Since our last blog posting on 20 March, in which I wrote of the significance of Jerusalem, Israel has celebrated Jerusalem Day. This year was a particularly important milestone for this city – the 50th anniversary of its reunification under Israeli sovereignty, gained during the Six Day War in 1967.
Commentators have pointed out various auspicious occasions and events that have accompanied this critical time in history – things like President Trump’s visit to the Western Wall, the first time an incumbent US President has done that; and the fact that a thousand Jews went up to the Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day, more than twice the previous record for Jewish people ascending the Mount. For me, while these various events and their timing are hugely significant in themselves, I am particularly drawn to the overall significance of the way in which the whole world seems to be focused on the City of God – Jerusalem, and on the land of Israel. Do we realise that we are, virtually daily, living and witnessing the unfolding of Biblical prophecy regarding Israel?
Indeed, Jerusalem Day was a recognition and a celebration of the ongoing fulfillment of God’s 3000 year old promise to King David – “Our feet were already standing in your gates, Jerusalem” (Psalms 122:2 (Complete Jewish Bible)). Israeli soldiers blew open the sealed up Zion’s Gate, and stood in the gate as they entered the city in 1967. The 2000 year old promise of Jesus Himself is also being fulfilled in our days – “… Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24 (KJV)). While sovereignty of the Temple Mount now rests with Israel (since 1967), daily control remains in the hands of the Muslims (Gentiles), and the Gentile nations continue to make constant demands of Israel regarding the way Jerusalem is run.
But there has recently been another very important date on Israel’s calendar – one of the Lord’s festivals has been celebrated. This was Shavu’ot (Feast of Weeks). God’s Word requires the celebration of Shavu’ot on the 50th day following Passover. This year, on the calendar we use, this was from the evening of 30 May to the evening of 31 May. Many Christian churches will have celebrated Pentecost on Sunday 4 June, that date being calculated as 50 days from Easter. Unfortunately, many churches will have omitted or even ignored making a reference to the inextricable connection of Pentecost with the Lord’s festival of Shavu’ot.
In our Hebrew classes during the week in which Shavu’ot fell we considered some of the Scriptural bases of the relationship between Shavu’ot and Pentecost. This led us also to see a prophetic element as well as a strong message for us in these days in which we are now living.
In Exodus 34:22 we read the Scriptural injunction to keep Shavu’ot. “And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest…” (KJV). In Deuteronomy 16:9-10 we see the instructions repeated with the seven week time frame from Passover being set out. This is also instructed in Leviticus 23:15-16. But then in the next verse we read some very interesting detail about requirements of the Feast of Shavu’ot. “You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved...” (Leviticus 23:17 (ESV)).
What’s the significance of two loaves of bread? I believe this is an early reference to Jew and gentile – a prophetic element that forms the basis of the strong message for us in these days, which I referred to earlier. The message is: that we must bring about, both in the Church and among the Jewish people, the reality, the outworking of a very significant Scripture, Ephesians 2:14-15:
“For he himself is our shalom – he has made us both [i.e. Jew and Gentile] one and has broken down the m’chitzah [wall of partition] which divided us by destroying in his own body the enmity occasioned by the Torah, with its commands set forth in the form of ordinances. He did this in order to create in union with himself from the two groups a single new humanity and thus make shalom.” (Complete Jewish Bible)
It is long overdue for what was done on the Cross in breaking down the wall of division between Jew and Gentile to be accepted and actioned – to be made operational. In a sense, this is like salvation. On the Cross Jesus paid the full penalty for our sin, but we must operationalise that for ourselves – we must personally accept what He did.
The wall of partition spoken of in this passage is commonly seen by the Church as being the “law”. That’s partly because English translations typically give that impression. I have purposely quoted these verses from the Complete Jewish Bible because there we read that the wall of partition has been removed “by destroying in his own body the enmity occasioned by the Torah”. Interestingly, the Moffat version says that Jesus “put an end to the feud of the law”. Most other versions have it that Jesus abolished the law. For example the New International Version (NIV) says that He “has destroyed the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law”. Such a translation would appear to contradict Scriptures like Matthew 5:17: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am come not to destroy, but to fulfil” (KJV), and Romans 3:31: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law”(KJV), and also Romans 7:12: “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (KJV).
