Often our heart’s concern for the Jewish people is, understandably, that individuals would see Yeshua through the prophets, like Isaiah 53. Yet, the more immediate Jewish concern has been to survive and thrive as a people—a value which is often summed up in the phrase Am Yisrael Chai (the people of Israel live).
The body of Messiah in general, and the Messianic congregation in particular, are established by God to represent to the world His faithfulness in Messiah, to “keep a people whom He foreknew” (Romans 11:2). Congregations are called both to share in and speak to this divine concern, thus testifying of Messiah’s faithfulness to Israel. Believing communities identify with Israel. The importance of the Jewish community’s visible existence is God’s faithfulness to His word. God started with one man, and said, “I will make of you a people” (Genesis 12:2). With Abraham and Sarah who were unable to naturally have a child, He produced a people as proof of His faithfulness and power. God’s testimony of faithfulness to His promise is seen in a community of Jewish people, not just in the individual Jewish believer. Therefore Yeshua said that “upon this rock” He would build a community that testifies of His faithfulness.
The credential that the Jewish Messiah has a sovereign impact on the nations for Israel’s good is vital to the Hebrew Scriptures and the rabbinical writings. The congregation’s testimony pictures a restored Israel with the Nations in the commonwealth of Israel:
God also said to him, "I am God Almighty; Be fruitful and multiply; A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, And kings shall come forth from you.Genesis 35:11
Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah. (Ephesians 2:12-13).
So also, the congregation is the Jewish olive tree through which both present tense Jews and Gentiles proclaim the Good News that in Messiah: God is faithful to Israel. May the people of Israel live in Yeshua the Messiah!
You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete Sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the Lord. (Leviticus 23:15-17)
Of all the three major pilgrim festivals, Shavuot is unique. “Shavuot” actually means “Weeks.” Why is it called this? It is not because the festival lasts for many weeks! Rather, it is called the Feast of Weeks because of the way you find out when it is to be celebrated. Unlike Passover and The Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Weeks is dateless.
In order to celebrate Shavuot, you had to count “seven weeks” from “the day after the Sabbath” of the Passover, and the next day, the fiftieth day, would be Shavuot (Leviticus 23:15-16).
Why don’t the Scriptures just give the date? In this fast-paced, “day-timer”-controlled world we live in, we would have been inclined to say to Moses, “Forget counting fifty days, and just give me the date and I’ll show up and worship!” No, you had to count fifty days regardless of how busy your schedule might be. Why?
In the same way, can you imagine if your mother never told you your birthday? Rather, suppose she told you to celebrate it fifty days after the anniversary of your Uncle Murray’s death. When you are very young, this might be okay, but in high school, it would be embarrassing not to know the date of your birth. “Hey Joel, when’s your birthday?” “Well, it’s fifty days after the day my Uncle Murray died.” You would eventually run home, insisting on knowing the date of your birthday. Mom would reply, “It’s fifty days after your uncle Murray died.”
“But, Mom why do I have to count fifty days from Uncle Murray’s death?”
“Because, your Uncle Murray left you his fortune and I never want you to forget your Uncle Murray!”
Israel was to count fifty days so that in order to celebrate Shavuot they would never forget Passover.
May it never be that Israel would reckon itself from the giving of the Law, and not from the true foundation of their life as a people at Passover. Shavuot is traditionally remembered as a time when God made Israel one people in the Law. Nevertheless, it was Passover when God redeemed us from bondage and destruction through the blood of the Lamb.
Passover is to be the foundation and head of the year (Exodus 12:2). It celebrates Israel’s redemption from bondage, and redemption is the foundation of our salvation. Thus the foundation of Israel’s redemption was provided only in Passover, not Shavuot. Every year as Israel counted the weeks from Passover to Pentecost they remembered that their redemption as a people was found in the lamb of Passover.
Likewise, we are never to forget our Messiah who gave His life for us, and with that, the unspeakable riches of our new birth in Him. Like Israel’s redemption from bondage, our foundation of faith as believers in Messiah Yeshua is forever tied to Passover and our redemption in the Lamb of God. We are not firstfruits to God just because we look to the Holy Spirit, but when we look to Yeshua as the true foundation for our spiritual lives. Through Him we are a firstfruits offering, for God’s use only.
Every Shavuot, believers are to remember Passover and the Passover Lamb, Yeshua. Though Pentecost is the ‘birthday celebration’ of the Body of Messiah when the Holy Spirit came, we are never to look to the Holy Spirit as the foundation of our faith either individually or as a body of believers. No matter how big or small our congregations may be, we are not secure in congregational size, wealth, or prestige. Our security is experienced only when we look to Yeshua as our foundation of faith. Our confidence is in the Lord and in Him alone. The Passover redemption of the believers reminds us each year that despite all that the world, the flesh and the devil may throw at us, we are secure in Messiah.
Passover was meant to be like the foundation of a house in a storm:
Yeshua said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25)
How strong is your foundation? Do you trust in someone or something besides the Lord (Jeremiah 17:5)? If you are trusting in anything or anyone else, stop! Place your faith in His eternal atonement for your sins and receive new life in Yeshua, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
Evil exists because of our free choice, which includes the freedom to love or rebel against God, but anti-Semitism is a special kind of evil. The Scriptures are clear regarding the basis for anti-Semitism: spiritual warfare. The Scriptures inform us that there is an enemy of God, HaSatan (Hebrew for "the adversary"). The Adversary is working to defeat and dethrone God (Isaiah 14:12-14), as impotent, futile, and laughable such a task may seem.
