This message was originally written for the Metro Voice Christian newspaper in Kansas City by congregational leader Jerry Feldman of Adat Yeshua Messianic Congregation in Overland Park, KS.
To this very day, the Jewish people have maintained the observance of the upcoming Holy Days (Lev.23) as part of the everlasting covenant and in accordance with Moses. For Israel, these are not “law” as is customarily characterized negatively in Christianity. These are appointed times, designated in an annual cycle of regeneration and hope. They are for G-d’s purposes anticipating the destiny of a new creation. Their witness sustains redemptive time uniquely defining Israel and her distinction among the nations; even for the purpose of the nations.
Contrary to traditional Christian Theology, these are not relegated to a spiritual past. Did G-d redeem Israel from Egypt and give the constitutional instructions for justice and righteousness as well as the commemorative days of remembrance through Moses, just to supersede (replace) them as if they have no ongoing purpose? No! Paul emphatically rejects this in Rom. 11:11.
If the answer is yes, then Jews become just an archaic spiritual ‘has been’ or worse, a pawn on the prophecy charts of the triumphalism of a “new” replacement. With this unfortunate misunderstanding, has Christianity committed the most tragic “identity theft” in human history; and ironically, at the expense of its own destiny?
This paradigm of Christian self-identity has relegated its older brothers and sisters to a secondary status at best and at worst, a failed religion left on the dung heap of Biblical history. Yet what are they, the Jews, to be when “all Israel will be redeemed” – but Jews? The distinction that makes Israel unique – namely the observance of Torah as identity code and its historical people-hood rooted in a Biblical narrative – is this not the destiny of “The Story” (see the Book of Revelation)? Are not the “gifts and call of G-d on Israel irrevocable (Rom. 11:29)?
They are the emblem of the faithfulness of G-d that His promises are good and true. If not, what hope do the Gentiles have? Christians should be in awe of Jewish dedication to Torah practice such as in the Holy Days for they constitute the ongoing revelation of G-d in History; for which our Torah observant Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) himself affirmed, “Salvation is of the Jews”!
G-d’s design for redemptive re-creation was ordered in Israel’s constitutional identity. The Covenantal testimony as a living witness to the One who restores all things, residing in Israel’s Biblical narrative, is the key to revelation, redemption, and the Age to Come. Messiah did not come to be a “Christ” of another religion. Messiah has Jewish content and context. And if not, then I ask, “What do you mean when you call Him Messiah?”
For the Jewish people, the Holy Days of Israel remain as a witness that anticipates and establishes the veracity and identity of the Messiah and the Age to Come. In the economy and mystery of G-d, Israel maintains the destiny of revelatory redemption by maintaining the visible and calendar responsibility that has been given to her. If Jesus is the Messiah, this is no less true!
What a debt we continue to owe the Jewish people for their dutiful and faithful testimony to carry the oracles of G-d through maintaining Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot observance. Messianic hope dictates the necessity of Jewish responsibility. After all, the Messiah must be and is the “King of the Jews’. Judaism teaches that observance of the Holy Days are acts of holiness that actually prepares redemption in the earth, anticipating when His name shall be One in all the earth, who is none other than the “G-d of Israel”. So, the Holy Days correspond to the G-d who “Was in the Beginning” (Rosh HaShanah), “Atones/Redeems” (Yom Kippur) and “Desires His presence to dwell in our midst” (Feast of Tabernacles).
Secondly, the Torah was first given to the Jews, not to the Gentiles. We must allow the Jews to complete and authenticate this witness. It is popular today, (though well intended) for Christian groups identifying with the Biblical heritage of the Jewish people, to perform these Holy Days. Though there are wonderful Biblical truths to learn, from my point of view it can be done in a way that blurs the distinctions and undermines the Gospel itself. This is confirmed by Paul who implores Gentiles to remain who they are. By appropriating Jewish Roots teaching and the “rediscovery” of the “Old Testament” seeking to perform these in accordance with their own understanding, somehow Gentiles can perform a new kind of “Identity Theft” while assuming a love of Jewish things, perhaps unknowingly actually replacing them.
This results in what I call “Displacement Theology” by performing these days as if they are theirs. In reality it shows low regard for the distinction, character, and authoritative witness that resides with the customs defined and practiced by the Jewish people. Tens of thousands of Jews have been martyred to preserve them so they should rather be treated with deeper regard, deference and allowance for its distinction to be ruled by Jewish communal norms within Jewish communal gatherings. They are not to be re-defined and re-appropriated as it relates to prayers and religious practices; for example, Gentiles wearing prayer shawls (customarily not done) apart from defined “Jewish Space” and authority.
Authentic Jewish life must be preserved in the way Jews perform their duty. We should not presume on these practices reinventing or even imitating them in accordance with Gentile persuasions at the expense of how they are sanctified by the Jewish people. Better to respect the boundaries than to plagiarize them in ways that actually make the Jews (and even the Messianic Jewish synagogue) inconsequential for the sake of new found Christian pursuance of the Biblical truths that reside with the Jews, namely the Holy Days, etc.
As a Jew who believes in Yeshua Messiah, I regard the heritage of my Jewish people, and seek to preserve our customs and laws in accordance with covenantal responsibility. And so, I invite you to an alternative of G-d’s choosing. We are a Synagogue. ALL are welcome at our Holy Day services at Adat Yeshua Messianic Congregation. We are serious about maintaining Jewish norms. We have authentic Jewish services, albeit Messiah is given His rightful place. Yes, Jew and Gentile worshipping G-d together in Spirit and Truth under the covenant umbrella of Jewish prescriptive identity. This is the ideal. Enjoin yourself to Israel’s side and do not replace it with another Gentile “aside”. We Jews have paid a high price to preserve authentic contiguity of G-d’s commandments until the days of the Messiah, even for the sake of the Gentiles. These are Sacred issues.