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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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Friday, January 26, 2007

Seeds, Weeds, and Walking the High Wire: The Remnant (Pt. 1)

I identify the Messianic Jewish Movement as part of the Messianic Jewish Remnant of Israel. It will help to first differentiate between two uses of the term. Dan Johnson demonstrates that Scripture presents two different modalities of remnant identity, one being survivors of a time of judgment, the other being the seed from which God’s continuing purposes will be realized. He points out how the verb form used in Gn 7:23, “only Noach was left (vayisha’er akh noakh), along with those who were with him in the ark,” is related to the noun sh’erit (remnant). This is the first appearance of the verb in Scripture. Just as Noach/Noah, his family, and the animals in the ark were a sign of God’s continuing purpose for the earth, and instruments for its realization, so the eschatological remnant of Israel discussed in Romans 9-11 is meant to be a sign, demonstration and catalyst of God’s continuing purposes for the Jewish people.

The survivors of judgment motif is evident in Romans 9:27:

“And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, ‘Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved.’” This in turn references Isaiah 10:22, a word of temporary judgment: “For though your people Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness.”

The other use of “remnant,” as a seed sign of hope, is apparent in Isaiah 11:10-16.

10 On that day the root of Yishai, which stands as a banner for the peoples - the Goyim will seek him out, and the place where he rests will be glorious. 11 On that day Adonai will raise his hand again, a second time, to reclaim the remnant of his people who remain from Ashur, Egypt, Patros, Ethiopia, 'Eilam, Shin'ar, Hamat and the islands in the sea. 12 He will hoist a banner for the Goyim, assemble the dispersed of Isra'el, and gather the scattered of Y'hudah from the four corners of the earth. 13 Efrayim's jealousy will cease - those who harass Y'hudah will be cut off, Efrayim will stop envying Y'hudah, and Y'hudah will stop provoking Efrayim. 14 They will swoop down on the flank of the P'lishtim to the west. Together they will pillage the people to the east - they will put out their hand over Edom and Mo'av, and the people of 'Amon will obey them. 15 ADONAI will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian Sea. He will shake his hand over the [Euphrates] River to bring a scorching wind, dividing it into seven streams and enabling people to cross dryshod. 16 There will be a highway for the remnant of his people who are still left from Ashur, just as there was for Isra'el when he came out from the land of Egypt.

This seed nature of the remnant is also evident in Isaiah 37:31-33.

Meanwhile, the remnant of the house of Y'hudah that has escaped will again take root downward and bear fruit upward; 32 for a remnant will go out from Yerushalayim, those escaping will go out from Mount Tziyon. The zeal of ADONAI-Tzva'ot will accomplish this.' 33 "Therefore this is what ADONAI says concerning the king of Ashur: "' (check number of “)He will not come to this city or even shoot an arrow there; he will not confront it with a shield or erect earthworks against it.”

Although here, as in Isaiah 11, the term remnant denotes survivors of judgment, the second theme of the remnant as a seed of hope is evident. John Paul Heil demonstrates how Romans 9-11 focuses on this second usage of the term "remnant," and how the Apostle uses the term as a sign of hope even in Romans 9:27-29, normally viewed as a judgment text.

Heil shows that standard translations of Romans 9:27-29 obscure the strong note of hope in Paul’s language, and fail to heed intertextual voices. Contrary to those who see the text as a judgment text, Heil views Romans 9:27-29 as foreshadowing the climactic note of victory, “and so all Israel will be saved,” in Romans 11:26. After meticulous exegesis, he offers this translation of Rom 9:27-29, revealing Paul’s use of remnant as a sign of hope:

But Isaiah cries out on behalf of (not “concerning”) Israel (= still unbelieving Israel, not those from the Jews (9:24) who believe in Christ): “If the number of the sons of Israel be (not ‘were’) as the sand of the sea (which they will be in accord with God’s word of promise in Gen 16:13; 22:17; 28:14; 32:121), surely, at least (not ‘only’) a remnant will be saved! For definitely deciding a word (that Israel will be as numerous as the sand of the sea), the Lord will accomplish (it) on the earth” (Isa 10:22-23; 28:22b; Hos 2:1a). And as Isaiah had foretold (and still foretells), “If the Lord Sabaoth had not left for us (= the unbelieving majority of Israel) a seed (= a remnant who will believe and be saved), we would have become like Sodom and we would have been made like Gomorrah” (Isa 1:9).

Heil highlights what is often missed, that the remant is a sign of hope concerning the Divine purpose for the rest of Israel. This remnant is not simply the residue left after a time of judgment, nor a sign there are others who comprise the remnant as well, but rather, this remnant is the earnest of God’s continuing purposes for Israel as a whole.

Following both Johnson and Heil, I use the term remnant to indicate that communal seed of hope which is meant to serve as a sign, demonstration, and catalyst of God’s gracious purpose for all Israel. Serving as this sign, demonstration, and catalyst is the job description of the Messianic Jewish Remnant.

We may differentiate between a variety of Jewish remnants. What might be termed the General Jewish Remnant, fully known only to God, is his sum-total Jewish Remnant in the earth, objects of His grace, and precious in His sight—comprised of those who are explicitly Yeshua believers, and others whom God judges to be faithful Israel. This includes those who have gone before, and those who will come after us. The Messianic Jewish Remnant is the body of Yeshua-believing Messianic Jews within that group seeking, however imperfectly, to live in continuity with Jewish life and community. Not all Jewish believers are part of the Messianic Jewish Remnant in this sense, although all are part of the General Jewish Remnant. I reserve the term “Messianic Jewish Remnant” for those Jewish Yeshua-believers seeking to live in continuity with Jewish life and community.

