In honor of Eitan Shishkoff ’s 20th year in Israel, “Oasis Magazine” is proud to print the introduction from his forthcoming book, “What About Us?” Publication details will be available soon.
“Hey, what about us? What about the Gentiles?”
The woman who asked me this question had been journeying with us, visiting Israeli Messianic congregations. She was witnessing firsthand the phenomenal rebirth of faith in Yeshua ( Jesus) among Israeli Jews, both native-born and immigrant. Her heart was touched and she wanted to participate, to be more than a spectator looking on.
The purpose of this book is to answer her question. It is a good question, an important question. If God has left the non-Jewish followers of Jesus out of Israel’s historic/prophetic awakening, something’s wrong. If in Israel’s rediscovery of the most famous Jew of all times, our King Messiah, there’s no place for His Gentile disciples to be involved, it leaves most of God’s family out of the celebration.
Yet thankfully this is not the case. In fact, the Scriptures speak vividly and inspiringly of an end-time partnership between Jewish and Gentile believers in Yeshua. The precedents for such a partnership abound in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the New Covenant. I have been privileged to experience the deep joys of this partnership first hand, around the world. I want to share those stories with you. We will explore foundational passages from the Scriptures that provide a strong theological understanding of our mutual dependence.
We Need Each Other
It is this dependence which provides the key in answering the question “What about the Gentiles?” Simply stated, we need each other. We Messianic Jews cannot fulfill our God-given role in hastening Yeshua’s return without our Gentile brethren. Nor can they realize the age-old dream of God’s Kingdom established on earth without us. My prayerful hope is that through this book a friendship will be fostered. That has been the divine plan all along. We were tragically separated in the early centuries of this era. Yeshua’s original community began with Jewish disciples in first-century Israel. Then the door was opened to the Gentiles by the apostles as recorded in the Book of Acts. That short-lived, active unity without uniformity was ended by religious leaders on both sides. The rabbis said “You can’t believe in Jesus and be Jewish.” The bishops said “You can’t be a Christian and do Jewish stuff.” But they were both wrong. This was an unscriptural, unintended uprooting of faith in Yeshua from its original and eternal roots in the Hebrew Bible, Israel’s history and the prophetic expectation of the exiles’ return and revival. Historians validate with one voice that Yeshua’s first followers and the early congregations were fully Jewish, celebrating the Torah of Israel, looking for the fulfillment of her prophets’ words.
A Shared Mission
Now, some 20 centuries later, we have returned to the land. We are walking with Yeshua as our Messiah. And the signs of His return are appearing daily. But what about the Gentiles? Is their time over? “…And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). “…
Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).
Is that what Luke and Paul meant? Or is there a shared mission at the end? There is a mystery here (Ephesians 3:4-6) that is to be revealed in these times. We are being handed an unprecedented opportunity to overturn the tragic division between us and by so doing welcome back the King as His covenant friends, deeply committed to each other. I believe that we have a rare chance to show Israel and the nations of the world what humility and mutual serving looks like. I believe that we have been given a high and thrilling calling.
As a Messianic Jew involved in Jewish ministry for over 30 years, I’ve had the adventure of participating in the historic awakening of Jewish people to faith in Jesus. This phenomenon has been accompanied by increasing interest among the Lord’s Gentile disciples around the world. What began in the 1970’s as distant curiosity has become a growing passion to explore the Jewish roots of New Covenant faith and to further God’s purposes for Israel.
Assisting in Israel’s Salvation
Since immigrating to Israel in 1992, a meaningful portion of my work has focused on responding to the desire of Gentile Christians to assist in Israel’s salvation. On every continent Christians are praying earnestly for Israel – crying out to God that we will find Yeshua (Jesus) as our Messiah King. Travelling to numerous countries, I’ve experienced this amazing love for the Jewish people within the Church.
In fact, there are churches where worshipers wave tambourines with stars of David, Israeli flags are proudly displayed and the call of the ram’s horn (shofar) is heard. Until very recently in the history of Christianity this combination of Gentile Christians and Jewish symbolism was virtually unknown. Why is this happening now? And what are the implications for the life of the Church? As a Messianic Jew and an Israeli, I cannot but view positively this newfound attraction for things Jewish. Yeshua (Jesus) has been painfully cut off from His Jewish roots for some 1800 years. This development is a refreshing change in Church history, to say the least. Indulging in a bit of Jewish gallows humor we might say “Hey, I can put up with some extremes in Jewish ‘accessorizing’ among our Christian neighbors. It sure beats getting killed by them!” We might say that the Church is rediscovering her origin in the ancient soil of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Yet for all the celebration, there are also causes for concern. Many are confused. Are Gentile believers to adopt the Mosaic law as their requisite pattern of life? Should the Church yield to mainstream Jewish demands that evangelism be off limits because of the ugly anti-Semitic past? Is there a separate salvation covenant for Israel that removes the necessity of faith in Yeshua? How is the Church to relate to Israel…or to the remarkable movement of Jews embracing Jesus? These and many other questions call for thoughtful answers. At stake is not only the health of the body of Christ, but the salvation of Israel.
God’s Hour of Destiny
I want to address this extraordinary hour of destiny. God has set this up. I believe He opened the eyes of my generation of Jewish seekers, refugees of the wild and wooly cultural revolution of the 1960’s. When we saw Jesus (this happened to me literally), we knew He was the true answer to all we sought. Then, many of us returned to our Jewish heritage, as members of the universal body of Christ.
Some of our Gentile brethren encouraged us to live an authentic Jewish life in Yeshua, realizing that a special work of grace was taking place. I simply could not have fulfilled my calling without them. In the decades since, God has used precious brothers and sisters from the nations to give us in-depth ministry training, abundant financial resourcing and steadfast intercessory backing. At the same time, I began seeing vivid evidence in Scripture that this was God’s plan all along. I am convinced that this partnership, of Yeshua’s Gentile and Jewish followers, is essential for the salvation of Israel, and thus for the Second Coming of Messiah.
We have a unique, history-making opportunity as Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus the Messiah. His plan is to bring us into covenant friendship – to share His cup, to share in priestly intercession for the sake of Israel’s redemption and to share in restoring the presence of God in Israel…just as King Solomon and King Hiram did when they teamed up to build the first temple.
One of the special joys of living in Israel is the privilege of celebrating the feast days in the land of promise. Celebrating in the Diaspora still has great meaning, but each feast day is connected to the covenant promise to bring us into the land and there gather as a people set apart for the Lord.
At Tents of Mercy we celebrate these holidays with deep appreciation for all that the God of Israel has done for us. The fall feasts begin with introspection on Yom HaTruah/Rosh Hashanah and continues through Yom Kippur. The grace of God requires we take stock of how costly that grace is – we know that “the ransom paid to free [us] from the worthless way of life which [our] fathers passed on to [us] did not consist of anything perishable like silver or gold; on the contrary, it was the costly bloody sacrificial death of the Messiah, as of a lamb without defect or spot” (1 Pet 1:18–19 CJB).
The feast days end with joyful celebration on Simchat Torah. How happy are we to be living testimonies to God’s promise to return us to the land of promise:
“And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:10).