Because of the Blood of the Lamb

A Passover Devotional:

            Lessons on the Lamb of God Part 2

            Rev. Dennis Keating, Pastor,  Emmanuel Faith Community Church, Escondido, California

Today is Good Friday and I thought you might enjoy these thoughts on the Lamb of God from my friend Dennis Keating. Have a joy-filled end of Passover, Good Friday and Resurrection Day!

I hope these six outcomes will encourage you to give praise to the Lord today and prepare your heart for the celebrations that are coming next weekend.

Because of the blood of God’s Lamb we are:

            1. Released from sins penalty

            Remember what John the Baptist said when he was preaching in the wilderness and Jesus first appeared on the scene? John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

John said, “There He is. God’s Passover ‘Lamb’ who [airo] ‘takes away’ (or literally) ‘lifts and carries away’ the penalty of the world’s sin.”

2. Redeemed from sin’s slavery

Not only has the penalty of sin been lifted from us, but its addictive power that binds us in slavery to sin has also been broken. That’s what the biblical term “redemption” is all about. Peter said it this way in 1 Peter 1:18-19,  “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, (19) but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Messiah.”

The original word (lutroo) translated “redeemed” means to purchase release by paying a price. The Greeks used it as a technical term for the spending of money to buy back a prisoner of war.

In the yearly, historic Passover celebration, the innocent lamb’s blood reminded us of the price paid to purchase and free the lives of Israel’s firstborn sons.

That was a divinely ordained illustration of what the blood of Yeshua would do for you and me at the moment of our salvation. It “redeems” us from the sinful “futilities” of life that paralyze us in our unregenerate state.

3. Rescued from God’s wrath

            According to the biblical account of the original Passover, God was offended by Pharaoh’s idolatry. The result was that the Lord poured out His righteous and justified anger against Pharaoh through the plagues. God experienced the same anger against our my/your/our sin as well, as according to Ephesians 2:3, in our unregenerate state, we were all “children of wrath even as the rest.”

But the shedding of Jesus’ blood on Calvary as our “Passover Lamb” rescued us for that well-deserved wrath. Paul said it this way in Romans 5:9, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”

4. Revel in heavenly worship

            According to the book of Revelation, the Apostle John saw an uncountable number of angels and people around God’s throne in heaven. Do you know what they were all exclaiming in worship? Revelation 5:11 tells us they were saying…“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”

5. Relieved of Satan’s accusations

            It may come as a surprise to you that, according to Revelation 12, the devil spends much of his time up in heaven “accusing” you before God the Father of being “unworthy” of salvation. See how he’s described in Revelation 12:10-11. The devil is…“he who accuses them before our God day and night. (11) And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb…”

Beloved, the devil can accuse a believer all he wants, but is powerless to bring a condemning judgment against any of us! Why? Because the fundamental basis for our spiritual victory over sin is “the blood of the Lamb.” It’s what allows us to victoriously overcome all accusations.

It’s why Paul asked in Romans 8:33, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?”

6. Restored Under a New Covenant

            If you read through your Hebrew Scriptures you will see that the agreement God made with mankind to forgive their sins by the shedding of innocent animal blood was an intentionally designed, imperfect system in that the blood sacrifices had to be repeated over and over again each year. Animal blood only provided a temporary covering.

Well, according to the New Testament, when Yeshua’s blood was shed, a “new covenant” or agreement was established by God with humankind because it was based upon the sacrifice of His Son’s perfect blood that cleanses the sinner permanently. That changed everything. Now the cleansing occurs within and not just without. It’s not based upon “law” but upon “love.” The “heart of stone” is replaced with a “heart of “flesh.” This is why at our communion services we read from 1 Corinthians 11:25, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood…”

The Lamb’s provision must be accepted BY FAITH. That was certainly true for the Hebrew people when the Passover ceremony was first revealed. Every Hebrew household had to decide, “Do we believe what God has said or don’t we?” It was even true of Moses. This is why the author of Hebrews wrote, “By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them.” (Hebrews 11:28)

Beloved, that is true for believers and unbelievers alike. As a believer, I/you/we must accept these biblical truths as our own or their impact will be diminished. When doubts enter in, when faith is weak, our experience with these six realities will be muted. But when we study them, we are assured that our “Passover Lamb” has paid for our sin in full. To prove it true, after He died, He was buried; and after He was buried, He arose and is alive today.

