The Jerusalem Debate – The End of the Matter
There is a children’s story about a Little Red Hen who worked diligently to feed her chicks and keep her house in order. One day she found some grain, which she decided to plant. She asked the other barnyard animals to help, but each of them refused for one reason or another. The same thing happened each time she asked for help in tending the plants, harvesting the wheat, taking it to the mill to grind into flour, and bake the flour into bread.
At the end of this lengthy process, as the Little Red Hen pulled the fresh bread hot from the oven, all of the animals came running to help her eat it. But before any of them could come near, she said, “Not one of you helped me plant the grain, nor tend it, nor harvest it; none of you helped me take it to the mill, and you did not help me bake it into bread. Why should I share the bread with you now? It is for my chicks and I, and we will eat it ourselves.” Whereupon she shut the door, leaving her neighbors to watch longingly as her family enjoyed the fruit of her labors.
This story contains a moral for Hebrews who are debating whether the commandment to go up to Jerusalem for the Feasts of YHVH applies to them. Quite simply, if we are to enjoy the benefits of a restored Temple of the Living God, and of the nation that will be restored around it, then we had best be doing all we can to help in the process now.
Stop and ponder this for a moment. Step back from the paradigm which says that the structure on top of Mount Moriah in Jerusalem is a “Jewish Temple”. It is indeed very Jewish in the sense that only Jews have bothered to rebuild, care for, worship in, pray toward, and long for the restoration of the Temple since the days of the Babylonian Conquest. For 2,500 years, all that has existed of Israel has been the Jewish people, descendants of the Kingdom of Judah. It is understandable and logical that the world and the Jewish people themselves believe that the Temple and everything associated with it and with the nation of Israel is now, has always been, and ever will be Jewish.
Yet that is not what Scripture says. And that gets to the central question in this Jerusalem Debate: Can the Temple be rebuilt by Judah alone, or is it a project that requires some measure of restoration of Israel’s Lost Tribes – the House of Joseph/Ephraim?
If the Torah Awakening among Christians is the beginning of Ephraim’s awakening from the long sleep of national death, as many are coming to believe, then what is the next step in this process? In truth, there are many “next steps” as these broken and scattered bones continue to come back into alignment, both in terms of bringing our own people together, and in sustaining and expanding the fledgling connections with our Jewish brethren. However, it appears that we are now at a point when going up to Jerusalem for the Feasts should be a major consideration.
Let us remember our steps in this process. When it began, we as Christians considered Torah a strange thing – something only for the Jews. Then we discovered that our inherited Christian traditions had misconstrued and omitted some important things, such as the centrality of Shabbat (Sabbath) in the eyes of the Almighty. As we began to take our first feeble steps in response to this revelation, our Father responded in kindness. Is that not what happened with our Shabbat observances? Such was the case in my house.
When this truth dawned on us, I was assigned to the Pentagon in Washington, DC, a place not well known for its kindness to personal considerations. My 80 hour work week often involved duties over the weekend, making it very difficult to keep any kind of Sabbath. Then there were the activities and responsibilities of the rest of the family: soccer games, dance competitions, school projects, special events that fell on Saturday, and so much more. All we could do at first was acknowledge the importance of Shabbat, lament that we could not keep the commandment, and pray for a way to demonstrate our love for our King by honoring His set-apart day. In time, we were able to cut back on activities, virtually end all financial transactions, and begin to connect with others who kept Shabbat. Today, we are in a place where we can set that day apart and enjoy the rest, refreshing, and rejoicing in the Almighty which it brings.
The process I have described did not occur in a matter of weeks or months, but years. A full decade elapsed from the time our personal Torah Awakening began until we could keep Shabbat in anything approaching the instructions of Scripture. Even now we continue to adjust as the Holy Spirit brings to our attention actions, attitudes, and habits which are not quite consistent with the spirit of the day.
Why, then, should we expect our compliance with this commandment to go up to Jerusalem for the Feast to be any different? As with all the other commandments, compliance begins with recognizing that it is a commandment, that it is still in force, and that it applies to us. It appears that a number of Hebrew Roots believers are now coming to that understanding. Why else would we even be addressing this issue now?
The recent series of articles by Bob Parham and Sue Wyatt have examined common objections to going up to Jerusalem for each Feast, and have found those objections wanting. They fall by the wayside, just as the objections we have encountered for every other Torah commandment the Spirit has brought to our attention. The reasons we should go up have solid basis in Scripture, as Bob has explained. Let me add two more.
First, Judah needs us to go up for the Feasts. It is true that most Jews do not go to Jerusalem for Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles). Even those living in Israel are likely to celebrate the feasts in their homes rather than take the trouble to travel to Jerusalem. As for Jews in the Diaspora, fewer still make the journey to Israel. Thus, when they encounter a non-Jew making the effort, the reactions vary from astonishment, to interest, to shame.
This is happening even now, when only a handful of Ephraimites are present at each Feast. Imagine what will happen when thousands go, traveling from all over the world through places like Bangkok, Frankfurt, Istanbul, London, Los Angeles, New York, Madrid, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Sydney, Toronto, Washington, and more. Jews traveling on the same airplanes will wonder – as they already are beginning to wonder – what this phenomenon is all about. El Al employees will wonder as well, as the Israeli airline becomes overwhelmed with non-Jews seeking passage. Imagine the encouragement and exhortation given to our Jewish brethren as they see evidence of multitudes loving and supporting them. It may take some time before they recognize us as fellow Hebrews, but each encounter is a seed that will eventually produce fruit.
