Exclusive of Inclusive
Given By: "Glenn D. Blank" On Saturday, July 28, 2012

 

\When people say, “Aren’t there many ways to God?” How do we respond? We may want to soft-pedal and be inclusive, inviting them to check out what the Bible says. Or we may decide we need to be firm and exclusive, insisting that Yeshua is the only way to eternal life. Which is it?

The God of Israel clearly makes exclusive claims: there is only One! Shema Yisrael … Adonai echad! So it should not be surprising the Messiah of Israel also makes exclusive claims. On the other hand, the God of Israel is the One who is full of grace, mercy, compassion and love. Also the Messiah’s message of the Good News is an invitation to all people: you each get to choose. So choose life! Choose eternal life! V’eemru (And let us say)?

When I was a young man and a young believer, going to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, the Lord led me to live in a Christian co-op called the Mansion. On top of the Mansion was a turret, with great views of the Lake Mendota, where we could hang out and talk about God. I went up there many times, yet I only remember one particularly intense conversation, with Ramona. She insisted that when Jesus said, in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He meant it. If person never confesses his sins and receives Jesus as Savior, that person is not saved, and doomed to hell forever.

That’s the gospel, she insisted. No pussyfooting about it! I must admit, I was a little uncomfortable with Ramona’s hard line. Did I mention that I was a new believer? Did I mention that I didn’t even want to live in the Mansion— with all those Fundamentalists? But God’s Spirit kept saying to me, “You should live in the Mansion,” until I finally figured out that it was God’s Spirit talking to me!

Before I had resolved to follow Yeshua, I had been a liberal, secular Jew, and a professional student. I figured that everybody should be left alone to live for himself, since I was living life for myself. Though I had two visionary experiences of Yeshua on the cross, I’d decided to check out any other way but Jesus. I checked out Transcendental Meditation; I checked out yoga; I checked out Zen; I checked out Transcendental Unitarianism; I checked out the Moonies and their Unification Church. I finally concluded that if God is infinite and invisible, then He is in principle unknowable to humans— unless He makes Himself known. So all those people building the tower of Babel to heaven were pretty stupid. Didn’t you all know that? You can’t build a tower to heaven—at least not God’s heaven.

God’s heaven is not “up there”—“up” is just a metaphor. God’s heaven is eternal, beyond space & time.
OK, so how are human beings ever going to build a tower to eternity?

On the other hand, if God wanted to make Himself known (and my visionary experiences—not to mention all the visionary experiences I read about in the Bible I had gotten for a literature class—suggested He did want to make Himself known), then God could extend a stairway down from heaven.

Indeed, that’s what He did, in the vision-dream of Jacob. Now Jacob is the father of all Jews, who try to connive their way to success and wind up wrestling with God and coming out with a limp & a blessing. If God wanted to make Himself known to humans, what better way than to show up as a human? That way He could talk to us & show us that He understands us & even has a way for us to know Him.

And that’s what He did, when he showed up at Abraham’s tent for lunch. Check it out, Genesis 17 says that YHVH appeared to Abraham, who bowed down to Him and called Him Lord and even offered Him a lamb and curds sandwich! The two angels who joined Him (the text doesn’t say they had a bite to eat) went off to evaluate the situation down in Sodom and Gomorrah, before the fire and brimstone came, but YHVH Himself stayed back for a friendly chat with Abraham, who interceded with God on behalf of those iniquitous towns, where his nephew Lot was living.

For that matter, it was God who wrestled with Jacob all night—Jacob even named the place P’ni-El [face of God], saying, “I’ve seen the God face to face, and survived!” Then HaShem gave all the prophets of Israel glimpses of the Messiah—the descendant of King David, the child born to us, the good shepherd, the suffering servant. V’eemru?

There, that was my little précis of Asher Intrater’s book, Who Had Lunch with Abraham? So I finally accepted that Yeshua is the Messiah sent by God, because He fulfilled so many prophecies of ancient Israel, not to mention my own visionary experiences. But now, what about that exclusive claim to be the only way? What would that mean for all the other Jews who hadn’t accepted Him, like my parents, grandparents, etc.? I squirmed for them.

Yet I finally came to accept that I wasn’t doing anyone any favors by squirming. They need to know! V’eemru? When Yeshua came, He was making an amazing offer. He offered His life in exchange for mine, and yours.He laid down His life, freely, in pay the penalty of my sins and your sins.He became our kapparah, our atonement, covering up our sins and cleansing us from our iniquities.

