Letters from the MIA Shepherd's Council
By John Conrad
If any proclamation defines the Messianic Israel movement, it is Malachi declaring, "Remember the [Torah] of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel." (Malachi 4:4) When the early church distanced themselves from Torah, they were effectively cut off from Israel. Now the Elijah cry to return to the Torah of Moses awakens the souls of slumbering Israelites and points them homeward. Likewise, the revelation that Yeshua is "Torah in the flesh" renders Torah both priceless and irreplaceable.
A while back, I met a couple who attended a Messianic synagogue for several years but quit going. When I asked "why?" they didn't want to say. I persevered and discovered that contentions over Torah drove them away. Liturgy, proper Feast celebration, how to wear tzitzit, dates of the Appointed Times, how to pronounce the names of deity--all furnished endless fodder for controversy. They desired to be faithful to Torah but could no longer face the non-stop wrangling.
Their experience brings to mind Titus 3:9 "But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law [Torah], for they are unprofitable and worthless." Without the Ruach, Torah is easy to mishandle. In Matthew 23:4 Yeshua indicts Torah teachers of his day: "They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger." Many commentators misconstrue this passage as an attack against Torah. But any student of scripture immediately recognizes Yeshua would never permit attacks against Torah. Instead, he scolds the scribes because "you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition." Matthew 15:6
The issue before us then is how do we correctly interpret Torah? Our forefathers in Israel and the church threw off the yoke of Torah because they believed it burdensome. Yeshua encourages us to "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) For Ephraimites returning to Torah, too often we encounter the spirit of Rehoboam. 'Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.'" (1 Kings 12:11) Our first reaction to this resembles Jeroboam's response, "What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse." (1 Kings 12:16)
To choose Torah is to choose life! Yeshua is the goal of Torah and the fulfillment of Torah is love. Yeshua established that the weighty matters of Torah are "justice, mercy and faithfulness." (Matthew 23:23) Torah on the outside will not and does not save us. It is Torah hidden in the heart, written there by the Ruach, and humbly implanted in the depths of our soul which saves us.
Detail is important but it must not be allowed to camouflage true meaning. One classic example of this quibbling concerns the command in Exodus 23:13 "Now concerning everything which I have said to you, be on your guard; and do not mention the name of other gods, nor let them be heard from your mouth." Knowing the Hebraic origins of our creator's assigned name helps us in our study of Torah. But it is crucial to understand that a name is more than letters and syllables.
The promise is that "whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you." (John 15:15) In our fervor to be Torah observant, this commandment and others like it have been twisted to put emphasis on pronunciation of the name and not on the relationship with the Father. If I go to Spain and speak in President Bush's name, Spaniards won't check my pronunciation; they will check my relationship with the President to find out if he has empowered me to be his ambassador. When the seven sons of Sceva attempted to exorcise the evil spirit from a man in the name of Yeshua, the demon scoffed, "I recognize Yeshua, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" (Acts 19:15) The demonized man beat the seven men and drove them away naked. These were sons of the Jewish high priest, Sceva. I suspect they knew how to pronounce the name. What went wrong?
I attended the Promise Keepers' Clergy Conference in Atlanta in 1996. Max Lucado asked the 40,000 pastors present to shout out the name of their denomination or fellowship. Predictably, bedlam and chaos erupted. Next, he asked all of us to proclaim the name we were depending upon for our salvation. All 40,000 men stood and shouted "Jesus!" Electricity crackled through the air. We all knew exactly who we were talking about-the only begotten son of the Father, born of a virgin, from the kingly line of David, who destroyed the works of the devil and satisfied the demands of Torah by his sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection. If this question were asked at a Messianic event, the response would be pandemonium. Some would say "Yeshua," others "Yehoshua," still others "Yahshua," some "Yehushua," and on and on.
The search for his real name is commendable. However, the teaching that "Jesus" is a pagan god whose name derives from the Greek god "Zeus" is simply pathetic. Likewise, we are told that "God" and "Lord" have pagan origins so speaking these words breaks the commandment in Exodus 23 because we have spoken the names of pagan deities. This kind of instruction reduces the name of YHWH to mere vowels and consonants.
