A subject I have been thinking about for some time. Not an exhaustive treatment but pretty long. Nevertheless, many important points left out or not sufficiently covered.
Spirit versus the Flesh/Reality versus Shadows
1 Corinthians 15: 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.
There is an age old debate—what is more important—the physical or the spiritual? Does one replace the other? Once the spiritual has come is the physical no longer needed? What are the consequences of abandoning one in favor of the other?
Yeshua (Jesus) made strong statements concerning intent versus deed. In Matthew 5:28 when discussing the command prohibiting adultery he said that looking at a woman with lust in your heart is committing adultery. Furthermore the prohibition against murder makes one “liable to the court” but he stated that being angry with your brother also makes one “guilty” before the court. These statements remind us that the intent to sin is comparable to committing the actual sin.
For most Christians the physical commands of the Old Testament are considered unnecessary and non-binding. The vision of Peter where he is instructed to rise, kill and eat unclean animals is cited as evidence that God has changed his mind and no longer cares about such ceremonial law but only about moral laws such as murder and stealing. Even though in Acts 10 the text makes clear that the vision was about people and not food we can eat.
Even the Sabbath is seen as something you can keep every day or in your heart or on a convenient day. If the intent is good, then no sin is committed. I have read excellent Christian commentaries on Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 which speak of clean and unclean food. These all say that the problem is not eating swine but eating what swine represents. Thus the letter of the law is seen as the actual physical obedience to the law but the spirit of the law is seen as keeping the spiritual “intent” of the law.
This thinking also figures in another current hot topic among both Christians and Messianics. Will a 3rd temple be built? If so, will it be sanctioned by God? Many are saying that since we are the temple (1 Cor 6:19) that the body of the Messiah is the third temple.[The first temple is Solomon’s temple and the second the one built by Zerubbabel and refurbished by Herod.] Paul says in Ephesians 2: 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Messiah Yeshua Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
In the same vein Peter proclaims in 1 Peter 2:9b “you also, as living stones, 10 are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua the Messiah.” Similarly in Revelation 3 Yeshua speaking to the church of Philadelphia says “12 ‘He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.”
Based upon these passages many are saying that the temple prophesied in Ezekiel is a spiritual one, a structure of people, not an actual building. Many also say that the 2nd exodus forecast in Jeremiah 16: 14 is a description of people coming to the Messiah and not an actual physical event. “Therefore behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 15 but, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.’ For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers.”
In the last few years many in the church are backing away from this dichotomy when it comes to the people of Israel. For years most of the church taught that we are spiritual Israel and that we have replaced literal Israel (in this case, the Jews.) Much of the reason for abandoning this teaching stems from the horrible consequences of replacement theology. First we replaced the Jews as Israel and then we started down a slippery slope that ended with us calling Jews an accursed race that wasn’t fit to live. To say our theology contradicted scripture puts it rather mildly.
There are some important ideas to consider when we view the idea of the physical versus the spiritual. First, metaphors and similes are not literal. Yeshua is not a lamb with wool that chews the cud—he is the Messiah, the King who is likened to a lamb. In Romans 11 Paul makes an impassioned claim that Israel is the domestic olive tree and the Gentiles coming in are branches of wild olive trees being grafted into the root that Israel rests on. It is an apt metaphor but it is a metaphor. We are talking about people here and not trees. Certainly not a dicot tree that grows from the ground and produces a fruit that can only be eaten after processing. Regardless of the number of parallels this tree may have to Israel, it remains a tree and Israel a people. In my thinking this also applies to us being the temple. It is a wonderful metaphor with striking reality but we are not really a building. We are people--not sticks and stones.
Second, exaggeration is useful in making a point but it remains exaggeration. Lusting after a woman can certainly lead to sin but in no way does it create the damage that actual commission of the sin does. A person dealing with illicit lust can repent and confess his/her sin and go through a process of transformation and restoration. A person who has committed adultery can also go through this same process in obedience to Biblical instruction. However, the aftermath of committing adultery is infinitely more damaging and life-altering than the consequences of lust even though if left unchecked it may lead to committing adultery. The same is true of murder and being angry with your brother. They may be sins on the same downward path but physical implementation of the temptation carries a much greater weight of consequential damage than the temptation not acted upon.
