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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

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Israel’s Destiny is Good News for the Cosmos

Much of this message is based on Dan G. Johnson, "The Structure and Meaning of Romans 11." In CBQ. Vol. 46, No 1/January, 1984:91-103.

I. Paul’s argument
A. vv. 1-6 - The remnant that currently exists among the Jews is the foreshadowing of the salvation of all ethnic Israel.
1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3"Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life." 4But what is the divine reply to him? "I have kept for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." 5So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace
1) The remnant is a symbol of judgment in some passages. For example, see Romans 9:27 “And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, ‘Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved;’” which is based on Isaiah 10:22, a word of temporary judgment, “For though your people Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness.”

2) But it also has another meaning: it is as a symbol of hope
• Isaiah 11:10-16. 10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious. 11 On that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. 12 He will raise a signal for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. 13 The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart, the hostility of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not be hostile towards Ephraim. 14 But they shall swoop down on the backs of the Philistines in the west, together they shall plunder the people of the east. They shall put forth their hand against Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites shall obey them. 15 And the Lord will utterly destroy the tongue of the sea of Egypt; and will wave his hand over the River with his scorching wind; and will split it into seven channels, and make a way to cross on foot; 16 so there shall be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that is left of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt.
• Isaiah 37:31-33 - “31The surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward; 32for from Jerusalem a remnant shall go out, and from Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
• Genesis 7:23 – “He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, human beings and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark.” The term for Noah and his family being “left” on the ark, is the verbal form of the same root in Hebrew as remnant. In other words, Noah and his family were the remnant on the ark, and as such, were a sign and means of God’s renewed fruitful purpose for the earth. So is it with Israel: Israel is a remnant of hope---a sign of a continuing, salvific and fruitful purpose for Israel and the nations.
3) In Romans chapter eleven, Paul uses the remnant theme to indicate hope
B. Flow of the argument
1) In Rom 11:1-6, Paul anticipates the conclusion people might draw from chapters nine and ten, from the Gentile majority among Yeshua believers, with a comparatively feeble representation of Jews, from Paul’s fruitful ministry being among the Gentiles rather than among the Jews, and the outright hostility the Jewish people of his day were demonstrating toward his ministry [largely because he was opening the door so widely toward Gentiles as Gentiles, as we saw last week]. The conclusion some might draw from this is a wrong one: that God has rejected Israel. Paul’s response is “mei genoito--by no means!”
2) Paul is also at pains to affirm his solidarity with His people. This is especially necessary since he is going up to Jerusalem with an offering from the Gentiles which he has been collecting for years. This good will gesture serves at least two purposes:
• To cement good relations between the Gentiles churches and the home congregation in Jerusalem.
• Because Paul sees himself as an agent of the fulfillment of prophecy. The prophets predicted that the wealth of the nations would flow up to Zion in the latter days. He sees his efforts as being part of that fulfillment.
• When Paul speaks in Romans 11 of divine foreknowledge, it seems certain he has in mind the entire complex of ideas as expressed in Romans 8:29-30, that those whom God foreknew he also predestined, called, justified, and glorified. In other words, his language drips with the assurance that God is by no means through with the Jewish people yet, and that his foreknowledge of them is part of a cluster of saving intentions toward them, just as he uses God’s foreknowledge of the Church to as a word of assurance in Romans 8.
• Paul refers to Elijah, and how he thought he was the only one left. In referring to Elijah, Paul focuses on the rebuke Elijah received: just as Elijah was wrong in judging Israel as being on the whole apostate, so anyone who thinks that God is through with Israel is wrong—despite appearances.
• • In verse six, Paul introduces his key term--the remnant. He presents the remnant not as evidence that a small smattering of Jews has been rescued, and that's about all, bur rather as evidence of God's continuing and dynamic purpose for Israel. The Remnant is the seed of a continuing, dynamic and saving purpose. And as we shall see, Paul presents the Remnant as the guarantee that Israel, despite all her stumblings, remains elect and holy to the Lord.
3) 7-16 The hardening is temporary and itself redemptive in purpose

7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8as it is written,

"God gave them a sluggish spirit,

eyes that would not see

and ears that would not hear,

down to this very day."

9And David says,

"Let their table become a snare and a trap,

a stumbling block and a retribution for them;

10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,

and keep their backs forever bent."

11 So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumblingb salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israelc jealous. 12Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry 14in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them. 15For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead! 16If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.

