My journey through the depths of the Hebrew Roots Movement
By Henru Pieters
Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a shophar, and declare unto my people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins. Isaiah 58:1 For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13
The Torah Path…
For almost six and a half years I was intensely involved in the Hebrew Roots Movement. For more than five years I gave Biblical Hebrew classes nationwide. For three years I was a Messianic minister serving in several ministries in varying capacities.
When I share my story, I will attempt to only express what I personally saw, heard and experienced in my own journey. I cannot speak for anyone other than myself, I am fully aware that we are all only human and each of us have our own perspectives and experiences that may differ. Nonetheless, I would like to share my personal testimony.
The journey that I am about to share is intended to uplift the Body of Christ, not in any way to point the finger and criticise. Rather than throwing stones at one another, this is one brother sharing his heart with other brothers and sisters.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
NEW REVELATIONS – NEW JOURNEY
My first encounter with the Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM) also known as the Messianic Movement, was in late 2008. This was during my volunteer work at a Full Gospel Church (FGC).
The people looked, acted and sounded different, but ultimately they had the very same Bible I had, and knew it better too. They had an answer from Scripture for everything they did and did not do. My volunteer work at the FGC ended due to a series of events where I had theological differences with the church.
After these events I was approached by a person who offered to teach me basic Biblical Hebrew in addition to a background overview of the Torah and the Tanakh (OT) with various other topics. In August of 2009, my journey of new revelations began. This inspired me to delve deeper in every direction for more knowledge.
The disillusionment and shock of how apostate the Sunday church became was one of the very first topics of study. Pagan feasts such as Christmas, Easter and Sunday were unmasked and critically analyzed.
This led to deep discussions about Church history and how systematic theology grew. I quickly became bitter towards the Sunday church I was raised in: “Why don’t they teach people the truth?” I thought.
Gradually over time, my heart hardened, it became so compelling that I did not even want to be called a “Christian” anymore.
THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE…
Study, study and study was all I did for months on end. I quickly fell in love with Biblical Hebrew. My pagan Church foundation was systematically torn down and was replaced with a Torah based Hebrew perspective, to allow me to correctly interpret Scripture.
March 2010 I went on my first trip to Israel, which was a wonderful experience. November 2010, I enrolled in a South African Hebrew Roots Institute to study further. June 2011, I started teaching classes on Biblical Hebrew, over the following five years I taught more than 20 classes nationwide.
October 2011, I was officially appointed as a Hebrew researcher for the institute where I studied and subsequently as of December 2013, I resigned from the institute due to various irregularities.
November 2011, Brad Scott from Wildbranch Ministries officiated my Messianic wedding in Johannesburg. October 2012, I went to Israel for a second time. January 2013, I received my Honors degree in Messianic Judaism.
October 2013, I was appointed as a minister in a Messianic congregation in the Vaal Triangle. In November of the same year I completed a third Biblical Hebrew course at the University of Johannesburg.
THE MESSIANIC FOCUS
The Torah path took on a whole new dimension by the time I started with the Messianic ministry. The ministry had a great vision and wanted to do groundbreaking things for the messianic community. “We need to teach people how to observe the Torah” was often said.
We taught the people how to keep Shabbat, eat kosher and celebrate the feasts as well as how the Festivals point to Yeshua. It was incumbent upon us to teach the people Torah because,
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. Hosea 4:6
IDENTITY – ISRAEL (HOUSE OF EFRAIM)
With my first steps on the Torah path, I became aware of the conflict over identity. I was taught that I’m not a gentile but that I was part of the “House of Ephraim” otherwise known as the “Ten Tribes”. I was only to discover years later the true fruits that this teaching would produce in my life.
The church traditionally believed that it had replaced Israel, also known as “Replacement Theology”. The “Two House” teaching in the HRM is in actual fact, “Replacement Theology” in reverse. It teaches the following:
Everyone that believes in Yeshua is grafted into Israel and does not remain a gentile in the flesh, therefore the Body of Messiah, according to this teaching, is Israel. In Ephesians 2:11-22 and Romans 11 Paul explains the unity in the Messiah of both Jews and non-Jews.
But even these Scriptures are twisted to support the “Two House” teaching.
THE ONE HOUSE BECAME TWO HOUSES
“If we say that we are Israel, but we show no inclination nor desire to return to the promised land, then we are simply misleading ourselves”,is what I often told the congregation.
In Augustus of 2014, some of the community’s leadership went to Israel to enquire how we could return as the House of Ephraim to the Promised Land. Our findings led us to one possible option to return to our “homeland”. This was in cooperation with Kol hator.
