Dan Juster

Director
Tikkun Ministries International
 
 
"Though there are important exceptions, Messianic Jewish understanding in Israel is weak, and there are huge differences among leaders and the people concerning the meaning of Jewish identity and calling."






 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
"The worship gatherings look like Vineyard Churches or Hillsong in Hebrew or Russian. Because the primary reason for our being in the Land is not understood, we end up with this identity confusion."
 
 

You would think that the identity of Messianic Jews in Israel would be a well defined and biblically based identity, resistant to all kinds of pressures both from Christian assimilation and from Jewish religious intimidation. Sadly, this is not the case. Though there are important exceptions, Messianic Jewish understanding in Israel is weak, and there are huge differences among leaders and the people concerning the meaning of Jewish identity and calling. This was documented in a doctoral dissertation in social anthropology by Keri Warshawsky at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Dr. Warshawsky is a Messianic Jewish scholar and a long-time friend. Her work should be a wakeup call to the leadership in the Land. The following observations are my own, but are confirmed by her dissertation.

No Consensus

Romans 11:29 states that the Jewish people retain both an irrevocable calling and giftedness. Amazingly, within the Israeli Messianic community, there is little depth of understanding as to what this means. Even if the leaders understand the significance of Romans 11:29, they have failed to convey it to their people. For many Messianic Jews in Israel, the primary meaning of Jewish identity and calling is to live in the Land promised to our ancestors, to speak Hebrew, serve in the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) and celebrate the feasts. Living in the Land, speaking Hebrew and serving in the army are important elements, but are not enough to create a foundational core of Jewish identity.

In Israel, the biblical feasts and the Sabbath are celebrated as national holidays. In many congregations the significance of these feasts and the centrality of their fulfillment in Yeshua is not emphasized. Just how these feasts are still important since they have been fulfilled in Yeshua is often unclear. There is little teaching on the continuing prophetic meaning of the Feasts and the Sabbath.

Not only do the feasts point prophetically back to what Yeshua has already fulfilled, they also point forwards to that which He shall fulfill in the future. When Messianic Jews understand this prophetic dimension, their celebration of the feasts serves an important intercessory function. Sadly, this is not understood by many Israeli Messianic congregations. In addition, the difficulties with transportation make it challenging for many congregations to have gatherings on the Feasts and especially on Yom Kippur. So the corporate dimension of congregational gathering is lost to many congregations.

Some groups are anti-rabbinic, believing that an authentic Messianic Jewish identity must be separate from rabbinic tradition. In contrast, there is a small minority which is extremely rabbinic in orientation. They seek to solve the problem of Jewish identity by fully embracing rabbinic tradition. Because the cultural identity of a people consists of the traditions, customs and beliefs identified by that people, whether good or bad, adopting rabbinic tradition seems to solve the problem of cultural dissonance within the Messianic community. As attractive as this answer is to some, it is not the right answer.

Expression of Jewish Calling and Identity is Lacking

Leaders whose backgrounds are rooted in Evangelical Christianity, in either its charismatic or non-charismatic form, lead most Messianic Jewish Congregations in the Land. The worship gatherings look like Vineyard Churches or Hillsong in Hebrew or Russian. Because the primary reason for our being in the Land is not understood, we end up with this identity confusion. Therefore our services do not express the sort of worship, thanksgiving and prayer that embraces our calling. Likewise, due to this lack of understanding, Israeli Messianics are not zealous to fulfill their Jewish calling. The majority realize that the Jewish people are to welcome Yeshua at the end of the Age, but do not grasp the full meaning of the priestly calling. The great danger is that the Messianic Jewish community will lack courage and motivation to fulfill their unique destiny in the will and purpose of God. In this weakness, some are tempted to leave Israel for better financial opportunities in the Diaspora. Because I have read the end of the story, I am confident that this situation will change. We will get things right in due time!

Messianic Jewish Identity is a Priestly Calling

The Jewish calling has a unique priestly application. The word priest carries the implication of intercessory mediation. It is part of our national-ethnic identity as a nation set apart among the nations. As well, all Yeshua believers are called as a "Kingdom of priests". But within this general calling to all believers everywhere there is a specific, complimentary calling for Messianic Jews. Messianic Jews are unique because they are included both in the priesthood of all believers and also within the national priesthood of Israel. In my short book, The Irrevocable Calling (I recommend obtaining a copy), I present the case that Israel's priestly calling includes Messianic Jews because only they are in a position to fulfill this role as representatives of Israel's Messiah.

The Messianic Jewish priestly call consists of three aspects. First, our preservation and unique Jewish way of life is a sign to the world of God's existence and faithfulness. Second, our way of life is a testimony that life is better in the Kingdom of God. Third, our life is a life of intercession that calls into being that which is portrayed in the Sabbath, Feasts and unique practices of Israel. The New Covenant Scriptures assume a fundamental understanding of this among Jewish believers in Yeshua. They do not focus so much on Messianic believers' priestly role, since most of the text is concerned with the establishment of the Gentiles in Yeshua. The writers are also concerned to keep the Gentile believers from the influence of legalistic teachers that would require them to live a full Jewish life.

