Strengthening the Prodigal

Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. (Proverbs 9:8)

This week my family returned from Texas, where we attended FFOZ’s timely “To Whom Shall We Go?” conference in the Dallas area. I don’t have time to go into any details regarding the conference, but let’s just say that this conference should be mandatory for everyone in the Torah movement. It would keep the vast majority of “walkers” from “jumping ship” in regard to Messiah.

Prior to the conference, my personal assessment of those who have left Messiah to pursue mainline Judaism was that they were leaving out of either one of two reasons (or both). It was due to ignorance and/or arrogance. This conference confirmed my thoughts on this subject.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying these people were unintelligent. In fact a good number of these people are highly intelligent. However, there is a great difference in being informed, uninformed (being “ignorant” does not equate to being “dumb”), or misinformed on a subject. In regard to Messiah in relationship to greater Judaism, most people who come into the Torah movement go straight from being uninformed (in the church) to being misinformed (via their limited contact with Judaism, especially from the non-orthodox varieties). We totally bypass the informed stage, which will preserve our faith in our Righteous Mashiach, Yeshua HaNotzri, HaTzeddik.

FFOZ did a great job at presenting the facts surrounding the primary polemics of the genuinely troubling Messiah issues, squeezing in as much information as possible their limited time.

The one thing I’m reminded of is that we cannot change people’s minds. Only they and the ruach can do that. However, we can lovingly present the facts and allow them to decide what they would do with it. Arguing will never change the course of anyone, and most of the time it even strengthens it, as Scripture tells us:

וַאֲנִי אֲחַזֵּ אֶת לִבּוֹ,
v’ani achazek et livo
“And I will strengthen his heart” (Exodus 4:21, et al.).

Hashem says of Pharaoh, “I will strengthen his heart.” This is much different than the classical interpretation of Christendom, which claims that Hashem “hardened” Pharaoh’s heart. The Hebrew behind this phrase tells the whole story. The word for “strengthened” is a form of the same words we shout upon the conclusion of reading a book of the Torah, “Chazak! Chazak! V’neitchazeik!” “Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!” It’s not that Hashem turned the heart of Pharaoh from its natural path. He only strengthened Pharaoh’s choices, as the Gemara teaches us, “In the path that one chooses to take, he is led” (Makkos 10b).

It’s human nature to want to blame shift. Either “G-d made me do it,” or “the devil made me do it.” However, this is not what Scripture teaches us. Therefore, let us return our gaze upon our Righteous Messiah, as the author of Hebrews admonishes us:

“Let us fix our eyes on Yeshua, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of G-d. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
(Hebrews 12:2-3)

L-rd willing, I will continue on this subject in the near future.

May the merits of the Righteous King be for us our shield and salvation.
Chazak! Chazak! V’neitchazeik!

ps. I have very sketchy notes (with several holes) from the conference I hope to post soon for anyone interested (10+ pages typed). Please pray I am able to flesh these out a bit soon.

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5 thoughts on “Strengthening the Prodigal”

  1. Shalom,

    Did they discuss the deity of Yeshua, trinity doctrine, and virgin birth? What was your opinion of those things if they were discussed?

    Shabbat shalom,


  2. Andrew – They just barely mentioned that the virgin birth was an issue, but did not devote any time to it. They had already cut out several sessions to try and cram this into an eight hour event. I know you’ve had fallout in your community in this regard, so I don’t want to belittle the point. However, I would say that I feel that for the majority of those going AWAL, this is not an issue. I know it wasn’t for the family in our community.

    In regard to the deity and trinity issues, Daniel took that one on. He said flat out “Everyone should well know I’m not a trinitarian.” He did, however, discuss the concept of the “oneness” of Yeshua with the Father. He adamanlty stressed, however, that “oneness does not equate to sameness.” There was more, but this was what I came away with as the jest of his point.

  3. Shalom Darren,

    I didn’t have a fallout in my community over the virgin birth issue. Maybe something I said before gave you this impression. We have no community here. Maybe we have some friends who think I’m nuts for even questioning the idea, but no fallout has happened. I think the virgin birth thing is very important because of how Matthew and Luke speak of it and the verses quoted from Isaiah which are supposed to be prophecies of it. I think its interesting that nowhere in Judaism (that I’ve seen) in any time in history, do we have writings saying the Messiah would be born of a virgin. Then two quick stories about it in Matthew and Luke, and nothing after in the other writings in the NT. It is very strange to me.

    I would like a copy of the notes you took. When FFOZ releases the whole thing on DVD, we are planning on getting a copy. I am interested in hearing more of what Daniel L. said.

    I think its good that FFOZ is trying to deal with these questions.

  4. Shalom Andrew –

    I’m sorry, but I did confuse you with someone else. My apologies.

    In regard to the virgin birth issue, I believe it is a topic worthy of discussion and should not be taboo. I am of the opinion that this issue does not affect my faith. Whether Yeshua was literally born of a virgin or not does not affect his messiahship. For some, however, this is a great concern, especially for trinitarians and those with gnostic influenced theologies.

    The real issue to me is the reliability of the Apostolic texts themselves. If you don’t put them in their proper perspective and begin to wrestle with issues like this, a person’s faith can be completely shattered, as we have unfortunately seen time and again. Let’s remember where our faith lay – the foundation of Torah, supported by the Prophets & Writings, and witnessed to by the Apostolic writings. Our faith should not rise and fall on a single passage of text if we have a firm foundation on the bedrock of Torah and the overwhelming testimony of the apostolic community.

    I’ve been out of town a lot lately due to a couple of deaths on my wife’s side of the family. I hope to get back on filling in the blanks of my notes soon, L-rd willing.


    ps. The latest issue of Messiah Magazine (#96) has a lengthy article in which Tim Hegg addresses the virgin birth issue, specifically the Matthean and Lukean narratives. Although I think he makes some giant mental leaps (with which I disagree) I think the article is worth the read.

  5. Shalom Darren,

    I have read Hegg’s article on the virgin birth, if it is the same one that was posted on his site not that long ago. I don’t buy the whole adoption theory. I guess its possible, but I don’t see any evidence or reason to believe in it and it leaves too many questions for me.

    My faith does not rest on the virgin birth issue, one way or another. It could be true and maybe we just don’t have the right information or enough information…or it could be fabricated and borrowed from pagan religion. I don’t know. I do agree that this topic should be allowed to be discussed and that it should not be required to believe in something and teach something that is highly questionable.

    I am planning on buying the latest issue of Messiah magazine in .pdf form for the other articles in it, as well as buying the conference DVD’s on ‘To Whom’ when they come out.


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