A Modern-Day Paul

I never had any interest in ministry work, mainly because I was more interested in pursuing my own career goals as a Civil Engineer. However, the Lord had other plans for my life. If I have learned anything in my relatively short walk with the Lord, it is that His ways are not only different than ours but are most often opposite ours.[i] It is written, “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV).[ii] Yeshua said it like this, “He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38); “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

These words should stand as a shocking reality for those of us who take God’s word seriously, and this, I believe is what separates ordinary men and women from those who are called Yeshua’s disciples. Christianity is far more than merely believing in Christ. It is about having a personal relationship with Him, and this relationship will continuously be tested in our response to His word.[iii] Yeshua said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).

All of this proves that the Lord is looking for people that have been so perfected by His love that their lives have been entirely consumed by Him.[iv] God’s love makes His call on our lives something profoundly internal and inescapable. We could try to flee like the prophet Jonah, but we will never have peace in our souls until we rest in His perfected will for our lives.[v]

Despite my apprehension towards ministry work, the Lord began to open doors for me to serve in the church. At first, these invitations were small—attending a men’s fellowship and sharing my testimony, participating in a bible study, joining a prayer team at church, or helping with praise and worship. As I responded, these invitations grew and expanded rather quickly, and before I realized it, I was teaching entire congregations about profound spiritual and theological truths contained within scripture, such as the feasts of the Lord or how the Gentiles are grafted into Israel.[vi] My Jewish lineage, and my time spent growing up in Israel were catalysts that the Lord used to His advantage.

Contrary to my prior experience with the gentile church, I was discovering a new world of Christians who loved the Lord and His people, Israel, and they were hungry to know more about their spiritual heritage. Most of these holy men and women were seemingly invisible and mysteriously hidden from the larger assemblies of everyday Christians—a golden thread woven into a tapestry of varied colors, and yet this one thread could not be seen except by the most discerning eye.

As much as I longed to see my people saved, it was evident the Lord was calling me—like the Apostle Paul—to preach and minister to the Gentiles.[vii] Paul and I shared much in common. He and I were both students of rabbinic Judaism. We both held dual citizenship with Israel, and we were both bilingual, speaking both Hebrew and the international language of the day—Greek and English.

Interestingly, when I first started reading the bible, I did not immediately read any of Paul’s epistles. The Lord instead had me focus on the Four Gospels, the Book of Revelation and the Old Testament prophets, the books of Moses, and the history of Israel from Joshua through Nehemiah. Only after completing the Old Testament did the Lord eventually lead me through Paul’s letters to the Gentiles. On this wonderful journey, two things became apparent. First, the Lord wanted me to understand the Messiah from a Jewish and Hebraic perspective, and second, the Lord wanted to break away from me any religious strongholds that remained from my Jewish Orthodox upbringing.

Paul is probably the most hated figure in the New Testament by Jewish people, right after Yeshua. He is blamed for having not only established Christianity as a separate and antagonistic religion to Judaism, but that he intentionally created a doctrine that promulgated hatred and antisemitism towards the Jewish people by turning Christians against the Laws of Moses, including circumcision, and the oral traditions of Jewish law that are narrated in the Talmud.

In their minds, Paul was the worst of the worst—a self-hating Jew. So, when I began to read his epistles, naturally I approached them with trepidation. What I discovered, on the other hand, was quite the opposite. Paul loved his people, Israel, so much that he wished he could be separated from Christ for the sake of their salvation, as it is written, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3).

The Lord gave me a more profound understanding of this scripture. He showed me that Paul was not necessarily asking to be “accursed” by Christ, but was asking that he be “separated” the way that Christ was separated from the Father. Christ hung on a cross and was accursed (separated) of God, but through this act of obedience, Yeshua’s sinless body became our sacrifice for sin. Paul was, therefore, saying he wished he could be separated from Christ the way that Christ was separated from the Father so that his body could become a living sacrifice for Israel—a living example of what Christ did for the Jewish people on the cross.

Paul sternly warned the gentiles not to boast in any way against the Jewish people, or come up with another theology about God’s plans and purposes for Israel.[viii] These warnings should be enough to bring Godly fear upon any sensible person who would dare consider coming against the Jewish people. But Paul also loved the gentiles with equal burning passion and zeal, and he continually reaffirmed the gentiles of God’s immeasurable and unfailing love for them in Christ Yeshua.[ix] He wanted the church to remain focused on this love. I saw this love demonstrated first-hand in the lives and testimonies of the Gentile Christians I had met over the years, even during the years when I was living in Israel. However, I had not yet learned to love the gentiles as I knew God did, nor even as Paul did.

