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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.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

God's Mercy to All Through Three Suffering Sons

The following is a sermon presented at Rosh Hashana services at Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue, Beverly Hills, CA, on September 23, 2006. It is based on the Torah reading for the second day of Rosh Hashana, Genesis 22, the Akkedah, that is, the Binding of Isaac.

We saw last night how this season of the year focuses on our need to receive mercy ourselves, and to demonstrate that mercy to one another. Indeed, the story is told of one of our rabbis who suggested that it is only when we seek mercy for others that we receive mercy ourselves, as it is written of Job “And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”

This season of seeking mercy speaks to us far more widely than of our personal lives, our struggles and our sins. The Bible’s scope is usually wider than that, and today’s Torah reading speaks to us of God’s merciful purposes for Israel and the Nations.

And if there was ever a time when we needed mercy for Israel and the nations, it is now.

The root of it all is the story of the Binding of Isaac, the Akkedah

Today we have the interesting opportunity to consider a midrash on this account as provided by Paul in his letter to the Romans.

In Romans 8:32, Paul indicates that he is thinking of the Akkedah, when he says, “He who did not spare even his own Son, but gave him up on behalf of us all - is it possible that, having given us his Son, he would not give us everything else too?”

Here he is echoing the language of the Akkedah.

11 But the angel of ADONAI called to him out of heaven: "Avraham? Avraham!"He answered, "Here I am." 12 He said, "Don't lay your hand on the boy! Don't do anything to him! For now I know that you are a man who fears God, because you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." 13 Avraham raised his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in the bushes by its horns. Avraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Avraham called the place ADONAI Yir'eh [ADONAI will see (to it), ADONAI provides] -as it is said to this day, "On the mountain ADONAI is seen."

15 The angel of ADONAI called to Avraham a second time out of heaven. 16 He said, "I have sworn by myself - says ADONAI- that because you have done this, because you haven't withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will most certainly bless you; and I will most certainly increase your descendants to as many as there are stars in the sky or grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants will possess the cities of their enemies, 18 and by your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed - because you obeyed my order."

Abraham did not withhold his son, his only son, identified as his beloved son at the beginning of the chapter. And it is because he did not withhold his son, that both Israel and the nations receive promised blessings from God.

Paul echoes this argument very powerfully indeed in Romans 8, where he speaks of another Beloved Son, the Messiah.

31 What, then, are we to say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare even his own Son, but gave him up on behalf of us all - is it possible that, having given us his Son, he would not give us everything else too? 33 So who will bring a charge against God's chosen people? Certainly not God - he is the one who causes them to be considered righteous!”

The language here is identical to the language in the Septuagint of Genesis 22. In Genesis 22, Abraham spared not his son—he withheld not his son. Through Issac being sacrificially given up, Israel and the nations are blessed. In Romans 8:31-33, through Messiah being sacrificially given up, Israel and the nations are blessed.

All of this is rather well known and predictable. But there is a reference to this theme, a bit more hidden, another reference to the sufferings of a beloved son, which sheds entirely new and necessary light on intercommunal relations between Israel and the nations.

At this stage in his argument, Paul is considering the mystery of the fact that most of the Jewish people not flocked to believing in Yeshua. In Paul’s mind, it was the purpose of God that things should be this way. In Romans chapter 9, he says that it was God who hardened the heart of Israel toward this reality, as a means whereby the other nations might have opportunity to buy into the good news of Yeshua, as Gentiles,

Paul sees all of this as rooted in God’s ancient promises to the patriarchs, for example, to Abraham at the binding of Isaac, to bless both Israel and the other families of the earth. He compares this ornate purpose to an olive tree, rooted in the promises to and faithfulness of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This root is holy.

Paul extends this metaphor to that of an olive tree with Jewish branches and Gentile branches. Speaking to the Gentiles as grafted in, Johnny come lately wild olive branches, with the people of Israel being the natural branches, Paul says this.

