Thinking is hard. If it were not hard, then more people would do it.
In truth, all of us prefer to remain in our comfort zones, where familiar things surround us – including familiar answers to questions and familiar solutions to familiar problems. Most likely this preference for the familiar, the things we know and can deal with well enough, is a big reason few people take an active role in making the way for Messiah to come.
That last statement is bound to generate opposition. Those who view it from the Christian side (including Messianic and Hebrew Roots believers) will say that Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) is the Messiah (Christ means Messiah, by the way), that he has come once, and that he will be coming back. Those who approach from the Jewish side say that Messiah is yet to come. The point of this article is not to address either perspective, but to consider something both have in common: the faithful expectation that Messiah Son of David is coming as King of Israel to rule the nations from Zion.
If we all have this common expectation, then it would be wise to consider what that future Messianic realm will look like. Maybe we should even consider what we have to do to make it happen.
This is where we run into the hard part. We have to think about it, and that is scary and uncomfortable. Those of us who have come from the Christian side have lived our lives expecting Messiah to return and fix everything. According to our expectations, there is no effort required on our part to bring him here; he just shows up one day according to some predetermined timetable God established from the beginning. To think, like our Jewish brethren, that we have responsibility for creating the conditions for Messiah’s coming (or return) requires a major paradigm shift. It means we must step out in faith and do things that we usually leave up to God alone.
But then, that is the consistent testimony of Scripture –
- Noah had to do things to secure the salvation of his family (such as think about how to follow the instructions God gave him to build that very large boat, and then actually do the work).
- Abraham had to do things to receive the promises God gave him (such as pack up and leave comfortable, civilized Mesopotamia, and go to a hostile foreign land – first in Syria, and then in Canaan).
- Moses had to do things to receive God’s instructions for the nation of Israel (such as walk to Egypt, then convince the elders of the people that God had spoken to him, and then seek an audience with Pharaoh – and that was only the beginning of the work he had to do!)
There are many more examples summarized in Hebrews 11. The people in that “Hall of Faith” chapter deserve praise not because they sat around waiting for God to move, but because they got up and did the moving themselves in response to God’s promises. As they moved, He provided direction, resources, help from others, and miraculous intervention when necessary. Yet would YHVH have done so if they had not invested their own blood, sweat, treasure, and intellectual effort?
Probably not. In fact, when God’s people sat around waiting for Him to move, He had to take extreme action just to get them off their backsides and into motion! We see that in the record of the apostles. Even though Yeshua had told them to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, they were content to remain in Jerusalem until God raised up a man named Saul of Tarsus who forced them out (see Acts 8).
Which brings us to the dilemma of the present day. Are we really at the “end of the age”, when Messiah is about to show up? If so, what does that mean? More importantly, what are we to do about it? How do we prepare for Messiah’s reign in what will be a very real Kingdom centered in a very real place called Jerusalem? What will this Kingdom look like? How will it resemble what we know today in the modern nation-state system? How will it be different?
Processing these questions requires serious thought – more thought than most people are willing to give it. Those who are willing likely are not prepared to consider “secular” approaches to the question. That is a terrible mistake, but one which spiritually minded people consistently make. It seems that we have a problem linking intellectual, academic processes to spiritual things. But why? We do not have trouble linking our money and time to spiritual things, so why not these other attributes our Creator has bestowed upon us?
All of this is to say that there is a place for intellectual investigation of what the Kingdom of Heaven may be like, and academic discussion about how it may manifest among us with elements of the economic, political, social, and even military structures we see around us today. After all, ancient Israel looked in many ways like the nations around it. Israel in the days of the judges had an economy, a government, foreign relations, military structures, and a social order.
What our Israelite ancestors did not have was a king with a centralized bureaucracy to run the nation. That, it seems, is the legacy of the Babylonian world order we have inherited since the days of Nimrod. He wanted to rule the world, so he gathered all mankind in one place in Babylon so he could be lord over them. It was God’s idea to scatter humanity into nations as a defensive measure – meaning a defense of them against His destructive wrath deployed against a world united in opposition to its Creator (Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 17:24-31).
And so we are stuck with nation-states, perhaps the ultimate political manifestation of the Babylonian system. If that is so, then perhaps the Creator’s call to come out of Babylon means coming out of nation-states by finding His alternative (Revelation 18:1-5; Isaiah 52:11-12; Jeremiah 50:8-10; 51:6-9).
