We Must Never Forget

In many places we have lost our way. Old priorities forgotten, the luster of glory is dull, in need of loving care to be restored and to shine again. Something beautiful is just under the dust of neglect and the glimmer is not extinguished.

I wrote recently of the wonder and sense of purpose I felt and experienced all around in my earliest experience of Messianic Judaism. Perhaps I overstated the sense that it was a golden age. Surely we lacked a clear vision and I am thankful for the clarity that has come through maturing, which is manifest in the Hashivenu stream of Messianic Judaism.

But if in those early days we lacked clarity, we did not lack for hearing or sight. We heard and we saw something God was making clear.

I remember listening in awe to discussions of Jewish history. The principle idea is that God was at work in the history of the people of Israel. The birth of Israel moved us. The Holocaust was a challenge to our faith and yet the suffering of Jacob was readily compared to the suffering of Jacob’s greatest son. The story did not end with despair, but continued (and it continues) with rebirth and optimism.

Again and again I heard messages about the restoration, glorification, and vindication of the people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

As a convert to Judaism, I was a the time a Gentile. It did not occur to me that somehow in the wonder of all this prophetic beauty I should feel left out, unwanted. In fact, I was part of a group of Christians, Southern Baptists in fact, who were in awe over the same wonders of biblical foretelling.

We read Bodie Thoene novels. We watched Holocaust documentaries. We took trips to Israel and learned about the Zionist pioneers and the many remarkable people who gave birth to a nation. We read Deuteronomy 30, Isaiah 2, Ezekiel 36, Zechariah 12, and Romans 11. We received newsletters with teaching about the second Exodus.

And we believed that all Israel would be saved, in a certain generation (may it be ours), and saved by the name of Yeshua.

I don’t know what has happened. That idealism has been lost in many places it seems to me. Maybe the lingering decades have eroded hope in naive dispensationalist theories. Maybe fractious sub-movements of non-Jews have infected many with a subtle replacement theology. Maybe I’m just getting old.

The biblical texts have not changed. It remains a fact that before Israel’s exile was even a rumored reality, the prophet Moses foretold it: these things will come upon you, the blessing and the curse. Scattered to the furthest places under heaven, we could see that reality in the Jewish people as we thought about world Jewry, suffering, and hope. But another fact remains, from the same biblical passage: from there the Lord your God will gather you. And we talked a lot about that gathering. Some were convinced the exodus of Jews out of Russia was the fulfillment and that Messiah’s coming was imminent. Naive we were, but naively rapturous and content. The Lord your God will circumcise your heart, we read and we thought of the new birth Yeshua brings sealed with the Spirit of God dwelling inside.

It wasn’t just Messianic Jews who talked this way. It was also a sub-group of Christians.

And Messianic Judaism was, and I will insist on this bit of history, a movement about the restoration of the people of Israel in Yeshua. It was not about rediscovering Torah and certainly not about getting non-Jews to keep the Torah.

What a shame to see something so beautiful, pure, and resonant with biblical voices be lost to an identity crisis.

I’m glad that some of the early shortcomings of Messianic Judaism are being overcome. It wasn’t all goodness and light, of course. Mostly we failed to recognize that Torah is living and authoritative. Messianic Jews too often ate bacon and had gift shops open in the synagogue on Shabbat. Christian theologies of the Law, especially dispensationalist and Reformed understandings, were prevalent.

But if we circumcise our sons, grow in the tradition, restrict our diets, and sanctify our time, it is not enough. Someone said on this blog only yesterday, “I speculate there will never be a time, short of Messiah’s arrival or some other amazing thing from heaven, when the Jewish world embraces Messiah Yeshua en masse.”

Perish the thought that we have lost our way on this. The hearts of Israel will be circumcised. All Israel will be saved. Looking on the pierced Messiah, there will be a weeping revival of repentance. God will put his Spirit in his people, Israel. A heart of stone will be replaced with a heart of flesh. The Torah will be written on the heart and no Jew will need to teach his fellow about God for all will know him. And we are persuaded that the life, teaching, and redemptive actions of Yeshua the Messiah will bring all this about.

We must never forget.

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About Derek Leman

Rabbi, writer, Weight Watchers leader, blogger, geek. My main blog is DerekLeman.com/Musings and my health blog is LemansLoserBlog.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in Bible, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to We Must Never Forget

  1. rebyosh says:

    Derek,

    All I can say is, “AMEN!” We must never forget.

  2. judahgabriel says:

    You have one thing right: the original goal was not about rediscovering Torah. (Unspoken: not even for Jews.)

    Yet, Torah observance is a crux matter of Hashivenu and MJTI theology, which you adhere to.

    You don’t find this a problem.

    Neither do I find it a problem that gentiles drawn to Torah life are coming into the Messianic movement.