In Zechariah 3, the prophet sees the kohen gadol, high priest, and hasatan accusing Him. That’s what hasatan does, ever since he showed up in God’s court to accuse Job—accuse us. If hasatan could accuse the righteous Job or the kohen gadol of Israel, where does leave the rest of us?

In Zechariah 3:3, the prophet sees kohen gadol in filthy clothes—and he represents all of us. And in Zechariah 3:4, the angel of the Lord (another manifestation of the appearance of God) says, “Take off his filthy clothes,” and  “See I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.” That, my friends, is the Besorah, the Good News. V’eemru?

There’s only One who can do that for us—Adonai Tzidkaynu, the Lord our Righteousness! V’eemru?

So when Yeshua says, “I am the way,” well, what other way is there to be cleansed of our sins forever?
When Yeshua says, “I am the truth,” who else has fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53—“who was pierced for transgressions, crushed for our iniquities” or Daniel 9:26—“Messiah (the Anointed One) will be cut off and have nothing and then the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary”—just as Yeshua was cut off, but not before foretelling to Jerusalem, in Matthew 23:38, “Behold, your house is left to you desolate!”

And when Yeshua says, “I am the life,” who else is able to prepare a place for us in the Father’s house—our eternal home, “where neither moth nor rust destroy, nor thieves break in to steal.” It’s an amazing offer. And there’s only One who ever had the chutzpah to make it. V’eemru?

We all need to understand that Yeshua’s claim is firmly rooted in the exclusivity of the God of Israel.

Check out the Ten Commandments, starting in Exodus 20:2–3, “I the LORD am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage: You shall have no other gods besides Me.” He goes on to insist, Ex. 20:5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.” Talk about exclusive claims!

Check out the Shema: Adonai Echad! (He is the only One.) For ancient Israel, surrounded by pagan nations and their idols, the top two commandments and the Shema were not talking about the indivisibility of God—that was Maimonides, under the influence of Greek philosophy, esp. Aristotle, and Islam—but the exclusivity of God—you must have no others.

Again, biblical monotheism was not a theological claim about the internal nature of God—but an offer of an exclusive relationship with God. God is the ultimate monogamist—Abraham and Jacob, David and Solomon had many wives, but our God insisted he wanted just one—the people He chose for Himself as His bride, Israel!

The Ten Commandments were the original wedding ketubah (covenant in writing). The Shekinah cloud was the original wedding chuppah (canopy). (If you want to know why Jews and Christians came around to monogamous marriage, I think they finally figured if it was good enough for our God, it should be good enough for us!) The prophets castigated Israel for becoming an unfaithful, adulterous wife, whoring with other gods.

Didn’t HaShem say He was a jealous god? Read Jeremiah and Ezekiel to find out how jealous! So HaShem decided to start over, with a New Covenant.

Jeremiah 31:31–32, “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.

So who came and made a new covenant? By laying down his life, Messiah Yeshua made a New Covenant with his twelve Jewish disciples, who represented the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

The New Covenant is Messiah’s ketubah and the Ruach HaKodesh is His chuppah. So how do all our Gentile friends get into the wedding? As Romans 11, explains, they are grafted in, by putting their faith in Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel. V’eemru? Yet it’s not as if biblical or Messianic Judaism are the only ones making exclusive claims. Actually, all the major religions and ideologies make exclusive claims. Buddhists reject Hindu ideas about an eternal soul and its liberation, as well as the caste system. Sikhs reject the polytheism implicit in both Hinduism and Buddhism, which both reject Sikhs. Islam insists: “There is no god except Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet!”

These world religions even resort to force to impose their view—indeed, that’s how they’ve survived to become world religions—leading to the wars and rumors of wars that will last until the end of the age. Here’s where my secular Jewish mom would say, “See, that’s the problem with religion!” But it doesn’t stop with religions. Anti-religious Marxist-communism makes exclusive claims and tries to impose its ideology by force. Ditto Imperialism, Fascism, Nazism, eve democratic secular humanism.

What? Aren’t democratic secular humanists all truly peace-loving, gun-banning environmentalists? Check it out. Who has lately been waging wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya? I’m not saying that such wars aren’t justified, from our democratic point of view. Where would we be if boys hadn’t fought against the Nazis and Fascists and Japanese imperialists? I’m just saying that Americans fight when we have to because we believe in our own exclusive claims— there’s no room in our world for the Third Reich; nor are we willing to submit to Sharia law. Are we?

