The ‘us and them’ mentality

I was raised to think the way that I believe most Christians are taught. It’s a sad reality and something that I’m not proud of. By raised, I simply mean that it was the message portrayed through various mediums, not necessarily my family. Everything around me seemed to reinforce that belief.

I’m talking about the separation we place between the church and Israel. A divide that was never meant to exist. A wall of separation, well over a thousand years in the making. A mentality that we inherited from our forefathers. And it runs deep!

I see it in the faces of many of my Christian brothers and sisters. I hear it on the radio, in certain podcasts, in books that have been talked about. History is littered with it too. I’ve even experienced the hostility myself, as a Christian, from other Christians. Six years ago I began a journey into the heart of the Lord’s Holy Feasts, talked about in Leviticus 23 and referenced through out the entire Bible. When some people heard I was doing this, they labeled me legalistic, and worse yet, questioned whether or not I was joining a cult. Neither of these could be further from the truth. I’ve also tried to be intentional about honoring the Sabbath, where I’ve been met with nearly equal criticism.

What is it about the Old Testament that is so threatening to modern western Christianity? Even in asking that question I shudder. I know people would never admit that their disposition towards the things of Israel and the Old Testament were hostile, but it sure seems prevalent. It’s as though the Christian Church has adopted a doctrine of ‘us and them’. Or even a position of ‘then and now’. What I mean is, it is taught that the destinies of Israel and the church are different. That God has replaced the nation of Israel with the church as His chosen people. That God no longer cares about the things of the Old Testament, only the new. Has that been your experience? How did we come to this? Here are some of my thoughts.

#1-Persecution

When the church was being born during the first few centuries AD, many Christians endured unthinkable evils at the hands of the Roman Empire. It was often due to local Jewish leaders causing a fuss and turning in Christians. It was a way of redirecting persecution off of them onto a controversial minority group. Over time, a divide was erected, even among believers who were once Jewish.

#2-Marriage with Paganism

In the forth century AD, the Christian Church got an influx of pagan rituals, most of which we can see in the idolatrous symbols in some churches, and in the celebrations of Christmas and Easter (both of which were pagan holidays long before any Christian celebrated them). Over time, the mingling of ideologies and practices drew followers of Christ further and further from their roots.

#3-Antisemitism

I highly doubt that any Bible-believing Christian today would admit to being anti-Semitic, but the disposition is as prevalent in the world today as it ever has been. Unfortunately, some in the church haven’t been immune to it. Sometimes it can be so subtle that someone may be completely unaware.

#4-Unfamiliarity

As the gap between Jew and Christian widened, people lost touch with practices and teachings that were thousands of years old. Today, most people are simply Bible illiterate, especially when it comes to the Old Testament. I think with that, comes a sense of fear.

#5-Changing Culture

We are so easily influenced and informed by the culture we grow up in. It’s true for everyone. Many of the Old Testament writings were from 3000-4000 years ago. Times have changed a lot in some ways. Not so much in others. And the Old Testament requires being culturally set apart as much as the New.

I don’t believe that any of these reasons, no matter how legitimate they seem, warrant where we are today. I mean think about it. How could we ever excuse shaming and ostracizing a believer who chooses to honor what the Bible teaches? But it’s like some people honestly think that if someone follows the Biblical dietary guidelines, keeps the Sabbath, celebrates God’s Holy Feasts, Studies Hebrew, etc…that they are somehow less Christian. That doesn’t make any sense.

When Jesus came, He did so to destroy the separation between Israel and the world. Israel was not fulfilling its role as the light of the world, to draw people to God. Instead, they had more times than not, merged with the world. The merger was supposed to happen the other way around. The nations of the world were supposed to see God’s glory and goodness through the nation of Israel and be drawn. Enter Jesus. He demonstrated the teachings of the Old Testament, and the character of God, the way Israel was meant to…the way humanity was supposed to. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus brought down the wall of separation forever. He grafted (Romans 11) the nations into Israel and made us all one through faith in Him.

