Jonathan Bernis - Why Standing with Israel Matters?
Jonathan Bernis: Shalom and welcome to Jewish Voice and thank you for joining me today. I'm Jonathan Bernis and today on the program my co-host Ezra Benjamin is back with me and we're gonna discussing a topic, Ezra, I think this is probably the single most important topic that we can talk about because it's really the mandate of Jewish Voice and that is why we need to stand with Israel and why Israel is important and who Israel is.
Ezra Benjamin: Absolutely.
Jonathan Bernis: I think there's a misconception with many Christians who love the Lord on who Israel is, number one. And two what it means to stand with or bless the Jewish people.
Ezra Benjamin: That's right.
Jonathan Bernis: So that's what we're all about.
Ezra Benjamin: It is and people maybe saying, "Well, great Jonathan and Ezra, you're leading a Jewish ministry to Jewish people primarily. What does that have to do with me as a Christian"? But Jonathan as we read the scriptures it's clear to you and me and we want it to be clear to you at home that if you miss what God is doing with Israel and the Jewish people you're gonna miss some fundamental things that he's up to in the world, where they're happening, with whom they're happening and how you as a Christian need to be involved.
Jonathan Bernis: And Ezra, just - a fact, I was saved 40 years ago and was led to faith by a non-Jewish, by a gentile, a new believer, new Christian who loved the Lord, who took me to a Bible study where the Bible study leader loved the Lord. And when I told he I was Jewish he hugged me the whole Bible study hugged me and I felt welcomed. I thought that Jesus and his followers hated Jewish people so I was afraid to reveal that I was Jewish, but I found receptivity and love and blessing and the fact is that the majority Jewish people who believe in Jesus were led to the Lord by a Christian. So the is important for you - in fact the scripture say that the church - that Christians have a debt of responsibility - Romans 11, to provoke the Jewish people to jealousy. Not just provoke and we have a 2.000 year history perhaps of provoking the Jewish people in the name of Christ, but provoking the Jewish people to jealousy. How you do that? By demonstrating a relationship with God. And that's what Christians did for me.
Ezra Benjamin: That's right. And Jonathan there's a real - a dangerous misconception out there that says, "Well, the Jews have their own way to salvation. The Jews have their own path to God". And I'm thinking 40 years ago imagine if that Bible study leader would have said when you said, "I'm Jewish. 'oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend". But for the providence of God you might not be sitting here today, but they understood God's up to something with his people.
Jonathan Bernis: Well, actually it may have delayed my salvation experience. Now I believe God was right on time, but I heard the Gospel, as a teenager in high school. I was part of a group called young life, I talk about this often in my testimony. And I was kind of the target of a number of my friends that would preach at me. Now, I love the stories about Jesus, I love this personality that this Christian God who could walk on water and heal the sick and raise the dead. I was drawn to the personality of Jesus and the idea that unlike my Jewish God that was the God of Israel that was distant, at least this is how I was taught growing up, was distant unreachable, somewhere out there who spoke to us and did things in our history like Abraham, through Abraham and Moses. With the Exodus, he was now off the scene and unreachable. So I was compelled and drawn by this Jesus who was personal and identifiable and relatable. But when anyone tried to target me and ask me about what I thought, making a commitment, praying with them my response was, automatically, "I'm Jewish". And I was always, that always worked for me. People apologized as if they, and what they were doing as if they were reinforcing my erroneous view that Jesus wasn't for me as a Jew. So that was problematic and I think part of the idea that Jews don't need Jesus, either Jews don't need Jesus cause they have their own plan of salvation or God's done with the Jewish people. In my case they all loved Jewish people, I think it was a teaching that is called dual covenant theology. Now must have never heard of the term, but the idea of dual covenant theology is simple that Jewish people have a different covenant with God. That mosaic covenant leads them apart from Jesus into a salvation relationship with God. Untrue. "There is no personal salvation in the mosaic covenant other than the one that will come after me 'said Moses' who is greater than i". And that of course is the one who brings the new covenant, it's Yeshua, it's Jesus. And so that dual covenant theology which I think is embraced by Christians that love the Jewish people is simply wrong and it's a love that leads to death.
Ezra Benjamin: Right.
Jonathan Bernis: Eternal death.
Ezra Benjamin: Exactly. You know, you're giving away the ending of this particular episode. But ultimately Jonathan, the best way that any of us Jew or gentile can be a blessing to a Jewish person is by sharing the good news of our Messiah.
