Aharei Mot & Kedoshim
For the week of May 6, 2006 / 8 Iyar 5766
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 16:1 - 20:27
Haftarah: Amos 9:7-15
The Restoration of David's Tent
"In that day I will restore David's fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name," declares the LORD, who will do these things. (Amos 9:11,12)
Looking back on two thousand years of Jewish-Christian relations, one might be surprised to learn that what was perhaps the biggest issue the early followers of Yeshua faced was over whether or not Gentiles had to convert to Judaism in order to be fully accepted in the community of believers.
In those early years, the Jewishness of Yeshua's followers was not in question. This growing community was regarded as a Jewish sect by all, including by themselves, by the rest of the Jewish community, as well as by the Roman society surrounding them. It would be centuries before this sect would be regarding as something non-Jewish.
In the minds of Yeshua's first followers - and rightly so - Yeshua was the fulfillment of Jewish messianic anticipation. While there were aspects of their concept of Messiah that needed to be clarified and corrected, their understanding of his role as true and eternal King of Israel was confirmed. Yet while they were correct in understanding that Messiah would rule over the whole world, what that exactly looked like and how it would play out was not entirely clear to them.
In those days many non-Jews throughout the Roman Empire attended synagogue. These Gentiles (literally "nations" - a technical word for non-Jews) had an affinity for the Jewish religion and rejected paganism. While some Gentiles were willing to undergo Jewish conversion rites, others were content simply to glean whatever they could from Judaism without becoming fully part of the Jewish community. While these "God fearers," as they were called, believed in the one true God, the God of Israel, they accepted their place as outsiders.
As believers in Yeshua began to visit Jewish communities throughout the Empire, they would naturally visit the local synagogue. As the opportunity arose they would share the Good News of the Messiah's coming. Reactions to their message varied - some believed and some did not. Among the new believers were both Jews and Gentiles. As interest among non-Jews increased, there were some Jewish Believers that insisted, based on current custom, that they still needed to undergo Jewish conversion in order to be full fledged members of the believing community.
This viewpoint was not held by all, however. Others held that God, through the Messiah, was gathering the people of the nations to himself directly without any need to subject themselves to the Jewish Community. This disagreement culminated in a meeting of leaders in Jerusalem (see the Book of Acts, chapter 15).
After discussing the issue, one of the key leaders drew the discussion to a close by quoting a passage from the prophet Amos, which is also this week's Haftarah. They understood that the reestablishment of David's rule through the Messiah included the gathering of the nations. This gathering was unto God through Yeshua and not unto Judaism and the control of Jewish leadership.
It was this decision that opened wide the door to allow people the world over to receive the blessing of Abraham as promised in the twelfth chapter of Genesis, "...and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Bereshit / Genesis 12:3).
That the day would come when Jewish people would no longer be welcomed as Jews among the believers is not only one of the most tragic things of history, but an insult to these early believers, who opened the way to the nations. Yet in spite of much ignorance and, at times, hatred, God through the centuries, has continued to make himself known to both Jew and Gentile alike through the message of Yeshua's coming. It is through him that David's rule has been restored and God's everlasting Kingdom has been established.
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