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Ephesians‬ ‭2:11-22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It is no longer us and them. It can’t be. Jesus is the bond of peoples. He isn’t the gate through the wall of separation, He’s the wrecking ball that leveled the wall to the ground. We’ve been the ones, on both sides I admit, that have been rebuilding it. We do our Savior a great disservice if we allow ourselves to fall prey to any of the aforementioned reasons for the division that exists. We cannot allow prejudices to dictate our thoughts. We are about loving God and loving others. The ‘us and them’ mentality can’t harbor love. It is not Israel and the church. It is the Children of God, through faith in Christ. And when God calls a people His, they are His forever.

I implore you, brothers and sisters, to do your part to take down the wall, one brick at a time. Don’t allow unfamiliarity, prejudices, the culture, or history to estrange you from your Hebrew roots. Be the instrument of peace and unity where you are. Together, we can turn back the tide of fear and misconceptions and walk in the path of love and humility. Along the way, maybe we’ll all be changed by the Holy Spirit.

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Lineage Speaks Loudly

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One of the most convincing arguments is DNA. It has been a cornerstone to our legal system for nearly 40 years. It’s revolutionized our understanding of history and relationships. There are programs now that can take a strand of our hair, or a drop of our blood, and trace our roots back to all corners of the globe. It’s absolutely incredible that we can know exactly where we came from because knowing where a person came from says a lot about them. The Messiah is no different. There are many passages throughout the Bible that establish very specific guidelines for the origins of God’s anointed one. This post will cover three of those which appear in the book of Genesis.

#1- The Lineage of Shem

He [Noah] also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”

Genesis 9:26-27 ESV

The above scene takes place following the great flood of the earth. Trouble has already begun to surface and Noah is pronouncing prophecy in response. The Lord is described here as the God of Shem and descendants of Shem’s brothers will either be welcomed in (made a part of) or become servants of his. The Bible has done us a huge favor here because it would go on to trace the lineage of Yeshua all the way back to Shem. That’s thousands of years of precise calculation between Shem and Jesus. A breakdown is provided for us in Luke 3:23-36. Another cool aspect of this lineage is how you can spot certain people in there and then go back through the Bible and read their stories. People like King David, Zerubbabel, and Abraham.

However, there is far more than just lineage in these verses from Genesis. It says that some of the descendants of Shem’s brothers will dwell in his tent. This essentially means they will become one family down the line. The problem existed though, when over the course of thousands of years Shem’s descendants became the people of Israel, and Japheth and Canaan’s line became gentiles. Anyone who has read the Bible knows that those two group had a major rift between them. But not after Jesus came Earth! A careful read of the book of Ephesians (yes, all of it) paints a clear picture of the effect of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It describes how the separation was torn down by the Messiah’s sacrifice. Gentiles have been “grafted in” to the line of Shem, to Israel, because of the sacrifice made by The One from Shem’s lineage, Yeshua the Messiah.

#2- The Lineage of Abraham

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

Genesis 12:1-3 ESV

There are a couple more verses (22:18 and 28:14) similar to this in later chapters, both of which are God reasserting His promise and blessing to the line of Abraham. The nation being discussed here is not what people would most likely connect. The ‘great nation’ are all of those who become Children of God through faith in the Messiah, who comes from Abraham’s line. Thousands of years later, the Apostle Peter would stand before a crowd of thousands in Jerusalem, and pronounce that the blessing of Abraham’s line had come. He was speaking of Jesus, who had died and been raised from the dead and seen by over 500 people.

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Galatians 3:7-9 ESV

The Apostle Paul spoke these words to the church in Galatia to remind them of the sufficiency of Christ. That their faith in Him made them sons of Abraham. Jesus is the means by which God is blessing the great nation that fills the Earth, both Jew and Gentile. Just like in Shem’s lineage prophecy, the two have become one in Jesus. The great nation of blessing is not according to ethnicity or geography, it’s according to faith. It knows no borders. And people from all corners of the world are being blessed with salvation and hope and life because of Yeshua.

#3- The Lineage of Judah

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

Genesis 49:10 ESV

Not only is the Messiah in the line of Shem and Abraham, but also of Judah. Judah was one of Abraham’s great-grandchildren. In the verse above, Jacob (Judah’s father), is speaking a blessing over his son. The blessing turns out to be very prophetic. Take the scepter as an example. This is a symbol of power and authority which should have been his older brother’s birthright, not his. But Judah’s older brothers forfeited that right through actions that we can read about in the preceding chapters of Genesis. The right of authority then passed to Judah. Guess who is a descendant of Judah. Jesus. And the obedience of the people of faith belongs to Him.

