I want to be the Israelite that God intended!
(To those trying to imitate our Master)
Today’s teaching may not be received well by all. Neither was the message that John the Baptist preached, as well as our Master’s message! Who were John the Baptist and our Master preaching “repent” to and why? It was to the leaders of their time. They had become so “religious” that they actually hindered many people who truly loved God. (Matthew 23:13 … “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you Hypocrites!! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”) I feel that those walking in obedience as Yeshua (Jesus) did may, at times, be doing the same thing. Because of a zeal to imitate what our Master did, they believe that the closest thing to what He looked like was a Jew, so they grasp on to everything that is Jewish. Our goal is to be an Israelite, not a Jew, so in grasping onto everything that is Jewish, are we still pressing toward that goal? Let me repeat: Are we so zealous for God’s natural branch, the Jew, that we are looking less like an Israelite (made up of ALL nations and nationalities. Speaking and singing in Hebrew, wearing traditional Jewish clothing or accessories, and imitating Jewish culture is all good in and of themselves, do not get me wrong. But that is not my goal. For there are JUST as many good traditions that the Gentiles have, as well, but we seemed to be forced to let go of.
My friends, the religious leaders were clearly rebuked by our Master for their piety. Have, we too, gone so far as to hinder those who are new to the ways of God? Do they feel comfortable, welcomed, or even drawn to us? Many of us have abandoned the “Jesus” that was being taught and all the traditions of the Gentile leaders (claiming that they are not Biblical) … only to grasp a hold of the traditions of the Jews (which many are not Biblical either). Do the newcomers see what we do as validating God’s Word? Or do they see just another set of traditions? Can they see what we do written in God’s Word? Or do we try to tell them about the Oral sayings and that the Jews have it right? I am NOT anti Jewish but accept the teaching that a believing Jew and believing Gentile are equal within Israel (THAT is the Law of the Messiah). There are not two ways to be saved: One by faith and the other by being a Jew.
Many seemed to be hindered because they know that they are to obey, but then see all the added traditions and ways of some of those who are not obeying God out of faith. Let me ask you: Does God only understand Hebrew? Of course not. Why does it seem that one of the mandates of being a believer is that we must know Hebrew?
John the Baptist and our Messiah were not there to pamper anyone. I, too, am not here to pamper anyone, either. Preaching repentance is not a sermon about making someone feel better about themselves. Let the church do that. True believers do NOT get offended by this type of article. Our hearts are always repenting … always changing and adjusting. These preachers of repentance, with our Savior at the lead, sought to bring about repentance and expose the religious hypocrisy and refocus them on being a true Israelite again … the Israel that God intended … the name given to our forefather, Jacob (who was not a Jew). P.S. … Joseph’s marriage to a non-Hebrew is a beautiful picture of such an idea. No doubt their message cut to the core of the leaders of Israel. It cut so much that they killed many of those who preached it.
The point is simply, we have to be careful when speaking Hebrew and imitating Jewish customs and their traditions. There is NOTHING wrong with them, do not misunderstand this message. But, are we no better than the ‘Mexicans on the bus’ syndrome? Those speaking Spanish when no one else knows what they are saying. It is but gibberish to those listening. Are we here to show that we have a knowledge and wisdom by doing all the extra items? Are we making others uncomfortable because they don’t understand? (Like me – smile) Is this what we should be focused on? Rather, shouldn’t we be concerned for the Jew who is still stuck in the traditions (who think that we must wear a cap when wearing tassels). Or how can we touch the lives of true believers who are already bogged down in the church, by presenting another set of bogged down rules?
This message is NOT going to be a study on the word “repent” (we have enough of those kind of teachings, already.). This message is NOT going to be a study on “seeing our Messiah” in the topic of the word “repentance by looking at the original words. We are not going to find “something new” in hidden passages (this is all good, fun and dandy). Doing these things are good only if used as a source to be another stepping stone of humbling ourselves before our maker and becoming more like Him. Otherwise, those kind of teachings are simply theological exercises and a show of one’s self proclaimed knowledge and wisdom to others.
The message is clear … repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.
Here is an everyday example. We have all been around people who can list all the players of a professional team. They can explain each play and why it will or will not work against a certain type of defense. They can even give the statistics of each player for the past 20 years … but put on a uniform and gear on them and give them a ball … their theory may be second nature to them but the practical application is poor at best. (Can you tell that I never loved watching games on t.v.? Either I play, or I find something else worthwhile to do!) We, too, must be careful! We (Note that I said “we”) can teach our children how to quote scripture, how to speak Hebrew, how to study and think logically, but do they not know how to live it out in real life? Are we simply raising up Rabbis who, again, will be rebuke for their piety? When real-life situations arise, do they live out Torah and the words of our Master? How do they treat their siblings and those they play with (equal to themselves or do they put others below themselves by their speech and action?) Can you tell that I am against “organized sports” who teach to win and beat others? Do our children look out for those who are not as talented (Not only in sports, but anything) and raise them up? Do they humble themselves or do they look like the typical kid down the street when with their friends?