4) • In verses 7-10, he speaks of the "rest" of the Jewish people who are hardened. But what too many people miss is that even the hardening has a saving purpose, one in which God is glorified. We have been investigating this together, especially in our examination of Romans, chapter nine. This saving purpose is for the sake of both the nations and Israel. [Compare with Exodus 7:5, where God hardened Pharaoh’s heart that His name might be glorified. Just as he hardened the heart of the Gentile Egyptians for the sake of Israel, so he is now hardening the hearts of Israel for the sake of the nations. Notice the quotation from Isaiah: “God gave them a sluggish spirit, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day].
• This saving purpose for the Gentiles is not the final word--because Paul says "if their rejection [that of the Jews, in the main] means reconciliation of the (Gentile) world, what will their full inclusion mean but life from the dead?" God’s final word in his saving purposes for the cosmos is a word about Israel.
• And as we saw last week, even Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles was for the sake of Israel. “Although his ministry appears to concern itself solely with bringing salvation to the Gentiles, Paul wants his readers to believe that there is a deeper motivation behind his mission—that is, the salvation of Israel. Paul works for the salvation of the Gentiles, but that does not mean that Gentiles have taken center stage in God’s plan. God has not transferred his favor to the Gentiles at the expense of the Jews. He still has Israel in view and in fact, as we have seen, the process of salvation culminates with them. Here, then, Paul portrays even his Gentile ministry as a catalyst for the eventual salvation of Israel.” (Bruce W. Longenecker)
5) In verse 16 Paul changes metaphors, from remnant to first part of the dough offered as first fruits as compared to the whole batch, and the root, compared with the branches. The firstfruits of the grain harvest [see Num. 15:17-21] is the remnant of Israel, and the whole batch is the "all Israel" that will be saved; similarly, the root is the Remnant and the branches are the all Israel that will be saved, also including the wild branches grafted in from among the Gentiles.
Numbers 15:17 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 18Speak to the Israelites and say to them: After you come into the land to which I am bringing you, 19whenever you eat of the bread of the land, you shall present a donation to the LORD. 20From your first batch of dough you shall present a loaf as a donation; you shall present it just as you present a donation from the threshing floor. 21Throughout your generations you shall give to the LORD a donation from the first of your batch of dough.
• The point to remember here is that both the first fruits dough and the root are metaphors of hope and of continuing Divine purpose with regard to the Jewish people. And it is also stunning to contemplate that Paul argues that what is true for the firstfruits is true for the harvest—what is true for the lump, is true for all the dough [that the latter is made holy/acceptable by the former], and therefore what is true of the Remant also effects the standing of the rest, that is, the rest of Israel. In Paul’s comments on the Numbers passage, what is true of the part determines the status of the whole. This is clearly the flow of Paul’s argument.
C. vv. 17-32 - For Paul, Israel had, has, and will always have priority in G-d's dealings.

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, 18do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. 19You will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." 20That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you. 22Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23And even those of Israel, if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.

25 So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters,i I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,

"Out of Zion will come the Deliverer;

he will banish ungodliness from Jacob."

27 "And this is my covenant with them,

when I take away their sins."

28As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors; 29for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 32For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.
D. 17-24 – Paul reminds those from among the other nations (Gentiles) of their dependence on Israel.
1) The branches which were broken off are Jews who declined God’s offer in Messiah, those who stumbled over the cornerstone as they were destined to do.
2) The wild shoot/branches are those from among the nations who are grafted "contrary to nature" into the olive tree to share in the richness of the root.
3) Here Paul accomplishes three things:
• He chides his Gentile converts for any feelings of superiority.
• He reminds Jews that it is always possible for them to be grafted into the olive tree again--it is the most natural thing in the world. They are still natural branches, even in unbelief.
• He maintains a distinction between Jewish believers and Gentile believers in the purposes of God. It is not right that Jews should be absorbed into a vast Gentile majority and lose their distinction, nor is it right to say, “Well, we’re all just the samee aren’t we?” This is not what Paul says here. He draws a distinction between two kinds of branches. Even in unbelief, Jews remain natural branches. And even though Gentiles are part of the same olive tree as the Remnant, they yet remain grafted in branches. As Dan Johnson says, "For Paul, whatever the nature of his universal gospel may be, the particularity of Israel must never be forfeited."
E. 25-32 – Paul proclaims the final salvation of Israel
1) Israel remains elect. All Israel will eventually be saved
2) The "mystery" of which Paul speaks is probably the elegant manner in which God pulls this off--in a way which few if any would ever guess.
• Jews would wrongly imagine that the Gentiles could not experience salvation apart from becoming Jews.
• Gentiles would wrongly imagine that only by "becoming one of us" and joining the Gentile majority in the Church could Jews experience salvation.
• For Paul, God's outworkings are far more sophisticated.
F. vv. 33-36 – Paul praises the wisdom and grace God has ways of working things out that neither Jew nor Gentile would have guessed, and his ways guarantee that no flesh will be able to glory in God's presence.

33 O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 "For who has known the mind of the Lord?

Or who has been his counselor?"

35 "Or who has given a gift to him,

to receive a gift in return?"

