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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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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Do Jews Need The Gospel, Should We Proclaim It To Them, and If So, Why?

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God—this includes all Jews. And religious Jews would have no difficulty admitting this.

I know myself to be a man of unclean lips who needs to be touched with the coal from off of God’s sacrificial altar in order to be cleansed. I know myself to be a person totally dependent upon the redemption which is in Messiah Yeshua.

But I did not always know myself to be a Jew with covenant obligations.

Certainly pagans need to repent. Certainly adherents to idolatrous religions need to repent. Certainly Jews need to repent. But we also need to ask in each case the following question: “Repent for what?” Biblically, the answer to this question is different for Jews than for non-Jews.

Some, new to the paradigm shifts I advocate, imagine that I am weak on the teaching of repentance for Jews. Not true! On the contrary, I think I am more disquieted about Jewish sin than most people in our movement. I am calling for a deeper repentance for all Israel and for all of the Messianic Jewish Movement than that we have inherited from the Hebrew Christian/Jewish Missions culture, a deeper repentance than generally inhabits the heart of Messianic Judaism as I have encountered it.

R. Kendall Soulen helps us with this clarifying statement:

According to the biblical witness, God’s work as Consummator takes enduring shape in the history that unfolds between the Lord, Israel, and the nations. Accordingly, human sin is never merely the sin of the creature against the Creator-Consummator. Human sin is also always the sin of Jew and Gentile, of Israel and the nations.” (R. Kendall Soulen, The God of Israel and Christian Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996:153).

The sins of the Messianic Jewish Movement and of the Jewish people are far more dire and extensive than simply the record of individual human failings. Biblically, these sins include, and indeed are foundationally, our failure communally, familially, and individually to live in covenant faithfulness to the God of Israel.

Do we and all Jews need the atonement Yeshua provides? YES, by all means YES! But for reasons deeper than we have heretofore realized and proclaimed. We, the seed of Abraham and Sarah, whose ancestors, standing at the foot of Sinai, said “na’aseh v’nishmah—we will do and we will hear/obey—all that the Lord has spoken we will do”—must repent of our general, continual and pervasive neglect of the covenant obligations to which they implicated us and of which God spoke of all the way back to Genesis 18:16-29 and 26:1-5, much less at the Holy Mount.

All of the seed of Abraham in the Messianic Jewish Movement, and all of Israel, needs the atonement Yeshua provides not simply because we are individual sinners who need to be saved by grace. We need His atonement and we need to repent because we are covenant breakers and because every day we as individuals, families, congregations, as a Union, and as a wider Messianic Jewish community fail to live in manifest Torah-based covenant faithfulness, we break the word of our ancestors to which we ourselves are honor-bound (Deut 29:9-15), and we rob God of glory (see Deuteronomy 4:4-8; Jeremiah 35:1-19).

We as a movement need to repent of covenant unfaithfulness—and this means not simply asking for forgiveness, but also returning to the faithfulness we have for so long neglected. This is a message that is alien to almost the entire Jewish missions movement. But can we say that this is a message that Messianic Judaism has, not in theory but in practice, unambiguously affirmed? I think not.

Of the seventeen sermons in Acts, nine are given to Jewish audiences [ten if you include Paul’s word to Herod Agrippa]. Repeatedly the context of repentance there is NOT repentance from individual sin, not seeking atonement and forgiveness for being sinners who need to be saved by grace, but more precisely, the need to find forgiveness for having been so out of touch with who God is and what He is up to in the world, that the community was complicit in the death of Messiah, rejecting Him who God had raised from the dead, rejecting the Messiah whom God had sent, as they had they prophets before Him. And in these sermons, the language of covenant is also invoked, so that, for example, Peter could say in Acts 3:25: “you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers.” Stephen as well combines these two factors when he says in Acts seven. “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”

Do we see it? The sins of Israel, and of the Messianic Movement, from which we need to repent, are twofold, as is our responsibility. We are responsible to love, honor and obey: To love the Lord our God by honoring the Messiah whom He sent, and obeying the covenant he made with our ancestors.

We Messianic Jews misunderstand and misrepresent the New Covenant call for Jewish repentance because we tend to construe it in individualistic terms, thinking and preaching that “Jewish people need to repent because they are individually sinners before a holy God.: There is truth in that statement, but that is far less than, and even OTHER than the New Covenant’s perspective. Rather, as Soulen so brilliantly notes, in the Bible, “Human sin is . . . always the sin of Jew and Gentile, of Israel and the nations, against the Lord, the God of Israel.”

