Once in while, people who don’t know me, who have heard nasty things about me or who don’t feel comfortable with the positions I hold will accuse me of being weak on outreach, that is, they will accuse me of being indifferent to promoting Yeshua-faith among Jews. As soon as they say that, one thing becomes clear. They don’t know what, or better, who they are talking about. But the accusation still wounds, and it gets legs among the myriads of people who just love to play “Ain’t it awful?” Fine. I can live with it and do.
But let’s talk for a moment about Torah and faith in Yeshua. The discussion will turn in a direction many people don’t want to go. But if you have courage, come along with me, that is, if you don’t mind thinking new thoughts.
I have long taught that when Jews who believe in Yeshua no longer care about Torah and do not lead a Jewish life, it makes believing in Yeshua look ridiculous! Remember ours is a religious message, a Jewish religious message. And it seems to me that Jews have a right to assume that whoever the Messiah might be, if there is a Messiah, he will make Jews into better Jews. That seems incontrovertible! And Jews have every right to say, “What kind of a Messiah is this that leads Jews AWAY from Jewish life?” In fact, I consider the widespread assimilation of Jews who believe in Yeshua to be the main obstacle to other Jews considering Yeshua faith.
Moses warns us about this in Deuteronomy 13. He tells us that if a Prophet comes who leads us away from the commandments of Torah, we Jews must not follow him.
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. YOU SHALL WALK AFTER THE LORD YOUR GOD AND FEAR HIM AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS AND OBEY HIS VOICE, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 13:1-5 ESV)
What do you suppose Moses meant by “fear Him and keep his commandments and obey his voice?” And notice how a departure from the path of God’s commandments is connected with serving other gods, or, to put it another way, how departure from the pathway of these commandments is incompatible with following the LORD who brought us out of the land of Egypt. A little later in the paragraph he puts it this way,
But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, TO MAKE YOU LEAVE THE WAY IN WHICH THE LORD YOUR GOD COMMANDED YOU TO WALK. So you shall purge the evil1 from your midst.
Obviously, in context, Moses is speaking of the life of Torah living, Jewish life. obeying Torah, mitzvot, chukkim and mishpatim. The whole nine yards of observant Judaism. Moses is saying that we should not receive any prophet who leads us away from Torah obedience. He is saying that following the LORD who brought us out of the land of Egypt is synonymous with following his commandments. Dare we say this, that Jews can’t have one without the other? That seems to be what the text is saying.
Let me say by the way that there are too many schismatics attached to the Messianic Jewish Movement who will go off in all sorts of strange directions in the name of Torah. Not everything done in the name of Torah is right, rational, or healthy. But the problem is not the Torah: it is the people and their quest for gnostic glory–their need to see themselves as elite holders of secrets denied to the less anointed. Such people have little if any regard for community and tradition. They are setting up shop for themselves. This is not where I am leading us with this posting. In fact, I of course would lead us all away from those kinds of excesses. But still, back to my point. Read below.
This blog post began with a question, “Does and emphasis on Torah living undermine Messianic Jewish outreach? Let me respond by asking me a question of my own.
On the basis of what you have read here, does a failure to emphasize Torah living undermine Messianic Jewish outreach?
I am sure it does. What do you think? You have seen my basis for my position. What’s yours? And if you are now reconsidering, what’s the next step?