On October 27, 2018, 11 Jews worshiping in The Tree of Life Synagogue were killed by a man bent on white supremacy and a hatred for Jews. Eight men and three women perished. Today begins the first of many funeral services. As I was thinking of this tragedy, my mind could not help but think that the souls in that synagogue were just a few of those all around the world that have so much but just don’t know it. The Apostle Paul asked the question, “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God,” (Romans 3:1-2, ESV). From the Law to the Prophets to the Writings, the Jews were given the very Word of God. To the Psalmist, this word was greater than gold (cf. Ps. 119:127).
I am not sure, that these eleven men and women, or the Jewish community at large understood or understand what a precious commodity they have in their Scriptures. Like many Christians, the Jews leave their oracles of God unread and untouched. The are content to hear the traditions of men rather than the Word of God. Because of this, many die daily without ever knowing their Messiah, the one whom the Law and Prophets and Writings were pointing toward. “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith,” (Galatians 3:24, ESV).
Those who were at the Tree of Life synagogue were there for a Torah study, Shabbat services (Sabbath worship including prayer and reading), and a bris (circumcision of a boy 8 days old). As we’ve seen, the Torah’s job was to be a guardian over us until the Messiah came. It points us to Jesus, He who is the Prophet Moses foretold would come, the Son of David. But the circumcision also was pointing us to Him. It was a shadow of the covenant of blood in Christ. “These (festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths) are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ,” (Colossians 2:17, ESV).
Sadly, of the 15 million+ Jews on planet Earth, only a small percentage knows of their Messiah and have received him. Those in that synagogue died Saturday and met their Maker having rejected the very Cornerstone of their faith. As the Apostle Peter said, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” (Acts 4:11-12, ESV). I say this not in anger or malice, but with a broken heart.–as Richard Baxter would say, “as a dying man to dying men.”
Like the rich man in Jesus’s parable, there are 11 persons suffering at this very moment desiring to tell their brothers and sisters at Tree of Life and everywhere to be reconciled to God. But the response is the same, “‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ . . .’If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'” (Luke 16:29, 31, ESV). Is that not heartbreaking? It was for the Apostle Paul,
I am speaking the truth in Christ–I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit–that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They were Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. to them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:1-5, ESV).
They had and have all they need, but they have turned from it. Let us pray that those who remain return, as is the promise of Romans 11:25-26. It is too late for these 11 men and women, but not for their kinsmen. May this tragedy stand as a reminder that those who were once part of the tree, but have been cut off, can be grafted back if and when they received their Messiah Jesus.
I was reminded this weekend at a conference, of Psalm 67:2, “that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations,” (ESV). It is because of God’s working through the Jewish nation and in Jewish people that the nations were brought to God through their Jewish Messiah. We owe so much to these people. May we seek to bring them to the salvation that they brought to us.