A Provocation to Jealousy
Recently, Tim Hegg penned a response to a letter that Dan Juster and Russell Resnick wrote: ONE LAW MOVEMENTS: A Challenge to the Messianic Jewish Community.
I wholly agree with what Tim wrote, yet there is an almost mentioned dynamic that he came close to, but did not address that I would like to comment upon.
He wrote: �The angst that has been demonstrated toward Gentiles who engage in the �ceremonial� aspects of the Torah is therefore understandable. When Gentile believers keep Shabbat, celebrate the Festivals, wear tzitzit, and so forth, they are taking for themselves those parts of the Torah that remain only as Jewish identity markers. For instance, men and women should obey the laws given to each respectively.
�In doing so, they affirm their proper identity as male and female. We could apply this, by way of analogy, to the current debate: when Juster and Resnik see a Gentile believer dressing in Jewish garb, doing Jewish things, and participating in �Jewish cultural� events (such as Sabbath and the Festivals), it is analogous to meeting a woman in the men�s restroom. She�s clearly in the wrong place!
�This is precisely the rub for Juster and Resnik. They seem to appreciate the fact that the �One Law Movement� (as they refer to us) has helped moderate the extreme views of Dispensationalism regarding the Torah, while also emphasizing the value of the moral aspects of Torah well-known in classical Reformed Theology. Yet they claim we have taken one step too far when we have taught that the Torah is the privilege and responsibility of Jew and Gentile alike. In doing so, we �misinterpret a great body of Scripture� and also �miss the unique calling of Jews and Gentiles within the Body of Messiah.� In other words, with this last �crucial step,� we�ve simply gone too far. We�ve erred in accepting the Torah as the unchanging, eternal word of God to His people.�
I have been in the Messianic Movement for almost 20 years and what I perceive occurs when a non-Jewish person observes Torah is that most often they are more observant than the Jewish person who has had (or should have had) Torah all their lives. The Jewish person (either a believer in Yeshua or not) is jealous over the non-Jewish person�s observance and often the level of observance of the non-Jewish person is greater than their Jewish counterpart.
I submit to you, this jealousy is the dynamic missing from the Gentile church when Shaul writes in Romans 11, verses 11 and 14 � ��deliverance has come to the Gentiles, in order to provoke them [the Jewish people] to jealousy� and �I make known the importance of my work in the hopes that somehow I may provoke some of my own people to jealousy and save some of them.�
When writing his Jewish New Testament Commentary, Dr. David Stern says : �Is there anything about Gentile Christians that would make non-Messianic Jews jealous of them? Throughout the last two thousand years, the Church, to its great shame not only has not provoked Jews to jealousy but has engendered repugnance and fear; so that Jewish people, instead of being drawn to love the Jewish Messiah Yeshua, have usually come to hate or ignore him, remaining convinced that their non-Messianic Judaism or secularism or agnosticism is superior to Christianity.� [Jewish New Testament Commentary, David H. Stern, copyright 1992, David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Publications, page 408]
The Church in its anti-Law, anti-Jewish stance gives little in the way of provocation to jealousy, but when non-Jewish believers in Yeshua begin to observe Biblical (not Jewish) mitzvoth, Jewish people begin to pay attention.
They ask: �Why do you observe Pesach?� �Why do you wear tzit-tzit?� �Why are you keeping the Shabbat?�
This enigma of Gentile believers observing Torah commands confuses the non-Messianic (and even the Messianic, evidently) Jews. So the questions are asked. However, the questions demand an answer and the non-Jewish believer can then point to the Messiah Yeshua as his or her example to walk a Torah observant life.
�Why do you observe Pesach?� �Because Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah and my L-rd observed it.� �Why do you wear tzit-tzit?� �Because Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah and my L-rd wore them.� Thus Gentile believers in Yeshua not only confirm the validity of Torah in a believers life, but also in their Messiahs life!
I believe that if the non-Jewish believers are refrained from observing the mitzvoth of the Most High, they would once again go back to their status as the �non-provokers� that Stern writes about and we would once again lose an important evangelistic tool in reaching our people.
I would certainly hope that Dan Juster and Russ Resnick don�t want that to happen. They should realize that the jealousy they may feel when they see non-Jews who are Torah observant is the same jealousy their non-Messianic Jewish counterparts feel when they see the very same thing. Juster and Resnick should know the dynamic of why they feel that jealousy; a non-Messianic Jew doesn�t - except that a �Gentile Christian� is doing what they should have been doing all along!
Years ago, when my wife Trish and I were in Pennsylvania involved in Messianic ministry, our Jewish landlady and her husband came in to check on some things in the apartment we rented from them. It was Friday and my wife was preparing the challah for the Shabbat. Out of the corner of her eye she could see the landlady nudge her husband with her elbow and point to Trish as she was working on the challah.
My wife was doing what our landlady should have been doing as a Jew: preparing for the Shabbat. It is when non-Jewish believers observe �Jewish� things that the stage is set for a powerful witness that will nudge the Jewish person toward the realization that the Messiah that the non-Jewish believer worships happens to be the Jewish Messiah that has been awaited for so long by the Jewish people. By taking away this powerful witness, we will once again go back to the �status-quo� where the non-Jewish believer in Yeshua is the �non-provoker� they have always been since the �Gentilization� of the faith.
Is that what we really want?
This article is the viewpoint of Bruce R. Booker and does not necessarily represent the views of all the members of Beth Yeshua Messianic Congregation.
copyright 2005, by Bruce R. Booker