“For it is unbecoming beyond measure that on this holiest of festivals we should follow the customs of the Jews. Henceforth let us have nothing in common with this odious people…We ought not, therefore, to have anything in common with the Jews…our worship follows a…more convenient course…we desire dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews…How, then, could we follow these Jews, who are almost certainly blinded.” Council of Nicea, 325 CE
This was an ordinance of the Catholic Church that distinguished the celebration of Passover from Easter. The separation of the Jew and Gentile was taking place insidiously over the past two centuries, but with the coming of Constantine the schism was decisive and final. In the prior decade Constantine forbade Jews from living in Jerusalem and ordered them not to proselytize.
Also at this time, Sunday became the day of rest, whereas before gentile believers had observed the Sabbath with the Jews on Saturday. Rick Chamberlain writing about this epochal period states
Nicea, with its theological anti-Judaism, laid the groundwork for anti-Semitic legislation of later church councils. The Council of Antioch (341 CE) prohibited Christians from celebrating Passover with the Jews. The Council of Laodicea in the same century forbade Christians from observing the Jewish (and biblical) Sabbath. (Some Christians had been observing both Sunday and the Sabbath.) Christians were also forbidden from receiving gifts from Jews or matzoh from Jewish festivals and “impieties.”
It wasn’t all bad news in those early centuries. Judaism was not a “prohibited sect,” according to the Codex Theodosianus of 438 CE. Rabbis were entitled to the same privileges as Christian clergy. Jews were not to be disturbed on their Sabbath or Feast Days. Their synagogues were not to be attacked, violated, burned, or confiscated. However, conversion was a one-way street. Jews could convert to Christianity, and were encouraged to do so. However, Christians were forbidden to convert to Judaism. Also, Jews were forbidden to own Christian slaves, but Christians could own Jewish slaves. Christians were forbidden under penalty of death to marry Jews. Jewish tribunals were considered valid only in matters purely religious. The Fiscus Judaicus (Jewish tax) from earlier centuries was maintained, a tax which only Jews were required to pay to government authorities.
The few protections offered by the Codex Judaicus were relatively short-lived. It wasn’t many decades until attacks on Jews and their synagogues became commonplace. The Jew was a second-class citizen, somewhat protected by law, but merely tolerated, something akin to the dhimmi status that is given to non-Moslems in Islamic countries. However, these were the “good old days” compared to the horrors that would be inflicted upon Jews in later centuries by the “Church triumphant.” Rav Shaul (Paul) commanded the Christians to “provoke the Jews to jealousy” with righteous living. Unfortunately, Christians kept only half the commandment; they provoked the Jews.
To some in the church this is a new era where the gospel receives a deeper and more replete authority in the world and for others of the Kingdom of Messiah it is interpreted as a day of infamy. Chamberlain states
More Christians were killed (by other Christians!) in the first century after the Council of Nicea than had been killed by pagans in the century before Nicea.
Have you ever wondered what the Church would look like today had this split from her Jewish roots never happened? Even more profound is the attitude and treatment of the Jews by the established ecclesiastical bodies and how that would effect their acceptance of the Messiah? The hatred that the Romans had for the Jews was carried on by the Church. I have made two trips to the Holocaust Memorial in Washington, DC. In the permanent exhibit are two films, one is about the rise of Nazism and the other, on antisemitism. The films are each about 15 minutes long. Within 2 minutes of the film on antisemitism the first mention of the Church is made and thus remains the main character(culprit) for the balance of the picture. Overcoming this sentiment from the Jewish community is one of the chief obstacles on the way to the salvation of Israel.
So it is a relief to see gentile believers support Israel and Messianic Jews, but also to see them celebrate the feasts of Israel in the liberty of the Spirit. This is the focus of a Jerusalem Connection article by Nicole Jansezian. She begins,
Jews all across Israel and the world will sit down for the traditional Seder dinner commemorating the miraculous exodus of the Israelites form Egypt. Each year, more Christians join in whether with their Jewish neighbors or at Seder dinners of their own.
Wayne Hilsden, senior pastor of King of Kings Community in Jerusalem, said that Christians have a precedent for observing the Passover: Jesus’ last supper was a Passover Seder with his disciples.
The first few Seders I participated in were enlightening. It actually formed part of the foundation of my intercession for Israel. The article continues:
Christine Darg, president of Exploits Ministry, has led Passover conferences in Israel and in countries around the Middle East for Christians over the past 14 years.
“We gain a deeper revelation of the principles and precepts of our God by observing the (biblical) feasts, all of which are types and shadows of Messiah,” Darg said. “Every element of the Passover meal and Seder points in some way to Him. The striped and pierced unleavened bread speaks of Him as the sinless one who was pierced and wounded for our sins and sicknesses.”
