Today I read an interesting study on the question as to which was more important to a believer: his biological family or the spiritual family which is the Messianic Community? The author unapologetically stated his belief that the spiritual family was the most important and gave several reasons as to why he believed this.
"May Elohim (God) Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may be a qahal (assembly, congregation, company, multitude) of peoples; and give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and your descendants with you, that you may inherit the land in which you are a stranger, which Elohim (God) gave to Abraham" (Gen.28:3-4, NKJV).
In my view, this is a false dichotomy that can lead to cultism and I will explain why I believe that to be so.
Firstly, we must understand what Yahweh's ideal is. The biological family was always intended to be the building block of all society, its fundamental unit, and therefore at the heart of Israel, both Messianic and pre-Messianic. The family is intended by Him to be first and foremost spiritual, organised in proper tavnith (pattern) with the proper toqef (authority) and ownership structures with the father/husband as its head and its maxtrix the pure Torah-obedient and undivided ahavah (love) of Yahweh...though Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) in the New Covenant.
Messianic Israel, or the Messianic Community, is a spiritual House consisting of these family units in which are no orphans with everyone belonging to a family and to the spiritual nation as a whole. Thus when the Moabite widow Ruth, who had formerly been married to an Israelite, accompanied her mother-in-law Naomi back to her homeland, one of the first things that the also widowed Naomi sought was a family for them to belong to. This was not a 'church' or 'synagogue' they sought or some esoteric brotherhood but a flesh-and-blood family in the set-apart Nation of Israel because this was the fundamental imperative of what being an Israelite meant.
You all know the story of Ruth and how she sought a kinsman-redeemer, what it means to be a Yeshurun-Israelite, and how Boaz was a type of the Messiah as well as being His forefather biologically-speaking. Indeed, Boaz is a symbol of this ideal echad unity of the spiritual and the temporal which was the incarnation of Elohim (God) as Saviour. And as one writer reminds us, this was "not a Hollywood marriage"  and nor was Boaz some 'eligible' bachelor as we are wont to view such things in the West, but in all likelihood an older man who was already married doing what was tov (good) and right before Yahweh, not something forbidden by Western taboos. Ruth entered what was known as a Levirate marriage and joined Boaz's household.
Another Israelite, Onan, was struck dead by Yahweh for refusing to fulfil his duty to his late brother under similar circumstances (Gen.38:8-10).
I mention this to underline the importance of emphasising the centrality of the biological family which is also a spiritual one and wish to also remind you that Yahweh never views us in dichotomous terms as 'physical' and 'spiritual'. And that is one reason I dislike the concept of 'church' ('kirk' in Scottish, 'Kirche' in German, 'kyrka' in Swedish), which is not a Scriptural concept, originating as it does from a Roman pagan god Circe from which we get our modern English word 'circus'. The Messianic Community in the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) was, is, and always will be a theocratic nation made of plural fellowships or local communities or assemblies known as kehilat.
The biological family in Messiania is therefore the alef and taw - the alpha and omega - the beginning and end of the Messianic Community or (wrongly-named) 'Church'. And the fact that this Community has degenerated into the church system is part of the great tragedy afflicting believers today because I am sure you will agree that it is a lot easier adopting someone spiritually without making physical committments. And I speak here principally or widows and orphaned children.
Anciently, as today, it was the responsibilty of the biological family to take in related widows and orphaned children as part of the extended family system that was the core of Israelite life, and such ought to be the core of modern Israelite life.
However, there are two problems today:
Let us deal with these two problem areas separately.
- 1. Messianic Israel is not currently a theocratic state - it has no country with political borders; and
- 2. Most believers are to be found in mixed families where some are believers and some are not.
Firstly, the fact that there is no nation-state of Messianic Israel does not mean that its basic unit - the family - doesn't exist. Of course it does. Even though we are stateless, spread around in the secular and pagan nations, the basic national unity called the Israelite patriarchal family is very much alive and well. Like David preparing in advance the building materials for the temple for his son Solomon, so Yahweh is preparing messianic patriarchal families ready for the final gathering which will be assembled in twelve end-time communities in the seven years prior to Messiah's return, which will then move to the Promised Land. They are the very heart of Messianic Israel. In the absense of a theocratic state, they must of necessity assemble, as commanded by Yahweh, to observe the moedim - and in particular Pesach, Shavu'ot and Sukkot on a volunary basis (as there is not theocratic Jerusalem currently). As with the first believers, they will be driven by the Ruach (Spirit) to meet together to fellowship and worship as often as possible on bthe festivals, sabbaths and new moons - and if there are no other believers within reachable distance, then they will simple congregate in their own homes. In other words, the home is the primary worship place, a miniature temple, 'church' or 'synagogue'. Home or family worship is the primary thing.
Obviously, so long as there is doctrinal division in the Messianic Community (as we must regrettably confess is true), then this coming together will, for now, resemble the 'church' and 'synagogue' systems, and families will join associations of the like-minded or remain separate until they can find others believing as they do. Though far from ideal, it is the best thing we can do while the Body is corrected and sifted. Though the tendency of these associations is to crystalise into denominations like the church system, this is something that has to be resisted to allow Yahweh the freedom to keep changing people until there is genuine unity of emunah (faith). Family heads must be at the forefront of this correcting and being corrected by Yahweh.
Secondly, most people are converts and not all families convert as a whole, so that there are mixtures of believers and unbelievers in marriages and families. In such a situation, the Messianic Israelite family ideal cannot obviously function (reminding us not to be unequally yoked to unbelievers by choice) and so the assemblies take on added meaning. Here spiritual prayer covering, for example, can be obtained, for example, for believing wives and children who are not getting this from their unbelieving husbands. The assembly or congregation of believers therefore becomes essential both for the survival and spiritual growth these believers coming from mixed homes so that they can fellowship with patriarchal families and participate, as it were, by proxy.
The 'church' system of assemblies is a necessary expedient in a very unequal world and exists, therefore, both for the fellowshipping of messianic families as well as for the spiritual 'orphans' who have no such families. This assembly therefore becomes a kind of 'supra-family' so that everyone can belong but it is still not the most important thing. When the assembly or 'church' becomes the paramount thing, then you open the doors to cultism. This is the attitude of Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists and others who have the exclusivist mentality that they alone are the 'one and only true church' outside of which there is no salvation. Before long, the 'church' starts taking over families and usurping the father's and husband's rôle as head even if they pay lip-service to family and headship, and the slide into cultism begins, a system not at all unlike secular statism that has fathered such monstrous beasts as communism, fascism and modern liberal totalitarianism.
I repeat - and I repeat it emphatically - until the Millennial Theocratic Order returns (which many of the cults falsely claim is 'them'), the family is the most important unit in both the wider society as a whole and in the Messianic Community or its associations or groups. Neither state nor congregation, assembly, synagogue nor church, can provide the kind of intimacy, nurturing and security that a family provides even though it may, should, and does provide all of these essential elements on certain levels too. We definitely need it but it must never, ever supplant the family unit. Indeed, I shall be providing some powerful proofs of this in a future study that touches on the familial nature of baptism, a concept that has been twisted because of the 'church' system and its unnatural claims of toqef (authority) and teachings about allegiance that not infrequently divide families.
In conclusion, we have to say, then, that the messianic assembly is important but that it is not the most important. Without the family it has no a priori existence anyway, since it is supposed to be run as a family of which the biological family is the rôle model.
Tomorrow I want to talk more about what a 'congregation' is so that we can see it not as something externally imposing itself on the godly family but as something deriving from the godly family and having no separate existence of its own which one might 'join' as one might a 'church'.