Stephen Hindes of Australia is seeking God’s alternative. That is the purpose of his article, “The State of Israel and Ephraim’s Awakening”. Some weeks ago, Stephen contacted me asking if he could publish his article here on The Barking Fox. That makes him the first guest writer on this blog – but hopefully not the last!
Here is fair warning: Stephen writes like the deep thinker he is. He understands things like international relations theory, political science, and historiography. These academic fields are at the foundation of his article, along with an understanding of the promises of YHVH to redeem and restore all of Israel, and of the Ephraimite Awakening that has given multitudes around the world an appreciation of their Israelite identity. It requires deep thought to put all these things together, but that deep thought is an essential step in walking out the promises of our God and King.
It is important to emphasize that neither Stephen nor I are questioning the legitimacy of the Jewish State which has so miraculously come into existence in fulfillment of prophecy. We support Israel and pray for Israel. As Stephen says:
I believe that the vast majority of attacks on Israel are ill-informed, often racist, and more times than not poorly thought out. Despite what will follow, I believe in the right of the State to exist and in her unique position and status.
The State of Israel exists today because the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob made it possible. However, it is not the ultimate expression of God’s Kingdom on earth. We do not yet know exactly how that Kingdom will look, but Stephen makes an excellent attempt at trying to understand what it will not look like.
The seventh angel sounded his shofar; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and his Messiah, and he will rule forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15 CJB)
The State of Israel and Ephraim’s Awakening
I have recently read with interest numerous articles by members of the Hebrew Roots Movement claiming that to travel to Jerusalem for the feasts should be an aspiration for all those who have awakened to their true Biblically mandated identity. I do not propose to, in what will follow, seek to discredit this, and in fact would encourage anyone who can do it, to do so.
I do though want to touch on another matter relating to the current State of Israel. I believe that in the excitement at seeing Jerusalem and the body of Israel begin to assert their true identity that those of the awakening currently underway may be, in what I do not doubt are good intentions, developing a relationship with this state that potentially runs in contradiction to the essence of the Torah.
Before I begin, I do want to state here though, given that any discussion on Israel is often a passionate one within the broader Christian, Jewish and Messianic movements, that this article is by no means an attempt to attack her. I believe that the vast majority of attacks on Israel are ill-informed, often racist, and more times than not poorly thought out. Despite what will follow, I believe in the right of the State to exist and in her unique position and status.
To perhaps best explain the foundation for my concerns as plainly as I can, I want to briefly address the etymology of the State of Israel. I believe this will best display the essence of my concern in a very simple, straightforward manner. If one takes the first part – The State – as a true reflection of the characteristic of the entity that resides where it does, the word of relating to source and origin for the grammatically inclined, then it necessarily informs the constitution of what is to be known as the contemporary version of Israel. It therefore becomes necessary to identify, and judge, this incarnation of Israel on the merits of ‘The State’, being the constitutive form – the origin – that defines what we know currently as Israel.
This is of course an explanation in the plainly obvious, yet it is here where I believe the foundations of our troubles lie. While many within the movement are aware that the current State of Israel is by no means perfect, nor the Israel as ordained by God, I believe this sentiment is not properly understood, and in fact, held back out of a desire to believe this State is something it is not. It is a desire I do not wish to discredit. Given that we now live in an age where ‘saviours’ such as Bush and Obama can lay the architecture of the new world order to thunderous applause, there is a strong and very understandable desire to see tangible proof of God similarly working amongst the thickening shadows. It is on this foundation that I suspect much of the defence of contemporary Israel is formed. It is, though, to a deeper reality regarding earthly powers, in particular ‘States’, I wish to draw attention to, not only in regard to Israel, but also of the West.
The State Under God, or the State as God?
In 1996 the Italian historian Emilio Gentile released a book entitled, The Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy. Without going into any great detail regarding this work, Gentile, an expert in Italian Fascism, argued that fascism under Mussolini was a form of political religion. As a theory within the broader international relations field, political religion posited that certain political ideologies could rise, and indeed have done so, to such a status that they become in effect a state religion, and through a process of sacralisation enter into the realm usually reserved for religious philosophy and teachings.
Inherent to this sacralisation was the elevation of particular cultural and political symbols that served to communicate to citizens not only a desired means of conducting politics, but a desired metaphysical world. Gentile wrote in his book,
Fascism was the first and prime instance of a modern political religion. This religion sacralised the state and assigned it the primary educational task of transforming the mentality, the character, and the customs of Italians. The aim was to create a ‘new man’, a believer in and an observing member of the cult of Fascism.
