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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Hundred-Sixty-Second (Replacement)

Have you heard any of the "conspiracy theories" regarding the possibility of certain high profile individuals actually being clones, or even just being replaced by people in masks acting as the original person? It's usually associated with politicians, but there's even one about the singer, Avril Lavigne! With the way Hollywood plot lines seem to predict things that happen eventually, I wouldn't be surprised that with movies like "The Island" there are actually clones already among us. No, we're not actually going to talk about clones this week, but we are going to talk about the concept of replacement! There's a theology man developed that involves replacement, and hopefully by the end of this you've either learned what it is (if you don't know already) or gained a greater understanding of YHWH's plan as a whole by analyzing this theology.

The short story of replacement theology is that the current church, Yeshua's body, the ekklesia, actually replaced Israel in terms of being YHWH's covenanted people. It's also called supersession, and goes back as far as the early church fathers. A more detailed explanation is that the covenant of Yeshua (Hebrews 7:22) has replaced, or superseded, the covenant YHWH made with Moses and the Israelites given at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-24). Therefore, the church, with whom Yeshua's covenant is made, has replaced, or superseded, Israel, with whom the Mosaic covenant was made. In essence, the Mosaic covenant was fulfilled by Yeshua, and therefore there is no longer a covenant specific to Israel, just the covenant of Yeshua.

There are a few problems with this viewpoint, though. For one, it makes the focus of our relationship with YHWH a merely transactional one, rather than the intimate relationship pointed to in many verses. Yes, YHWH made many different covenants with man over the course of history: to never use a flood to destroy the earth (Genesis 9:11), to multiply exceedingly and father many nations (Genesis 17:2, 4), to bless all nations through offspring (Genesis 22:18), etc. However, the only reason YHWH entered into any of the covenants was out of love, not a "quid pro quo." We like to look at patterns and develop formulas for things in scripture whenever we can, to try to make sense of things, but many times through that process we lose sight of the reason behind it all: a deep relationship of true love...which is interesting because looking around the world, that's what everyone seems to be longing for. Only they're looking in the wrong place.

The other problem this has is that it conflates the purpose of the Mosaic covenant and the purpose of Yeshua's covenant. When you look at how the twelve tribes of Israel entered into that covenant, it was not about salvation in the most direct sense. The sacrificial system, which was merely a representation of what was to come with Yeshua's sacrifice, didn't actually cleanse anyone of sins. When the process is explained, it says it's a covering of sins (Leviticus 4:20 - the Hebrew word for atonement here means covering), and this fact is confirmed in the New Testament (Hebrews 10:1-4).

Obviously, Yeshua's covenant is all about salvation because it's a full and complete cleansing of sins, which is required to achieve righteousness and then leads to eternal life, so what was the purpose of the Mosaic covenant? If it doesn't cleanse sins, why did YHWH have the Israelites perform the sacrificial process? It was the process in which YHWH would forgive sins even if they weren't cleansed, as we saw in Leviticus, but more importantly, it pointed to Yeshua and what He would do to actually cleanse sins.

This leads to what we got from the Mosaic covenant when we look past the sin aspect and look at the big picture. To be clear, the Mosaic covenant includes not only the sacrificial system but all commandments given to Israel by YHWH through Moses. As you have likely surmised through your relatively short time on earth, as a whole, man's ability to remember things leaves much to be desired. There are people that spend their whole lives studying groups of people and their historical events, what happened to certain towns, and even just miniscule aspects of a certain historical event specifically. And even spending all that time on it, many times there's a lot of inferences and assumptions that have to be made due to lack of evidence. Even globally changing events like world wars have key details that are just assumptions. They make their way into history books and are presented and assumed as fact, but are really just inferences based on the records and data that they have.

With the fragility of the medium of historical documents, going back to parchment, clay and reed paper, and with a lack of such medium even further back in time, really the best way to maintain information is via the collective memory of a group of people. And when you're talking about living hundreds of years, many generations can receive events long in the past as told by the person who actually lived it. At the very basic level, YHWH setting apart the Israelites and entering into the Mosaic covenant with them not only preserved His expectations of His people via the commandments, it preserved the only method we have to confirm that Yeshua is His Son and His death was prophesied to be our salvation. If the Israelites hadn't preserved the writings of the Old Testament, Yeshua would have come and gone and His death would have just become one of the countless deaths that occurred at the hands of the Roman Empire.

While that is the most natural aspect of the significance of the Mosaic covenant, there is more than likely an extremely significant spiritual aspect of that covenant, other than YHWH's forgiveness, that is. There are too many scriptural references to bloodlines to ignore the possibility that there is a spiritual connection to our blood, and the preservation of the people of Israel in order to provide a bloodline to trace to Yeshua was also likely due to that spiritual connection. There's statements about the life being in the blood (Leviticus 17:11) and there were commandments the Israelites were given regarding joining with other peoples, called foreigners, in marriage (Ezra 9:1-5). So, I believe there's more to blood and/or our genetics spiritually than we fully realize or understand.

The last problem we'll touch on with replacement theology is related to commandments specifically. To state that Yeshua's covenant replaced, or superseded, the Mosaic covenant suggests that the totality of the Mosaic Law is no longer applicable. For the purposes of righteousness, that is ultimately correct. We no longer use the sacrificial system for that purpose, however as stated earlier, it never actually cleansed sins anyway. It just covered them, so the only way to truly be cleansed was always Yeshua. Just like Abraham, righteousness was about faith, and for the time of the Mosaic covenant, the faith to follow YHWH's commandments even if you had no idea why He gave them in the first place. Now, it's still about faith in YHWH, and His Son Yeshua, but we have the added benefit of being truly cleansed and made righteous through the blood of Yeshua (Romans 5:9 - the Greek word for justified here means to be declared righteous). All of Yeshua's commandments ultimately came from the Mosaic covenant, so nothing actually changed there. And Yeshua provided the context that following His commandments was supposed to be out of love (John 14:15), which is what YHWH wanted from the beginning.

So, while replacement theology, or supersession, is not a 100% bad or wrong thing, same as many theological viewpoints, there is added context from scripture when you look at it holistically, to see that there are some gaps, or maybe potential misunderstandings, that can occur with such a viewpoint. As with anything, when you distill it down like that, inevitably you lose context. Sometimes the best thing to do is to avoid this distillation process altogether. I hope this helped illuminate something for you, or at least motivated some questions you want to answer for yourself!

Shabbat shalom and YHWH bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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