Ever Been “Sign Dancing”?
by Lonnie Lane
I regularly meet folks (a number through email) who are delighted to learn more of the Jewish roots of their faith, saying that it brings them closer to the Lord through a greater understanding of what Yeshua said or did. But some, I fear, sound like they are drifting into more of a focus on Torah than on Yeshua. That’s when I hear a warning shofar blowing (Jewish for whistle). That’s going in the wrong direction! Yeshua needs to always be our focus and our quest.
God is indeed restoring “one new humanity” (Eph 2:14, 15) in which Jew and non-Jew can worship together. This is happening by God’s doing today as many Gentiles are acknowledging that they worship not just Jesus (Yeshua) but the God of Israel whom Yeshua worshipped when on earth. Non-Jewish people who wished to follow Israel’s God as long as they adhered to His Word were always welcome: “The same law (Torah) shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you” (Ex 12:49). Being followers of Yeshua is following Israel’s God for that is who He is! Learning of the Jewish culture in which He lived can help to make sense out of what often seems so mysterious in some of what He said. We find that He was really quite practical and down to earth as He spoke to issues of daily concern for the citizens of Israel at the time, being one of them. It helps to adjust that rather ethereal and detached from life in the here and now interpretation of Him as history has often portrayed Him.
On the other hand, being aware of Jewish roots can provide a profound insight into the spiritual dimensions as well as the here and now. If you know, for instance, that God had spoken to Israel in the past and said, “I am Yahweh, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another” (Isaiah 42:8), and if you understand that Yahweh means the Self-Existing or Eternal One, you get a greater understanding of the depth of impact on the disciples when Yeshua, at that last Passover Seder said, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5). We’re so accustomed to the idea that Yeshua was God even as He was fully a man, that we don’t realize what a bewildering statement that was to His disciples. As wonderful and as powerful as He was to them, they still didn’t understand until His resurrection who He was. His words must have still confounded them to question: God doesn’t share His glory. How could He share God’s glory? And only God is eternal. How could He have been with God in the beginning? Knowing the answer to these questions allows us to enter into a greater empathic participation, so to speak, as we meditate on what really took place.
Jewish roots understanding also provides an ever-expanding grasp of the whole scope of God’s interactions with Israel, and mankind in general. Even our sense of history as it unfolds can be informed by such understanding. For instance, just knowing the Hebrew make-up of the name Jerusalem will give you insight into what’s going on behind the scenes, the spiritual scene that is, in the conflict over dividing up of Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, and why it’s so critical an issue today. Jerusalem is made up of two words in Hebrew: Yeru-shalem (though pronounced Yeru-shalayim.)
- “Yireh” refers to the name of God given when Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac and instead God stopped him and “provided” a ram caught in a bush. Abraham renamed the place “Yahweh Yireh,” the Lord my Provider”(Gen 22:14). Yireh means provider. (You may know the name as Jehovah Jirah, but there’s no “J” in Hebrew. This is the correct pronunciation.)
- “Shalem” alludes to shalom, or peace, but also the word “shalem” can mean perfection. It is out of Jerusalem that peace and perfection are provided for all mankind. This is why Yeshua had to die in Jerusalem for in Him alone, especially in His suffering and death, is found perfection and in Him alone do we find true and lasting peace. (Thank you, Lord!)
Knowing this provides understanding of why God designated this city as the place of His abode and helps us to see all that transpires there in relation to God’s destiny for it. Zion is a part of Jerusalem. God has declared that “the law (Torah = instructions of God) will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). In fact, this statement has far reaching significance, even possibly into the Millenium when, “many nations (lit. Gentiles or peoples) will come and say, ‘Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths,’ for from Zion will go forth the law (Torah), even the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:2). But if it’s not a Jewish Jerusalem, none of that can take place. You can see why the devil is pulling out all the stops to try and take Jerusalem from the Jews. He won’t win, of course, but while the battle continues, hearts are being judged on how they stand with Jerusalem or against her.
The Word of the restoration to Jewish roots is in fact going forth to “many nations” around the globe. A man writes to me from the Philippines that he and his wife are starting a “one new man” church there and appreciates what they are learning from the Messianic Vision website. Two entirely unrelated women who responded to articles initially, keep in touch with me periodically via email; they each have a radio show on which they are teaching Jewish roots, one in Canada and one in South Africa. Questions came recently from New South Wales, England and Bangalore, India, asking more Jewish roots questions about the same time I received an affirming email from a Messianic Believer in Israel. I was also recently informed that the articles are being used in a men’s prison for discipleship (“One new man” in an all male prison! God is everywhere! May these men become entirely new creations in Yeshua, Amen). And I’ve been told by several people that they use the articles in their groups such as men’s fellowships or in home groups. It’s an honor to be able to come along side of Sid to help contribute to the understanding of what God is doing in the earth today to restore what has been lost to the Body of Messiah of His ways as Yeshua and His disciples lived out. How wonderful that we can keep in touch with each other through the internet, surrounding the earth as a giant mishupchah (family).