God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). The Adversary’s plan is to prove God wrong by nullifying God’s promises made to the Jewish people through the Jewish Messiah. God has promised that the Jewish people would always survive as a people (Jeremiah 31:35-37), and would also be the conduit of the Messiah, the savior of the world.
The Enemy’s Strategy: Satan is trying to remove the Jews as a people, and his strategy is two-fold:
1. Stop the Jews from living! The Psalms describe this most obvious strategy:
"Your foes rear their heads.... They plot against those You cherish ."Come," they say, "let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel will be remembered no more" (Psalm 83:1-5).
Simply put: if you destroy the Jews then you can prove God is a liar. For if God can’t keep His people as He promised, then no one can trust any of His promises. Additionally, if Satan can destroy Israel as a people, he proves himself to be greater than God!
Anti-Semitism is anti-God. This accounts for the Pharaohs, Hamans, Herods and Hitlers throughout the centuries. That they are tools of Satan in no way excuses their culpability: we all are responsible for our actions, regardless of who or what influences us in those actions.
2. Stop the Jews from living as Jews! The second, more subtle (though potentially just as effective) strategy is to make Jewish identity repugnant, or at least irrelevant, to Jewish people themselves. In this way, Jewish people would not want to remain Jewish, and Israel would cease to be an identifiable nation before God. In the book of Esther, we read of Mordecai’s bad advice, followed by Esther: "Don’t reveal you’re a Jew" (Esther 2:10). Only when she abandoned that bad advice and revealed her Jewish identity was catastrophe averted.
This same bad advice has been relived by many of our people in every generation; in an attempt to fit into the Hellenistic culture of early second century BCE, some Jews actually had their circumcision surgically reversed! Even today, being Jewish is often so poorly understood that many make no attempt to maintain their heritage.
The shame of it all is that there are some Jewish believers in Yeshua* who do not maintain their Jewish identity. In some cases they didn’t value their Jewishness before they came to faith in Yeshua. For others, it’s because they are told that as followers of Yeshua they are no longer Jews. In any case, by not identifying as Jews they play right into Satan’s plan: to stop the Jewish people from existing as an identifiable people. In so doing, we not only make our faith repulsive to the general Jewish community, we work against the very testimony of God’s faithfulness to the recognizable existence of the Jewish people (Jeremiah 31:36)!
Though he was an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul understood what was at stake: the very faithfulness of God. Would the Good News of Yeshua that Paul proclaimed to Gentiles mean that God had rejected His people? His answer: "By no means! For I am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God will not reject his people He foreknew" (Romans 11:1-2).
Every Jewish believer who states "I am an Israelite" or "I am a Jew" (Acts 22:3)—as opposed to "I was a Jew" or "I am a former Jew"—confirms that God keeps His people. God is faithful, and Yeshua is the hope of Israel, not its destroyer!
The Enemy’s Destroyer
Therefore for the sake of testifying of God’s faithfulness in light of this trenchant spiritual warfare, Jewish believers have a responsibility to maintain Jewish identity. In this responsibility we also have a liberty as to how we express our Jewishness, just as the larger Jewish community enjoys its liberty in the various expressions of Jewish identity. However, our lives must in some way declare "Am Yisrael Chai b’Yeshua HaMashiach - the People of Israel live in Yeshua the Messiah!"
God promised that the Redeemer of mankind and the Destroyer of Satan would be the Messiah of Israel (Gen. 3:15).
To prevent his own demise Satan would need to stop this Redeemer from coming and fulfilling His mission. We see how this dovetails with his previous ploy, since the Redeemer was promised to come through the Jewish people (Genesis 12:3; 22:18; 49:10; Isa.11:10; 49:5-7). On this point, it seems, Satan has failed, since Messiah has come. But if Satan failed, then why is there still anti-Semitism today after Messiah’s resurrection?
Am Yisrael Chai!
The survival of the Jewish people is the lynchpin of God’s future activity and victory, because the return of the Lord is tied to the repentance of Israel. Yeshua said to our people:
"You will not see me again until you say, Baruch Haba B’Shem Adonai, ‘Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord’" (Matthew 23:39).
Just as David could not rule over all of Israel and remove the adversaries until the people accepted him as king (2 Samuel 5:1-5), Yeshua will not return to reign on the Davidic throne and remove the adversary, Satan, until the Jewish people acknowledge Him as King.
Peter reiterates this point when he proclaims to the Jewish people: "Repent and turn to God, that your sins might be wiped away, in order that the times of refreshing might come from the Lord, and that He might send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you - even Yeshua. He must remain in Heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised…" (Acts 3:19-21).
The return of Yeshua will "restore everything" and bring "the times of refreshing." Messiah’s reign on earth is tied to the Jewish people "repenting and returning to God."
Therefore, Satan is desperately trying to avoid his own demise by preventing the return of Messiah. He is doing all he can do to destroy Israel and the Jewish people now; at the same time he is trying to make faith in Yeshua so alien and repugnant that no self-respecting Jew, let alone the nation, would ever desire to repent and turn to Yeshua!
Congregations of believers in Yeshua, Jewish or Gentile, who do not endeavor to bring the Good News to the Jewish people, play into this satanic plan to prevent Israel from recognizing their Messiah. Hence, not only must we remember the Holocaust and "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Psalm 122:6), but believers should do all they can to bring the Good News of Messiah to the Jewish people around the world.