I want to particularly emphasize this third aspect. Our worship and teaching is to show not only the depth of fulfillment of Jewish life in Yeshua, but the prophetic dimension that is found in the Sabbath and the Feasts. Each gives different emphases that dramatize the prophetic future that God has promised. Our life by faith "calls into being that which is not" as portrayed through these practices. We are in the Land so we may be a more effective prophetic witness and fulfill this intercessory role. Only when this important calling is understood will Messianic Jews take their full place in Israeli society with courage.

Rabbinic Judaism and Our Priestly Calling

I also believe that as the saved remnant of Israel (Romans 11:5, 16), we are to play a key role in correcting the traditions of our people that come from Rabbinic Judaism. The Bible commands us to give honor where honor is due and to honor our fathers and our mothers. It also teaches us to point out error and to depart from that which is not good. Rabbinic Judaism preserves much that is biblical. Many practices are good, beautiful and true and are coherent with the Bible. This includes many of the prayers, even though in spirit they anticipate a Messiah yet to come. It is our role to know enough about and participate sufficiently in our heritage to show our respect for what is good.

However, it is also our role to correct that which is not good, including hair-splitting legalism and law multiplications that are not in accord with Scripture. In addition, the biggest issue is Yeshua himself. Paul explains in Romans 10 that we Jewish people sought to establish our own righteousness and therefore failed to submit to the righteousness that came from Yeshua. Historically, we as a people group have refused to identify with Yeshua's death and resurrection and thereby be transformed. This witness and transformation is crucial in bringing our people to Yeshua. We have a priestly call to our own people that cannot be fulfilled unless we are part of our people and engage in this task with love and confidence. May God help us to pray and teach. We are working on it!

By Daniel Juster
Dan Juster leads the overall ministry Tikkun International Donate to Tikkun International.
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Comments
Comments:
11:43 29Nov12 Mark McLellan -
Great article! It is important for Messianic Jews to represent Yeshua to Israel. In addition, it is vital that Messianic Jews represent Israel to the Church in the nations. I also think it is important for Gentile believers to represent Yeshua to the nations they reside in and to the nations they have citizenship in. Even more important is that Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles display a practical unity in working, celebrating, and worshiping together in congregations that exalt Yeshua as the Messiah and keep the commandments of God (Rev. 14:12 Rev. 12:17). After all didn't Paul say something to the effect that what is important is not only Ethnic Jewish Status or Ethnic Gentile Status, but keeping the commandments of God (1 Cor. 7:19)? Thanks again for your insights and heart in these matters. May Tikkun be strengthened and used mightily in the years to come.

May we all come to value a practical unity in our celebration of Messiah and the commandments of God!

11:49 29Nov12 Lynn Chevalier' -
For this reason, I can not support the "Messianic Movement" even though I am Jewish. Not that I didn't give it a good shot. I had been involved since 1980 but was tired of the "how then shall we live" sermons and not much more.

  -- Dr Juster replies: The issue of the MJ movement is two fold. One is that we have to disciple in all of the basic aspects of New Covenant life. Few churches today are doing this well. Secondly, we have to be clear on the+meaning of Jewish calling because the Bible tells us that the growth and destiny of the saved remnant of Israel is important. We have many congregations that emphasize the whole council of God.

12:06 29Nov12 Linda Underwood-Willis -
Thanks be to Adonai for your offerings, vision for Kol Yisrael! We are in prayer always for wisdom, knowleage, courage, strenth and Divine appointment and opportunity, that you reach this world and see Glory come, Now and Forever ... Blessed in Messiah Yeshua's love!

13:47 29Nov12 ER -
These last months I have had reason to seek answers to the questions you address. I am grateful for your answers. I too believe in the priestly function of the Jews, as well as the priestly function of the church. What would the Jew, as G-d meant them to be, look like?

  -- Dr Juster replies: I have often imagined what Jewish expression in priesthood in the New Covenant would look like. It would be a people filled with the Spirit, who bring intercession and release the meaning of God's redemptive pictures into the world and point the way to salvation for the nations.

14:00 29Nov12 Jim Gallagher -
It is the most extreme privilege to proclaim the name Yeshua (Jesus) as my Lord, God, Messiah (Saviour), King of kings, Rabbi of rabbis. As a Gentile Believer, I will always be indebted to the Jewish people for the foundations of my faith and publicly say: "I love you my brothers and sisters in Yeshua, as well as all Jews who are yet to come to faith in our risen Messiah". The Lord bless you and keep you!

