Saturday, September 18, 2010

Yom Kippur 2010

You may recall in a previous post that I was re-reading Edith Schaeffer’s book Christianity is JEWISH. For most of the book, I agreed with what Edith wrote. But at page 198, she descended from her “bird’s eye view” and landed into a bramble that includes a comment about Yom Kippur. And, since we’re in the middle of Yom Kippur, I thought it would be appropriate to start with that: (Note: in the following 3 paragraphs, she is talking about church life in the New Testament)
“What were the sacraments that these Elders or ministers were to administer? There would no longer be a day of atonement, because The Day of Atonement had taken place when The Lamb died, at the passover time. What would take the place of the Day of Atonement and the passover feast? Jesus himself began that with the disciples as He ate with them the Last Supper or the Last Passover. He told them that from that time on they would eat the bread and drink the wine, looking forward to His second coming, and back to His death.”
“You see the Passover was to be celebrated from the time of Moses, until the death of the firstborn Son of God, who would take the place of all who would come after Him. After His death, then there was no need to look back to the Passover in Egypt, because there is now a need to look back to the Messiah’s death, and ahead to the Messiah’s second coming.”
“Remember that we have been told that now there is no male or female, as well as that there is no Jew or Gentile? There is a sign to be given which will include all people, and wipe out the differences. Baptism takes the place of circumcision. Baptism is for female and male, for Jew and Gentile - to show that each one now is living at the marvelous moment of history which gives us a place in the new covenant. Jesus has died, Jesus is coming back again, and now people are to have the opportunity of all being in the same family with God as their Father, and with Abraham as their spiritual father, and girls as well as boys can have the sign of this being true, as well as Jews and Gentiles. Worship now is to be on the day Jesus arose, commemorating the wonder of His resurrection.”

First of all, Edith mentions no verses in support of her suppositions - because there aren’t any! She is assuming that the New Covenant that is mentioned in Matthew 26:28, which is linked with Jeremiah 31:33 (“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My Torah in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.) puts an end to the “old covenant”. But the thing that is changing in Jeremiah is not the content but the response to the covenant.

When I got my first computer in 1986, the standard portable media for storing data was a 5.25 inch floppy disk. Of course, no sooner did I pay for this device and media, when new faster, bigger capacity devices came along. Since 1986, I’ve bought 3.5 inch diskettes, Zip disks, CD’s, and now we have USB Flash drives. Even that has been somewhat eclipsed by just attaching a file in an email. If I took a plain text file that I created in 1986 and copied it to a 5.25 inch floppy and then later copied it onto a 3.5 inch floppy, and then sometime later onto a zip drive, followed by copying it onto a CD, and yet again, copied it onto a USB Flash; the file would still be the same text file. The content would remain the same over time and over different media. So when God says that He wants to write the Torah on people’s hearts so that they will obey it with sincerity, He is talking about changing how people learn it, acquire it, and internalize it. In Jeremiah, the constancy of the Torah is likened to the seasons and the laws of nature who stand as witnesses.

Tim Hegg has some excellent insights into the difference between the "old" and the "new" covenants:

(taken from The Letter Writer, page 236) “Note carefully that in Jeremiah 31:33, Jeremiah only uses the designation “house of Israel” rather than both “house of Judah and house of Israel.” Here the prophet envisions a return to the unified nation under the one designation “Israel,” the term used in the Torah for the whole nation. Thus the “new covenant” is enacted at a time when Israel as a nation is restored to her fullness.
But notice carefully what the contrast entails. The Mosaic covenant is described as “My covenant which they broke.” This is compared with the “new covenant” in which the Torah is written on the heart. In clear terms Jeremiah describes the stark contrast of “breaking” the covenant on the one hand and having the Torah written on the heart of the other. The contrast is not between two different ways of salvation, or two different methods of worshiping the Lord, one old and one new. Rather, what is apparent in Jeremiah’s words is that the contrast between rebellion and submission, between stubborn selfishness and genuine faith in God.
Yes, it is true that the purpose and goal of all scripture is to point to Yeshua the Messiah.  And yes, it is true that His sacrifice on calvary paid the debt for all time for our salvation. So, in that sense, there is no more need for a Day of Atonement nor for a Passover from a sacrificial viewpoint. But the coming of the Messiah did not stop the early church from following the festivals. The only scripture they had was the Old Testament supplemented by a few circulating letters that would take two centuries before they were officially adopted. The book of Acts mentions the early church observing several festivals. Acts 2 mentions Shavuot (Pentecost). Acts 12 ,19, and 20 mention the Days of Unleavened Bread and Passover, and by implication, First Fruits which begins the counting of the Sabbaths to Shavuot. The Day of Atonement is mentioned in Acts 27:9 (“Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them...”) If these special days were only for the Jews and abolished for Christians, they certainly would not have been mentioned as important for Paul and his party.  And at least one of them is prophesied to take place in the future Millenium (Zech 14:16 “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”) Suffice to say, that God’s calendar was not replaced by something better. They still serve a prophetic function and have a personal application for us if we choose to understand God's purposes for them.
We often forget that these are part of a cycle that God designed for us to go through for our own sanctification. The weekly, monthly, and yearly events on the calendar have us go through self examinations that we need because we are so forgetful. Yes, we have the Holy Spirit, but we also have the flesh! We have magnets on our refrigerators to remind of us people, places, and events. Mezuzahs on the doorposts and tzitzit dangling from under our shirts are like those magnets. God knows we need help; let’s see, where was I?
Yom Kippur is a time of fasting and self introspection. The Bible says that much, but many of the stipulations that are practiced today are customs, which means they are somewhat optional. To set the stage, one goes throughout the day without eating or drinking and without taking a bath. The Yom Kippur service is marked by reciting a litany of sins we have committed and those good acts we’ve omitted. No matter how far we’ve come in our spirituality, it’s a good list to go through. There is even an acrostic prayer which assigns sins for each letter of the aleph-bet. During the 10 Days of Awe, one is supposed to attend to taking care of interpersonal sins that need forgiveness, since Yom Kippur, as such, only deals with sins between us and God. This whole theme of repentance and forgiveness is why the entire book of Jonah is read during the service. It includes a call for repentance, fasting, and confession. 
As to Edith’s comments about Passover and Baptism, I can only say that the Messianic Passover incorporates it all; it recalls the Biblical heritage, shows how Jesus the Messiah is the fulfillment of those prophetic rites, and looks forward to the second coming. I emphatically disagree with her and feel it is a wonderful thing for a family to do. Then too, the claim that Baptism replaces circumcision is baseless. As I’ve written in earlier posts, the Jews practiced adult baptism (called the Mikvah) for hundreds of years before John the Immerser came on the scene. Coincidentally enough, it was often done to signify that repentance had taken place and to proclaim that a person had converted to faith in the Biblical God. It was a natural thing to extend it to a person who had converted to faith in the Biblical Messiah. Paul circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:3), so I would say that is enough to show it continued after Jesus and had nothing to do with baptism.
I’ll close with this reading which ties in with Yom Kippur; it also brings to mind acts of righteousness that I have not done...
Isa 58:7-14 "Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' "If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. Those from among you shall build the old waste places; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In. "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken."

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