Shalom from Israel!

Fine Kineti readers, I've embarked on a month-long stay in the Holy Land, courtesy (and much thanks to!) my employer, an excellent small tech startup in Hadera, Israel.

[Israel 2014 photo album]

It's kind of a working vacation: The company flew my wife and I to northern Israel, rented a nice apartment in the beautiful and historic Caesarea (pronounced "kaySARea" by Israelis), and rented a car for us for the whole trip.

In return, I sling some code for them during the weekdays at the office in northern Israel.

Sensing a rare opportunity, my wife and I decided to take the whole family, bringing my 14 year old son and 5 year old daughter to see the Land.

Quite the deal! So grateful. We've been here a week, and are having a wonderful -- and meaningful -- time here.

I visited Israel two years ago, yet this trip has been a pleasantly different experience.

Namely, having access to a car is rather liberating. My last trip to Israel two years ago I had no car, limiting me to sights near my location. (Bus transportation is effective, but can get crazy when you don't know your stop, and the driver's English is not so good. And taxis are expensive and the drivers try to extract every shekel from your American wallet.)

But with the employer-provided vehicle, we've travelled from Caesarea to Arad, Nazareth to Ein Gedi to Jerusalem and Samaria. Such a blessing.

Last trip, I photographed and wrote blog posts every day, relishing and preserving every moment. Now it's different; rather than feel the need to document everything, I've just stepped back and enjoyed the experience with my wife and kids. Sure, I'm still taking some pictures to preserve the memory, but that's the extent of it!

As an example, I write this already a week into my trip, and only now as I sit here lounging near the water in a moment of leisure. :-)

So, fine blog readers, thanks for reading this quick update. I am grateful for your prayers while I'm in Israel. Shalom from the Holy Land!

Torah-seeking Messianic gentiles are a work of God

"I am a non-Jewish Messianic Believer, and have been told that my calling as a 'Messianic Gentile' is to go back to a church and not become Torah observant."

In the broad Messianic world, there has been a large movement of Torah-seeking gentiles.

In fact, many Messianic ministries like First Fruits of Zion, Outreach Israel Ministries, and Torah Resource, are supported largely by non-Jews who are seeking a Torah-based lifestyle.

This was unexpected. The Jesus Movement of the 1970s, when God’s spirit was poured out on millions of Jews and gentiles, spurring the birth of the modern Messianic movement, did not anticipate all these non-Jews seeking Torah. It’s been my experience that Messianic Jews don’t really know what to do with all the Torah-seeking gentiles, except be ashamed of them.

Some Messianic believers, particularly those in the Messianic Judaism sub-movement, have reacted negatively. “You’re Torah observant? Pfft! You’re just playing Torah, not following it in the proper manner. Go back to the Church!”

Such people will cite 1 Corinthians 7, Paul’s recommendation to “remain as you were called.”

You know, where Paul says, paraphrasing,

“Circumcised? Stay that way! Uncircumcised? Stay that way! Slave? Stay that way! Free man? Stay that way! Unmarried? Stay that way! Married? Stay that way!”

Each person should remain in the situation in which God called him.

This is now being used against Torah-seeking, Jesus-following gentiles.

Should Messianic gentiles remain as they are, and cease seeking Torah?

My friend and Messianic scholar J.K. McKee has an excellent response.

J.K. McKee – Examining Paul’s Rule in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24

He notes how this same passage in 1 Corinthians has historically been used to justify slavery and theologically chastise those slaves who sought freedom: "Were you called while a slave? Remain as you are.”

It has been used to chastise women who leave abusive marriages: "You’re married - remain in the condition you are called!"

Religious authorities have repeatedly abused 1 Corinthians 7 to put less favorable believers – slaves, women, and gentiles – in their place.

McKee cites Christian bible scholarship and teaching which notes, and commends avoiding, the historic abuse of this passage:

“Paul’s...counsel...[in 7:24] can be mistaken as a call to inaction, to do nothing, or even to embrace the status quo. There are circumstances that the gospel cannot abide and we must be unmistakably clear about that. For example, no one should remain in a physically or emotionally abusive situation. The gospel does not call for one to do that. In a similar way, Paul’s counsel to ‘remain’ should not be used as a justification for not seeking better circumstances for oneself and an improvement of one’s circumstances.”

