Some friends and family may wonder about me – why for the past 4 years do I seem to be obsessed with the subject of Israel and the Jewish people? It’s really so simple – it’s about family…wait, what?
Picture this scene. You’re a small child at the dinner table of a rather large family, dad seated as always at the head. You look into his warm eyes that without words tell how much he just loves us all being together, enjoying all he’s worked hard to provide. Yet beyond the joy and gladness in those eyes you sense a hint of sadness…someone’s missing at the table.
In late winter 2013, my wife and I made numerous visits to a community in the Nashville area, Caleb Company. Those gatherings to me seemed like the closest expression to what I imagined home congregations might have been like as recorded in the book of Acts. A little over a year later, back in our home town at the time in Knoxville TN, during a prayer in a small inner city church, God himself invaded my heart with an unexpected and intense love for the Jewish people.
The best way I can convey what I carry in my heart is something like the love a youngest son in that large family might feel for an older brother he’s never met, only heard great things about – who’s been gone from home for a long, long time. Someone’s missing. That eldest son seemed to embody all the best hopes and dreams for the family that would grow as time moved forward. It’s not exaggeration to to say that I was impregnated with this kind of love for the Jewish people quite to my surprise!
As I write, it dawns on me in this moment that I actually am the youngest son of a family of 6 in which the firstborn son died shortly after my birth. All my life I listened to stories about his life, cut short just prior to his 22 birthday. His kindness of character, strong work ethic and skill, military reserve service, athletic accomplishments, good looks and how loved he was by the community. Naturally I always wished I had known him; at times I’ve even felt like I have memories (I was 11 months old when he died) of him swinging me around – who knows?
So yes, I am was possessed by a familial love for this “older brother”, Israel. I discovered that despite my long ignorance (and likely some arrogance) to the Father’s longing heart for his “firstborn son” (Ex. 4:22) we are related. That was the beginning. There are a myriad of blessings that have come to every true believer in Jesus, and in particular to my life, through the place in the “family” the Jewish people have held and do hold in God’s covenant love and purposes. There is a richness that has brought color, dimension and context to my faith as a follower of Jesus, Yeshua as his family called him. (See Romans 11: 17)
Much like that father at the dinner table, I believe Abba God is thoroughly delighted at his children from among the nations who enjoy all the blessings of full family status through Messiah Jesus. Yet, the look in his eye propels me to pray, write, work and speak until my brother is fully home and we share together at the table, he in his rightful role with all the privilege and responsibility of the first born son.
I am on a journey! More to come.