation of Christian churches that Jewish believers will give up their old practices and culture and assimilate into the Christian culture, we must reject the “Christian” label if we are to be true to ourselves and our King.

However, there is another extreme that we must also reject. Four thousand years ago, when Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers, instead of blaming or rejecting them for their past sins against him, he instead said, “Now don’t be grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Gen. 45:5). In the same way, Messianic Jews must not remain bitter with their Christian brothers–and by this, I mean the true Christians, those who evidence a transformation in their lives by faith in Yeshua and the power of the Spirit–for past sins against Jews and the Torah. Just as in the case of Joseph, we must say, “What others meant for evil, God meant for good” (Gen. 50:20).

It isn’t as if the Christian rejection of Torah and Israel should have come as a surprise. Seven hundred years before Yeshua’s birth, Isaiah prophesied that the rejection of the Torah would be a stumbling block to the Jewish people: “He (the Lord) will be a sanctuary, but for both houses of Israel, he will be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense for the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Isa. 8:14). This description coincides with the description of the Messiah as a stumbling block elsewhere in the Scriptures (Isa. 28:16 and Psa. 118:22, cf. Rom. 9:33 and 1Pt. 2:8). However, what follows should really catch our eye:

Many will stumble over them, fall, be broken, be snared, and be captured. Bind the testimony. Seal the law among my disciples.  I will wait for the LORD, who hides his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of Hosts, who dwells in Mount Zion. (Isa. 8:15-18)

Many versions of the Bible render the first clause differently. The KJV, for example, renders it, “And many among them shall stumble,” which is also how it is taken by the Jewish Publication Society translation. Some versions, like the ESV, render the phrase, “And many shall stumble on it.The Hebrew of the phrase is, “V’ckhashli bam ravim,” with the key word bam meaning “in them,” “among them,” or “because of them.” It is therefore rendered, “And many will stumble over them” in both the Christian NASB and in the Jewish Artscroll Tanakh. And indeed, the rejection–vexing and sealing up–of the Torah by Yeshua’s Christian disciples has been a stumbling block for the Jewish people.

However, this too was according to the Eternal One’s plan, just as the initial Jewish rejection of Yeshua was: “I ask then, did they stumble that they might fall? May it never be! But by their fall salvation has come to the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy. . . their fall is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles . . . the rejection of them is the reconciling of the world” (Rom 11:10-12, 15). That is, Israel’s rejection of the Good News was necessary in order for the Gentile remnant to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven as anything other than subjects and slaves.

Olive_tree_4By the same token, the Ekklesia’s rejection of the Torah and the Jewish remnant has served to preserve Israel. Imagine if you will an alternate history in which that rejection had never taken place. What would have served to distinguish the Jewish people if the Church had kept the Sabbath, the Feasts in their proper days, and even distinctions like tzitzit (the fringes commanded in Num. 15:38) and kosher? Judaism would have been defined solely by what it rejected (Yeshua) instead of by what it affirmed. Such a “faith” simply could not have survived–and without Judaism, neither could the Jewish people have survived as a distinct culture and ethnicity.

The Holy One used Israel’s rejection of Yeshua to bring about the redemption of the Gentiles, and the rejection of the Gentile Church of the Jews and Torah to bring about the preservation and ultimate redemption of Israel. The Church has preserved the knowledge and teachings of Yeshua and his first disciples for the Jews, while the Jews in turn have preserved the knowledge and understanding of the Torah for the Church. In the end, just as we saw in the story of Ruth and Naomi, both need the other for the happy ending to take place.

Nevertheless, just as Israel’s rejection of Yeshua was both prophesied and necessary, and yet Israel was still judged and punished by the removal of the Temple and the diaspora among the nations, the Church’s rejection of the Torah and the Jews was both prophesied and necessary, and yet the Church was punished by the loss of the fulness of the Spirit and division, as I hope to explore in future posts.

Shalom.

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5 Replies to “Blinded to the Torah: The Holy One’s Means to Preserve Israel”

  1. >>Many Christians are uncomfortable with those of us who reject the Christian label and insist on being called Messianic Jews instead.