    This is not a conflicting goal, we haven’t “lost our way”, but rather, God has restored something in all his people. Gentiles drawn to this Torah lifestyle — it’s a move of God, part of Israel’s restoration, despite all these Messianic leaders scrambling to shoo gentiles back to the Church.

    • Judah, for a Jew returning to Mosaic Torah through Yeshua is part of teshuva (repentance). Therefore, it is an essential part of the salvific experience for a Jewish person coming to Messiah. The same cannot be said of a Gentile believer – he is never called to embrace Mosaic Torah as part of his repentance and salvation. I think your view of a Gentile relationship to Torah is tainted by your view of Gentiles as Israel (both as physical/lost Israelites and spiritual Israel reminiscent of some Christian theologies). Naturally, you would be opposed to Messianic Judaism’s focus on the Jews.

      • judahgabriel says:

        Whether Jews keep Torah (somethign you and I agree about) is an irrelevant here. Derek laments we lost our way, I’m only pointing out that “our way” didn’t include Torah at all, so it’s shameful he would exclude others whose vision also extends the original vision, just as his does.

    • Jeruz says:

      Agreed, claiming this is only a Jewish movement is false, God is doing something among the gentiles, and this needs to be acknowledged, heck, the whole Gospel and bible is Jewish, so if we are going to say a Jewish movement, Gentiles should have never been given the Gospel in the first place… God is restoring a remnant people, of both Jews and Gentiles. Trying to limit a movement of God is not going to solve anything.

      One thing Derek mentioned above “And Messianic Judaism was, and I will insist on this bit of history, a movement about the restoration of the people of Israel in Yeshua. It was not about rediscovering Torah and certainly not about getting non-Jews to keep the Torah.”

      Although this may have been the plan of man, God had bigger plans, and has not only been restoring Judaism back to its Messiah, but also Gentiles coming into the Jewish community and learning Moses… Is anyone really so blind to ignore this, or is it on purpose?

  3. judahgabriel says:

    >> Someone said on this blog yesterday, “I speculate there will never be a time, short of Messiah’s arrival or some other amazing thing from heaven, when the Jewish world embraces Messiah Yeshua en masse.” Perish the thought that we have lost our way on this.

    I was the guy who said that. But you omitted an important part, the next sentence:

    I speculate there will never be a time, short of Messiah’s arrival or some other amazing thing from heaven, when the Jewish world embraces Messiah Yeshua en masse. In the meantime, we work towards this goal.

    Another way of saying it is, we press on towards the goal, and God will have do the miracles. All Israel will be saved, and it will be a miracle from heaven.

  4. judahgabriel :
    “our way” didn’t include Torah at all

    It doesn’t matter, it was only a matter of time. Drawing back to Torah is natural for a Jew and it involves breaking away from the assimilation mentality that many Hebrew Christians acquired. However, Messianic Jewish Movement was and is a “Jewish” movement by definition, just as the Hebrew Christian Movement was a ‘Hebrew’ by definition. Removing “Jewish” part from the Messianic Movement is a great travesty committed by some on the periphery. The focus is and was always on the Jewish people, and in both cases the primary objective is the same – the restoration of the Jewish people to their Messiah. Everything else is a side issue.

    • judahgabriel says:

      Gene Shlomovich :

      judahgabriel :
      “our way” didn’t include Torah at all

      It doesn’t matter, it was only a matter of time. Drawing back to Torah is natural for a Jew and it involves breaking away from the assimilation mentality that many Hebrew Christians acquired. However, Messianic Jewish Movement was and is a “Jewish” movement by definition, just as the Hebrew Christian Movement was a ‘Hebrew’ by definition. Removing “Jewish” part from the Messianic Movement is a great travesty committed by some on the periphery. The focus is and was always on the Jewish people, and in both cases the primary objective is the same – the restoration of the Jewish people to their Messiah. Everything else is a side issue.

      The focus was on Israel and Messiah.

      No one’s saying, “let’s get rid of the Jewish stuff”. (If anyone is saying that, they’re lost.)

      What I’m asking you is, don’t mistreat gentiles that have been drawn to the Torah lifestyle. It’s a move of God among the nations, and is part of the restoration of Israel.

  5. Jeruz:

    You say that the plan God had for MJ was for Gentiles to “Gentiles coming into the Jewish community and learning Moses.”

    So, you admit it is a Jewish community? If so, you and I may have less of a problem than it appears.

    What does it mean to you that MJ is a Jewish community? What if a lot of non-Jewish people want to have a congregation that is Torah-observant? Do they need to find some Jews and tag along or could they start their own community?

    I ask this because, what I am trying to persuade “Messianic Gentiles” to do is either help this movement return to center (redemption, Messiah, all Israel being saved) or start communities for Torah-loving Gentiles. One or the other.

