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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

All Contents ©2004-2007 Stuart Dauermann - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Sunday, April 10, 2005

God's Free Choice of Israel His People

This is a sermon on Parshat Shemini, presented April 2, 2005 at Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue, Beverly Hills, California.

A.     Introduction: Why Begin with the Older Testament?

      1. For a Jewish context, the Older Testament is the established authority on the will and ways of God. In order for Yeshua and the New Covenant witness to have any credibility, it must first be demonstrated to be compatible with the established truth—the Older Testament. Yeshua and his Emissaries all conformed to this standard: all sought to establish from the Older Testament the truth of what they declared.

      2. During the past two millennia, the tendency among Yeshua believers has been to concentrate on the Newer Testament, treating the Jewish people as being superseded as the people of God, and treating the Older Testament as superseded and inferior. As Messianic Jews, we cannot do this. Our stress on the Older Testament is a necessary corrective to the bias against the Older Testament that has prevailed in the historic church.

      3. Even the perspective on the Newer Testament, which we have inherited, is skewed. Since for the most part, the historic church has treated the Older Testament as having been superseded by the Newer Testament, there has been a failure to harmonize and align Newer Testament teaching with the Older Testament. This has resulted not only in a neglect of the Older Testament, but also a distorting of the Newer Testament.

      4. Therefore, we Messianic Jews are seeking to re-interpret the Newer Testament against the background of the Older Testament, as a necessary corrective to the skewing of the data we have inherited from the Church.

      5. In our next sermon or two, having established the Older Testamental basis for what we believe, we will concentrate on a Newer Testament text, interpreting it against the background we have established this week.

B. God's Past Choosing of Israel is Grounded Solely in his Free Choice.

      1. The fancy word is "election." "For you are a people holy to the LORD your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the earth to be his people, his treasured possession [Dt. 7:6; 14:2].

              a. This election is by grace---by God's free, uncorked, choice. The only cause of God's choice is the merciful exercise of his own freedom.

                      1) Consider the election of Abraham, which is not explained in Torah [Gn. 12]. Israel reflects on this as paradigmatic of God's relationship with the descendants of Abraham as well: "He loved your ancestors; he chose their descendants after them" [Dt. 4:37].

              2) God's choosing of Israel as His people is especially demonstrated in the Exodus.

              b. This election is especially described in Dt. 7:6-8: "6For you are a people holy to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.7 It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the LORD set his heart on you and chose you--for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8It was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 9:6-8).

                      1) Notice the language used to describe God's choosing of Israel: “ . . .the LORD your God has chosen you . . .the LORD set his heart on you and chose you. . . because the LORD loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt." Throughout, the emphasis is on God's choice and it is explicitly stated that there was nothing that commended Israel to motivate God's choice.

                       2) The gift of the Land is also not due to Israel's righteousness but to the free choice of God. 4 When the LORD your God thrusts them out before you, do not say to yourself, "It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to occupy this land"; it is rather because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you. 5It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you are going in to occupy their land; but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is dispossessing them before you, in order to fulfill the promise that the LORD made on oath to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.6 Know, then, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people. [Deut 9:4-6].

C. Being chosen in this manner brings with it greater responsibility and accountability.

1. Chosenness is never a claim to superiority but rather a call to service. Israel is called by God to be his servant, as Deuteronomy 10:12 puts it, And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul." The Prophet Isaiah puts it this way, "Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you, you are my servant" [Isaiah 44:21].

2. Election implies a higher, not lower standard of judgment. The Prophet Amos expresses this best, speaking for God, saying, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore I will punish you for your iniquities" [Amos 3:2].

D.          God's Future Dealings With Israel Will Be Grounded Solely in His Free Choice

1) Israel's choices, her irresponsibility and disobedient choices resulted in grave consequences for her: Ezekiel 36:16 - The word of the Lord came to me: 17 O mortal, when the House of Israel dwelt on their own soil, they defiled it with their ways and their deeds; their ways were in My sight like the uncleanness of a menstruous woman. 18 So I poured out My wrath on them for the blood which they shed upon their land, and for the fetishes with which they defiled it. 19 I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries: I punished them in accordance with their ways and their deeds.