We need to repent because we have sinned as Jews, because we have been covenantally unfaithful to the God of Israel, in addition to what we have already repented of, our dishonoring the God of our ancestors in rejecting the Messiah whom he sent.

What should we do when we meet Jews who are endeavoring to be covenantally faithful. Should we call them to embrace the Messiah whom God sent? Absolutely! But we should also commend and applaud them for their pursuit of Jewish faithfulness. This is not generally the way we go about things! Not only are religious Jews doing what they should be doing: They are doing what we should be doing.

We must overcome the Second Century reflex of commending the gospel by downgrading Judaism. Rather, we should be telling them about Yeshua because we have been commanded to do so and because he IS the Messiah whom God sent, and it is a sin, yes, but more than that, a scandal and insult to the Holy One when Jews fail to welcome him.

I also suggest that we need to jettison couching our message in an avoid-hell find-heaven mode. Even though this approach is a non-negotiable for the Jewish missions movement and for many if not for most in the UMJC, it is not once demonstrated in the sermons of the apostles, and increasingly, the wider missions world has come to see that the emphasis is not biblical, and is effective in varying degrees depending upon contextual factors.

Last month I spoke at a well-known national mission training center. The last question I was asked concerned what I would say to a hasidic Jewish man my questioner had met at an airport. Here is what I would say: “Sir, if Yeshua is not the Messiah, then you had better make absolutely certain. For if He is, and you do not embrace him, then you dishonor the God of your ancestors.”

Jews should believe in Jesus. Jews should also be communally covenantally faithful. Anything less, is sin. But that includes the Messianic Jewish Movement.

Are we in the Messianic Jewish Movement ready to repent of our own covenantal neglect and covenantal ambivalence? I suspect that the answers in our movement are uneven. For many of us, the answer is “Yes! But how?” But it cannot be denied that there are also some who will say, “I don’t see things that way—we are not under the law,” or perhaps, “Not entirely,” or, “Are you trying to make us all Orthodox?” or perhaps, “Please explain further.”

By all means, let us preach Yeshua to all the people of Israel. But not because of their special neediness, which has often been predicated on the alleged futility of the Jewish way of life, but because He IS the Messiah whom God sent in fulfillment of his promise, whom God raised from the dead, whom our leaders rejected, but whom Israel is called to receive.

I think it better that we concentrate on why Jews OUGHT to believe in Yeshua rather than why they NEED to believe in Yeshua. The latter approach tends to focus on proving to the Jewish person their own neediness, sinfulness, and the inadequacy of their religious commitments. I submit that this approach is reflexive in the approach to Jews we learned from the missions culture, and that it needs to be forsaken as both ineffective and inaccurate. I prefer the other approach, of stressing why Jews ought to believe in Yeshua, because it focuses instead on Yeshua’s credentials and on why God-honoring Jews should welcome him.

We must urge the Jewish community to repent wherever we find that these“heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with our fathers,” are guilty of:

(1) rejecting the Messiah sent from God, and

(2) failing to obey the Law sent from God.

This call to repentance is enduring and vital. But it is a call directed not simply to the wider Jewish community, but also to all of us in the Messianic Jewish Movement, to our leaders, to our Union, and to our entire ambivalent context, “who received the Law as delivered by angels but did not obey it.”

It is time to welcome the Messiah whom He sent. But it is also time to glorify God through communal covenant obedience.

Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!

At 1/03/2007 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But all of this was by no means a negation of Yeshua’s Messianic claims. Rather, we see this as a repetition of the pattern established by Joseph, our ancestor. Rejected by his brothers, given up for dead, he became the means whereby multitudes from among the nations found life, and eventually, when he revealed himself to his brothers, he was seen as their life-giver as well. It was Joseph who said to his brothers “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” It was Joseph who said, “God sent me before you to preserve life . . . .And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God.”

15 When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?" 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, "Your father left these instructions before he died:

So as our people believed they would never see Joseph again, so they believe they will never see Yeshua again. As they didn’t believe Joseph’s forgiveness, so they don’t believe in Yeshua’s forgiveness.

What did the Torah change besides knowing that we aren’t an obedient people?

So just like the Gentiles, we are hopelessly lost until the LORD finds us. Which means like our father Abraham, we are pagens before we believe G-d.

At 1/03/2007 12:32 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

You said, "What did the Torah change besides knowing that we aren’t an obedient people?

So just like the Gentiles, we are hopelessly lost until the LORD finds us. Which means like our father Abraham, we are pagens before we believe G-d."

What you said cannot be true if the Bible is true. According to the Bible, the Jewish people are blessed and chosen on account of the Patriarchs (Romans 11:29). At the end of Genesis 22, God says he will bless Abraham's physical seed because of his obedience, in Genesis 26:24, isaac is promised that God would bless him and his descendants for "for the sake of your father Abraham," etc.