Darg noted the striking parallels between Passover and Jesus’ death. The process of the Passover sacrifice began in the temple at 9 a.m.; Jesus was bound to his cross at the third hour, 9 a.m. The temple sacrifices continued until the the evening sacrifice at the ninth hour, or 3 p.m., when then the high priest would cry out, “It is finished.” At the ninth hour Jesus also cried from the cross, “It is finished!” as he died.
The Lord’s Supper was (is) the Passover meal. What a great point of contact for your unsaved Jewish friends? Also, a wonderful time keep the unity of faith with our Messianic brethren. Drag admonishes us,
“The church historically never should have distanced itself from its Hebraic foundations,…It is important to commemorate the death and burial of Jesus, the Lamb of God, and to celebrate the resurrection of Yeshua as the first fruits from the dead at the appropriate season, at Pesach, rather than during the pagan spring holiday named after a fertility goddess.”
This doesn’t mean that Christians don’t or shouldn’t also celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Most do observe Easter, but many call the holiday “Resurrection Sunday” instead.
As part of the reparations of the Body of Messiah to Israel then, celebrating the Biblical feasts can be an easy first step. As with most things in our maturing as believers, more revelation comes in the doing. No room for legalism here, let the Holy Spirit lead us. Maybe, after centuries of ostracizing the Jew we can begin to recover that relationship that was never intended to be broken and facilitate the salvation of Israel.
John Paul is is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Jewish Issues.
Posted in Featured Articles, Israel & The Jewish People Tagged with: easter, Holocaust, jewish roots, Jewish roots of Christianity, messianic, messianic judaism, passover, resurrection, resurrection of Jesus
Most of us have heard at least one or two stories from Jews who believe in Jesus about the often anguished process that brought them to this place.
For many it involved being disapproved, rejected, and sometimes disinherited by those they had loved the most. It meant starting all over in life. They had espoused a worldview so apparently opposed to the one they had grown up with — and apparently in direct contradiction to the religious education that their families had provided, if they grew up in families that endeavored to pass on the Jewish faith — that many who survived the process have referred to it as “repenting.”
This word suggests a profound “turn” away from something and toward something else. Perhaps at a deeper level, as we look at the “re” part of the word — it means a “turning back” or “turning again.”
Jesus’ parable that has come to be known as “the prodigal son” springs to consciousness. It is every person’s story — not just the story of Jewish people. But as a people, Israelis and/or Jews, on a one-by-one, individual basis — because God made us individuals — have to get beyond some outrageous slings and arrows to be able to make this pivotal turn.
Many of us have only a glimmering of the longest-running, most depraved, and most irrational group hatred in the world — anti-Semitism. Perhaps we have been able to look briefly at the ghastly photography of the concentration camps. Before this Jews were blamed for the Black Plague in Europe. They were accused of using the blood of Christian children or of clergy to make Passover matzah (unleavened bread). The irrationality and depravity of this sad history is detailed in Dr. Michael Brown’s What Do Jewish People Think About Jesus?
Some of us have heard later in our lives something which all too many Jewish children experienced way too early in theirs — the ridiculous charge that has been leveled against many unsuspecting Jewish children by bullies or — worse! — classmates whom they had thought were their friends — that they (personally!) “killed Jesus.” This charge was often made before physical abuse commenced or was threatened. We remember one woman’s rendition of this terrible experience from her childhood. Apparently more articulate than most shocked and defenseless children would have been, she cried out to her accusers: “I’m 11 years old — how can I kill your God?”
When we consider the unique longevity of anti-Semitism, which is spoken of in the Book of Esther, written some 2500 years ago, together with its depravity and violence, we begin to discern that something more than “your basic” hatred or distrust of a people who are different has been at work down the centuries.
God has singled out the Jewish people as His instrument for world redemption, He has promised that they will always remain on the earth as a distinct people — despite their sins and failures — and the devil himself has marked them out for destruction. Ultimately, it is through the Jewish people that the knowledge of the one true God has come to the world, through the Jewish people that the Messiah has come, and through the Jewish people that the message of the Messiah went to the nations. And it is the Jewish people in Jerusalem who will ultimately welcome the Messiah back to earth to set up His kingdom (see Matthew 23:37-39). That’s why the devil hates them so!
—What Do Jewish People Think About Jesus? by Dr. Michael Brown
The turn toward Israel’s own Yeshua/Jesus in the heart of each Jewish person requires an enormously determined setting aside of what s/he knows about Jewish history that can only flow from deep resolve.
But in terms of Jews’ own inner circles — for most the nuclear families in which they grew up — the arrow that the accuser of the brethren has slung at their Jewish hearts is the dreaded accusation of “disloyalty” — to the cultural traditions of their own families and to the traditions of their larger people-group family. Many of the details from the play-turned-movie Fiddler on the Roof have disappeared from memory. But we still recall the song about “Tradition.” The Jewish culture is one that has particularly prized tradition. That adversarial arrow zings into the Jewish heart with the message: “You’re a Jew — how can you believe in Jesus?” And the poison on the tip of this arrow is the tortuous history of the Jewish people.
