By Mottel Baleston
The Abrahamic Covenant has been addressed directly in previous Shofars by various authors, both directly and in passing in other studies, particularly studies concerning Israel and the body of Messiah. Links to these studies may be found in our Sound Doctrine page, and in our Library.
This particular article by Mottel appeared in our fifth Shofar way back in 2006, when Mottel looked more like he does in the photo above than he does now.
It cannot be stated firmly enough that a proper understanding of this covenant that God made with Abraham can revolutionize one's understanding of God's present relationship with Israel and the relationship between Israel and the body of Messiah at large. Indeed, denial or ignorance of these divinely established relationships has had devastating effects on Israel, on the body of Messiah, and on the relationship between the two, and has brought confusion in the minds and lifestyles of many. Inasmuch as it has been quite a while since we addressed the Abrahamic Covenant, it behooves this editor to present this clear and concise study for your serious consideration. - editor
In recent years throughout our Messianic Movement, there has been much discussion regarding the basis for Jewish identity. Believers in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds have felt the desire to strongly identify with the larger Jewish community, and to be accepted by that larger Jewish community. These feelings are normal and understandable, as we see the Scriptures giving many examples of the positive benefit of standing in solidarity with the Jewish people.
For Gentile Believers
For Gentile believers, we have the famous example of Ruth as she declared: Your People shall be my People, and your God shall be my God. These believers have embraced the very words of Messiah as he stated, Salvation is of the Jews, John 4:22.
In their desire to identify with the Jewish people, Gentile believers in Messiah have turned to various sources of authority as to what constitutes "Jewish". Some are active in good, healthy Messianic Jewish congregations where they are valued members of the community. Others have formed "new winds of doctrine" that somehow identify Gentile believers as members of one of the tribes of Israel, exactly which tribe seems to change every few years! Still other Gentile believers look to the mainstream rabbinic Jewish community for their sense of "what is Jewish" and grant them final authority in these matters.
For Jewish Believers
For Jewish believers, there is a strong imperative to remain identifiable as Jews. After all, if God created us as Jews surely He knew what He was doing! Through the years we've seen Satan's attempts to destroy the Jewish people, and so we are more determined than ever to say: "AM YISRAEL CHAI!""THE JEWISH PEOPLE LIVE ON!"
We are proud of our Jewish identity!! As we resolve to be identifiable as Jewish believers in Messiah Yeshua, we still come face to face with the question of the basis of Jewish identity and authority. Some Jewish believers do all they can to make themselves acceptable to mainstream Rabbinic Judaism, believing that if they just wear tzitsit (1), keep kosher and follow other forms of rabbinic Halacha (2), they will eventually be accepted as a branch of Judaism. Even though some Rabbis have begrudgingly allowed that Jewish believers are still Jews, we are still seen as being ignorant traitors who need to renounce Yeshua and return to rabbinic Judaism. Sadly, some Jewish believers who have become completely enamored of rabbinic approval have eventually done just that, backing away from central teachings of the Messiah in order to make themselves acceptable to rabbinic Judaism.
What is the Basis for Jewish identity?
All of this goes to the heart of the question, What is the basis for Jewish
identity? We hereby submit that the Lord God of Israel Himself has set the
standard for Jewish identity. When God called Avraham Avinu (Abraham our Father)
to be the first "Hebrew," He made a covenant with him and his descendants Isaac
and Jacob which clearly outlines the true basis for Jewish identity.
Seven Main Features of the Abrahamic Covenant
Here are seven main features which identify the Abrahamic Covenant as 'THE' Statement that God uses to establish His foundation of Jewish identity and authority:
Here's a 'trick' question; "Was Avraham Jewish or Gentile?"