14:47 29Nov12 Dani -
I also think this identify confusion is an issue among Messianic Jews in the diaspora. Most Jewish believers outside of Israel seem to attend church, where their Jewish identity and calling is lost, as they assimilate and intermarry. And in Messianic Jewish synagogues, there are so many wonderful gentiles attending (we love and appreciate them, our brothers and sisters), but there is a need for Messanic Jews to come together, and serve Hashem as Jews, in vibrant, Torah observant, Spirit-filled and Yeshua-centered Messianic Jewish communities. May it be so in our Land Israel, and also wherever we live among the nations.

16:04 29Mov12 Wayne Talbot -
I am uncertain of what you mean when you write, "the feasts point prophetically back to what Yeshua has already fulfilled, they also point forwards to that which He shall fulfill in the future." Do you have a book or other source which explains these two stages of fulfillment? I suspect that this is a source of confusion for general Christian theology - Yeshua has fulfilled and therefore Torah commandments including the Sabbath are no longer binding, a position I strongly oppose.

Dr Juster -
This is covered in my little book The Irrevocable Calling and Israel the Church and the Last Days, a somewhat larger book. Generally, I think all of the feasts were only partially fulfilled in Yeshua's first coming and fulfilled does not mean to do away with but to bring to a fullness of meaning. There is more to come in them all. Passover looks to the final regathering of the Jewish people to the Land and for all nations to come into their inheritance by accepting Yeshua. There is a place for all. Shavuot looks forward to the establishment of God's law over all and to the outpouring of the Spirit over all the World. Sukkot is the feast of the Kingdom celebration over all the earth. Yom Kippur looks forward to world redemption in the blood of Yeshua and Rosh Hoshana to the second coming of Yeshua. Jewish life is calling for God to fulfill all these promises embedded in the Feasts.

17:13 29Nov12 Nathan Jacobus -
A very good explanation of an important topic, broken down into language we can all understand.

19:49 29Nov12 Terry Newman -
Exceptionally written. Clear and concise, leaves no room for misinterpretation. Understanding these principles is becoming more and more revealed in these the last days of the end times. Understanding and acting on this will bring the necessary unity to the body of Yeshua, both Jew and Gentile together as one new man. Yet as with G-d's word in direction showing the difference in duties for each.

04:05 30nOV12 CC -
Having just spent one month in Israel, and being there in The Pillar of Fire action, and spenidng time in Messianic communities I would largely agree with what you say. I spent a 12 day period on a tour organised by a congregation whose senior pastors, and they use that word, were Gentiles and whose wives were Jewish, there was a mixture of Messianic music and "Hillsong" type music and although they talked a great deal about the "one new man" there was little talk of what the Rabbis had written, except for one man who brought that into context. Later I spent time with a Messianic believer who instructed me on the priestly role of the believers, primarily the Messianic Jews. Not only is what you say accurate, but we Gentiles have totally missed the boat too.

  -- Dr Juster replies:

We have a lot of work to do!)

06:22 30Nov12 Brian Stinchfield -
The times,the culture,the history,the pride and the tradition are all connecting points to Jewish identity (mind and soul). However the Jewish calling is and will be clearly seen (understood) and adopted through the stand we all take in Jeshua. That is to say in His identity and calling. He has begun a good work and He will surely finish it. Using both Jew and Gentile.

07:49 30Nov12 OA -
We must never lose heart of the promises of GOD that He promises He will do. God is faithful to His covenant and He promises that all Israel will be saved. If He said it nothing can hold back His words. The fullness of the Gentile has not come in. The eyes of God's people have been blinded as it is written until such time. We are helpers one to another. The Gentile prayer should be that God open the eyes of His people that He may repent and return and they will be His people and He will be their God. The Jew should pray that God bring in the Gentile so that the fullness can come to completion and all the nations would worship before Him as the only True GOD.

  -- Dr Juster replies: Amen and amen. We Messianic Jews must pray for the international Body and its progress and the international Body must pray for the Messianic Jews. We must treasure the progress of both prongs of the Body.

20:31 30Nov12 Errol Francis -
What you are saying is that the messianic community should have the same identity and character as did the original first century believers in Yeshua. But that as the body of Yeshua begins to develop again in Israel it is building on the foundations of western church practice. I agree that is not good because for 2000 years there has been so much going astray. While some are into church renewal and restorations they have a huge way to go yet. The Messianic body should be ahead not starting from being behind and having to catch up yet again.

  -- Yes, but of course, it will take much time for us to discover that we are to live a distinct life as in the first century. replies:

02:17 11Dec12 Mark Swegler -
Fire of the Holy Spirit!


Also in this issue of the newsletter:
Moshe Morrison: The Chanukah Light that Illuminated the World
Eitan Shishkoff: Dirt Roads and Tender Hearts
Asher Intrater: Rainbow, Dove and Olive