The story of Jews who have managed as adults to come to terms with what Jewish children have so long been taught — “We’re Jews; we don’t believe in Jesus” — and then to “turn again” toward God and His Christ in spite of this cultural expectation — is the story of their having overcome the adversary’s long-running and all-too-successful practice of shooting the “disloyalty” arrow into the history- and tradition-sensitized Jewish heart.
We find the story of Zev Porat as told at: http://www.maozisrael.org/site/News2?abbr=maoz_&page=NewsArticle&id=8186#5 to be a powerful case in point. In his case, the specter of “disloyalty” loomed up in the form of his father’s rabbinical teachings and his beloved grandfather’s orthodoxy. Watch his story below:
[Link to Video]
The painful history and the tradition-immersed quality of this, “our Lord’s nation,” have run deep. It is our reading of Scripture and our strong sense that Heaven rejoices to see so many Jews increasingly finding the courage and the “lion heart” to look deeply at things that matter and to “turn again” to the One who was foretold by their prophets and sent to them by their Father. Our understanding of Scripture also assures us that God’s purposes will come to fruition in the Jewish people.
Christine Colbert is a writer and editorial consultant, and is part of Or HaOlam Messianic Congregation in Overland Park.
Posted in Featured Articles, Israel & The Jewish People Tagged with: anti-semitism, Jewish roots of Christianity, messianic judaism, orthodox judaism
Editor’s Note: Excerpted, in shortened form, from Dr. Brown’s recent book 60 Questions Christians Ask About Jewish Beliefs and Practices
Why have Jewish people been so hated and persecuted through the centuries?
I devoted much of my book, Our Hands Are Stained with Blood, to the subject of anti-Semitism, and on several occasions I have delivered lectures on the question of why anti-Semitism exists. Out of all the hatreds in the world, anti-Semitism is unique.
At the invitation of Christian campus groups, I spoke on this topic at both Yale and Columbia universities, two of America’s most prestigious centers of learning, each time fielding questions from the listeners for better than an hour. My challenge was simple: I have a supernatural, biblical explanation for the phenomenon of anti-Semitism, one which even includes the devil himself—not the most popular theory on a university campus! “Do any of you have a better answer?”
After each lecture, I listened carefully to proposal after proposal, and despite the educational background of many of those in the audience, which included students and graduates of these universities, not one proposal could fully explain the “why” of anti-Semitism. In fact, the best theory that anyone offered was that, perhaps, anti-Semitism was due to aliens! (For more on “alien anti-Semitism,” stay tuned. I’m actually going to address that shortly.) What then makes anti-Semitism such a unique hatred?
First, it is the longest hatred of all time, dating back at least 2,300 years (and even longer if the book of Esther is included). As expressed by the Catholic scholar Edward Flannery, “Antisemitism is the longest and deepest hatred of human history. . . . What other hatred has endured some twenty-three centuries and survived a genocide of 6,000,000 of its victims in its twenty-third century of existence only to find itself still intact and rich in potential for many years of life?” Today, Anti-Semitism is at its highest levels since immediately before the Holocaust, equaling, in fact, those pre-Holocaust levels. How can this be?
These words penned twenty-five centuries ago, still ring true in the hearts of many anti-Semites today: “There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples . . whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey [international] laws; it is not in [our] best interest to tolerate them” (Esther 3:8, with slight modifications made to make this more contemporary). Why has this hatred and fear of the Jews persisted for so long?
Consider this attack on the Jewish people made in Ezra’s day, also roughly 2,500 years ago:
The king should know that the Jews who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are restoring the walls and repairing the foundations. Furthermore, the king should know that if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty will be paid, and the royal revenues will suffer. Now since we are under obligation to the palace and it is not proper for us to see the king dishonored, we are sending this message to inform the king, so that a search may be made in the archives of your predecessors. In these records you will find that this city is a rebellious city, troublesome to kings and provinces, a place of rebellion from ancient times. That is why this city was destroyed. (Ezra 4:12-15)
To this day, Jerusalem remains the center of international controversy, the only capital city not recognized by the rest of the nations. Why Jerusalem? Why the Jews?
Second, anti-Semitism is the most widespread hatred of all time. It can be traced from the Greco-Roman world to Christianity (yes, Christianity, including vicious comments from some of the church’s greatest leaders); from Islam to Fascism to Communism (intense anti-Semitism links Muslim terrorists, Adolph Hitler, and Joseph Stalin!); from White Supremacists to Black Supremacists (yes, both groups bash the Jews); from university campuses to the world press; from the philosopher Voltaire to the historian Arnold Toynbee; from the composer Richard Wagner to the car designer Henry Ford; from Japan to Russia to Iran. Why the Jews?
