The Hebrew Roots Movement might very well stand as one of the greatest examples to date of how man can take something intended as a blessing from God and turn it into a destructive force.
The Bible offers many contrasts through which God is able to declare His will for His people. This dichotomy is one way that God can give cause for man to turn from his fleshly desires toward living a more righteous life that is pleasing to his Creator. One of the more obvious examples is found in Deuteronomy 30:19 which states: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” (NKJV) Polar opposites placed before us from which we are able to choose between a path that leads to God’s blessing, or a path that leads away from it.
Christianity as an entity has been quite dichotomous throughout its history. I remember during one of the very first sermons I attended before my adult baptism that the pastor seemed concerned about those Christians who “were saints on Sunday and lived liked hell the rest of the week.” But traits like hypocrisy are easy enough to spot and hypocrisy is certainly not confined to Christianity. Throughout the gospels we read Yeshua’s rebukes toward certain Pharisees who honored God with their lips but denied Him with their actions. Or even others who told the laypeople to do one thing while they themselves went and did another. As one who studies people and how they interact with their surroundings, I sadly conclude that hypocrisy is a trait that all of humanity, for one reason or another, is constantly in battle with. Consider Yeshua’s words in Matthew 7:5, “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” I don’t know of one saint who hasn’t, at some point, forgotten to remove a plank from their own eye before trying to correct another.
As children of God we face a daily struggle relating to our personal balance. There is always a choice before us, blessing and cursing, life and death, right and wrong OR… perhaps, a middle ground or third or fourth choice where opposing ideas might find reconciliation? Yet we often do not wait on God or give enough time to allow a thought to develop into something balanced that can answer a question or provide reason for certain actions or conclusions arrived at by ourselves or others. Because of this we often go on the defensive very quickly when confronted with something that is outside of our current understanding. The result is almost always division between, and the polarization of, those around us. The Pew Research Center recently released their findings on the number of Christian denominations and sects around the world. Their claim is that today over 40,000 denominations and sects of the “one body of Yeshua” exist. Even if that number is inflated, hypothetically I will say it is doubled, we would still have entirely too much division between a people who should be united at least in function.
Hebrew Roots: Just another Sect?
In the early 1970’s a Jewish movement began: it became known as the Messianic Movement. Generally speaking, the Messianic Movement was an evangelistic effort by Jewish Christians who were attempting to reach out to their Orthodox brethren. It essentially gave a Jewish feel to the modern Christian message of salvation. This movement had a side effect, in which non-Jewish Christians began to be drawn to these congregations. This happened very slowly over time and, unfortunately, the non-Jewish visitors were frequently not accepted as equals. In some cases, the non-Jews were not allowed to attend the after-service gathering and meal known as Oneg. In almost all cases, no non-Jewish person was allowed to teach or be part of the congregational leadership. Do understand, I am not trying to ascribe an evil intention to the Messianic Jews, I think they were just so keyed on their mission to evangelize the Orthodox that they overlooked an opportunity to expand this more Hebraic flare of the faith to all who believed that Yeshua was Messiah. One result of our Jewish brothers and sisters not seizing this opportunity for fellowship with other believers was the emergence of the Hebrew Roots Movement.
The Hebrew Roots Movement is predominately made up of mainstream Christians who have felt drawn by God to the more Hebraic nature of the faith. This is a paradigm shift, a perspective change, that causes those within this movement to find a little more depth in the Apostolic Writings (NT) than had been realized before. The shift in one’s paradigm coupled with the study of the Torah (Law), Prophets, and Writings (Tanach or OT), which Yeshua said testified of him, brings a fresh context to the NT that had been lacking before. Most who find this path marvel over how “Jewish” early Christianity really was, especially as contrasted with the modern form of the faith that most Christians experience in a traditional church setting. To many, modern Christianity seemingly appears as if a new religion as compared to the form the faith was practiced in the first century. The result has been great blessing for those who take part in practices they once saw as antiquated. Generally the Sabbath and other Feasts, like Passover or Tabernacles, are greatly anticipated by families who have gained greater understanding of Yeshua’s work, by taking part in those things which were designed to point to the many facets of his mission(s).