Third, saying that the spiritual principle is binding and true but the physical principle unimportant, can be foolhardy. The Bible testifies in several places that the worst adultery that people commit is in following other gods and being unfaithful to the true God. No one would ever argue that as long as one remains a believer in the God of the Bible that physical adultery is unimportant as it is the spiritual principle that carries priority.
Another thing we can do is look at history. What has resulted when people spiritualize the Bible and emphasize the moral code at the expense of literal and physical commands contained therein?
For over a thousand years most of the Christian church believed that God’s covenant with the Jews (Israel) had been replaced by a new covenant with the church. All scriptures throughout the Tanach (Old Testament) spelling out God’s promises to Israel were co-opted by the Church but we generously let them keep the judgments and disasters meted out to them in passages like Deuteronomy 28.
The Torah (Pentateuch) repeats the promise 100 times that the children of Abraham will have the land of Canaan as an earthly inheritance. In the prophets God strengthens this promise by saying his covenant with Israel and her land will last as long as day follows night. Yet you can go on Christian radio today and find well-known Bible teachers and authors proclaiming that the Jews have no claim to the Land and that God no longer has an active specific covenant with them. Furthermore, Jerusalem no longer has any significance as a place God chose for a specific purpose.
What happened as a result of spiritualizing the promises to Israel? 1- The church became the stronghold of Anti-Semitism in the world. 2- Pogroms, holocausts, unthinkable horrors were visited upon Jews at the hands of the church or with at least their approval. 3- Scriptures in the New Testament that promoted loving Jews were ignored or completely overlooked i.e. Romans 3:1-2 “What advantage then has the Jew?.. Much in every way.” Romans 11:28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
If you doubt this analysis, consider this: why did Casper Ten Boom and his family hide Jews from the Nazis and endanger their lives to protect Jews? Of course, they believed it was their Christian duty. But why did they represent such a tiny fraction of the Christian population? Because they also believed that God’s covenant with Israel was still in effect and that the Jews were God’s chosen people. What we believe dictates our actions.
Where do we hear the statement that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” in our churches? Generally in regard to the charismatic gifts. That interpretation may be true but its primary meaning is that God’s covenant with Israel stands and cannot be abrogated.
Another serious consequence of minimizing the literal meanings of scripture is the forgetting of the city of Jerusalem. If you study the rupture between the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom many factors operated together to impel the split. But the Achilles’ heel that drove the Northern Kingdom’s headlong descent into idolatry was the decision made by King Jeroboam to abandon the city of Jerusalem and build his own houses of worship at Bethel and Dan. Making the golden calves, instituting his own feasts and creating his own priesthood all stemmed from his abandoning Jerusalem and the House of God there.
Reading the New Testament we see scripture that speaks of the Jerusalem that is above, the New Jerusalem, and the Jerusalem that is our mother. While recognizing the validity of these descriptions I think it is dangerous to think this abrogates God’s covenant with Israel and the city of Jerusalem. One of the hallmarks of Biblical thinking is its circular or cyclical nature. There can be an earthly Jerusalem and a heavenly Jerusalem and both can be an indispensable part of God’s plan for mankind. The fact that John sees the New Jerusalem as a metaphor for the bride doesn’t require us to throw out all of God’s promises to the place, the real estate, the mountains of Jerusalem. He proclaims in Zechariah “that once more I will choose Jerusalem” and I suspect he means exactly that.
My comments clearly reveal my bias. I suspect that an earthly temple will be rebuilt. I may be wrong but I think it is important to recognize that the temple and tabernacle are metaphors of the body of Messiah and its individual members. The temple itself is a pattern of something structural in the heavenly places as the books of Hebrews and Revelation so aptly point out. The temple is a picture or pattern of our approach to His Majesty, our King. Granted we are all temples of the Holy Spirit and when we relate to each other properly we provide a corporate structure where the presence of God dwells.
This is an important discussion but one that need not divide us. We can all admit that we don’t know all the answers nor exactly what the future holds. My concern is that we not fall into historical pitfalls that cause us to denigrate or castigate others of God’s children. Does God fill the heavens and the earth? Certainly. But does he choose particular places? Absolutely. Deuteronomy 12: 5 But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come.
