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Lesson 2: Where Does it End?
Our series has reached its conclusion. We have explored many different aspects of the relationship between Christians and Jews.
The discipline of writing these columns has forced me to take a large number of swirling thoughts about this topic and bring them down to earth. When ideas are written down, they become transportable! I am indebted to Gidon Ariel for “reading for understanding and fact-checking” each of these articles in advance and helping me articulate these ideas, and for his patience with my Christian mindset. But I had to get these ideas out or I felt I would burst. I think I now understand a tiny fraction of what Jeremiah felt:
I thought, “I will not mention Him, No more will I speak in His name”— But [His word] was like a raging fire in my heart, Shut up in my bones; I could not hold it in, I was helpless. Jeremiah 20:9 (TIB)
Yes, I suppose I could write a few more columns on these topics, but something now feels complete.
But wait, you still have one more column to read, perhaps the most intriguing of all!
Where is the relationship between Jews and Christians heading?
Where does it end?
I now look back at somebody and laugh. How silly he was! How cartoonish he was! How shallow he was! That person was me.
The “end” of the relationship between Christians and Jews, I used to think, would occur when we were homogenized together, as if red wine and white wine were going to be poured into a carafe to create a new Rosé blend. And the chief issue that had to be resolved for that to happen, in my mind, was the Jewish understanding of the identity of the Messiah.
This focus on the identity of the Messiah by us as Christians is quite common. It is characterized quite well in many different ways. For instance, a joke is often told when loving Christians and Jews are in the same room together. Somebody, and this can be spoken by Christians or Jews equally well, says, “When the Messiah comes we will ask him if this is your first or second visit!” This never fails to get a laugh.
I also have enjoyed hearing a few different spins on the identify of the Messiah by some Jewish friends. Rabbi Ken Spiro often ends his talks to Christian audiences by saying, “If the Messiah turns out to be Jesus, I’ll be the first in line to let you baptize me.” Nehemia Gordon has ended some of his talks to Christian audiences by allowing Christians to pray that God would reveal to him who the Messiah really is. Gidon Ariel suggests that Christians should not try to convince him through their words about the knowledge of “a revelation” about Jesus that they received directly from God; in other words Gidon suggests “to let God do the revealing.”
But let’s move on from that topic to a larger view. A larger approach is to consider what shall be the reaction of the two groups at the “coming of the Messiah.” We Christians tend to assume that the Jews will be the “most surprised group” when the Messiah arrives. That’s where I began my journey. Yet, almost a full year before meeting Gidon, I had an unexpected question suddenly occur to me:
What if Christians were as surprised by the “second coming” as the Jews were surprised by the “first coming”?
Then over the years, I had heard this general idea also expressed by a few well-known Christians, and at least one well-known Jew. When Rabbi Shlomo Riskin once famously suggested at a major Christian gathering that Christians will be asked by the Jewish Messiah, to “convert” to Jewish practices, he said the hall was filled with “absolute silence.”
But I would like to end this section with two more comments: one from a Christian and one from a Jew.
A Christian once told the story about a dream he had. Jesus had arrived to earth and was going to hold his first press conference. The room set up like the White House press briefing room, while people packed the room with anticipation. Everyone had questions that they had carried for years, if not their entire lives. All those “why questions!” Jesus was coming, and so where their answers! Finally He arrived and walked into the room and stood there smiling, to the cheering of the arrival. And just as suddenly, all this Christian’s questions no longer mattered to him any more. Jesus, looking around the room, seeing that there were no questions to be asked after all, then invited everyone to leave the room with Him. Apparently there was work to be done!
That story, I actually heard many years ago. But this last comment I only heard spoken this year, by Rabbi Chaim Eisen, who has appeared also on Root Source. Rabbi Eisen said this to a Christian audience,
“When the Messiah arrives we are all in for some shocks!”
