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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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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Abraham's Obedience and Messianic Judaism

To be followers of God in the train of Abraham is essentially to be persons who recognize ourselves to have been commanded and who obey. This contrasts with the pop-Christian reflex which sees Abraham as essentially a person who believes, and which imagines “belief” as being prior to and separate from action. Contrary to the adamant opinions of some, this will not do. Faith and action are inseparable. Although they can be separated in thought, that is, although we can discuss faith and action as two separate rational categories, they are not and cannot be separated in life, because such “faith,” apart from works is dead. It is inert, lifeless, and really not faith at all.

In the Bible, Abraham is essentially the man who obeys, and his belief (Genesis 15:1-6) derives its significance in how it supports and illustrates his obedience. This sense is at war with postmodern Messianic Judaism where we tend to see ourselves as those who know, those who understand, who are enlightened in some manner—who have faith. But it is too easy for such “believers” to see obedience as “nice but secondary.” This is not only not Judaism: it is not true to the Bible, nor is it true to Truth and the One who is the True and Living God.

The Bible sees Abraham first and foremost as one who obeyed God. Indeed, God’s first words to him are not words of explanation or comfy relational chit-chat, but rather words of command: “Get up, get out, get going.” If we as a Messianic Jewish Movement would be children of Abraham in fact and not just in name, then we too must become reflexively obedient. This will require a Holy Spirit revolution freeing us from the reflexes of post-Enlightenment postmodernism.

In “The Body of Faith,” Michael Wyschogrod comments helpfully “Israel replied 'We will do and we will hear’ when it heard God’s demands. Only obedience responds to the word of God as demand, so that a proper hearing can only come after the doing” (173). I add that only reflexive obedience honors God for who He is: anything less is to reduce God to an equal--or less, which is idolatry. Only obedience honors God.

This is why kashrut and shabbat observance are crucial—because they treat God as central. What we do with our mouths and with our time are entirely his business because he is God, and if we balk at this "intrusion" into "our lives," we are demonstrating we just don't get it--we don't really understand who God is, who we are, and what are the rules of the game. When we presume to differ, or to “take matters under consideration,” we become those who use and abuse God’s name without treating him as God. God commands. Only our explicit obedience demonstrates that we understand who he is and who we are.

Na’aseh v’nishmah always go together. We might translate the terms, “We will do, and by so doing, we will demonstrate that we understand who you are and who we are."

Do we?

At 1/04/2007 6:28 PM, Blogger Bob said...

Sabbath observance is a huge issue right now in Sydney with the pushing of buttons the central topic of conversation.

I wrote about it on my blog this week. At Mendo spot if you want to read about it.

All up, I'll be glad when the Lord of the Sabbath renders all the preliminaries irrelevant at His return. Even so, ...

At 1/05/2007 1:35 PM, Blogger jon cline said...

Thanks for your commitment to let HaShem be HaShem with all of its implications. We have trouble with the concept of irrational, arbitrary commands.

It is reason that beckons us to this "equality" with God and yet we cannot due without it.

May we all do as we grow in our understanding.


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