There is a place where Abraham offered Isaac—where David offered sacrifice to atone for his sin in counting the people—where after Solomon built a temple the presence of God drove the priests out of the temple because the presence was so heavy and powerful. This same place God sent his Ruach (Holy Spirit) upon Yeshua’s disciples and transformed their world and ours. I suspect this place has not stopped being important and essential to our lives. The validity of spiritual truth is not abrogated by recognition of the physical basis of that spiritual truth but is, in fact, substantiated.
Luke 15 - John Conrad
Luke 15 is a much-loved Bible chapter. In it Yeshua (Jesus) responds to some religious leaders’ accusations that he associated with “tax collectors and sinners.” To justify his behavior, he tells three stories.
The first story tells of a man who owns a hundred sheep and loses one of them. He scours the countryside until he locates the wayward ovine. Rejoicing, he carries the lost sheep home on his shoulders and restores it to the flock. So great is his joy that he calls his neighbors and friends together to help celebrate the restoration of the lost sheep.
The second story concerns a woman who possesses 10 silver coins but loses one. She lights a lamp and turns the house upside down in her search. When she finds the lost coin, like the sheep owner, she calls her friends and family together to rejoice in her good fortune.
The third and final story is much more complex. A Father with two sons is confronted by his younger son who asks prematurely for his share of the inheritance. Amazingly the Father caves to his demand and grants him his share of the estate. Not long after the younger son leaves with his newfound resources and goes to a distant country. There he squanders his inheritance in “wild living.” Of course, after a while both money and friends disappear. Now completely destitute he hires himself out to a citizen of this distant country to feed his pigs. His desperate condition is illustrated by not even being allowed to share in the pigs’ feed.
Suddenly he comes to his senses. He realizes that his Father’s servants are in far better condition than he is. Turning toward home he rehearses his speech, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired laborers.” However, while still a long way off his Father sees him and runs to embrace him. He ignores the son’s pity-party speech and commands the servants to prepare the fatted calf for a great feast. He puts a ring on his son’s finger, sandals on his feet and clothes him in his best robe.
The clamor of the celebration alerts the older son as he comes in from working in the fields. When told the reason for the celebration he refuses to come in. After his father comes to personally invite him to the party he angrily barks “Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you never gave me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.” The story concludes with the father’s response. “Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.”
Very often the story of the so-called prodigal son is told without recognizing that it is a story that is a part of two other stories—the lost sheep and the lost coin. The stories trumpet the fact that God and heaven rejoice when sinners repent and change their ways. God and heaven’s response to repentance is basically identical as portrayed in the three stories. It is God’s perfect will that none perish and all be restored to Him.
However, there are some differences that are often overlooked. A sheep that wanders off finds itself separated from its comrades. Anyone that has worked with herd or flock animals knows this fact—these kind of animals hate to be separated from the group. When they are, it is accidental and not intentional. A cow that is in a separate pen from its herd mates will often frantically race around the pen and try to escape. They might even attempt to destroy the pen in an effort to return to the fold. Thus when the shepherd goes looking for the lost sheep, he is apt to find a sheep that is sorry for wandering off and desperately desires to be reunited to the group. The words for sin in both Hebrew and Greek can be described as “missing the mark.” When one misses the mark, it usually means one was aiming for it. The sheep wandered from the fold but desired to be with the fold. In the story it is apparent that the sheep welcomes the shepherd’s intervention and willingly returns to its flock.
The story of the coin is a little different. A coin has value to the woman of the house but really no will of its own. The coin is an object not really a sentient individual. The point of this story seems to be the desire of the woman to have all of her coins and to not lose any of them. She rejoices when the lost coin is found and restored to its original position.
The story of the Prodigal Son is unique as compared to the other two stories. He is not lost, he is not an unthinking object, he does not miss the mark. He is not aiming for the mark. He brazenly rebels against his Father’s ways and his house. He takes what is his and leaves. His actions seem to be described in Numbers 15:30 as the “defiant” or “high-handed” sin. In this defiant condition there is no “offering” for his sin—he is cut off from his Father’s house. His action is one of rebellion not missing the mark or getting lost.