If you have not yet responded to Him, you should, and by doing so you will experience His grace and overflowing goodness…and have life more abundantly. (John 10:10)

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The Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sin of the World!

A Passover Devotional:

Lessons on the Lamb of God Part 1

The Hebrew Scriptures conclude with two prophecies in the Book of Malachi describing a Messenger (also the meaning of the prophets name!) who would prepare the way for the Lord.  The first of these prophecies is found in Malachi 3:1,

Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.

This Messenger would purify the priests so they might once again offer sacrifices on behalf of the Jewish people.  As the prophet writes, Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.(Malachi 3:3)

The Jewish people would be judged because of disobedience, but also left with hope. In fact the very last words recorded in the Old Testament (Malachi 4:5-6), predict that this messenger identified as the prophet Elijah would call the Jewish people to back to God and reconcile both fathers and sons.

“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.

This call to repentance was God’s way of preparing the Jewish people for the One whom Elijah would introduce to the Jewish people. Jesus believed that John the Baptist fulfilled these prophecies and that He was the Elijah like messenger who came to turn the Jewish people back to the Lord.  Jesus affirms this in the Gospel of Matthew,

As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send MY messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ (Mt. 11:7-10)

John repeatedly denies that he is the Messiah and tells those gathered that the One they have really been waiting for is coming and it is simply his job to introduce Him.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them saying, “ I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie. (John 1:24-27)

The earth shattering moment comes when John’s introduces this One place at Bethany beyond the Jordan. (John 1:28). He was immersing Jewish people in water as a symbol of their desire to be cleansed from sin. But now he declares that the One who was to come – had come! John describes Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  The Jewish people on the banks of the Jordan would have understood this to be a reference to the Passover lamb in Exodus 12 with additional information provided by Isaiah in chapter 53.

John declares,

The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘ After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me (John 1:29-30)

John mentions this again a moment later to two future disciples when he said,

Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. (John 1:35-37)

This theme of Jesus as the Lamb of God would become a major teaching theme by the writers of the New Testament. Peter, also establishes this link, as he was the brother of Andrew, one of the two disciples who heard John’s statement about Yeshua.

Peter writes,

…knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Messiah.(1 Peter 1:18-19)

This link between Yeshua and the Lamb had already made by Luke in the Book of Acts in reference to the encounter between Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Luke records,

Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: HE was led as A sheep to slaughter; And as A lamb before its shearer is silent, SO HE does not open His mouth. (Acts 8:32), which is our first indication that Jesus was not only compared to the lamb in the Book of Exodus, but the Lamb as well in Isaiah 53.

Rabbi Saul, the Apostle Paul takes this link one step further and declares,

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Messiah our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:6-8)

The links between Jesus and the Passover Lamb are overwhelming. In describing the crucifixion of Yeshua John adds,

For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, “ Not A bone of Him shall be broken.”(John 19:36), looking back to Exodus when Moses tells the Israelites how the lamb was to be sacrificed,

It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it. (Exodus 12:46)

The Lamb in Exodus 12 is a prophetic portrait of the One who would come and shed His blood for the sins of the world.

The Lamb of Isaiah 53

The prophet Isaiah develops the significance of the lamb as an atoning sacrifice.

There are two key passages in Isaiah 53 which conjoin the idea of the Messiah with the Passover lamb…

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)

Admittedly, this can be a reference to the lambs that were regularly sacrifice at the temple and especially on some of the holidays. Yet, when you look at the entire passage it does seem that the prophet had the Passover lamb specifically in mind.

And additionally in Isaiah 53:1,

Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

The key link in this passage is that the term for arm is zeroah,which refers to the arm or forearm, but is more often used in passages which refer to God’s saving power and intervention in human history.  This idea easily brought the mind of an Israelite back to the deliverance from Egypt as a picture of God’s redemptive work on behalf of His people.

Exodus chapter 6, quoted in the Hagaddah teaches this very clearly,

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. (Ex. 6:6)

Jesus is the saving zeroah of God who intervened in Egypt and into this world to deliver Israel and the nations from spiritual bondage.  And when a man or woman, Jew or Gentile, boy or girl, by faith “smear” the doorposts of their hearts with His shed blood with blood of the Lamb that the wrath of God passes over us and pass from death into life.

