The People of Israel Live!
By Sam Nadler
In this issue we will examine the concept of Am Yisrael Chai – “the People of Israel live” – as an essential Biblical principle for the need to have Messianic Congregations in every Jewish community around the world.
Often our heart concern for the Jewish people is, understandably, that they would see Yeshua through the prophets, like Isaiah 53. Yet, the more immediate Jewish concern is to survive and thrive as a people – a value which is often summed up in the phrase “Am Yisrael Chai.” However, we find this value matters not only to the people of Israel, but also to the God of Israel (Jer. 31:35-37)! So, it should matter to us. The body of Messiah in general and the Messianic congregation in particular, are established by God to represent to the world His faithfulness in Messiah, to “keep a people whom He foreknew” (Rom. 11:2). As an identifiable Jewish community, the Messianic congregation both shares in and speaks to this divine concern, thus testifying of Messiah’s faithfulness to Israel.
The attempts to wipe out the Jews come, not only from the rabid anti-Semites, but also from the subtle falsehoods that proclaim a Jew who believes in Jesus is no longer Jewish and does not need to identify with his people. The importance of the Jewish community’s visible existence is God’s faithfulness to His word. God started with one man and said, “I will make of you a
people” (Gen. 12:2). With Abraham and Sarah, who were unable to naturally have a child, He produced a people as proof of His faithfulness and power. God’s testimony of faithfulness to His promise is seen in a community of Jewish people, not just in the individual Jewish believer. For the One who came to “confirm the promises of the fathers” (Rom. 15:8) came to keep this people as His identifiable testimony. Therefore, Yeshua said that “upon this rock” He would build a community that testifies of His faithfulness.
To the Jew First!
In Romans 11:11, the Jewish remnant according to God’s grace is Paul’s first evidence of God’s faithfulness to Israel. Paul says, “I am an Israelite” even as he had said “I am a Jew” (Acts 22:3). So, Paul views himself (11:1), along with the testimony of Elijah (11:2-4) and all the Jewish believers at “this present time” (11:5-6), as proof that God has not rejected His people. For Paul, God’s present-tense faithfulness to the Jewish people is seen in the present-tense Jewish testimony.
A Jewish believer saying, “I was a Jew”, or his child saying, “I think my dad used to be Jewish” becomes a contradiction to God’s faithfulness. It reinforces the canard that faith in Yeshua ends Israel’s existence. This inadequate witness develops from a lack of proper discipleship.
In light of the Messianic Jewish remnant’s existence, Israel’s national unbelief is only partial (11:1-10); the Jewish remnant is the place holder, as it were, of the future national revival, that all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26).
And also to the Gentile!
Paul writes, “I am writing to you who are Gentiles.” Just as Jews that believe in Yeshua are still Jews, so Gentiles who believe in Messiah are still Gentiles. Yet, present-tense Gentile believers are called to make Israel jealous for Messiah. In so doing, they effectively communicate the Good News as God has designed it (Rom. 11:11). Thus, the Messianic congregation is also a place for Gentile believers.
The Scriptures state that for the Messiah to be the Redeemer of Israel, He must also be the Savior of the world (and vice versa): To Abraham, God promised “in your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3, 22:18).
To Shiloh would come “the obedience of the peoples” (Gen. 49:10). The root of Jesse would be “a standard for the peoples” to whom “the nations would resort” (Is. 11:10). The “King upon Zion” installed by God has the “nations as an inheritance” (Ps. 2:7).
The credential that the Jewish Messiah has a sovereign impact on the nations for Israel’s good is vital to the Hebrew Scriptures and the rabbinical writings. The Messianic congregation’s testimony pictures a restored Israel with the Nations in the commonwealth of Israel (Gen. 35:11; Eph. 2:12-13). So also, the Messianic congregation is the Jewish Olive Tree through which the present tense Jew and Gentile proclaim the Good News that in Messiah: God is faithful to Israel. The people of Israel live in Yeshua the Messiah!
This is why Paul writes that the faithfulness of God in Messiah is further evidenced by the Gentile believers’ calling to make Israel jealous. This was to happen through the same mercy they received (Rom. 11:30-31).
However, if Gentile faith was expressed in arrogance, then it would bring about Christianity’s anti-Jewish posture, as Paul warned (Romans 11:17-18); sadly, the same anti-Jewish history that has obscured the Gentile calling to show love and mercy to the Jewish people.
Both Jews and Gentiles in the Body of Messiah must testify that the same God who keeps a believing and identifiable Jewish remnant also calls us to love Israel, to make them jealous for Yeshua!
Reach out in Yeshua’s love to your Jewish friends, acquaintances and neighbors. Pray for them and thank God for all that He has done and will do! Am Yisrael Chai, b’Yeshua HaMashiach!