This is apparent in the story. The Father never quits loving his son but he definitely does not go looking for him. With both the sheep and the lost coin the owner goes looking for what was lost and thoroughly searches until they are found. Surely the Father yearns to have his son come home. However, the son must come to his “senses” on his own and turn around and return under his own power. The minute the Father sees his repentance he rushes to greet him and restores him as his son and rejoices over his return. There is no forgiveness for defiant sin. Repentance only occurs when the defiance is recognized and completely disowned. One must completely walk away from defiance and rebellion.
Readers are often puzzled by the older son’s anger at his brother’s return. One might be forgiven for thinking that the older brother sees his returned sibling as a competitor and not as family. Interestingly, the Father reminds the older brother “all that is mine is yours.” This appears to say that the older brother is still in possession of the inheritance. My opinion is that the story is not really over until the two brothers reconcile. The younger brother has been welcomed home and reinstated as the Father’s son but there would be no inheritance if the older son had not stayed home and remained faithful. This is all conjecture and we really can’t know for sure. My sense is that we really don’t enjoy our inheritance in the Kingdom until we make peace with the other members of that Kingdom.
What we do know is that our heavenly Father rejoices when his children turn back to him. There are times he comes looking for us and other times when we have to come to our senses and turn back to Him. In every case He is always eager and willing to save. Yeshua’s willingness to hobnob with all types of people is evidence of the Father’s propensity to restore and to save. Like any parent, our Father is looking for excuses to save us not reasons to disown us. As Shakespeare so aptly said, “That in the course of justice, none of us should see salvation. We do pray for mercy.” These stories remind us that we have a merciful Father.
Passover Seder - John Conrad
We celebrated the Passover Seder last evening. We had a great time enhanced by all the work of those who prepared the table settings and the delicious food. Our Seder is quite abbreviated only takes a little more than 2 hours and emphasizes Yeshua's (Jesus's) role.
I am noticing lately that some scholars are questioning whether the Last Supper had anything to do with Passover. One lengthy article I just read the author had come to the conclusion that the Last Supper was completely independent of the Passover celebration and the stories in the gospels were embellished or added to.
I only mention this to remind us that scholars are wonderful and help us out in so many ways. But they are not always right. There seems to be a slight disagreement between the synoptic gospels and John about what day the Last Supper was eaten. However, there is no disagreement that the crucifixion and Passover are crucially connected and in the synoptic gospels Yeshua says in each one that I want to "eat the Passover with you." This actually means to consume the lamb offered at the temple by the Levites and priests. Many deride the idea that the meal was a Seder but I think one could make the case that what the apostles and Yeshua did at the meal describes the practices that developed into the Seder as we know it today. The Seder that we know today is fashioned around the concept of being in exile as we finish it with "Next Year in Jerusalem!" You generally don't need to say this when you are in Jerusalem.
My point is that all four gospels have the consistent message that Yeshua came as the Passover Lamb and Paul also verifies this in 1 Cor 5. He represents the Lamb, the Unleavened Bread (contrasted with the leavened bread at Shavuot), and is the First Fruits offering that occurs on the day following the Sabbath. The Seder is a wonderful way to illustrate all of these things. Praying you all have a wonderful and fulfilling Passover and Resurrection season.
The Pagan Origins of Easter
Humans possess an extraordinary capacity to make up stories and then invent evidence to believe them. For years it was widely believed that the Norwegian lemming committed mass suicide by every few years mindlessly joining their fellows in huge migrating throngs and pitching themselves off cliffs to die in the sea. This idea seemed to be supported by the wide fluctuations in Norwegian lemming populations commonly observed. Also, large numbers would sometimes be seen migrating from one area to another.
This story became so entrenched that when Disney made the acclaimed documentary “White Wilderness” in 1958 it contains a scene of dozens of lemmings hurtling over a cliff into the ocean. The problem was that the lemmings in the scene were not Norwegian lemmings but brown lemmings indigenous to Canada and the makers of the film had paid the local Natives $1 a piece for the lemmings and then forced them off a truck into the water. As a child, the picture of the little bodies flailing helplessly through the air never left me and I was convinced that lemmings committed mass suicide because I had witnessed it. The problem was the whole idea is a complete myth. It became embedded in many people’s consciousness because they had seen it.
