Two days ago, en-route to the Great Lakes Naval Station to visit our sailor son and deliver a much needed vehicle to him, my wife and I stopped on the northern border between Ohio and Indiana to visit dear friends Paul and Robin. After a nice dinner out, Paul was driving us via a scenic route back to our resting place when Kelly asked about seeing a few Amish houses.
Paul quickly obliged with a slight change in course and drove us through several farming communities that were beautifully arranged, well manicured, and visibly wealthy! We admired and rolled along discussing community and the obvious interconnectedness between the various businesses and farms.
I was struck by the two sizable sawmills with acres of trees piled waiting to be rough sawn and finished into lumber, furniture or other uses. Along with various other clues, we began a vigorous discussion about a few lessons we can learn from the Amish.
First, like so many others, we were drawn to drive through the communities in part because of their quaintness, but likely more because of their choice to be ‘set apart’ and communal. While they do not keep full Torah, they are intentional about many aspects that even the Messianic/Hebrew roots groups ignore to their detriment. As we talked, we called to mind various passages that were related. On such passage, stated in various places and in similar ways was the first part of Deuteronomy 28. Read this in full, then let’s talk…
28 “Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God:
3 “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
4 “Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.
5 “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
6 “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
7 “The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways. 8 The Lord will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you. 9 The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. 10 So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will be afraid of you. 11 The Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. 12 The Lord will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. 13 The Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully, 14 and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.Deut. 28:1-14
God’s promise to Israel was to bless them/us when we obey His commandments and are ‘careful to observe (do)’ them. Further, ‘He will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, IF you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways.’ HIS purpose for doing this is to draw attention to HIMSELF and the reward He gives to obedient children. We will only see the fullness of this aspect when we are restored and functioning as a gathered people.
One of my chief concerns with Messianic/Hebrew roots believers is the lackadaisical attitude we take toward restoration! Over and over God speaks of restoration and Israel walking in His blessings, but we act as if it cannot or will not happen in our generation!
Why are we not seeking to walk out the commandments that are community related with the expectation that He can and will gather us as clans and tribes with an eye toward full restoration in Greater Israel? Have we considered that there are community commandments that we can’t fulfill as individuals or separatists?
If we begin to cry out to Yah and seek to live in communities, even loose knit communities, will we not see His Hand of blessing in a way greater than we have thus far experienced? Would we not then have people driving through or near our communities and observing His blessing and asking, ‘who is their God and why are they so blessed?’
Practical lessons we could learn from the Amish and communities like them include unity, interdependent businesses, community reliance v. self reliance or reliance on Babylon, simplicity, community vision v. scattered individual vision, patriarchal heads making community decisions, etc. Let’s break some of these down…
- Unity : I’ve heard it said that community means ‘common unity.’ Many of the founders and early followers of Hebrew roots beliefs were, of necessity, very strong and independent thinkers and doers. They did not mind walking contrary to millennia of established Christian doctrines. This strength of spine and independent character can be a very good trait, however our radical independence must begin to be put down in favor of radical interdependence. We must begin to function as larger families, clans, and tribes. Israel is not made up of individuals going their own way… unless you count Korach and his ilk.
- Interdependent Businesses : Something I have long admired in ethnic communities and immigrant communities is how they make their businesses work together so that money coming into the community flows around the community several times before it departs the community. As an example, if one grows wheat, another grinds it, yet another bakes it and another has a sandwich shop, then when a sandwich is sold, there are four different businesses benefiting from the sale. Further, if any of those businesses employ members of the community besides their immediate family, then additional benefit is garnered for the community by the sale of the sandwich. As any community forms, it must be intentional in developing symbiotic businesses within the community that form an interdependent economic foundation from which other endeavors can be launched.
- Community Reliance : Working together and learning to function as an intentional people, relying on Elohim and each other instead of ourselves or Babylon is a necessary step to ‘coming out of Babylon.’ One aspect of reliance, as seen in the previous point, is supporting and frequenting community businesses and endeavors before going outside of the community for service, help, or product. Everyone’s intentional focus is: ‘how do I benefit the community/family?’
- Simplicity : While I do not advocate for a horse and buggy lifestyle, I do believe an intentional community can save a great deal of money through car sharing, resource and equipment sharing, and being so mission minded that we are not wrapped up in the worldly system of self absorption. Truly, if we are working together as a community toward the common goal of restoring kol Israel, then we have no need to keep up with the Joneses, nor do we need a huge pile of toys. Instead we can pursue a simpler life that is mission oriented, not the rudderless pursuit of things and wealth simply for self-serving reasons.
- Community Vision : Most people do not have a vision, and the few that do, usually have a vision that is largely about personal/selfish wealth. Restoring kol Israel demands a community vision and a unified effort toward coming together and functioning as a people.
- Patriarchal heads : Community demands that patriarchs begin to function in the larger role as elder and leader councils for the oversight and protection of the community. It is in this circle that many decisions and applications of Torah would happen that give judicial experience to the patriarchal leaders and help the community grow in Torah observance.
Certainly, there are more reasons to move toward community, but the chief, as previously alluded, is to draw attention to our King.
6 So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? 8 Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?Deuteronomy 4:6-7
We must actively be seeking the face of YHVH and asking to be gathered into communities, clans and tribes. As He answers, we must be willing to make the personal sacrifices necessary to become interdependent.
I look forward to discussion and thoughts you may add. And, I will write more on this as I have thoughts as well as experience within the community that is forming in our area.