Recently, while listening to a new interview by Hanoch Young and Ken Rank (previously introduced here) one of the two made a significant statement that struck a deep chord within me. As they are traveling and sharing with Ephraim, they are in a position to have a really good snapshot of where we are and what some of the remedies might be.
In the interview I heard the other evening, one of them said, ‘The problem with Messianics is that they view themselves as a religion (or religious group) rather than as a nation. The Torah is for a nation and God is in the process of restoring a nation.’
Lights and bells went off!
Why had I not realized the deeper implications of this? We’ve talked about the surface points, but it had not really settled into me until that moment. Let’s look at some Scripture and get a better handle on this…
Yahweh’s promise to Abraham, stated in Genesis 12:2 says, “I will make you a great nation…” The promise was confirmed to Israel through Moshe on Mt. Sinai as recorded in Exodus 19:5-6,
5 Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My [a]own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
Peter confirms this in 1 Peter 2:9-10,
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Peter’s letter, decidedly penned to the ‘aliens and strangers’ (See verse 11 in above quote among other references throughout the book) echoes other things we’ve seen in Acts and the Apostolic writings!
From Acts 1:6, the Disciples asked the risen Lord, ‘Is it at this time You are restoring Kingdom Israel?’ They expected Israel to be physically restored! James confirms this understanding in Acts 15:15-18 when he quotes the prophesy from Amos 9:11-12 concerning the restoration of the tent of David, the rebuilding of the ancient ruins, the restoration of the kingdom.
I believe all of that! It is apparent from so many passages of Scripture, the most obvious of which is the Ezekiel 37 two stick prophecy and the verses following speaking of the kingdom that would be established. In fact, Hanoch, speaking of the return of Ephraim to the people, contends that it is the most prophesied event in the Tanak. (Certainly, I think the plethora of Messianic prophesies, many fulfilled, but many yet to be fulfilled would rival the restored Kingdom and Ephramite return, but the two are inextricably linked.)
So why was did this quote about how we view ourselves strike a chord?
I know the Torah Commandments function as a Constitution and will be the Law that goes forth from Tziyon (Isaiah 2:1-5), but I guess I had not really stopped and pondered some of the differences of viewing myself as being a displaced citizen of another nation!
What are the implications? How do we better move toward unity when we view ourselves as one people? What does this change in my physical existence and reality?
Like most Christian believers, I was raised to see the Kingdom as spiritual, something we do not really attain to in this life, but the looking forward to the Eighth Day and the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22. However, I am suddenly realizing that there is an intermediate stage that we seldom really wrestle with and its implications on our lives. Do we act as a displaced people? Do we long for home? In the here/now physical sense?
While I am not sure that Hanoch and I would agree on what this next stage looks like, I believe the current nation Israel is not the final look of the kingdom we are grafted into, but it is definitely a step into the right direction. My opinion at this stage is that Messiah will set up His kingdom, the restored Tent of David, in the land given to Abraham, using the many parts He is drawing now from both Judah and Ephraim.
But how are we to be acting right now? Here are a few thoughts, but this is the fresh stuff rolling around in my head… Something for us to discuss.
As a citizen of the US, I get along with most everyone and enjoy our points of agreement while discussing in mostly friendly terms the points of disagreement in politics of religion, but there is little strife or rudeness while we enjoy real camaraderie. Why in the Messianic do we not treat each other with the same level of acceptance and brotherhood while working out differences? Our differences are actually considerably less when we accept and abide by a very specific Torah that defines right worship and action. I.e., we don’t have different religious groups as in the US, or radically different political leanings.
If the Torah is our Constitution, and there is much support for this supposition, why do we act like a bunch of attorneys splitting hairs and looking for cases against our brother, rather than learning to be a people who abide by the Constitution and allow the Judge to make corrections.
Other practical matters include group identity. A displaced or exiled people will have and maintain their own communities and group identity. Just as Judah could still be identified 70 years after exile, because many refused assimilation, we should build and maintain community such that we strengthen our group identity. Admittedly, this is far more challenging because we have to disconnect from the comforts of the cultures we were raised in, and we have many generations of divisive anti-group behaviors to overcome.
What we must pray is that Abba work in us the promise of Isaiah 11:12-13,
And He will lift up a standard for the nations
And assemble the banished ones of Israel,
And will gather the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
13 Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart,
And those who harass Judah will be cut off;
Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
And Judah will not harass Ephraim.
We need jealousies and envy removed. As this happens we should find ourselves comfortable not just knowing and appreciating each other, regardless of differences, but we should begin to support, defend, help and generally encourage each other.
I have many other thoughts, but want to open for discussion and input… What are your thoughts on the need of the Messianic community to think not just in spiritual terms as that is a MAJOR component, but also in physical national identity?