This is the way to begin the Passover season and Holy Week – knowing that God’s promises are true and that He has provided the Lamb of God to be the Savior for us all.

Happy Passover.

 

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Focusing on what Unites Jews and Evangelicals

A few nights ago, a dialogue between best-selling evangelical author Joel C. Rosenberg and Orthodox Rabbi Shlomo Riskin took place in an Orthodox Synagogue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

I attended the dialogue and am convinced that it was a significant event! I have been a believer for forty-two years, I come from a traditional Jewish background, and I never thought I would hear a clear testimony for Jesus in a modern Orthodox synagogue (the type of synagogue in which I was raised!)

Joel did a wonderful job of explaining the Gospel and was winsome and generous in his approach. Rabbi Riskin is an Orthodox Jew who has a better-than-average understanding of evangelical Christians; he started an organization, based in Israel, which engages Evangelicals, Catholics, Orthodox and others in dialogue. I am sure he understands that believers, like Joel, will not shy away from making the Gospel message clear when dialoguing.

One of our long-term staff members, Olivier Melnick, who watched the event online wrote a commentary that I wanted to pass along to you as I believe he really captures the heart of the dialogue and the issues that are on the table between born-again believers – both Jewish and Gentile – and the Jewish community.

Olivier’s comments primarily reflect the positive side of this dialogue, and next week I will try to point out some of the problems I see ahead of us as the discussions continue.

Enjoy Olivier’s comments!

Focusing on what Unites Jews and Evangelicals

For as long as Jews and Christians have existed, there has been an obvious tension between both groups too often resulting in the ostracizing, force conversions, expulsions and deaths. Both sides have become very good at itemizing what divides them and dwelling on the differences.  Over the years, finger pointing and blame shifting has almost become an art form in Judeo/Christian relations.

To be perfectly honest, I regularly find myself on the forefront of a constant battle to defend Israel and the Jewish people, and I do my own share of finger pointing. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that there is much to be learned about Christian anti-Semitism through the ages, and even today if we want to successfully defeat the beast. But I often wish that we could focus on what unites evangelicals and Jews more that what divides us.

On April 1st (no joke here!) a dialogue between Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone and Joel C. Rosenberg, New York Times bestselling author, took place at an orthodox Jewish synagogue in New York. The theme for the evening was “Are We Still Alone?” and was based on Rosenberg’s new novel The Auschwitz Escape.

I resonate with Rosenberg who after visiting Auschwitz in 2011 and reading a book on the few who escaped the death camp, wanted to write a book about those who helped the Jews. That process led him to discover the incredible story of the small French village of Le Chambon sur/Lignon and how all the villagers went out of their ways to save Jewish people from the Nazi furnace. They risked their own lives and many even lost their lives as they were also taken to the camps with Jewish people. But to the villagers, saving the Jews was “the most natural thing to do!” like this elderly woman says in the book by Philip Hallié about le Chambon titled “Lest Innocent Blood be Shed”.

I haven’t yet read The Auschwitz Escape but I can tell you that we can learn a few things from the dialogue that just took place in New York. While I tend to side with Joel Rosenberg theologically, I am also very aware that as a Jew I am a constant target for many different people today. Yet, some of them have never met a Jew in person.

The fear expressed by Rosenberg and Rabbi Riskin, is that a second Holocaust would take place today, especially if or when Iran finishes building the bomb. It is a real fear because Iran wants the eradication of Israel more than anything. Even though President Rouhani sugarcoats his anti-Semitism to the West, his goal is the total annihilation of Israel. Disagree with him all you want (and I do), but at least Ahmadinejad was very clear about his desire to destroy Israel. So the question remains: Will there be Christians to stand for Israel?

Rosenberg made an excellent point when he defined who was an evangelical Christian based on what the Bible has to say. It can be very easy to succumb to some sort of corporate character assassination and put all Christians who didn’t help Jews in the same shameful category. I can even justify it by quoting passages like Psalm 83.

