A few years ago I happened upon this most excellent explanation of the significance of the structure of the love letter from Moses, posted by Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. It remains, to date, the best introduction that I have found to the book of Torah that Yeshua quoted most frequently, a “new covenant” for the last generation. Enjoy!
Held up to Scripture, neither brand of Replacement Theology fits the patterns and promises that God has given us in His Word. For example, the Scripture says, “For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). Where do the prophets foretell that God will forsake or replace His chosen people? Where can we find a covenant with the gentiles?
Three times Scripture declares that God’s covenant with Israel is for “a thousand generations.” This is crucial because Jesus, Moses, Paul, and the author of the Book of Hebrews all endorse the principle that a matter is established by “the mouth of two or three witnesses.” (see Deut. 17:6, 19:15, Mat. 18:16, 2 Cor. 13:1, 1 Tim. 5:19, Heb. 10:28).
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. (Deut. 7:9)
Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones! He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.” (Psalm 105:5-11)
O offspring of Israel his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones! He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. Remember his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan, as your portion for an inheritance.” (1 Chron. 16:13-18)
The books of the prophets are filled with references that at the end of days God will gather His people from the ends of the earth and return them to the Promised Land. This regathering will be from all twelve tribes, not just the Jewish people, one tribe. Replacement theology entered into Christian doctrine because, for most of history, “Israel” was understood to be the equivalent of “the Jews.”
But, ever since the Jews began their return to the homeland, God has been awakening people all over the earth to the fact that anyone who is in covenant with Him has been grafted in to redeemed Israel. This is exactly what Paul teaches in the book of Ephesians when he declares that though the “uncircumcised,” who are “saved by grace through faith,” were once “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise,” they are now “fellow saints and members of the household of God built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.”
What many have missed until now is that the name of the household of God is Israel. God calls Himself “the God of Israel”over 200 times. The redeemed remnant of Israel is the Body of Jesus/Yeshua, not to be confused with the modern state of Israel, although many there are certainly a part of redeemed Israel. Redeemed Israel includes all of the saints from Genesis to Revelation.
If God is our Father, and, if He is the Father of the Jews, then we are family, even if we don’t see eye to eye. Many Jews believe in Messiah and are panting for His appearance. The reason they don’t recognize our Jesus is mostly our fault, as we discussed in Torah portion Miketz 2015. Have they made mistakes, too? Yes! We have to stop pointing fingers. We have to repent, forgive, and reconcile. We have to forgive like Joseph did. We have to start acting like family as this world grows darker. We need each other! When Messiah comes, He will straighten out the errant thinking on both sides of the “narrow way.”
Note that Paul asserts that the “household of God” is built on the prophets, on Jesus, and on the apostles. With this statement, Paul presents three witnesses. Therefore, any interpretation of Paul’s writings that does not align with Jesus and the prophets needs to be reevaluated.
Starting with Moses, the prophets foretell that in the end of days God will give Israel a heart to obey Him.
“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. And the LORD your God will circumcise your heartand the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. And the LORD your God will put all these curses on your foes and enemies who persecuted you. And you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today. (Deut. 30:1-8)
A new heart for God’s people is what the New Covenant is all about, according to both Jeremiah and the writer of the Book of Hebrews.
“… I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel… “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’ For the LORD has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him…(see Jer. 31:1-10)
‘Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people’ (Jer. 31:31-33).
The writer of Hebrews quotes Jer. 31:31-33 almost verbatim: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Heb. 8:8-10).
The writer of Hebrews declares that the problem was with God’s people, not with His covenant. Quoting Jeremiah, he explains that God will correct the problem by giving His people new hearts. We know this part of the New Covenant is still yet to be fulfilled because both writers declare that when it happens we will have no need to teach our families and our brothers, for everyone will know Him. “And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” ( Jer. 31:34, Heb. 8:11-12)
What a glorious day that will be! We also know that this is a future fulfillment because God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as the stars of the sky and the sand of the sea. The Jewish people claim to be roughly 14 million in number today, approximately .2 percent of the world’s population. Does that sound like the sand of the sea? Where are the rest of Abraham’s seed? Please consider watching “The Lost Sheep” by 119 Ministries.
The prophet Ezekiel also bears witness that God will give His people a new heart. “But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations” (Ezekiel 36:21-28).
Actually, Ezekiel alone gives us three promises of a new spirit and a new heart. (11:19, 18:31, 36:26)
Jeremiah promises that when Israel receives her new heart, she will return to God with her whole heart.“I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jer. 24:6-7).
Even more exciting, when this happens, God promises to do something with His whole heart! “I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.“ (Jer. 32:41)
Isaiah paints Israel as barren widow, “briefly forsaken,” who will bear much fruit from the “Lord of Hosts,” her “husband” and “maker.” (read chapter 54). Hosea tells us that Israel will be betrothed to Him “forever” in “righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.” (see Hosea 2:19-20).
So, as you see, we find many witnesses in the prophets that God has not abandoned Israel or “chosen” someone else. Does Jesus Himself give any indication that God’s plan for Israel would cease or be replaced? To the contrary, He demonstrates that the Old Testament is His source of doctrinal authority when He says, “The Scripture cannot be broken,” (see John 10:35).
Further, He declared emphatically that He did not come to abolish God’s law. As far as Jesus is concerned, God’s law will exist so long as Heaven and Earth remain. “”Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 5:17-19).
In His oft quoted pleading with His Father prayer that His followers would be one as He and the Father are one, Jesus also prayed, “I have given them your word…sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth…for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth (see John 17:14-19). Here Jesus quotes Psalm 119:160“The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. Jesus viewed the Old Testament as true and eternal.
It was the Old Testament that Jesus used to reveal Himself to His disciples on the road to Emmaeus after His resurrection. “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures,” (Luke 24:27). The church has largely failed to convince the Jews that Jesus is their Messiah because the church does not present the Messiah that the Jewish Scripture portrays. For more about this, please see the Torah portion Miketz 2015 for shadows of the Messiah in the Joseph narrative.
Jesus rebuked the priestly aristocrats, the Sadducees, saying “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God,” (see Mat. 22:29). What about us? Do we understand the Scriptures? Do we even understand what the Bible identifies as “Scripture”?
Biblical scholars agree that Paul’s letters could not have been written until at least forty years after Jesus’ ascension and the gospels were not written until at least 70 C.E. The point is that at least one-quarter of the New Testament is direct quotations or references to the Old Testament. Thus, we have to understand that the purpose of the writers is to expound and explain what the writers longed to see, like, for instance, the mystery of the gentiles being grafted into the faith.
Whenever the New Testament uses the term “Scripture” and “Scriptures,” with the exception of one verse, it always references the Old Testament. Oddly enough, that single usage involves a warning from the Apostle Peter in regard to Paul’s letters. You can view that along with the entire list of other usages of “Scripture” and “Scriptures” here.
In conclusion, Replacement Theology stems from a lack of understanding that the covenants and promises given to Abraham, whose seed we are (Gal. 3:29), are eternal. Redeemed Israel is the “one new man” (Eph. 2:15), including both Jew and Gentile who enter into covenant with the God of Israel by repenting of their sins, forsaking the traditions of men that make the word of God of no effect, and walking in His ways.
I know what you are thinking. “But, what about Paul?” That subject is a bit too complex to include here; but, please consider an excellent video by 119 Ministries entitled “The Pauline Paradox Series-Part One”