Jonathan Bernis: And this is what separates Jewish Voice and many other great ministers from other organizations that are doing something to stand with Israel or provide aid for the Jewish people and that's that we proclaim the Gospel because we believe that the only way for life to be transformed, either Jew or gentile is through the one name given under heaven by which we must be saved. That what scripture says, we believe that. I believe it. I believe that Jesus, Yeshua, I refer to him as Yeshua which means salvation is the way, the truth, the life and no one comes to the father except through him. I believe that and that's really the foundation of Jewish Voice. We provide, Ezra, medical care, dental care, holocaust care for holocaust survivors in Israel. We're gonna talk about that. But we earn the platform ultimately to share our faith in Messiah and that's the transformational message of eternal life. And I've watched thousands of Jewish people literally respond to the Gospel with tears streaming down their eyes and it changed my life 40 years ago. I believe God is changing lives today, and the Gospel is to the Jew first.
Ezra Benjamin: And that's such an important phrase there. We miss it because it almost looks like a parenthesis in the scriptures to the Jews first, but you don't wanna miss it. And you may be saying, some may even be saying, Jonathan, "How dare you say the Gospel is to the Jew first." well, it's right in Romans 1:16.
Jonathan Bernis: Yeah. And we're gonna put it up on the screen because this is so important. And this is written by the apostle Paul who incidentally is the apostle to the gentiles. It's his calling even though he's the best trained rabbinic mind. He's the best trained apostle for Jewish ministry, goes to the gentiles, is called to the gentiles. And he's the one that reveals in Romans 1:16 - Paul writes, "I'm not ashamed of the good news ‘or the Gospel, some translations say the Gospel of Messiah or Christ for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. ‘I think you should underline that in your Bible everyone'. To the Jew first and also to the Greek, ‘or to the gentile'". So this is the statement that - and this is a universal truth. That the Gospel is the power. Not a power, not an alternative, not a choice among choices but the power of God unto salvation to eternal life for everyone, everyone who believes, but it's clearly to the Jew first. And that portion has been missed for almost 2.000 years. That Paul who is called to the gentiles is making it clear as a Jewish believer that the Gospel is to the Jew first. And it's not sequential. This is very important, this is not historical that the Gospel came first to the Jews and then went to the nations.
Ezra Benjamin: That's right, the Greek word there Jonathan, for first in Romans 1:16 is proton. And I looked it up because I said I have to know what does this mean. In Jewish ministry you have to know what Paul means when he says the Gospel is to the Jews first. Proton, like you said it's not a numeric order, it's not chronological it means necessarily first. It's a great word, proton. The Gospel is necessarily first to the Jews. And we see that, like you said, Paul's ministry was to the gentiles, to the Greeks, to the nation.
Jonathan Bernis: It's a biblical priority, Ezra.
Ezra Benjamin: Right. And every city he went to, what does it say? "He went the synagogue first."
Jonathan Bernis: Yeah. Paul followed that order and it's a biblical order, a precedent that's in effect today. The same truth that God gave to Abraham, "I will bless those that bless my people." which is an eternal truth. Is true of Romans 1:16, that the Gospel remains to the Jew first. That means in every nation where the Gospel is proclaimed the Gospel is to go to the Jews first. That's simply a priority that God establishes and I wanna tell you it works. First thing first the Jew first still in effect. And that's something that we teach Christians because the church benefits from that truth. Any truth in the word that Christians grab a hold of, that the church grabs a hold of produces blessing and fruit. And this is a truth that needs to be restored. The Gospel is to the Jews first and the Jewish people need their Messiah in the same way that any person needs the Savior. One in the same, Jesus Christ the Messiah of Israel, the Savior for the world.
Ezra Benjamin: Absolutely.
Jonathan Bernis: Ezra, we have to take a quick break. We wanna tell you about an incredible opportunity to support Jewish Voice outreaches. Your giving today will provide medical supplies, clean water, all kinds of material aid to the lost tribes of Israel and most importantly the Gospel. These are people that are struggling in very difficult conditions in places like, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe where we're currently working. Please consider what you can do today to provide medical care, clean water and the good news of Jesus, Yeshua, to these dear people. Don't go away Ezra and I will be right back.
