Rabbenu Home


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, June 26, 2005

Shouldn't Messianic Judaism See Itself As A Renewal Movement Within Judaism?

(This is an expansion of a reponse to a comment elsewhere on this blog).

The Messianic Jewish Movement will only enter into its greatest power and usefulness when and as we see ourselves as *a renewal movement within Judaism.* This will require us to deeply understand what God is up to among the Jewish people--entailing communal study, discussion, prayer, and thought, and sacrificial change. As I say elswhere on this blog, as part of the Remnant of Israel, Scripture indicates we are called to be a sign, demonstration, and catalyst of this covenantal purpose. Until we understand this covenantal purpose and make it our own, we cannot and will not play our part, and can never experience that spiritual power we are fond of claiming to be our inheritance as Messianic Jews.

Individuals, congregations and movements experience spiritual power to the degree that they align themselves with their unique calling and gifts. For example, I am a gifted teacher: when I teach, I experience and demonstrate empowerment, and my congregants recognize this to be so. Yet, when I function as an administrator, I experience frustration and dysnfunctionality, and everyone knows it! There is no spiritual power for me outside my gifts and calling. Another example: My congegation is called to move toward and stand for a sane and approachable Torah-based covenantal faithfulness that honors Yeshua. To the extent that my congregation seeks to be other than what God has called us to be, we will experience powerlessness and aimlessness. So must it be for our movement. We will only experience and demonstrate God's empowerment as we align ourselves with what God has destined, called and gifted Messianic Judaism to be and to do. It is not someone else's calling that we must embrace, it is not yesterday's calling that we must embody, but rather what God is calling us to do in our time, place and context. Only then will we demonstrate and experience the empowerment God intends for us.

Returning to the issue of seeing ourselves as a renewal movement within Judaism: If we simply see ourselves as standing outside the Jewish community "calling them to Messiah," we will be embracing a goal that is clearly inadequate because it is both falsely positioned [outside of the Jewish community], and because it is not comprehensive enough. Such a goal fails to take into account the broader context, God's stated purpose for the Jewish people as a people.

God's purpose for Israel is to bring the seed of Jacob to full covenant faithfulness through Yeshua the Messiah in the power of the Ruach haKodesh. Any form of Messianic Judaism which sees Jewish covenantal faithfulness as "a nice option, if that's your thing," is a caricature of the will of God that ignores the sweep of Scripture and is out of step with what Hashem says He will be up to in these days.

Yeshua is the King of the Jews through whom God's covenantal purpose for His people Israel is destined to be brought to consummation. It is understandable that the Church has forotten this. But it is tragic whenever and wherever Messianic Jews buy into the Church's amnesia. Isn't it high time we remembered Messiah's role in the restoration of all Israel to covenant faithfulness and its attendant blessings? And isn't it time for us to align ourselves with these things?

Here's to the development of a Messianic Judaism that is truly a renewal movement within Judaism, serving God's purposes as a sign, demonstration and catalyst of a national return to covenant faithfulness of all the seed of Jacob, through the hitherto unacknowledged Presence of Yeshua the Messiah, in the power of the Spirit.

How would Messianic Judaism be different if we really saw ourselves as having been raised up by God to be a renewal movement within Judaism toward these ends? How is God calling us to change and to grow as individuals, leaders, congregations, and as a movement? What sacrifices have we yet to make that God's will might be done in and through our movement? What will be the consequence of bypassing these sacrifices? In what ways are we seeking to prop up and defend expiring paradigms, structures and agendas? What forces exist among us and around us seeking to thwart redemptive change and to create a broad road where the will of God is a narrow gate? What is the direction of redemptive transformation for ourselves and our movement? Think about these things!

As for me, the goal mapped out in Scripture is quite well summarized in the siddur - "Hashivenu--Bring us back to your Torah, bring us near to your service, and cause us to return to you in perfect repentance" [Fifth benediction of the Daily Amidah]. And may all of this be done in the power of the Ruach haKodesh and to the honor of Yeshua, our Righteous Messiah.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

An Older Guy and A Young People's Conference

I recently participated in a conference of Young Messianic Jewish Scholars. It nearly killed me. That''s what happens when you try and keep up with people thirty to forty years younger than you are. But it also resurrected me! That's what happens when you find yourself in the middle of what God seems to be up to in the world.

