He Who Keeps Israel
Marina (not her real name) came to the congregation in tears. The teacher in her Ulpan class (Hebrew studies) told her, "You are not Jewish!" That was because she had explained to the teacher that she believed in Yeshua (Jesus). This seventeen-year-old cried because since she was just a little girl she had waited to come to Israel. In Russia her family had lived, suffered and died as Jews. And now as she prepares to serve our people in the Israeli Defense Forces, she is no longer Jewish?
Most of her family had escaped to Israel. They came because they were hated for being Jewish. They needed to come back home, to the land where they could live as Jews among Jews.
The family had always instilled in Marina, and their other children, a desire to return to the Land of their Fathers. Yet now that she was here, she was unprepared for the stigma of "Goy," a gentile stranger, by those she loved and so longed to be with. Here she was the best student in her Hebrew class, learning the songs and traditions and gaining a deeper appreciation for her Jewish heritage, working every night after class from 9pm until 2am cleaning empty offices to help provide for her immigrant family's needs, and now she is told that she doesn't belong here?
What Difference Does it Make?
What could Marina say? Why should she even bother? Does being Jewish and living among our people really matter? How can she prove to her people that she does belong? Should she even try?
Imagine with me for a moment, how that seasoned, Orthodox Jewish Ulpan teacher must have felt, after learning that her student, the one who knew more about Israel than the others, this dark skinned young girl with such a deep, thoroughbred love for her people and land, the one who already spoke Hebrew as though it were her mother tongue, her favorite student, believes in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah). All her life the teacher lived with the misunderstanding that Yeshua and his followers were enemies of the Jewish people.
I explained to Marina that in Israel we need to be strong. We must stand up for what we believe, and we cannot allow rejection by our own people to cause us to withdraw. It is our destiny, as the first generation of Jewish followers of Jesus, to demonstrate to our people the real Jesus, Messiah of Israel, and savior of the world. We must resist assimilation and boldly affirm our Jewish heritage as it is fulfilled by faith in Yeshua.
I pointed out that while our desire to live as a Jews is honorable, it cannot be used as an excuse to avoid being called "stranger" by our people. As followers of Yeshua we will always find ourselves "outside the camp," as he himself walked. However, if we chose to live as Jews in obedience to God, and if for this we are willing to suffer as Jews in a Gentile world, and as Messianic Jews in a Jewish world, then we can live as Jews for Jesus in Israel. (Being a Messianic Jew can be complicated. I know :)
God Removing the Veil
This week one of the young girls in our youth group was awarded "Best Soldier" upon completing basic training in the IDF. Excitedly. she told us that two of the five soldiers selected for the honor were Messianic Jews! We have 9 young soldiers now serving in the IDF, including an officer.
Our young people continue to be a powerful testimony to Israel that Yeshua is Messiah. He is the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures and it is he who makes us really Jewish. Of course we do not in any way encourage Jewish segregation, but rather we proclaim that God is keeping his promises to the children of Abraham through our Messiah, and that it is He who keepeth Israel.