When Isaiah 49:16 says, Behold I have engraved you on the palms of my hands, his immediate hearers were a Jewish nation that had broken the Mosaic Law as Isaiah so dramatically testifies to (Isa. 1:1-4), and were not entitled to the blessing of God (Leviticus 26:14-39) as far as the Mosaic Covenant was concerned. Yet, in the next few verses (Lev. 26:40-42) God does promise to bless them, NOT because of any obedience to the Mosaic Covenant, but rather because of His relationship to them through the ABRAHAMIC COVENANT. It is the covenant to Abraham that secures the unique bond between God and Israel, NOT the Mosaic Covenant, as the foregoing scriptures show. If this fact alone were understood by believers, we would see far less confusion in some sectors of our Messianic movement.
Back in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn, there used to be what was known as a "Protection Policy". If you thought you were going to be 'bothered' by the 'bad guys', you made an agreement with even 'badder guys' to watch your back. Anyone who dared 'touch' you, was in turn 'touched' by your new friends. Well, God knew that lots of 'bad guys' would try to "rub out" (forgive my Brooklynese) the Jewish people. Satan would move nation after nation to try to destroy the Jewish people. Why?? Because it would be through the Jewish people that God would bring the Scriptures and the Messiah, two things that Satan really hates, but can't fight directly. So, God promised His protection of the Jewish people by saying that He would bless those that bless them, and curse those who curse them. A careful study of history confirms this pattern.
While there is much controversy among the nations of the world regarding ownership of the Land of Israel, the Scriptures above are very clear. The entire Land of Israel, including even more territory than the current State of Israel encompasses, is given to the Jewish Nation by God. It's capital was, is, and shall always be Jerusalem. At the same time, God does have a concern for the descendants of Abraham through Hagar, Ishmael and his Arab offspring. To them God gives the land EAST of the land he gives to the Nation of Israel, as is clearly seen in Genesis 16:7-16. The Arab nations currently have that land promised to them; unfortunately, some among them also seek to unlawfully take Jewish land away from the Jewish people. (Current Arab land holdings are over 20 times the size of Israel!)
Because of it's unconditional nature, the Abrahamic Covenant cannot be broken by any disobedience on the part of the Jewish people. In contrast to that, Leviticus 26:14-39 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68 clearly present the provisions of the Mosaic Covenant as being dependent upon the full obedience of the nation to ALL the provisions of the Law of Moses, not just those you choose to obey (James 2:10)!! Furthermore, the Jewish prophet Jeremiah presents the Mosaic Covenant as being so broken so as to necessitate a New Covenant being given (Jer. 31:31-33). Rabbi Shaul (Paul) in Galatians 3:15-18 confirms that the Abrahamic Covenant continues in full legal force today even though Mosaic law is no longer 'binding' upon believers. While the Mosaic Law is from God and is good, holy and just, we were completely unable to keep it, which amply demonstrates to us the need for Messiah and the New Covenant.
In the New Covenant narrative of the birth of Messiah Yeshua, His uncle Zechariah, serving as a Jewish priest in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, declared that the birth of Yeshua was a fulfillment of the promise that was stated in the Abrahamic Covenant: for through you all the nations of the world will be blessed (Gen. 12:3).
It was through the descendant of Abraham, Yeshua, that the nations (Gentiles) were blessed with the ability to have sin atoned for and to enter the Kingdom of God.
The Abrahamic Covenant "guarantees" the continued physical survival and existence of the Jewish people as a nation 'corporately." The individuals mentioned in Isaiah 59:1-2 as being separated from the God of Israel were members of that covenant, but because of their individual sin, were in need of individual atonement. The method of that atonement is spelled out at the end of that chapter, in verse 20 where we read of the 'Redeemer' who is to come.
WHO MADE US JEWISH?
I'll conclude with a true story:
In a weekly exchange of "Letters to the Editor"
I had with a local Jewish community leader, published over an eight week stretch in
a local newspaper, he challenged the right of our congregation's members to
identity themselves as Jewish (70% of our members are Jewish) without the
approval of area rabbis. In response I wrote:
1. An inner garment with long fringes.
2. The collective corpus of religious law, including the biblical Law (the 613 miztvot) and later the talmudic and rabbinic law as well as customs and traditions. (Wikipedia)