    It should be no problem for most Gentiles who have been for some time in MJ to change their priorities and get back on track. Torah-observance is a step along the way to something bigger. It is not a worthy goal by itself. In Judaism, Torah-observance is part of a covenant love relationship with God. Torah-observance is not equatable with God. God is doing something much bigger than getting people to light candles or eat kosher. It’s all important, but if you make the process the goal, you are not being faithful.

    So, most Gentiles in MJ believe in the restoration of the people of Israel in Yeshua and want to serve that vision. In my synagogue, I have a wonderful set of friends who “get it.” I hope you do in yours as well.

    Getting MJ back on track means finding the right ways to describe what we are about, getting past basics and doing the work, and understanding MJ as the Jewish congregation of Messiah. Remember, Paul and other Jews were in the Gentile congregation of Messiah. I am not against crossovers. I even think the case for many Gentiles being drawn to Israel’s ways is a good case (I think some of my Hashivenu friends sell it short).

    But if MJ Gentiles would like to see better relations with the leaders who are striving now to being MJ forward to its God-given task, then they should re-orient their priorities. You need to choose: is it Torah for the sake of building a better religion for Gentiles or is it Torah, prophecy, and unity in a movement dedicated to seeing the people of Israel restored through Yeshua?

    Derek Leman

  6. Judah:

    We have a lot more in common than it may seem. Let me affirm a few things.

    (1) I do not think the doctrine of Torah-obligation for Gentiles is a damnable heresy.

    (2) I do not think the doctrine of Torah-obligation for Gentiles makes someone unfit to belong in MJ.

    (3) I do think that those who wish to make MJ into a movement about Torah and not a movement about Messiah and the last days renewal of Israel are harming the movement and should leave and start their own Hebraic Roots religion.

    (4) I do think that many Gentiles, even with “Torah-obligation-for-Gentiles” theology can fit into the purpose of MJ.

    (5) I think that getting MJ back on track is something that will require dialogue, commitment, cooperation, and servanthood. It may take a whole generation.

    (6) I will be very disappointed when I am in my 60′s if MJ has not developed a stronger Jewish leadership, has not seen the increase in conversion of Messianic Gentiles who have been living as Jews for a decade or more, is not viewed by the Jewish world as a Judaism, and if it continues to proliferate anti-Church, cultic sects.

    Derek Leman

    • judahgabriel says:

      >> I do think that those who wish to make MJ into a movement about Torah and not a movement about Messiah and the last days renewal of Israel are harming the movement

      I see restoration of Torah as part of the restoration of Israel. Integral part.

      Regarding starting a new religion, isn’t some of the Hebrew roots stuff distinct from Messianic Judaism already? I realize both share the term “Messianic”…but I don’t think you or Gene or Carl would ever claim it’s the same thing. (In which case, maybe you’re just arguing for Messianic Judaism to exclusively own the term ‘Messianic’.)

  7. Jeruz says:

    derek4messiah :
    Jeruz:
    You say that the plan God had for MJ was for Gentiles to “Gentiles coming into the Jewish community and learning Moses.”
    So, you admit it is a Jewish community? If so, you and I may have less of a problem than it appears.

    Well first of all that was not all the plan, the plan ultimately is to restore Israel, it just so happens Gentiles are also part of that plan.

    What does it mean to you that MJ is a Jewish community?

    The religion of Messiah and of the Apostles is Jewish, Judaism, there is no other… I hope this does not offend others, but in a sense/way, Christianity is a illegitimate religion, it is founded and run by gentiles, thus the reason MJ started, Jews wanted to go back to the religion handed down by Yeshua and the Apostles. The apostles did not teach Christianity to anyone, not even Gentiles, instead Gentiles were taught Judaism and to join the Jewish community, not to go off and form/make up their own religions. Again, I am not trying to offend anyone, just giving my perspective and understanding.

    What if a lot of non-Jewish people want to have a congregation that is Torah-observant? Do they need to find some Jews and tag along or could they start their own community?

    As long as it is the same standard found in the Faith handed down by the Apostles, I see no issue with that, but making up their own religion is illegitimate.

    But if MJ Gentiles would like to see better relations with the leaders who are striving now to being MJ forward to its God-given task, then they should re-orient their priorities. You need to choose: is it Torah for the sake of building a better religion for Gentiles or is it Torah, prophecy, and unity in a movement dedicated to seeing the people of Israel restored through Yeshua?
    Derek Leman

    It is both, Gentiles can’t keep making up their own religions, either they follow a Jewish Messiah and Jewish Apostles, who gave them the message that they could be saved by the Messiah of Israel and thus also join the commonwealth of Israel or they are not part of it at all.

    We have to understand the apostles did not establish two different religions, one for gentiles and one for Jews, no, instead the apostles continued their original religion and made room/open the doors for Gentiles to join in… and when I say that I also mean the rules of the covenant, Torah.

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