36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.
II. What might this mean for us as a congregation and for the future of the Messianic Jewish Movement? To answer that, the following is quoted from an earlier message.

I am proposing that at the very least we need a new definition such as this one: Messianic Jewish outreach is the remnant of Israel being what it should be, and doing what it should do with respect to God’s consummating purposes for the descendants of Jacob.
We are used to thinking of ourselves as the remnant of Israel. However, I wonder how many of us have given attention to the responsibilities of the remnant? Those responsibilities include at least the following.
(1) The remnant is supposed to serve as a sign that God has a continuing purpose for the Jewish people.
(2) The remnant is supposed to be a demonstration of that purpose - a proleptic preview, a sort of “preview of coming attractions.
(3) The remnant is supposed to be a catalyst assisting greater Israel toward that Divine purpose.

If effective Messianic Jewish outreach is ineluctably rooted in God’s consummating purposes for the descendants of Jacob, then, if we would be effective in outreach, our first order of business is to root out and attend to the God-given cues, especially in Scripture, of this ultimate purpose. How else can we be a sign of that purpose, a demonstration of that purpose, and a catalyst toward that purpose if we don’t know what it is?
What does Scripture say about God’s consummating purpose for the descendants of Jacob?
Repeatedly and often Scripture portrays God’s ultimate purpose for Israel in terms of a national return to covenant faithfulness as manifest in Torah obedience. And often, this return to covenant faithfulness is linked to the return of our people to the Land. Time permits mentioning only a few passages of Scripture which portray this connection between a Jewish return to the Land, and our return to the Lord as expressed in Torah-based covenant-faithfulness
One example is the thirtieth chapter of Deuteronomy. Notice the repeated linkage of return to the Lord, return to the Land, and return to the Law, that is, Torah obedience.

30:1”Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God drives you, 2and you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3that the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you. . . 6And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. . . . 8And you will again obey the voice of the LORD and do all His commandments which I command you today. 9The LORD your God will make you abound in all the work of your hand. . . 10if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Another example is the very familiar and central Messianic Jewish text, Jeremiah 31:31 ff., where again, renewal of the people is expressed in a return to Torah obedience.

Jeremiah 31:31 “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Perhaps the strongest prophetic text on this end-time return to the Lord, to the Land, and to the Law, is found in Ezekiel 36, beginning at verse 24. This text reads like a checklist which we need to ratify in all aspects if we would be true to Scripture.

Ezekiel 36:24”For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.” (Regathering: We are all prepared to say “Amen” to this: Hallelujah, we believe in the regathering of our people to the Land). 36:25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.” (Renewal: We are all prepared to say “Amen” to this national spiritual renewal as well). 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (We say “Hallelujah” to this as well: national regeneration. . .a new heart of stone instead of a heart of flesh). But then things get “difficult”—at least for some of us wedded to an old and expiring paradigm. Read on.
36:27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Here is where we have for too long applied our brakes. But it is clear that this return to the Lord, this return to the Land, is evidenced and accompanied by a return to the commandments God gave to our people. This is all signed, sealed, and delivered through an “inclusio,” a verse ending this section which echoes what was said at the beginning of the section). 36:28 “Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.”

Nothing could be clearer: return to the Lord, return to the Land and return to the Law of God are all joined in Scripture. (And yes, I am well aware that it is reductionist to refer to the commandments, statutes and ordinances of Scripture, and to Torah in general as “Law.” But let’s face it, it makes for good alliteration).
In the Newer Testament, Romans 11 further explores aspects of this consummating purpose for the descendants of Jacob. Romans 9-11 ends in a doxology of astonishment. Paul is awestruck and astonished at the surprising outworking of God’s consummating purposes Who would have guessed that the people of Israel would turn down their Messiah when God sent Him? And who would have guessed that the nations of the world would come to a living relationship with the God of Israel without having to become Jews first? And who would have guessed that at the end of history, God would bring the Jewish people back to Himself in covenant faithfulness through this same Messiah—with the Jews returning to God in the context of Jewish life, in the power of the Spirit, and through the very same Messiah through whom the Nations of the world turned to this same God—while not having been required to embrace Jewish life?. How astounding! How miraculous! How unexpected and uniquely the work of God!
Is it not clear that this is what is astonishing the Apostle? Or do we imagine that the best God can pull off at the end of history, when “all Israel will be saved,” is that massive numbers of Jews will become Baptists, Pentecostals, or Presbyterians?
To just ask the question is to answer it.
We must remember that in Romans 11, Paul is contrasting the Jews and the nations as aggregates. He is not speaking of Gentile and Jewish individuals, but of these respective groups, the same dyad as is found throughout the Older Testament: Israel and the nations.
God’s final act toward the Jews will be directed to us as a people—he will bring the Jewish people to covenant faithfulness to Himself through the one despised by the nation [Isaiah 49; Zech 12; Isaiah 53].