The meeting included young Messianic Jewish scholars, highly Jewishly committed young people, and some of their friends. We prayed shacharit, mincha and maariv together, benched Birkat HaMazon, had a stellar high energy Friday night service, [they had a Shabbat shacharit service elsewhere while I conducted services at my shul], we ate Seudah Shlishit together, heard a fine teaching on Pirkei Avot, experience what for me was the most meaningful Havdalah service of my life, and even frequented a nearby Kohser Hookah Bar. I'm getting tired. . .and resurrected. . .all over again just thinking about it.

Young people like these are out there looking not just for God: they are searching for each other and reconnecting with Jewish life. There is a power that is released when such young people of similar or parallel holy passions get together.

And this is just the beginning!

When God is up to something, you don't have to spend much time engineering things. In fact, you'd better not! As I told Jonathan Kaplan and Jason Sobel, the young coordinators of this event, when young people like this get together, the best thing to do is stay out of the way and not mess it up!

I am reminded of what Winston Churchill said: "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Well, maybe we aren't even that far yet. Perhaps it is the beginning of the beginning. But one thing is sure, and no "perhaps" about it. It was great. It was glorious. And it is growing.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Real Identity of the One New Man

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. As we saw last week, the Torah is something of a marriage contract between God and the people of Israel. It is a document that records how God will take responsibility for his people, and how the descendants of Jacob should in turn love, honor and obey. As Ahavat Zion Congregant Michael Friedman said just weeks ago, at Sinai the Jewish people said "I do." They did this when they said, "All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do," and, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient." And as we saw last week, in Hosea 2:17, God longs for the day when "she shall respond as in the days of her youth, When she came up from the land of Egypt." God longs for us to say "I do" once again.

Throughout the Scriptures, God sees Israel as a wayward bride, failing to honor her covenant commitment to Him, her Divine Husband. This covenant commitment is a life of devoted adherence to Torah, the ketubbah which Israel agreed to at Sinai. Obviously we could not be faithful to the God and Father of Yeshua our Messiah, while deciding to ignore those covenant obligations because we find them strange or inconvenient. As we said last week, the meaning of our life should be seeing that God’s dream is fulfilled. That dream, repeated many times in Scripture, is well expressed in Jeremiah chapter two, "I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness."

Just as the Church is the bride of Messiah, so Israel is the Wife of Hashem. There are strong overlays between our relationship with Hashem and what God says of the relationship of the Church to Messiah. With these overlays in mind, there are certain aspects of faithfulness which are unique to us as the remnant of Israel. That includes honoring the terms of our ketubbah, Torah, the wedding contract between the Lord God and Israel. The question is, will we be faithful? And underlying this question is the issue of whether Jewish congregations of Yeshua-believers remain a part of Israel, obliged to honor Israel’s covenant responsibilities.

Our study in Romans 9-11 reminded us that Jewish Yeshua-believers are part of the remnant of Israel, and have a distinct identity, role and covenant obligations growing out of that identity. We are meant to be a sign, a demonstration and a catalyst of God’s purposes for Israel in these pivotal times.

As we learned in our study of Romans 9-11, God has a coordinated yet diversified purpose for Israel and the nations. He calls the Church from among the nations "grafted in branches," but the people of Israel, even apart from faith in Messiah, "natural branches." He talks about a hardening in part taking place among Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles, the other nations, come in, after which "all Israel will be saved." Paul has no problem coordinating and distinguishing God’s purposes for Israel and the nations. Many people do not get this. Many Yeshua-believers imagine that we all become the same in Messiah. This results in two kinds of supersessionism, also known as "replacement theology." In the first kind of supersessionism, when we all become the same in the Body of Messiah, distinctively Jewish prerogatives, such as Jewish liturgical life, ritual life, and Torah-ordered living are dropped away as vestigial, because we Jews who believe in Yeshua have now become something "better" and something else. Many people are happy with that viewpoint; but not me, and I think not most of you, and I am convinced, not God.

The second form of supersessionism is where we imagine that everyone becomes Jewish or must practice a form of Judaism when they believe in Yeshua. Even though this is flattering to Jews, and even though some people find prooftexts to support this, it is also supersessionism, because the distinctives of the Jewish people as "a people dwelling apart, who shall not be numbered with the nations" [Numbers 23:9] is lost. In each case, the distinctiveness of the Jewish people is obliterated. I believe, and we have been learning intensively in recent months, that this is wrong. But for too many of us, the assumption is strong and pervasive that in Messiah we all become the same whether through transcending ethnic identities and become a homogeonized "third race" as the Epistle to Diognetus said it in the third century, or through everyone becoming Jewish. Both of these are not only wrong but damaging to the glory of God. .

