By Alan Shore
I am grateful to have been raised in a Jewish home where Jewish heritage was prized and Jewish values stressed; religious faith—not so much, although my parents made sure I went to Hebrew school and had my bar mitzvah. One thing I more or less took for granted is that Jewish people didn’t believe in Jesus. If you asked me why, the one thing I would have said was, “I guess we Jewish people don’t believe that a holy, invisible God, if He existed at all, could ever become a man.” That was for Christians, not for us. But I had other problems with religious faith. They were not particularly original, but they mattered to me. The main objection to God was the problem of suffering. How could a just and loving God stand by and watch the unspeakable catalog of horrors that human beings are either afflicted with or else inflict upon one another?
Where Was God?
God seemed to me to be indifferent to our plight, the senseless and terrifying physical and/or spiritual pain we must endure. And for Jewish men and women who saw the struggle for faith as a lost cause from the beginning, the biggest question of all was, “Where was God during the Holocaust?” The implied answer to this was, for so many of us, “nowhere.”
Or was it?
I had heard the case for unbelief loud and clear. But was there another side to the question? Although, like so many in my generation, I had fooled around with Eastern mysticism and had searched in all the wrong places for some kind of spark to kindle hope, none of it seemed to reach to that deep and inconsolable place of loneliness. Yet there came a time when
I began to sense I was a little too complacent in my glum atheism. It was time to ask a new set of questions.
The Suffering Servant
I went back to square one—the problem of human suffering. Did God care? If there was a God, and He did not care, then it made no sense to pursue the question any further. But if God did care, that changed everything. And if God cared, how could we tell?
To find out, I turned again to the root that had somehow nourished me all along—Jewish identity. Where, if not there, was the mixture of God, suffering and human destiny most deeply entwined? And it was there I found something so unexpected and unimaginable that all of my preconceived ideas of God and the universe were turned completely upside down.
As my thoughts were turning in this new direction, I discovered that one of the most startling claims that the Bible makes, a claim that originates in the Hebrew Scriptures and is repeated throughout, is that the Creator of the universe has willed a special, irrevocable, covenant relationship with human beings, starting with the Jewish people. Moreover, the Scriptures inform us that the God of the Jewish people also has compassion for us. He has determined to heal the deep, appalling wound that sin has inflicted upon His creation and the disfigurement it has wrought upon the humanity that was originally created in His own image and likeness.
But how? It was in the one way, it seems, I had been taught was impossible—by becoming one of us. I saw it, first reluctantly and later clearly, in the moving and unforgettable passage about the Suffering Servant in the prophet Isaiah 53:4-5.
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
Immanuel: God with Us
It was then that I made a life-changing connection—the claims concerning Jesus in the New Testament did not stand alone. They were firmly based on prophetic groundwork that had already been laid in the Hebrew Scriptures. The New Testament proclaims that God has taken the almost inconceivable step of coming among us: by entering our world—as a human being—to share our condition, shoulder our burdens, to suffer on our behalf and to suffer with us.
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet [Isa. 7:14], saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23).
Through this unimaginable act of love, we now dare to speak of God as though He were at our side, in our world, closer to our soul’s need than we can possibly be aware. To this day, as I reflect and marvel, I am drawn into what is perhaps the greatest mystery of all—what believers in Yeshua (Jesus) call the incarnation.
If the Lord’s presence was found by Moses in the burning bush or by Job from out of the whirlwind, why not in the form of a human being, as the Scriptures proclaim? Why not, indeed?
Alan Shore is a Jewish believer from New York City who has served with Chosen People Ministries for over fifteen years in a number of capacities including staff writer, ministry representative and as part of the Shalom Brooklyn Evangelism Team. He is also working on a doctorate in Modern Jewish History and Culture.
Jewish Ministry in the 21st Century
President's Prayer Letter, December 2014
Shalom! We are about to start our 121st year as a ministry to the Jewish people. I cannot tell you how excited I am about the future! May I quickly report on this past year and then share our plans for the future?