Occasionally, however, I do get the sense from someone that they are taking Torah more seriously than Yeshua, that “doing the Jewish thing” is so exciting to them, that things can get a little lopsided, a bit too weighted on the Old Testament side. I know of precious Believers who meet weekly to study the Torah portion for the week. They have a grand time pulling it apart and finding out what it means and are committed to lining their lives up with what they find. But when asked, “Does the discussion lead you to seeing how Yeshua fulfilled that portion of Torah you’re studying?” it appears that the studying stays in the Torah and doesn’t too often make the trip into the New Covenant. They didn’t plan it to be that way; it just happened. This concerns me.
In studying Torah it is wise to make your quest to see where Yeshua fulfilled it. I heard a wonderful
“Yeshua didn’t cancel Torah; He brought Torah to its highest expression.”
definition of “fulfilled” this past week: To fulfill is to bring to its highest expression. Don’t you just love that? Yeshua didn’t cancel Torah; He brought Torah to its highest expression. In considering observing something in Torah, ask yourself (or better yet, ask the Lord) how it could be lived out by grace, without loosing an ounce of your freedom in Messiah Yeshua. Find the Lord in it. Through study of the Tenach (the complete Old Testament) one can gain a depth of understanding not only of what Yeshua said, but of the culture of which He was a part, which lead us to understanding the meaning behind so many things that took place.
I love the Torah. But putting too much emphasis on it, or not finding revelation of the Person of Yeshua in it is to miss what being a Believer is all about. Please understand, I am a proponent of living a Torah-consistent life. I believe Torah can show us much of what it means to love God and one another as we love ourselves. However, let it be known, our main focus is not to be on Torah or Tenach above the New Testament and the Gospels in particular since Yeshua said it was His words that would not pass away. Making The Old Testament your primary focus, or Jewish roots rather than Yeshua Himself, will not make you a Spirit-led overflowing-with-adoration-for-Him worshipper. And it is likely to leave you relatively powerless and unable to minister in signs and wonders such as accompanied the early Believer community and which are becoming more and more available to all Believers today. To be able to move in signs and miracles takes an immersion (mikveh) in God’s Holy Spirit to be able to walk in His power like that. That’s New Covenant anointing! In order to walk that narrow path, we must take the Hand of our Bridegroom, to walk with Him on His Kingdom pathways. This path will enable us to come into the presence of the Father, not just to know His teachings. It would be like the difference between getting a letter from someone you’ve only heard about and enjoying their very presence, face to face.
It’s easy to become fascinated with Torah because there is revelation of God to be had in it. Torah is the very foundation upon which the Kingdom of God is built. But a house is not made up of just the foundation. A house must be built on top of the foundation. In the same way, the church is built on top of the foundation of Torah and the prophets. You do not find windows in a foundation through which to “see” (prophetically, unless you’re an Old Testament prophet and those are rare) or windows that let in Light (of all that Yeshua is). These are faculties of the building, not the foundation. You do not have doors in the foundation through which to go out to others (with the Good News), nor through which others are brought in (to salvation). Indeed, no roof (covering) is put on a foundation, but the roof covers the house that is built upon the foundation. The foundation alone does not have the covering of protection that God’s people will need in the coming days. The roof that tops a house is upheld by rafters which are as the intercessors who maintains the roof, the covering over His people. They must be rafters (pray-ers) that know how to access the power, who know how to declare with Kingdom authority prophetic truths into the earth. We will need those who can uphold a covering of righteousness through discernment and power over God’s people to keep us from becoming overwhelmed by the elements of evil that would seek to destroy us through lies and intimidation. The devil is, after all, a liar, a thief and a murderer. (See John 8:44). To overcome him effectively we need the Holy Spirit’s power. Again, we emphasize, the power is in the New Covenant, not the Old.
Moses was a type of the coming Messiah: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him…. The Lord said to me…’I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him” (Deut 18:15-19). Even Moses directed us to look to the Messiah.
Torah provides many signs that point right to Yeshua. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. It is really useless, however, to dance around a sign and sing about it and not go forward to where the sign points. Too many have camped at signs that say, “Jerusalem → This Way” but have not taken the journey to the spiritual Jerusalem, to the place of the Lord’s Presence. Instead, they have remained rejoicing that they found a sign. The sign itself will not take you to Jerusalem. Nor will you have any real experience of the Kingdom or His promises or His power unless you leave the sign and move on to the place of His presence.
