In “TimesofIsrael” (26 Sept 2013), Eliezer Melamed writes on the festival of Sukkot (Booths) and how Christians are Fulfilling the Prophecy of Isaiah. The Isaiah text referred to is “Strangers shall stand and pasture your flocks; aliens shall be your ploughmen and vine-trimmers.” (Isaiah 61:5). The strangers Melamed has in mind are Christians. Here is Melamed’s story of Tommy, the Christian (my italics):
“Recently, a troublemaker distributed libellous materials accusing Tommy Waller, an American Christian, of being a missionary. This despite the fact that Tommy has been actively recruiting Christian volunteers for Israel for ten years, and not a single Jew claims that Tommy or any of the thousands of people he has brought here have tried to undermine their faith. Therefore, I feel it is incumbent upon me to speak on his behalf. Out of an abiding faith in the uniqueness of the Jewish people and in the Divine mission to settle the Land, Tommy has rallied support for Israel from American Congressmen and Senators. The head of the Shomron Regional Council, Mr. Gershon Mesika, told me that Tommy’s activities have been very influential. Each year, through the summer, he organizes groups of Christians who love Israel to volunteer here. As he is a big believer in family values, many of the volunteers come with their entire families, including the young and the elderly. In recent years, at the request of the Regional Council, the Har Bracha settlement has hosted the volunteers on a hilltop near our community. From this base, the volunteers set out to work in vineyards and orchards throughout the Shomron.”
“Because of our difficult history with Christians, and due to concerns about possible missionizing, I felt it necessary to meet with Tommy. I wanted to have an upfront discussion with him about precisely what his positions were. At the same time, I wanted to convey a Jewish position without kowtowing or obsequiousness. In the course of our conversation, I asked him: “If a Jew were to come before you and ask you whether it is better to be a Jew or a Christian what would you tell him?” He responded: “I would tell him to be a Jew!” Tommy added that he had not always thought this way. Originally, like other Christians, he was interested in everyone becoming Christian, but eventually he realized that this earlier position was the result of ignorance. Now, following his exposure to the Jewish renaissance in the Land of Israel, he wishes for all Jews to observe the Torah and mitzvoth. I asked Tommy what led him to dedicate his life to bringing Christian volunteers to Israel. He told me that he read Isaiah 61:5: “Strangers shall stand and pasture your flocks; aliens shall be your ploughmen and vine-trimmers.” This greatly moved him, and he said to himself: “Maybe I can be the one who is privileged to fulfil this holy verse!” Ever since then, he has encouraged people to visit Israel and to help Jews work the land.”
Tommy, a professing Christian tells Jews it is against Christ’s will to tell them, those whom Christ initially (in time, not intention) preached to, that the Christ/Mashiach – is “the way, the the truth and the life” (John 14:6); that it is wrong to tell Jews “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5). And indeed, don’t ever tell them “This is why I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not trust that I am(ego eimi), you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).” A Jew, therefore, who does not believe that Jesus is the Messiah will die in his sins; no matter how many acts of lovingkindness he or she does.
To recap, Eliezer’s article is about how Christians are Fulfilling the Prophecy of Isaiah as in “Strangers shall stand and pasture your flocks; aliens shall be your ploughmen and vine-trimmers.” (Isaiah 61:5).
What about the fulfilment of the following Isaiah prophecy in Chapter 53?
“Behold, my Servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. As many were astonished at him — his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men — so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they shall see, and that which they have not heard they shall understand. Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the Arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.
The Jew claims that he is the suffering servant. This means that the above words in italics proceed out of the mouth of the “nations” (Gentiles, goyim). A travesty divesting the Holy One of Israel of the greatest manifesation of his holiness and love towards his creation. If the suffering servant is the Jew, he must be raising himself by hiw own bootstraps. Insufferable servant. (See Isaiah 53 and the identity Chrisis of the suffering servant, Isaiah 53: The Suffering and Insufferable Servant and The raising of the servant in Isaiah; by Israel’s bootstraps).