2014 was a momentous year for Your Mission to the Jewish People! I wish I had more space, and you more time, but let me briefly bring you up to date on our global Isaiah 53 Campaign.
The Isaiah 53 Campaigns
We have now conducted campaigns in New York City, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Israel, and in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The book, Isaiah 53 Explained, which I wrote and is the evangelistic centerpiece for the campaign, is now in eleven different languages including English, Hebrew, Russian, Spanish, French and Farsi. These account for the languages spoken by 98% of the world’s Jewish population.
More than 200,000 people have already visited the English Isaiah 53 Campaign website. Thousands have ordered the free book and included among this group are hundreds upon hundreds of Jewish people seeking the Lord. The Spanish website, designed to reach the almost half million Spanish-speaking Jewish people in the world, has grabbed the attention of Jewish people everywhere from Latin America to Israel!
We are currently preparing the Russian and French websites which, when completed, will allow us to reach an additional one and a half million Jewish people scattered throughout Russia, Ukraine, the United States, Israel and, of course, France (more than 600,000 Jewish people live in France!). Additionally, thousands of French Jews have left France because of antisemitism and are now living in Israel, but do not know Hebrew yet. We are reaching French Jews in Israel through the website as well.
The Hebrew language Isaiah 53 Campaign website has been extraordinarily effective. So far, almost 200,000 Jewish people have watched one of the Isaiah 53 video testimonies (in Hebrew of course) for an average of five minutes—which is absolutely amazing! We have also delivered 200 copies of Isaiah 53 Explained in Hebrew to Israelis and our staff is following up on these individuals.
And believe it or not– the Hebrew Isaiah 53 Campaign has just begun! We recently added additional Hebrew language video testimonies of Jewish believers in Israel who have come to know Jesus as their personal Savior.
Just last week, I heard of a Jewish man who watched the testimony, began an online dialogue with the brother who gave the testimony, and within a few weeks this individual received Jesus as his Messiah!
Online evangelism is especially effective in Jewish communities scattered throughout a city or state and not easily approached in one particular locale. In addition, it is a powerful tool as many Jewish people enjoy the privacy of searching for the Messiah without having family and friends looking over their shoulder.
We have also just completed an online Isaiah 53 Campaign among the 100,000 Jewish people living in the state of Texas! I cannot tell you how excited I am about the dozens of conversations we have had with Jewish people about Jesus as a result. We need your prayers as we personally follow up with those who give us the opportunity to meet with them individually.
Shalom 21 – Jewish Ministry for the 21st Century
We are about to enter our 121st year as a mission and the beginning of the 15th year of the 21st century! And, as every faithful believer in Jesus who has gone before us, we will start the New Year filled with the bright hope of His coming, understanding that this next year might be our last. This is why Jewish evangelism is so important, especially if you have the same understanding of the end times as I do. The salvation of Israel is key to the second coming of Messiah. Therefore, we have been called by God to bring the Gospel to the Jewish people for this special moment in time. As the Apostle wrote to the Roman believers,
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Rom. 11:15)
We believe this great turning of Jewish people to Jesus is coming soon and maybe in our lifetime! If He is slow to come, then we understand that the Lord is giving more time for Jews and Gentiles to hear the Gospel and be saved. Either way, the urgency of the hour is upon us and we must proclaim the Gospel as if there is no tomorrow!
So…what is the plan? In consultation with our Board and leadership team, we believe the Lord is directing us to advance our ministry among the Jewish people in the following ways.
Through Digital Media
As you can see from the success of our Isaiah 53 Campaigns, ministry through the media (especially on the web), is a great opportunity to reach Jewish people with the Gospel. In order to do this effectively, we need to continue building our digital media department, which includes videographers, editors and writers, web designers and graphic artists, as well as those on our team who are proficient in online communications.