If a Christian is defined by a commitment to follow Yeshua’s teaching based on the Bible, then the boundaries are clear. Christians are forgiven not perfected (at least not yet). Christians can and will make mistakes, wrong judgments and even biased decisions. Yet, in Leviticus 19:18 we read: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord”. It is then repeated by Yeshua in Matthew 5:43-44 and even taken one step further: “You have heard that it was said, ‘ You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

Have Christians fallen short over the centuries? Yes! Are some giving a bad rep to the rest of the Christian community? Yes! Should we then paint with broad strokes? NO!

On one hand, Rosenberg claimed that while some Christians might have made mistakes about the Jews and even some that lead to the death of some, this cannot disqualify them as born-again Evangelicals, and as much as I dislike the divide and its tragic results, I must agree.

On the other hand, I also agree with Rosenberg who stated that if you are characterized by a chronic hatred leading to a constant desire to destroy the Jews or any other human being for that matter, you are not a genuine Bible believing follower of the Jewish Messiah.

One of the most important aspects of true Christianity is the ability to love unconditionally. Christians who love Jews–and they still exist–ought to love them regardless of their ability or willingness to embrace Yeshua (Jesus) and His teaching. Anything short of that kind of love falls short of what Christian love is. Period!

Rabbi Riskin obviously didn’t share Rosenberg’s belief in Yeshua of Nazareth being the Messiah but recognized the common obligation of biblical Jews and Christians. Followers of the one true God must be driven not only by their convictions but also by a constant desire for human decency and justice.

Rabbi Riskin and Joel Rosenberg see the need for Jews and Christian Zionist (a disappearing breed) to unite, and I join them in their honorable effort. Christians failed the test of unconditional love in the 1930′s and 40s. The day might be coming when there will be a retake. Will they fail again? I pray that they don’t.

Christians and Jews are UNITED by the Jewish Scriptures!

Christians and Jews should be UNITED by their love for Israel!

Christians and Jews can be UNITED by Yeshua the Jewish Messiah!

Olivier Melnick is the Northwest Regional Director of Chosen People Ministries. He and his wife Ellen serve in Seattle, Washington.

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Dispelling Myths About Christians Who Support Israel

There have been a number of conferences, articles and events held recently about the Israel-Palestinian crisis that unfortunately promote myths and untruths about those of us who believe the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people by virtue of God’s covenant with the Patriarchs.

As always, there are dedicated and godly believers on both sides of these issues and our posture must always remain respectful in spite of deeply-held differences. However, we must also be honest with one another.

I usually try to remain positive and to keep the dialogue constructive, but this is becoming increasingly difficult. There are a growing number of untruths being promoted in the debate, and I am sorry to say that the rhetoric is also becoming harsher in tone.

This is why I want to take a moment and try and shed more light than heat on five of these critical untruths in the hopes that our dialogue will remain friendly, although it may be passionate. We must seek the truth and always treat each other in a way that honors the Lord. This can only happen when we respond to one another in love and clarity.

Myth #1 – Christians who love Israel do not care about Arabs, Muslim or Palestinians

Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the Christians I know who support Israel do so because they believe the Bible, which includes John 3:16 – that God sent His son to die for the whole world. This includes Jews, Arabs, Muslims, and all nations and religious groups on the face of the earth. Most of us who support Israel and the Jewish people have a sincere love and compassion for the peoples of the Middle East.

Arguing that Christians who love Israel do not care about Arabs is a straw man argument, overly simplistic, naïve and untrue. Believing that God gave the land to the Jewish people does not mean that one automatically lacks compassion or concern for Palestinians and many others.

Myth #2 – Christians who believe that modern Israel is the fulfillment of prophecy believe that the government of Israel “can do no wrong”

This is also patently untrue. Personally, I do not know any Jewish person or Christian who believes that any government “can do no wrong.” This is once again a straw man argument designed to bolster a more radical fundamentalist Muslim narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We believe the land belongs to the Jewish people because it was promised to the chosen people in God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:18-21, 26:3-5) and reiterated throughout the remainder of the Bible. We also believe that the long-awaited kingdom of God is coming, and the Messiah will reign upon His rightful Davidic throne. Only then will we witness a perfect government.

You might take a moment and go to videos.chosenpeople.com for the messages from our conference, The People, the Land and the Future of Israel for detailed biblical teaching on these topics.

