[I am currently in Israel traveling with some of Nashville’s leading rabbis and evangelical ministers. The purpose of our journey is to explore our own and each other’s spirituality in the context of Israel. I will post periodic blogs highlighting the trip.]
The surety of faith, the capacity to read an ancient book as timeless truth, is a power that never fails to intrigue and confound me.
Sometime around midnight, delayed in the Atlanta airport by engine failure, I am approached by one of my evangelical companions about the end times.
When Joseph blesses his grandsons he tells them to be as fecund fish, birthing multitudes. Centuries later these fish split into two nations, Israel and Judah. Israel sets up her own high places of workshop and after repeated prophetic warnings is conquered by Assyria and scatted to the far corners of the empire. Hosea warned them of the danger and yet offered them hope: God would one day call the home.
Leap ahead centuries to Jesus and his fishers of men. What men did Jesus come to call home? The lost sheep of Israel, the Jews of the Assyrian exile. And who would be drawn to the teachings of a Judean rabbi thought to have died and returned commissioned by his Father to bring in the lost of Israel as a herald to the last days? The Jews of the first exile, long stripped of their tribal memory, yet stirred to the core by the wonders and wisdom of Jesus. These who call themselves Christians and know one another by the sign of the fish are in fact the northern tribes of Israel. For who else would be moved by the blood of the Lamb except those blood too was Jewish?
Is this true? Are Christians who feel called to Israel, to Zionism, to a deeper bonding with Jews and Judaism the lost tribes coming home? I don’t know, but I will give it the respect that all great midrash (interpretive investigation into the Torah) is due. And I will marvel that this form of study, more worship than intellectual pursuit, is so alive in the evangelical world.
But what really thrills me is the naïve assumption that the Bible is true. By naïve I mean no disrespect, but only to honor the evangelical willingness to believe the Bible is what it says it is, the Word of God.
Where I read the Bible for wisdom, others read it as fact. Where I read it with a sharp eye ready to cut out the primitive, patriarchal, and misogynistic, others read it with a soft eye, the eye, I suspect, Jesus means when he says, those with eyes let them see.
I have no idea if Christian Zionists are the Jewish fish for whom Jesus fishes. It is fine with me either way. What I am blessed with is knowing the love of these seekers for whom Jesus is not a wayward son, but the Way-ward Son who leads us back to the Father.