by Remez Zimmerman with David Ison
We all revel whenever we hear the Aharonic benediction:
“May YHWH bless you and guard you. May YHWH make His face shine on you, and show you favor. May YHWH lift up His face toward you, and establish shalom for you. " (Num. 6:24ff)
But one psalmist (described as “the one who gets the job done”) gives us a different angle on this. He tells us the “why” of this blessing:
“May Elohim show us favor and bless us; may He make His face to shine with us!
Then Your way would be known on the earth, Your deliverance among all the Gentiles!
Let the peoples give You thanks, O Elohim! Let the peoples give You thanks—all of them!
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, because You will judge the peoples with equity, and lead the nations on the earth; ponder this!
… May Elohim bless us, so that all the furthest extremities of the earth may respect Him!” (Psalm 67:1-4, 7)
Do you see the tone there? Though there are times to focus inwardly on our own house, to make sure our children are fed properly and guarded from the veils outside, we are not meant to be ethnocentric. There is a purpose to our introspection that is meant to make it fruitful, so that we are not like a stagnant pond—or the Dead Sea—which has no outlet, but are like the Kinnereth, into which “living water” flows so it can again flow outward and bring both life and cleansing somewhere else too
Many people think the idea of spreading the faith suddenly began with the New Testament. Yes, Yeshua’s resurrection gave a huge new impetus to the enterprise, but the idea that Judaism is not a missionary faith is not quite accurate. That may be the case today; in fact, if anything, people are discouraged from converting. But such has not always been the case, and we must seek our defining facts in ancient times rather than modern.
Micha’el Washer points out that prior to the destruction of the Second Temple, evangelism was a very common aspect of Judaism, as documented by the sages and rabbis in the Talmud. Most Jews who preached monotheism among the Gentiles became martyrs because of how unpopular their teaching was. The spread of Hellenism severely watered down Jewish culture, and the Roman crackdown virtually squashed it by the fourth century of the current era, but in the last several centuries before Yeshua, it was alive and well in Israel. Yeshua referred to those of the Pharisaic sect who “traverse sea and land to make one proselyte”. (Mat. 23:15) He did not so much like the variety of Judaism they were spreading, but he is a witness as to the common existence of the practice.
What was it based on? The idea that since we had the truth about YHWH, we should not keep it to ourselves. Not that we “cast pearls before swine”; we have to be prudent in who we give the glad news and how. But we can trace the thread all through our history of how this was a goal of YHWH’s all along:
Avraham himself gathered “souls” along his route to he knew not where, and trained them. (Gen. 12:5; 14:14) It appears they were other people who had their doubts about idol-worship and were ready, as he was, to accept a better explanation—the knowledge of the One Creator--when it was offered.
At the Exodus, a “mixed multitude” joined Israel in leaving Egypt because of the respect YHWH had gained through Moshe (Ex. 11:3) among the Egyptian populace.
Twice in Psalm 57, between his panting breaths as he evaded King Sha’ul, David asks YHWH to “let Your importance (glory, authority, weightiness) be lifted up over all the earth!”
Through Isaiah, YHWH tells the Messiah, His quintessential servant,
“It was too insignificant that you should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Yaaqov and the faithfully-guarded ones of Israel; I will also appoint you as a light to the Gentiles, to be My salvation all the way to the extremities of the earth.” (Yeshayahu/Isaiah 49:6)
We rightly gather from this that the Messiah’s main job is to restore the scattered tribes. But the other side of the coin—partly because he earned more than that and partly because this has been YHWH’s desire all along—is that He does indeed want that light to extend far beyond our borders.
He built it right into the location of His chosen Land: it is at the juncture between the three most populous continents in the world—the contiguous land mass that was all that most of the ancients knew existed. It is a crossroads where all the major trade routes had to pass. Why? So as other nations went through, they would see the amazing results of the lifestyle YHWH had given Israel that worked so much better than any other culture’s trial and error—at least when we did what He said.