A few years ago, a very bizarre group made a big media splash when they claimed to have produced the world’s first human clone. The group, called the Raelians, is a UFO religion, led by its founder Rael, who claims to have been enlightened by aliens. (This is the literal claim: “On the 13th of December 1973, French journalist Rael was contacted by a visitor from another planet, and asked to establish an Embassy to welcome these people back to Earth.”) After hearing the cloning report, which was universally dismissed by scientists as a cheap publicity stunt, I went to the Raelian website, purely out of curiosity. (As of this writing, the site was available in more than twenty-five languages.) To my utter amazement, the featured message from Rael was laced with anti-Jewish sentiments, including the charge that “Israel is engaged in State terrorism” and the claim that “a small handful of the millions of American Jews are holding the rest of the 250 million Americans hostage.” Even the Raelians were polluted by an anti-Semitic stream! Why this widespread hatred of the Jews?
Third, anti-Semitism is the most vicious hatred of all time, and both the incredible violence and the depth of animosity against the Jews defy rational explanation. The enormity and depravity of the Holocaust alone is testimony to the viciousness of this hatred, and yet the Holocaust is simply the worst of countless acts of Jew hatred over the centuries. This horrific crime included several nations and led to the cooperative and systematic execution of six million Jews, including 1.5 million babies and children. So depraved were the Nazis (and other Jew killers) that Jewish infants were sometimes thrown into burning pits alive in order to save a bullet, leading to the oft-quoted dictum of Rabbi Irving Greenberg: “Moreover, summon up the principle that no statement should be made [about the Holocaust] that could not be made in the presence of the burning children.” Nothing more needs to be said.
Fourth, anti-Semitism is the most irrational hatred of all time. The absurdity of the anti-Semitic libels simply defies rational explanation. When the Black Plague decimated Europe, Jews were accused of starting the plague by poisoning the wells with a mixture made of spiders, lizards and the hearts of Christians mixed together with the sacred elements of the Lord’s supper. Outraged mobs slaughtered thousands of Jews as a result of this pernicious rumor. When the Catholic Church declared in 1215 that the elements of communion literally became the body and blood of Jesus, Jews were accused of stealing and torturing communion wafers, leading to whole Jewish communities being burned at the stake. In the Muslim world today, it is still believed that every year, Jews kidnap and torture a priest (or other victim), using his blood to make Passover matzah (unleavened bread). The Muslim world also takes seriously the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious forged document from the nineteenth century that claims to report the secret plans of a hidden group of Jewish leaders who are poised to take over the entire world—ultimately bringing it into subjection to the Hindu god Vishnu! (To quote from the Protocols: “Our kingdom will be an apologia of the divinity Vishnu, in whom is found its personification.”). Jews have also been blamed for the spreading of AIDS as well as for orchestrating the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (several Muslim cabdrivers in New York City explained this to me with real conviction, not realizing that I was a Jew). Jews have even been accused of controlling the Catholic Church!
Article Seventeen of the Hamas Charter states: “Zionist organizations under various names and shapes, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, espionage groups and others are all nothing more than cells of subversion and saboteurs. These organizations have ample resources that enable them to play their role in societies for the purpose of achieving the Zionist targets and to deepen the concepts that would serve the enemy.” Even the Masons are controlled by the Jews!
So irrational are the lies told about the Jews that even an utter rationalist like Sigmund Freud had to say, “With regard to anti-Semitism, I don’t really want to search for explanations; I feel a strong inclination to surrender my affects in this matter and find myself confirmed in my wholly nonscientific belief that mankind on the average and taken by and large are a wretched lot.”
What then are some of the explanations offered to explain the phenomenon of anti-Semitism?
(1) “It all traces back to Christianity,” meaning that the charge that the Jews killed Jesus (see #45), thus making them guilty of deicide (killing God) has so permeated Western history and culture that “Christian” anti-Semitism provides a link between all manifestations of anti-Semitism. But this theory is seriously flawed. How do we explain pre-Christian anti-Semitism? And does Christian anti-Semitism adequately explain Islamic anti-Semitism? And what of Christian philo-Semitism, a direct result of the testimony of the very New Testament that allegedly produced worldwide anti-Semitism?
(2) “It is because there always has to be a scapegoat,” meaning that someone always has to be blamed for bad things that happen in the world. But this begs the question rather than answers it. Why are the Jews always being blamed? As George Orwell remarked, “However true the ‘scapegoat’ theory may be in general terms, it does not explain why the Jews rather than some other minority group are picked on, nor does it make clear what they are a scapegoat for.”
(3) “It is because of the Jewish religion, which makes the Jewish people different,” and so people attack what they don’t understand. The problem with this view is that secular Jews have often been singled out for persecution. In keeping with this, it has often been said that at the time of the Holocaust, most German Jews were more German than Jewish. Not only so, but the Nazis slaughtered Jews who were even “one-quarter” Jewish—meaning only one grandparent was Jewish—also murdering Jews who had converted to Christianity. There is also worldwide animosity toward the modern state of Israel, despite the fact that the nation is far more secular than it is religious. And why haven’t Muslims been universally hated for being different?