But there is a problem: man is involved. If we have done anything consistently as a people throughout time, it has been our unique ability to turn into a curse something that God gave as a blessing. In that regard, the Hebrew Roots Movement might very well stand as one of the greatest examples to date of how man can take something intended as a blessing from God and turn it into a destructive force.
The Great Awakening and The Great Deception
After the reign of Solomon, Israel divided into two kingdoms. Judah (made up of Judah and Benjamin) became known as the Southern Kingdom. The Northern Kingdom, which was by far the majority of the population, was comprised of Joseph and the other 9 tribes, and it continued to be known as Israel (or in some instances as Ephraim). Roughly 200 years or so later, in 722 BC, the Northern Kingdom (Israel) was attacked and taken into captivity by Assyria. Well over a million Israelites from the Northern Kingdom were taken from their land and placed into servitude in Assyria, and were ultimately scattered on out into the surrounding nations and regions. This event was first prophesied concisely in Deuteronomy 30:1-6 and was the result of the Northern Kingdom’s downward spiral into idolatry. When Israel was in Assyria, things did not change in that regard and Israel accepted foreign gods and assimilated into that culture. Unrepentant regarding their actions, God further punished them by scattering them from Assyria into the nations, He hid from them any sense of a national identity, and history views them as “The Lost Tribes of Israel.” These “lost sheep” have not returned to the land even to this day. Hosea wrote, “Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel Shall be gathered together, And appoint for themselves one head; And they shall come up out of the land, For great will be the day of Jezreel!” (Hosea 1:11 NKJV) The idea of “one head” is not a secular leader who won the popular vote in a democratically held election. Rather, this is dealing with the idea of a “King” reigning over a Kingdom of a reunited Israel. Since there has been no king over a united Israel since Solomon, we still wait for this day.
Israel, still in the nations and having lost its identity, was cut off from God. And yet a number of prophecies very plainly promised that one day the lost members of Israel would literally be called back home. We see that promise in the previously mentioned Deut. 30:1-6 reference, and also here in Hosea:
“Yet the number of the children of Israel Shall be as the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’” (Hosea 1:10, NKJV)
Yeshua’s call, in his own words, was to the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Matthew 15:24). Knowing that his sheep hear his voice (John 10:27), then it stands to reason that those who come to him in faith believing, have heard his voice and are part of the lost sheep he came to call. For 2000 years, by the Spirit, we have been turning away from idols, away from foreign gods, and to the God of Israel. So, as we draw near to what seems to be the end of the times of the nations (gentiles), when ultimately Israel will finally be called out of those nations. . . we should expect to see a great awakening. It also appears that we should be expecting a great deception to arise during this period of history as well.
So many have speculated as to what these two “movements” might look like. Oddly, The Hebrew Roots Movement appears to fit the description for both. Within this one movement we see an awakening to God’s instructions, the blessings of taking part in His feasts, a sense of kinship with Israel as a whole (people, land, etc.), and on the flip side a bitter movement that tends to polarize every one and every thing it comes in contact with. The Hebrew Roots Movement has become a dichotomy in that it has divided into two groups that are in such stark contrast in attitude that the only comparison for understanding what we are seeing might be in going back to God’s words and seeing Him lay out the idea of “life and death, blessing and cursing” so that we have some understanding of this contrast. It is “as if” the Hebrew Roots Movement has been broken into two teams. The captain of one is the Holy Spirit and it functions with patience, love and mercy. The captain of the other is the Adversary himself, and it functions with hatred, malice, division, and strife. Out of one lump comes blessing and cursing; not all that different from something we read about in Romans 9:21:
“Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” (NKJV)
The above verse is not speaking about the Hebrew Roots Movement, it is actually talking about the Northern Kingdom, Israel, and it speaks of how their idolatry was cause for dishonor while God’s mercy toward them, despite their idolatrous ways, was a cause for honor. But as a picture this verse provides the perfect view of the current state of the Hebrew Roots Movement. We have a people coming to an understanding of the Torah and its application in today’s world. They are also coming to an understanding they are at least a part of Israel, and they are being drawn to the Land and to the people of the Land. Many of these people understand that this slightly greater depth of understanding is an unmerited gift from God, and they treat it as such. For them this is a humbling experience; one that draws a person even closer to God and to His people. But there are also many who have come to the same understanding but who instead profane the gift (and the gift giver) by using that gift of understanding as something of a self-righteous litmus test by which they attempt to judge all others. If a mainstream Christian lacks understanding in a certain area, this type of Hebrew Roots individual might accuse the mainstream Christian of being in some sort of rebellion against God for not seeing what he does. Sadly, the mainstream Christian is often tabbed by these types of Hebrew Roots adherents as having an evil intent and is engaged in pagan worship. I am now convinced these types of the Hebrew Rooted have no idea what paganism even is! And worse yet, this strain of the Hebrew Roots Movement has those on this path using themselves as the yardstick by which to judge the world around them. This means that anyone who does not dress, think, or act like that person is often looked at in an adversarial way rather than as a brother or sister who might lack a little depth of understanding.
