Judaism was born out of a deep love relationship between the Holy One of Israel and His covenant people (Isaiah 49:7). God loved the fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and He loves their children, the Jewish people. One of my biggest heartbreaks comes when I hear people talk about Judaism as being a religion filled only with legalism. They portray all forms of Judaism as a grievous way of life, but nothing could be further from the truth. I feel such a kindred spirit with the Jewish people when I pray with them in synagogue and experience their love for the Word of God. They recognize Torah as God the Father teaching and training His children (2 Corinthians 6:18). In fact, the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus) are closely related to what we read in Deuteronomy. It is a beautiful picture of God’s love for His people.
“Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them. And He personally brought you from Egypt by His great power, driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in and to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is today. Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.” (Deuteronomy 4:37-39)[i]
Let us consider another Scripture in Deuteronomy 10:12-16.
“Now Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD’s commandments and His statures which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.”
I am glad this mentions circumcision, because it shows that even the commandment of circumcision is done in a response of love back to the Father and recognizes His deep love for the Jewish people. There is no way you can make love legalistic. A lawyer asked Yeshua, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36). And He responded that the whole law and the prophets were based on love—love the LORD your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. In doing so, Christ ratified the Hebrew Scriptures, the Jewish faith, and the Jewish way of walking with God. If you, as a Christian, are trapped in anti-Semitism and negativity toward Judaism, realize that our Lord taught the very foundations of Judaism. He said of Himself, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).
For me, the Jewish people are some of the most loving, excited, hungry, and God-seeking people I have ever met. When you walk through the streets of Jerusalem on the Sabbath, you see people praying as they walk; you hear singing coming from the synagogues or in people’s homes. The feeling of expectation for the Messiah to appear at any moment is palpable. There is a hunger and a desire for the presence of God to come into their homes and to fill their lives. What truly is Judaism? The answer Yeshua gave is that it is a relationship of love between God and His people. Join one of our trips to Israel and see for yourself.
[i] All Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible 1995 (NASB1995).