Etymologically these assertions are silly. "God" in English is the synonym for "Elohim" in Hebrew. "Lord" in English is the companion word for "Adonai" in Hebrew. Learning to use the Hebrew names is helpful in recovering our Hebrew roots. YHWH was not telling us to never voice syllables which might describe pagan deities. He was admonishing us to refrain from speaking their names in worship. How many times does YHWH himself speak the names of Baal, Asherah, Molech? Elijah, the great prophet who represents the voice calling us to return to Torah, uses the names of Baal and Asherah in 1 Kings 18. Is he a Torah breaker? Of course not. It is not the words themselves that matter but why and how they are spoken. When we place this over-reliance on the right word or name we enter the world of soothsayers, sorcerers, and magicians. There it matters how the spell is spoken. With YHWH the relationship with the Father determines the outcome.
We are blessed by scholars who have researched the Hebrew names of deity and shown us what we have lost by our march into the nations. Many of them have told me how they believe these names should be spoken, which they do in their personal lives. They do not, however, break fellowship with other believers who don't see it their way. As Israel regathers we must refrain from placing an unbearable yoke upon returning Israelites. The search for true doctrine comes from the Father. However, it must be viewed through the prism of "Shema Yisrael: YHWH Elohenu, YHWH Echad! Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and might." To which Yeshua added "Love your neighbor as yourself." May the Torah we obey and teach bring joy and deliverance to all Israel.
© 2006 Messianic Israel Alliance
by Dr. John Conrad
A single woman went to a pet store and bought a parrot for companionship. She looked forward to having the parrot talk to her and simply spice up her day. At first, the parrot seemed bored. It perched listlessly in the corner of the cage so she bought a different cage in a brighter color. This didn’t stimulate the parrot so she purchased glittering, colorful toys and creatively arranged them in the cage. Still the parrot moped and stared lifelessly into the distance. Repeatedly, the woman went back to the pet store, buying colored perches, toys to play on, and anything she could think of to tickle her parrot’s fancy. Sadly, the parrot grew more and more quiet. Finally, one day the woman went in to check on the parrot. It lay on its side breathing its last. With one final effort it croaked, “Lady, don’t they sell bird feed at that pet store?”
This silly story reminds us of an old adage. People with enough to eat have lots of problems. People who don’t have enough to eat have only one problem. The story of the parrot is a parable of the Messianic Train. Many of us are enamored with the Train, but we forget where it is going. We spend more time fluffing the seat cushions and decorating the windows than we do making sure the train has fuel, is functioning properly and, most importantly, headed in the right direction. Because of misplaced priorities we often find ourselves ending up at the wrong destination. Like the woman with the parrot we major on minors and minor on majors.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting theothers. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24)
In this passage the Greek word translated “weightier” is barus Strongs 926. It means heavy, of great moment. In other words, important or most important. So Yeshua’s comment informs us of the most important of God’s instructions to His people.
A quick review of Yeshua’s statement in Matthew 23:23 reveals it to be a restatement of Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does Yahweh require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?”
Another way to understand Yeshua’s pronouncement would be to constantly view our keeping of the small matters of Torah through the lens of justice, mercy and faithfulness. When our method of obeying Torah sabotages justice, mercy or faithfulness it needs to be discarded.
Our ability to discern the weightier matters is directly related to our ability to see the goal. The end or goal of the Torah is the Messiah. Romans 10:4: “For the Messiah is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” “The end” here is the Greek word telos which means goal. It is like saying at the end of this road is Salt Lake City. At the end of Torah is Yeshua. If our Torah observance does not lead to Yeshua we have jumped the tracks. Since God is love, Paul makes the obvious statement in Romans 13:8 that “love is the fulfillment of the Torah.” We make a huge mistake when we argue about minor details of Torah when the need in the person’s life is to know Yeshua. Like the parrot, they may be surrounded with the apparatus of Torah observance, but they die because they are not connected to the vine and its life-giving nurture.
A simple way to evaluate our actions is to ask several questions:
1. What is the goal of my behavior?
2. Who will be helped or hurt?
3. Will the Messiah be lifted up by my actions?
4. Does this action reveal or display God’s love?
People are drawn to genuine justice, mercy and faithfulness. I often wondered why my Swiss grandparents converted to Mormonism in the late 1800s. When I read their testimonies some of the reasons became abundantly clear. When my great grandmother read her Bible it stirred up many questions in her mind. When she took these questions to her priest he rebuffed her angrily. She was told it was not her place to read the Bible and she was to accept what the church and its officers told her. Conversely, when the Mormon missionaries came to Switzerland they patiently listened to her questions and did their best to answer them. They prayed with the families and told them that each of them could approach God through Jesus Christ (Yeshua the Messiah) on their own because of His sacrifice. The idea that an individual could pray and reach out to God on his own was revolutionary and life-changing. It was only a short time before the families converted and were baptized. This story does not testify to the correctness of Mormon doctrine, but to the correctness of showing love and mercy.
