Touching Tomorrow: I See It But Not Now

April 6, 2014

The prophecies of Balaam concerning the people of Israel are some of the most remarkable in all of Scripture. This is so even though he was a pagan prophet, and eventually betrayed the well-being of that people of whom he spoke. But as he repeatedly made clear to Balak, the King of Moab, he could only prophesy the words that God put in his mouth, nothing else, nothing more, and nothing less. The gift was genuine, even if the recipient proved to be corrupt.

www-St-Takla-org--054-balaam-blesses-israelIn his final prophecy about Israel he uses a phrase which occurred to me as I was walking to synagogue yesterday morning: er'enu v’lo ata – I see him, but not now.  In this case, he was speaking of Messiah

I see him, but not now;

I behold him, but not near:

a star shall come out of Jacob,

and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; . . .

This star out of Jacob, this scepter out of Israel is the Messiah who was to come. It is on the basis of this prophecy  that the great Rabbi Akiba declared Simon bar Kosiba to be “bar Kochba—“Son of a star,” because Akiba viewed him to be the fulfillment of this very passage.

But as I walked to shul, I thought that this phrase, “I see him—or it—but not now” characterizes much of my posture in world as a Messianic Jewish leader. I am no Balaam, but I am a visionary, and I see things that are not yet, but which I am convinced will be, things for which I believe all of God’s people ought to prepare, and toward which we all ought to strive.

Some of these things seem far off, even as Balaam reported, “I behold him/it, but not near.”  But also, sometimes such things seem close enough to touch, to taste, to feel, to see coming over the horizon. Sometimes you can just smell it in the air.

For the time being I thought to devote a blog every Sunday to these kinds of things—the things that I believe should be, must be, and in God’s providence will be. It is because of such convictions that we here at Interfaithfulness speak of “Touching Tomorrow,” with the eyes of faith, with the hands of preparation , and with hearts of prayer.

So for this first episode of this Touching Tomorrow series of Sunday blogs, I would challenge you to imagine this:

There will come a day when it will be difficult to find Jews who are not passionate about Torah obedience and its relationship to their lives, the destiny of their people and of the world, and to a vital response to the Living God.  And in that day, Messianic Jews will be at the vanguard of Torah renewal.

Anyone who is paying attention and who knows very much at all about the Jewish people of our day will shrug, wave a dismissive hand, or at least raise an eyebrow over such an expectation. But the uniform testimony of Scripture drives me to it.

The Bible connects the return of Jews to the Land of Israel with a nexus of events, including a national return to Torah faithfulness. Since we live in a time when the Jewish people have been returning to the land, my expectation about a Jewish return to Torah faithfulness is on a roll. The best extensive passage I know of in this regard is Ezekiel 36:22 ff., although the entire chapter and the chapter following [the Valley of Dry Bones passage] are helpful.  Still, 36:22 ff is especially interesting.

The passage seems to outline a succession of stages.  This is a sort of “left brained” passage which speaks of the details while chapter 37 is the sort of “right-brained” pictorial and holistic vision that helps us visualize the stages.  Many Christians, and even whole groups of Haredi/black hat Orthodox Jews,  are cynical about any spiritual significance of the Jews returning to the Land. And there are theologians today, such as Gary Burge of Wheaton College, who focus on Israel’s alleged moral and spiritual unworthiness to remain in the Land.  Such persons should be reminded of God’s word to the prophet that Israel will be regathered to the land prior to her renewal, and of what the Holy One Blessed be He makes clear in verse 22: “I am not doing this for your sake [lo l’ma’anchem], house of Isra’el, but for the sake of my holy name which you have been profaning among the nations where you went.”  Israel is being regathered despite her unworthiness.

This is not the time and place to do a thorough exposition of Ezekiel 36. I just want to highlight that this return is connected with the following aspects, whether chronologically listed or not, we cannot say:

  • He will take them from among the nations, gather them from all the countries and return them to “their own soil”—the Land of Israel,
  • Then he will sprinkle clean water on them and they will be clean—he will cleanse them from all their uncleanness and all of their idols. This would appear to be a necessary condition to our dwelling in the Land—if we remain unclean and idolatrous, we would indeed have to be expelled. In the graphic language of Levitcus, the land would vomit us out.
  • He will give us a new heart and a new spirit, taking out the stony heart out of their flesh and giving them a heart of flesh. This could either be a stage following the previous one or. This could be another way of describing what happens in stage two.
  • He will put His Spirit inside us and cause us to live by his laws, respect his rulings and obey them. This phraseology is very reminiscent of the New Covenant language of Jeremiah 31, where God speaks of a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the House of Judah in which he writes his Torah on our hearts.

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

It will be the same Torah, but through the work of His Spirit, we will experience a renewed relationship with it, no longer being simply an exterior standard of behavior, but also being an inward gravitation for all Israel, "from the least of them to the greatest of them."

And just as we see here that Ruach haKodesh, the Holy Spirit, is active in a Jewish return to Torah, so in the very next chapter, that return is joined to a word about the Jewish people serving Messiah in that day.  I like to teach on both of these chapters at length, but for now, direct your attention especially to  Ezekel 37:24-28, a continuation of the prophet’s portrayal of what will take place in that day, and an echo of the considerations found in chapter 36:

The first half of verse 24 says, “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd.” Of course, this is not David son of Jesse who died in the tenth century BCE, but rather a poetic way of naming that ultimate Son of David, the Messiah. In the end of days God will bring the Jewish people to allegiance to his Messiah. And then, the second half of the verse says this: “They shall walk in my rules (mishpatai) and be careful to obey my statutes (chukkai).” Mishpatai, my rules, and chukkai, my statutes—these are the nuts and bolts of Torah living.

I like to tell people that I believe in both halves of Ezekiel 37:24. I believe that the Jewish people will, in the fullness of time, be drawn both to allegiance to Yeshua the Messiah, and to Torah faithfulness. Sadly, I know too many Messianic Jews who are zealous for the former but cautious, confused, uncommitted, or even opposed to the latter. But that will change.

There will come a day when it will be difficult to find Jews who are not passionate about Torah obedience and its relationship to their lives, the destiny of their people and of the world, and to a vital response to the Living God.  And in that day, Messianic Jews will be at the vanguard of Torah renewal.

I see it, but not now. But still, I am not alone because there are others like me who sense the call to be a sign, demonstration, and catalyst of this divine inevitability.

May it come soon and in our days.

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