Shabat Thoughts: Learning the Roots of Our Faith

Following my recent Coffee Chat  mention of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Breads, Sarah asked me a series of questions about resources, reasons,  and such  of how to begin discovering the Jewish roots of the Christian faith.  She said she felt she had to do so.  And that is what makes me attempt this post.   This is not the first time these questions have come to me over the last few weeks.   There's a quote from a Richard Bach book that I've remembered all these years:  We teach best what we most need to learn.

Honestly, when I am asked these questions I feel so overwhelmed with my lack of knowledge that I struggle for words.    And yet, I continue to practice the things I've attempted to learn and so I will try to share what I know, give answers where I can, and help.

As I said, my lightbulb moment occurred the day I sat in my church, waiting for the musicians to work out a difficult bit of music,  reading my Bible.  I read this passage:  Mark 26:17  17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

Another passage had stood out for years, but I always felt I was just missing the meaning:
Luke 4:16

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.

As I read in Mark of the disciples making Passover Preparations, the verse in Luke suddenly came to mind as well.  That was my "Ah Ha!" moment, my awakening.  Christ was a Jew who worshipped God in the way of the Jews.  

I had been taught for years that these things of the Jewish faith were merely Old Testament traditions, that Christ Himself was never a Jew, that the old 'law' under which man lived until Christ rose from the grave, was made null and void.  Not true.  If Christ lived by that law himself, if he followed the feasts and he went to synagogue on the Sabbath, surely there must be something to it all.  What Jesus did was of great import.

I remember looking up at John with a sense of complete astonishment.  He looked at me and asked, "What is it?"  "Jesus was a Jew."  John immediately got the full import of what I was saying and didn't look at me and say, "Duh! And who doesn't know that?"  He came over to sit down beside me and we looked at the passage together.  "There's something in this..." he said and then we were called back to practice.  We discussed it on the way home later.  Who knew that moment in that church started us on this journey?

We stumbled over things a lot.  John looked online for a synagogue near us and he found several.  Turns out there are Jews and Messianic Jews near our area.  Who knew?  John wrote an email to a Rabbi at one of the Messianic congregations asking several questions.  We were flipping through channels looking for a favorite ministry program and came across Larry and Tiz Huch who had just written a book, The Torah Blessing.  It was one of the first books we used in the very early days of our journey.  We also started to watch a good many of the John Hagee  broadcasts as he spoke of the Jewish roots of Christianity.  He often incorporated his understanding of the Jewish faith into his sermons. Perry Stone is also a great source of information if you don't mind it coming at you hard and fast. These were important learning tools for us.

We met Rabbi Jeff Dumont one Saturday at their place of worship in a town about 40 minutes northwest of us and saw what we thought was a typical Messianic worship service.   He had replied to John's emails and attempted to answer his questions and invited us to come join them.  It was several months before we would join them again and as it turned out that particular day was not at all 'typical'!  But this too was an important step for us.

In the meantime we began attempting to have Shabat evening in our home where we lit candles and prayed. We do not do this 'right', we do it in our own way,  but we do it from the heart.  It is a combination of elements of the Jewish Shabat evening ritual.  In Jewish culture this entails washing hands, specific prayers, being freshly bathed and dressed up as though for a company dinner, which is what you have:   a huge Shabat dinner.  We don't do that.  We participate in a lighting of the candles at sundown each Friday evening, we pray, we have communion (bread, salt, grape juice).  

When we first began we didn't keep Sabbath.  We went on doing as we always did at that time.  And honestly I can't say we kept it even when we'd learned what it meant to 'keep' Sabbath.  It is ironic how much 'work' goes into worship and service when you do more than just attend synagogue or church.   Becoming Messianic meant most of our work occurred on Saturday rather than Sunday.   Sabbath means "rest" and the instructions in the Old Testament are quite clear: do no work. Rest.  The intent of this command was clear when God gave his people manna for each day and on the day before the Sabbath he told them to gather twice as much, enough for that day and the next.  And on the Sabbath day there was no manna.  There was no gathering done on that day.  

The commandment reads: Observe the day, to set it apart as holy...You have six days to labor and do all your work.

Keeping Shabat is not easy, even in this day and time or maybe especially in this day and time.   We are oriented to shopping and cooking and working and doing and rest is something we think of in abstract terms.  