I’ve been told many times that we (Ephraim) must provoke Judah to jealousy with our observance of Torah. This is a recipe for a contest--someone wins and someone loses -- it is a competition. It is like a game of tag.”You trimmed your beard -- you’re out! Your tzitzits are the wrong blue, the incorrect length, you’re out! You pronounced Yeshua (Yehoshua, Yahshua) wrong -- you’re out! You followed the rabbinical calendar for the observance of the feasts -- you’re out! Or you didn’t follow the rabbinical calendar for the observance of the feasts -- you’re out!”
On the other hand, it would be helpful to refrain from saying that the church doesn’t keep Torah. Sadly, many churchgoers eschew Torah in their speech, but while they disdain many provisions of Torah, they try their utmost to be just, merciful and faithful. Our wearing tzitzit, celebration of new moons, Feasts, Sabbaths, observance of clean and unclean foods springs from our commitment to be faithful. Our obedience should not be a hammer to smash the church. A loving example of Torah obedience will ultimately be much more effective.
A couple of years ago, we held a Seder for a group of people in Missouri. Several families didn’t come because they were horrified by the “un-Biblical” Jewish traditions they had identified as part of the Seder. A teacher had been in the area warning people about all evil traditions -- both those perpetrated by the church and those from rabbinical Judaism. Anyone keeping these traditions would be hopelessly compromised by them. However, nothing in the Seder could be construed as thwarting justice, mercy or faithfulness. While straining out a gnat they had swallowed a camel. An opportunity to develop friendships and fellowship with other Israelites had been thwarted by silly, unfounded fears. When they had a chance to gather with the Messiah, they had opted for scattering with the enemy. Unintentionally, they had made their understanding of Torah the goal, instead of Yeshua and His love.
Another clear obstacle to true Torah observance is the human tendency to judge what we see or sense with our five senses. Isaiah 11 makes it clear that the Messiah will not judge by what he sees or what he hears. He will judge by righteousness. Samuel would have picked several incorrect candidates from Jesse’s sons to be the next king of Israel. Yahweh had to remind him that He did not look at the outside of a man, but at his heart.
This means sharing Torah requires a deep spiritual connection with Yeshua. Our goal is to bring people into a relationship with their Messiah. This relationship is lived out in a life that follows the precepts of Torah. It is important not to fall prey to the idea that Torah consists of the externals; tzitzit, Sabbaths, Feasts, and diet. It is our connection and love of our Messiah that motivates us to keep His commandments. We don’t wear tzitzit to let people know that we are Messianic. We wear them to remind us to love Yahweh with all of our heart, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
I’ve never forgotten a young man who had come into a strong Messianic understanding. He considered himself very magnanimous because he accepted to some degree any who kept the 7th day Sabbath. Now there is no question that the 7th day Sabbath is an eternal Biblical principle. Imagine my chagrin when I discovered he was hiding his chewing tobacco habit (disgusting) from me and the fact he was sleeping with his unmarried girl friend. I know of another Messianic with a long, untrimmed beard, side curls and tzitzit down to his knees. He enjoys internet pornography rationalizing that “men will be men.”
I will briefly touch on another sensitive area. In Messianic circles we often honor speakers with exciting teaching abilities or those given to sensational prophetic statements. We display a total lack of discernment when we do not hold our leaders to the weightier matters of Torah--justice, mercy and faithfulness. We need discernment to listen to that which is true. When statements are made based upon faulty research, or bent to fit a particular point of view, we become politicians espousing a partisan line and not teachers of Torah.
Another point comes from Rabbi Shalom Arush, who counsels many troubled marriages. One of the precepts he stresses is that if one of the partners is led to become Torah obedient this must become a very good thing for the other partner. Otherwise, the partner will view Torah as destructive. We must ask ourselves--has the Torah in my life made me a better spouse, a better son or daughter, a better parent, a better employer, a better employee, a better member of the Messianic fellowship? Have those living around you sensed your humility, your desire to serve and your fervent love for Yeshua? Or did they turn away because you reeked of religious arrogance and self-righteous certainty?