16 . . . if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you - a wild olive - were grafted in among them and have become equal sharers in the rich root of the olive tree, 18 then don't boast as if you were better than the branches! However, if you do boast, remember that you are not supporting the root, the root is supporting you. 19 So you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." 20 True, but so what? They were broken off because of their lack of trust. However, you keep your place only because of your trust. So don't be arrogant; on the contrary, be terrified! 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he certainly won't spare you!

This is the today’s third reference to a suffering beloved son. Israel is God’s son, or as he tells Moses to tell Pharaoh, “Israel is My firstborn son.” Just as Abraham did not spare Isaac his son, and just as God did not spare the Messiah, his son, so God did not spare his son Israel. Through the binding of Isaac, Israel and the nations are blessed, through the sacrifice of Messiah, Israel and the nations are blessed, and through the temporary divine blinded condition of Israel, unable to recognize that Yeshua is indeed the Messiah, all the nations on earth are blessed.
What does this mean?

It means that God is up to something in the world that is not the sole franchise of the Church, nor of Israel. God is determined to bring blessing to Israel and the Nations.

Second, it shows how wrong-headed and wrong-hearted are those who criticize the Jewish people for not recognizing that Yeshua is the Messiah. Every Gentile who claims to love Yeshua should be grateful for and not contemptuous of Jewish resistance to the good news of Yeshua. From Paul’s point of view, Jewish resistance to Yeshua is God’s idea—the means whereby the door is opened for Gentiles to become the people of God without their having to become Jews first. They can come as Gentiles, as wild olive branches.

Third, it means that Yeshua is the Messiah through whom both Israel and the nations receive the mercies promised to our ancestors. That most of our Jewish people don’t see this now is no impediment to God’s showing them His mercy, and is in the end, a temporary expedient that will eventually pass away, when "Out of Tziyon will come the Redeemer; he will turn away ungodliness from Ya'akov and this will be my covenant with them, . . . when I take away their sins" . . .when "they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son."

During this season of the year, when we think about the mercies of God, it is important to remember than they come through the sufferings of Isaac, of Yeshua, and of the Jewish people.

Let’s learn to be grateful. Whether Jew or gentile. All of us. As Paul says concerning the Jews and Gentiles in and around the community of Yeshua believers in chapter 15:

7 So welcome each other, just as the Messiah has welcomed you into God's glory. 8 For I say that the Messiah became a servant of the Jewish people in order to show God's truthfulness by making good his promises to the Patriarchs, 9 and in order to show his mercy by causing the Gentiles to glorify God - as it is written in the Tanakh, "Because of this I will acknowledge you among the Gentiles and sing praise to your name." 10 And again it says, "Gentiles, rejoice with his people." 11 And again, "Praise ADONAI, all Gentiles! Let all peoples praise him!" 12 And again, Yesha'yahu says, "The root of Yishai will come, he who arises to rule Gentiles; Gentiles will put their hope in him."

And as he says at the conclusion of his argument in Romans 11, concerning the people of Israel to the Gentiles in Rome:

For, brothers, I want you to understand this truth which God formerly concealed but has now revealed, so that you won't imagine you know more than you actually do. It is that stoniness, to a degree, has come upon Isra'el, until the Gentile world enters in its fullness; 26 and that it is in this way that all Isra'el will be saved. As the Tanakh says, "Out of Tziyon will come the Redeemer; he will turn away ungodliness from Ya'akov 27 and this will be my covenant with them, . . . when I take away their sins." 28 With respect to the Good News they are hated for your sake. But with respect to being chosen they are loved for the Patriarchs' sake, 29 for God's free gifts and his calling are irrevocable. 30 Just as you yourselves were disobedient to God before but have received mercy now because of Isra'el's disobedience; 31 so also Isra'el has been disobedient now, so that by your showing them the same mercy that God has shown you, they too may now receive God's mercy. 32 For God has shut up all mankind together in disobedience, in order that he might show mercy to all.

33 O the depth of the riches and the wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments! How unsearchable are his ways! 34 For, 'Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been his counselor?'c 35 Or, 'Who has given him anything and made him pay it back?' 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

At 10/24/2006 6:05 AM, Anonymous Zvi Wallerstein said...

It's been a while since you've posted, Stuart. Miss you !


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