I would like to address this issue this morning by looking at the major passage which is misused to teach the idea that in Messiah we all become the same, and we become something other than Jews, and people from the other nations.

Paul speaks of God’s diversified purpose for Israel and the nations in Ephesians, where he speaks of "One New Man." Paul is writing here to a Gentile congregation, emphasizing with them that they are no longer outsiders to the community of God’s people, no longer strangers to the covenants of promise, but they are now insiders and family. But does that mean that there is no distinct identity, role and destiny for the Remnant of Israel, specifically communities of Jewish Yeshua-believers living as Jews? Let’s see.

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men) - 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Messiah, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Messiah Yeshua you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Messiah.

A. What are the assumptions made in the above passage concerning the Jewish people concerning their base-position in the purposes of God? That the Jewish people are the people of God, the people of the covenant.
B. What is the assumption made concerning how Gentiles were positioned prior to the work of Messiah? That Gentiles were without hope, without God in the world, and strangers to the covenants of promise.
C. Who are the people who are assumed to be near, and who are the people who are assumed to be far off? The Jews are assumed to be near, the Gentiles afar off. How are the nations brought near? Through the cross of Christ--through His atoning work.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Messiah Yeshua himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

D. The above passage is based on a metaphor—"the dividing wall of hostility." This is a term Paul is using for the dividing wall that formerly existed in the Temple precincts keeping Gentiles back from approaching God. They were permanently consigned to the role of spectators only, and had to stay within the Court of the Gentiles. Paul suggests that this division between insiders and outsiders has been removed. The term "hostility" might also be understood here as "antagonism." In verses 14-18, how is this "wall of hostility" removed?

E. Remember that Paul is dealing here with matters of status. He is not saying that Jews and Gentiles become the same in Messiah, rather he is saying that in Messiah, Gentiles become one with Israel [not the same as Israel] as part of a new community—the ekkelsia. The New Living Bible, which does a generally bad job with Ephesians 2, get this concept almost right, but saying "His purpose was to make peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new person from the two groups." The actual intention here is that God has made in Messiah something new, which he terms "One New Man," and this is One New Man consisting of two groups who formerly lived in theological enmity, with one group being insiders and the other outsiders to the Presence of God [as represented in the construction of the Temple courts].

F. Notice in verses 14-22 language cues that speak of unity--oneness.

G. Now find the language cues that speak of diversity—two-ness. Notice that Paul delicately balances BOTH factors here.

H. This understanding of Paul, that he is speaking of a new community comprised of two communal expressions formerly at odds, is borne out in his summational statement in the next chapter [read below].

3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Messiah Yeshua for the sake of you Gentiles – 2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Messiah, 5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Messiah Yeshua.

I. What is the mystery formerly hidden but now made known, which Paul alludes to here? "That through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Messiah Yeshua."

J. Notice especially verse 6. Notice the structure of the verse, where three times Paul emphasizes the distinctions between Israel and the other nations, while also emphasizing the new in-Messiah unity. And what word does he repeat three times in this verse, and how does even that one word remind us of the composite unity [rather than the absolute unity or homogeonized unity] of the One New Man? That one word is "together." In the Greek, Paul is using one of his favorite compound prefixes, Robertson's Word Studies comment as follows: "Paul is fond of compounds with sun and here uses three of them. {Fellow-heirs} (sunkleronoma). . . {Fellow-members of the body} (sunswma). . . .{Fellow-partakers} (sunmetoca)." So we see that the NIV translation's threefold use of the word "together" nicely reflects the meaning of this three-fold "sun" prefix . But the matter of import to us, of course, is that in order to have "together" one must have at least two distinct entities.

Some detractors who seek to discredit this position would accuse me and people like me of speaking of two "separate" entitites. But this is wrong. Paul is not saying they are separate, but rather that they are distinct and united in the One New Man.

What Does This Mean For Us?

1. It reminds us that it is wrong for Jewish believers to assume an elitist posture, or for others to attribute to Jewish believers an elite status.

2. It reminds us that the Messiah did not come to make us all the same, but to make us one in Messiah.

3. It reminds us that speaking of a distinct role for Jewish Yeshua-believing congregations in the purposes of God is not a contradiction of the One New Man teaching of Paul because Paul is careful to preserve the distinct identity of Israel, even when speaking of the unity of the ekklesia/Body of Messiah. To remember the balance of this teaching, especially take note of Ephesians 3:6, which speaks of how "through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Messiah Yeshua.