This morning I got up early to check on a heifer that was close to calving. The clear sky sparkled with stars. I looked up and found the Big Dipper and, of course, right next to it the Little Dipper. The tail star on the handle of the Little Dipper is called Polaris or the North Star and has been used for centuries to denote “north” to travelers and sailors. Because of their association this morning I could see that the Big Dipper was slightly west of the Little Dipper. While I observed this with my own eyes I am still dependent on what I have learned from others. The whole identity of the two constellations is something I learned from my big brother when I was quite small. It appears to be confirmed by others but the fact remains that there is no knowledge that is not dependent upon previous observation and identification by other people. Nothing we know is completely independent.
A frightening thing about us humans is our ability to believe falsehood or half-truths and constantly see the world through this distorted prism. A classic example of this is the “blood libel” against Jews. This idea has existed for over 2000 years and has been written down countless times. A classic version comes from Apion who tells of a traveling Greek who was captured by foreigners (Jews) who kept him prisoner and plied him with all kinds of tempting food. He had discovered that the Jews’ intention was to prepare him for an annual ritual feast. “They would kidnap a Greek foreigner, fatten him up for a year, and then convey him to a wood, where they slew him, sacrificed his body with their customary ritual, partook of his flesh, and, while immolating the Greek, swore an oath of hostility to the Greeks. The remains of their victim were then thrown into a pit.” [Josephus, Against Apion]
This lie exists in many forms and iterations and has directly caused the death of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Jews. Anyone who actually knows Judaism would know their complete antipathy for human sacrifice of any kind and especially the consumption of human blood. But even today millions of humans repeat this calumny in some form and use it to fan their hatred of Jews.
I am happy to confess that I am Messianic, Hebrew Roots—whatever the acceptable contemporary term being used for those who believe in the Hebraic roots of our Messianic/Christian belief and that God’s call to Israel and his instructions (Torah) are eternal. But we are developing some dangerous myths that are corrupting our message and blunting our witness.
One of the most salient of these is the idea that Easter comes from pagan sources and that the Church’s celebration of Easter does not come from the historical celebration of the death and resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus) but carries over from pagan and idolatrous practices. These ideas are so entrenched that one can even find them in supposedly credible sources such as encyclopedias.
One of the pillars of this belief lies in the term “Easter.” It is thought to be an adaptation of the goddess Ishtar or possibly Eostre. The concept is that the term reveals the actual origins of our Easter practice.
I am going to suggest a little research for you. First google the original documents from the Nicaean Council and see the actual term used to describe Easter (the time of Constantine.) Then check out the Latin, Greek, Aramaic, Italian synonyms for Easter. You will note that all of the historic Church languages do not have the word Easter nor any cognate for it. The word is Pasch or Pascha a derivative of the Hebrew Pesach. Easter is an English, Germanic word some believe derived from the goddess Eostre or even just the direction “East.” By the time Tyndale translated the Bible in the early 1500s the word Easter was so associated with the Resurrection he refused to use the word Easter to describe the celebration of Pesach in the book of Exodus and he coined the term Passover which for a lot of reasons is a great approximation of the Hebrew Pesach. English Jews of Tyndale’s day even called their Passover fast “Oesterfesten.” You can check all these facts out.
So Easter is an older word than Passover. Those telling you that Easter is pagan and the Bible prescribes Passover are victims of linguistic manipulation. Because the English, German and Dutch churches use the term “Easter” the next research you can do is to find out if these churches do different things at Easter than the traditional churches based in Rome, Athens, and Istanbul. Check out the liturgical history of Easter observance. You will discover Lent, the stations of the cross, emphasis on Yeshua (Jesus) as the Paschal Lamb and voluminous scripture readings including Exodus 12 where God gave the instructions for Pesach. What you won’t discover is any substantive difference between the churches using the term Easter versus those using Pasch or Pascha. Nor will you find any evidence of Ishtar, Asherah, Semiramis, etc. Scholars such as Tyler Dawn Rosenquist have done extensive research on these so-called associations and debunked all of them.