If Tommy is consistent, he would have to agree; which makes him, in the eyes of a Jew, a righteous gentile with a place in the world to come, but also an apostate Christian: He went out from us, but he did not really belong to us. For if he had belonged to us, he would have remained with us; but his going showed that he had not belonged to us. (1 John 2:19; I changed “they” to “he”).
Eliezer Melamed’s next heading is “Israel and the Nations of the World.”
“Since Sukkot reveals, writes Melamed, the sanctity of all spheres of life, the holiday is relevant to non-Jews (who are traditionally referred to as the seventy nations of the world). Accordingly, our Sages state that the seventy bulls which we offered in the Temple over the course of Sukkot were offered on behalf of the seventy nations. (See Peninei Halakha, Laws of Sukkot 1:13.)”
Seventy bulls; the seventy nations of the world? All the sacrifices of Israel, however, were offered to make atonement for Israel alone. “But Aaron and his sons made offerings upon the altar of burnt offering and upon the altar of incense for all the work of the most holy place, and to make atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded.” (1 Chronicles 6:49). This goes for the seventy bulls as well: “Then Hezekiah said, ‘You have now consecrated yourselves to the LORD; come near, bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the house of the LORD.’ And the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings; and all who were of a willing heart brought burnt offerings. The number of the burnt offerings which the assembly brought was seventy bulls, a hundred rams, and two hundred lambs; all these were for a burnt offering to the LORD” (2 Chronicles 29:31-32).
If you’re a traditional Jew (Chabad, for example), you will say that the teaching of the sages/rabbis that the seventy bulls were offered for the nations comes from the “Oral” Torah, given to Moses at the same time as the Written Torah. The argument is that the Oral Torah fills in the details of the Written Torah. It is hard to see how the Oral explanation (of the sages/rabbis) given above fills in what is lacking in the very clear written Torah that the sacrifices were intended for the atonement of Israel’s sins alone.
“Our relationship with non-Jews, continues Eliezer Melamed, is complex. Throughout our long history, they often viciously abused us; nevertheless, our basic attitude towards them is positive.”
Positive? The pious Jew’s attitude – I’m not talking about humanist, liberal, reform, reconstructionist or agnostic/atheist Jews – to the Christian is, and never was positive; unless by “positive” is meant mutual economic and other day-to-day interests. In his “The Distinction between Jews and Gentiles in Torah,” Rabbi David Bar Chaim cites many rabbinical sources that states that “brother” and “neighbour” refer to the fellow Jews only, as in Leviticus 19:17-18, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. 18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.”
Killing a Gentile and loving your neighbour
“We learn from the Mechilta that a Jew who killed a Gentile with intent is not put to death by the Beit Din, as he would be had he killed a Jew. The halacha is the same concerning a ger toshav, as is explicitly stated in the Mechilta of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on the above mentioned verse: “‘Upon his neighbor’ — with the exception of others, ‘his neighbor’ — with the exception of the ger toshav.” (Ger toshav – resident alien ; see more here).
Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis says:
“A case in point is the verse of three Hebrew words: V’ahavtah l’rechah kamocha, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” How simple—how clear. How are we to love the “Neighbor?” And who is my “Neighbor?” Not only are the interpretations different in each different tradition, but they vary within the same tradition. The “love” imperative takes on different meanings. There are rabbis who, on semantic grounds, argue that “thy Neighbor” refers to b’nai amecha, “the children of your people.” Others go further in restricting the meaning of “Neighbor” by maintaining that “Neighbor” refers only to “good” Jews, to “observant” Jews, achichah b’torah uv’mitzvot,” your brother in law and observance.” Those who argue for a restrictive and exclusivist interpretation of “Neighbor” are thinkers of great prominence such as Maimonides and Rashbam (Rabbi Samuel Ben Mayer of the 11th Century). In the Likutei Amarim, Rabbi Schnayer Zalman, the founder of Chabad, interpreted the passage most of us understand as universalistic in a highly restrictive manner. When the Prophet Micah says, “Have we not one Father, has not one God created us all?” he refers only to real brothers, that is, to Israelites alone, for the source of their souls is in their one God.” (See “Love your neighbour” as long as he’s Jewish).