4. This passage is not teaching the wisdom of One New Man congregations where distinctions between Jews and Gentiles are obliterated. Rather it is speaking of how the purposes of God for the nations and His purpose for Israel, culminating in Messiah, involve a reconciliation to God and to one another of both Israel and the nations. Togetherness does not mean sameness.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Shavuot: God’s Covenant Calling for Israel

For us as Messianic Jews, Pentecost/Shavuot is a time when we focus on two great gifts that God gave to us: the gift of His Torah and the gift of the Spirit. These are two gifts Paul mentions in Romans 9: 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; 5 to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed for ever. Amen.

The sonship is the calling of Israel to be God’s son, as it is written in the Passover story, 22 And you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD, Israel is my first-born son, 23 and I say to you, "Let my son go that he may serve me." And you shall say to him, 'The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, "Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness" [Exodus 4:22-23, 7:16].

That "sonship" is the election of Israel, which we learned of in our studies in the Older Testament and in Romans nine is the merciful exercise of God’s free choice. Israel was called to be God’s son before she received the Torah. Therefore, keeping Torah is not what makes us God’s children. Israel was redeemed from Egypt by the merciful exercise of God’s free choice, His election, his grace.

But the Exodus passage reminds us that Israel was not redeemed for freedom but rather for service and worship [the term in Hebrew means both]. We were redeemed from Egypt that we as a people might worship Hashem and serve Him. God says, "Let my people go that they may serve me in the wilderness." It is no accident that when God brings Israel out of Egypt, he brings them into the wilderness, to Sinai, where he gives us His Ten Words which are the seed-bed of Torah. This is crucial: in the Torah, God lays out for us what it means for Israel, God’s elect nation, to serve and worship Him. We can neither worship nor serve Him as a people apart from Torah.

As Hosea reminded us recently, God longs for us to honor Him in these ancient paths, when Israel "shall respond as in the days of her youth, When she came up from the land of Egypt." And as we learned from Jeremiah about a month ago, "Thus says the LORD, I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness" [Jeremiah 2:2]. God speaks of Israel’s obedience both under the metaphor of sonship and of marriage. How shall we, as Israel, demonstrate our devotion to Hashem, our obedient sonship, and our marital fidelity? By following Him as we did at Sinai,. "All that the Lord has spoken we will do and we will obey." We cannot honor God while dishonoring Torah.

Again, in Romans 9, Paul refers to the sonship, the glory, the covenants the giving of the law, the worship. The glory is the manifestation of God’s Spirit, and also in this list is "the covenants’ [including of course the covenant with Abraham and the covenant at Sinai] and "the giving of the Law." Thus in this list we see coming together the Gift of the Spirit [in a prefigured fashion, the Shekhinah in the Mishkan and the Temple] and the gift of the Torah, the two emphases of Shavuot.

Too often, people assume that these two gifts are in tension with one another. However, this assumption is wrong. Look at Romans 8. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot; 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

In Romans 8, Paul the Apostle said that the purpose of God for us is that "the just requirement of the Torah might be fulfilled, not abandoned by us. He even went on to say that it is that it is those who do not submit to God’s Torah who are "in the flesh" rather than "in the Spirit," that such an attitude is "hostile to God," and that such "cannot please God."

In other words, submission to Torah is a sign of being of the Spirit, and in the Spirit.

Here he is speaking of everyone, Jew and Gentile. Torah, seen here as God’s authority expressed in his commands, has some application to everyone. Paul labels who do not submit to God’s commands "carnal" [fleshly, unspiritual]. He says such persons cannot please God.

This is strong language, unwelcome language, but Scripture language. The Spirit and The Torah are One. And if we would be people of the Spirit, we must become people of Torah. Paul is here writing largely to Gentiles. But the application of Torah to Jews is much more specific and has even more weight, for the Torah in its particulars is God’s revealed will for Israel, the constitution by which we as a people are called to live. It is the marriage agreement we received and agreed to at Sinai. If we would honor God and honor our relationship with the Holy One, we Messianic Jews must see Torah as central in directing shaping our communal identity and directing our communal life.