Fascism was, to put it another way, a political order built on the supposed transcendence of its values, i.e., its values were timeless and beyond the subjectivity inherent to mankind, and therefore, the values through which, in this case, the Italian was to find the totality of his existence.
While Gentile pointed to Italian Fascism as a first in modern history, more than just a project by evildoers intent on imposing their will on subjects, the sacralisation of politics, of man’s activities, has been a part of mankind’s history. For Aristotle this desire to engage in something transcendental was inherent to the nature of man. He argued that while man was political in nature and that it was good for man to participate in politics, politics was not his highest order – man, and politics, needed something else.
In ancient times this higher order was the gods. Kings, emperors and pharaohs received their authority from on high, and ordered their civilizations along these cosmological lines on the understanding that man’s essence was intimately connected to a divine order. Israel in the Bible did the same. As time progressed, though, and the idea of gods granting authority to men on Earth slipped from human consciousness, the transcendent desire came to see itself complete within the politics of the State. It was the Hobbes’ Leviathan that came to be the eschatological imprint on Earth, the handiwork of man, made manifest through all manner of nationalist and patriotic rituals.
In this order, the law, rather than divine law, became the mediator between man and this higher power. As Satan (as Al Pacino) explained in The Devil’s Advocate, lawyers became the new priesthood. While Fascism, Nazism and Communism in particular were aggressive means through which to capture man’s transcendent essence and make divine his activities absent God by imposing a State as a divine mediator, the Western Christian state nevertheless did not escape this longing amongst men. Despite our successes, as the famed international relations theorist Francis Fukayama observed, the unrelenting success of our economic and political order still required something more as, as Aristotle knew, man was more than just an economic and political being.
The Demise of the Sanctified State
In the relationship that would define Western civilization, it was the Christian Church that would be the primary force that would add spiritual legitimacy to the cause of Western civilization and its unique political and economic order. Yet while nowhere near as hostile to the Biblical God as the Communists, Nazis or Fascists had been, the Church was nevertheless, especially in America, essential to sanctifying the works of man – the State – and crafting what would become known in sociology a distinctively Western notion of civil religion.
It was a Frenchman, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who termed the notion ‘civil religion’ during his country’s famed revolution. He believed that for the post-Revolution republic to succeed, the State needed its own ‘civil religion’ to ensure the loyalty of its people. To achieve this, the architects of this State set about sanctifying the displays and rituals associated with patriotism and nationalism so as to inspire amongst the masses a willing loyalty to the ‘law of the land’ and the values of the State. As Rousseau would write, Christianity was not up to this task. Its loyalty was to a specific God and to Jesus, and therefore not suited to crafting the solidarity needed for a State to prosper. Yet, despite their best efforts, it was, according to Tocqueville, in the American colonies that this idea of civil religion would become perfected. And it was in large part because of the Christian faith.
Despite the many positives this union between expressions of Christian faith and patriotism would give us, events would transpire that would lay bare the essence of this bond and the inevitability of its demise. There was perhaps no better revelation as to this essence than that given to us by Siegfried Sassoon, a soldier of World War One and a poet. In one of his most famous poems, after calling out to Jesus, he would write in the third verse;
Machine-guns rattled from below the hill; High bullets flicked and whistled through the leaves; And smoke came drifting from exploding shells.
‘Believe; and I can cleanse your ill. I have not died in vain between two thieves; Nor made a fruitless gift of miracles’.
The soldier answered,
‘Heal me if you will, Maybe there’s comfort when a soul believes In mercy, and we need it in these hells. But be you for both sides? I’m paid to kill. And if I shoot a man his mother grieves. Does that come into what your teaching tells?’
A bird lit on the Christ and twittered gay; Then a breeze passed and shook the ripening corn. A Red Cross wagon bumped along the track. Forsaken Jesus dreamed in the desolate day – Uplifted Jesus, Prince of Peace forsworn – An observation post for the attack
‘Lord Jesus, ain’t you got nor more to say?’
Bowed hung that head below the crown of thorns. The soldier lifted, and picked up his pack, And slung his gun, and stumbled on his way.
‘O God’, he groaned, ‘why ever was I born?’
…The battle boomed, and no reply came back
For many who fought in World War 1, one of the deepest spiritual tragedies was the realization that God, as spoken by the numerous Churches throughout Europe, had been on everyone’s side. The soldier defending God’s will was gunned down not by an enemy of Christian civilization, but by another young man doing the same. It was a fact that made a mockery of the notion for God and Country.