Torah is the DNA of our Messiah -- it is His genetic material that He has planted in our hearts. It is the seed of the Kingdom. When it is nurtured and grown in the proper environment it yields love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As Paul reminds us, none of these qualities are against Torah; none violate it. I would go further and say that when these attributes do not characterize Torah-keeping folks, the seed has been corrupted. Yahweh makes an astonishing pronouncement in Isaiah 1:12-14 “When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and Sabbath, the calling of assemblies -- I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them.”
Why does He reject all these activities that He commanded Israel to do for Him? Because they had neglected the weightier matters of Torah. He pleads with Israel, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:16-17)
We have been so blessed to be a part of this restoration in this day. Torah is not bondage, but rather life. This revelation transforms us. Let’s make certain that in our holy pursuit of Torah that the foundation of Yeshua is built in well. That the important things have truly been given the credit they deserve. For many their introduction to Torah will be the lives we live before them. May the Messiah and His love be revealed in us, I pray.
Printed in the MIA Herald, Sept 2011.
WHO’S YOUR MAMMA?
by Dr. John Conrad
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”
In this day when God has promised to restore all things, putting the house of Israel back together seems as impossible as making Humpy Dumpty whole. The life of our patriarch, Jacob, provides insight into this restoration.
Genesis 35:16-26: Then they journeyed from Bethel; and when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and she suffered severe labor. When she was in severe labor the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for now you have another son.” It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Jacob set up a pillar over her grave; that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day. Then Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder.
It came about while Israel was dwelling in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine, and Israel heard of it. Now there were twelve sons of Jacob – the sons of Leah: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, then Simeon and Levi and Judah and Issachar and Zebulun; the sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin; and the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid: Dan and Naphtali; and the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid: Gad and Asher.
In the Torah a person’s name describes his mission. Yahweh promises Abram in Genesis 12:2-3, “And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Name in both Hebrew and English refers not only to the given name but includes the character and reputation of the man. God changed Abram’s given name to Abraham to underscore his mission as “father of a multitude.”
Yahweh’s promise to Abraham transferred to Isaac (not Ishmael) then to Jacob (not Esau) and thus to Jacob’s 12 sons. In this passage the sons are grouped according to their mother. Two sisters, Leah and Rachel, were Jacob’s wives. Jacob chose Rachel, but he was tricked by the girls’ father, Laban, into marrying Leah first. This subterfuge undermined the marriage. Leah and Rachel spent their lives as Jacob’s wives fighting a battle to win the approval of both Jacob and God. Leah had six sons which she named. Every name was not only the son’s mission but a repudiation of her sister and a calculated move to give her an advantage in the ongoing war:
• Reuben, “Look, a son.”
• Shimon, “The Lord has heard.”
• Levi, “Attached, joined or connected.” (“Now my husband will be attached to me.”)
• Judah, “Praise.” (“This time I will praise Him.”)
The Bible makes clear that these names were attempts by Leah to “show up” Rachel.
After Leah bore these four sons, Rachel demanded that Jacob “give me children or I die!” Jacob retorted, “Am I in the place of God to withhold children from your womb?” In desperation, Rachel commanded her handmaid, Bilhah, to go into her husband that she “too may have children.” Israel conceived two sons with Bilhah. Both boys are named by Rachel.
• Dan, “Judge.” (“Yahweh has vindicated me.”)
• Naphtali, “Wrestling.” (“I have struggled with my sister and overcome.”)
Rachel, not Bilhah, named the boys using the names as weapons against Leah in the continuing turf war.
When Leah saw she had quit bearing children, she forced her handmaid, Zilpah, upon Jacob. The names given by Leah continue to be adversarial:
• Gad, “Fortune.” (“How fortunate.”)
• Asher, “Happy.” (“Happy am I for women will call me happy.”)
Inflaming this sibling rivalry, Jacob confined his nightly companionship to Rachel. Leah’s young son Reuben found mandrakes and brought them to his mother Leah. Mandrakes were believed to assist in conception and pregnancy. When Rachel saw the mandrakes she was jealous and asked for some. Leah angrily replied, “Now that you have taken my husband, will you take my mandrakes as well? You can have my mandrakes if Jacob comes to sleep with me tonight.” Rachel gladly accepted this bargain, somehow not realizing that mandrakes are not what produce children. Surprise, surprise! Leah became pregnant and delivered Issachar. Leah follows with another son Zebulun.
• Issachar, “Wages or recompense.” (“God has given me my wages.”)
