Finding Israelite Identity in the New Covenant

©Harper Collins Christian Publishing. Used by permission.
ReverendFun.com.  © Harper Collins Christian Publishing.  Used by permission.

Language is a perilous thing.  It can unite us, but quite often it does the opposite.  That, by the way, was God’s intent.  We know that from the story of how He created the different languages of the earth as presented in Genesis 11:

Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words.  It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.  They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.”  And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar.  They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”  The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.  The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language.  And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.  Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”  So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.  (Genesis 11:1-9 NASB, emphasis added)

Ever since then that curse of language has been with us.  And, by the way, so has the curse of nations.

Curse of nations?  Yes, it does seem to be a curse.  It would seem that the Lord did not intend for humanity to be scattered and separated across the face of the planet in competing factions.  Nevertheless, nations were His idea.  The story of the Tower of Babel explains why.  You’ll notice that mankind also had an idea of uniting themselves as one people, but their idea was not the same as the Almighty’s.  They wanted to be a single, unified power that could challenge YHVH for sovereignty over this planet.  Since these people lived in the generations immediately after the Great Flood, we can suppose that some of them harbored a little resentment at God’s destruction of the pre-Flood civilization.  Maybe they thought they could do things better than their ancestors, perhaps by building a strong defense that could ward off any further Divine intervention in human affairs.  Now since our God does not change (Numbers 23:19; I Samuel 15:29; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8), and since the eternal governing principles of the universe which He established do not change (Psalm 119:44; II Kings 17:37; Matthew 5:18, 24:34-35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33), He had to do something about this blatant rebellion.  There can only be one God, after all. 

The problem with sin is that it seeks to create many gods – in fact, as many as there are human beings on the earth.  That is at the heart of Satan’s insidious deception spoken to our mother Eve:  “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  (Genesis 3:5 NASB)  Tragically, the way our Creator dealt with the deception before the Flood was to destroy humanity.  I would surmise He had little choice in the matter since all of humanity apparently was united as a single people, most likely under satanic leadership (not unlike the world we are anticipating at the end of this age when Messiah returns).  To make sure He did not have to make a complete end of the human race this time around, the Lord God created nations and then scattered them across the earth.  If they were divided in language, they would soon be divided in every other imaginable way, and the resultant wars and rumors of wars would ensure that a united human empire would not arise to defy the Living God until the end of days.  In the meantime the Living God could go about the process of cultivating His redemptive work in human hearts while they remained in the nations.

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Fox Byte 5775 #46: Eikev (Because)

עֵקֶב

Since the first stage production of Of Mice and Men in 1937, the play has gripped audiences and readers for its deep and disturbing probe into human nature. It has also spawned innumerable parodies and references in popular culture that have diluted the power of the piece. (Photos: Lon Chaney Jr & Burgess Meredith in the film 'Of Mice and Men' in 1939, Chris O'Dowd & James Franco in 'Of Mice and Men' in 2014 on Broadway, from "Dogs, Bromance & James Franco: 12 Things Your English Teacher Didn’t Tell You About Of Mice and Men", by By Pete Croatto, April 12, 2014, Broadway.com)
John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men has gripped audiences with its disturbing probe of human nature since 1937.  (Photos: Lon Chaney Jr & Burgess Meredith in the 1939 film version; Chris O’Dowd & James Franco in the 2014 Broadway production, from “Dogs, Bromance & James Franco: 12 Things Your English Teacher Didn’t Tell You About Of Mice and Men”, by By Pete Croatto, April 12, 2014, Broadway.com)

What is this tendency of human minds to discard unpleasant things and cling to what is pleasant, nice, and amusing?  This can be useful in remembering loved ones who pass from this earth.  Whatever annoyances or difficulties they presented us in life fade from our memories, leaving only the glow of happy moments – of childhood kindnesses, of good smells and kind voices, of triumphant moments when a cooperative effort and patience brings victory over a harsh trial.  This is good, but in truth these happy things have no meaning if not set apart by the unhappy things.

This truth of life has its reflection in art.  Consider, for example, Of Mice and Men, a tragedy penned in 1937 by John Steinbeck to portray the pain of American society in the midst of the Great Depression.  It is the tale of George and Lennie, two migrant farm workers in California with a dream of owning a farm of their own one day.  From the opening of the play we see that Lennie labors under mental challenges that make him unable to care for himself.  He depends on George to keep him out of trouble and think for both of them.  All he knows is that he likes to pet nice, soft things with his fingers, and that one day when he and George have a place of their own, he can tend the rabbits they will raise.  Lennie is simple, kind, trusting, and hardworking, but he does not know his own strength.  The soft things he pets often end up dead.  At first it is a mouse, then a puppy, and finally a flirtatious woman who invites him to stroke her hair.  This last “bad thing” is something George cannot fix except by ensuring Lennie will never hurt anyone again.  The play ends as George tells Lennie one more time about the rabbits, and then takes his life.