What I am asked often and often is, "How do I start? "Where do I find information?"   Start with the Bible. Read the Old Testament.  The first five books of the Bible are called Torah.  Some of the commandments we read we can no longer keep.  Sacrificial lambs and oxen are not necessary.  In this Christ did complete the law, he was the ultimate sacrifice.  Our part in sacrifice has to do with what we are willing to give up, do away with, rid ourselves of in our lives, in order to show our willingness to be what he's asked of us.  Read the New Testament and really read it with the viewpoint that Jesus was a Jew and note what He says is to be done and how he keeps the festivals and commandments.  Read everything in between because there are hidden gems once you begin to be familiar with the laws and commandments.

I would also suggest you start keeping a Sabbath.  Saturday is Shabat. You might well feel strange giving up a whole day to do nothing but to rest, read, study.  It might not always be possible to keep it as a strict day of rest. When my family has opportunity to visit it's often on Sabbath and that means meals and laundry and picking up toys a couple of dozen times.   But that is just the occasional thing.  Generally speaking when it is just John and I,  I have food prepared for that day or I have on hand meals that are simple to prepare and on the table in a few minutes time.  If Shabbat cannot be done on the Sabath day, then set aside a day each week when it can be done.  There are many pastors I know who consider Monday their day of rest.

Sabbath starts at sundown on Friday.  We light candles, say prayers, have bread and grape juice.  Perhaps your partner wouldn't care to have communion but nothing stops you from doing these simple things.  It doesn't have to be showy or obvious.  It can be done quietly, alone, without a lot of show and fuss.

Research online sources. You can look up any of the things you want to know. You'll soon find there are many and many sites and some are bound to be just what you are looking for.  I confess that as I try to prepare for some of the feasts, I often have questions.  It is easy to get caught up in some of the more difficult instructions from various websites.  I face them in two ways.  First I try to determine what is biblical and what is rabbinical.  Rabbinical laws can be quite detailed and full of complications. Rabbinical law is an interpretation of what God meant, which is altered as new inventions and developments come to be. Biblical laws tend to be more forthright and simple and are based solely upon God's word, period.  When I am unable to determine what I need to know, I pray.  Nine times out of ten, I'll find my answer.

I realize this might seem over simplistic and too scant information, but it is truly enough.   It is where we began in our journey. I say only this much more: once you begin, be prepared to see many things change.  Be prepared to feel a little afraid as you shake off the shackles of religion and learn to truly walk in faith as God intended.  Be prepared to see things you thought were impossible occur.  It is a life changing thing.


Glenda said...

We have studied this for some time. Wonderful information, Terri.

I would just like to add (I hope you don't mind) that Jesus was a Jew and will return a Jew. His Millenial reign will be in Israel.

At the time of His Millenial reign ALL nations will be required to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Any nation or person that does not do so will receive a plague; no rain.....

I would like to write more but can sit a limited amount of time due to a cracked pelvis, at the moment. I encourage anyone interested to read, also, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Malachi.

Jesus fulfilled ONLY the first four feasts during His time here; the remaining three have yet to be fulfilled. We celebrate some feasts in commemoration and some in anticipation.

Blessings to you, Terri, and thank you for all your writings. I read everything you write and check daily; just can't comment much right now.

Anonymous said...

There are things I can do alone. I can try and have a Sabbath. I may not succeed in it all as my husband is not a believer but as you said I can do as much as I can. Planning ahead and such to keep the day as restful as I possibly can. I am grateful you took the time to gather your thoughts and put all of this information on paper. I will begin my journey. I may not do it all right but with study and time it will come together more. I want to honor Him as best I can. This all feels right to me like something was missing and now it is being revealed. A bit hazy but it is a beginning. :-) Everything has to begin with the first step and you have given me that. Thank you for your internet ministry. :)

Anonymous said...

Sorry I forgot to say it was me writing! Sarah :-)

Chris said...

Hi Terri, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris

Anonymous said...

I am sorry but I have another thought. Do you restrict your diet choices because of your faith? Many believe we were released from this after Christ died for our sins. I think because we still should think of ourselves as Jews I wonder what to hold onto and what is no longer applied. If anything. I Understand I have to read and study and pray and figure this out for myself too but diet is one thing I could start to adjust right away. I am pondering, praying and starting on my walk.... This feels right. Sarah

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