In our recent lessons we have seen two things most broadly: Messianic Jews must honor God in the context of Torah, and we must live out the meaning of our identity as the Remnant of Israel. On this Shavuot, we must of course add to this living out the implications of our being not carnal, not hostile to the Torah of God, but rather, a people of the Spirit, in whom the just requirement of the Torah is realized.

We might summarize what we have been learning in these ways:
1. We are called to 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. We are called to 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. We are called to catalyze and assist greater Israel toward that Divine purpose.

4. We are called to imitate and embody our Messiah in his sonship to the Father. As He lived out His sonship in obedience to Torah as God’s perfect One man Israel, so must we.

5. We are called to honor our unity with the wider ekklesia, the community of the faithful among the nations, this must neither obliterate nor compromise our covenant fidelity as part of the people whom God redeemed from Egypt, giving us His Torah.

With all of this in mind, tonight, as we enter into Shavuot, it is altogether proper that we embrace the following as our provisional vision statement:

Ahavat Zion is a West Side Jewish congregation growing in covenant fidelity to the One who redeemed Israel from Egypt and gave us His Torah, that we might worship and obey Him. We reflect the loving obedience of Yeshua our Messiah, the One Man Israel, in the power of the Ruach HaKodesh, in continuity with Jewish discussion and precedent, in conformity to Messiah’s example and teaching, and all Scripture. We are a catalyst of covenant faithfulness and commitment to our Messiah among our people, Israel. While we celebrate our unity with the faithful from among the nations, and participate in God’s wider purposes in the world, we affirm the priority of our identity and calling as part of the remnant of Israel.

There are two ways we are ought to put this vision statement to the test in the coming year. One is the test of Scripture and the other is the test of life.

In Acts 17, we read of the Jewish people in Beroea, who heard the message of Yesua from Paul and Silas. We read, and when they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so. We should follow their example. We should welcome the message eagerly, giving this vision our wholehearted attention and support. And, during the coming year, we will study Scripture together extensively, thus seeing whether these commitments are compatible with Scripture.

Secondly, Paul writes in Romans 12 of what it means to subject such things to the test of life experience, that we can determine the truth of what we affirm:

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

In view of God’s mercy then, let us commit to being servants of God in the context of this vision, which is our spiritual act of worship. Let us renew our minds through internalizing this vision, that we might be able to test and approve God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.

May the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts, and this, our covenant together, be acceptable in the sight of the Him who is our Rock and our Redeemer.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

God's Dream . . . And Ours

God’s Dream
A Sermon on the Haftarah of Parshat Bamidbar - Hosea 2:1-22
By Rabbi Stuart Dauermann

The Rev. Dr, Martin Luther King is justly famous for his stirring speech, “I Have a Dream.” It is one of those moments of greatness, one of those classics of rhetoric that does not wear out with the repeating. Like all true classics, the deeper we delve into its details, the greater our satisfaction.

Of course, one of the benefits of Martin Luther King’s dream is that it was not his alone. By speaking forth his dream, it became for countless others their dream too. Such is the power of prophetic dreams---they energize God’s people.

Perhaps, like me, you grew up in a place and time where being called “a dreamer” was something of an insult. The first time someone is called a dreamer in scripture, it is no compliment. Joseph’s brother used the term of him scornfully. Yet, it was Joseph’s dreams, and his facility with the dreams of Pharaoh, that were to become the means of delivering the entire family of Jacob, and a host of others, from the gruesome death of famine. Joseph demonstrated that being a dreamer can be a good thing, a life-giving thing. Indeed, being a dreamer can be a God thing.

We are told by the Prophet Joel that after a time of judgment, the people of Israel will experience a time of blessing, a divine visitation. And one of the signs of that visitation will be dreams and visions, for young and old, men and women.

25 "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten-
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the LORD your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the LORD your God,
and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.
28 "And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

God’s Spirit poured will out so that young and old, rich and poor, men and women prophesy, dreaming dreams and having visions.

Shimon Kefa, Simon Peter, speaks of this kind of visitation on the Day of Pentecost [Shavuot], which we ourselves are soon to celebrate. He borrows this text from Joel confirming that this dreaming of dreams from God is a sign of divine visitation, and is characteristic of God’s people during these days of the Newer Covenant.

Acts 2:15 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

Rather than despising dreamers as some are wont to do, we should be eager to have the kinds of dreams and visions God sends during his times of visitation. But what kinds of dreams should they be? And how will we know that our dreams from the Spirit of God?