The association of eggs with both the Jewish Passover Seder and the celebration of Easter is ancient but its exact derivation is unclear. It appears to be associated with the idea of new life. It is not necessarily pagan. The bunnies are a very late addition, not present in all Christian tradition, and obviously a distraction. My suggestion is avoid the distractions.
One of the things that we Messianics ignore is that as believers in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Christ) our emphasis has shifted. All four gospels expend considerable effort showing Yeshua as the Passover Lamb slain for the sin of the world. Paul corroborates this concept in 1 Corinthians 5:7 where he states “Christ our Passover” before admonishing us to celebrate the Feast. Excoriating Christians for gathering to celebrate the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lamb of God is counterproductive and plain wrong.
We keep the Passover Seder every year on the traditional Jewish dates and have gained much from doing so. The Last Supper of Yeshua looks very much like a Seder admitting that the formal Seder traditions we have now were not present at that time. My point is trashing one tradition to exalt another is counterproductive. It is lashon hara (evil speech) designed to divide the brethren. Those of us who celebrate the Seder realize that we are, at best, merely rehearsing. The Bible dictates that the true celebration of Pesach take place in Jerusalem and requires a functioning Temple.
Finally worship is intentional. We don’t accidentally worship God or idols. One of the sacred names of God is Yah. It is the term we use when we say Hallelujah—praise the Lord. German speakers invoke “ja” numerous times every day saying this exact word. Are they calling upon the Lord? Of course not. There is no worship without intent.
We can do wrong unintentionally or out of ignorance but there are no accidental pagans. Calling something Christians do out of reverence for their Passover Lamb and from the joy they experience celebrating his Resurrection is not only wrong it is hateful and counterproductive. We can disagree with something and not believe the worst about those who practice things we don’t like.
Sadly, the emphasis on the so-called paganism of the early church has robbed us of the church’s real sin—anti-semitism. So much of what went wrong and that has stained our past comes from this great sin. Study of the early church fathers and on down through the generations reveals that this is not an empty accusation. The changing of dates, methods of celebration and a general movement away from Biblical practice is much more connected to our “hatred” for our fathers (the Jews) than paganism. It is probably good to remember that slander is wrong—whether speaking of our enemies or of our friends. In the beatitudes Yeshua tells us that if we want to look like our Father, to truly be his children, we will be peacemakers. My prayer is that we could all become peacemakers in God’s family.
Letters from the MIA Shepherd's Council
By John Conrad
In 1974, Jamie Buckingham wrote a book about the Jungle Aviation and Radio Service, (JAARS) the aviation arm of the Wycliffe Bible Translators. This group consists of radio technicians, mechanics and pilots who fly small planes into the Amazon rainforests and African jungles. Their precious cargo is translators who master the language of indigenous peoples, painstakingly develop an alphabet for the native language and then gradually create a written language. The next step is to teach the people how to read their own language. After this careful foundation is laid, they translate the Bible into the "new" language and give the people the gift of the Word of God in their own language. Miracles and transformations follow in the native cultures as Godly harvests spring up from the planting of His Word.
Jamie spent two years flying into the jungles--interviewing jungle pilots and witnessing the impact of the written word of God on the local populations. The book displayed all his considerable skill producing a story that inspires and also clearly recognizes the sacrifice and devotion displayed by these spiritual aviation pioneers.
Convinced that the story belonged to the Kingdom, Jamie donated all the royalties. To his dismay, Jamie took a lot of flak from the group from which he least expected it--the Wycliffe translators themselves. They found fault with many aspects of the book, particularly some facts. The smallest detail incorrectly reported provoked scathing responses. Accusations streamed in. He called a "Teak" tree an "ironwood" tree. He incorrectly identified a "tribesman" as an "Indian." He described a chocolate-skinned native as "brown." Jamie drowned in an avalanche of nit-picking and fault-finding.
