Over the past few weeks, I have posted a few articles on Messianic Judaism, and have been met with some resistance from a variety of those that hold to that belief. Let me state that I see nothing wrong with Jews who convert to Christianity hold to their traditions, to a point, and that point is Grace; likewise, I see nothing wrong with Christians discovering the Jewishness of the Gospels, and the cultural context of Paul. There is a point, however, when this exploration turns to false doctrine and a false view of the interaction of the First Covenant and New Covenant. (As a primer to this discussion go here and then here.)
I want to tackle this issue, that the Law and First Covenant has been completed, in a manner consistent with a motif that underscores many biblical situations – Marriage and Divorce. We have to remember that many times, the relationship between God and Israel was pictured as marriage:
God’s union with the Jewish nation
Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:14; Hosea 2:19-20
Christ’s union with his church
Ephesians 5:23-24; Ephesians 5:32
We know that God is a righteous God, and will go to great lengths to prove that righteousness, even surpassing His own Law.
God had given Israel (the Ten Northern Tribes) a bill of divorce:
Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. (Jeremiah 3:8 NKJV)
They had broken the marriage covenant by committing adultery with other Gods, but Judah refused to listen. We know that Israel was divorced from God, because they had been taken captive by other nations. (Jeremiah 3 is Israel’s bill of divorce and a call to her sister to repent). It one of the most dramatic passages in the Hebrew bible, God grieves openly for the divorce that is pending (reminding us, my friends, of the hurt that is produced by this destruction). Remember, loose the 1600 years of neo-platonic views of God, and remember that God is passable, suffering, and can suffer the hurt that we force upon Him.
Jeremiah 8.18-9.22 paints an image of God of a mourning King, broken hearted for a Queen that had departed from Him. God is declared to be the speaker of these 8.1 and 9.3, 6, 17, 22 of Jeremiah.
The Lord said to me,
“Tell them, ‘The Lord says, Don’t people get back up when they fall down? Don’t they turn around when they go the wrong way? Why, then, do these people of Jerusalem keep turning away from me in continual apostasy?
They hold fast to their mistaken beliefs. They refuse to turn back to me. I have listened to them very carefully, but they do not say what is right. None of them feels sorry for the evil he has done.
None of them asks, “What have I done wrong?”
All of them follow their own wayward course like a horse charging recklessly into battle. Even the stork knows when it is time to move on. And the turtledove, swallow, and crane follow the normal times for their migration.
But my people pay no heed to what I, the Lord, require of them.
How can you say, “We are wise! We have the law of the Lord”?
The truth is, those who teach it have used their writings to make it say what it does not really mean. Your wise men will be put to shame. They will be dumbfounded and be brought to judgment. Since they have rejected the word of the Lord, what wisdom do they really have?
So I will give their wives to other men and their fields to new owners.
That is because, from the least important to the most important of them, all of them are greedy for dishonest gain. Prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They offer only superficial help for the hurt my dear people have suffered.
Then I said, “There is no cure for my grief! I am sick at heart. I hear my dear people crying out throughout the length and breadth of the land.
They are crying,
‘The Lord is in Zion, isn’t he? Her divine King is still there, isn’t he?’
They cry, ‘Harvest time has come and gone, and the summer is over, and still we have not been delivered.’
My heart is crushed because my dear people are being crushed. I go about crying and grieving. I am overwhelmed with dismay. There is still healing lotion available in Gilead, isn’t there? There are still doctors there, aren’t there? Why then have my dear people not been restored to health?
We see an image not merely of separation, but of Divorce, not of Israel, but of Judah. Paul admits that the divorce did happen,
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
(Romans 11:15 NET)
We know that God has never let down on one of His promises, and further, we know that Judah was preserved in some form until Christ came, because of the prophecy given by Jacob concerning his sons.
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. (Genesis 49:10 NKJV)
The divorce of Judah did not occur until Christ, and more specifically, until Calvary. I saw this, because I draw from Paul this,
A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:39 NKJV)
Because of the death of the Husband, the wife (Israel-Judah) was freed from the marriage (Torah); because of the death of the Will-maker, there was a New Covenant put into place:
For where there is a last will, it is necessary for the death of the will-maker. For the last will is valid over dead people, since it never in force while the will-maker lives. Therefore, not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. (Hebrews 9:16-18 CTV-NT)
Because of this, we are now His people who were not His people,
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 NKJV)
God put away Israel in a divorce during the Assyrian Exile, and because Judah sought to follow her sister, God began to put her away as well, but because a simple divorce would not do, the Husband died annulling the marriage contract and creating a new one.