So, the enmity between Jew and Gentile that was removed at the Cross was not the law itself. The Jewish religious establishment failed, or refused, to see that key aspects of the law, such as the need for the shedding of sacrificial blood, were now fulfilled by the shed blood of Jesus. The work of Jesus on the Cross “occasioned” a “feud” about interpretation of the law as it applied post the crucifixion. But it did not bring about the abolition of the law itself.
Where does this leave us, in reality, today? I suggest it means that the partition between Jew and Gentile is represented by two barriers that interrupt the outworking of our passage in Ephesians 2. One of these barriers is the mistrust of the Church by the Jewish people. In a sense, this is understandable given the abysmal treatment the Church has given the Jews down through the ages, mostly in the name of Christ.
The second barrier, however, is not at all understandable, in my view. It is the continued contempt of the Jewish nation on the part of many in the church, including many in leadership. This plays out in various ways, including a belief that Israel is an “occupier” of large parts of the Land (anti-Zionism); support for the evil Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement; support for the avowed enemies of Israel; replacement theology beliefs; a general mistrust of the nation; and a general apathy and indifference towards Israel and her people. These are, in fact, all forms of anti-Semitism for which there is no justification or excuse. Indeed, John Hagee once said: “If you don’t support Israel you are either not a Christian or you haven’t read your Bible”.
While we know from our Ephesians passage that at the Cross Jesus removed the basis for this partition between Jew and Gentile, the Church must take responsibility for its part in failing to accept and act on the basis that the wall of partition has been removed. It’s as if the wall has gone, but large sections of the Church continue to act as though it’s still there. This is why so far the Church has failed to make the Jews jealous of its relationship with the Lord as Paul speaks of in Romans 11:11. And it is at least partly why there is still a mistrust of the Church by Jewish people.
In 2017 it seems that many in the Church have not embraced and engaged with the opportunity and the means Jesus provided for unity between Jew and Gentile. I can’t imagine how Jesus, the Jew, must view the Church who don’t accept the work He did to break down the barrier and bring unity between the Church and His people. It suits the Church to accept His work of salvation, but seemingly not to accept His desire and the work He did for unity as “one new man” between Jew and Gentile. I believe this is a pervasive theme of Scripture – at the earliest opportunity God recorded His desire for us to bless the “apple of His eye” when He said in Genesis 12:3 that He will bless those who bless Israel.
I also believe that here is power inherent in unity between Jew and Gentile. It is in this unity that the power for revival resides. A couple of lines in the wonderful Messianic song, “Jew and Gentile”, sum this up in a simple yet powerful statement:
“Jew and Gentile, one in Messiah. One in Yeshua’s love…..bind us together so the world might believe”
My view is that if the Church wants to see revival, it needs to bind together with, to bless that nation, the apple of His eye, which the Father chose to bear His Son, our Saviour, our Messiah. Unity between Jew and Gentile is a foundational theme that begins with Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, and continues in the Newer Covenant Scriptures as part of the work of our Lord on the Cross. Unity with God’s people, Israel is the key to revival and blessing at any level in the Church.
Let me conclude with the recent words of Professor Alan Dershowitz, Emeritus Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, commenting on US Presidential Candidate, Bernie Sanders’ support for UK Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, in the recent British elections. He said:
“Those who tolerate anti-Semitism argue that it is a question of priorities …. No decent person should ever, under any circumstances, campaign for an anti-Semite…. There are two reasons why Sanders would campaign for an anti-Semite: 1) he has allowed Corbyn’s socialism to bind him to his anti-Semitism; 2) he doesn’t care about Corbyn’s anti-Semitism,because it is not important enough to him”.
Anti-Semitism is a problem for the whole world. How can the Church be any part of it?