by Marty Shoub, International Liason, Tents of Mercy Network
I grew up in a traditional Jewish home in Montreal. We were not observant, but Jewish identity was central to who we were. We were Jews and we stuck together. We were God's chosen people, but that status meant little to me except as a barrier that separated us from those who were not. As a teenager I began to explore all sorts of alternate, "New Age" spiritual paths. I was open to everything and everyone; everyone, except Yeshua. Despite my liberal outlook, the caution engrained in me through our people's collective distrust to "stay away from that man" was so deeply embedded I could not allow myself to consider who Yeshua was. The irony was that the more I sought for truth, the more I encountered the words of Yeshua, whether quoted out of context by an Indian guru or through the witness of well-meaning Christians. When I was nineteen years old I had a powerful encounter with the living God. I did not understand anything about Yeshua's sacrificial death on a cross. I had almost zero theological knowledge of the Christian faith. All I really knew was that I was wrong and God was right. The offer was simply, "Will you trust me with your life? Will you follow me?"
I said yes, and my life changed in the most profound way. At once I understood that the promises God made to Abraham were real, and I was part of an enduring legacy stretching back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. My Jewish back-story was not old fables but a reality that served to bless the whole world. However, I soon disassociated myself from that legacy! I was now a Christian. A Jewish Christian, yes, but that was no more significant than being an Italian Christian or a Chinese Christian or any other ethnicity. No more of this burden of being "The Chosen People".
Even as a Jew I accepted the narrative that the Church had replaced Israel as God's chosen people. I was grateful for my background because it linked me to how my own people had been used by God in the past, but it no longer had significance for what God was doing in the present. Like everyone around me, I "spiritualized" the Hebrew Scriptures so as to remove their significance and meaning as they related to the people who originally received them.
Then, many years later I re-discovered within the scriptures the wonderful plan to see Jew and Gentile made one in Messiah. Like any good relationship, blessings and responsibilities must flow both ways. A relationship where only one side gives and the other receives is either tragically co-dependent or sinisterly oppressive. Our Heavenly Father's plan brings mutual blessing, and mutual calling to both Jews and Gentiles - all to the praise of His glorious grace.
Paul's gospel "To the Jew first" is not the biased prejudice of a Jew who could not shed his old "chosen people" wineskin, but a beautiful love story, a revelation given to a Jew on behalf of the Gentiles he was called to serve; a love story that not only blesses both Jews and Gentiles but prepares the way for the return of Israel's king, Who is also the savior of the world.
Senior Editor's note from Eitan: It was my joy to serve side by side with Marty in Israel at Tents of Mercy for eight years. There's no one I'd rather have represent our work in Israel on the world stage. It is also a joy to meet Marty again on the pages of the "Israel's Restoration" publication which he lovingly edited for many years. Marty's first book "To the Jew First: The Formation of One New Man" is available through the Tikkun bookstore and Amazon.
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