Therefore, as part of the remnant of Israel, our responsibility is as follows:
1. Our outreach is accomplished as we serve as a sign that God has a continuing purpose for the Jews, a consummating purpose of a national turning to renewed covenant faithfulness in obedience to Torah in the power of the Spirit through Yeshua the Messiah.
2. Our outreach is accomplished as we demonstrate communally that we are a demonstration of that purpose - an anticipation, a preview of that covenant faithfulness which will one day be true of all Israel: a return to Torah-living in the power of the Holy Spirit, and to the honor of Yeshua the Messiah
3. Our outreach is accomplished as we catalyze and assist greater Israel toward that Divine purpose.

If this analysis of Scripture is true, what will be the results for how we pursue outreach?
First, outreach would no longer be adversarial and confrontational. We would commend all religious Jewish efforts toward Torah-based covenant faithfulness. For example, when religious Jews come to our conferences to oppose what we stand for, we would commend them for their attempt to honor God in the context of Torah obedience, while still differing with them in their disparagement of faith in Yeshua. In our communities, we would seek to assist and applaud all efforts by religious Jews to honor God in the context of Torah. We would not feel obliged to adopt some sort of adversarial posture.
Second, we ourselves would form communities committed to this kind of Torah-based covenant faithfulness, for we could not be faithful to our remnant responsibility unless we served as a sign, demonstration and catalyst of this kind of faithfulness with respect to God’s consummating purpose for all Israel. But our Torah faithfulness would be unique to ourselves in some ways due to the impact of Yeshua and the Emissaries on our halacha, our honoring of Yeshua, and our experience of the Spirit.
Third, our mission to the wider religious Jewish world would be to advocate faith in Yeshua and the power of the Spirit as Divine means toward their own greater covenant faithfulness. This moves outreach beyond simply individual soul salvation. While not discounting this, it would be bigger, and also true to the sweep of Scripture. We would be seeking to take the wider Jewish religious world further in the direction in which they are already heading—in the power of the Spirit and through Yeshua the Messiah.
Fourth, in addition to affirming and yet further catalyzing and challenging religious Jews, our ministry to secularized Jews would be very strong: a call back to the God of our ancestors and the ways of our ancestors, and a call back to Jewish community through Yeshua the Messiah in the power of the Spirit.
Fifth, the support of church people for our efforts would involve their applauding us for being fully Jewish rather than wooing us to be more like themselves. They would realize that moving deeper into Jewish life is our Divine destiny and our remnant responsibility.
Sixth, we would be returning to a communal concept of outreach rather than an individualistic one
All of this is crucially important for a number of reasons: (1) It is important because it better aligns Messianic Jewish outreach with the revealed purposes of God for the Jewish people. (2) It is important because it is an antidote to culturally determined and limited sales-oriented approaches to the task. (3) It is important because it instantly neutralizes the adversarial posture that we have inherited from generations past which ill-serves the greater purposes of God. (4) It is important because it calls us also to a return to Jewish covenant faithfulness. (5) It is important because it challenges us to expand and reevaluate the role of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our congregations and our Union. And finally, (6) it is important because it addresses the biggest problem, the biggest obstacle, in Messianic Jewish outreach.
The biggest obstacle in Messianic Jewish outreach is the widespread assimilation of Jewish believers. The Jewish community has a right to assume that when the Messiah comes, he will make Jewish people into better Jews. When the perceived effect of the faith in Yeshua is that Jewish believers become assimilated and indifferent to Jewish life and community, the Jewish community has a right to say: “Don’t be ridiculous! Put your Bibles away and don’t waste your time trying to convince us! How could this Yeshua be the Messiah if he makes Jews into goyim?” This objection has all the truth in the world behind it. But our own return to Jewish covenant faithfulness, which is the will of G-d for the remnant and for all Israel, has the added benefit of making this objection null and void.
Is God’s final act in history going to involve making millions of Jews into Baptists or does Scripture rather affirm that God is going to trigger a massive return of His people to Him in Jewish covenantal faithfulness, where he will write the Torah of Moses on their hearts, through Yeshua the Messiah and in the power of the Spirit?
What kind of paradigm shift in Messianic Jewish outreach is this analysis calling us to? What is supposed to be the shape of Jewish faithfulness to God? And what does it mean for us to be the faithful remnant? What is the shape of this remnant faithfulness?
If we really care about Messianic Jewish outreach, if we are really the remnant of Israel, if we are serious about Scripture, shouldn’t we at least be giving deep consideration to what I have proposed by way of a fundamental change in perspective, a paradigm shift?
What is the remnant supposed to do? Can we as a movement be faithful to God without rightly answering this question?