I had a strange encounter recently with a missionary at the Kotel. The missionary was originally born and brought up in Israel on a secular Kibbutz. Like most secular Israelis after army service he went on a spiritual journey to find himself. The crowing glory of finding himself was tied to his travels in a country which he now has gained citizenship of. There in the country, whilst travelling he was influenced and converted to Christianity by some locals offering ‘free’ accommodation. Now post conversion he has hit on an idea of providing a ‘free’ service to Israeli travelers to the country in Hebrew/ English which gives lots of useful information and discounts to the ‘secular’ Israeli traveller. Included in the information is the similar ‘free’ accommodation and other attractive services provided by Christians, who else of course?
By his own admission he grew up to hate and failed to see the relevance of Judaism. What can you expect from a secular Kibbutz? So irrelevant was Judaism to him that he did not undergo a bar mitzvah since he decided to do such a thing would be hypocritical! Well you have to at least admire his honesty!
So now we are at the Kotel, we go through all the usual proof texts. Nothing doing here I am afraid. The same route of him jumping to another text when things do not work out with his arguments. It’s nearly the end of our time together and where have we got to? In conversation I realise that he cannot be convinced about the verses or that in reality he does really not have a clue about Jews or Judaism in particular. No wonder he was a prime candidate for conversion to Christianity and now he is the poster boy for the international messianic/ church circuit with their fool-proof idea of “if a Jew believes it, it must be true agenda!” Strange how this fool-proof idea does not extend to those secular Jews who in search of spirituality in different parts of the world become Buddhists or Hindus!? I pointed this out to him too by the way but I was treated to the standard response of “just look at how believing in Jesus changed my life” etc.. Strange how converted Jews to Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism etc have in common in their personal testimonials, how their religious faith has transformed their lives miraculously. It seems as if they all somehow belong to the same religion, their testimonials all pulsate with the experience of an encounter with the divine!
The simple fact is of course is that God permits man to become enraptured with false religions for the same reason He permits a married man to be attracted to women other than his wife. Freewill is within the grasp of everyone! Virtue is only possible when sin is alluring. If alien religions were unappealing, there would be no merit for rejecting their blandishments. If this tender balance of freewill were ever injured or compromised, virtue would be impossible.
The blindness of my missionary friend in the context of the Kotel was astounding. He said that Judaism did not work and nobody does the commandments. Yet here at the Kotel were Jews doing just what he said Jews were not doing. For him like it or not as a Jew he is bound to the words of the Torah!
See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. If, though, your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live. (Deuteronomy 30:15-19)
In stark contrast the Christian philosophy of those who aided him in his conversion to Christianity resonates forth the idea that the jews a carnal people were destined to misapprehend the Bible:
It is a wonderful thing, and worthy of particular attention, to see this Jewish people existing so many years in perpetual misery, it being necessary as a proof of Jesus Christ, both that they should exist to prove Him, and that they should be miserable because they crucified Him; and though to be miserable and to exist are contradictory, they nevertheless still exist in spite of their misery. Page 180, Pascal’s Pensées, by Blaise Pascal.
To show that the true Jews and the true Christians have but the same religion.—The religion of the Jews seemed to consist essentially in the fatherhood of Abraham, in circumcision, in sacrifices, in ceremonies, in the Ark, in the temple, in Jerusalem, and, finally, in the law, and in the covenant with Moses. I say that it consisted in none of those things, but only in the love of God, and that God disregarded all the other things. Page 167, Pascal’s Pensées, by Blaise Pascal.
According to Pascal, the New has absorbed the Old; the Church has absorbed Israel. The Jewish people are stripped of their essence, if not their very existence and their suffering proves the Christians right! Here at the Kotel of all places my missionary friend echoed the same sentiments: nobody ever kept anything or keeps anything even now and Judaism is a failure. There at the Kotel in front of his eyes were Jews keeping the very same mitzvots as commanded by Moses just like Jews did way before Jesus and now way after Jesus. What are these Jews doing now here I asked him. Is this not proof in front of your very eyes that Jews are doing exactly what G-d has asked them to do? I asked him again. ….silence from my missionary friend……And the Kotel wall said …………Amen!!
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “This is what the Lord says: ‘If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant—and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me—can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne. I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars in the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.’