I have cried watching anti-Hebrew Roots videos done by mainstream pastors, but not because of the content (they rarely if ever reveal an understanding of why we do what we do), but rather because I know the video comes as a reaction to how poorly that pastor and/or his congregants have been treated by Hebrew Rooted people who do not reflect the fruits of the Spirit. There is no love in name-calling. There is no peace when we rob another of his peace. There is no joy when we see our mission as being one that requires us to correct the world and make sure all others adhere to our understanding of the bible. That is actually heresy in its true form, despite the modern definition of that word. I have been told more than once that “if he doesn’t accept what I have to say after I have said it three times, I reject them and move on!” That isn’t patience, that is usurping God’s position and forcing your own timetable over and above the timetable of God. It isn’t a work of kindness and there is no goodness in us when we eagerly look for minutia to divide over. Truly, out of one lump (one movement) has come an awakening filled with blessing and also with cursing. The Hebrew Roots movement has within it a great and deeper truth, but it also seems to have characteristics of a great deception. The dividing line is, or at least, should be. . . obvious, and “you will know them by their fruits.” If there is no willingness to extend mercy, if we find it filled with name-calling and condescension, if it attacks mainstream Christians, and if it lacks the fruits of the Spirit, like love, peace, and joy . . . then run!!! God is not in the midst of division; in fact, He made it exceedingly clear that He hates division!
Proverbs 6:16-19 These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: (17) A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, (18) A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, (19) A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.
A lack of understanding is not a sign that a person is not a brother or a sister, and knowledge and comprehension are not the litmus test. How feeble-minded are we that we assume everyone else needs to look, think, and act like we do, or we reject them? Yet, that is exactly how many people have been living. God has opened our eyes to certain Scriptural treasures we have not seen before, then we turn around and take that understanding we were given and use it to beat down those who have not YET been given the same blessing. What did we think, God would fold His arms like Barbara Eden or twinkle His nose like Elizabeth Montgomery and just magically put everyone on the same page at the same time? That isn’t how He works; this is an awakening that happens a person at a time, apparently over a great progression of time, rather than overnight. No genie, no witch, just a Holy God who is awakening a people to an understanding they lost over 2700 years ago.
Choose the blessing over the heresy
Despite my obvious frustration with the attitude of many, as well as my disdain for certain actions that have been taken toward others, I do have hope and am more optimistic than ever. We can ensure that this awakening remains the blessing God intended it to be if we do those things we were taught early on in our walk of faith. Namely, to study to show ourselves approved as workmen unto God. To take the time to prove all things by fairly and prayerfully considering all things. But mostly by remaining humble, and cognizant of the fact that we have opened zero hearts and zero minds by our own efforts. It is GOD who opens the heart, GOD who opens the mind . . . and these things are in His timing, not ours. Our job is to live our lives reflecting the God we claim to serve. And, when He can use that to draw a man unto Himself (John 6:44) then we will have the opportunity to teach because we will then have a willing student, rather than a victim of religious abuse.