2) Through the Prophet, the LORD says that Israel's scattered and humbled condition reflects poorly upon Himself, motivating him to take action for his own honor. 20 But when they came to those nations, they caused My holy name to be profaned, in that it was said of them, "These are the people of the Lord, yet they had to leave His land." 21 Therefore I am concerned for My holy name, which the House of Israel have caused to be profaned among the nations to which they have come. 36:22 Say to the House of Israel: Thus said the Lord God: Not for your sake will I act, O House of Israel, but for My holy name, which you have caused to be profaned among the nations to which you have come. 23 I will sanctify My great name which has been profaned among the nations--among whom you have caused it to be profaned. And the nations shall know that I am the Lord--declares the Lord God--when I manifest My holiness before their eyes through you.

3) The Prophet details what God's future, consummating, free grace choices will be on Israel's behalf.

(a) Regathering - . 24 I will take you from among the nations and gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you back to your own land.

(b) Cleansing - . 25 I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: I will cleanse you from all your uncleanness and from all your fetishes.

(c) Renewal - 26 And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit into you: I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh; 27a and I will put My spirit into you -

(d) Return to Covenant Faithfulness - 27b - Thus I will cause you to follow My laws and faithfully to observe My rules.

(e) Stability and Safety

(i) Dwelling in the Land - 28 Then you shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers,. . .33 Thus said the Lord God: When I have cleansed you of all your iniquities, I will people your settlements, and the ruined places shall be rebuilt; 34 and the desolate land, after lying waste in the sight of every passerby, shall again be tilled. 35 And men shall say, "That land, once desolate, has become like the garden of Eden; and the cities, once ruined, desolate, and ravaged, are now populated and fortified." 36 And the nations that are left around you shall know that I the Lord have rebuilt the ravaged places and replanted the desolate land. I the Lord have spoken and will act.

(ii) Intimacy with God - and you shall be My people and I will be your God.

4) Fruitfulness and provision – 36:29 And when I have delivered you from all your uncleanness, I will summon the grain and make it abundant, and I will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will make the fruit of your trees and the crops of your fields abundant, so that you shall never again be humiliated before the nations because of famine. . . . 37 Thus said the Lord God: Moreover, in this I will respond to the House of Israel and act for their sake: I will multiply their people like sheep. 38 As Jerusalem is filled with sacrificial sheep during her festivals, so shall the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. And they shall know that I am the LORD.

      5) Deep repentance - 36:31 Then you shall recall your evil ways and your base conduct, and you shall loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abhorrent practices.

D. What Might We Learn from This Study for Living in the Present?

       1. We should admit that we find God's freedom frustrating, but as Paul says in Romans 9 and 10, who are we to forbid the Master Potter to do what He wishes with the clay of reality?

      2. We should realize that this discussion concerns how God is dealing with Israel as a people as compared with how he deals with other people groups. God does treat Israel with Most Favored Nation status.

      3. We should remind ourselves and others that those who imagine that Israel has been forsaken by God for whatever reason ignore the grace of God. This final grace toward Israel is also taught in the Newer Testament,

Romans 11:25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
"The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
28As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. 32For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34"Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?"
35"Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?"
36For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever. Amen.