What fruit do we expect to see? A restored nation indeed, but what about a restored Temple in the near future? This is perhaps the most compelling reason Judah needs to see us in Jerusalem – and it connects with the story of the Little Red Hen. For twenty-five centuries, the Jewish people have suffered every imaginable outrage in a world hostile to them and the Covenant they represent. After holding out the words of life to an unappreciative world, Jews quite logically turned inward to protect the precious treasures entrusted to them by Almighty God. That, perhaps, is why the Second Temple – a truly Jewish Temple – included a Middle Wall of Partition that prevented Gentiles from proceeding more than a short way into the court.
They are still turned inward, apprehensive of any who may approach them with the appearance of friendship. They have been betrayed too often, particularly by Christians who profess to worship the same God and honor the same Scriptures. Why, then, should we expect our Jewish counterparts to welcome us with open arms? They have planted the wheat, harvested it, milled it, and baked the bread all by themselves, so why should they be inclined to share the rewards with those who have not only refused to help, but have made each step far more difficult? In other words, if our Jewish brethren must build the Third Temple alone, expect that it will indeed be another Jewish Temple, and neither we who identify as Hebrews, nor anyone else from the nations, will be granted access to it. In this there would be a tragic irony: because of our negligence, we will have aided our Jewish brethren in creating a Temple system that is no more a house of prayer for the nations than was the Second Temple, the den of the money changers Yeshua expelled (Isaiah 56:1-8; Matthew 21:12-13).
We have much historical baggage to overcome, and it cannot be done overnight. How can we find a way past the defenses and embrace our brethren in love? Perhaps the simple act of going with them to pray and worship at the Appointed Times of the Almighty is a good start. We may not be welcome in a synagogue or a sukkah in Brooklyn, but no one will turn us away from the Kotel (Western Wall). There we can meet and interact with our Jewish brethren. Every interaction, whether in prayer, conversation, dance, or simple acts of kindness, will result in small changes in every heart – small changes that in time will alter the outlook of both Judah and Ephraim and open the way for even greater changes for the better.
There is something else we can do with far greater ease than our Jewish brethren: we can go up on the Temple Mount. Those who have been there can testify that the Israeli and Arab security officials allow non-Jews up on the Mount with little scrutiny. Although we cannot pray openly on the Temple Mount, we can pray with each step we take, each breath we breath, and each thought in our heads. What shall we pray? That the Living God may remember His holy place and the people with whom He made a Covenant. We pray for the restoration of all the exiles – Jewish and Ephraimite; for the redemption of the nations; for the coming of Messiah in power and great glory to make all things new. What better place to pray for these things than from the mountain God Himself claimed as His own?
There is another reason we should go up to Jerusalem: Ephraim needs us to go. We in the West (including Australia and New Zealand) have comparatively little difficulty getting to Israel. It is not so easy for others. Most Christians and emerging Hebrews in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East live in countries where the governments are hostile to Israel, or where the poverty is so great that they find it difficult to obtain visas to enter Israel. How many Iranian believers have awakened to the importance of Jerusalem in their God’s esteem, and yet have no way to go there because of existing political circumstances? How many Indian or Ugandan brethren long to see the Holy City, but they are prevented by a dual curse? Even if a miracle brings them the resources to travel, they may not be allowed to enter or stay for long because Israel fears they may become illegal immigrants.
On whom will YHVH show greater mercy: those for whom obedience to His commandments was impossible, or those for whom it was difficult? For us in the West, it is difficult. Indeed, it is very difficult just to gather the money and budget the time, but even the poorest and most pressed of us has a greater chance of getting to Israel than the wealthiest of our brethren from a country like Pakistan. Perhaps we are coming to this understanding now because the Father is calling us to go in the place of our brethren to pray for them and be their advocates.
And yet it is still difficult. Even if we were all given endless resources today, the laws of physics would prevent hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from going up to Jerusalem every few weeks. There are not enough airplanes to carry us, not enough rooms to lodge us, and not enough food to feed us.
Those, however, are problems for the Father to work out. Our responsibility is to respond to His commandment. We do so first with acknowledgement – that it is a commandment, that it is still in force, and that it applies to us. Then we pray, and then we take action.
The actions will be small at first. Perhaps it will be nothing more than applying for a passport. That in itself is a step of faith. Who knows but that someone may give you $5000 one day to go to Israel for Passover. If you have no travel document, even with that gift you could not go. It would be something akin to the foolish virgins who lacked oil for their lamps, and thus missed the Bridegroom’s arrival. Do not be caught short by a simple oversight of lacking a passport.
Another step of faith is to establish a savings account. Name it the Israel Travel Fund. Add to it regularly, and give from it freely to those who are going – whether they are your own family, or others in your fellowship, or even complete strangers. Never let a Feast go by without someone in the Land as your representative.
Finally, invest in the Land. Consider allocating a portion of your tithes and offerings to the Temple Institute or other worthy causes. This is an investment, not that different from helping the Little Red Hen harvest her wheat and turn it into flour. In time that investment will become nourishing bread for the nations of the world.
© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2016. Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.