by Eitan Shiskoff, Executive Director, Tents of Mercy Network
Though Passover passed by several months ago, we can always ask questions. The classic Passover Seder formula serves our purposes well. When the “four questions" are chanted by the youngest child at the table (the Sephardic tradition is for all assembled to ask the questions as a chorus), it opens the door to the wonder-filled story of our exodus from slavery. All the celebrants are exhorted to view these events “as if we ourselves were present on the night that we fled from Egypt." May the following four questions similarly lead to your personal entry into the redemption story God is currently weaving.
I. WHAT IS A MESSIANIC JEW?
I discovered my Jewish heritage while reading the New Testament account of the Last Supper. Before concluding that I got my wires crossed, think about the original setting of that meal. It was, in fact, the Passover Seder, the annual meal Israel was commanded by God to observe throughout their generations. For the first time I saw the "Old" and "New" Testaments as one interwoven book. I understood that living as a Jew, I would be following in the footsteps of Jesus and the apostles. They were thoroughly embedded in Israel. Yeshua, whom I had only known as Jesus, without much connection to His destiny as the King of Israel, had brought me back to a part of my family history from which I'd been cut off by assimilation.
Why is this even of value? Aren't we all one in Messiah? Yes, we are all joyfully one in Messiah. At the same time, God's eternal covenant with Israel is not to be set aside with the advent of her Redeemer. In Jeremiah 31:3 the Lord says "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love." We would expect Him to call His own nation into relationship with Himself as evidence of this love. When Yeshua says that He came for the lost sheep of the House of Israel there is no time limit. He indicates no endpoint to that assignment. On the contrary, He says "You will not see me again until you [Jews in Israel] say 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord'" (Matthew 23:39). He declares, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah [a far better translation from the original Hebrew context than the term "law"] or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17).
A Messianic Jew is a modern day disciple of Yeshua who is born Jewish (of either parent according to most Messianic Jewish leaders, though some hold with the rabbinic ruling of matrilineal descent, meaning if only one's father is Jewish he/she is not Jewish. This, of course would rule out Joseph's children, Moses' children, and Ruth's children). The Messianic Jew receives Yeshua as Messiah, Redeemer, Savior and King, the Son of God, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and inheritor of the everlasting throne of His ancestor King David. He also views the way of life given in Torah as the expression of God's continued covenant with the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
II. WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF REGATHERED ISRAEL?
When my wife and I first arrived in Israel as immigrants, nearly 20 years ago, there was no way we could have known the adventure we were in for. Considering our own flaws and foibles, there is no doubt that the hand of God is responsible for any success we have had in ministry since we arrived in Israel.
Our own aliyah represents a small part of our people's physical return to the land of Israel from long centuries of exile. This re-gathering proves that God did not break Covenant with Israel and that the Church can never replace God's ancient covenant people. "For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince [our own government], without ephod or teraphim [a functioning priesthood]. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days" (Hos. 3:4-5). The faithfulness of the God of Israel is displayed for all history. That He regathered of the Israelites who were scattered during the conquests of the Assyrians (720 BCE), the Babylonians (586 BCE) and the Romans (70 CE) proves it. In Deuteronomy 30:1-6 we learn that Israel will turn back to God while still in exile and then He will bring us back. We personally experienced this turning to the Lord - then He led us back.
The same promise is found in reverse order in Ezekiel 36:24-27. In this passage, God describes a turning back to the Lord with tender hearts after we have been restored to our land. This promise has been widely fulfilled in the thousands of new immigrants who have met Yeshua after arriving in Israel over the past 20+ years. Both promises are true. Both highlight a regathered Israel that precedes the return of Yeshua as King. He affirmed to the disciples that He would restore the kingdom of Israel, (Acts 1:6,7). He is Son, Savior and Lord, but He will return as King of Israel (Ezek. 37:24,25, 2 Sam 7).
III. WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE GENTILES?
I see Ezek. 37:9,10 as a body-wide calling: "Prophesy to the breath...and say...Thus says the Lord God: 'Come from the four winds, O breath and breathe on these slain that they may live.'" To prophesy to the bones is a forerunner's role. The prophetic intercessors (Jewish and Gentile) within the body of Messiah are to carry out the ministry of Ezekiel in this regard. Other ancient prophets foresaw the role of the Gentiles at the end of the age. Isaiah envisioned all nations flowing to the mountain of the Lord's house in the latter days (Isaiah 2:2-3). In Zechariah 2:10-11 the Lord declared "I am coming and I will dwell in your midst...Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become my people."
The bond between King Solomon and King Hiram is a wonderful example of covenant friendship between Jewish and Gentile lovers of David (the foremost type of Messiah). Their friendship led to the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. What a splendid foreshadowing of today's Gentile lovers of Yeshua who are drawn by the Spirit to take part in Israel's restoration!
Finally there is the remarkable and practical list in Isaiah's 60th chapter. He begins with the announcement that the Gentiles will be drawn to the light that will dawn upon Israel at age's end. Isaiah was looking into our day when he saw: Intercessory Prayer (60:10), Financing (60:5,9), Reversal of anti-Semitism (60:14), Assisting in the Physical Return (60:8,9) and Coaching/Equipping (60:16).
IV. "WHAT'S MY PART, LORD?"
The fourth question is for each of us to ask the Lord, trusting Him to direct us and use our lives in the redemption of Israel. In a sense, without this fourth question, the rest are academic. Your life, the content of your days, makes a significant difference. So, the real question is “What's my part? Where do you want me, Lord?"
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