The quintessential parody of Of Mice and Men appeared in the 1961 Looney Toons short, The Abominable Snow Rabbit". (Photo © Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., used by permission of the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity)
The quintessential parody of Steinbeck’s work appeared in the 1961 Looney Toons short, “The Abominable Snow Rabbit”. (Photo © Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., used by permission of the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity)

Steinbeck lived to see his sublime tragedy dismembered and parodied in superficial popular culture, beginning with animated cartoons.  As Of Mice and Men became an Oscar-nominated film in 1940, Warner Brothers gave birth to a new American icon, Bugs Bunny.  It did not take long before Lennie’s simpleminded fixation with furry rabbits became a standard feature in Looney Toons shorts, reaching a climax in 1961 with “The Abominable Snow Rabbit”.  In the cartoon Lennie becomes an Abominable Snowman in the Himalayas who encounters Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.  Mistaking Daffy for a rabbit, the snowman picks him up and utters these now-famous words:

Just what I always wanted.  My own little bunny rabbit.  I will name him George, and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him and pat him and pet him and rub him and caress him.

With these lines, this absurd cartoon illustrates how distorted shadows supplant what is unpleasant and tragic, leaving only a form of the truth, but lacking its power.  Those who have no knowledge of Steinbeck’s story will laugh at the cartoon, but they remain ignorant of the full context, and are thus robbed of the life lessons Steinbeck sought to impart.  The same is true of those who take the Bible in sound bites rather than in its full context, including these words of Moses:

And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you.  (Deuteronomy 7:13 NASB)

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Fox Byte 5775 #45: Va’etchanan (And I Pleaded)

וָאֶתְחַנַּן

The Big Four at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919.  Left to right:  Vittorio Orlando (Italy), David Lloyd George (Great Britain), Georges Clemenceau (France), Woodrow Wilson (United States).
The “Big Four” Allied leaders at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919.

Left to right: Vittorio Orlando (Italy), David Lloyd George (Great Britain), Georges Clemenceau (France), Woodrow Wilson (United States).In a sense one might say that this present global system is Woodrow Wilson’s fault.  The Armistice that ended the hostilities of World War I on November 11, 1918, took shape after the German Empire embraced President Wilson’s Fourteen Points as the basis for negotiating peace with the Allies.  Wilson had presented the Fourteen Points in a speech to Congress at the beginning of 1918 as his proposal for ending the war and reshaping the world so that such a massive conflict could never happen again.  A better world might have been the outcome had his plan been adopted in its entirety, but, sadly, it was not to be.  Wilson personally led the American negotiating team to the Paris Peace Conference at Versailles in 1919, but during the lengthy proceedings he became gravely ill.  The other Allied leaders took advantage of his illness to turn the peace conference into a revenge conference.  Many of Wilson’s principles found their way into the Versailles Treaty and subsequent agreements, but not as he intended.  The fruit of Versailles was a vindictive dismemberment of the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires, along with a humiliating disarmament of Germany and assessment of a war reparations debt that the German nation finally finished paying 92 years later.  The Versailles Treaty did incorporate Wilson’s vision of a League of Nations, the predecessor to the United Nations, but the President’s own people rejected it.  When the US Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, the United States turned away from an active role in managing the community of nations, thereby ensuring that the League of Nations would be nothing more than a hollow shell.

It is easy to summarize the Fourteen Points.  They call for open negotiations among nations, freedom of the seas, free trade, disarmament to the greatest extent possible, evacuation and restoration of territories occupied during the war; “autonomous development” (a fancy way of saying independence) of peoples under the rule of the world’s great empires, readjustment of borders to reflect lines of nationality, and establishment of the League of Nations to oversee this new international order.  The summary, however, does not convey the enormity of the tasks involved in implementing each point.  Consider just one point:  establishment of an independent Poland.  That single act required dismemberment of three empires; creation of a Polish government with power and resources to run the country; international recognition and assistance; and a host of other actions to ensure Poland’s unhindered reentry into the community of nations after nearly 120 years of foreign occupation.  It would be foolish to think that Wilson’s Fourteen Points were the only items under consideration in the Allies’ peace deliberations.  In truth, they were only the beginning of the process, not the end.

This should remind us of something in Scripture.  The analogy dawned immediately on President Georges Clemenceau of France.  On hearing of the Fourteen Points, he is reported to have said,

Quatorze?  Le bon Dieu n’a que dix.  (Fourteen?  The Good Lord only has ten.)

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If Not the Blood of Yeshua, What Brought Ruth “Near” to the G-d of Israel?

