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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

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.