Some books are a joy to review and recommend. This is not one of them.
Frankly, I have struggled to read Tent of David by Boaz Michael, the founder of First Fruits of Zion Ministry (FFOZ). Several times I put it down and walked away from it hoping it would disappear under a pile of papers, or some such. It is not that I was in any way challenged by the message of the book, rather, I was completely irritated that a brother would claim to present a ‘healing vision for the Messianic Gentile’ then instruct him/her to “go back to the church, we don’t really want you…. Oh, and when you go, be sure to send money in support of Messianic Judaism, and buy my stuff.”
Some time back I became concerned about the message I was hearing from FFOZ. Scripture teaches ‘one body, one Lord, one faith,’ and for a time, this was FFOZ’s message. Over the last several years they have morphed into ‘two bodies, one Lord, two faiths.’ They call it ‘bilateral ecclesiology,’ an error we have addressed on multiple occasions.
As I read this book, or, should I say, in the periods of avoidance between reading sections of the book, I went back to the Scriptures and several other authors to search again whether I have misunderstood something regarding the place of the non-Jew in the Kingdom. Each time, in short order, the Scriptures would dismantle this false idea of non-Jews belonging somewhere on the outer edges of the Kingdom. While I am sure Michael would not appreciate that characterization, his message to Torah pursuant non-Jews is clear, “You don’t belong here, go home and play with your Christian buddies.”
Perhaps Michael’s greatest error in this book is never really defining what the ‘Tent of David’ is (he spends a brief three paragraphs on it, pg 21) and taking the time to wrestle with the Scriptures concerning that future great Kingdom. He cites Isaiah 2:2 when he states,
Isaiah (2:2) prophesied that people from all nations-Gentiles-would flow to Jerusalem and worship there…
but, he conveniently ignores Isaiah 2:3 that explicitly states that Messiah will ‘teach us His ways’ and ‘the Torah will go forth from Zion.’ [Later, on page 173, Michael admonishes the Messianic Gentiles he is sending back to the church that they need to teach that ‘The ‘Ten Commandments’ cannot be ripped from context.” Pot, kettle!]
James, half-brother and disciple of Yeshua says this,
15 With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,
16 ‘After these things I will return,
And I will rebuild the [a]tabernacle of David which has fallen,
And I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will restore it,
17 So that the rest of [b]mankind may seek the Lord,
And all the Gentiles [c]who are called by My name,’
18 Says the Lord, who [d]makes these things known from long ago.
And, he continues by defining exactly how Gentiles are to seek the Lord:
19 Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, 20 but that we write to them that they abstain from [e]things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. 21 For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him (Torah), since [f]he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
Michael is hyper-critical of “Messianic Gentiles” who are Torah pursuant while completely avoiding errors in Judaic traditional additions to the Law. Here is an extended quote from pages 98 and 99, [bold is mine]
In fact, as I mentioned in the last chapter, ninety-nine percent of the time it is not proper for a Messianic Gentile to claim that he or she is personally Torah observant, either. Torah observance – shomer mitzvot (“protecting the commandments”)- is a well-understood concept in Judaism and involves guarding the commandments as they have been traditionally interpreted. Claiming to keep the commandments while ignoring the traditional method of observance is misleading at best.
An outstanding example is Sabbath observance (shomer Shabbat). A Messianic Gentile who has recently taken hold of the beauty of the Sabbath rest might be tempted to say that he is “keeping the Sabbath” or “Sabbath observant.” However, to be truly shomer Shabbat requires an incredible lifestyle change. It is difficult and demanding for modern families to prepare for a day without electric lights, cooking implements, money, driving, phones, computers, and other modern conveniences. The scope of Sabbath commandments goes far beyond what most Messianic Gentiles would even consider.
For a Messianic Gentile to set aside the traditional understanding of Sabbath observance in Judaism and simultaneously claim to be Sabbath observant is confusing and misleading. Claiming these terms – Torah observant, Sabbath observant – without living up to the standard they represent hurts the character of the claimant and diminishes what those terms mean.
While I will give Michael the point that many do not understand the difference between the words ‘observant’ and ‘pursuant,’ instead of explaining and teaching the difference and encouraging Torah pursuance, he uses it as a straw-man argument – assuming all Messianics make this mistake – so he can give yet another reason why Messianic Gentiles are in error. Further, he hangs his hat of ‘correct observance’ on the peg of traditional Judaism that itself is not monolithic and has a bad habit of adding to the Torah with Rabbinic decree, an error he never addresses.