(4) “It is because the Jewish people are especially bad” (this was actually stated to me by a Pakistani cabdriver with whom I discussed the question of anti-Semitism)—but this theory hardly needs refutation, since Jews are often some of the most moral and ethical people in the world, and, to be sure, there are plenty of rotten Gentiles! So, to put it mildly, Jews certainly don’t have a monopoly on being bad.
(5) “It is because the Jews always have all the money”—which, in fact, is not a theory but rather another anti-Semitic libel! In any case, through the centuries, Jews have often been the poorest people in their societies, often because of oppressive laws passed against them. But they were hated and persecuted nonetheless.
(6) “It is because of Jewish guilt, leading to divine judgment”—a harsh-sounding charge, but with some truth to it, since the Torah clearly states that national obedience would be blessed while national disobedience would be cursed (see Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). But the hatred has been too intense, too vile, too destructive to be explained by this alone and even within the Tanakh itself, God often expressed His displeasure with the nations whom He used to judge His people, stating clearly that they had gone too far (see, e.g., Isaiah 10:5-19; more broadly, see Zechariah 1:14-15).
Clearly, all of these theories fall short in one way or another, failing to explain the intense, irrational and long-lived nature of anti-Semitism and failing to connect all the dots. What then is the explanation for anti-Semitism in the world? It is simply this: God has singled out the Jewish people as His instrument for world redemption, He has promised that they will always remain on the earth as a distinct people—despite their sins and failures—and the devil himself has marked them out for destruction. Ultimately, it is through the Jewish people that the knowledge of the one true God has come to the world, through the Jewish people that the Messiah has come, and through the Jewish people that the message of the Messiah went to the nations. And it is the Jewish people in Jerusalem who will ultimately welcome the Messiah back to earth to set up His kingdom (see Matthew 23:37-39). That’s why the devil hates them so!
As I wrote in Our Hands Are Stained with Blood:
Why does Satan so passionately despise the Jews? For one thing, it is a reflection of his hatred for God. The Jews are God’s chosen people! By hurting them he seeks to hurt the Lord and take revenge for his own sentence of death. His effort to annihilate the Jews is also an attempt to discredit the Lord, since He has sworn in His Word that they will never be destroyed. If Israel ceases to exist as a distinct people, then God did not, or could not, keep His promise. That would mean that He was either powerless or that He lied!
But there is another reason the devil despises the Jews: The salvation of Israel means the return of Jesus, the resurrection of the righteous, the revival of the Church and the restoration of the earth. The fulfillment of the Jews’ destiny will seal the devil’s doom. Yes, “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom. 16:20) . . . and he is beginning to squirm! The time to favor Israel is upon us and Satan is quaking with fear. The countdown has begun.
Understanding, then, that anti-Semitism is ultimately a spiritual phenomenon rather than a cultural, ethnic or even religious phenomenon, we can also understand that anti-Semitism has to do with God and His purposes rather than with the Jewish people themselves. That is to say, it is not because the Jews are better or worse than anyone else; it is because God chose the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to bring redemption to the world, the Messiah Himself being a Jew. In that light, it will be a bad day for anti-Semites when they realize that the all-powerful King coming in flaming fire is a glorified Jew.
Posted in Israel & The Jewish People Tagged with: anti-semitism, Dr. Michael Brown, Islam, israel, Jewish roots of Christianity, jews, Muslims, Rabbi Irving Greenberg, Raelians, Sigmund Freud
Acts 7: 37 – 45 (Stephen’s address)
This is that Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.’ He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us.
But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made. But God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:
‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
forty years in the desert, O house of Israel?
You have lifted up the shrine of Molech
and the star of your god Rephan,
the idols you made to worship.
Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.’
Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them.
To begin with in this article, I am going to make a controversial statement: ‘The Western Church today is struggling in many areas of its ministry because it does not understand its Jewish roots!’
You may wonder how I can make such a statement, especially against statistics of unprecedented Church growth in the last 100 years or so. (Which even if it is the case, doesn’t validate or invalidate everything we do.) And what do I mean by Jewish roots? I do not mean becoming Jewish per se, or taking on another culture when you are not of Jewish decent. Rather, I mean the ways of God revealed to those key men and women of faith in Israel in Biblical history, of whom Jesus is the pinnacle in every way.
The Church can continue to be used by God, because His heart is gracious and wanting ALL to come to repentance. But His plan of salvation is more than access to heaven. It is about becoming a Kingdom people. That is why Christ came. There is a text, which demonstrates something of the difference between seeing God’s power, as opposed to those that go deeper to see His ways as well as His power.
Psalm 103: 7 – He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
This for me is an interesting Scripture. God’s people can know His power without knowing His ways. It takes a unique person to find out God’s ways. Moses was such a man. He not only found out what God could do for the people of Israel, but what God wanted to do for them in terms of purpose and strategy. How we could benefit from doing such a thing!