Landscapte with Ruth and Boaz Joseph Anton Koch (from "Bible Paintings, Ruth, Naomi, Boaz, Womeninthebible.net)
Landscapte with Ruth and Boaz
Joseph Anton Koch
(from “Bible Paintings, Ruth, Naomi, Boaz”, Womeninthebible.net)

Once again Peter Vest of Orthodox Messianic Judaism has provided thoughtful material worthy of consideration.  In a blog post published earlier this week he invited discussion on the question of whether Israel includes Gentiles brought into covenant with the Living God by the Blood of Messiah Yeshua.  What I appreciate most is how he uses the account of Ruth the Moabite, the most significant example of a foreigner who became part of Israel long before Yeshua’s work of redemption on the cross.  This is timely since Ruth is the Scripture traditionally studied at Shavuot (Pentecost), which falls on May 23-24 this year.  It is with the understanding that people from the nations are indeed brought into God’s nation of Israel that the First Ephraimite/Northern Israel National Congress will convene on the day after Shavuot to discuss how to walk out our identity as YHVH is restores the Whole House of Israel just as He promised.


If Not the Blood of Yeshua, What Brought Ruth “Near” to the G-d of Israel?

Posted on Orthodox Messianic Judaism, May 3, 2015

by Peter Vest

So I’ve been wondering about this since last evening…

Ruth the Moabite became an Israelite.  What initiated her into the People of Israel?  Her faith, G-d’s grace, right?

Ephesians 2 says that Gentiles are saved by grace and brought “near” by the blood of Yeshua so that they are citizens in Israel.  In other words, Gentiles should rejoice because they can join the People of Israel and have salvation, receiving in faith that which is given by grace.

But didn’t Ruth also join the People of Israel and have salvation?  Receiving in faith that which was given to her by the grace of G-d?

So Ruth received the benefits specified in Ephesians 2 before the New Covenant was ever given?

Here’s the real question that I’ve been leading up to:

It is written that the New Covenant is made only with Israel.  Yet Israel includes even Gentiles like Ruth who had not accepted Yeshua as the Messiah, Gentiles who belonged to Israel simply because they rejected idolatry and accepted both the G-d of Israel and the People of Israel and proceeded to live according to the Way of Life defined in the Torah of Moses (“…if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways. So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD…” Deut. 28).

QUESTION:

So doesn’t that mean that the “Israel” with whom the New Covenant was made includes Gentiles (since Israel has always included Gentiles such as Ruth)?


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2015.  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.

Fox Byte 5775 #29-30: Achrei Mot (After the Death); Kedoshim (Holy Ones)

אַחֲרֵי מוֹת / קְדֹשִׁים

Dustin Hoffman's Oscar-winning performance in Rain Man introduced audiences to the world of autism.  (Photo:  Amazon.com)
Dustin Hoffman’s Oscar-winning performance in Rain Man introduced audiences to the world of autism. (Photo: Amazon.com)

How do we love the unlovely?  That is one of the questions Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise explore in Rain Man.  Hoffman earned an Oscar as Best Actor for his portrayal of Raymond Babbitt, a man with autism whose family had chosen to place him in an institution after he had accidentally harmed Charlie, his younger brother.  Because of that, Charlie (played by Cruise) never learns of his brother’s existence until after his father’s death.  Charlie is surprised to learn that his father had left most of his fortune to a trust fund that paid for Raymond’s expenses.  Determined to obtain a share of the money, Charlie entices Raymond out of the mental institution and takes him on a road trip to his home in California, where he intends to file a lawsuit for custody of his brother.  The rest of the movie is a journey on many levels as Charlie begins to see Raymond not as an easily exploitable asset, but as a remarkable human being, and as the loving and lovable brother he has missed all his life. 

The audience shares that journey thanks to Hoffman’s masterful performance.  By the end of the movie we are still a bit awkward and uncomfortable around Raymond, but we no longer think of him as something less than ourselves.  He is brilliant in his own way, far more capable with computations and connections than most of us could ever be.  In an odd way he is charming, affectionate, and even adorable.  Once we look beyond his peculiar mannerisms and grow accustomed to his unique forms of expression, we begin to see a person of great value.  Indeed he has special needs that prevent him from functioning on his own, but we learn from Rain Man that Raymond Babbitt and others like him do have a place in society.  One example of this was reported recently in The Times of Israel, in an article explaining how the Israel Defense Forces have recognized the special gift of persons with autism, and have found a way for them to make a valuable contribution to the defense of their nation.  Yet even those who are not able to make such a contribution have value.  They teach us about ourselves – what it means to be human.  We are enriched when we get to know them.

Indeed, they are our neighbors, the very people we are to love as ourselves.

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