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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 11, 2007

Eight Tent Pegs Fastening Abraham's Tent: The Perpetuity of Israel's Election

While it is common to call the Jewish people “The Chosen People,” opinions differ as to how long and under what conditions that chosenness endures.

Jewish tradition comments about the Tent of Abraham, where he received the three visitors in Genesis 18. We are told that his tent was open on all four sides (Genesis Rabbah 48:9). This allowed Abraham to let any passing stranger know that s/he was a potential guest. Also, Abraham could see people in all directions. He could then go out from his tent and offer them food, drink and a place to rest. Thus Abraham is the human paradigm of hospitality to strangers.

Through Yeshua the Messiah, strangers from the nations have come into Abraham’s Tent. So it is that Walter Kaiser renders Genesis 9:27, "God will enlarge Japhet, But He will dwell [v'yishkon] in the tents of Shem." God would would dwell, would be present, in the tents of Shem, from whom would come Abram, in whom all the families of the earth would be blessed.

Does God still dwell in Abraham’s tent, among the Jewish people? Did the coming of Yeshua of Nazareth render Abraham’s tent primarily a place for Gentile guests, and only contingently and secondarily still a place for the Jews, the seed of Abraham and Sarah? Did these guests replace the descendants of Abraham and Sarah?

I want to suggest eight reasons why the Jewish people still dwell with God inside Abraham's Tent, and why the others from among the nations have not displaced the descendants of Jacob, who can then only return to the tent in Yeshua's name. These eight reasons are eight tent pegs fastening Abraham’s tent as a dwelling place for the children of Abraham and Sarah, and not only them, establishing the continuing and unique election of the Jewish people as a people.

1.The promises to the patriarchs/matriarichs to bless Abraham’s physical seed. See for example Genesis 17:19; 21:12; 28:13. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are all promised that their seed after them will be guarded and blessed by God. As Paul will say later, "they are beloved for the sake of the fathers."

2. God’s oath to Abraham, on the occasion of the binding of Isaac - Genesis 22. Hebrews 6:18 reminds us that a promise is one thing, an oath, another. God has not only promised the continuing election of the descendants of Abraham and Sarh--he has sworn it. God's oath to Abraham is later successfully invoked by Moses as the grounds whereby God repents of his intention to judge Israel at the time of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:7-14).

3. God’s promise that his faithfulness to Israel will endure as long as the fixed order of the sun, moon, stars, and sea (Jer 31:35-36).

4. God’s faithfulness is not only as steadfast as the creation itself, but is in fact even more abiding. ‘for the mountains may move and the hills be shaken, but my loyalty shall never move from you, nor my covenant of friendship be shaken—said the Lord, who takes you back in love (Isa 54:10).

5. A fifth tent-peg, links the perpetuity of God’s promise, and thus of Israel’s election, to God’s own person: “But because I, ADONAI, do not change, you sons of Ya'akov will not be destroyed.”

6. “Isaiah 66:22 records the divine promise to preserve Israel’s ‘descendants and name’ in like manner to his preservation of the new heavens and the new earth, thus extending Israel’s secure election beyond this creation into the eschaton.

7. The economy of mutual blessing, the seventh tent peg. Israel’s election is secure because of its irreplaceable role in the consummation of all things. R. Kendall Soulen reminds us that:

Biblical ontology takes the form of an economy of mutual blessing, in which God summons the households of creation to receive God’s blessing in the company of an other. Because it belongs to the glory of the biblical God to love the human family in a human way, in the fullness of its corporeality and completeness, God’s economy of mutual blessing exhibits a certain order or taxis [linear arrangement], a taxis summarized by a first-century Jew in the phrase, ‘to the Jew first and also to the Greek’ (Rom 1:16)

In sum, the goal of God’s work as Consummator is that future reign of shalom in which the economy of difference and mutual dependence initiated by God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah is fulfilled in a way that brings fullness of life to Israel, to the nations, and to all creation [Soulen, R. Kendall, The God of Israel and Christian Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 121, 131].

8. Yeshua is the eighth tent peg, of a different kind—the tent peg of the seed of Abraham, and from the tribe of Judah, upon whom all else hangs (Zechariah 10:4). As such, he is the guarantee of the consummation of all of God’s purposes for both Israel and the nations. The only other choice is to imagine that with the coming of Jesus, the ultimate seed of Abraham and Sarah, the Jewish people were categorically evicted from Abraham’s tent unless and until they acknowledged Jesus as Messiah. Some, such as N.T. Wright, believe this to be so. But this seems to overstate and misstate the view of Scripture, which sees even Jewish hardening toward the gospel as part of God’s saving purposes. And of course, Paul is at pains to protest that God is not through with the Jewish people. If all the promises of God are "Yes" in Yeshua, this will most certainly include the promises--and oaths--made to the Jewish people!