It is my firm belief that with every reformation, revival, renewal and outpouring of any kind comes not only an intensifying of God’s power and presence, but a revelation of God’s ways. The same Lord who came to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob; the One who visited Moses at the Bush & Sinai; the One who led the people of God into the land of promise; the One who revealed Himself to David, Daniel and all the other prophets and kings – this God came in flesh and met with humanity. In particular, this God met with a people, and revealed His Son according to the flesh through and to a Jewish people, that through His death and resurrection Israel might reveal His Kingdom to men of every Nation. This was Israel’s unique call and destiny! This is why 12 uneducated men saw themselves as the beginning of that fulfillment. From them, and other early disciples, the people of ‘the Way’ continued to minister Jesus Christ according to a unique understanding. They saw themselves as an ‘eschatological people.’ They were a newly formed people of the age to come, foreseen in OT prophecy, living in the present and carrying the Kingdom because of the visitation of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God. Yet they knew that it was not yet all consummated as the prophets had also foretold. Israel as a nation had not yet fully turned (many had rejected Jesus) and all the nations had yet to experience the Gospel of this inaugurated Kingdom. These things would have been central to the early Jewish believers and their mission. So was their understanding of the gospel and the Kingdom of God on the earth, which was steeped in Jewish history and Scriptures, even if Christ came to redefine what some of that would look like. It was a very Jewish thing to be a follower of King Jesus.
So when the same Spirit of God of the early Church visits today by outpourings of various kinds, He comes to restore the NT faith as prescribed by Jesus and then the 12. This can often be startling, even offensive, and bring a great shock to the system if God’s people today do not allow His Spirit to enlarge their spirit during such a season of visitation. You see, we westerners have put the faith into a mold and we view it through a certain western shade. Hence, Church history has known its fair share of turmoil. Yes, there have been splits due to the division of the enemy, or the spirit of rebellion in a people, or even an abuse by a key leader. But not all schism has come because of this. Some have come, because God has revealed who He really is, and a return to the NT faith & practice is required, and reformation has had to come as a return to His ways – it’s the only wineskin that will hold the new wine!
The theme of Jewish roots is a big subject and thus I will not have time to even scratch the surface of it. So with the above issues in mind, I would like to look at one particular theme, which I believe is absolutely crucial in the ongoing purpose of the Church. I believe if the Western Church grasps this in the near future (as I believe the Chinese Church has), we could be hearing of powerful transformation coming to people, houses, communities and nations. It is what I call the New Testament Exodus.
Recently, I wrote these words in a booklet I put together:
I am convinced that to understand the true meaning of the Gospel disclosed by the New Testament writers, we have to get a grasp and revelation of the account of Israel’s Exodus. Even more so, I believe the Exodus will have special spiritual significance in the life of the Church in these early years of this new millennium. Perhaps the Exodus is the key moment in all of Israel’s history. It is central to their existence and understanding of the one true God and their role as His chosen people. I am a deep believer that it was with the Exodus in mind, the Gospel writers understood the emergence of Christ and His powerful victory on earth. In fact on the mount where He was transfigured and the disciples saw His glory, it is recorded that He spoke with Moses and Elijah regarding His ‘departure’ or ‘exodus.’
I believe that there are vital revelations deeply ingrained in the Exodus for the New Testament people of God. And to add to that, they will bear special significance and power in the imminent move of God that is about to break into the Western nations.
Getting back to the basics.
You see, we have to believe that when Jesus came to this earth, and when the early Jewish disciples ministered before and after His resurrection / ascension, they saw everything in a particular light. All their words, actions and perception, were deeply grounded in the revelation of God and His Kingdom, progressively promised in the prophets, shown in glimpses through types and shadows, revealed and fulfilled in Jesus! Matthew really seems eager to lay hold of this theme. In chapter 2: 15 in quoting Hosea, Matthew says:
‘Out of Egypt I called My Son…’
Already here Jesus is being described in ways pertaining to Israel as a whole. Even as Israel, as a son, was called out of Egypt into the Land of Promise, Jesus – the Son fulfills and embodies Israel and fulfills her destiny. (Even Isaiah’s prophecies use the terms ‘son’ & ‘servant’ and they hold double meaning in the light of the NT.)
Then to add to that Jesus is baptized in Matthew 3. Why did the Pharisees get offended at such a thing? Because ‘washings’ were an important part of Jewish practice. To receive the ceremonial washings in Israel was to identify with the Nation; and even Gentiles, if wanting to become a part of the Nation, had to go through such strict washings. Yet Jesus, identifies not with the traditions of men but rather John the Baptist’s baptism, and with all those of a humble heart – sinners, poor, weak and those without hope. Luke records in his Gospel narrative that Jesus was baptized, ‘…when all the people were being baptized…’ What a gracious & merciful Master!
He goes through a true baptism, not one of hypocrisy. He does it to fulfill righteousness. And what’s more, he is identifying with the people of God and the Exodus of the OT, and He is introducing a new Exodus. Paul, a Jew of Jews, in 1 Corinthians 10: 1 & 2 says:
‘For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.’