It could be that one reason He scattered us—His underlying, long-term intent, thought of even before we needed the correction of exile, because nothing takes Him by surprise—was so that we would have even more access to people who needed what we had, because He had told Avraham and, more saliently for us, Yaaqov, that through their descendant(s), every people on earth would be blessed. There is no question that when Yeshua sent his disciples out to find the lost tribes so his kingdom could have subjects from every part of Israel, the message was meant to “leak out” like those spilled crumbs that the dogs got to eat, to the other people in each region where they went looking to recover former Israelites.
So don’t enter the Torah walk as an excuse to get away from a “missionary” calling. Despite all of today’s global communication, the job is not yet done. Remember Jonah and the attitude YHWH wanted him to cultivate even toward people who would later be His instrument of chastising Israel.
It has to be solidly-based on real Scripture, but maybe this is needed all the more as the birthpangs begin--when, in Don Francisco’s words, “the Father’s voice is calling with an urgency I’ve never seen before to come in from the darkness now before it’s time to finally close the door.”
Lately the focus has been on being gathered and heading back for the Center so that the Torah can come full circle, and that has been the main need in the last few decades. We have had to do a lot of house-cleaning, ridding the message of pagan elements that have crept in. But once the Threshing Floor has been cleansed, it will all culminate in the Messianic Kingdom of the Age to Come, when “the Torah shall go out from Tzion, the word of YHWH from Jerusalem”. What will be the result? “Many Gentiles will travel and say, ‘Come on! Let’s go up to mountain of YHWH, to the House of the Elohim of Yaaqov, so He can teach us from His ways and we can walk in His paths!” (Micah 4:2)
There is great beauty and joy in hearing the psalms of David sung in the far-flung languages of the world. Thomas Cahill demonstrates in How the Irish Saved Civilization how the message Patrick brought to the restless, belligerent pagan society on the Emerald Isle addressed their core fears and calmed their hearts so that they became a beacon of stability when the rest of Europe was in the throes of inquisition and superstition.
The only perfectly accurate culture (which, sadly, was never lived to its fullest potential) was that of Israel, for it was prescribed directly by the One who knew how human society can function best. But in Eternity in Their Hearts, Don Richardson gives example after example of "redemptive analogies" that He still sneaked into cultures all around the world that prepared them to appreciate the message of redemption that was brought to them by the Israelites trained by the Messiah. The resulting fruit may not on the surface look like the Torah lifestyle, but as each heart is healed and revived in the unique way the Creator designed it, every detail of the way they walk out the core command to "love YHWH and love your neighbor as yourself" will have ramifications that resound throughout all eternity.
So even as we rave about the discovery that Israel is who we are, let us never forget Israel’s purpose: to be a light to the nations. The Temple that we hope to see rebuilt is not for Israel alone, but a house of prayer for all nations, where anyone can come to find the cleansing that the human heart, ever since Adam, has known it needs.
The covenant is only renewed with the two houses of Israel, but we are meant to be a “Kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:6). Priests, by definition, are mediators between YHWH and someone else. The Levitical priests are a microcosm within Israel to show us all what we as a whole nation are meant to do for the rest of the world—draw them closer to YHWH.
Israel is not an exclusive club. There is one instruction for the native-born and the one who lives among us to learn (Exodus 12:49; Num. 15:16); none are to be relegated to mere "sons of Noah" status or discouraged from keeping Shabbat, as some do. You claim to have the truth, and now others are seeking it. Isn’t that what you wanted all along? Why would you tell them, “This is only for us, and not for you”? If you are in it just to feel like you are better than someone else, this is not the walk for you. Here is YHWH's opinion about that:
“Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to YHWH, to serve him, and to love YHWH, to serve him, and to love the name of YHWH, to be his servants, every one that keeps from polluting the sabbath and takes hold of my covenant--even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon My altar; for My House shall be called a house of prayer for all people.”
The Master, YHWH, Who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.” (Isaiah 56:6-8)
Yes, we are to gather, but we are not to remain alone! Then the fullness of Israel's purpose can at last be realized in the Kingdom that includes the unique additions each nation can bring within the gates of Jerusalem. (Rev. 21:24)