The Words God gave to Israel through Moses were a sign as well of what He would one day write on the hearts of His people in His New Covenant with Israel, (Jer 31:31). Both covenants were written by the Finger of God, one was written on tablets of stone, which are immovable, immutable as a code of law. The other is of flesh and blood, not of “stony” hearts, but supple, malleable in God’s hand, Spirit-responsive, warm and loving, and most of all alive in Him.
On the other hand, do not think that there has been no value in what you may have learned of Torah. It is a schoolmaster, a teacher of that which will serve you well in the place of maturity. It will bring you discernment through which to help guide others as these words are written on your heart. But just as the sacrificial system which was the entire purpose of the Temple became obsolete for those early Jewish Believers in Yeshua, because He was the final and complete Atonement, there had to be a detachment from the Temple and its system. Its lofty structure and its impressive hierarchy which, while appearing awesome in earthly splendor, no longer housed God’s glory; His glory had long ago departed but Israel went on without realizing it or missing it.
I find that thought, to be without God’s manifest presence and to not even know it, very scary. Thank God for His presence being with us today. Having said that, I know there are some reading this who have never experienced God’s manifest presence. Where you can sense He is with you, where signs and wonders and miracles are taking place, or where you tremble at His holiness, or are filled with His joy. If that is you, you might want to start praying for God to enable you to know Him in those ways, and for your own church or fellowship to begin to experience God’s presence. You may want to begin praying for your pastor, that he would be open to and desirous of the presence of God in power in your services, and that he has his own life-changing experience with the Lord. But don’t wait for your pastor. You can seek the Lord on your own now. Start praying if you’re serious about this, and then watch what happens. It may take a while but I assure you, God wants this more than you do. Spend time just waiting upon Him, enjoying Him. He wants us to behold His glory! “Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold my glory…” (John 17:24).
Yeshua is the glory. His glory is ever with Him. It is His presence and His very Person by His Spirit that will be with His remnant in the days to come. He is doing a great work of sanctification even now. But we must do our
“He is doing a great work even now. But we must do our part and become as He was.”
part and become as He was. We may not be altogether there yet, but this is where we’re headed: “The remnant of Israel will do no wrong and tell no lies, nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths” (Zeph 3:13). Maybe that’s why it’s a remnant. Not everyone who calls themselves a Believer in Yeshua, it would seem, will forsake unrighteousness entirely or step out of old comfortable yet unproductive “old wineskin” ways. But for those who choose to follow the Lord Yeshua with our whole hearts, we will all be one in Him as Yeshua said: “…We will all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us” (John17:21). Oh to be like Yeshua! Well, He intends that we will be by the sanctifying power of His Spirit. We’re grateful, Lord!
At some point before the Lord returns, according to Scripture, there will be difficult times in the earth. Yet, this will also be a time of the church’s finest hour. Whether or not we actually do live in those times remains to be seen. Whenever it takes place, there will be those Believers who “will lead the many to righteousness” or “do exploits” (Daniel 11:32). These exploits can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit. The baptism (mikveh) of God’s Spirit is an immersion, a complete submersion into God’s Spirit, such as was not and is not possible in Torah alone. A cloth dipped in blood takes on the characteristics of blood by becoming the color of the blood. As we are immersed in Yeshua and the Spirit of God, we take on His characteristics, e.g., His character in “the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, patience, kindness, meekness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal.5:22, 23).
Torah would keep you clean on the outside, but you are made spiritually clean only by Yeshua’s blood. Many walked away when He said, “I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves” (John 6:53) because they could not see past the rules to the reality, past the shadow to the substance. His presence in power is not in the sign or the shadow or the rules, but in the reality of the Person of Yeshua.
Many of us have not yet tasted of the glory of the higher ground, nor breathed of the fragrance of His presence, nor felt His tender-most touch in your inner-most being where only our heavenly Bridegroom can touch us. For all that Torah does bring to us in revelation of the holiness of God and of His love and caring for us, we can only really “know Him” through Yeshua. “No one comes to the Father but through Him” (John 14:6). For those who relate to Yeshua more than to the Father, Yeshua and the Father are one! “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also“(John 14:7).
So for all you Jewish-roots-loving folks, enjoy them. Bathe your spirit in them. Be adjusted by them. See God’s holiness in them. But keep your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. Contrary to the words of the song these words are found in, a knowledge of Torah will keep you from the things of the earth becoming strangely dim but rather you will find a greater recognition of God’s handiwork and how much He is involved in every down to earth, here and now activity. There’s the Old Covenant perspective: God is in the details — lovingly. This is a New Covenant perspective: Looking lovingly to Yeshua every day will turn the mundane to holiness — in the light of His glory and grace.
Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2009.
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.