In my concern that I was being overly harsh on Tent of David, I did some searching for the thoughts of a few others. Rob Vanhoff of the Torah Resource, takes Michael to task for using undefined excessively broad terminology with the intent of sending Messianic Gentiles packing. See link for the whole article, but here is a quote,
I can only assume that these “wrong people,” to use Collins’ model, are none other than the Messianic Gentiles (MGs). The “right people,” then, are those Jews who believe there’s a good core to “Judaism” and a good core to “Christianity,” and that God has ordained and endorses both; that believing Jews only need remain in Judaism and believing Gentiles in the church. Is Michael thinking that if he gets the MGs off the bus and the right MJs on, he’ll know where to drive? On the flip side, let’s not suppose for a moment that he’s leaving the MGs on the side of the road to fend for themselves. Rather, he has another bus already set up for them, with the promise to deliver the education and training they’ll need (that is, driving tips and maps). This way, they’ll be sure to get to where he wants them to go. [me: back to the church for assimilation.]
To be clear, Rob knows of whence he speaks as a writer for Torah Resource. Torah Resource’s founder, Tim Hegg, was previously the Theological Editor for FFOZ and departed precisely because he did not believe some of FFOZ’s changing theology was supportable from Scripture. In Hegg’s response to FFOZ, he specifically addresses Michael’s and FFOZ’s desire to utilize traditional Judaism as a basis for understanding the commandments. Hegg says,
My response is twofold: First, “greater Israel,” expressed in Orthodox Judaism, even in its current multifaceted expressions, is in many ways as far removed from Apostolic Judaism as is the current Christian Church. To accept Orthodox Judaism as the “greater Israel” within which Messianic Judaism should define itself leads us, it seems to me, in a direction away from Scripture, not towards it.Second, the idea that if we align ourselves with Orthodox Judaism in our Torah observance we will become unified with “greater Israel” is illusive. So long as we confess Yeshua to be the true Messiah; so long as we confess that Yeshua is worthy of our worship; and to the extent that we affirm Him to be Immanuel, “God with us,” “greater Israel” will not accept us and we should not attempt to couch our message in smooth words so they will.
I could not agree more. To wit, rather than ‘Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile,’ Michael further divides the Body and brings a confusing message to those the Holy Spirit is calling to the Torah! Yeshua, in Matthew 5:19 warns,
19 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…
Hegg and Vanhoff are not alone in their criticism of the FFOZ Message as portrayed in Tent of David. As I went back to trusted scholarly resources to make sure I wasn’t way off base in my understanding of one Body, I pulled the excellent J.K. McKee work, Are Non-Jewish Believers Really A Part of Israel?, from my bookshelf (I have not reviewed this highly recommended work… added to my ‘to-do’ list…). I did not remember McKee addressing not just Boaz Michael, but specifically Tent of David, yet he does so multiple times. Here is one such quote from page 86 where he speaks to a quote from Tent of David concerning Acts 2:38-39,
Michael’s assertions in the first paragraph are right to emphasize that the good news is, in its entirety, a message of repentance and transformation of one’s behavior and lifestyle, as a Messiah follower will be a person oriented toward God and good deeds. His quotation of Acts 2:39, in the first paragraph, did not make any error. The verse says, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (ESV). But in Michael’s commentary in the second paragraph he only makes light of “all who are far off,” and totally excludes “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself,” hosous an proskalesetai Kurios ho Theos hemon. He concludes that “all who are far off” are just those Diaspora Jews who were unable to attend Shavuot/Pentecost at the time.
Who does Michael think constitutes “as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts 2:39)? This is where he, as a Messianic Jewish leader of reputation, whether he consciously knows it or not, reveals a definite bias against non-Jewish Believers….
To be fair, both Vanhoff and McKee directly affirm Michael’s love for Messiah and passion for his kin, the Jewish people, and I believe Hegg would be in complete agreement. All, like myself, question the presuppositions taken that lead to dividing the Body into two camps: Jews and Christians. Tent of David, in the slickest of terms, affirms this division, even sending Messianic Gentiles back to the church.
YES!! Do we need to reach out to Christianity with a message concerning the very Jewishness of Jesus, affirmation of the Torah and the importance of Israel remaining significant? And, do we need to do so with love, concern and sensitivity? Absolutely! But that does not require that we go back to church! Jewish Messianics avoid the church for fear of assimilation (and because the message from the pulpit is consistently misrepresented); should Messianic non-Jews act any differently?
Frankly, if you haven’t guessed, I am deeply concerned about the message of this book and the damage it does to the Body. Rather than ‘healing,’ it brings greater confusion and division. I cannot recommend this book to anyone as I believe it promotes error and sets the average Messianic non-Jew up for major trouble.