And later in verse 11:
‘These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.’
So, even in the act of Baptism Jesus is identifying with a people, ‘called out of Egypt’, and going through the waters, which signifies the cutting off of the old life, and entering to the new as a fulfillment people. Jesus really is making big statements even with His actions! How many times do we perceive in the West today, Baptism as just symbolic of an inward change? When whilst it carries that symbolism, it also has deeper significance in terms of our identifying with this glorious God-man Jesus and His end-time people. So then this was a very Jewish thing and an understanding of the early Jewish ‘Jesus -sect’ (as some would have called them) would have added a weightier meaning to this important act in response to faith. We as a NT people joined in union by Jesus, our Sacrificial Lamb, Deliverer and Apostle, have left Egypt (the world and its hold) and have become heirs of the promise – the Kingdom now and to come.
Now add to this Exodus viewpoint, there is also this thought coming through: Jesus is being baptized in the river Jordan, quite a dirty river, and indeed forbidden as a place of purification by early rabbinic tradition. Jordan was the second major body of water that the children of Israel crossed by miraculous intervention. After their crossing into the Land, 12 men were chosen to take 12 stones from the river and place them as a memorial for the 12 tribes of Israel. (Joshua 4: 1 – 9) The Gospel’s closely link the choosing of the 12 disciples / apostles in their narrative shortly after the Baptism & wilderness accounts. God is speaking in a significant way!
Now regarding the wilderness account in Matthew 4, Matthew then carries the Exodus theme further with these words:
‘Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights…’
Recorded here is how the Spirit leads the Lord into the wilderness (a place of significance for Israel.) There He is tried and tested, yet triumphs in weakness. He is there for a symbolic number of 40 days, without food, in comparison to the children of Israel who complained for lack of food. So the fulfillment of Israel’s existence and role is now starting to really take shape. Where a generation of the children of Israel under Moses did not go into promise because of unbelief and disobedience in the wilderness, this glorious Leader is different: He defeats the testing of satan in that wilderness and comes out filled with power of the Spirit! He has demonstrated that ‘man will not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ He did this in the power of God, and is making up for Israel’s unbelief in the God of their fathers. Israel’s glory and victory is in this glorious Man!
Now something quite phenomenal begins to take shape in the account of Matthew. From there he tells of Jesus going into the region of Galilee, or as quoted by Matthew from Isaiah – ‘Galilee of the Gentiles.’ In the OT, Israel when led out was given a unique mandate from heaven in Deuteronomy 7: 1 – 6, that they were to ‘drive out the nations… and burn their idols…’ and they were to then possess the land of inheritance. Jesus begins to demonstrate a whole new meaning to this. As mentioned earlier, He then gathers twelve young men to Himself (remember the symbolism.) However now, He begins to preach the Kingdom as drawing near, and it is recorded, ‘healed every disease and sickness… news spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering with pain, the demon possessed…He healed them ALL. ’
Jesus is redefining to the Jewish people what their calling really is all about. It is to be a light to nations covered in darkness. As He drives out all the affects of darkness on a poor and helpless people, so too are they called to bring Light to the Nations. As He is delivering them from idolatry, which culminates in demon possession, so are they to reveal the One true God in His Son – Jesus, and a possession of His Spirit. As He deals with the tyranny of satan, so too are they to preach release to the captive and an entrance into a new Kingdom which is not of this world. They – the people of Israel, in Jesus, are to be a people who fulfill what their ‘Moses / Joshua led ancestors’ foreshadowed – drive out the works of evil, inherit the promise of God, bless the nations, and enter the rest of God.
Later on in Matthew, Jesus teaches ‘the sermon on the mount,’ (which is itself symbolic of Moses & Israel receiving the OT law on Sinai) He comes down from the mountain and does powerful signs of the Kingdom, even to a gentile centurion with great faith. Make no mistake, Jesus really is moving and fulfilling things in an unmistakable way to the early disciples, and the nation at large.
I believe what is being portrayed is powerful and glorious. Because it is then the 12 disciples, after Jesus demonstrating to them and teaching them His law and His ways, who are then ‘sent’ or ‘apostlized’ to do the very same thing – take the Kingdom message and power, drive out demons and proclaim ‘peace’ to the house that receives them. They are embodying Israel’s rediscovered calling. Initially, they are to go only to the lost sheep of Israel for it is firstly a matter of fulfillment and significance to them as a historic covenant people. But Luke later records, that the 12 were to become a group of 70, and no such geographical or racial boundary is given at that time of sending. Thus the prophetic call to Israel as God’s son and servant is fulfilled in the Messiah – Jesus Christ, and all those who attach themselves to Him. Therefore, it is a VERY Jewish thing for a Jew to embrace this glorious God-Man; it is a very Jewish thing to be a missionary for God; in fact it is very Jewish to be Apostolic, and it is a very awesome thing for a Gentile to be accepted as part of the people and share in that calling!