In order to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and especially to reach our new generation of young Jewish people, we must get ready! We have already begun to develop our digital media team. Now we need your help to make this dream a reality. We will continue Isaiah 53 Campaigns throughout the United States and around the globe for the next five years. We are learning so much with every campaign and believe that the best is yet ahead as we initiate the Campaign in some of the great Jewish population centers in the United States and across the globe.
Our new media department will require at least $300,000 a year to be fully staffed at this stage of our development.
This will need to increase in the future, especially as we add websites that are more dynamic in nature and as we utilize the wonders of modern technology for the Gospel in reaching the Jewish community.
Through Our New Generation Initiative
The New Generation Initiative brings together all of our efforts to recruit, train, support and deploy a new generation of young missionaries to the Jewish people. We cannot do anything without people, as God works powerfully through individuals. So, it is important for us to develop this team of individuals who will “run point” in developing this new generation of missionaries among the Jewish people.
This team will focus on reaching Jewish college students and young adults, but also minister to young people attending Christian colleges, seminaries and secular universities who have a burden to reach Jewish people for the Messiah Jesus. We believe that by providing short-term ministry opportunities, mentoring, internships and training programs for young adults, we will be able to enlist a new generation of Jewish evangelists for the 21st century!
We already have the beginnings of our new generation team. But in order for this department to grow and for us to find the right people to build the future of Jewish evangelism, we must add a number of key staff members and scholarship funds for young people wanting to be trained for Jewish ministry.
The New Generation Initiative requires about $250,000 a year to be fully staffed at this stage of our development.
This training, of course, includes the Master of Divinity in Messianic Jewish Studies. This degree, as you may already know, is offered through a partnership between Chosen People Ministries and Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology. This program is going well and is now housed at the Feinberg Center in Brooklyn!
We hope to raise an army of young people that will advance the cause of reaching Jewish people for Jesus throughout the 21st century. But in order to build this army for the Lord, we need the Chosen People Ministries staff team to reach and recruit the right people.
Thank You for Sharing Our Vision for the Future of Jewish Evangelism
Your gift at the end of this calendar year will be used to build the future of Chosen People Ministries as we serve the Lord by proclaiming the Gospel to the Jewish people…just as we have been doing for 120 years!
We need your help to gain the spiritual muscle needed to reach a new generation of Jewish people for the Lord in more dynamic and creative ways. We are ready to do the work but cannot move forward without your prayers and generous support!
We need your help in becoming a Jewish Mission for the 21st century.
The budget for advancing Chosen People Ministries for now is simple and straightforward:
$300,000: for the Digital Media Department
$250,000: for the New Generation Initiative
Would you pray and help us get on our way with a generous gift at the end of this year or even with an annual pledge to help us build the future of Chosen People Ministries?
Thanks so much for making the last few years a season of great accomplishment and encouragement. Now, let’s turn our eyes together to the future as we know the hour of His return is soon.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!
Your brother in the Messiah,
P.S. For your gift of $200 or more we will send you the DVD set from The People, the Land and the Future of Israel conference held last year in New York.
Give Thanks to the Lord,
for He is good
Dear friend in the Messiah,
Shalom and happy Thanksgiving! This is one of my favorite holidays of the year. It is well known that the Pilgrims, who were in every sense of the word religious refugees from England, believed they were the chosen people. When they entered “the promised land,” they celebrated the Old Testament festival of thanksgiving—the Feast of Tabernacles. Although this aspect of the religious observance has changed over the centuries, we still know the celebration as Thanksgiving.
Giving thanks seems to be almost “natural” for humanity, and I cannot help but wonder if this is not part of our being created in the image of God.
The Thankful Psalmist
The Psalmist calls upon us repeatedly to show our gratitude to God. I am especially fond of Psalm 136, as this call to be thankful introduces and concludes the refrain in which the author reviews the history of the world and the Jewish people. The Psalm not only calls upon the children of Israel to give thanks to God for what He has done, but also indicates that what He has done flows from the beauty of His character and commitment to the children of Israel.