On April 6, 2008, the Lord gave me a dream where I was sitting with several other men in Yeshua’s royal chambers. The walls of the building were made of carved stone. We were high up in the heavens, and there was a window looking to the east. All I could see was blue sky and pure white clouds below. Yeshua was standing at a table unveiling different scrolls and teaching us about His kingdom. I stopped Him at one point and said that I had a question. My voice and demeanor were childlike. He turned to me with patient, loving eyes and began to answer what now became a series of questions. His full attention was devoted to me, and He never displayed any sense of impatience.

Yeshua moved us from His table to His royal bed. He sat upright propped against a pile of pillows. I was crouched down at the edge of the bed, my head resting on His upper chest, and my eyes gazing up at His face. There was such love in His voice. I had one final question, which is the only one I remember: “What about these gentiles?” I asked. He responded: “These are the righteous ones who travel the paths of the earth.” I sensed that they were both kings and priests, sent from place-to-place to bring people to the Lord along these righteous highways. He said, “They will pay homage to us, and they will serve us.” I knew that He was speaking of the nation of Israel. Yeshua then said, “But the sons of righteousness must learn to serve all.”

Yeshua was reaffirming His words from the Bible: “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave” (Matthew 20:26-27). I looked at Him and said that I wanted that kind of spirit. I knew that I had been called to serve the nations. He looked me in the eyes reaffirming my request and said: “There is just one small part that we still have to work on.” I knew that He was speaking of Himself and the Father. As He spoke these words, He reached His hand into my heart and tickled it with His loving presence. I awoke and felt His peace in my heart.

I was beginning to understand more of God’s heart for the whole world, which I knew included Israel but was not exclusive to her. There was a much larger picture the Lord was showing me of His prophetic plans for all of creation. On the one hand, I could see the Bible was clear about God’s love and purpose for Israel. But Paul wasn’t writing to Jewish people. He was writing to Gentiles, who now being grafted into Israel became partakers and sharers of the same blessings and covenant promises in Christ that were initially for Israel.[x]

Just like Paul, my heart was burning in agony for the salvation of the Jewish people. Oh, what a calling and destiny we had on our lives if only my family could realize this. Except for one distant cousin, my entire family has continued to reject Yeshua with a seemingly irrational animosity and hatred towards Him. Yes, church history is riddled with anti-Semitism, but my family’s adverse reaction to Yeshua was beyond rational thinking—it was spiritual.

As I continued studying the writings of Paul, he made one very profound statement when he said: “through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles… that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:11 & 25). Paul was restating what Moses had already told the Jewish people.[xi]

This scripture was the key to understanding my family’s rejection of Yeshua, but it was also the key to understanding why the Gentiles had taken center stage in the delivery of the gospel message over these past two-thousand years. Because of Israel’s idolatry and their eventual rejection of Yeshua, Israel has become blind to her Messiah and missed her calling to be a light to the nations.[xii] God has, therefore, turned His face towards the Gentiles and given them the gifts and callings that were originally for Israel, that the Gentiles would bring the peoples of the earth into the kingdom of God. However, this season is temporary until the fullness or full number of the Gentiles have come into the kingdom, “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:26).

I now understood why the Lord was expanding my ministry work with the Gentiles. As challenging as it has been, this is my calling—to be a modern-day Paul. And I have now come to understand that Israel’s destiny and salvation for this season have been entrusted to the Gentiles—to provoke Israel to jealousy. While the Jewish people by-in-large have rejected their Messiah, I also see that the Gentile church has primarily rejected the Jewish people. The two branches have been wedged apart, but my ministry calling is to bring these back together as “one new man” and “one people of God,” in Christ Yeshua.[xiii]

I know when the Jewish people return to their Messiah, that Israel will be resurrected from the dead.[xiv] This resurrection will not only bring life back to the church but will bring His life to the whole earth, ushering in the Kingdom of God. And it will be the gentiles who this time will rebuild Jerusalem and restore God’s heritage—Israel.[xv] Christ is returning to the Mount of Olives to establish His earthly kingdom in Jerusalem, in the midst of the Jewish people, and with those of every nation, tribe, people, and tongue whom the Lord has grafted into Israel.[xvi]

[i] Isaiah 55:8.
[ii] All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Bible (NKJV) unless otherwise noted, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.
[iii] Matthew 25:12, 1 Peter 1:7.
[iv] John 7:38.
[v] Jonah 1:10.
[vi] 1 Corinthians 5:8, Romans 11:17.
[vii] Acts 13:2.
[viii] Romans 11:20-21.
[ix] 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8.
[x] Romans 11:17, Ephesians 3:6.
[xi] Deuteronomy 32:21.
[xii] Isaiah 42:6.
[xiii] Ephesians 2:15.
[xiv] Ezekiel 37:1-14.
[xv] Isaiah 61:4-5.
[xvi] Zechariah 14:4, Revelation 7:9.