Almost everyone has a Weird Aunt Ida or a Definitely Different Uncle Dave. Maybe Dave is fixated on extraterrestrials. Or perhaps Ida is adamant JFK is still alive because she read it years ago in a supermarket tabloid and “just had this feeling about it.” Usually, whether it’s religion, politics, or social mores, such people stand out because their compass is always pointed in a skewed direction. Whatever the case, because of family ties and out of love, we generally just embrace such people, making allowances for them because it’s the right thing to do. After all, they’re family!
Although no one wants to be Weird Aunt Ida or Definitely Different Uncle Dave, I sometimes feel we have more than our share of such persons in the Messianic Jewish congregational movement and also in the Jewish missions world which in some ways overlaps our own. I think all of us need to be on our guard lest we too become weird and different by subconsciously marching to Ida’s and Dave’s very different drummer who sometimes seems to be positioned at the head of a pack of lemmings!
One of the Ida/Dave fixations I see cropping up here and there is the strange idea that God’s end game strategy for the Jewish people will not include any kind of national return to living by His statutes and ordinances, his chukkim and mishpatim, the nuts and bolts of Torah living. Some people prefer to imagine some kind of national culmination for redeemed Israel that leaves in the dust the kind of Jewish life we’ve known for thousands of years. This sounds to me like Ida and Dave are in town.
This is especially weird when you consider that such people claim to believe in the Jewish Messiah (as if there was any other kind)! I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that the Jewish community has a right to expect that whoever the Messiah is, one of the things he is sure to do is to make Jews into better Jews in some kind of synch with communal Torah standards that have prevailed for thousands of years! When you ask Jews what it would look like if they were better Jews, wouldn’t about ninety-nine percent of them say, “If I was a better Jew I would be more observant, like my grandfather who was a better Jew that I am?”
One of my biggest problems with a Torah-free Jewish consummation is a gaggle of verses that keep honking at me. If God had in mind a Torah-free consummation, then why, when speaking of the end of things, does he have Malachi say this? “Remember the Torah of Moshe my servant, which I enjoined on him at Horev, laws and rulings for all Isra’el. Look, I will send to you Eliyahu the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible Day of ADONAI” (Mal 3:22, Hebrew, 4:4. English). And why does God have to confuse us in Jeremiah 31:33 by telling us that in the end he is going to write his Torah on our hearts? And then Ezekiel really throws us a curve when he portrays God’s end-game as including the Holy Spirit bringing all Israel back to God’s mitzvoth: “I will put my Spirit inside you and cause you to live by my laws, respect my rulings and obey them” (36:27). And even worse, in the next chapter the prophet links this Jewish return to Torah living to our allegiance to Messiah: “My servant David will be king over them, and all of them will have one shepherd; they will live by my rulings and keep and observe my regulations” (37:24). I don’t know about you, but I hear honking, and it sure is loud!
And one more thing. To be honest, and as you may have already heard, many people who I’m calling Weird Aunt Ida and Decidedly Different Uncle Dave think that I’m the one who is strange. To them I’m Alarmingly Strange Stuart, or A.S.S. for short. They think I’m untaught, naïve, even dangerous! Well if they’re right, being so strange I just don’t see it. And when they say that God’s will for Jewish Yeshua believers is simply that we obey the Law of Messiah (a phrase taken from Galatians 6), which they say substitutes for Torah living, then I get really confused, because that means that God just wants Jews at the end of days to live like good godly Gentiles, who are also responsible only to keep the Law of Messiah. I find that awfully weird, and definitely different.
I think I’m just going to continue to look for, celebrate, and however I can, assist all signs of Messianic Jews beginning to get serious about returning to paths of Torah, in the power of the Spirit and in allegiance to Messiah. Like I said, that’s what I hear the prophets honking at me.