Excerpted from Sam’s book “Messianic Foundations”
Israel’s national failure to accept Messiah Yeshua gave an opportunity for all believers to be concerned for Israel’s national revival. Thus, Israel’s national unbelief is not only partial, but also temporary, and the Gentile believers are key to how temporary their national unbelief will be (Romans 11:11-24).
“I say then, they did not stumble as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous” (Romans 11:11).
Indeed, Israel stumbled over Messiah. This is an indirect reference to the Messiah as the “stumbling stone” (Romans 9:32-33). How does God feel about those of us who stumble? He loves us and desires to pick us up. Thus, God wanted the Gentiles to be His instrument in proclaiming Yeshua. Yet, some Gentile believers were arrogant against Israel. They, therefore, neglected their responsibility to reach out to the Jewish people in love (Romans 11:18). As the “apostle of Gentiles,” Paul needed to take them to task. They were not to have an “I told you so” attitude toward Jewish people.
“We would not want to Offend…”
Did Israel’s stumbling over Messiah mean their utter ruin? From a Jewish perspective, Gentile believers sometime seem to think so. Once I was asked to speak at a church in Kiev, Ukraine, at an outreach around the time of the Jewish revival in the former Soviet Union. I was one of three speakers. The speaker before me told the Jewish people who were visiting, “You Jews missed it – and too bad for you! Sunday is the Sabbath now!” How bizarre, both for the theology and in the attitude reflected. In America, a pastor told me that “when we go door-to-door to share the Gospel, we skip the homes with mezuzahs. We would not want to offend [the Jews living there], our people would not know what to say, and they probably would not be interested anyway.” Shouldn’t the Jewish homes have been offended that they were skipped?
This non-witness, though well-intentioned, actually assumes that God is finished with Israel. God’s faithfulness to Israel is evidenced in Jewish evangelism, whereas not witnessing to the Jewish people implies that God has rejected Israel. The Good News for you and national Israel is that He has saved the Gentiles in order to redeem Israel.
God’s Faithfulness to Israel
Some may ask, “You don’t mean to say that God saved Gentiles just to make Israel jealous, do you?” No, not quite. God saves Gentiles because of Who He is, as it is written, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). However, following salvation we have a purpose and a calling. Even as God saved Gentiles through the means of Israel’s transgression, He now gives Gentile believers an opportunity to demonstrate God’s faithfulness to Israel.
Is Israel Jealous?
God intended the Good News to come to the Jewish people through faithful Gentile believers. Often, we do not see Jewish people all that jealous for what the Gentile believer has in Messiah. Why? God gets jealous over Israel when they go after other gods (Exodus 34:14). This is because Israel belongs to Him. By contrast, how can Jewish people get jealous over something that is not evidently theirs to begin with?
Though some may be curious or even a little envious, Jewish people do not rightfully get jealous over Easter eggs or Santa Claus, because they are not part of Jewish heritage, and instead function as a cultural substitute for that heritage. On the contrary, when believers worship the Lord Yeshua, rejoicing in the Messiah and God of Israel, this should provoke Israel to jealousy. Has the Jewish people’s rich inheritance in Messiah been disguised?
What is the Cultural Expression of Your Faith?
Many times, Christian culture seems alien. Even thinking of visiting a church can seem a little like asking men to meet in the Ladies room! How would Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles feel about this matter? I believe he might ask, “Why are you trying to be culturally different than the Jewish community? Your liberty in Yeshua was meant to help you identify with Israel, not be alienated from them! It is the God of Israel you have come to know, but through the cultural expression of your faith the Jewish community cannot recognize Him!
At Antioch, when Gentiles came to faith and were first called christianoi (“Christians,” Acts 11:26), the term identified them with the Messiah (“Anointed One” in Greek). *in Hebrew, Meshichim (Messianics) are followers of Yeshua the Mashiach (Messiah). Think of it: to the ears of the Jewish community, which generally spoke Greek outside Judea, the Gentile “Christians” were really “Messianics”: they were a part of the Messianic Jewish community. In other words, unlike today, this term did not separate them out as a foreign religion; rather, it identified them with Israel. Messianic Gentiles were meant to be the living witness of Israel’s hope. God’s salvation leads to a service of love.
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