Eliezer Melamed then discusses the “Attitude Towards Philo-Semitic Christians.”
“Since the foundation of the State of Israel, the numbers of philo-Semitic evangelicals have increased. They see with their own eyes how the Jewish people is returning to its land after its awful, two-thousand-year-long exile, and is creating a prosperous country. They see new settlements and vineyards flowering in the very areas described by the Bible, and they are excited by our miraculous return to Zion. They are overwhelmed by the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies of the prophets of Israel.”
“Semitic” is too broad a term to describes Jews; Arabs are also Semitic. Perhaps “philo-Judaic” would be more appropriate. The question is, “Where are the Jews in redemptive history?” Here is a Messianic Jew, who is also a missionary to the Jews in Israel, Israel Iluz of the “Trumpets of Salvation to Israel” ministry,” Jaffa, Israel (My addition in italics):
“For those of you who have been in Israel, you can sense, you can touch this reality. The British said, “Let’s give them this land. It’s rubbish, there’s nothing there. We couldn’t manage to do anything in this land. Give it to the Jews.” Today you go to Israel and it’s green. We export flowers. We export Jaffa oranges [Israeli Jews need to be reminded that before the foundation ofthe State of Israel in1948, the indigenous Arabs had a thriving, world famous Orange enterprise in Jaffa previous to the state of Israel]. Israel is green. The cities are built. The technology is one of the best in the world. All the computers you are using has Israeli technology. Almost every aspect of technology that you touch, that you use, Israelis are there. Today, Israel is a fulfilment now.” (See Where are the Jews in redemptive history? Exactly where they have been predestined to be).
Jacob Prasch, a prominent mentor to Christian Zionists, in his Daniel Project, mentions the flowers and gardens blooming in the Negev desert as a fulfilment of prophet passages. Caution is required because before one can state 1948 is 1. the final return and 2. the return in blessing not judgment, certain events such as rivers in the desert must occur together with other prophesied events.
Here is Jeremiah 23:3-4
3 I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 And I will set up shepherds over them, who shall feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be lacking, says the LORD.How well do the details in Jeremiah 23:3-4 resonate with the 1948 Christian Zionist position? namely “I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds.” That could indeed be 1948. But consider the following points.
They shall be fruitful and multiply. According to Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger and Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar, the ”data presented to the Chief Rabbinate, [show] some 50,000 abortions are performed in Israel every year, 20,000 of which are legal. “Adding to the gravity of this transgression is the fact that it impedes the coming of redemption.”
I will set up shepherds over them, who shall feed them. I ask Christian Zionists, ”do you believe that Jews are exempt from the Gospel imperative to receive Yeshua/Jesus as Messiah and Lord?” Most Messianic Jews don’t accept this ”separate covenant” double-minded theory.
They shall not lack anything. The dire housing crisis in the State of Israel disproves this point.
There is something else that Jeremiah says in our passage that further, and more strongly, undermines the Christian Zionist’s case. It is the segment that comes immediately before ”they shall not lack anything,” namely, ”they shall fear no more.” It would surely be hard to deny that Israel, as far as external threats to its very existence are concerned, is one of the most, perhaps the most, insecure country in the world. It is, therefore, not foolish to infer that more Israelis live in fear than don’t. Jeremiah 23:4 is more specific; ”they” (that is the people as a whole) shall fear no more.” (See Israel: Are we heading for exile or restoration?
We read in Jeremiah (46:27): “Do not fear, O Jacob my servant; do not be dismayed, O Israel. I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile. Jacob will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid.”
Zionist Christians – many of whom are “charismatic” Christians – believe that the present State of Israel consists of Jews who have been saved out of a distant place. However, it is clear that the modern “Jacob” (Israel) has no peace and security. The Bible is clear that only after they have been saved from a distant place will they no longer be afraid. The State of Israel is not only very unsafe, it is the unsafest place on earth, except, perhaps, for Syria at the moment. (See Christian Zionism – The Trouble with Jacob).