As Shannon Ty Bontrager had written of the Church of England, it was the Church that had provided a religious imperative to the conflict and shepherded thousands of young men into an industrial scale mass murder that was nothing more than a conflict between the competing claims of Empires. That the Church had participated in constructing the notion that loyalty to country was loyalty to God was something it has never recovered from, and after World War 1, perhaps rightly so. As Boardman Robinson’s cartoon, The Deserter depicted, this had been perhaps the Church’s greatest sin, the cartoon showing the Messiah in the firing line, his executioners a soldier from each country a party to the conflict.
Of course, for the Christian and the members of the Hebrew Roots Movement, the sacralisation of an atheist political order is an easy to grasp evil. We easily see the evils inherent to such states clearly in their stark contradictions to the lessons in our Bibles. Yet, in regards to our own Christian Western civilization and the Jewish State of Israel, there has been a tendency, in some quarters a very strong one, to instead continue on a path that has sought to restore our Judeo-Christian heritage in the West, and to cement the Jewishness of the State in Israel.
While I do not propose some kind of retreat into a kind of philosophical existentialism or Christian anarchism (though I would argue their case strongly, suggesting they offer a better sanctuary than the ‘State’), the underlying danger is that we have come to accept as normal that our Western supposedly Christian and Jewish States are the ultimate compass through which our lives are ordered and are suitable vessels through which to realize God’s laws and presence. After the collapse of the USSR, for a brief moment, it had been declared by some international affairs analysts that humanity had finally reached its end of history, with Western civilization the final stage in our development. Such declarations came notwithstanding the devastation our economic model has brought onto the world, nor our civilization’s embrace of permanent war in the name of fighting an adjective that has had an uncanny propensity to hide in far-away lands blessed with all sorts of corporate profit-making opportunities, while simultaneously giving our leaders the moral right to turn our once free lands into prisons. The tendency has been to believe that if this very same state is such that it is amendable to a Christian or Jewish ethos, then our lives prosper and we conclude humanity is tracking well. If not, our reaction has been to defend the ‘Christian state’ or the ‘Jewish State’ as the means through which to practice our faith and, apparently, contribute to the redemption of mankind.
In essence, we have come to accept that the State – a manmade architecture – is an a priori condition for God to complete his work on Earth, the assumption being his plans somehow related to some kind of victory for this or that country. Echoing the sociologist John Coleman, the State has become the means through which ultimate meaning and existence has been framed, and it has been done so through a patriotic, star-spangled banner or Star of David imbued civil religion, which in the West, was Christianized from the beginning, and in Israel, Judaisized.
There is admittedly a sense of inevitability to this – politics is an inevitable part of a community of people, and, as discussed, our very nature makes divine certain values and principles as embodied in our actions. In a sense, the Christian and Jewish world perfected this as best could be done by cementing the role of the Bible in daily life. A part of the reason for the collapse of the USSR was its fierce assault on spirituality and the inability to make Stalin and Lenin and the Party ‘divine’ enough to satisfy the nature of their subjects. Furthermore, many good men and women have made sacrifices to the States we have profited from so much – and as it should be, we should always honour and respect those sacrifices. Nevertheless, and while I don’t think the time is now (but might be close) to turn and make for the hills, the union between God and ‘the State’ in the Christian/Jewish worlds has been destined to failure given the inherent nature of the State – that of it being a construction of man.
The State as the New Torah?
In a sense, it has made sense that Christianity would seek out a State to perfect its message, having dispensed with the law. The Jews similarly have dispensed with the manifestation of the law, which in both instances has left a gaping void needing to be filled. Yet, this has never been the essence of the Bible, nor God – God is, all things said and done, uncompromising. By incorporating ‘The State’ into our divine essence and making it a vital part of our journey, we have not only given license to all manner of evils to befall us, but, right now, given a divine sanctification to the subordination of ourselves to the economic principles of capitalism, the security demands of an eschatological and now permanent war on terror, and the authority granted by democracy (people), and have elevated the symbols and songs created by man to cement the divinity of the values of the State. The process was no different in Nazi Germany, where those values were connected to the Aryan Race, or Communism, that made divine the Party as the means for the proletariat to fully actualise their humanity, or within the contemporary rise of the left that has sought to make divine an individual’s supreme authority to define the order of nature and themselves. In all this, we have participated in reframing the nature of our journey and the terms of our existence by engaging a path that, for the Christian and the Hebrew Roots Movement member, has sought to bring God down to us, rather than us up to Him.
