Archive for the ‘Biblical Law’ Category

Interpreting Dreams and Flawed Biblical Logic

A friend of mine recently posted this on facebook. I love how succinctly he put it.

Dreams-005

Question 1: “Pharaoh had a dream about seven fat cows, followed by seven skinny cows. Was the dream really about cows?”

Answer 1: “Of course not! Scripture reveals just a few verses later that the dream was about seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine.”

Question 2: “Joseph had a dream about his brothers’ sheaves of wheat bowing to his own sheaf. Was the dream really about wheat?”

Answer 2: “No! Later on, we learn that this was a prophecy, fortelling of the event when his brothers would come to Egypt, not recognize him, and yet bow down to him.”

Question 3: “Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about a multi-metal statue. Was the dream really about a statue?”

Answer 3: “Not at all! It was about the different kingdoms that would arise, starting with Babylon. Daniel gives the interpretation right after the dream is revealed, just a few verses later!”

Question 4: “Peter had a dream about a sheet of unclean animals. He hears a voice say, ‘Arise, slay, and eat.’ Was his dream really about unclean animals now becoming acceptable as food?”

Answer 4: “Of course it was! Can’t you read? He says slay and eat! Duh! Of course all unclean meats can be eaten now! Never mind verse 28 where he says something about PEOPLE being unclean, that is completely unrelated. This dream doesn’t need to be interpreted, it should be taken literally.”

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No More Mosaic Law? A Response to a Seminary Professor’s Position

This is part of a series that began here.

In my last post I wrote about an article I read earlier this week about the transforming power the book of Leviticus has on our hearts and worship.  The article led me to a short series of Leviticus Q&A videos the author had also done. I really enjoyed the first four videos, but I was disappointed by the answers presented in the fifth.

The fifth question was: Are Christians inconsistent with their use and application of Old Testament law today?

Dr. Jay Sklar, professor of Old Testament and dean of faculty at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, gives his perspective on this question below.

I was sad that the unity of heart I was experiencing with Dr. Sklar up to this point regarding Leviticus was dashed by what I felt was such a scripturally weak response.

Here are four issues I had with it:

1) Pitting the Old Covenant against the New Covenant

Around 1:50, Dr. Sklar points out that the covenant God made with the Israelites at Mt. Sinai was the Old Covenant and that Jesus came to establish a New Covenant. He says that the laws of the Old do not necessarily apply in the New.

But this is in direct opposition to what the LORD Himself says will happen in the New Covenant.  He says with the New Covenant, “I will put my laws within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

God gives no indication that certain chunks of His law will suddenly vanish in this New Covenant. In fact, the major differentiation between the two covenants seems to be that in the old the laws were external to the people whereas in the new the laws would be internal – in their hearts.  So, it’s not a removal of the law, but an internalization of it that seems to differentiate the two covenants.

Our Savior also gives no indication that certain chunks of the law would vanish after He ushered in the New Covenant.  To the contrary, He said that He didn’t come to abolish the law or the prophets and that not an iota or a dot would pass from the law until heaven and earth pass away.  He went on to say that whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. (Mathew 5:17-19)

Paul, the one most credited for leading us out of the “bondage” of the Mosaic law, said that we should by no means overthrow the law by our faith in the Messiah.  On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:31)

And the saints of the last days are called to endurance.  Who are those saints? Those who “keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12)

2) Only the Laws Repeated in the New Testament are in Effect

Around 2:20, Dr. Sklar takes the angle that only laws that are repeated in the New Testament are binding on believers today.

But, again, there is no scriptural basis for making such a claim.

Our Savior said that those whose will is to do God’s will, would know whether the things he taught were from God not.  Those who had it in their hearts to obey the commandments of God would know that Jesus’ teachings always matched up with God’s.  He never spoke on His own authority. (John 7:17)

If He had come to change God’s laws or to revise which ones were applicable, He would have been a false prophet. The Father clearly warned His people that only false prophets would speak against His commandments (Deut 13:1-5, especially note verse 4).

So, to say that Jesus or any other New Testament writer had the authority to revise the application of God’s law is completely contrary to scripture.  This is a big deal!

3) Values Stand but Ritual Laws Are Unimportant

Around 2:45, Dr. Sklar says that the values we see through the Old Testament laws are ongoing and are still able to teach us about life today.  He points out that the laws about clean and unclean animals given in Leviticus 11 were meant to teach us something on a moral level.

