On Monday January 6, tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of Jews will read Isaiah 53, many of them for the first time in their lives. What does that have to do with us?
For those who have not heard of it, the 929 Project (named for the number of chapters in the Hebrew Bible) is a 3.5-year community project initiated by the Israeli government’s Ministry of Education. The goal is to encourage Jews to read one chapter per day, 5 days a week (Sunday-Thursday), straight through the Tanakh (what Christians call the OT)—until they’ve read all 929 chapters of the OT. The original program was launched Hanukkah 2014 just in Israel; its conclusion coincided with Israel’s 70th birthday in April 2018. Over a quarter of a million Jews participated—75% of them non-religious Jews.
The program was so popular that a second cycle, which includes an iteration for English-speaking Jews of the modern diaspora, began in the summer of 2018 and runs until February 2022.* During this time, hundreds of thousands of Jews will be reading words from the God of Israel in passages that they’ve never seen or considered before, including Isaiah 53 (which, incidentally, is systematically excluded from the yearly synagogue Sabbath-day readings).
According to the 929 website, the initiative is “dedicated to creating a global Jewish conversation around issues that unite and divide us, but always anchored in, based on, or inspired by the formative text of our common Jewish heritage, the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.” Graced with an infusion of God’s Spirit using God’s Word—whether like a rock-breaking hammer (Jer 23:29) or a quiet whisper (1 Kings 19:12)—that could become quite a conversation!
So, pray for them as they read Isaiah 53 (January 6), Isaiah 55 (January 8), Isaiah 60 (January 15), Isaiah 62 (January 19), or the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31 (March 9).
This is not a matter of your view of prophecy, or whether you’re covenant or dispensational in your theology. Any believer ought to be able and interested to pray for the conversion of so many people who we know will be reading such potent passages of Scripture. Whether or not you believe that the Bible predicts a future conversion of Israel, you can still pray that God will use the mass exposure to his words to stir questions, create hunger, remove veils, and draw individuals towards him.
This is not a preoccupation with Israel; it is a preoccupation with the Church, because any Jews who are converted will become part of the Church. You don’t have to be a restorationist to appreciate the profound possibilities latent in millions of Jews reading the same Scriptures simultaneously. Any believer, regardless of theological or eschatological orientation, should be able to pray for the glory of God in the conversion of Jewish men and women and children through the power of God’s words.
This is not a Jewish issue; it is a Gentile issue, because this conversion is precisely what Paul—the Apostle to the Gentiles—was praying for (Rom 10:1). How can it be anything but appropriate and scriptural to share in Paul’s prayer? Paul also taught that his fellow Jews have a veil of unbelief over their eyes when they read or hear the OT, but when they turn to the Lord the veil is removed (2 Cor 3:15-16). The only one who can do that is the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God always uses the Word of God.
The Church has a providential opportunity placed before us on a silver platter. A Bible-reading initiative by the secular arm of the Israeli government? In its second cycle? How radically providential is that?
Those of us who believe that Paul’s prayer will be answered (as he said it would, Rom 11:26)—and that’s a conviction that now cuts across all eschatological lines to include not only premillennialists but also many amillennialists and postmillennialists—can pray in confident faith; because it will happen at some point. And when it does, the Scriptures will be the key catalyst in that event.
The question is, whenever it does, will you have had anything to do with it?
*You can keep track of the daily reading schedule here.