I suspect that within our desires to defend our once privileged, yet imperfect, position within Western civilization, there exists a fear in the coming separation between Christianity and the West – undoubtedly a worthy fear given the increasing hostility to all things Judeo-Christian – that has manifested in things like Trump and the Brexit vote. Yet division was one of our Messiah’s missions. In Luke 12:51 he said, ‘Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division’. In truth, the separation now under way between Western civilization and her Christian and Jewish roots is the beginning of a new and profound era in God’s dealings with his chosen where the essence of our faith and his ways are becoming unshackled from the fallen world and all its spiritual and physical architecture. The return of God’s absolute law to the lost tribes and the nations evidence enough of this process. Tolstoy, an anarchist, recognised the radical potential of Christian faith. He wrote, ‘Christianity in its true sense puts an end to the State. It was so understood from its very beginning, and for that Christ was crucified’.
Paul the Apostle says In Romans 1:25, ‘They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator….’ The Apotheosis of George Washington that covers the top of the US Capitol Building has shown for many years the true, and hidden, destination of this path. It has been a hidden in plain sight portrayal of the true alchemical path of our ‘political’ destiny and the blending together of man’s actions with notions of his transcendent abilities. It has been a path embodied within ‘the State’ which has become the means through which to escape our own flaws and the compass through which to perfect ourselves and our societies. Yet as Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer winner, noted, ‘The greatest danger that besets us does not come from believers or atheists; it comes from those who, under the guise of religion, science or reason, imagine we can free ourselves from the limitations of human nature and perfect the human species.’ Rousseau’s ideal State was one such means. While he never completely repudiated the role of faith, in fact he acknowledged its place as all have done: the State has come to replace Jesus, offering salvation and access to a divine order.
Coming Out of the Egyptian / Babylonian State
Ultimately, God, in the Exodus, sought to take us out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, a land of a united house of Israel. While Judah has undoubtedly begun to return, until the second Exodus, we have to be careful in our dealings with political powers. (Give unto Caesar I suspect was more to do with showing respect to God’s plans and a sense of practicality.) Our ultimate calling was not to vote out the Pharaoh or protest against the actions of his ministers or the decisions of his departments. Ours is a calling to separate, to divide, and then, through Torah, to come into union as Israel as it was meant to be and ultimately, union with God as he desired from Genesis 1. While given the beauty of the land and the promise that we have been allotted a part of it makes it hard to separate ourselves from the State of Israel, the path was always narrow and full of obstacles, both clear and hard to discern.
I am aware that attacks on Israel within quarters of the Christian, Jewish and Hebrew Roots Movement body are never taken easily. I am not advocating we turn our backs on her; I wear a Star of David around my neck because I recognise, and in many ways am seduced by, the unique Godly characteristics of this country. But to return to the beginning, the constitution of Israel now, the State, is manmade, and to posit it as anything else runs the risk of sanctifying man’s work over God, and I believe, to therefore participate in an alchemical process not of God.
In the rush to recognise the State of Israel as the vessel through which God will reconcile the Tribes of Israel, we have run the risk of sacralising ‘The State’ – despite its Jewishness and Torah observant qualities. In the first Exodus, which we know foreshadows a coming global second Exodus, Israel, the land and political component, came after the Exodus. It did not exist in any way prior and was rather a manifestation of a spiritual journey of individuals, in their totality the Tribes of Israel, separating entirely from Egypt and the religion of Babylon and paganism. The affirmation of biblically understood Israel, and her God-given authority on Earth, was the end – it was the final culmination of the reconciliation between Creator and creation. The great mystery of the Babylonian religion in the Bible has been instead the actualisation of the polar opposite – the divinity of mankind as captured by the anti-Christ in Revelation, the enemy’s success as much due to his will as it is to the inevitability of our desires absent God.
In the end, Daniel implied in his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, no matter how grand Empires and nation-states seem, they always, and rightfully, fall. In 1818 an Englishman would echo Daniel, he wrote;
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on the these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, bondless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away
Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Like Ozymandias, the Greek name for Ramesses the Second, all powers, Empires and States proudly and definitely rule ultimately over nothing. The only exception ever in the Bible – the Word of God Himself – is a Torah based united house of Israel. Our movement is the beginning of what will be the greatest final chapter of our journey on Earth and the foundation of the great fulfillment of this prophecy, nothing more, nothing less, but definitely all that matters.