So then, what makes the Messianic movement different from all others? The original Messianic movement—launched by Messiah Yeshua and his talmidim—was both exclusive and inclusive—the kingdom of Messiah expands through free invitations to all, which may accept freely. As Yeshua said through one of his parables (in Matthew 22:9), “Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.”

The twelve talmidim became the twelve sh’lichim or apostles—both words mean, “sent ones.” The Spirit of Messiah sent them out from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to ends of the earth. They went out with an invitation, along with signs of the supernatural power of the kingdom of God. Unlike the other ideologies then or now, the message of the Besorah relies not on physical violence or manipulation but on the power of the Spirit manifested through supernatural power and love. V’eemru?

In Matthew 26:51-52, when the Temple guard seized Yeshua in Gethsemane, “one of those with Yeshua stretched out his hand and drew his sword, and he struck the kohen gadol’s servant and cut off his ear. But Yeshua said to him, “Put your sword back in its place! For all who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” In the world of the Roman Empire, that was quite a statement, wasn’t it? Yeshua wasn’t going to win his kingdom by the violent means of this world.

Time and again, after Yeshua did his marvelous signs, crowds wanted to declare him the Messiah-king. Why did Yeshua avoid them and even tell several people he healed to be quiet about it (to no avail)? It was because the popular conception of a Messiah overthrowing the evil empire by leading a violent insurgency didn’t match Yeshua’s conception of a Messiah removing the stench of sin in human hearts.

All around us, we see violent insurgencies, and we see where they produce—much death and misery! They produce what is already in human hearts. As Jer. 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Yes, Yeshua will establish his kingdom upon the earth. Soon, Lord, even in our days! Yet His kingdom comes not by imposing His will on us, but when His disciples pray from the heart, “Our Father in heaven, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, and keep extending free invitations to the kingdom to others.

Yes, in Matthew 11:12, Yeshua said, “From the days of John the Immerser until now, the kingdom of heaven is treated with violence, and the violent grasp hold of it.” But was Yeshua talking about the physical violence of the world, like the Romans? Or was He talking about a spiritual violence, overthrowing spiritual principalities and powers, through prevailing prayer and powerful testimony?

As 2 Corinthians 10:4 says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly but powerful through God for the tearing down of strongholds.” Yes, judgment falls on those whose hearts have hardened beyond repentance.

As the judgment of God fell as fire and brimstone upon the Sodom and Gomorrah and as plagues upon Pharaoh and Egypt, so the Revelation of Yeshua to John foretells that it will fall upon the whole earth. Yet whenever judgment falls, there is also intercession for those who hearts have not yet hardened. So Abraham interceded, and Lot and his daughters were spared—alas, his wife looked back! So Moses interceded, and the children of Israel and many others were delivered from bondage. So in Revelation the kedoshim intercede & bear witness—overcoming hasatan by the blood of the Lamb and the word oft their testimony”—and 144,000 from Israel and myriads from the nations assemble to worship the Lamb who was slain.

 

Yes, in the last days, there will be violence all around, as both nature and nations convulse in response to the coming of the King. In the midst of it all, our Messiah is interceding for His people and welcoming many into His kingdom. In the midst of it all, the kedoshim are also interceding and inviting others into His kingdom. The kingdom of God is available to all. You only need to accept the invitation, then extend it to others. So in Deuteronomy 30:19, God said to the children of Israel, “Now choose life, so that you may live!” To the very last day, God invites all people to choose life—the way, the truth, and the eternal life!

Yesterday morning, before rising to write this message, I had a dream. I dreamt about a former student of mine, named Keith. He was forlorn—come to think of it, Keith has a gift of looking forlorn—only now for good reason, because the supervisor of his research team had been removed from his position, and so had Keith, even though he had been with this major corporation for over 20 years! When the Lord led me to pray for an interpretation, He pointed out that in these days, many are upset, and many more will be forlorn and broken-hearted because of their losses. In these last days, we must be ready to comfort the broken-hearted with the Good News. V’eemru?

For as Yeshua read from the scroll of Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted, and sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.” Whom has He sent? Messiah—and his disciples. And to whom has He sent to us? To all who are afflicted or poor, all who are brokenhearted, all who are held captive. V’eemru?

The Good News is both exclusive and inclusive. There’s only one way to the place Messiah Yeshua has prepared for us in His Father’s house—yet all are welcome who are willing may walk In it. V’eemru?