McKee digs further, getting into the Greek linguistics to answer whether the “remain (abide) as you are” pertains to a vocational calling of one’s status in life, or a calling by God to salvation and sanctification.

The takeaway is this:

Non-Jewish believers who are seeking God’s Torah – and for the first time in a long while, recognizing the whole of Scripture as holy and good and righteous – are drawn by God to live a life characterized by the Scriptures more than the secular world. Divine spiritual betterment. Messianic gentiles are evidence of God-at-work in the nations.

That confounds some who don’t understand what God is doing.

Perhaps Messianic Judaism should remain in the condition in which it was called: bringing Jews to the Jewish Messiah and Jewish Torah. It’s a righteous and holy mission. But legislating and regulating and discouraging God’s move among gentiles is a wild tangent and a distraction, and ultimately opposes a work of God in the world.

The historical, verifiable, melancholy miracle that is Tisha B’Av

Tl;dr: Tisha B’Av – the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av – has an amazing, horrific history behind it, and it occurs today. It simultaneously gives evidence of God and makes us question Him.

We often think of miracles as positive events, like a miraculous healing, or a resurrection; something good for humans.

But miracles are more broadly – and in my opinion, more accurately – described as any divine intervention in the natural world, whether positive (healings, etc.) or negative (judgment).

The Bible gives us examples of both:

  • God acts through Elijah to resurrect a dead girl – positive.
  • God sends a string of plagues and death on the hard-hearted Egyptians – negative.
  • God proves himself by sending fire from heaven, and all of idolatrous Israel sees it and repents – positive.
  • God sends the Babylonians after the nation of Judah after their repeated rebellion – negative.
  • God works through Yeshua the Messiah to restore vision to a blind man – positive.

Tisha B'Av – the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av – which began last night and continues through tonight (August 5, 2014), is an instance of a negative miracle. At least 15 negative events have afflicted Israel and the Jewish people on or around the 9th of Av.

And intriguingly, many of these negative events are verifiable. We can actually look at the events that have occurred on Tisha B’Av, and verify them through secular history and scholarship.

If these negative events have all occurred on this date, I believe it is a kind of miracle; God intervened in the natural world and caused the great negative events – many of them negative miracles in themselves – to coincide on this date, making it a verifiable miracle.

Verifiable, because most of the events can be verified to happen on this date.

Miraculous, because  such great tragedies occurring all on the same date in history, repeated in multiple generations, is either the most amazing string of horrific coincidences, or an act of divine intervention. I believe Judaism is right in choosing the latter.

Despite the verifiable, negative miracle that is Tisha B’Av, it’s largely discarded by Messianics here in the US; very few of even the Messianic leaders here in my corner of the world mention Tisha B’Av, let alone observe the traditional fast.

In this post, I wanted to look again at Tisha B’Av and suggest that Messianics and Hebrew Roots Christians ought to remember this day with mourning, in unison with the Jewish people. Tisha B’Av leaves me with some puzzling questions, too, which I’ll pose at the conclusion of this post.

But first, here’s the list of events that have occurred on, or around, Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av, in chronological order:

Key:
Orange
= traditional, unverifiable
Purple = Biblical
Blue = historical, verifiable

  • Israel worshiped the golden calf on their way to the land of Israel on the 9th of Av, around 1446 BC.
  • 10 of the 12 spies sent into the land of Israel return with a bad report, preventing that generation from entering.
  • The Babylonians destroyed the first Temple in Jerusalem, 7th of Av through 10th of Av, 587 BC (2 Kings 25, Jeremiah 52)
  • Roman soldiers carrying off the 2nd Temple artifactsThe Romans destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem, 9th of Av, 70 AD
  • 100,000 Jews killed in Bar Kokhba's revolt, 9th of Av, 132 AD
  • Roman commander Turnus Rufus destroyed Jerusalem and plowed the site of the Temple, 9th of Av 133 AD
  • The First Crusade began, killing 10,000 Jews in the first month, 9th of Av through 24th of Av (July 31st through August 15), 1096 AD
  • Jews expelled from England, 9th of Av (July 18th) 1290 AD
  • Jews expelled from France, 9th of Av (July 21st) 1306 AD
  • Jews expelled from Spain, 9th of Av 1492 AD
  • Germany entered World War I, 9th of Av 1914 AD
  • Nazi commander Heinrich Himmler received approval for the Holocaust, 9th of Av 1941 AD
  • Jews deported from the Warsaw Ghetto to Nazi concentration camps, 9th of Av 1942 AD
  • The Jewish community in Buenos Aires was bombed, 10th of Av, 1994.
  • Jewish expulsion from Gaza and the subsequent destruction of Gush Katif, 10th of Av, 2005.

