Thursday, January 16, 2003

The Emergence of Messianic Judaism and Its Significance -- Part 2

Click here for Part 1

I will begin with a side comment: One reason that I can believe the Bible is the presence of the Jewish people on the earth. Nebuchadnezzar exiled the Jewish people in 586 BC. It was, I believe, his way of maintaining control over his empire. He mixed up the populations by shifting groups of people around. The subsequent dislocations and confusions reduced the ability of people to resist his power. The point is: The Amorites and the Hittites and other ethnic groups disappeared. The Jews are still here.

From Nebuchadnezzar's time until now, the Jews have found themselves all over the globe. Unexpectedly, they have maintained a separate identity, just as the Scriptures said that they would. A long time ago, Moses wrote, "Now when all these things happen to you--the blessing and the curse I have set before you--and you remember them in all the nations where the Lord your God has exiled you, if you turn to the Lord your God and listen to him just as I am commanding you today--you and your descendants--with your whole mind and being, then the Lord your God will reverse your captivity and have pity on you. he will gather you from all the peoples among whom he has scattered you." (Deut. 30:1-3) If the Jews had ever assimilated and disappeared, these verses and others like them would be unintelligible. We would be asking who these people were that had such exalted promises made to them.

Back to the topic at hand: To the dismay of the early believing Jews in the generation after Jesus' death and resurrection, the Jewish community largely and violently rejected the gospel message that proclaimed Jesus as Lord. In part this was because Jesus failed to meet popular messianic expectations. In part, this was because the gospel broke traditional Jewish borders and accepted Gentiles without conversion. Paul lamented, "I am telling the truth in Christ (I am not lying!), for my conscience assures me in the Holy Spirit--I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed--cut off from Christ--for the sake of my people, my fellow countrymen, who are Israelites. To them belong the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the temple worship, and the promises." (Romans 9:1-4)

Over the next centuries, the Jewish presence in Christendom declined and Christianity became a Gentile dominated affair. One could be a believing Jew in the time of Paul, but by the time of Constantine, a Jew had to become a Christian and renounce the heritage that Paul, in Romans 9:1-4, said was his.

But just as Moses, so long ago, could write of the global dispersion and future return of God's people, Paul wrote of the hardening of Israel and a time of future faith, "I ask then, they did not stumble into an irrevocable fall, did they? Absolutely not! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous. Now if their transgression means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full restoration bring? ... for if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? ... For I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the full number of Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved." (Romans 11:11,12,15, 25, 26a) Is there not a sense here that after centuries of Gentile dominated Christendom, there would come a time when the Jews would find salvation again. Can you not also see that when this happens that there will be a great blessing beyond imagining?

In Messianic Judaism, we see the beginnings of this return. Add to this the Zionist movement of the last 150 years, which is bringing the Jews back to their land. Add to this that Israel, in 1948, became a sovereign nation again. Extraordinary!

We just might, might I say, be living in one of those generations that gets to see the wonders of God manifested on the earth. I hope so.

Tomorrow: What is Really Different in the New Covenant?


Blogger Nate said...

It's kind of late to comment, but hopefully it will be seen. Why did God place a blindness on Israel? To cut off his people from their reward of salvation? To quote Paul, "certainly not!"

As Don pointed out, "by the time of Constantine, a Jew had to become a Christian and renounce the heritage." Had all the Jewish people given up their objections at that time, the Jewish ethnic identity would cease to be in complete contradiction to the promise in Deut. 30:1-3.

But now, as the church has grown in compassion, understanding and love for the Jewish people, there is coming the time where more and more Jews can come to faith without be persecuted and extinguishing the covenant-nation.

2:19 PM  

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