The March Levitt Letter (p. 14) introduces me as this ministry’s interim spokesperson. You might appreciate my article entitled, “Kindness: WWJD?” on page 6. You might also wonder, “Is Tony Jewish?” Well, no; not to my knowledge. Allow me to begin with the backstory to that response.
My wife Jane, our two children, and I moved to Dallas in order for me to pursue a Master of Divinity degree from Criswell College. The job market was soft back in 1989, but God graciously provided Jane and me the opportunity to work at Zola Levitt Ministries. Jane began a few months before I did, in response to a job board ad at Criswell. She is currently in her 28th year at ZLM. Jane and I had been working at the ministry for several months when Zola made a comment that set me pondering.
He and I were chatting in the office hallway and, in his way, he complimented Jane and me for our work with the ministry. Then he added: “I suspect that you may have Jewish blood somewhere in your family.” I thought, “Okay…,” but I wasn’t going to begin an ancestral search. Not that I was afraid of discovering Jewish blood. I was more concerned with finding that my great-great-great- Arkansas grandfather was a horse thief and bootlegger.
Zola’s offhanded comment started me thinking more seriously about the Biblical principle of being grafted-in. At that time, I was in the trenches at seminary learning Biblical Hebrew and Greek, so my thinking was more than curiosity. That grafted-in principle is what I want to discuss for the remainder of this letter.
So, with Bible in hand, let’s take a few moments together. We’ll start with Romans 11:16–20 (nkjv):
For if the first fruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.
There are numerous grand trees in the world: The giant sequoias and redwoods along America’s west coast come to mind. But there’s something very special about the olive tree. In Israel, the olive tree has always been very significant because of its many uses: food, light, and even healing properties. Not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New, olive oil carried profound importance. Yeshua’s disciple James told the people, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14). Olive trees will grow in good soil, rocky soil, on hillsides, and in valleys. Olives and olive oil remain staples in Israel today. Some of Israel’s olive trees are supported by 2,000-year-old root systems!
Paul’s words in Romans 11 use the allegory of the olive tree to describe the relationship between Israel and the New Testament Church—a relationship built on the foundational root of Yeshua/Jesus, the Messiah.
- The “natural branches” are the Jewish people of Israel, some of whom have broken off the relationship.
- The New Testament Church—represented by the wild branches (that’s me and most of you readers)—is grafted into the natural branches
Paul reminds us that both the natural and wild branches continue only by faith (Romans 11:20). There is only one main, deeply rooted Tree: the Jewish Messiah giving life to both Israel and His New Testament Church.
So, what about the New Testament Church? The earliest established congregation was Jewish. The leaders were Jewish. Their outreach was to fellow Jews. When Peter preached his fiery Pentecost sermon (recorded in Acts 2), it was Jews who were being saved and added to the Church. Of course, there were gentiles (non-Jews) in the mix, but they were a minority. The home base for Paul’s missionary journeys was Jerusalem. Paul even collected money for the needy in Jerusalem.
On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no [need for] collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. (1 Corinthians 16:2–3)
As Paul reached out to the gentile world, he stressed the importance of Israel and the Jewish people (Romans 11:20). Paul understood his mandate in ministry as “to the Jew first and also to the Greek [gentile]” (Romans 1:16).
Ever so gradually, the New Testament Church has moved away from its Jewish origin. Many believe that the Church has replaced Israel and is the recipient of the blessings and promises that God made to Israel. In his study booklet Broken Branches—Has the Church Replaced Israel?, Zola convincingly demonstrates that the Church has not replaced Israel. The New Testament Church will receive God’s blessings and promises when it recognizes its position of being grafted-in to the foundational, everlasting Root, the Jewish Messiah. If it doesn’t, the Church will be categorized as Paul notes in Romans 11:21, “For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.”
So what’s the answer to the initial question, “Are you Jewish?” As a nine-year-old boy, I accepted Jesus as my Savior. I didn’t know that He was Jewish or that His Hebrew name was Yeshua, but that didn’t matter. He saved me anyway. All these years later, I know He is Jewish and that it matters, and He saved me anyway. Paul was correct, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). Perhaps the answer is best offered with a question: Does it matter? I am a joint-heir with the Jewish Messiah, along with all Believers, Jews and gentiles. It has been my privilege for many years to represent Him wherever I can, even though I’m really not “Jewish.” I am a “wild branch” for whom Jesus/ Yeshua died, and that works for me. And I am confident it will work for you!