The first four verses of the Psalm seem to capture the heart of what the Psalmist is saying:
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the God of gods, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. To Him who alone does great wonders, for His lovingkindness is everlasting (Ps. 136:1-4).
Three Hebrew words bring us a world of meaning that don’t necessarily make it fully into English translation. “Give thanks” is Yadah. The term used for “goodness” is Tov. The Psalmist then uses a word for “lovingkindness,” Chesed. That is simply packed with significance.
The usual term for thanks is Todah. The Psalmist uses Yadah as it refers to the confession or declaration of “thanks.” The Psalmist is calling upon the children of Israel to rise up and publicly declare that God is good! Declaring the goodness of God is something the Psalmist encourages the Jewish people to do in public.
Through his use of the word Tov, the author of the Psalm invites the children of Israel to declare the “goodness” of God—specifically, the good character of God that causes Him to act on behalf of sinners and evildoers.
The next term, Chesed, is often translated as “covenant faithfulness.” This term is used throughout the Bible in reference to the relationship God has with the Jewish people. It is used in Exodus chapter 20 in reference to the giving of the Law. It is also used in Deuteronomy chapter 7, where Moses describes the way God has initiated His relationship with the Jewish people. As he writes,
Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers (Deut. 7:12).
So you see how the author of the Psalm weaves the words Yadah, Tov, and Chesed together to recount God’s covenantal relationship with the Jewish people. The Psalmist calls upon the Jewish people to declare their thankfulness to God because of His good character and His lovingkindness, which speak to His ongoing commitment to the Jewish people throughout our history.
This call to gratitude is a reminder that God chose the Jewish people for His holy purposes—and in spite of Israel’s disobedience, God will remain faithful to His covenant and promises. The Apostle Paul picks up on this faithfulness when he writes at the end of Romans chapter 11,
I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! (Rom. 11:11-12).
And further on in the chapter, which might be the very definition of Chesed, Paul writes,
Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Rom. 11:28-29).
This is why I view this Psalm as such an important lesson on how to be a thankful person! We are to be the type of people that gives public praise and thanksgiving to God. We praise Him for His unchanging good character and His never-ending love and commitment to His promises. We thank God for who He is and for what He has done for us. This is the unchanging basis of gratitude, from which all other thanksgiving flows.
Thanksgiving for God’s Work In and Through Chosen People Ministries
In thinking about this past year and all that the Lord has done within the global Chosen People Ministries family,
I cannot help but give Him thanks in public…for all to hear! I am grateful to God for the wonderful staff He has given us around the world. This includes our ministerial staff and a dedicated host of administrative workers without whom we could not carry out our ministry.
I am grateful to God for our board members—almost 100 individuals in the 16 countries where Chosen People Ministries does its work. I am grateful to God for the bravery of our staff in Israel and for the ways in which they have ministered throughout the war and continue to do so through our relief efforts. I am grateful to God for our Messianic centers in Jewish neighborhoods around the world: in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, London, Germany, Argentina, Canada, and Australia.
I am grateful to God for the thousands of Jewish people who heard about Jesus through the witness of our staff and our online campaigns, such as Isaiah 53 in Israel and Argentina. I believe we have broken new ground and I want to thank God for all He has done.
I am grateful to God for the Messianic congregations and congregational leaders who are part of the Chosen People Ministries team. We are in the process of either planting or leading forty Messianic congregations around the world. Not only are Jewish people worshiping the Lord in a comfortable setting, but they have a place to bring their seeking relatives and friends to hear the Good News of the Messiah in a Jewish way.
I am grateful to God for the families of our terrific staff around the world. They have endured sacrifice and hardship, and exemplified Chesed—
covenant faithfulness—as I see husbands and wives and children stand for the Lord by supporting and participating in the service of their loved ones.
I am grateful to God for faithful donors, prayer partners, and volunteers. Without you, we could not do this great work of reaching Jewish people for the Messiah Jesus.
Ultimately, I am grateful to God because He is good and He is faithful.
I know that He will keep His covenant promises, and that our ministry will continue to be blessed as we reach our Jewish people with the Good News of Jesus the Messiah.