I believe Rabbi Eisen’s view is my favorite one of all. It is both wise and humble. Possibly the very best predisposition among both groups is the attitude that neither group has a full read on the situation.
Where’s it heading?
But none of these stories so far exactly explains where this trend is heading — this journey of God’s call for Christians and Jews to come together. Where does it end?
I will now offer you my best guesses based on everything I’ve seen so far.
First, don’t expect Rosé wine. Don’t expect that Christians and Jews will be blended into any form in which there is less diversity, where Christians simply become more “Jewish” and Jews become more “Christian.” Then how will such diversity be expressed? The expressions of that diversity are not revealed by simple study; they require a revelation from God. Paul prayed for Christians that,
“the eyes of your heart might be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints [holy ones].” Ephesians 1:18 (NASB)
Paul knew that it was not possible for Christians to understand the magnificence of the diversity of the heritage of God without supernatural revelation. My mother, of blessed memory, prayed this prayer for me every day for years when I was a child. At the time I found this prayer confusing and largely uninteresting! I think I would have easily settled for her to pray that I could get good grades at school! Half-a-century later it is beginning to dawn on me just how amazing her prayer really was. We focus so much on who God is and how amazing He is, and yet this verse is about His people, His creation.
Second, do expect complete, total, utter, nothing-left-behind redemption! That which was lost will be found. The time that has been eaten by locusts will be redeemed. That which is dead will rise. That which is impossible with man will be possible with God. This is not a football game where God makes some plays, the devil makes some plays, but ultimately God wins the game. No, we are talking about complete, utter vanquishing of the enemy. Every square centimeter of ground will be taken. Every cubic centimeter of the oceans will be taken and conformed into God’s Kingdom until,
In all of My sacred mount Nothing evil or vile shall be done; For the land shall be filled with devotion to Hashem As water covers the sea. Isaiah 11:9 (TIB)
Third, don’t expect any degradation of the Torah. In the future, the view and valuation and appreciation of the Torah will never be lower in the nations of the world, than it is right now. In other words, its appreciation will only increase.
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-19 (NASB)
Fourth, don’t expect any degradation of Moses. We can see this amazingly in the book of Revelation where the holy ones join together to sing: The Song of Moses and the Lamb, which interestingly has neither the words Moses nor lamb contained within it!
Great and marvelous are Your works,
O Lord God, the Almighty;
Righteous and true are Your ways,
King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy;
For “ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU,
FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.”
Even though it is written in the book of Revelation, nothing in this song is uniquely sourced from the New Testament. It is all consistent with the Hebrew Bible. Following this song is a mysterious phrase that encapsulates the concepts of The Temple, The Tabernacle, and The Testimony. It seems so beyond understanding so I won’t even venture a guess about it!
Fifth, even though the Messiah will be King, don’t expect any degradation of King David or man’s role in ruling. In the second-to-last recorded sentence spoken by Yeshua in the New Testament, he ties himself to David by saying,
“I am the root and the descendant of David…” Revelation 22:16b (NASB)
But there is one more observation that I would like to make — my very last one with which to leave you! It only came to me in the last few weeks, and it would have been worth writing this entire column series in a cave for an audience of one, if only for me to see this one thing.
The Blessing of Unity — Psalm 133
Let us quote this Psalm from The Israel Bible.
A song of ascents. Of David. How good and how pleasant it is that brothers dwell together. It is like fine oil on the head running down onto the beard, the beard of Aharon, that comes down over the collar of his robe; like the dew of Chermon (*) that falls upon the mountains of Tzion. There Hashem ordained blessing, everlasting life. Psalm 133 (TIB)
This is the second to last song of ascents. You may recall a prior discussion about the brothers in the story of the prodigal son covered in an earlier article, how the sons were focused on themselves, and their relationship with their Father. For each of them, their brother hardly existed. This Psalm answers the question of “what would it look like if they truly loved and cared for each other, and dwelt together in unity.”
