Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage is available in paperback and on kindle and is being reprinted on Catholic News Agency with author’s permission. Cheryl’s non-fiction book is called Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with Her Past.Chapter Twenty-Five
Now that I am old and gray, do not forsake me, God, That I may proclaim your might to all generations yet to come. Psalm 71:18
The next four days of Beth’s vacation continued to be a myriad of experiences. It was now the middle of her second week in Israel and she had but a few precious days left before returning home. She spent time at Chaim’s funeral, more time with Meir, David, and Miriam, and attended church with Rachel. Rachel called herself a Messianic Jew and had given Beth a wealth of intriguing information. Although Rachel’s family was quite unhappy with the evolution of her faith, Rachel maintained her commitment to its doctrine: that Jesus was indeed the Messiah that Jewish people awaited.
Beth could see how this would be offensive to Rachel’s parents but also admitted that it was quite appealing in that it embraced the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. This had always been Beth’s passion and she felt that the Lord’s hand was in her meeting Rachel. She questioned Rachel endlessly and then asked to attended a service with Rachel over the weekend. Rachel gave Beth some literature to read after the service and Beth was astounded at the intricate use of Scripture in supporting the Messianic Jewish position. That was Sunday and Beth had spent the entire evening reading.
The literature stated that Messianic Jews believed that the bible included the Holy Scriptures as well as the New Testament, which they called B’rit Hadasha, and was the infallible and authoritative word of God. They believed in its divine inspiration and embraced it as the ultimate source of guidance in all matters of faith.
Rachel gave Beth a bible to use while she read through the literature and Beth looked up such verses as Deuteronomy 6:4-9 which said, Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.
Beth finished reading the verse and thought of the men at the wailing wall, wearing their tefillin, clearly following this command. Tefillin are the straps that the men wore around their arms and head that had words from the Torah written upon them.
Beth then looked at the doorpost of her bedroom door and knew that the mezuzah, a small ornate metal container with the Lord’s Commandments inside, was also adhering to this passage. Beth put the bible aside and picked up the brochure again. She saw many passages sited for the support of God’s Word as authoritative, infallible, and the only place to look for real guidance.
Beth had learned from David and Miriam that all Jews begin their day with the Shema. This was also taken from Deuteronomy and was a proclamation that said, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. As Beth read the brochure she saw that the Shema was also a foundation for the Messianic Jewish faith where they understood that this one true God existed in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The brochure referenced Romans 8:14-17 and Beth turned there in the bible.
After Beth finished reading Romans she turned her attention back to the brochure. Next it explained their belief in God as the Father, or Abba. Beth almost skipped over this as it seemed a given until it struck her that in using the term ‘Abba,’ it was safe to assume that there was a child and that child was Jesus! The revelation energized Beth and she looked up many of the verses sited: John 6:27b; I Corinthians 1:3; Gal. 1:1; Rev. 3:5, 21; Jeremiah. 3:4, 19; 31:9; Mal. 1:6; Matt. 6:9, 32; Luke 10:21-22; John 1:14; 4:23; 5:17-26; 6:28-46.
By that time it was late afternoon and Beth had no plans for the evening. She had assured Rachel and Sipporah that she enjoyed some of the quiet evenings at home. Beth went to the refrigerator and made herself another light dinner. The trip had been filled with so many blessings, not the least having been Beth’s drastically altered eating habits. She hadn’t had a bag of chips or a candy bar or a piece of cake since she had been in Israel.
Although her waist wasn’t returning to its pre-children size, she could finally feel a bit of room in her pants and as was always the case, that little bit of success urged her on and her appetite for sweets and salts was practically gone. Beth enjoyed her dinner on the balcony and felt a pang of regret that she would soon be leaving. She had made friends, seen sights, and had experiences that would stay with her forever. Would she ever come back? Only God knew.
Finishing her meal, she washed her dish and silverware and went to the end table to pick up the brochure. She was interested in reading how the Messianic Jews reconciled Jesus as the Son. He was called HaBen and there were countless verses to support this: Psalm 2; Proverbs. 30:4-6; Luke 12:35-37; John 1:29-34, 49; 3:14-18. Most intriguing to Beth was their acceptance of Mary as the virgin who bore Christ and the clear call to worship Him as God. There was no middle ground. He wasn’t an exalted prophet, He was Yeshua, Salvation. In black and white the brochure staked the claim that Christ was the Messiah of Israel, again indicating numerous verses to support this truth.