• Zebulun, “Dwelling.” (“Now my husband will dwell with me.”)
Finally, Rachel bore a son:
• Joseph, “He will add.” (“May Yahweh give me another son.”)
She was grateful for Joseph, but saw him as just the start of her quest to get even with Leah. This brings us to our initial passage in Genesis 35 where Rachel gave birth to Benoni, “son of my suffering.”
Oddly, the father finally intervened and changed his name to Benjamin. This is the only son that Jacob names.
• Benjamin, “son of my right hand.”
All things work together for good – but not all things are good. Polygamy is not good. It rends the heart. It shares that which cannot be shared. It destroys intimacy. Similarly, idolatry is evil. It shares the worshiper’s heart for Yahweh with another god. However, God uses Jacob’s polygamy for his purposes. Through Israel’s struggling sons he will raise up the redemptive nation of Israel. Israel’s family is a picture of reality, not perfection.
The family was torn by preference; Rachel over Leah, Joseph above his brothers. Israel’s wives were consumed by contrasting desires springing from specific deficits and blinding them to everything else in life. Leah ached for the love of her husband, Jacob. Rachel yearned for a son. In their single minded quest to achieve their goals they destroyed the relationships in their lives and objectified all the people that were important to them. The sisters permanently alienated each other. Their handmaids lost their humanity and became pawns just like the sons. Jacob stopped being a husband--he became the herd sire. All became weapons to use against each other. This internal warfare became so fierce that Reuben, the firstborn son of Leah and Jacob, slept with Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid, in an incredible display of hatred, revenge, and repudiation directed at his father, his aunt, and the mother of Dan and Naphtali. This violation cost him his birthright. When, in a future chapter, the brothers, led by Judah, sold Joseph into slavery, it demonstrated a terrible reality. The fault lines drawn in the family, based upon the identity of each son’s mother, had opened wide enough to induce murder.
The reconciliation of Joseph to his brothers only became possible when they realized they all had one father. When Judah offered himself as a slave to Joseph to avert the damage that losing Benjamin would cause Israel, Joseph is undone. Judah’s evident love for Jacob and for Benjamin removed the last shred of his resistance to reconciliation.
Genesis 44:30-45:1 “Now, therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow. “For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then let me bear the blame before my father forever.’ “Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers.
“For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me – for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father?”
Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, “Have everyone go out from me.” So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.
The history of Israel, both Ephraim and Judah, reeks of battle lines drawn over the identity of our “mothers” – our cultures, our churches, our fellowships. The apostle Paul consented to the death of Stephen, a fellow Jew, because of Stephen’s faith in Yeshua. Hundreds of thousands of Jews and rival Christians died at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church during the Inquisition. The Crusaders invited the Jewish population of Jerusalem to the Great Synagogue promising them safety and then burned it to the ground with everyone in it. When Cromwell conquered Ireland he was responsible for the destruction of possibly one fourth of the entire population because he was on a crusade against the hated Roman Catholic heretics. Hitler successfully recruited Christians in Germany to assist in his final solution against the Jews because of the deep collective memory of German Christians distrusting and hating all things coming from the “mother of the synagogue.”
Also we can see in the names of our denominations and fellowships the continuing trend of the battle launched by Leah and Rachel. For example, man created The Roman Catholic (Universal) Church (i.e. “the only church”) and The Orthodox Church (i.e. “the one with good teaching, so you know what this says about the rest.”) Furthermore, each Orthodox group is delineated by its geographical origin; Greek, Russian, Armenian, etc. Anabaptists are against baptism, that is, infant baptism, so take that Catholics. Baptists are not only opposed to infant baptism, but against sprinkling. Then, if you are a Berean Baptist, you diligently search out the scripture to show what is true (i.e. “sorry about your Mickey Mouse group.”) And the beat goes on.
Furthermore, research into the histories and roots of these different groups may reveal idolatry and other grievous sins--enough to declare them heretics and outside the Abrahamic inheritance. For instance, we forget that those who see themselves as Ephraim have Rachel as their mother. Sadly, Rachel hid stolen idols from her husband and from her father (Genesis 31:19).
Benjamin, the only son named by his father, became the instrument for bringing together Israel’s 12 sons. Truly, he was a “son of trouble or suffering” whose birth caused his mother Rachel’s death. But Israel’s prophetic gift correctly identified him as the “son of my right hand.”
