Commonwealth and Cooperation: How Jews and Christians Can Work Together, Part III
This is the third in a three part series that addresses the implications of Christian support for Israel.
The Commonwealth and the Symbol of Godly Marriage.
In Matthew 7:21-23, Yeshua says that in the Kingdom of Heaven He will declare that those who practice lawlessness, or Torahlessness, must depart from Him. That is a sobering message, but consider it from another perspective. God went through every conceivable obstacle to win his people back to Himself, even when we were not willing to acknowledge him. The clearest picture we have of this is in marriage. Here is what God said regarding marriage and divorce:
When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4, NKJV, emphasis added)
It is quite clear from this stipulation in the Torah that remarriage after divorce is not possible. What, then, will happen if God Himself is divorced? He is divorced, of course, as He explains through the prophets:
Thus says the Lord: “Where is the certificate of your mother’s divorce, whom I have put away? Or which of My creditors is it to whom I have sold you? For your iniquities you have sold yourselves, and for your transgressions your mother has been put away.” (Isaiah 50:1, NKJV)
“Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 3:8-9, NKJV)
What hope, then, is there for Israel? Notice God is addressing both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Both halves of the nation sinned, both compelled Him to divorce them, and both joined themselves to other gods. Yet God through Jeremiah says this:
“They say, ‘If a man divorces his wife, and she goes from him and becomes another man’s, may he return to her again?’ Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return to Me,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 3:1 (NKJV)
How can God promise to take Israel back as his bride if He has divorced her and she has given herself to other lovers? If He does so, He breaks His own Law. And if God breaks his own Law, then the whole of the Law is made null and void.
There is only one remedy: someone must die. If death occurs, then all penalties are paid and the offender may start fresh. That’s what Paul means when he writes:
Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. (Romans 7:1-3, NKJV)
But there is a problem: Death is so final! How could God overcome this problem of death? I submit to you that there is only one way: if the one who died somehow comes back to life.
According to the New Testament, that is precisely what Yeshua of Nazareth did. He, claiming to be God Himself in human form, died taking the penalty of sin for the whole world on himself, and after three days He returned from the grave. In that way He conquered sin and death, and made it possible for God to redeem His bride (Mark 14:61-62; Luke 22:68-71; I Corinthians 15:1-28; Philippians 2:5-11). If this is true, then Paul is correct in saying:
Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Messiah, that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:4-6, NKJV)
The Church usually interprets this passage to mean that Christians are no longer subject to Torah. That is not what Paul wrote; he wrote that the law which barred us from marriage to God is now satisfied not only by the death and resurrection of Messiah, but also by the fact that those who identify with Him are also spiritually dead and resurrected. Do you see the beauty of this? God made it possible for two lovers to reunite: He Himself, and His beloved Israel. He did that by His own death, and by the resurrection of His bride who had died spiritually already through her sin.
So now we can see why God instituted marriage. It was not just a mechanism for social order and procreation, but a living symbol of His relationship to Israel, the bride through whom He is able to have a relationship with all the peoples of the earth. Here is one more passage from Paul, rendered with a slight change of names:
Be subject to one another out of reverence for Messiah. Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Messiah is the head of the ekklesia, the body of which he is the Saviour. Just as the ekklesia is subject to Messiah, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah loved the ekklesia and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the ekklesia to himself in splendour, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind – yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Messiah does for the ekklesia, because we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Messiah and the ekklesia. Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:21-33, NRSV, modified)
If This Is So, How Should We Then Live?
What does this mean for us, Jews and Christians at the end of this present age? If all this is true, then we have far more reason to cooperate than is supposed in the usual rendition of “Christian support for Israel”. We are all of the same family, for we are all the people of God, united by Messiah and by the Torah (Teachings, Commandments) of God. We must put aside our differences and learn to work together in partnership with God at the restoration of his bride, Israel.
For Christians, this means a challenge to reconsider “the Law”. For two millennia the Church has sought to divest itself from anything Jewish. That is why Christians do not keep Sabbath on the day God designated, nor observe the feast days, or Appointed Times, which God instituted. Perhaps it is time to think this through again. If, as Paul says, the Hebraic roots support us, then we had best learn what those roots are.
Some Christians may say this is an attempt to impose legalism on ones whom Jesus has saved by grace, but is it really? Granted, there is much in the Torah that we cannot keep now, such as the “ceremonial law” of the Temple. Many other commandments are controversial given our current culture, but there is still a place we can start. That is with the Appointed Times of God. They are:
- God’s weekly Shabbat, which is on the day we call Saturday, and which is a perpetual sign of God’s Covenant with His People (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 31:12-17; Leviticus 24:8; Ezekiel 20:12).
- The four Spring Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Pentecost (Shavuot). The first three point to the sacrifice and resurrection of Messiah, God’s Passover Lamb (I Corinthians 5:7-8, 15:20). Shavuot reminds us when God gave both the Torah and the Holy Spirit (Exodus 19:1-6; Acts 2:1-4).
- The three Fall Feasts of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Tabernacles (Sukkot), which look to God’s coming to meet with His people in triumph, in judgment, and in perpetuity (Leviticus 23:24-43).
Each of these has prophetic significance, each has fulfillment in Messiah, and each is commanded by God for all Israel to observe “as a statute forever, throughout your generations” (Exodus 27:21, Leviticus 23:14, 21, 31, 41). If we truly want to please our Lord, then it should be a little thing to examine these Appointed Times and learn to observe them. If we meet God there, then he will teach us what to do next.
For Jews, this path of cooperation entails a challenge to reconsider the New Testament and see if it is true to God’s Torah. Inherent in that is an invitation to look again at “Jesus Christ”, Yeshua of Nazareth. Is he the Messiah as he claimed to be? Jews are right in saying Messiah should teach His followers to keep Torah (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). See if Yeshua did this. If he did, then it may not be wise to reject his claims just because His followers after several centuries have strayed from His teaching.
This invitation is not an attempt to “convert” Jews, nor to solicit anyone to accept Yeshua’s claims on blind faith. Christians need the Jewish perspective on Messiah. Jews have the oracles of God (Romans 3:1-2), and therefore it is only right that Christians should ask Jews who they understand Messiah will be. Surely we can join together in looking for and hastening Messiah’s arrival. This is our mutual obligation in the interest of fulfilling our God’s desires for all His people. All of us must recognize the considerable connections we have as followers of Adonai Tsevaot (the LORD of Hosts) and work together to gain the fullness of His Counsel.