There is an ongoing debate among congregational leaders in Israel about the role of Jewish tradition and the teaching of the rabbis in the life of Messianic Jews. My position is that we need to be:
1) Strong on the work of the Holy Spirit
2) Bold in our presentation of the Gospel
3) Balanced in our use of Jewish tradition
Here is a positive testimony that may encourage you and serve as an example of our view. A few weeks ago three men, all native born Israelis of orthodox religious background came to our congregation for the first time. One had already received the Lord but had not yet been to congregation. The other was brought by ‘S’ and ‘M’. The third came after a number of personal conversations with me.
Touched By The Holy Spirit
They were hesitant to enter, to say the least. But when they did come in, they saw that people treated them with love and acceptance. When we started praising the Lord, it was only a matter of minutes before they were being touched by the Holy Spirit. We had prayer for healing, as well as reading from the Torah scroll. I taught from John 10 how Yeshua said He was one with God, and on John 17 how Yeshua prayed for us to be one together with Him and the Father.
To our delight, both of the as-yet unsaved orthodox men, came forward after the message and prayed publicly to receive Yeshua as Lord and Savior, proclaiming faith in His death and resurrection. Needless to say we all rejoiced.
What allowed for these men to receive the Lord? It was not the tradition, but the power of the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, one of the men fell to the floor when we prayed for him, even though no one else in the congregation had fallen and he had never seen such a thing in his life. He just couldn’t keep standing from the presence of the Holy Spirit on him.
Feeling At Home
On the other hand, the fact that we had traditional elements in the service, allowed these men to feel at home and open their hearts. We speak only Hebrew in our fellowship, and many of our members are quite knowledgeable in rabbinic teachings. Tal, a kibbutz member from a religious family, was particularly helpful in communicating to them our faith in Messiah.
Jewish tradition is not our message. Our message is Yeshua. Yet elements of Jewish tradition can provide the right context for sharing the good news of salvation. Let us not be confused between the message and the context. If I truly want someone to be saved, I will adjust myself to bring the message into his culture and world view. On the other hand, if the cultural context ends up overshadowing the message itself, I have missed the whole point.
Finding The Right Balance
How can we find the right balance? – By emphasis on love, the gospel and the Holy Spirit. When you love someone, you want to understand and communicate with him. When you share the good news, you want to remove every obstacle that might stand in the way. When you are led of the Holy Spirit, you can discern what is right or wrong in any situation. We have freedom to be flexible in cultural expression. We have the discernment to be balanced.
I Corinthians 9:20-21 – To the Jews I am as a Jew in order to win the Jews; to those who are under the law, I am as one under the law, although I myself am not under the law … to those who are not under the law, I am like one without the law, although I myself am not without the law of God, being under the law of the Messiah.
The Cry of The Disciples’ Hearts
Yeshua warned us to beware of the “leaven of the Pharisees.” There are certainly dangerous elements of pride, legalism, rejection of Yeshua, rejection of Messianic Jews, and racism against Gentiles in some rabbinic teaching (Matthew 23). On the other hand, Yeshua also warned us against the “leaven of the Herodians” (Mark 8:15), which could be understood as secular society. Just as there is hypocrisy in Jewish religious leaders, so is there among Christian ministers. Just as there is danger in Jewish religious society, so is there danger in Israeli secular society.
Can you hear the cry of the disciples’ hearts when they asked,
“Will you now restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)
Can you feel how much they loved their people? – How much they wanted the covenant promises of God to be fulfilled to our nation? We want everything promised to our people in the Law and the Prophets to come to pass. And how will that happen?
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be witnesses of Me in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Yeshua’s instructions for the disciples to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and to bring the gospel to the whole world were an answer to their cry to restore our nation. Politics, religion, military power and economics alone cannot bring biblical restoration to our people. First we must put our emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit, then on sharing the message of Yeshua with others. If we do that, God will restore everything of His kingdom to Israel, and to all the nations as well.
Our cry for our nation is the same as that of Yeshua’s early disciples: “Restore Your Kingdom to Israel.” His answer to us is the same as His answer to them: “Be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and share the gospel everywhere.”