They were going to help us through the process of Orthodox conversion. According to them, conversion to Orthodox Judaism was the best way for us; not only to return, but to bring the Two Houses of Israel back together again. Their advice was to openly reject the Christian Jesus before the Rabbi’s, because one actually believes in the Jewish Yeshua”.
Back in South Africa our suggested plan of action was not well received by the other leadership in the community. There was a split in the congregation in October 2014. The majority of the congregation did not want to go along with the conversion. With myself and another leader in the congregation there was a small group of people that were ready to attempt this pioneer move.
It was said: “The Two Houses must be reunited before the return of Yeshua, surely just a remnant could complete the task at hand”.
We have come from a normal Christian background, loving the land of Israel and the Jewish people. To becoming totally convinced that we are the People of Israel, not just symbolically, but physically.
It is a divine command for us to return, no matter the cost. We were ready, not just to contemplate Orthodox conversion, but to put our Redeemer in the closet for the sake of fulfilling the END TIME PROPHETIC WORD.
Kol hator’s diagram on the evolution of the Hebrew Roots Movement.
Rabbi Avraham Feld and Ovadyah Avrahami, founders of Kol hator.
LITTLE ISRAEL KIBBUTZ
At the end of 2012 the idea originated to form a Kibbutz (Farming community). I supported this idea in my own capacity when I joined the community. In April of 2014 the Kibbutz was birthed on a plot in Meyerton. Initially the vision was to build a Messianic missionary community for young people.
This vision quickly evolved into a Conversion Centre, where we were to prepare for an Orthodox lifestyle in Israel. This was to happen under the guidance of Kol hator’s Rabbi Avraham Feld and Ovadyah Avrahami. The vision was to convert to Orthodox Judaism as a community, without denying Yeshua in the process. A difficult task at hand, but we were reassured it could be done successfully.
Unfortunately in the following months the community experienced divisions within and ultimately separations into different groups, mainly due to this teaching. After six months, at the end of May we closed the Kibbutz in Meyerton. The experiment being a total failure.
As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
ONCE MORE AROUND THE MOUNTAIN…
At the time we closed the Kibbutz, it was proposed that we start a new ministry, again with the “Two House” teaching as foundational. We rented a church building up the street from our previous congregation, “We are going to restore the Acts synagogue”, or so we thought. No praise and worship, but rather the Amida prayer as was prayed in synagogues from ancient times.
We taught the weekly Torah portion, with a “Midrash” session afterwards (study on the specific portion).
As one of the leaders in our community my heart’s desire was to see the restoration of the Church of the Book of Acts. To experience the signs and wonders, the power of the Spirit and to understand the first century Jewish followers of the Messiah.
But all was to no avail, I saw no progress. On the contrary we had more knowledge, but by no means the power or fruits as proof. Yes, we had more knowledge of the Torah, we knew more Scriptures than our Christian brethren and we observed the Torah more closely than they, but still somewhere we had missed something very important.
Several questions came to mind – Maybe there was more of the Torah that we needed to understand? Maybe we needed more Hebrew knowledge? The fruits and demonstrations of power did not increase in conjunction with our knowledge and observances.
We did not see people being added daily to the congregation of those being saved.
Finally the Lord allowed my wife and myself to see through a series of Godly occurrences, that He had a new season planned for us. Early in January 2016 I resigned from the Messianic Ministry where we were involved.
Our Heavenly Father has called us back to His Heart and so we began to return on a journey of intimacy with our First Love.
Hebrew is a wonderful language, it is very profitable to use and understand in the study of the Scriptures. To understand the Old and New Testament as one continuous story helps believers to see and understand the greater picture of God’s plan of redemption.
How Israel and the church together complete God’s plan becomes more clear when the Jewish as well as the Hebrew origins of the New Testament are taken into consideration. The restoration of the Biblical Feasts back to the Body of Messiah is beautiful, but obedience without intimacy is a grave danger.
Paul warns; “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”, 1 Corinthians 8:1. Unfortunately spiritual pride is one of the most prominent trademarks of the HRM. Paul is denounced as a false prophet in many groups, just because his interpretation of the Torah is not understood or accepted by these groups. Paul has said,
“desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”
1 Timothy 1:7
When the focus is changed to knowledge, pride will follow, pride causes arguments and arguments cause strife and ultimately strife leads to the separation of the Body of Messiah. A house divided against itself will not stand.
I have firsthand experienced how friends of mine who came out of the Sunday Church, looking for something more and came to the HRM with a passion for Jesus and the Bible, rejected Yeshua as Messiah. A few years later, upon a visit, totally unaware of what they have been doing up until this point, we found ourselves in a lion’s den.
