This is another of our Wildcard Wednesday postings, which in the nature of the case can deal with just about anything. Today’s contemplation is a step toward reinventing the entire paradigm of how Jewish Yeshua-believers ought to conceive of themselves and their task in sharing with other Jews the good news of Yeshua.  My major point?  We Jews who believe in Yeshua as Messiah should think of ourselves not as missionaries to our people, but rather as prophets. And this is more than simply a change in terminology—far more.

The prophets of the Older Testament were God’s authorized prosecuting attorneys who brought a covenant lawsuit against the nation.  They reminded the people, the priests, leaders, and the kings of the covenant that God had made with their forefathers at Sinai and of their guilt before the throne of God for having violated it. They warned of God’s judgments to come if the people did not repent: war, famine, and exile.  All of these negative sanctions had been spelled out in the original covenant document (see Deut 28:15-68) as had the blessings that awaited a truly repentant people (see Deut 28:1-14).

These prophets were cultural insiders who sought to remind their own people of their covenantal responsibilities as Jews, calling them back to fundamental Jewish covenantal responsibilities.

To define the principle then,

prophet-koederIn our in-reach to Jewish people, Messianic Jews should function as cultural insiders, and thus prophets, rather than as cultural outsiders, and thus, missionaries,  calling other Jews to repent for covenant violation and rejection of God’s ultimate messenger, Yeshua the Messiah. Our goal should be to see Jews turn toward God as evidenced in deepened covenantal living in solidarity with Jewish precedent, in repentance for rejection of the Messiah to whom they now demonstrate allegiance, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The term “prophetic” is used here not of an office, or of a self-designation. Rather it refers to a stance, a way of relating. Yeshua-believing Jews should relate to other Jews as the prophets did, calling our people to accept God’s messenger (here, Yeshua) and the message (to repent in view of the drawing near in Yeshua of the eschatological Kingdom of God) bearing fruit that befits such repentance: Spirit-empowered covenantal living, Torah obedience, to the honor of God and in anticipation of the fullness of Israel yet to come.

The term “in-reach” is used here rather than “outreach” to emphasize the intra-communal nature of this model. The missionary model, by contrast, connotes representatives of community B going to community A. It is an inter-communal model. Proper Messianic Jewish in-reach involves us as prophetic witnesses and members of community A communicating with other members of community A. This is an intra-communal model.  We would do well to see ourselves more as prophets than missionaries.

Just as Jewish sin has two aspects: rejection of the demands of God’s covenant and rejection of the messenger who comes to remind us of those demands, so Jewish repentance has two corresponding aspects; a turning toward obedient acceptance of the demands of the covenant coupled with submitted reception of the messenger.

It is clear from Scripture that in Messianic times, HaShem will bring the Jewish people back to obey his chukkim and mishpatim (statutes and ordinances), the nuts and bolts of Torah living (See Ezk 36:27; 37:24 for example).  Missionaries are traditionally unprepared to deal with this reality because their theological constructs hold that the Torah way of living is expired or transcended with the coming of Yeshua.  However, the model I am outlining here stresses the passages the missionaries tend to avoid on this matter, and holds that a restoration to Torah living amongst Israel as a sign of the Messianic Age.

This model holds that the Torah and its way of life were given to the people of Israel, who have been custodians of this legacy for thousands of years. Yeshua taught that the Pharisees sit in Moses seat, indicating their fundamental right and responsibility to interpret Torah—to clarify what it means to live as Jews.  While Yeshua says we are not to do as they do, explaining, “for they do not practice what they preach,” to indicate that while their teaching is on the whole sound, their practice is not always so.   If we are to live Torah obedient lives, we cannot properly simply ignore that community to whom it was given, nor their tradition of interpretation under the leadership of those upon whom Yeshua himself says that responsibility rests, even if their practice and emphases are not always appropriate.

I often ask Jewish believers in Yeshua, “Do you think Jesus died so you can eat a ham sandwich?”  Of course the answer should be “No.”  The Bible rightly understood does not encourage us to imagine that the Messiah came so that Jews would no longer be obliged to honor God through honoring Torah. The prophets of Israel always ought to call Jews back to this. The ultimate Prophet to Israel did no less. Remember it is Yeshua Himself who said,

‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’

Yeshua called the Jewish people to repent by returning to the obedience spoken of in the Law and in the Prophets, and by saying of him, God’s ultimate messenger, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.”  Things haven’t changed. We too ought to be calling our people into an ever-deepening engagement with Jewish life, in allegiance to Yeshua, the Messiah.

We need to see ourselves as prophets, not simply missionaries. We need to see ourselves as calling our own people back to the faithfulness from which they are estranged.  Bringing his people Israel to allegiance to the Messiah is one of God’s agenda items at the time of the end. It should be our agenda item too. But it is not enough to call Jews to Yeshua faith, for unless they return to honoring God in accordance with Torah, they have not fully repented.  If ours is a prophetic message, this is part of what we should be saying and how we should be living.