Notice that the last 11 events or so are known to be historical; verified as occurring on or around the 9th of Av. The Bible actually records the date of the destruction of the First Temple. The 2nd Temple’s destruction is known to historically occur in 70AD, but I can’t find secular histories verifying the 9th of Av traditional dating.

Several of these events directly impact Messianics.

For example, Linda Davidson’s Pilgrimage: From the Ganges to Graceland reports that Jewish followers of Jesus, even though they did not support Bar Kokhba’s rebellion, were barred from Jerusalem along with the rest of the Jewish people, being allowed to visit Jerusalem only on Tisha B’Av.

As I did my research for these dates, I noticed that many of them fall around Tisha B’Av. For example, the first temple was besieged on the 7th of Av according to 2nd Chronicles 25, while Jeremiah reports the same events occurring through the 10th of Av. The First Crusade officially began on the 24th of Av. And of course, things like the Jewish expulsion from Gaza occurred on the 10th of Av.

Still others, such as the Jewish expulsion from England, are certain to have happened during the 9th of Av. I just wonder if Jewish reckoning tries very hard to align the events on the 9th, when in fact they take place around that date.

Why the 9th of Av, why Jews, why judgment?

One of the top search results on Google for the 9th of Av is a Christian web page claiming “God has cursed Judaism and the Jews” and that the 9th of Av is evidence that “God is done with the Jews” and has since moved onto non-Jews via Jesus.

Of course, that is an easily-rebuffed argument, since these events happened prior Jesus, and God still wasn’t “done” with the Jews. (Not to mention, the Christian bible makes no claim about God being “done with the Jews”, and in fact, makes claims to the contrary.)

Traditional Jewish speculation claims this day is cursed by God, having forever been cursed since that first instance with the 12 spies and the bad/false report of the land of Israel.

Picture of Andrew Gabriel Roth, Micha'el Ben David, myself (2nd from left) and my older brother JesseI happened to have as guests two holy brothers in Messiah this week, Israeli musician Micha’el Ben David, and Messianic Jewish teacher Andrew Gabriel Roth. I asked them both this same question: why the 9th of Av?

Ben David suggested that because God works in cycles, he has brought judgment on Israel during that particular date, beginning, perhaps, with the 12 spies and the false report.

Roth concurred with the traditional Jewish view that the day is cursed by God.

Conclusion

Whatever the case, fine Kineti readers, we are left with a verifiable reality that tragic events – some of the very worst events in human history, including the Holocaust – began on the 9th of Av.

If anything, the 9th of Av is evidence of God at work – miracles.

Going deeper, it’s evidence that God’s vehicle of work in the earth is Israel and the Jewish people.

Going deeper still, I question why God would bring judgment to Jewish people at these times, when Jewish people committed no great sin at those times in history. For what great sin of the Jewish people did the Holocaust begin on the 9th of Av? (Or was it the sin of humanity, and God’s people were suffering vicariously?)

Was it merely God’s signature in history, hinting he’s still there despite the evil going on? Or was it really judgment against Jews for something? I cannot imagine the latter.

Or, perhaps these great evils were necessary to bring about a greater good; destruction leads to creation; the Holocaust creating the conditions for the recreation of the State of Israel in 1948?

I don’t have those answers. I’d love to hear your thoughts, fine Kineti readers – why are these great evils perpetrated on the 9th of Av? And why are the Jewish people almost always on the receiving end?