He snapped. Firing a letter to one of Wycliffe's directors he branded the entire organization "jot and tittle" people who "strain at gnats and swallow camels." This director wrote back to Jamie, thanked him for the book and expressed his approval of Jamie's work with the organization. As a caveat he gently reminded Jamie, "When you are translating the bible, you need 'jot and tittle people.'" After painful reflection, Jamie realized the source of the problem. He wrote the book to tell a powerful story, to show men and women of God braving impossible odds to bring His Word to a lost world. He tried to get the facts right but, for him, exact details paled in importance to communicating the story. Conversely, the translators cared immensely about exact detail. Their craft demanded precision and painstaking care. A letter or sound not exactly correct completely changes the meaning of a word. The development of a written language leaves little room for error. The translators were nit-pickers and hair-splitters because their craft demanded it.
This story speaks to Messianics today. Many who have come to see the eternal truth of Torah, the Hebraic background of scripture and the Jewish identity of Yeshua arrived at these truths through deliberate study and research. Deliverance from an error-saturated church culture demanded an ability to walk alone, even when accompanied by a chorus of boos and cat-calling from the pews. These pioneers learned to depend upon their own ability to think and research. They became suspicious of tradition, groupthink, and anything approaching consensus that seemed to sacrifice truth at the expense of conformity.
An example of this is Hale Harris's experience when he shared his growing conviction based upon scripture that the seventh day Sabbath had not been abolished. The church leader informed of this belief immediately exclaimed, "Careful now, Hale. You are beginning to color outside the lines!" The experience of so many in the burgeoning Messianic movement with this typical tradition based, scripturally ignorant thinking produced a mistrust of leaders. Over time a hardy band of Robinson Crusoes, people on their own little islands, self- sufficient and unaware of the existence of others, developed within the Messianic community.
In large part due to the Robinson Crusoe mentality, efforts to create groups or fellowships were doomed. The very characteristics so necessary to break out of the crowd (Ex 23:2 "Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong") have now become impediments. Annual congregation splits are common. Messianics can't walk together. The originally healthy questioning of church traditions has often grown into an antipathy for the church and a distrust of all leaders. This is a problem for a people called to build a restored nation.
In our zeal to be right we are often not righteous. Yeshua declared the weighty matters of Torah to be "justice, mercy and faithfulness." (Matt 23:23) This would indicate that our observance of Torah must be girded with these qualities. If not, our spiritual house will be in jeopardy. The situation articulated in 1 Cor 3 describes us: Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly-mere infants in the Messiah. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?
I praise Yeshua for the extensive scriptural understanding of Messianic men and women and their commitment to the truth. However, perhaps it is time to ask the Ruach for guidance and temperance to learn to walk together. Our Torah obedience would be more believable if we were able to do it together. Also because much of this walk is new to us we are still learning. We occasionally fall down. Just as illustrated in the example with Jamie's book, we need people who can conscientiously ferret out the truth but we also need those who see the big picture. As Paul addresses in the 1 Corinthians 3 text, maturity reveals itself in unity not necessarily "new" Torah truths.
There are many legitimate areas of concern facing us as we walk this restoration pathway. What does it mean not to "kindle a fire on the Sabbath"? What is Aviv Barley? How do we nullify the Torah through our own traditions? The questions go on and on. In addressing these legitimate questions we must avoid the spirit that comes from the enemy-one of finicky attention to details that misses the broad picture. As alluded to earlier, Yeshua rebuked the Pharisees, Matt 23:24 "You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel" It is a wonderful testimony to the Father's faithfulness to see the thousands of faithful believers returning to the truth of Torah and with a zeal for the truth. However, in our zeal to follow Torah and return to the Hebraic nature of our faith we must remember that our walk with our brother is the most reliable outward indicator of our walk with our Creator.
The prophetic word foretelling the joining of the two sticks-the stick of Joseph with the stick of Judah-demands an ability to walk together, to become unified, to submit to one another. The gifts of independence, careful study, meticulous attention must be redeemed to be used by the Father to build his nation in this day. Similarly Paul reminds us of the purpose for the authority YHWH had given him in 2 Corinthians 13:10 "the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down." May all of those in the MIA devote the wonderful gifts the Father has showered upon us to His work in this day of "restoring all things."
© 2006 Messianic Israel Alliance
House of Aaron Articles/ Teachings
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