When we go beyond the realm of teaching a willing student, and enter the arena of forcing and manipulating others, we have entered The Heresy Zone. Most do not realize that the Greek word for heresy (hairesis G139) is defined by Thayer and Liddel-Scott lexicons as: “the act of taking, capture: e.g. storming a city.” We have the concept of “choice” within the definition as one does not storm a city filled with people he agrees with. But the modern definition of disagreement is not in line with the Greek meaning of the word as used in the NT. The weight behind the word is “force,” and the Scriptural context would be found in the idea of one being willing to manipulate others into believing or practicing as he does. Earlier I said that the difference between the awakening and the deception was found in whether or not one operated with the fruits of the Spirit of God. That is true, but the lack of walking in a manner that reflects those character traits is manifested in heresy (force). When we see a person who is keyed in on causing another to look, think, or act like him, then that person is a heretic and spreading deception. He is also void of the fruits of the Spirit because his heresy robs the joy of others and causes division among brethren. Consider these words of Yeshua:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” (Matt. 23:15 NKJV)
I am sorry to say that repenting can no longer be only a personal concern. As Christians we should repent for how we have treated the Jews over the last 2000 years. We have forced baptisms, robbed them of their religious identity, raped and pillaged and even killed them in the name of Jesus. We have been heretics! Yet our corporate repenting must extend beyond that to cover how we have devolved to the point where we treat brothers and sisters in Yeshua, whom we perceive as not being as far along as we are in understanding, as if they are enemies of the faith. The slightly deeper understanding and a somewhat more Hebraic paradigm, which came as a gift – not as something we earned, is not a license to treat our more mainstream Christian brothers and sisters as if they are the Devil incarnate. While I understand that most of you reading this are NOT who I am describing here, if you have been on any form of social media I am certain you know what I am referring to.
We live in a world of choices. We can choose good or evil and we can also choose to edify or destroy. We can build up a person or tear them down. We can wait on the Lord or we can impose our timetable over and above His. The yardstick by which we are to judge is not whether or not another accepts our understanding of the truth. The true yardstick is whether or not we have before us one who exhibits the fruits of the Spirit. One can be in error and prove his Lord is the God of Israel because, despite the error, he walks in love, peace, joy, patience, long-suffering, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. On the other hand, one can have a little truth but if they lack love, are not at peace or disturb the peace of others, take no joy in the Lord or rob other brethren of theirs, have no patience with anyone (etc.), then we will know to whom they belong because they lack the fruits of the Spirit. Yeshua said regarding false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing that we will “know them by their fruit” (Matt. 7:15-16). Those “fruits” were never intended to be the notches we cut into our belts for leading somebody into a repeat-after-me“sinners prayer.” Instead, the fruit we are to be known by and exude before the world are the fruits of the very Spirit that dwells within us.
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? (1 Cor. 6:19 NKJV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Gal. 5:22-23 NKJV)
In a sense, those two verses combined become our line in the sand. The difference between the great End Time Awakening and the great End Time Deception will not be found in doctrine because until we are perfected, none will walk in perfect understanding. The difference will be found in how we act toward and treat others. Do we mirror the one we call “Lord” and reflect the character traits of God, or do we walk in a manner that stands opposed to those same character traits while drawing attention to ourselves? The Hebrew Roots Movement presents this dichotomy leaving us with an age old choice. Do we choose life or death, blessing or cursing? Do we submit to His authority or do we continue to walk in our own? We have the choice: we can choose wisely and with great care, or poorly treating the gift before us as Esau did his birthright. Most of you reading this have made the choice to submit to His authority and you do indeed extend mercy to those not where you currently are. If this is you, then you are part of the awakening, perhaps you are even something of a forerunner knowing that many, most even, have not yet come to this understanding. You should be ready and willing to receive the masses when they do begin to be drawn to these deeper things that God is now revealing as God, perhaps, has awakened you in advance for this very thing. But for those who have taken this precious gift and profaned it by turning it into a weapon used to get others to fall in line with themselves, these are the deceived. They are false prophets, false teachers, even religious imposters, who are spreading destructive heresies as described in 2 Peter 2:1.
I would be remiss if I did not remind us all that we are not fighting against flesh and blood. Those that I have described as being deceived are not the enemy, some might be but most are brothers and sisters who are simply deceived. They need to be lovingly reached out to and when they are able to receive it, corrected. I doubt any one of them intends to cause division, rather, I see their zeal as having blinded them to the more subtle nuances that pertain to God’s plans making these brothers and sisters perhaps a little more susceptible to adversarial influences? Whatever the true cause, we need to pray like we have never prayed before. If we are at a time in history that includes the “end of the times of the nations,” then we ought to be humbled by what we are witnessing. It becomes imperative that we conform to His will and character choosing life over death, blessing over cursing- the awakening over the deception.
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