Myth #3 – Christians Who Believe the Land Belongs to the Jewish People Unfairly Favor the Jewish People Over the Palestinians

Of course there are fringe “believers” on every side of an issue, and certainly this is true of Israel’s Christian supporters. It is perhaps less true today than in previous years amidst the euphoria of the formation of the state of Israel. However, many of those who are critical of Christian supporters of Israel do not believe that God granted the deed to the Land of Israel to the Jewish people. Therefore, any support for Israel is deemed “over the top” and “imbalanced.” The biblical teaching on land ownership seems to be getting lost in the shuffle of our varied narratives.

Can people be unfair? Of course – we are all sinners and we need to become more like Yeshua, filled with His love and compassion for all! As a Jewish believer I have felt the sting of anti-Semitism and know from first-hand experience that prejudice is hateful and destructive. We must ask God to cleanse our hearts of all prejudice and for the strength to treat others in ways that please Him.

However, it is unfair for enthusiastic support of Israel as a Jewish homeland, based upon an understanding of the Bible, to be deemed anti-Palestinian. This is indeed prejudice.

As Reb Tevya said in Fiddler on the Roof, “Next time choose somebody else!” It was not man’s idea to choose the Jewish people and give them a Land – it was God’s. Supporting Israel’s claim to the Land is not a question of fairness or unfairness! It is affirming God’s choice and celebrating and supporting His plan.

God regularly makes promises of blessing and judgment to specific groups of people. He even specified future blessings for Israel, Egypt and even Assyria:

In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance” (Isaiah 19:24-25).

Specific promises to specific people and nations are common throughout the Bible. This does not indicate favoritism, as God is fair and just. Yet it does demonstrate that God treats different groups differently according to His holy purposes.

Myth #4 – Jewish people do not yet have a right to the Land because they have not recognized Jesus as Messiah

Clearly, the majority of Jewish people alive today have not yet come to know Jesus as Messiah. If this were true – I would be blessedly and happily unemployed. However, our God of grace did not promise the land to the Jewish people on the basis of their deserving it, any more than the salvation we enjoy was earned (Eph. 2:8-9).

God never rescinded the covenant He made with Abraham, and that sacred agreement endures from generation to generation. The Jewish people have a divine right to the land at all times. God gave the land to the Jewish people as a gift.

Thus, Jewish ownership of the Land is always available to the Jewish people based upon the covenant God made with the Patriarchs, but peace will not come until the Prince of Peace reigns (Isaiah 9:6-7).

We now await the rest of the story as, according to the Bible, the Holy Land will experience the zenith of Shalom (peace) when the Jewish people turn to Jesus and He returns to reign as king (See Zechariah 12:10, Romans 11:25–29 et al.) In that day the nations of the world will join in the celebration as well! (Zech. 14:16-19)

Myth #5 – Jewish people lost their election and right to the land when they rejected Jesus

This is a basic tenet of what we called replacement theology. It goes like this – the Jewish people rejected Jesus, so God rejected the Jewish people – the Church then is the new Israel and has replaced Israel. Therefore, all the promises of God to the Jewish people are fulfilled in the Church. As a result, the promise of the land of Israel has been taken away from the Jewish people and can no longer be taken literally!

My response to this is to simply quote the Apostle Paul, who wrote in Romans 11:28-29.

From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Does this sound to you like God has rejected the Jewish people? Absolutely not!

If we begin our discussion by believing that God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish people, then we can discuss the ways in which this might be effectuated peaceably and fairly.

On the other hand, if we do not believe the Jewish people have a divine right to the Land, then the discussion is really of a different nature. All we have left to talk about is politics and our mutual narratives and how we might live as believers in spite of our very deep differences. Another good discussion! Either way, the Scriptures reminds us to Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you” (Psalm 122:6).

Our fervent prayers for the crisis can only help and lead us to work together towards the greater end of proclaiming the Gospel, so that individual Jewish people and Palestinians come to know Jesus as their Messiah.

This gives peace a chance!


Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict:
What the Headlines Haven’t Told You

Going beyond media images for an in-depth look at the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, this book places the “crisis that never ends” in its scriptural, historical, and prophetic contexts.

Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict challenges the reader to think biblically as we stand with Israel in “praying for the peace of Jerusalem.” By Dr. Michael Rydelnik, professor of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute.

Purchase at the Chosen People Ministries Online Store

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German Newspaper Cartoon of Mark Zuckerberg

Every so often, an attack is mounted against the Jewish people that demands we raise our voice in protest. Suddeutsche Zeitung, one of the largest and most influential newspapers in Germany, has performed such an attack by publishing a cartoon that hearkens back to hateful propaganda of the Nazi era.

The online Jewish publication, Algemeiner broke the story yesterday. They write,

The cartoon, published by Suddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and entitled “Krake Facebook,” German for “Facebook Octopus,” shows Zuckerberg as a half-human sea giant grasping with tentacles at computers around him. Depicted with a hooked nose, the 29-year-old entrepreneur is shown smiling while his curly hair creeps out from under an oversized hat that has the Facebook logo on its brim.

The newspaper, based in Southern Germany, linked the cartoon to the recent purchase of WhatsApp by Facebook.

Certainly Germany has made some progress over the years in making reparations to Holocaust victims. In recent years, an influx of Russian Jewish immigrants has even been welcomed by Germany. Yet, it is evident that some level of underlying anti-Semitism still exists within the psyche of some Germans. When the creator of the cartoon was asked about the anti-Semitic nature of the image, the Jerusalem Post reports,

The SZ cartoonist, Burkhard Mohr, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday he was “shocked” his cartoon was deemed anti-Semitic. “Anti-Semitism and racism are ideologies which are totally foreign to me,” he said, flatly rejecting the notion that his cartoon could be viewed as offensive to Jews. He explained that his cartoon was designed to be a commentary on Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp. What he “meant was a cartoon depiction of the company Facebook beyond a specific person,” he said. “I am sorry that it led to this misunderstanding and hurt the feelings of some readers.”[1]

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper on Monday called the cartoon “an outrage” and said is was anti-Semitic. Algemeiner further quotes Cooper, “The nefarious Jew/octopus was a caricature deployed by Nazis. That was used pretty much as a staple by the Nazis in terms of their hateful campaign against the Jews in the 1930s. [An] exaggerated Jewish nose removes any question if this was unconscious anti-Semitism.”[2]

I am not writing to bash Germans in any way, but rather to call attention to a cartoon that crossed the line of human decency and reflects deeper issues that must be addressed. We cannot allow anti-Semitism in any form – be it portrayed through a cartoon, article, film or comment by a public figure – to be ignored. If we do, we ourselves are guilty of a most heinous sin.

Let me explain. In the Book of Genesis, God gave Abraham a promise that became the basis for Jewish national existence. In other words, the creation of the Jewish people was not man’s idea but God’s. Evidently, the Lord of the universe had a plan for the family of Abraham to be used for holy purposes. The Bible tells us,

And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

Those who believe in the authority of Scripture should take this passage both literally and seriously. There is a promised blessing upon those who “bless” the Jewish people and a curse upon those who “make light” of the Jewish people – a more literal translation of the Hebrew. If we devalue the Jewish people in the plan of God, the Lord promises to bring punitive measures. This is plain to those who believe the Bible, but perhaps unknown or shrouded in mystery to those who do not!

It is an act of love to warn those who perpetuate anti-Semitic stereotypes. This is particularly true of images reminiscent of Nazi caricatures of the Jewish people – even very public figures like Zuckerberg.

When this occurs, we need to cry foul. As followers of the Scriptures, we are obligated to warn those who do this that God still loves the Jewish people. We must remind them that repentance is the only right response, once they have been told of their sin against God’s chosen people.

We can say it was just a cartoon. But we know that it was more! We have sounded the warning. God is not pleased with anti-Semitism. Those who act in this way, whether consciously or not, should listen and make amends. One day, we will all face a loving God, who does offer forgiveness through Jesus the Messiah. But God is also just, righteous and unflinching when it comes to keeping His promises to the Jewish people and to us all.

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A Response to Pastor Dan Delzell’s Article in the Christian Post

Pastor Dan Delzell’s thoughtful article has so much in it to commend that I almost hesitate to attempt to add to it. He strikes the right chords, particularly regarding the necessity of saving faith in Jesus the Messiah.