Beth then turned her attention to the information regarding God as the Holy Spirit, or what they called Ruach HaKodesh. Beth had participated in a study group years before where a lot of the work had been done in understanding ‘Ruach.’ Here it was used as the ‘Spirit of God’ but Beth also recalled learning how it was God’s breath, speaking the world into being, or something like that. Beth was frustrated with herself that she couldn’t clearly recall everything they had talked about during that study group.
Beth shook off her irritation and continued reading about man being created in God’s image and that he fell due to his own disobedience. This, then, led to all men being born with a sinful nature. Beth had to wholeheartedly agree as she thought of her own transgressions in her marriage and elsewhere. She heard David talking about sins and she realized that while she would have, up until that point, put her sins in a ‘lesser’ category, that wasn’t always the way that Adonai would view them.
Beth put the brochure down, took off her reading glasses and thought of her marriage. She decided to make herself a cup of tea and put on the tea kettle. Selecting a new flavor, raspberry, she put the tea bag in her cup and waited for the water to come to a boil. Soon the kettle was whistling and Beth watched as the hot water, pouring over the tea bag, turned to a reddish-purple color in her cup. Beth stirred absentmindedly for a few minutes and then, using the back of a spoon, she squeezed the bag against the side of the cup. Taking the dehydrated bag out of the water, she walked over to the waste basket to throw away the tea bag. Then, cup in hand, she headed back towards what had become her favorite chair.
As she continued reading the Messianic brochure, she found great comfort in the words of Ephesians 2:8-9, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. Messianic Jews also believed in the resurrection and judgment with the redeemed sharing in everlasting life and the lost forever separated from God.
On that note, Beth decided to put everything away for the night and go to bed. She slept soundly and when she awoke Monday morning, resumed her reading. By noon Beth had read more scripture verses than she had over the course of the previous year. From the promise of the second coming as revealed in 1 Thessalonians as well as in John and 1 Corinthians, to the spiritual redemption of Israel as revealed in Romans and Hebrews, Beth was transfixed. With every word she read, she was renewed.
When Beth read the full prophecy that the Messiah’s return shall indeed be in Zion she thought of Suleiman’s attempt to seal the gate in the Western Wall to prevent just that! Beth found herself frightened at the prospect of the second coming. How would she be judged? she wondered. Was her relationship with Christ real or was it wishful thinking that there was more to life than this fleeting earthly existence?
Beth finished the brochure by reading what was essentially their statement of faith replete with bible verses to support the statement.
We recognize that Jewish people (physical descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, whether through the mother's or the father's blood-line) who place their faith in Israel's Messiah, Yeshua, continue to be Jewish according to the Scriptures (Rom. 2:28-29). Gentiles who place their faith in Yeshua, are "grafted into" the Jewish olive tree of faith (Rom. 11:17-25) becoming spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham (Gal. 3:28-29).
We observe and celebrate the Jewish Holy Days given by God to Israel, with their fulfillment in and through the Messiah Yeshua. We believe that true "Biblical Judaism," the faith of first century believers, which we seek to practice, acknowledges the continuity of faith in the one true God, revealed throughout the Scriptures, and ultimately manifested in God's Son, Yeshua the Messiah. We believe that salvation has always been "by faith," and that works of law, or righteous acts, have never saved anyone (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 2-6; Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 11:6, 39).
We acknowledge that the New Covenant body of believers is composed of both Jews and Gentiles who have received Yeshua the Messiah as the Promised Redeemer. The "middle wall of partition" has been broken down and now we worship the God of Israel together (I Corinthians. 12:13; Eph. 2:13-14).
After finishing the brochure, Beth found herself in a contemplative mood and decided to take a stroll around the neighborhood. She pulled on a pair of jeans and grabbed her all-purpose sweater. It was late Monday afternoon and the next day she was to be spending with Miriam, Rachel, and Sipporah. Shivah was over and Miriam was looking forward to getting together with “the girls.” Beth had thoroughly enjoyed her day roaming around the apartment, reading, and relaxing.
Tomorrow and Wednesday would hold a few more sights, a few more conversations, and the week would finish on Thursday evening, when she would head back home. Rachel and Miriam would be driving Beth to the airport, Sipporah had a meeting with her professor for a few last minute edits on her thesis. The next few days would also be filled with ‘good-byes’ as she would not see Sipporah after tomorrow. David, too, was leaving for a sabbatical before he began his education as a rabbi.
Beth’s heart was already aching, torn between her new found friends and her love of the Holy Land and her need to get back to her own life in the states. She was a wife and a mother, a teacher and a friend. She strolled around the neighborhood, taking in every last detail in case she were never to make it back. She didn’t want to forget even the minutest of details from this magnificent trip.
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