Our Father reconciled us to himself by sending Yeshua, a son of Judah and David. Yeshua’s death and resurrection gave us the ultimate good deal. For accepting his death on our behalf, he, who knew no sin, takes our sin and grants us the righteousness of God. There is no bargain in history approaching this one.
However, we mustn’t forget this statement: “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through the Messiah and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in the Messiah reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
This good deal hinges on one fact; Yahweh chooses not to count our sins against us. Joseph’s touching scene – where he breaks down weeping and calls his brothers to him – only happens when all the participants stop counting past hurts. They love their mothers, but they lay down the historical pain and mistreatment and choose to be defined by their one father. For Joseph and Judah to be joined together each had to forgive the sins of their mothers and forget the angry past of retribution and revenge. Similarly today, Judah and Ephraim will come together by acknowledging Malachi 2:10’s question; “Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us?” This reconciliation seems impossible, but through our God all things are possible.
Printed in the MIA Herald, December 2010.
by Dr. John M. Conrad
The Lord bless you and keep you, The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you, The Lord turn His countenance toward you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26). In the name of Yeshua (Jesus) our Lord, Amen.
An applicable analogy?There lived in India six friends who were all blind. One day as they sat together talking they heard a great trumpeting roar.
"I believe that is an elephant in the street," one said. "Now is our chance to find out what kind of creature the elephant is." Being blind none had ever seen an elephant. Eagerly, they filed out into the street.
The first blind man reached out and touched the elephant's ear. "Ah," he said to himself, "the elephant is a rough, wide thing like a rug."
The second blind man felt the elephant's trunk. Understanding dawned upon him. "An elephant is a long, round thing, like a snake."
The third blind man gingerly patted the leg of the elephant. "Well, well," he muttered. "An elephant is large and stout like a tree."
The fourth man walked up to the elephant's side. Fanning his hands out to feel the vast expanse he pondered, "Mmm, an elephant is wide and smooth, like a wall."
The fifth man grasped the elephant's tusk. "My goodness," he thought. "An elephant is a hard, sharp animal resembling a spear."
The sixth man seized the elephant's tail. "Amazing," he opined. "It gives a mighty roar but an elephant is very like a long, thin rope."
After their investigation they sat down to discuss the elephant.
"It is rough and wide, like a rug," said the first.
"No, it is long and round, like a snake," said the second.
"Don't be silly," laughed the third. "It is large and stout, like a tree."
"No, it is not," growled the fourth. "It is wide and smooth, like a wall."
"Hard and sharp, like a spear!" shouted the fifth. "Idiots! Long and thin, like a rope!" yelled the sixth.
Utter chaos ensued. Each one insisted he was right. After all, each had touched the elephant with his own hands, hadn't he?
Sadly, those of us who believe in the Messiah and his word, reenact this scenario when we attempt to describe the Kingdom. When it comes to spiritual realities our eyes are blinded—we do not accurately perceive the unseen world around us.
Kingdom lessons In this day God has promised to restore everything spoken through the mouths of his holy prophets. The history of God's people reveals the greatest opposition to new truth comes from the guardians of the previously revealed truth. Thus the Sadducees and Pharisees fought the truth of the Messiah.
The established church resisted the Reformation message of justification by faith, the evangelicals fought the wave of the Holy Spirit birthed by Charismatic Movement, and now many Christians and Messianic Jews find themselves struggling with the truth of a restored Israel.
Sadly, in much of modem Christianity, the most coveted position is not to be great in the kingdom, or to be the servant of all. No, most seem intent on being least in the kingdom. Yeshua stated clearly in Matthew 5:17-19 that anyone who breaks the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
Touchstones and signposts of Israel’s Restoration Too many of us have seized a single portion of the kingdom and in our blindness we are hanging on to our position with a death grip. As God restores Israel many truths or principles will be restored. There are particular areas of blindness in the modern church and even, in some measure, in Messianic Israel. God describes these concepts or principles as being everlasting, forever, perpetual, throughout your generations, and eternal. Examples of these are the 7th day Sabbath, the Law or Torah (Israel’s Constitution), the Feasts of the Lord, and the priesthood covenant with Levi.
Even in Messianic Israel many are hanging on to truths they have discovered, but are neglecting the perpetual covenants to the tribe of Levi. There can be no restoration of Israel without a concomitant restoration of the tribe of Levi. In Hebrews 7 the writer states that there is a change of the Law and the priesthood. Yeshua declared I came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. Change does not equal abolition nor does the word fulfillment. God made numerous perpetual covenants to the House of Aaron and Levi. If He can cancel these covenants capriciously, what confidence can we as Gentile believers and Messianic Israelites have in the efficacy of the death and resurrection of our Messiah?