Jonathan Bernis: Welcome back. Before we get into our discussion on the importance of Israel, I wanna take a moment to say thank you to all of you who support Jewish Voice. We could not do this work without you. So thank you again for your support, especially for those of you that are monthly shalom partners, your ongoing support of this ministry is deeply, deeply valued. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Okay Ezra, we've been discussing my favorite topic and the mandate of Jewish Voice is to proclaim the Gospel to the Jew first and we do that, and we do it in tangible ways and we go to remote areas. And I wanna help us to understand Israel. What is Israel? Because when people hear Israel, I think that's true of most of you watching, they think of this little, tiny sliver of land in the mid-east, the place where we all wanna go on tour, and I've been there 50 times, I still love touring Israel. There's a bigger definition for Israel isn't there?
Ezra Benjamin: There is. And I'm thinking three words, Jonathan. Kind of, for some of you this may be a refresher course, some of it may be brand new. I'm thinking as you said of what we call in Hebrew eretz Israel, the land of Israel. And then there is another fancy Hebrew word, medinah Israel, which is the modern state of Israel, the political entity. And then thirdly, and where we wanna spend the balance of our time together is am Israel, the people of Israel. And that's not just Israelis, the six or so million living in the land of Israel, that's Jewish people wherever they are on the face of the earth.
Jonathan Bernis: So this is a very important point. Israel in the Bible is not limited to a geographic area but a specific people. Talk about that.
Ezra Benjamin: Well we see, I think, 12 chapters into the beginning of the Bible, Jonathan, in Genesis 3 we hear about, you know, God wants to bless Abraham and he's not gonna do that through all of Abraham's descendants, he's gonna do it through his seed, through his zerah. And we know that ends up being Isaac and the specifically Jacob. And what's the beginnings of this house of Israel or am Israel, the people of Israel. So it's a very specific, you know, Abraham had Ishmael. And God loves the Arab people, God has a destiny for the Arab people. But the blessing, the blessing and the destiny that we're reading about through the rest of the scriptures relates to am Israel, the people of Israel.
Jonathan Bernis: Well, I wanna highlight something you said, God loves the Arab as much as the Jew. He loves the Palestinian as much as the Israeli. And we're very involved in active support of ministries to the Arab world, but the mandate of Jewish Voice is bringing the Gospel to the Jewish people. And this is so important. Am Israel, the people of Israel are not just in the land but in fact the majority of Israel. Am Israel, the people of Israel are outside the land. Why is that Ezra?
Ezra Benjamin: Yeah. Well, we see it in the scriptures, right? God says, "I'm bringing you into this Promise Land and if you obey me you'll remain here according to my faithfulness and you'll prosper, but if you disobey my commandment I'm gonna scatter you to the ends of the earth". Why? Because God is done with the Jewish people? No, he says, "There you'll remember that I am God and you'll remember my mercy and you'll turn and you'll repent. You'll turn from your wicked ways and I will stretch out my hand, Isaiah 11:11 is one of our favorite verses. It really informs so much of what we do. God says, "I'll stretch out my hand a second time". The first time was the regathering under Ezra and Nehemiah from Babylon. And the second time, Jonathan, we believe according to the scriptures that's right now. That God is actually stretching out his hand of mercy and redemption to re-gather the scattered, the outcast, the exiles of the Jewish people from literally the ends of the earth.
Jonathan Bernis: And we're seeing that happen. We are experiencing Jewish people in mass coming to faith. Now, this definition is so important, and I want you to be clear on this. Israel are the people of Israel. They're in a specific land, they're in a restored land that God restored in 1948, I'll have you talk about that in a minute. But I want you to get this larger definition in your mind that supporting Israel is about supporting or blessing the Jewish people most of whom are scattered to the ends of the earth, over six million here in America and then we're working with communities in Africa. Believe or not there are Jewish communities, lost tribes, we refer to them as lost tribes. You've heard about the lost ten tribes. Well, they are very real, there's tribes scattered to different parts of the world. And Ezra we are actually working with tribes in Ethiopia, in Zimbabwe, we're getting ready for a trip to Pakistan. Talk about the work in Africa a little bit.