One thing is VERY clear from the Bible--the Jewish people are NOT categorically pagans "before we believe in God" which I take you to mean, "before we believe in God's means of salvation." It is definitely NOT that simple, that is, if the Bible is true.

In Ephesians, it is Gentile pagans who were "without hope and without God in the world, being strangers to the covenants of promise, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel." To say that this applies categorically to Jews is to impose upon the Bible a Baptistic fideistic grid foreign to the Bible's own premises.

Read Michael Wyschogrod, "The Body of Faith," or his collection of essays, "Abraham's Promise," and also R. Kendall Soulen's "The God of Israel and Christian Theology."

More later.

At 1/06/2007 10:07 AM, Anonymous MJinPDX said...

I appreciate your article and it really speaks to my Jewish soul. I find it is difficult for me to believe I am taking HaShem seriously when I don't keep his commandments, but there is little support for it here unless you go to the synagogue where Yeshua is not recognized.
I spent last Shabbat evening at the home of a friend and co-worker who is orthodox and highly observant. It was such a blessing to me. I felt the whole time that I must find a way to share Yeshua with them, but I didn't know what to say.
In fact in examining myself today, I find my poor little observances leave me little room to demostrate Yeshua as a Jewish Messiah. Although we did speak a little about church history and how there was a deliberate break from Judaism in the Council of Nicea that was the extent of our conversation about Christianity.
While there are messianic jewish congregations here in Portland, none of them is highly observant. In fact, the congregations that are observant are gentiles caught up in the Two House movement. They don't know what to do with me! But that's a whole blog in itself.
There is something in observance of HaShem's commands that gentile believers (Churches) have difficulty understanding. I have spent hours with my pastor and his wife trying to explain my obligations as a Jew to keep Torah.
And I am hardly orthodox! I follow biblical dietary laws and keep the Sabbath, but not much after that. Indeed if I am honest, I often don't get home in time for candle lighting and often don't end up lighting them.
It gives me hope to see you speaking out about this problem the Messianic Movement. As I sat enjoying a shabbos meal with my friends, I thought there was little in my life to "make the Jews jealous". I believe that will only happen when the Church or at least the Messianic movement shows the Jewish people their obedience as well as their messiah.

At 1/08/2007 7:26 AM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Dear Friend in Portland,

Thank you for your transparent letter. Let me try here to address some issues you raise, or whch you reveal, perhaps without knowing that you do so.

You said, "there is little support for [keeping God's commandments] here unless you go to the synagogue where Yeshua is not recognized." This is of course true. However, we Messianic Jews need to realize that God has made us to be a part of wider Israel as a covenantal condition of birth! With that comes the responsibility to support all jews in their own efforts toward covenant faithfulness. You ought not to see yourself as *only* a witness to fellow Jews; you are also one with them and owe it to them to by effort, example, and participation, support Jewish communal cohesion and covenant faithfulness. At the foot of Mt Sinai,our ancestors said "All that the Lord has spoken we will do." This was not simply a statement of what each individual would do, but rather a statement by the community to hold one another accountable on these matters.

What am I saying? You should consider being part of the wider Jewish community in Portland. Even if they will not receive nor hear your word about Yeshua, you are part of them and they of you, and you have responsibilities. Failing that, you ought to become part of the solution in some Messianic Fellowship there--advocating for covenant faithfulness along the lines I outline from time to time here.

Second, you demonstrate the necessity of communal support for Jewish living. We simply cannot do it as a solo act.

Third, you touch upon your difficulty in explaining yourself and your observance to your Pastor. This is too bad. With all due respect, perhaps you should stop trying. The man is no doubt working hard at serving the needs of his gentile flock, and, being imprinted by the assumptions of supersessionist Christianity, he does not see the need for Jewish covenant faithfulness. This does not make him a bad person. However, the calling remains yours--as a Jew you were born into a people and into a covenant. Our faith in Yeshua does not break our bonds with either of those realities.

You speak of the Church demnstrating Torah obedience. I believe this to be a dangerous error. It only increases the error of groups like the Two Houses Movement. It fosters a kind of reverse supersessionism: if everyone is a Jew, then the people of Israel lose their distinctive under God. It also implies that the Church needs Torah observance to be complete. In point of fact, what the Church needs to be complete is faith in Yeshua and allegiance to Him, which the NT clearly states does not require of Gentiles that they circumcise their children and take on the obligations of Torah! Indeed, Paul cries out against this (for Gentiles!) because it implies that Yeshua's work is not in itself sufficient for the Nations to come into relationship with the God of Israel.

