Martin M. van Brauman
The Christian theologian Paul van Buren in his book A Theology of the Jewish-Christian Reality called “the Jewish-Christian reality” a mental territory that will not allow for being Christian without a relationship with Judaism. God’s election of Israel is the foundation for everything that Israel has to tell the world and for its continuing existence as His eternal witness.[i]
There is no precedent for a scattered people remaining a people, since for all of the other ancient tribes dispersion meant disappearance. If the Jews were to be an exception instead of being bound by a king, a temple, or geography, they needed to be bound by something else and something portable. For the Jews, they are held together by words – the Bible. Around the world in every synagogue, the congregation reads the same passages in the same Bible each week. Jews can go into any synagogue in the world and experience the same religious service.
Israel is that people to whom God gave His Torah from Mount Sinai and the Jewish collective for all eternity accepted God’s Torah at Sinai.[ii] All Israel in every generation stood before Sinai and Israel became a free people, not at the Red Sea, but at Sinai.[iii]
For you are a holy people to the Lord, your God; the Lord, your God, has chosen you to be for Him a treasured people above all the peoples that are on the face of the earth. Not because you are more numerous than all the peoples did the Lord desire you and choose you, for you are the fewest of all the peoples. Rather, because of the Lord’s love for you and because He observes the oath that He swore to your forefathers did He take you out with a strong hand and redeem you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. You must know that the Lord, your God – He is the God, the faithful God, Who safeguards the covenant and the kindness for those who love Him and for those who observe His commandments, for a thousand generations. Deuteronomy 7:6-9
Israel testifies of God by telling its own history as a people’s history with God.[iv] The Jewish people understand themselves linked to God and so are witnesses to the eternal covenant between themselves and God.[v] Every Shabbat observed, every kosher meal eaten, every mitzvah performed, every son circumcised, every act of solidarity among the people is another expression of that eternal witness.[vi] Israel and the Jewish people bear witness to the living God and so to a living covenant that promises redemption to the world.[vii]
There would be no Christian church were not the covenant between Israel and God alive and working in the world.[viii] If the Christian church is faithful to God and His covenant with His people, the proper mission of the Christian church to the Jewish people would be to help Israel to be what it is in the covenant by God’s election and to help it perform its witness to the world.[ix]
Judaism is based upon faith in God and the study of God’s Word with prayer. The basic Jewish function of prayer is not its practical consequences but the metaphysical formation of a fellowship consisting of God and man. Prayer is not a series of requests to God, but prayer is an engagement, even a confrontation, with God.[x] God initiated dialogue with man at Sinai. Through the Bible, God speaks to us and we speak to God through prayer and this dialogue is created by the linking of Bible study and prayer.
During the inauguration of the first Temple, King Solomon described future exiles of the Jewish people, but assured future generations that confessional prayer will replace the Temple for the atonement for all sin.
When they sin against You – for there is no man who never sins – and You become angry with them, and You deliver them to an enemy, and their captors take them captive to the enemy’s land, faraway or nearby, and they take it to heart in the land where they were taken captive and they repent and supplicate to You in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned; we have been iniquitous; we have been wicked,’ and they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul . . . and pray to You by way of their land that You gave to their forefathers, and [by way of] the city that You have chosen and [through] the Temple that I built for Your Name – may You hear their prayer and their supplication from Heaven, the foundation of Your abode, and carry out their judgment, and forgive Your people who sinned against You, and all their transgressions that they transgressed against You, and let them inspire mercy before their captors, so that they will treat them mercifully.
For they are Your people and Your heritage, whom You have taken out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace; may Your eyes thus be open to the supplication of Your servant and the supplication of Your people Israel, to listen to them whenever they call out to You. For You have separated them for Yourself as a heritage from all the peoples of the earth, as You spoke through Your servant Moses, when You took our forefathers out of Egypt, O my Lord, the Lord my God.1Kings 8:46-53.
The Jewish “chosenness” is not a privilege, but a mission to open for all people the invisible and sacred doors that illuminate redemption.[xi] The Bible is the Tree of Life only to those who accept it as the immutable Word of God.[xii] Under the Christian Gospels for the non-Jew, Jesus is the manifestation of the living Word of God, the tree of life made flesh. There is a thirst for the living God, for the soul seeks its moorings in God. The inner nature of the soul seeks
[i] Paul M. van Buren, A Theology of the Jewish-Christian Reality, Part 2, A Christian Theology of the People Israel, (1st ed. 1987), p. 116.
[ii] Ibid., p. 153.
[iii] Ibid., p. 156.
[iv] Ibid., p. 122.
[v] Ibid., p. 123.
[vii] Ibid., p. 295.
[viii] Ibid., p. 331.
[ix] Ibid., p. 333.
[x] Patterson, Overcoming Alienation: A Kabbalistic Reflection on the Five Levels of the Soul, (1st ed. 2008), p. 167.
[xi] Judea and Ruth Pearl, eds., I Am Jewish, Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl, (1st ed. 2004), pp. 183-184.
[xii] Ibid. p. 209.