REPENT!! FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NEAR!
So, as we examine Jewish traditions and whether or not to embrace them as our own family traditions (My family has done so, but with much caution and are quick to say, “This is not Biblical, but…”), we must be careful that we don’t become like the Jews that our Savior rebuked. Let me say something that is going to cut some flesh: There were two types of people going out to be baptized by John, the “general, common” people and the “Leaders” of those people. We, who have embraced Torah as our standard to live, are the forerunners of the future generations. We have been given the truth and we are the leaders. WE are the ones who will be held accountable for the message we are giving to those now coming in. What is the message we are showing? To obey God’s Word in its purist form? Or is the message to embrace the Hebrew language and Jewish culture along with God’s word? We are to be Israelites! We are supposed to be showing what Israel (God’s children) are to look like. Just take a moment and look at how Yeshua rebuked the leaders for their religious piety and we will see this truth.
REPENT … for the Kingdom of God is near!
So who were they preaching “repent” to? Let us not forget that the message was to those many are trying to imitate!! Therefore, we must be careful as to WHY and WHAT we are imitating and if these things will hinder those trying to come in!
REPENT … go back to your first love! (Revelation 2:4-5)
Have we forgotten our first love?
Have we stopped becoming like little children? Or are we too old for such wisdom as they? (Matthew 18:3 … “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” We must remind ourselves that He did say “NEVER”)
Have we become so concentrated on our studies and the rituals and traditions of our forefathers, that we don’t smell the burning flesh of those around us? Maybe our children, our friends, or even a spouse? Are we becoming so consumed by becoming a Jew that we no longer hear their cries? Okay, so we know the Law of God!! “So you also, when you have done everything you were TOLD TO DO, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” (Luke 17:10) So we found out that we are to obey the Laws of God! Big deal … if it is not done with a love and concern for those perishing. Hey! We were supposed to be obeying them from the beginning anyway!!! Don’t gloat over this new found truth … we are still unworthy servants now doing what we are supposed to do. The job is NOT done! We now have to live it out! There are so many who yearn as you did, so many who are still in pain and we don’t even care! We may cry, “Show me more truth, Lord. Give me more wisdom. Give me more understanding” For what? It means absolutely nothing if we miss those trying to come in from the heat!! Instead, we seem to feel a need to be more intelligent and knowledgeable. I guess that will show others that we are good leaders or more righteous. What kind of leaders do we want to be anyway? Do we want to model and show others how to bring those perishing up out of the fire? Wake up! Repent! For the kingdom of God is at hand. Obedience is only half the job! There is a greater job to do without neglecting the former! (“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” … Matthew 23:23)
Are we teaching our children, the next generation, how to cry and weep for those who are lost? How to reach out and pull them out of the pit of hell they are in? Or are we teaching them how to speak a good talk and show them how those outside are lacking?
Are we teaching our children how to be humble? For those will inherit the kingdom of God!
Are we teaching our children how to be merciful? For they will be shown mercy!!
Are we teaching our children how to STAY pure in heart? How to increase in knowledge and yet, remain pure? For they will see God!
Are we teaching our children how to be peacemakers, or are we teaching them how to hold grudges? For the peacemakers will be called sons of God.
Again … the prophets were persecuted from WITHIN the family … their own blood and kind! The leaders simply did not like the message! Prophets were NOT preaching to the outsiders, but to the family. So, when we read Matthew 5:10-12 who is doing the persecuting? Who is speaking evil of the prophets? Who is insulting the prophets? It is their own kind and family. We have been taught that the world is the one persecuting us … the message was to the family! Let us not forget that. We can’t become so studied and well-versed that we fail to heed the call when God sends it to us.
There is nothing wrong with Jewish traditions or the Hebrew language. There is also nothing wrong with Greek traditions or language (There are quite a few good songs on that side, as well). But who are you trying to impress or witness to? The Gentiles in Acts who were coming to the Lord and proving that the Spirit was within them too, were simply obeying God’s Word. That was the proof that they were children of God. They had no traditions or big fancy explanations of verses. They came and were accepted simply with their child-like love for God. Who are we trying to impress or witness to? I pray that such acceptance of tradition and teachings are simply to bring yourself closer to God (Not to show that you are a “want-a-be Jew”)!
I needed to unload what God had put on my heart. I hope no one has been offended by these words (too much). I have a passion for the lost, as I know all of you do, as well. We must keep each other in check, though. I have seen firsthand good people from the church searching for the truth we have found, only to go BACK to the church because they feel: “What is the difference between the two. There are just as many unbiblical traditions.” I just feel the need for us all to refocus on what is truly important. The time is short and those who are perishing have very little time. We must sound the shofar and call them to repent. But first, we must repent and reconsider what our Goals truly should be – verses – what they seem to be. We should want to be the Israel that God intended, and pray for our Jewish brothers to see the Messiah (I can never be a Jew, but I can look up to them as a natural branch next to me and equal with me, if they believe.).