Shalom for now. May God help you find a communal context where obedience to Torah is supported among Jews, and where you can be Yeshua's faithful servant.

At 1/08/2007 11:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rabbi Dauermann, firstly, I truly appreciate this forum and have learned much from it.

I understand what you said to the previous poster about the "dangerous error" that gentiles fall into when they practice Torah observance meant to distinguish Israel as a unique nation. I have been a gentile in the messianic movement, actively participating in synagogue life for nearly 20 years and after all this time I am more confused than ever as to which, if any, commandments of Torah apply to me.

When I first started participating, gentiles most certainly were encouraged to observe Torah in a manner indistinguishable from their jewish pew-mates. Now, the thinking has changed, or is changing. For now, I maintain a fairly kosher home primarily to facilitate table fellowship with my jewish friends. However, when eating outside the home and not with my jewish friends, I do not feel obligated to stick to kosher eating. Similarly, if I invite jewish friends over on Shabbat, I will light candles and pray the table liturgy, but may or may not do this when home alone. Also, I notice that now gentile men are no longer encouraged to wear a tallis, which was once not the case at all.

To make matters more confusing, I have studied with a non-Messianic reform rabbi who, knowing I am a gentile, was always very encouraging of my steps toward greater and greater Torah observance.

I often wonder if the most supportive thing I can do for Messianic Judaism is to leave, thereby reducing the number of gentiles in the movement and moving it forward in its desire to be a truly jewish sect. Can you speak to this? And can you also speak to the recent article in Moment magazine about Chabad encouraging gentile Torah observance (the Noahide cult)?

At 1/08/2007 12:27 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Dear Gentile Friend,

I want to first thank you for your courage and integrity in writing. I do not have time at this moment to respond at length, but felt I needed to respond in some manner ASAP to your posting.

Now hear this: as a Gentile in the movment you are NOT a second class citizen, and should neither feel yourself to be such nor allow yourself to be treated as such.

The matters we are dealing with have to do with maintaining appopriate respect for Jewish sancta, and repudiating the tendency to pick and choose at the Jewish table, and to use Jewish sancta in a manner discordant with their usage in the the Jewish world. As an example, I here register my disavowal of those who use the blowing of Shofars in their services as a means of registering or inciting excitement of some sort. These may well be better people than I, but the practice is a manifestation of ignorance and disrespect, even if well-intentioned.

There are some behaviors that are more out of place than others. For example, Gentile men should always wear a kippah in a synagogue. This is a matter of respect, and is standard practice in the Jewish world. The wearing of the tallit/tallis is another matter. It connotes one's submission to the 613 commandments of Torah, of which ritual circumcision is the initiation. When a Gentile man wears a tallit, he is inadvertently using the tallit to state a lie--that he is subservient to the 613 commandments, which, in his uncircumcised state, not simply urologically but ritually, indicates to be a lie. Therefore, despite what personal emotions or feelings or social conformity might be implicated in the practice, it is inappropriate for him to wear the tallit--not because he is a Gentile, but because he is not a Jew.

This is one example among many. Another would be being called up to Torah and saying the blessing of Him who "chose us from all peoples and gave us his Torah." Paul has no trouble recognizing what many in our day miss, that the Torah was given especially to the Jewish people, as he echoes this blessing in Romans 3:2. Although people may state, "Well, God gave the Bible to all peoples," I would remiind them that the Torah, as a system of covenant obligation, was given only to the people of Israel. So, to come up to the Torah to read, and to utter a blessing over it which constitutes a lie--this is, of course, a grievous misuse of the holiest of Jewish things.

Where does this leave us? Does it leave Gentiles as perennial outsiders, God forbid? Of course not. First of all, Gentiles who believe in Christ are fully members of God's people. Secondly, there are aspects of Jewish life that Gentiles may enter into freely without manifesting the disrespect I decry here. Third, there should be in Messianic Judaism, as in the wider Jewish community, a means whereby Gentiles who know themselves to be genuinely called to be part of this covenant people with all the obligations that entails, may be trained, qualified, and received as converts to Judaism in the MJ context--accepting the covenant obligations which even many Messianic Jews neglect.

Yes, the middle wall of partition has been broken down. Jews and Gentiles are full and equal partners in the people of God. But this does not mean that they are the same. Gentiles who want to embrace the fullness of Jewish life should be given a well marked out pathway to full inclusion with integrity. But there should also be barriers against unwitting, and in some cases, uncaring violation of appropriate boundaries by those who remain God's people from among the nations.

I hope this helps. Please stay in touch and respond.


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