G-d with human names

It is very fashionable to talk about emerging spirituality in these modern times. You see congregations of all types, but increasingly Jewish and Christian, who feel the need to throw of the perceived (or otherwise) shackles of the past, to open up communities to more contact, to speak to a younger internet-savvy and media-rich generation for whom community increasingly means something very different. Such an approach to spirituality may appeal to many whereby doctrine and belief take a step back and lifestyle and life choices configure the format of our existences. Whatever ‘buzzwords’ we may want to attach to such expressions of modern faith, there is one concept that can struggle to gain the limelight it truly deserves: the G-d of Israel is not god. We do not worship a generic deity, god, who injects spirituality into our lives to ensure that the latest wellness mode of life is fully rounded and explored. That god is truly a ‘broad church’
 
We, as Jews, worship and believe in the G-d of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov. That He adds this epithet tells us so much about who G-d is. He is not a distant deity, unknowable, ethereal, impossible to experience, utterly ‘other’ and therefore unrecognisable. Despite the fact that for many of our people this sadly IS the reality in their daily experience of G-d, the Torah does NOT see G-d in this way. That He has names of real individuals in history attached to Him and His name tells us that He is the G-d who has broken through into their lives in a real way. The three Patriarchs have their names attached because they personally knew Him and walked with Him in a way that demonstrated not only their active faith but HIS actual reality and presence. We know what G-d is like when we examine their lives. The interaction between G-d and man illustrates so much of who G-d is, He is literally revealed through real situations. ‘I am the Lord your G-d who brought you out of Egypt’ is not so much a historical event as a declaration of character. We know who He is, how He is by what we see and experience of Him. To know Him only by what the texts say is to have a very two-dimensional view of the living G-d of Israel.
 
In Judaism, and in Messianic Judaism par excellence, we see the gap between the ‘G-d idea’ and ‘G-d alive’ removed. He is not merely an idea, a theological concept, a necessary spiritual understanding for life. He lives and has revealed Himself often to us as a nation and through history. With Chanukah now on the horizon we are reminded that as He broke through INTO human reality in time and space we saw with our own eyes the nature and character of G-d Not surprisingly then do we see Yeshua during the season of Chanukah declare ‘I am the Light of the world’, a life lived through whom we could and still do see the reality of the presence of the G-d of Israel.

The Temple Mount is Jewish

There is much in the world right now that might lead one to conclude that it has collectively lost its senses. Be that as it may, this was only heightened by the recent decision by UNESCO to ratify a resolution generated by certain members of the UN that disavowed any historical Jewish connection with the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. According to the authors of the resolution its stated aim of the text was “the safeguarding of the cultural heritage of Palestine and the distinctive character of East Jerusalem” (see link below). The absurdity of the description and the falsity of its basic premise was ably summarised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said in a Facebook post that UNESCO had become a “theatre of the absurd” in taking “another delusional decision”. He continued “To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China or that Egypt has no connection to the pyramids. By this absurd decision, UNESCO has lost what little legitimacy it had left.”

There are, thankfully, few within the Jewish world who would support such historical revisionism as is now accepted by the UN. The reasons for the outcry are, however, more nuanced. In a world where materialism and consumerism rule the conceptual roost it is fashionable, and has been for some considerable time, to see the world of faith a something purely ethereal and singularly spiritual by nature. This presentation of the Jewish faith merely sees faith wrapped up in joy, ecstasy or an emotional response to loving G-d. It is not even that unusual to hear the old ‘physical is bad, spirit is good’ dichotomy, taught by the ancient Greek philosophers. While it is true that the spiritual world underpins the physical, ignoring the physical is quite simply unjewish and unbiblical. In Judaism our faith is precisely rooted in the physical, the historical, the real world. G-d didn’t theoretically take us out of Egypt as a theological teaching tool, He actually DID take us out. Jewish faith is as much to do with dates and events as spirituality. We detect the Hand of G-d at work IN and THROUGH the physical real world around us. The reason why answered prayer is so powerful is because it shows that our G-d, while omnipotent, is not just so in theory: He can break through into this creational shell that is our temporary home. When He sent His salvation into human history He was born in a certain time in a certain place. Salvation has historicity.

To deny the physical reality of the spiritual is to follow through with the UNESCO resolution. Some may argue it makes no difference. It does. It is a crucial difference. Our G-d reigns not just on an ethereal plane but in reality in human lives, in time and place. Faith has a history, and it is important.

What the UN did with this resolution was not an action to side with an Islamist agenda regarding history. No, this was to take sides against the G-d of history who has left His fingerprints on the earth, in time. As such our response is not to become anti-Islamic but to recognise that we must work to become a stronger nation with all the historical ties to the Land legitimised in ways that only we can do as its inhabitants. A stronger national connection is the only answer to such historical revisionism. Ironically, by adopting this resolution, the UN has itself become an historic irrelevance, a footnote in man’s attempts to fight the G-d of Israel.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-37697108

The last Trump

While our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who are suffering in the recent earthquakes in Italy and New Zealand, there has been another ‘earthquake’ in the last week that has the potential to realign the geopolitical tectonic plates around the world: the election of president-elect Donald Trump to the White House. The unrest that this has stirred coupled with the fact that well over 70% of the Jewish community in the US didn’t back Mr Trump (source Jewish Chronicle, 11th Nov 2016) means that this ‘shock result’ can not be ignored, despite some residual reluctance to appear partisan. According to reports in the Jewish Chronicle this week some US Jewish commentators are lining up to attack Trump’s election to what is arguably the most powerful political position in the world. Dan Friedman’s comment is typical: ‘The Jewish community is united in its opposition to Trump (….) he is mostly anathema to the Jewish vote’. Apparently even our Prime Minister, Netanyahu, has been less than effusive in his congratulations.
 
What should our response be? In an early response to the events Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote to all his employees quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said 50 years ago: “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” As Jews this sentiment has deep historical resonance for us. There simply is not a good day to stop moving. To stop is to surrender, to give in to a force that may feel overwhelming but in reality will pass. Despite the right-wing rhetoric bordering on anti-Semitism coming out of the Trump support base, we cannot, and must not conclude that the game is up. Cook continued in his communication: ‘While there is discussion today about uncertainties ahead, you can be confident that Apple’s North Star hasn’t changed.” If the CEO of a multinational can make that claim, then how much more so the Jewish people, the nation G-d has called into existence through Avraham avinu. Our continued presence on this planet is a provocative challenge to a human history littered with countries and leaders whose sole ambition it was was to see us annihilated. Israel’s ‘North Star’ is our G-d, our Redeemer, the One who has become our salvation. THAT will never change.
 
In Israel one can often hear the phrase ‘yehiyeh tov’ – it will be well. Indeed it shall be. Such confidence is born out of the solid covenantal conviction that G-d has not, does not and will never leave us. To take on the Jewish people is to attempt the impossible: to defeat G-d. As was spoken through the Prophet Daniel, the Lord ‘removes kings and raises up kings’. Blessed be the name of the Lord. History with its empires and kingdoms has ebbed and flowed with time, some have been kind to us, some less so. But Israel continues. Our G-d IS a G-d of justice and righteousness, His verdict is just and we can trust Him to be so. Whatever may yet come our way, from history, and Scripture, we know one fact: G-d is in control. Lift up our eyes, for our redemption is near. All will be well.