As I quoted earlier from my book, in Luke 9, Jesus speaks of ‘His exodus’ later on when on the mount of transfiguration. He is to die a terrible death and become Israel’s Passover Lamb, as well as their deliverer in leading the people out of bondage. But His death is not final, rather it is a doorway. He is to go to the depths of the grave, as Psalm 68: 15 – 18 & Ephesians 4 says, and lead captivity captive. And He is to lead that formerly sinful idolatrous people, (Jews & Gentiles alike) into His rest, through death, resurrection, reigning and granting us access and peace with God, through Himself! Hebrews 3 even likens the greater ministry of Jesus to the lesser one of Moses. In fact the whole of that epistle is about this theme. It really is awesome, this New Testament Exodus!
This is another mountain experience with God, as was the Sermon on the Mount. Again, God is alluding to the Sinai experience. This time it is not only about His law entering the heart of men, but rather Jesus now being the fulfillment of the Law & Prophets. His Jewish disciples were not to see the preparatory types and shadows as an end in themselves. God thus hides the two OT figures away after Peter’s desire to build tabernacles for them. God centers His will and revelation in His Son. After this powerful experience on the mountaintop with the inner circle of Peter, James & John, (not forgetting Moses & Elijah) Jesus goes down and finds a mess. The disciples cannot cast out a demonic spirit from a boy. There is a large crowd watching. Jesus gives a startling indictment against that generation (not just the apostles) that they are ‘unbelieving and perverse!’ He subsequently casts out the demon and the people are amazed.
This carries with it tones of what Moses faced upon his coming down from the ‘mount of God’ after receiving the law. He came face to face with demonic activity in the form of worship of a golden calf. He too faced an ‘unbelieving and perverse generation.’
The difference now with Jesus, as opposed to the day of Moses, is that our Lord has not failed to deal with the powers of the darkness that affect the nations. Moses may have destroyed the golden calf, but later on he is himself disobedient and filled with unbelief over the use of the rod of God. Moses did not go in to inherit. Jesus, full of faith and the Holy Spirit has overcome! He was perfectly obedient to the Father’s will. (Phil 2: 8 / Romans 5: 19 / Hebrews 5: 8 -9) He has inherited and will possess the Nations. The decisive victory at the Cross has been accomplished! He now has entered the rest for us, and we are to know of this inheritance also, now and in the ages to come.
The book of Acts shows how seriously the early Church took the words, mission and methods of Jesus, and how they perceived them. They carried on in that pilgrim spirit, exporting and sending, dispossessing and inheriting. Jewish disciples and apostles bringing people of all tribes into Israel’s inheritance of the Kingdom, through the message of Jesus Christ. God had revealed His New Testament Exodus to His people – how could they do anything but respond!
Now because of God’s grace revealed in His Son, we have inherited a Kingdom! We must pray much and examine the early Jewish Church life and practice. Pray for the same understanding of God’s ways, grace and power to be upon us. The first Jewish disciples saw everything in this light (as well as much more), and so too must we! We are a chosen race, as Peter declares, to declare the praises of God, who called us out of darkness. That’s Exodus type language. Paul says in Ephesians 3, the Church is called to ‘make known the manifold wisdom of God to principalities and powers…’ – that’s Exodus understanding!
So then people of God, Jew and Gentile alike, through faith in Jesus Christ, let us rediscover our Jewish roots. If we do, it will affect our understanding of who we are, and where we are heading, in this age and in the age to come. I thank God for the Jews, chosen and elect of God to a unique destiny. I thank God for the early band of Jewish disciples – holy radicals for Jesus who turned the world upside down. I thank God mostly for Jesus. Who by His grace brought me – ‘an alien’ by natural birth, and adopted me as a son. So that with the faithful remnant of Jewish brothers we can see an Apostolic witness of ‘sent ones’ taking the Kingdom of God, through the message of Christ to the Nations and the Nation of Israel.
Finally, I believe that as we see the day of the Lord approaching, the Church will more and more understand her origins and identity. In that moment she will become by the Spirit, all that God has called her to be. Israel needs to witness an authentic apostolic expression of Jesus Christ today, as prescribed in the early Church of the 1st Century. Only then can a jealous Israel, like Moses, turn aside and ‘see God’ in us earthen vessels – a type of burning bush, and come closer and believe. My prayer with Paul is for ALL of Israel to be saved, and for the Nations to join with her to form a ‘Jesus-people’. When such a ‘New Man’ is formed we will see Christ’s return. May I encourage you to pray for revival in the Nations, including the Middle East. And pray for revival in Israel, for as Paul says in Romans 9: 1 – ‘…my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit…’ – it is God’s desire!
May God do it in our day! Amen & Marantha!
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: Exodus, israel, Jesus, Jewish roots of Christianity, jews, Kingdom of God, Moses, New Testament, Old Testament, the church