I especially commend him for stressing Jesus’ Jewish identity because, as a Jewish believer in Jesus and the president of Chosen People Ministries, a worldwide evangelistic mission to Jewish people, I live with these issues day in and day out.

I would like to make a couple of comments. Pastor Dan’s “Three Level” model of the unfolding will of God in creation could easily be misinterpreted to mean that because we’ve reached “Level 2” – the New Covenant, the Gospel and Christianity – that somehow the Hebrew Scriptures and the Jewish people represented by “Level 1” are now in God’s rear-view mirror.

While of course I would agree with Pastor Dan that the New Covenant brings believing Jews and Gentiles together in a new relationship with God as a body that acknowledges Jesus as Head, I would like to add that this new relationship does not by any means mean the clear break from “Level 1” that Pastor Dan’s article may be taken to mean.

I prefer to think that the New Covenant fulfills, but does not replace, what has come before it, any more that the Davidic Covenant somehow replaces the covenant God made with Abraham.

In a related vein, Pastor Dan’s reference to Paul’s words in Romans 2:28-29, “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God” must be carefully read in the entire context of Romans, particularly Romans 9-11.

Does Paul really mean in this passage that the only true Jews are Gentiles or Jewish people who believe in Jesus? If so, then why does Paul preserve the distinction, “To the Jew first and to the Gentile” in Romans 1:16? Who – if not the children of Israel – are the “beloved kinsmen” that Paul is willing to barter his own salvation for (Romans 10:1-5)? Who, if not the Jews, are those for whose sake salvation has come to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11) and whose final restoration in Christ must occur (Romans 11:27-27) to usher in Pastor Dan’s “Level 3?”

Both Pastor Dan and I certainly believe in the centrality of Yeshua – but I simply want to suggest that far from having become an irrelevant presence in the plan of God, the Jewish people have a key role to play even now in the events that will bring about the glorious moment of Messiah’s return.

Moreover, I am sure Paul would agree that the non-Jewish Christians of our day are a key element in bringing Paul’s beloved kinsmen the Good News that secures both Jews and non-Jews a place in God’s kingdom. (Romans 11:11)

May I add one final word as to why the continuation of God’s covenant with the Jewish people is so critical for Jewish evangelism? As Jewish believers, we know that the major roadblocks to faith in Yeshua are not theological, but historical – and even sociological.

Jewish people have generally not been treated well by the “Church,” and have therefore come to the reasonable conclusion that if one believes in Jesus – that person is no longer Jewish. This is not the teaching of the New Testament.

This message of God’s continuing plan for the Jewish people needs to be proclaimed in order to help Jewish people understand that receiving Yeshua is not the end of their Jewish identity or of the Jewish people, but a new beginning.

This does not take away from the message that personal salvation for Jew or Gentile is only found through the death and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah; I am simply reminding Pastor Dan and others that God still has a plan and purpose for the nation of Israel.

In closing – one more word from Rabbi Saul,

From the standpoint of the Gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:28-29)

Visit www.chosenpeople.com for resources that will help you in sharing the Gospel with your Jewish friends!

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Should Christian Schools Allow Jesus to Teach? After all – He is an Israeli

December 26, 2013

 

On December 4, 2013, the American Studies Association, a small but well-regarded and influential force on many university campuses voted to boycott Israeli universities. [1] The Washington Post described their actions as follows,

THE AMERICAN STUDIES Association, a group of about 5,000 scholars devoted to the interdisciplinary study of U.S. culture and history, has called for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions…as a way to protest Israeli “state policies that violate human rights” of Palestinians, including academic freedom for scholars and students. The resolution drew support of two-thirds of the 1,252 association members who voted. The boycott is largely symbolic; it’s also terribly misguided.[2]

The measure, recommended by the Association’s Board of Directors, approved the action and the full group of scholars voted to affirm the Board’s decision.

Their decision has now been condemned by a number of schools and both Brandeis and The University of Pennsylvania have dropped their membership in the association.