4. We need to be careful in drawing conclusions from this data concerning the status of individuals.

a. We need to beware of assuming that our response to God makes no difference since he is going to do what he is going to do. Our response to God is always important and always has consequences, just as it did for Israel in our Haftarah, and for Aaron's sons in our Torah reading. We must never take our sense of being chosen as a cue to carelessness of life: with greater privilege comes greater responsibility: "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked" [Lk. 12:48].

b. We need to beware of simplistically thinking that God shows us grace because of our faith, that faith causes grace to happen. This is NOT true. Rather, it is grace that causes faith to happen: "By grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any person should boast." Grace is always previous.

c. There are some out there who insist that only people who believe in and accept Yeshua can be saved, and who call others who are not as categorical in their statements, 'heretics.' However, if salvation and destiny remains a matter of the free choice of God, then those who insist on faith as a precondition to salvation are overstating the case and distorting the whole counsel of God. As we said earlier, the only cause of God's choice is the merciful exercise of his own freedom.

5. In interpreting the Bible, we must always pay attention to context. We must be very careful to not ignore context as if the statements in one part of the Bible are directly translatable to another. We must first understand the context being addressed in a given passage of Scripture and then ask, how parallel is that context to our own con text?

a. The Older Testament operates on the understanding that the Jewish people are the covenant people of God.

b. The Newer Testament centers on the inbreaking of God's dramatic and climactic saving action in Messiah, calling all to radical response. But this should be seen as negating the chosen status of descendants of Jacob.

c. Different parts of the Newer Testament treat faith differently, depending upon the publics and contexts being addressed and the purposes of the documents. For example:

1) In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Yeshua is seen predominantly as calling for faith in God;

2) In John's writings the emphasis is on faith in Messiah. He wrote to communities in crisis, being tempted to abandon or compromise faith in Messiah.

3) In Matthew and James especially, the evidence of proper relationship with God is always what people do. "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven." ". . . I will show you my faith by my works." This emphasis is legitimate and biblical and differs from the emphasis of Paul when he is writing to a different situation and a different public, to former pagans [not Jews[ who are being tempted to abandon the sufficiency of what God has done for them in Messiah, and are tempted to believe that they can only become part of the people of God by entering through the doorway of the becoming Jews, accepting circumcision as an initiation into a life of Jewish observance. Although this way of life is appropriate for Jewish believers in Messiah living in community, to require this of non-Jews is to underrate the magnitude of what God has done in Messiah.

"For the New Testament salvation does not depend on personal experience but on the grace of God and on the operation of the Holy Spirit. It is noteworthy that although Paul’s call/conversion is narrated three times over in Acts (Acts 9; 22; 26), Paul himself is reluctant to speak about his own religious experience and does so only when his apostolic authority is at stake (Gal 113-17; 2 Cor 11:16-12:13). His message was based on what God had done in Messiah, not on is own experience" [Cf. Scobie, Charles H.H. The Ways of Our God: An Approach to Biblical Theology, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003:

E. A challenging thought: We should draw a distinction between the following:

            •     the ontological basis of salvation [What needs to be so that salvation might occur];

            •     the epistemological basis of salvation [What does one need to know for salvation to occur]; and
            • the experiential basis of salvation, [What does one need experience or do in order for salvation to occur].

These are not the same thing, and different communities of believers answer these questions differently.

I am convinced that the ontological basis of salvation is the death and resurrection of Messiah: no one will share eternity with God except because of who Messiah is and what He has done.

F. On the basis of today's lesson, I would suggest we do the following:

1) Leave room for the freedom of God to apply the benefits of Messiah's work to whomever he will, however he will. God has freedom of choice.

2) Realize that nothing in this lesson absolves anyone from accountability and responsibility to respond faithfully and repentantly to the truth we know about God and Messiah. We have the responsibility of choice. Rejecting the truth and failing to follow the truth is of supreme importance.

3) Those who choose the Messiah whom God has chosen enter into richness of spiritual life, certainty of eternal destiny, and participation in God's supernatural community. They also bring glory to God through acknowledging, honoring and serving the Messiah he sent to suffer, die and rise again on our behalf. Therefore, if we care about people's spiritual lives, if we want them to have certainty of spiritual destiny, if we want them to participate in God's supernatural community, and if we want to see God glorified for the great things He has done, we should share this good news with all.