Earlier we saw why Tommy, whom I find it hard to describe as a Christian, doesn’t want to witness to Jews. Here is Israel Iluz (mentioned earlier), a Jewish missionary to the Jews in Israel, who, oddly, agrees with Tommy, but for different reasons:
“Be wise. Don’t share with them Jesus Christ. Share with them the Gospel from the Old Testament. you come from where they stand, from where they’re at, from what they know. What is their familiarity? What is already known to them to some degree. And for those whom God called and predestined, they will open their hearts.”
“Be wise. Don’t share with them Jesus Christ.” Is that correct? Imagine if the Apostles had, anachronistically, heeded Iluz’s advice. Also, the New Testament tells us the opposite, that is, we must share Jesus Christ. Of course, it is true – and I’m happy that Israel Iluz said it – that ultimately only God can open hearts. But it is also God who chooses the means, which is usually a human being, of how to share Christ with others. In passing, it is unusual, but delightful, to hear the glorious truth “those whom God predestined” coming out of a Jewish mouth. (See Where are the Jews in redemptive history? Exactly where they have been predestined to be).
To continue with Eliezer Melamed’s article: “Jews, he says, must deal with the question of how to relate to friendly Christians. For close to two thousand years, Christians have persecuted the Jewish people – murdering, debasing, expelling, or forcibly converting them. How is it that suddenly Christians love us? Furthermore, how do we handle the Rambam’s declaration that Christianity is idolatry?”
Melamed’s solution is” “It would seem that everything depends on their attitude towards the Jewish people and the Torah. The most serious problem we have with Christianity is its denial of God’s choice of the Jewish people and of the eternal relevance of the Torah… Additionally, they did as much as they possibly could to convert Jews to Christianity.”
So, according to Melamed, if Christians cease to deny God’s choice of the Jewish people and the eternal relevance of Torah Jews, the latter will stop declaring (as Rambam/Moses Maimonides did) – but surely not among themselves – that the Christian belief in the God-Man is idolatry. With regard to God’s choice of Israel, the Torah is clear: the heart of the Torah are about God’s relationship to his chosen people, Israel. When it comes to the New Testament, Christians differ on the continuing role of the Jews as a nation. Romans 9 – 11 is clear that God has not forgotten his people, and that ultimately a remnant of the Jewish nation will be saved, that is “all” Israel of the promise, all those, as Israel Iluz understands so well, who have been predestined to eternal life, which applies to Gentiles as well:
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1).
With regard to the eternal relevance of the Torah, not all parts of the Torah – even the most pious Jew cannot deny this – are eternally relevant; for example, the vast number of directives on animal sacrifices fell away after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE. Within Christianity and Messianic Judaism, there, except for the ten commandments, differences in the relevance of the other laws. What is clear to all believers in Jesus/Yeshua, in contrast to Judaism, is that the law cannot justify a person before God:
“ You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3).
The Jews, writes the remarkable and short-lived Hugh Binning (1627 – 1653 Free ebook here), had some respective opinion of the word of God; they knew that in it was eternal life; they thought it a doctrine of life and happiness, but they would not believe Christ’s words. They erred, not understanding the scriptures, and so set the writings of Moses’ law at variance with the preaching of Christ’s gospel. What a pitiful mistake was this! They thought they had eternal life in the scriptures, and yet they did not receive nor acknowledge him whom to know was eternal life. Therefore our Lord Jesus sends them back again to the scriptures:-“Go and search them; you think, and you think well, that in them ye may find the way to eternal life; but while you seek it in them you mistake it; these scriptures testify of me, the end of the law, but you cannot behold the end of that ministry, because of the blindness of your hearts (Romans x. 3; 2 Corinthians Iii. 13, 14.). Therefore search again, unfold the ceremonies; I am wrapt in them, and life eternal with me. Dig up the law till you find the bottom of God’s purpose in it, till you find the end of the ministration, and you shall find me, ‘the way, the truth, and life;’ and so you shall have that eternal life which now you do but think you have, and are beguiled.”