According to a report in Tablet magazine,

Harvard and Yale, along with a host of other universities, public officials, and journalistic outlets, have condemned and rejected the American Studies Association’s academic boycott of Israel.[3]

 

Further, the report claims,

In total, 26 schools have thus far rejected the ASA boycott in the days following its passage.[4]

This latest measure against Israel may be viewed as “flowing in the same stream” as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Movement which responded to the Israel/Palestinian crisis by advocating an array of economic and political actions designed to arouse the sympathies of the global community for the Palestinian cause by tarring Israel with the same brush as the now defunct Apartheid regime of South Africa.[5]

This is just another effort among many by those who are anti-Israel and pro- Palestinian, but it comes this time from a group that does not usually take a position on political and social issues in other countries.

Former Harvard president Lawrence Summers said on the Charlie Rose show,

My hope would be that responsible university leaders will become very reluctant to see their universities’ funds used to finance faculty membership and faculty travel to an association that is showing itself not to be a scholarly association but really more of a political tool. [6]

As a Messianic Jew and an Evangelical, I am deeply concerned as well about the actions of the ASA.

The boycott is politically driven and naïve as the abuses of human rights and restriction of academic freedom in other countries are far more heinous.  In fact, Israel’s state of academic freedom was noted as “great” by the ASA’s.[7]

As the Washington Post writes,

Have the scholars overlooked the cries for help from Cuban dissidents bravely standing up to the Castro brothers, demanding freedoms — and suffering beatings and arrest almost every week? Do they condone the decision of a judge in Saudi Arabia who has just sentenced a political activist to 300 lashes and four years in prison for calling for a constitutional monarchy?[8]

Perhaps the following statement from the ASA resolution will make it clear that they are playing partisan politics and not seeking the academic good of the institutions they serve.

It is resolved that the American Studies Association (ASA) endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  It is also resolved that the ASA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.[9]

This is intensified in the following statements, which the ASA wrote to the leaders of their member academic institutions regarding the resolution:

The resolution understands the boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the ASA in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions (such as deans, rectors, presidents and others), or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.

The proposed resolution expressly DOES NOT endorse a boycott of Israeli scholars engaged in individual-level contacts and ordinary forms of academic exchange, including presentations at conferences, public lectures at campuses, and collaboration on research and publication. U.S. scholars are not discouraged under the terms of the boycott from traveling to Israel for academic purposes, provided they are not engaged in a formal partnership with or sponsorship by Israeli academic institutions. The academic boycott of Israeli institutions is not designed to curtail dialogue. Rather, it emerges from the recognition that these forms of ordinary academic exchange are often impossible for Palestinian academics due to Israeli policies.[10]

After reading the above, it is evident that the ASA has taken it upon itself to act as both judge and jury. They have overstepped their mandate and used their academic organization as a political weapon rather than as an instrument designed for the greater pursuit of knowledge and understanding.

This is further revealed in a quick review of their statement of purpose found in the by laws of the ASA.

ARTICLE I: Name and Object

Sec. 1. The name of this society shall be the American Studies Association

Sec. 2. The object of the association shall be the promotion of the study of American culture through the encouragement of research, teaching, publication, the strengthening of relations among persons and institutions in this country and abroad devoted to such studies, and the broadening of knowledge among the general public about American culture in all its diversity and complexity.[11]

Again, the ASA has stepped beyond their stated mission to advance American Studies.  Perhaps the question to ask of the ASA is why?  To what end?  And whose agenda is really driving the actions of the ASA?

It is my hope that our Evangelical Christian community will take a public stand against these measures by the ASA. Evangelical Christian schools have participated in conferences and programs organized by the ASA and should follow suit with those secular academic institutions by protesting this resolution and taking a stand for academic freedom, authentic justice, and fair play.

I like the statement by the editorial board of the Washington Post and I believe this is the type of attitude we should foster, especially as Jesus’ peacemakers:

The American Studies Association would have more impact by finding a way to engage deeply with Israelis and Palestinians, perhaps with scholarly conferences and exchanges, rather than by punishing Israel with a boycott.[12]

I am hoping that our Evangelical Christian schools will follow suit and join with the growing number of US schools that believe the ASA has crossed a line and that it’s actions will lead to an increase in conflict rather than peace.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9


[4] IBID

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Filed under American Studies Association, Birthright Israel, Boycotts against Israel, Christ at the CheckPoint, Christian School, Christian University, Israel, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, Middle East