Our trust and confidence rests solely on God's unchanging faithfulness to his word! As we venture forth in this day of restoration let us send out a new call—to be great in the kingdom. Whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. With unflinching faith in our Messiah and a yearning for the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and ears we can be a part of this great restoration of all things! May God grant us revelation to see his coming kingdom in its fullness.
By Dr. Robert J. Conrad
“Lineal” Israel Explained
Although the beginning of the restoration of Israel has now commenced with the formal reestablishment of the house of Levi, there has been little notice taken among Christians of what should be for them a welcome herald of Christ's second coming. Apparently, the failure to notice arises indirectly from certain passages in the New Testament, especially in Paul's writings, which have caused some debate among Christians whether there will be a literal gathering of lineal Israel in the latter days. By use of the term "lineal" Israel we mean the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob and not just the Jews who are descendants of Judah, one of Jacob's sons.
The Restoration of the kingdom to Israel prophesied
It is generally conceded that the Jews, or Israelites, of Christ's day understood that God would send a Messiah to gather them literally and give them power over all their enemies. The belief that there would be such a gathering is apparent in Luke 24:21 where it is related that two disciples of the Christ met Him on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection and, not recognizing Him, rather sorrowfully remarked that we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel. In Acts 1:6 the disciples asked the risen Christ directly, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? The belief of Christ's disciples that there would be a literal gathering of Israel comes at least in part from a number of passages found in the Old Testament. Among the more prominent are Isaiah 1:26, 11:10-12, 27:12, and Deuteronomy 30:1-5. The last passage mentioned reads as follows:
1. And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,
2. And shall return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;
3. That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.
4. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
5. And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers (King James Version).
Redemption for both Israel and the Gentiles
When Christ did not "redeem" them in the manner they expected, the majority of the Jews did not accept Him as the long-awaited Messiah and continued to long for the coming of a conquering savior. The Messianic believers who accepted Christ, however, believed that He was indeed the Messiah and that the unbelieving Jews simply did not understand the fulfillment of the Scriptures pertaining to their Messiah. It seemed apparent to the Messianic believers that a new era had come and a reorientation in thought and doctrine was necessary.
The Apostle Paul emphasized the Jews' failure to comprehend by explaining that blindness in part is happened to Israel (Romans 11:25). According to Paul, the blindness was necessary to enable the gentiles, or non-Israelites, to become the children of God through faith (Romans, Chapter 11). He preached that the mercies and blessings of God were for all men and not for the Israelites alone (Romans 3:29, 4:16). Thus, the gentiles were redeemed just as Israelites--through faith.
These statements caused a revaluation of prior beliefs because they seemed clearly opposed to the traditional Jewish teaching that the Jews alone were the covenant people and that only strict adherence to their ancient traditions and written law would bring salvation. After his conversion, Paul explained to the Israelites, as well as to the gentiles, that by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9; see also Romans 11:6).
Paul assured the gentiles and other believers that if they would live by the Spirit of God, they would be the sons of God (Romans 8:14), that they thereby would be a part of the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:27), and that eventually when Christ came again, those who were alive and were born of the Spirit would be caught up to meet Him (I Thessalonians 4:17).
All of the foregoing Scriptures accentuated the theme that any spiritual and faithful believer could be a part of Christ's body. Because of this "new covenant," the belief that there would be a literal gathering of lineal Israel seemed increasingly less important to Christians. As a result of this de-emphasis, the doctrine that spiritual Israel had replaced literal Israel continued to gain favor. And so today, to advocate a modern-day literal gathering of the lineal twelve tribes of Israel (other than the Jewish State in the Holy Land, perhaps) seems wholly out of place with general lay Protestant or Catholic beliefs.
Understandably, when it was announced by Paul that the believing gentiles were also heirs of salvation, it was natural that any difference between the Jew and gentile would at least be minimized if not completely eliminated. Notwithstanding such a conclusion, however, there are certain passages in the New Testament which cast some doubt on the Scriptural merit of such a position.
