Do you know that song? I used to sing it as a kid. “Heaven Came Down” was kind of a dippy song melodically, but the lyrics certainly describe what happened to me Saturday afternoon after the Philly conference.
My friend Terri Gillespie, whom I met in Philly several years ago, said that some friends of hers wanted to meet me. They attend her messianic synagogue, and I was delighted to meet Arlene and Judy. I expected the usual chit chat, but I wasn’t expecting the Lord to bless my socks off.
Let me back up a bit. When I was in high school, I played in a hand bell choir. Our director, Jim Whitmire, arranged for us to play at a reform Jewish synagogue. “Israel and the Jews are still God’s chosen people,” he told us, “and God promises to bless anyone who blesses Israel.”
And so we went off to play at the synagogue. That teaching stayed with me as the years went by, and later the Lord led me into an association with Pastor John Hagee. Through Pastor Hagee, my love for Israel was clarified and reinforced. I began to study Scriptures about God’s future plan for Isra’el, and I realized that in his sovereign plan, we Gentiles are grafted into their tree. Anyone who tells you that God has finished with Isra’el, or that the church has replaced Isra’el, is not interpreting the canon of Scripture clearly.
Listen to this (as yet unfulfilled) prophecy from Zechariah: “Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on all the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died. The sorrow and mourning in Jerusalem on that day will be like the grievous mourning of Hadad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddo. All Israel will weep in profound sorrow, each family by itself, with the husbands and wives in separate groups . . . (but) on that day a fountain will be opened for the dynasty of David and for the people of Jerusalem, a fountain to cleanse them from all their sins and defilements. . . . And the Lord will be king over all the earth . . . And Jerusalem will be filled, safe at last, never again to be cursed and destroyed.”
Paul referred to Isaiah 59:20-21 as a future promise.
God has a plan for Isra’el. Paul wrote “Yet the Jews are still his chosen people because of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (Romans 11:28-29).
In any case, over the years, God has led me to write a few books in which I could honor Isra’el by portraying characters as they really were. Jesus was not a brown-haired Greek, he was a Jewish rabbi named Yeshua. Mary, his mother, was named Miryam, and he grew up respecting and obeying the Law he came to fulfill.
Back to Saturday afternoon–I met these two dear women, who thanked me for my books, for portraying Yeshua as the Jewish teacher he was. And then I asked them how they came to receive their Messiah, and the stories they told . . . I can’t do the stories justice, but it was clear to me that God has been working in their lives for years. He revealed himself so clearly, drew them to his side so steadily and tenderly, yet in his own time.
And my heart overflowed (not to mention my eyes!) with love and passion for reaching the same people Paul yearned to reach.
The world has been so filled with Christian anti-Semitism–yes, it has–that we must own up to the debt of love we owe. And that is the best way, I think, to reach those who are Jesus’ physical brothers and sisters–we must love. And as I writer, I must be honest and true when I depict biblical characters who are Jewish. How can I do less?