Other Jewish Yeshua-believers, living assimilated Jewish lives in churches,are also part of the General Jewish Remant, with the likely exception of those Jewish people who seek to obscure or deny their Jewish identity. But we ought not say that the Messianic Jewish Remnant plus other Jewish Yeshua believers is the sum total of the General Jewish Remnant. My caution is due to Yeshua’s warnings that many who are first will be last, and the last first, and to God’s warning to Elijah as repeated by Paul, that the true extent of the remnant is greater than we can know.

Therefore, claiming remnant status does not entitle us to deny that status to others known only to God. To insist on doing so is to repeat the error for which God chastised Elijah.

Some write more extensively on remnant theology, discussing matters such as the role of the remnant in the Millennium, the role of the 144,00, and related issues. These are not my concerns. My concern is a missiological one: to address the responsibilities of the Messianic Jewish Remnant now, especially regarding our relationship with rest of the Jewish world.

But that will follow in future postings.

At 1/31/2007 7:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why continued the myth that only Jews can reach Jews and then only if those Jews are Torah observant? As Yeshua points out in the illustrations of the lost sheep, coin and sonSSSS, salvation is based on the acceptance that G-d is generous. From this one idea, we understand that which G-d created has not lost its value because it is “lost.” Therefore, you should be encouraging the salvation of our people by as many avenues available rather than the very, very, very few you would say “qualify.” Again, if G-d is generous, then He would be able to use more than we think because He is the one revealing, not us. So if Gentiles believers need training to be more effective, then why not consider that as a part of your overall strategy?

At 1/31/2007 7:58 AM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

No one is saying that "only Jews can reach Jews and then only if those Jews are Torah observant." Gentiles can reach Jews for Yeshua as well. However, when Jews are "reached" they should be encouraged, yea, required to return to Torah based covenant faithfulness, because one of the things of which we Jews are uniquely guilty, and for which we need to repent, is breaking the covenant our ancestors accepted at Sinai. Obviously, it is not repentance when someone says "I am sorry I did not keep the coveant. Please forgive me: but I'm still not going to keep it!"

Secondly, it is the unique role of the Messianic Jewish remnant to act as a sign, demonstration, and catalyst of God's consummating purposes for Israel, and to lead other Jews into conformity with those purposes in Yeshua's Name and in the power of the Spirit. God's purposes for the Jewish people are broader than repenting of our having missed the Messiah when He came! They include bringing his people back to the covenant which they broke, although He was a husband unto us.

At 2/08/2007 10:29 PM, Blogger jon cline said...

It is always great to see more conversation around that short but pivotal vignette that is Rom 9-11. I think I would add a few words to 'anonymous' question.

It is important to consider reality when making these considerations. We are all affinity driven and therefore like to duplicate ourselves and attract ourselves. A Jew is best reached by a Jew who can communicate the great news of our Jewish Messiah in the affinities, values, and framework already understood, valued, and most importantly practiced.

There are certainly Yeshua followers who see Gd's continuing work in Israel is positive and valuable. However, even those few who seek to learn from Shabbat, Pesach, and Torah for their own understanding of Gd do so as outsiders to Israel.
They still come up against significant challenges when leading a Jew to Yeshua without help.

That is where I think the greatest potential lies. Messianic Jews who are living as Jews and have relationships with other Jews also in relationship with churches to offer an alternative to the "just drop the Jewishness and become like us" option.

Probably a tangent but that is what blogging is about right?

Thanks Stuart for showing people like me more ways to be "called great in the Kingdom of Gd."

At 3/04/2007 6:50 PM, Blogger Shoshana said...

Doesn't the entire concept of reaching the Jewish people with the truth of Messiah hinge on the concept of provoking the Jewish people to jealousy? How else would a non-believing Jew be provoked to look deeper into faith in Yeshua, except through seeing a believer live out their Jewish faith in a Jewish way?

At 3/04/2007 9:17 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Dear Shoshana,

You said,
"Doesn't the entire concept of reaching the Jewish people with the truth of Messiah hinge on the concept of provoking the Jewish people to jealousy?"

I think you overstate this, Shoshana. First of all, Paul says he magnifies his ministry in order to provoke the Jewish people too jealousy. Mark Nanos suggests that it was Paul's ministry to the Gentiles--teh fact that they were coming to Israel's God--whihc he believed would provoke them to jealousy, because the prophets had said that this would be the role of ISRAEL in the latter days. He clearly said that be believed the Jewish people would be provoked to jealousy by his ministry.

You ask, "How else would a non-believing Jew be provoked to look deeper into faith in Yeshua, except through seeing a believer live out their Jewish faith in a Jewish way?"

I do think that as Messianic Jews live Jewish lives and derive greater joy and connectedness to God in the midst of it through the Holy Spirit and in Yeshua the Messiah, that this will provoke some Jews to jealousy--although it seems clear tha this was not the thrust of Paul's words.

As for Gentiles provoking Jews to jealousy through living Jewish lives, I think that might backfire, just as some well-meaning Gentiles who wear a Jewish star have encountered unexpected animosity from Jewish people who were offended, rather than flattered, by the practice.

Thank you for writing.


3/04/2007 6:50 PM


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