For as long as I have been teaching and writing about Yeshua, it has been primarily to a Messianic Jewish audience, knowing all the while that many Gentile ears were listening. But one thing that has boggled my mind for more than a decade has been the attraction that certain believers—both Jewish and Gentile—develop for “the Jewish (or Hebrew, or Hebraic) roots of the Christian faith.” While I perfectly understand why a Jewish believer in Yeshua would continue in faithfulness to the Torah, retaining an ethnically Jewish identity in the Messiah, I have often wondered why believers who were formerly immersed in Christianity would begin gravitating toward all manner of things “Jewish.” What motivates people to pursue Christianity’s “Jewish roots”?
Excerpted from the Messianic Torah Devotional by Kevin Geoffrey.
“Rather, we have known that the Torah is good, provided one uses it lawfully….” 1Timothy 1:8
One of the major criticisms levied against the Messianic Jewish movement is that it allegedly causes believers to go back “under the Law.” Unfortunately, while much of our purported Torah observance is barely more than a superficial emulation of rabbinic Judaism, the accusation is not far from reality in some circumstances. Indeed, as the more militant among our ranks swing to the extreme with their versions of Torah observance, it becomes the very legalism they vehemently swear to oppose. The practices and propaganda of many independents, fringe elements, and those in pseudo-Messianic movements have also been cause for alarm within the larger Body of Messiah. Therefore, restoring the Torah to its proper context ought to be of paramount concern for the Messianic Jewish movement.
I’m always excited to meet other believers in Yeshua, regardless of affiliation or relationship to the Messianic Jewish movement. Recently, we were getting to know another believing family, and over the course of those first few awkward moments of getting acquainted, the young father asked me, “So, what kind of music do you like?” Now, being a musician myself, this was not a strange question to me—in fact, it was one which I could readily answer. Yet within me, it struck a dissonant chord of superficiality. Here we were: two men in Yeshua, two fathers of sons, meeting for the first time, and our best point of connection was the kind of music I like?
While one’s taste in music may be shallow common ground for planting a relationship, believers in Yeshua have been known to build on less. But what about more substantial issues, such as controversial doctrines? Are shared beliefs on things like “once saved, always saved,” predestination, baptism, speaking in tongues, or whether or not Christians are required to keep Torah, enough to establish the foundation for deep, enduring relationships? Or perhaps we can find our camaraderie over slightly less contentious matters, such as style of worship, method of prayer, or manner of preaching?
But what happens when our tastes change? What if our doctrinal perspectives shift? How can a relationship built on personal preference or position papers survive such a transformation?
If you have not yet read my book The Real Story of Chanukah: Dedicated to the Death, you may not realize how closely the civil conditions of those days parallel the societal climate in which we presently live. For example, on page 24, I write,
In the political and cultural climate fostered under the “sinful offshoot” Antiochus Ephiphanes [the Greco-Syrian king who occupied Israel], the Jewish people began to test the waters of personal liberty as they explored alternative lifestyles outside of godly boundaries. A vocal, activist, minority within Israel—those who were overtly and shamelessly defiling the Torah—paraded their transgressions before the general population, inciting them also to go astray.
As the story unfolds, we come to find out that such exploration of “personal liberty” and “alternative lifestyles” eventually leads to dire consequences for Israel.
An ancient voice keeps calling out, “In the wilderness, prepare the way of Adonai; make straight in the desert a highway to our God” (Isaiah 40:3). The prophetic call to be God’s trail blazers has been passed down through the generations—from Elijah (see 1Kings 18:36-37), to Isaiah, to John the Immerser/“Baptist” (see Matthew 11:10-14)—and it will continually resound until the Day the Master Yeshua triumphantly returns (see Malachi 4:5-6). Yet for today, “the way of Adonai” goes woefully unprepared. In our generation, we have misunderstood the instruction and wandered far from the path of our prophetic purpose. We have wrongly imagined “prepare the way” as a call to build, when it is, in fact, just the opposite.