    You may have covered this elsewhere, but this statement makes me uncomfortable, Biblically speaking, because the ‘Christian’ label not only means ‘Christ-like one’; but is actually mentioned in Scripture. While I understand the witness that the term ‘Messianic Jew’ implies, why does it need to come with a literal ‘rejection’ of the ‘Christian’ label?

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    1. Good question, and probably deserving its own post with citations, so please pardon me for the completely off-the-cuff response below.

      “Christian” did not originally mean “Christ-like.” As used (all of three times) in the NT, it’s actually a Greek transliteration of the Latin Christianus. The suffix -ianus means “of the political party of” (like our modern “Republican” or “Libertarian”) making “Christianus” “of the political party of Christus.” If you read Acts and 1Peter carefully, you’ll see that in all three occasions that it’s used, it is a label applied to the followers of Yeshua by others, not one they applied to themselves–their own names for their group were “the Way” and “the Nazarenes” (ala “the Branches”).

      The name “Christian” as used by outsiders to refer to Yeshua’s followers was meant to be somewhat disdainful. However, it is the great gift of what we commonly call Christianity to take that which the world means to be shameful and turn it into a badge of honor, ala Paul’s observation that God has chosen the weak and foolish things of the world to overcome the strong and wise. Thus the cross, a symbol of ultimate humiliation and horror to the Romans, was quickly adapted by Christianity as its central symbol, and the name meant to say, “Ha! You’re the political party of a shamed and dead man!” the followers of Yeshua turned around to say, “No, we’re the political party of the Honorable and Living One!”

      And if that’s all it meant today, I would happily call myself a Christian.

      However, as I’ve spent the last several weeks documenting, starting in the 2nd Century and continuing to even now, Christianity has defined itself as a non-Jewish entity–not just in the sense of defending the rights of Greeks to remain Greeks, but in opposing the right of Jews to continue to be and live as Jews. It has actively persecuted those Jews in its ranks that have tried to remain a part of their own people: That’s why I entitled one of my series, “Judenrein (Jew-Free) Christianity.”

      Today, a Christian is not someone who simply follows Christ. He or she is someone who goes to church on Sunday, celebrates Christmas and Easter (or in some cases, no holy days at all) and possibly some other cultural feasts, enjoys pork spare ribs at the church BBQ, and possibly wears a cross as a symbol of their faith. By that definition–and argue it as you might, that’s how Christians have lived for thousands of years–I simply do not qualify. I go to synagogue and rest on the Biblical Sabbath, celebrate the High Holy Days given in the Torah and the feasts and fasts of the Jewish people, keep both Biblical kosher and those aspects of kashrut (Rabbinic kosher) which do not conflict with the New covenant teachings, and wear a kippah (yarmulke, if you prefer) and tzitzit as the symbols of my faith.

      When all Christendom repents of interpreting Paul and even Yeshua in an anti-Jewish, anti-Torah manner, when all Christians say of every Jew they meet, “This is my brother, this is my sister, and whether they ever return the sentiment or not, I will lay down my life for them,” and when every church says to the Jewish Christians within its walls, “You need to be a part of your people, and we will do whatever it takes to help you achieve that, even if it means kashering our own kitchen,” then I will be able to call myself “Messianic” with a Greek accent again. Until then, it would be grossly inappropriate and even misleading for me to do so.

      But I do not reject my Sunday-brethren–who I call my brethren in all sincerity. God has used Christianity to spread His Word throughout the world, and I honor that. The fact that there are horrible sins in the past of the Church no more leads me to hate you than the sins of Israel make me hate my own people. But it is because of that love and because of my desire to see a reconcilation between two brothers so long separated by hatred that I must be forthright about Christianity’s sins, both past and present, and call my Sunday-brethren to repent.

      Shalom.

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      1. Yeah, I need a post for tomorrow anyway (I’m still writing the next series and RL keeps getting in the way), so I think I’m just going to clean up my response to you. I’ll probably expand on my response to Calvinism and your specific question about God’s “divorce” of Israel for Sunday’s post.

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