”The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Have you not noticed that these people are saying, ‘The Lord has rejected the two kingdoms he chose’? So they despise my people and no longer regard them as a nation. This is what the Lord says: ‘If I have not made my covenant with day and night and established the laws of heaven and earth, then I will reject the descendants of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his sons to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and have compassion on them.’ ” Jer 33
“1 And it shall be that all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse that I have set down before you, and you will bring it to your heart amongst all the nations that the Lord your God has driven you. 2 And you shall return unto the Lord your God and you shall hearken to His voice according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul. 3 And the Lord your God will return your captivity and He will have compassion upon you, and he will return and gather you from all the nations that the Lord your God has scattered you there. 4 If your outcasts be at the ends of the heaven, from there will the Lord your God gather you and from there will He fetch you. 5 And the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your ancestors inherited and you shall inherit it, and He will do you good and He will multiply you more than your ancestors. 6 And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your children to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul for the sake of your life. 7 And the Lord your God shall place all these curses upon your enemies and upon those that hate you who have persecuted you. 8 And you will return and hearken to the voice of the Lord and you shall do all His commandments that I command you today. 9 And the Lord your God will make you plenteous in all the work of your hands, in the fruit of your body, and in the fruit of your cattle, and in the fruit of your land, for good, for the Lord will turn to rejoice over you for good just as he rejoiced over your ancestors. 10 When you hearken to the voice of the Lord your God to keep His commandments and statutes which are written in this book of teaching, when you return to the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 30:1-10).
As far as Jeremiah is concerned G-d will restore the Jews fortunes and have compassion on them. The point being that as far as anyone can see, even these days and nights , day and night are still the same as they have always been. How much more so that G-d’s covenant with his people is not broken either!!
In Deuteronomy 30:1-10, God sets down before His people a passage which gives a clear portrait of the Messianic era. The clear portrait is not one that is ambiguous and murky. Rather, God used sharp and well-defined brush strokes to paint this portrait. From the passage, the return of Israel to her land will be precipitated by her repentance. The passage teaches that repentance means turning back to obedience of God’s law as Moses taught it (i.e. all 613 commandments). The passage also teaches that repentance is effective even when Israel is in exile and when it is not possible to bring a blood offering. Further, the passage shows that God will accept exiled Israel’s repentance even before He circumcises their heart. Finally, from the passage it is learned that the commandments that Moses taught us, will be fully observed in the Messianic era. Theologians presentations of the Jewish arguments are often inaccurate at best. In stark contradistinction, Christianity teaches that Israel’s return to the teachings of Moses, will play no part in the ushering in of the Messianic era (cf Mal 4:4 – 6). Christianity teaches that repentance without a blood offering is not accepted by God. Also, the Church teaches that with the advent of Christianity, the law of Jesus has superseded the Law of Moses. How do theologians answer the Scriptural challenges from the passage, to the doctrines of Christianity?
Theologians claim that after the advent of Jesus, the central issue is; believing in Jesus, obeying Jesus, following Jesus and honoring Jesus. Speaking of the ‘inferiority’ of Israel’s high-priests when compared to the High priesthood of Jesus, Hebrews states, “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless…”
Theologians often say that there is a divergence of views amongst followers of Jesus. Some Theologians understand that obedience to Torah which the passage speaks of, is a reference to obedience and faith in Jesus. Other theologians say that other followers of Jesus believe that the passage, a Scriptural prophecy, will never be fulfilled because of Israel’s failures. Both of these positions are openly refuted by the text. Moses told the people that they will return to obey God, “according to all that I (Moses) command you (Eternal Israel) today”. These words were spoken by Moses more than 1000 years before Jesus was born. Moses made it clear that he expected the last generation of Jews to look back to him (Moses) as their ultimate teacher, and that he expected them to follow his commandments as they were understood on the day he presented them to Israel. These words of Moses clearly preclude the Christian belief that Jesus is the ultimate teacher, and that the teachings of Jesus are somehow superior to the teachings of Moses. The second position that Theologians attributes to followers of Jesus, is also invalidated by the passage itself. The passage opens with words: “And it shall be that all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse…” The curse that Moses is referring to is the curse that God warned would befall Israel should they fail to obey His voice. How then can one make the claim that on account of Israel’s failure to obey God, the Scriptural prophecy will never be fulfilled?
The Scriptural prophecy clearly predicts Israel’s failure to obey and tells how, after Israel’s failure, Israel will ultimately return to God. It is clear that God took Israel’s failures into consideration when He encouraged Israel with these words, and God’s promises are irrevocable. The two Christian explanations that theologians offer readers of the passage are therefore, clearly refuted by the words of the passage itself. Theologians, therefore do not even begin to provide a textual justification for the Christian interpretation of Deuteronomy 30. The real question is: What do the Hebrew Scriptures teach? This passage in Deuteronomy clearly teaches that Israel’s repentance is the precursor of the Messianic age, this passage teaches that repentance is efficacious while Israel is still in exile, and this passage clearly teaches that the Law of Moses, as Moses taught it, is going to be observed in the Messianic era. Each of these issues is central to the debate between Judaism and Christianity.