Gentiles’ salvation and God’s eternal promises to Israel
The first two passages referred to above (Luke 24:21, Acts 1:6) indicate that the disciples who had been present with Jesus during His active preaching still expected a literal gathering even though they believed that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. It is related in Luke 24:27 that in responding to the disciples' question about the redemption of Israel, Christ beginning at Moses and all the prophets … expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. Although He explained all of the Scriptures, He apparently did not tell the disciples that there would not be a literal gathering of Israel because they again asked Him more directly the same question at a later time.
In His second response to the question in Acts 1:7, Christ could have told the disciples that there would be no such gathering, but He did not. He merely stated: It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. Even if it is argued that Christ’s reply does not state that there would be a literal gathering, it is certainly clear that the most reasonable implication is that there would be, but that no one would know when it would take place.
The Apostle Paul, who was not present at the gathering in Acts 1:4 but who was later chosen to carry the gospel to the gentiles (Acts 9:15), also apparently believed that literal Israel (as distinct from the gentiles) would be thus blessed. In Romans 11:25-28 Paul makes it plain that ungodliness will be turned away from literal Jacob, or Israel. Paul argues that it was necessary that much of literal Israel be blinded at that time to enable God to show mercy to the gentiles. To a great extent Paul's arguments are based on Isaiah, who had said that there would be a literal gathering (Isaiah 11:11-12 and 66:19-21). Paul also refers back to Deuteronomy, as referenced in Romans 11:28, and to other Old Testament passages to substantiate his preaching that the gentiles would also be saved.
It is clear from Paul's writings that he was attempting to break down any spiritual barriers that had been erected between Israel and the gentiles and that he relied on the Old Testament to do it. But it is also clear that Paul states unequivocally that ungodliness will, in the future, be turned from lineal Israel. And Paul does not say that there won't be a literal gathering. In fact, on a closer examination, it is apparent that the thrust of Paul's argument is simply that Israel was blind for the specific time and purpose tobring salvation to the gentiles and is not meant to deprive the literal Israelites of any ultimate blessing they might have been promised in the Old Testament. In Romans 15:8 Paul states that Christ came to confirm the promises made unto the fathers.
Elijah (Elias) and the “restitution of all things”
Malachi of the Old Testament promises that Elijah, or Elias, would come before the great and dreadful day of the Lord to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers and the hearts of the fathers to the children (Malachi 4:5, 6). John the Baptist was referred to as Elias by Christ in Matthew 11:14 and 17:12, 13. These statements by Christ have prompted many persons to identify John the Baptist as the Elias of Malachi and to conclude that all Scripture pertaining to literal Israel, as distinct from other people, has been fulfilled.
However, there are other New Testament Scriptures which cast doubt on the interpretation that John was the Elias of Malachi, even though he was a forerunner and the voice crying in the wilderness as prophesied in Isaiah 40:3. Notwithstanding His statement that John was Elias, Christ, when coming down from the transfiguration, also told Peter, James, and John the Beloved that Elias truly shall first come and restore all things, even though John the Baptist was then dead (Matthew 17:11).
Interestingly enough, Luke does not say that John was Elias but merely states that John would go before the Christ in the spirit and power of Elias (Luke 1:17). John the Baptist even went, so far as to deny that he was Elias (John 1:21). Apparently then, both Christ and John understood that John was not the Elias who was to restore all things.
Moreover, sometime after Christ's death and resurrection (and after the general meeting described in Acts 1:6), the author of Acts states unqualifiedly that in the future there will be a restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3:21).
In Revelation 7:4-9, the literal Israelites, who must also be believers, are counted separately from the great multitude of all nations, kindreds, peoples, and tongues who also are to be saved. Literal Israel was promised that God would in the future put His law into their hearts and minds (Hebrews 8:10) and that they were considered beloved for the fathers' sakes. (Romans 11:28).
Evidently then, the authors of both the New and Old Testaments (guided by the Spirit of Christ I Peter 1:11, II Peter 1:20, 21) believed and prophesied that there would be a literal restitution of lineal Israel. Those same authors promised abundant blessings to the believing gentiles. It is, therefore, somewhat mystifying that there should be any active opposition and hostility among believers toward the idea of a literal gathering of lineal Israel. Certainly, it is difficult to understand how the gentiles will be less blessed or denied their promised salvation if Israel is gathered as has been prophesied.
And God has promised that Israel shall be saved with an everlasting salvation (Isaiah 45:17).
Thus, in fulfillment of Holy Scripture, God has at this time begun to gather Israel through the restoration of the house of Levi.
House of Aaron Articles/ Teachings
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