Ezra Benjamin: Sure Jonathan. These are communities, you know when we say the lost tribes, they've never been lost to themselves. These community have always known who they are. They've known they're Jewish, it's past on as we in Hebrew, l'dor va'dor or from generation to generation. Grandparents teaching children who teach their children, "Don't forget we're Jewish". And what we find in the case of the Ethiopian Jewish communities is that it cost many of them their lives, because of prejudice, because of superstition against the Jewish communities, especially, unfortunately from Christian communities who just view the Jewish community as a curse rather than as blessing. And then in Zimbabwe these sons of Aaron living, not necessarily persecuted but just isolated on the tops of hills living in huts and what to us as Americans feels literally like the ends of the earth and yet there they are maintaining a Jewish identity, keeping dietary laws, marrying within the community, praying to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and saying, "We know that we come from Israel and one day we'll return". It's amazing.
Jonathan Bernis: And what's so unique: one - they've preserved their identity, so they know they're Jews. Two - the community around them knows they're Jews because they're persecuted. One of the ways we know that there is a Jewish community is they're persecuted, which is a spiritual issue. It has to be spiritual, there's no other explanation. They're persecuted. Three - they ultimately want to go back to the land, especially from Ethiopia and they're returning. They've been slowly going back Israel. And I think, how many now Ezra? 130.000?
Ezra Benjamin: Over 150.000 including now second generation Ethiopian- Israelis whose parents walked cross the deserts of Sudan or who were airlifted from Addis Ababa and now the children are serving in the Israeli defense.
Jonathan Bernis: But we have to reach them with the Gospel. And I want you to get this into your mind, Israel are the people. The children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the physical descendant of the patriarchs scattered throughout the world and we have an opportunity to bring them the Gospel. What an amazing opportunity, we're living in an incredible day in history.
Ezra Benjamin: What a privilege to be a part of a ministry, Jonathan, that's in the business of restoration. God is restoring the Jewish people from the ends of the earth. Not only to the land of Israel like in the case of the Ethiopians but also to himself. And we understand that true restoration, true reconciliation with God, the father comes through none other than Yeshua, Jesus.
Jonathan Bernis: Yeah. I'm a one trick pony in the sense that I keep coming back this one idea, because it really governs my life, that the Gospel is the most important blessing that we can give anyone. So I rejoice when we're able to provide medical care to someone that would otherwise die. Do you know, Ezra think about this people that don't have access to antibiotics, a simple infection that we would go to the doctor for - they'll die without antibiotics. So when we provide antibiotics or we save a child's life, there's great rejoicing. When we're able to perform eye surgery and restore sight. It's an amazing experience. But nothing tops seeing people respond to the Gospel and actually going through this transformation when the truth of the Messiah gets into their heart. There is nothing like it.
Ezra Benjamin: Right. There's so many organizations out there, great organizations, Jonathan, who do good, right? It's called humanitarian aid who are serving fellow humans, but there is nothing beyond that. But we're going this at Jewish Voice, showing people that we care, saving lives to earn a trust relationship and the right to share what's most important, the good news of Yeshua.
Jonathan Bernis: Not that those things unto themselves aren't important. I also think it's great that Christians stand up for the land of Israel. Advocacy - political advocacy is really important. Our government needs to hear that we stand with Israel that's really important. And the security of the people of Israel. It's important that it doesn't replace the need for the Gospel. And I think of Romans - two different places. Romans 9, the beginning of Romans 9 where Paul is introducing the topic of the Jewish people. And he says this - and I'll put it on the screen for you. It says, "I tell the truth in Messiah - I do not lie, my conscience assuring me in the Ruach Ha-Hodesh ‘the Holy Spirit' that I have a sorrow in my or anguish in my heart - that my sorrow is great and the anguish of my heart unending. For I would pray that I myself were cursed, banished from Messiah for the sake of my people - my own flesh and blood, who are Israelites." he's not talking about spiritual Israel, he's talking about his Jewish brethren that have yet to come into the experience that he has actually recently experienced which has now changed his life. It's a transformative experience with the Messiah that he wants his brethren to come into. And then he repeats it in Romans 10:1: "Brothers and sisters, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for Israel is ‘that they might be saved. Or' for their salvation." he's not saying this to the Jewish people he's saying this to his Christian audience.
Ezra Benjamin: Absolutely right.
Jonathan Bernis: Ezra, we need to take a short break so that we can share some information about the resource that we're making available this week. We have some great gifts for you and we hope that you will get involved with this ministry. Make sure to stay with us by the way, at the end of the program, Ezra and I will be back to come into agreement in prayer for you, for your family, for your needs. God answers prayers. So don't go away, we'll be right back.