The most effective way I know to illustrate the Biblical truth about olive trees and being a grafted-in gentile, is for you to come with Jane and me to Israel to see the ancient and magnificent olive trees in Gethsemane (Gat Shemen in Hebrew, literally, the place of the “olive press”).
Visiting Israel sends a strong message of your support for the apple of God’s eye. I’m sure you will agree that a good friend will always support you, especially in difficult times. Israel needs your friendship, and I can think of no better way to develop that warm, lasting relationship than with a personal visit to Israel. Please contact our travel manager, Sandra, at 214-696-9760 or visit levitt.com/tours to join us on one of these Fall Tour options:
Fall Tour 2017
|Deluxe (Israel alone)||Oct 22–31|
|Grand Athens (Greece and Israel)||Oct 16–31|
|Grand Petra (Israel and Petra)||Oct 22–Nov 3|
|Ultra Grand (Greece, Israel, & Petra)||Oct 16–Nov 3|
Christians who visit the Land of Jesus come away with a renewed love for the Bible, the Lord, and Israel. Please join us!
Our weekly Zola Levitt Presents television programs continue in March with Joseph: Dreamer/ Redeemer. Please join us as we examine the life of Joseph from his childhood dreams to his position of second-in-command to Pharaoh in Egypt. Joseph is an example of faithfulness and obedience to God, even in the most difficult circumstances. Joseph’s life foreshadows the life of our Savior, as this series poignantly reveals.
Yeshua came from humble parents and also was faithful and obedient in difficult circumstances—criticized, misunderstood, betrayed, and crucified! And yet…one day He will triumphantly return as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
- Prisoner to Prime Minister
- After interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph’s status moves from prisoner to the #2 position in Egypt. Yeshua’s sacrifice ushered in global salvation and the Holy Spirit. Rabbi Jeremy Gimpel reports on Voice of Israel radio.
We break our Joseph series to explain and celebrate the festival of Purim.
- Filmed on location in Israel, Myles and Katharine Weiss present the story of Esther and the Jewish festival of Purim while providing insight for believers in Yeshua. The airing of this program will coincide with the week of the observance.
Returning to our series that follows the life of Joseph, we find the sons of Jacob reunited unknowingly in Egypt.
- Famine and Recognition
- Famine leads Joseph’s brothers to Egypt for grain. Unrecognized, Joseph tests their hearts to see if they have truly changed. Israel’s current situation will change when they eventually recognize their Messiah, Yeshua.
- Brother for Brother
- Joseph’s brothers leave Simeon in Egypt as hostage until Benjamin comes, while Joseph’s identity remains hidden to his brothers. The Messiah is currently hidden to most of His brothers, the Jewish people. Eitan Shishkoff, Our Man in Haifa, reminds us that gentiles can be instrumental in end-times revival.
- Longing and Revelation
- At home, Jacob longs for the return of his sons; in Egypt, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. Yeshua reveals Himself through the Scriptures, just as He did on the road to Emmaus. Eitan Shishkoff compares Joseph’s life to Israel’s history.
A simple thank you seems inadequate for your ongoing support of this ministry. So, I’ll say todah rabah (“thank you very much” in Hebrew). Without your faithful sustenance of ZLM, we could not continue broadcasting timely Bible teaching from Israel, offer our free Levitt Letter, or supplement your Spiritual walk with our teaching materials and witnessing tools.
When you go to the Lord in prayer today, please ask Him what He would have you do in support of this ministry. We can ask for no more than that! Thank you in advance for your prayers and financial provision.
And please remember to Sha’alu shalom Yerushalayim!—“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!” (Ps. 122:6)
Standing firm with Israel,
P.S. Have you been grafted in? Give God the glory and tell someone—Jew or gentile—about the Jewish Messiah. He is the only One who can redeem His people, and He wants everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). And no, you don’t have to be Jewish.