Something good is here. Something pleasant. Something as precious as the special recipe of anointing oil that was created by God to be poured upon the high priest (Ex. 30:30), an event that is so rare it only occurs once in that high priest’s lifetime, yet with immense and lasting impact.
Next in Psalm 133, the dew is mentioned. Here is what the Israel Bible commentary has to say about that:
(*) Tal (טל), ‘dew,’ is a common biblical symbol of Hashem’s bountiful blessings. Rain is another sign of God’s love for mankind. What is the difference between rain and dew? According to Jewish mysticism, rain is a sign of God showering his abundant blessings freely from above. Dew, which forms below from condensation of atmospheric water vapor, is related to the divine blessings which are a result of man’s own efforts and achievements. This psalm teaches that Hashem’s blessing from above allows for the flowering of man’s work below.
Do you see the implication of this comment upon the divine interaction between Christians and Jews?
that comes down over the collar of his robe; like the dew of Chermon that falls upon the mountains of Tzion.
The dew is from Mount Hermon, which resides on the other side of the Jordan river from Jerusalem. But somehow this dew from Hermon is transported to, and falls upon the mountains of Jerusalem. How does the dew of Hermon become rain on Jerusalem? It is a mystery.
The psalm concludes with the phrase:
There Hashem ordained blessing, everlasting life.
I had always read this verse in terms of one’s personal experience of having “everlasting life.” But today I began to consider this verse in light of a significant study I did recently. I looked at many stories in the Bible involving people “coming together.” I was looking for patterns and principles, looking to discover “what is on God’s heart” in this idea. One thing I discovered shocked me.
In almost every case, when people come together “in God’s design,” something brand new is birthed. Something unexpected. Something that is more than the sum of the parts.
Let’s take an example. Consider the oneness of marriage between man and woman. God’s design was that a man leave his father and mother and becomes one with his wife. To what end? Is it just for children? Was it God’s plan that Adam and Eve should fill the earth with a bunch more Adams and Eves, exact replications of Adam, exact replications of Eve? No! By the end of the beginning, which is to say, by the end of the book of Genesis, we find the makings of a nation being formed. A nation about which God will promise hundreds of years later that, “They will be my people, and I will be their God.” Something much more majestic would derive from the fruitfulness of Adam and Eve, the complicated history of that fruitfulness, and God’s loving intervention.
Then what of Psalm 133? What of the unity among brothers? What does it mean to have the blessing of “everlasting life”? The Hebrew is rendered as
life even to forevermore
Chayyim ad ha-olam
Remember that Adam called his wife Eve [Chavvah], because she was the “mother of all living.” The word life in Psalm 133 recalls her name to us! Eve is about life!
Here is what I believe.
Something greater is here. Something in this final phrase of Psalm 133 takes us to another dimension of life. It is so much greater than “be fruitful and multiply” that we cannot even contain it! We cannot understand it!
Yet somehow, the dwelling together of brothers creates not just new life, but a guarantee that new life will never stop coming, never stop being birthed. It is more than “having discovered the proverbial fountain of life.” Rather, it is like having discovered the means to birth an infinite number of individual fountains of life, in ever increasing numbers, manners and forms, without ceasing, forevermore, without end, and with the blessing of the One True God.
I have no idea what that sentence I just wrote means! But, I believe that my spirit knows what it means, and so does yours. It is probably the reason that you have read these columns. Something is drawing your spirit towards something good. So you push aside the cares of the day long enough to touch base with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Something calls you onward, and you don’t know why.
This is why.
It’s not a wound to be healed. It’s not a pain to be comforted. It is a call for “life even to forevermore.”
We all want it.
May we all be willing to walk any walk, hope every hope, and pay any price to obtain it. It must be something that burns inside the heart of the Messiah. It is the calling for the Jews and all Nations to come together. To paraphrase the words of Jeremiah 20:9, Try as we may to shut it up within our bones, we simply cannot hold it in.
It will come to pass.