Have a very happy Thanksgiving, and thank you so much for including Chosen People Ministries as part of your family.
Your brother in the Messiah,
Books At a Glance interviewed Dr. Darrell Bock regarding his book, which he edited with Chosen People Ministries’ President, Dr. Mitch Glaser, The Gospel According to Isaiah 53, Kregel Academic, 2012. Below is a transcript of the interview.
Few chapters in the Bible are more familiar to the Christian ear than Isaiah 53 (Is. 52:13-53:12), and certainly few are more beloved. And judging by the number of quotations and allusions to it we find in the New Testament, this has long been the case!
There have of course been other books dedicated to this passage of Scripture, but The Gospel According to Isaiah 53by Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser (eds.) does have its own contribution to make. If you’re intending to study this wonderful passage of Scripture in any depth, then this is a must read book. Darrel Bock is here to give us just a taste of what they offer.
Books At a Glance: First, tell us about this book and how it came about – how is it unique? What are your goals? How is the book structured?
Bock: We perceived a need for a detailed treatment of Isaiah 53, which is a significant text in sharing about God’s program to Jewish people who question the idea of a Messiah who suffers. It is a careful look at Isaiah 53 in its OT context as well as in Jewish interpretation and its use in the NT.
Books At a Glance: In broad terms, at least, describe for us the "Servant" of the Lord as he is presented in the book of Isaiah.
Bock: Well that depends on where you are in the Servant Songs. It is Israel as a nation in some texts such as Isaiah 49, but when we get to Isaiah 53, It has narrowed down to an individual who can deliver on what Israel has failed to be as Servant.
Books At a Glance: What indications are there in Isaiah that the Servant of the Lord is a personal and not only a corporate figure?
Bock: The idea of being a sacrifice and the first person language on behalf of his own points to an individual, not a corporate figure for Israel. The perspective looking at outside kings (note the “them”) is not the nations speaking, but a perspective from within Israel. This makes the “we” Israel speaking about he Servant. The rebellion of his own people caused him to suffer. All these point to an individual who goes through what he does on behalf of his people.
Books At a Glance: What considerations lead us to understand the “Servant” as Messianic?
Bock: The context of the book of Isaiah as a whole points to a Messianic figure for he both proclaims and brings deliverance according to Isaiah 61:1-2. The first part of Isaiah (chapters 1-39) also looks for a king as the key figure (see especially Isaiah 7-11).
Books At a Glance: In terms of the identity of the Servant, was there a common interpretation of Isaiah 53 among the Rabbis before the time of Christ, a general consensus? Did they understand it as Messianic?
Bock:Though some Jewish rabbis saw an individual, most interpret it either as Israel or as a remnant in Israel. They did not see the text as messianic. This explains why some were slow to understand the idea of a suffering Messiah.
Books At a Glance: Is there a common interpretation among the Rabbis and Jewish theologians today?
Bock: No. It runs very much like the older rabbinic options.
Books At a Glance: How might we best use Isaiah 53 in Jewish evangelism?
Bock: The simplest way is to hand a Jewish person the text or read it to them and ask who does this sound like. Many Jewish people do not know about this text as it is not read regularly in the synagogue. So this is a way into a conversation. If they do not know or have a suggestion you can still make the connections to Yeshua (the Jewish name for Jesus).
Books At a Glance: Isaiah 53 reads like a lament, a confession of those who rejected the Servant and now understand better. Who is the “we” that express this lament? And is there a specific time-frame in view?
Bock: This seems to be from a “prophetic” perspective of a group within Israel. The kings are “them” and it is what “we” did to him that is lamented. There is no specific time frame in view. It is simply clear he provides a way for deliverance. The description fits Jesus of Nazareth very nicely.
The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 is an great resource for evangelists, pastors, teachers, seminary professors, and para-church organizations and all those who want to learn more about the Suffering Servant. Listen to three of the scholars who contribute to the book talk about it.