One measuring rod to gauge whether a dream is God-given is to see if one’s dreams are compatible with God’s dreams. It may surprise you to know that God has dreams, but today’s Haftarah, the second chapter of Hosea, makes it unmistakably clear that God has a dream, and even what that dream is like.

Just as people have recurring dreams, so this dream of God reappears again and again in Scripture. Sometimes certain details predominate, at other times, other details. Sometimes the dream is complete, and sometimes partial. But if one reads the Scriptures carefully, one can easily identify details of God’s dream for Israel His people, especially, as in today’s reading,

In Hosea 2:1-3 we read that God dreams of Israel being multiplied, unified, and joined in warm and lasting reconciled relationship with the Holy One,

1 The number of the people of Israel shall be like that of the sands of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted; and instead of being told, "You are Not-My-People," they shall be called Children-of-the-Living-God. 2 The people of Judah and the people of Israel shall assemble together and appoint one head over them; and they shall rise from the ground--for marvelous shall be the day of Jezreel!

3Oh, call your brothers "My People,"
And your sisters "Lovingly Accepted!"

He speaks also of the means he will use to bring this dream to pass, means which might be termed his nightmare, and Israel’s as well, for yes, before the dream comes to pass, first there will be a nightmare,

4 Rebuke your mother, rebuke her--
For she is not My wife
And I am not her husband--
And let her put away her harlotry from her face
And her adultery from between her breasts.
5 Else will I strip her naked
And leave her as on the day she was born:
And I will make her like a wilderness,
Render her like desert land,
And let her die of thirst.
6 I will also disown her children;
For they are now a harlot's brood,
7 In that their mother has played the harlot,
She that conceived them has acted shamelessly--
Because she thought,
"I will go after my lovers,
Who supply my bread and my water,
My wool and my linen,
My oil and my drink."

8 Assuredly,
I will hedge up her roads with thorns
And raise walls against her,
And she shall not find her paths.
9 Pursue her lovers as she will,
She shall not overtake them;
And seek them as she may,
She shall never find them.
Then she will say,
"I will go and return
To my first husband,
For then I fared better than now."

10 And she did not consider this:
It was I who bestowed on her
The new grain and wine and oil;
I who lavished silver on her
And gold--which they used for Baal.
11 Assuredly,
I will take back My new grain in its time
And My new wine in its season,
And I will snatch away My wool and My linen
That serve to cover her nakedness.
12 Now will I uncover her shame
In the very sight of her lovers,
And none shall save her from Me.
13 And I will end all her rejoicing:
Her festivals, new moons, and sabbaths--
All her festive seasons.
14 I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees,
Which she thinks are a fee
She received from her lovers;
I will turn them into brushwood,
And beasts of the field shall devour them.
15 Thus will I punish her
For the days of the Baalim,
On which she brought them offerings;
When, decked with earrings and jewels,
She would go after her lovers,
Forgetting Me

--declares the Lord.

There will be a time of estrangement, rebuke, barrenness and suffering, as means to cause Israel to return to the One from whom they had departed.

And finally, there is the happy ending of the dream itself, so glorious, it makes all that came before it worth the pain and suffering.

16 Assuredly,
I will speak coaxingly to her
And lead her through the wilderness
And speak to her tenderly.
17 I will give her her vineyards from there,
And the Valley of Achor as a plowland of hope.
There she shall respond as in the days of her youth,
When she came up from the land of Egypt.

18 And in that day

--declares the Lord--
You will call [Me] Ishi,
And no more will you call Me Baali.
19 For I will remove the names of the Baalim from her mouth,
And they shall nevermore be mentioned by name.

20 In that day, I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; I will also banish bow, sword, and war from the land. Thus I will let them lie down in safety.

21 And I will espouse you forever:
I will espouse you with righteousness and justice,
And with goodness and mercy,
22 And I will espouse you with faithfulness;
Then you shall be devoted to the Lord.

God’s dream, his longing is most aptly expressed in the second part of verse 17, where he states of Israel, “There she shall respond as in the days of her youth, When she came up from the land of Egypt.” But what does this mean? How did Israel respond to God when she up from the land of Egypt. To what is the text alluding?

This is the heart of God’s dream. The return of Israel to covenant faithfulness, to a life ordered by Torah, which our tradition refers to as Israel’s ketubbah, her marriage contract with the Holy One,

God longs for the restoration of Israel, and for our return to covenant faithfulness.

We are the Bridegroom’s friends. Can we long for anything less?

Renew our days, as of old.