They discovered through their studies that Paul was a false prophet and they found that Jesus was indeed not the Messiah, additionally they believed that the New Testament was an unreliable source that was perverted by the Catholic Church. The most heartbreaking fact was that this was not the only occurrence that I personally experienced.
Henru Pieters inside Zichron Ya’aqov’s Synagogue, Israel, Augustus 2014.
PAUL AND THE FALSE TEACHERS
At present I have more appreciation for Paul’s constant struggle with the Jewish teachers, who went about troubling believers by saying, “You must observe the Shabbat, celebrate the festivals and study Torah”.
Paul constantly referred to these brothers as false teachers, Gal. 3:2, Col. 2:4-23 and Php. 3:1-7. Paul never rejected the law, but he taught concerning an intimate relationship with Yeshua as well as about unity amongst the brethren.
A daily walk with the Holy Spirit in order for Messiah to be formed in you, so that you can be well pleasing to the Father. This he called as being led by the Spirit.
THE GOD BOX
People that struggle the most with a Religious Spirit tend to be the first to place their understanding of the works of God in a single box. Who then subsequently reject any manifestation of God outside their God box.
The Early Church after the ministry of Jesus also struggled to understand how God could have a plan with Israel, after they rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Paul wrote,
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
THE PHARISAICAL SPIRIT
In Matthew 23 Jesus directly rebuked the Pharisees because of their hypocrisy and religiosity. When outer appearances are more pronounced than that of the inner, it opens room for the Religious Spirit to triumph.
When a system teaches people to be bound to anything other than to Jesus, it creates the perfect opportunity for a Religious Spirit to take root. Any control gained over people that comes from a teaching, is from a Religious Spirit.
The various elements that is focused upon by the HRM are as follows;
The Feasts of the Lord, Sabbath, eating Kosher, Torah study, Hebrew names, wearing of Tsitsit and Tallit – sometimes the kippah included, the growing of beards and having the correct interpretation of the New Testament.
Photo: Henru Pieters, Augustus 2014 “First Aliyah Museum” Zichron Ya’aqov, Israel.
The most shocking part of it all to me was the fact that I saw people who practiced all of the above whilst never being born again.
They simply trade one religion for another and nobody around them seem to realize that they are still only in the flesh.
WHAT, THEN, SHALL WE SAY?
Is everything then taught and practised by the HRM totally wrong?
This is one of the questions I am consistently asked. No, not everything is totally wrong, there are many truths in many aspects surrounding the HRM, but unfortunately more truths are necessary to create a greater deception.
The good side of the Tree of Knowledge will never be able to bring forth life.
The strongest deception in the HRM is that the main focus does not remain with Jesus, but turns to a more complicated entanglement to the point that, the ordinary man can’t receive the “True Gospel” or be redeemed.
The focus slips more and more to the knowledge of the Scriptures, the “true names”, calendars and practices etc. One could be overwhelmed for years with how wonderful this and that Hebrew understanding is of some teaching in the Bible, that you might never realise that your relationship with Jesus is busy dying.
It has been a fact for some time, that traditional churches are dwindling, people are searching for more, but more of what?
I believe we are all searching for the Lord’s presence just as David said;
“One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.”
Knowledge of the Lord, of how deep and wonderful His Words are. To be in awe and wonder of the riches of His Word, in a era of knowledge, is certainly one of the strongest counterfeits to the Lord’s presence.
With true and pure intentions people are searching for a more intimate and deeper relationship with God, but instead they are misled by the smooth talk and wisdom of men, just to be caught in a deeper and darker trap.
The demonstration of the Spirit and of power, is how Paul said we should preach the Gospel.
THE HIGHEST PRIORITY
The big question in my heart at the moment is: “How will this focus in the HRM survive in the Persecuted Church?” That which is truly important for any person, and also is the highest priority for God, will always be your relationship with Him. Do you know His voice? Tomorrow might be too late for you… Are you prepared to die today for your very simple faith in Jesus as your redeemer? Jesus said: “My sheep know My voice.”.
Unfortunately the focus for many in the HRM is to grow in knowledge of the Torah, Jewish traditions and customs and to save ignorant Christians out of the Babylonian Church system. Although these things may have an appearance of Godliness, it denies the Spirit and the Power of God.
We are not in a relationship with a book, but a Person.
The Bible is a wonderful and precious book, but our reading and study thereof should end at the Person of Jesus, not a religion with a set of rules and practices.
For more information contact Henru Pieters at firstname.lastname@example.org