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

John 10:14-18 ESV

Jesus was anointed to live, lead, and lay down His life for the world. Through that anointing, He also had the power to raise Himself to life and received the name above all other names.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:4-11 ESV

The more specific we get in terms of lineage, the more difficult it is to meet the criteria of the Messiah. That is one of many reasons why the Bible is sure to lay out specifics like this in order to remove confusion and fraudulent claims. Just as God’s response to our mistakes was immediate and precise, so too is the groundwork He laid for us to be able to recognize who that Redeemer was. The line to Jesus was determined from the very beginning and God often used people, such as Noah and Jacob, to announce the specific course it would take. One thing we can take from this is that our God is a planning God. That plan is good and was set forth from the beginning. Through His sovereignty, the plan has carried on from generation to generation for thousands of years.  A plan that was meant to save and to bless the world…to save and bless you through Yeshua the Messiah.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

Enter the Messiah

The title Messiah means anointed one sent of God. It is one of the most cherished titles among both Jews and Christians alike. The purpose of the one who would hold this title would incorporate so many facets. The Messiah would be a redeemer, a conquering king, a servant, and both humiliated and glorified. To be the Messiah one would have to embody both God’s character and His power. The Messiah would be utterly unique and set apart from anything in existence. The Messiah was God’s mission from the very first pages of the Bible. The reason? Humanity chose a path where the only solution that a loving God could have, would be salvation. And every single human in history has needed it.

In Genesis chapter three, a sneaky new character makes an appearance: the serpent. There’s much speculation surrounding what exactly this serpent is but one thing we can agree on: it is evil and it opposes God. For that reason, most believe that it is either the Devil himself, or him embodied in a reptilian creature of some sort. Regardless of which it is, this serpent is Satan, which means God’s adversary. We can make this claim because of what he does in one short chapter. He deceived Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. It is this free will choice that makes salvation for humanity a necessity of love. I insert the ‘love’ in there because a detached god would simply allow humanity to pine away in their misery and offer no possible escape. But Yahweh (God) cannot. His character demands pursuit and a passionate commitment to His creation. Enter the Messiah.

Genesis chapter three contains both the fall of man and the redemption of God. The response of God to our tragic mistake is swift and powerful. In Genesis 3:14-15 God announces that the serpent is cursed and that:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

Genesis‬ ‭3:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This one verse says so much about the Messiah and introduces us to who exactly that Messiah is. Let’s break it down. The seed of the woman shall deal a fatal blow to the serpent…the adversary…Satan. The blow to his head would render him ineffective and useless. The reference here to just the woman is the first place where the Messiah is mentioned to be born of a virgin. Otherwise, he would belong to the seed of both the man and woman. But that is not what the Bible says. Nearly 2000 years ago, Yeshua (Jesus) became the only person in history to be born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18 and Galatian 4:4-5). This is just the first of many prophecies that reveal Yeshua as the Messiah of God’s redemptive plan. He also fit the second criteria by fatally wounding the deceiver of mankind. The blow that Yeshua dealt by dying on the cross, was, in fact, fatal and the serpent has been suffering from its wounds ever since. Eventually to succumb to those wounds and to die a painful death that never ends. The consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin were destroyed for everyone who believes in Jesus (Hebrews 2:14-15). This blow came at a great cost though. Genesis 3 said that the seed’s (Messiah’s) heal would be bruised by the serpent. A picture of suffering. Just read Matthew 26 and 27. To get a picture of Jesus’ suffering. It was the price of our sin that caused that suffering for the Messiah. A theme that will resurface over and over.

And there remains a final blow yet to be dealt. This will happen when the serpent is cast into utter darkness for good at the second coming of the Messiah (Revelation 20:7-10). This is a day when it is said that Jesus will return as conquering King to reclaim, once and for all, His creation. A day in the future, only known by God himself. A day when life will flourish and the stain of humanity’s error is removed. Praise Jesus for His victory now and His victory then. The serpent’s days are finished.

‬‬“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
 “O death, where is your victory?
  O death, where is your sting?

1 Corinthians 15:55 ESV