While I wholeheartedly agree with this principle of things in the physical teaching us things in the spiritual, I cannot agree that once we get the spiritual meaning we can then choose to disregard the physical command.

Just because I understand that marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride doesn’t mean that I can then disregard my physical marriage.

Just because I understand that baptism is a picture of my death and resurrection in Christ doesn’t mean that I can disregard the physical practice of baptism.

And just because I understand that clean and unclean animals are pictures of clean and unclean things I must distinguish between morally doesn’t mean that I can disregard the physical practice of abstaining from eating unclean animals.

We are both physical and spiritual beings, and our heavenly Father asks for our obedience in both the physical and spiritual realms.

(Here is a great video that highlights the physical and spiritual truths in God’s clean and unclean animal laws.)

4) Jesus Declared All Foods Clean in Mark Chapter Seven

Around 4:06, Dr. Sklar uses Mark 7 to prove the point that the physical law was no longer important; only the moral law still stood. In fact, Dr. Sklar goes so far as to say,

“Jesus says, Mark chapter 7, ‘Look, in the New Covenant you no longer need to make those distinctions ritually between clean and unclean animals.'”

Is this really what Jesus said?

I did a study on Mark 7, because this section of scripture does seem to seal the deal on the clean/unclean issue.  It was one of the big ones I needed to wrestle through.  Here’s a condensed version of what I found:

The sentence, “Thus He declared all food clean” is NOT in the original text! (Check it out for yourself.)

In fact, the context had nothing to do with what could be eaten as food. The beginning of chapter seven shows us that the context was all about hand-washing.

Some Pharisees, who adhered to a very strict, totally man-made system of hand-washing, saw that Jesus’ disciples ate without washing their hands at all. This made them indignant.

It’s important to note that God never outlined any method of cleansing hands before eating.  Our Savior and His disciples were not breaking any God-given instruction. But the Pharisees were professional extra-Biblical rule-makers. And they were furious when anyone refused to follow them.

The definition of what counted as food was never in question.  God only created certain animals to be eaten. Everyone involved in this conversation was on the same page on that issue.

So, in Mark chapter 7, the Savior did not challenge Mosaic law by changing the definition of food.  He merely challenged the man-made notion that eating with dirty hands would defile you.

(Here is a study looking into the top five New Testament verses used to discount the dietary laws.)

Summary

I still have a great deal of respect for Dr. Sklar based on the other things I’ve read and heard from him.  I love that he finds treasures (applicable to his life today) in Leviticus and that he’s helping others to find those same treasures for themselves.

Where I diverge in understanding from Dr. Sklar is in how to respond to those commands we, as a people of God, haven’t followed for millenia.  I think we need to dig even deeper and question more fully the commandments from which we’ve allowed ourselves to stray.

4 Things That Happen When You Study Leviticus More Than 10 Years

Nature

I really enjoyed reading this article yesterday:

4 Things That Happen When You Study Leviticus More Than 10 Years

The writer, a professor of Old Testament and dean of faculty at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, expressed the same phenomenon that I have experienced as I have read and embraced the first five books of the Bible (including Leviticus) not just as a collection of out-dated rules and sometimes interesting stories, but as a treasure – words that express the very heart of my King. Those books, when taken seriously, have the capacity to transform our hearts and our worship.

The writer also has a short video series on this topic:

Q&A on Leviticus

I really enjoyed the first four videos. I disagree with the fifth, which didn’t entirely surprise me. Since it’s such a big question that deserves thorough study by all believers, I may do a post with a response at some point in the future. Until then, may you be inspired to read through Leviticus with fresh eyes.

Videos About the Feast of Trumpets

We get to celebrate is Yom Teruah (translated to English as the Feast of Trumpets) tomorrow!  This is such an exciting feast, because it is the first feast of the year’s line-up that hasn’t yet been fulfilled.  We’re waiting on the fulfillment at the return of our King!

I’ve collected some neat teachings on this feast day here.

Each of these three teachers have slightly different interpretations of what exactly will happen on this feast day.  Given that its fulfillment is future, we only see dimly what might unfold.  So, I present these teachings for your consideration.  As in everything, we must test everything to the word and trust that our observance of this feast doesn’t require complete understanding, only a complete trust that His Word will prove to be perfect and true in the end.

First Fruits PT

I really enjoy this guy’s teachings.  They are short  (this one is only 5 minutes) and jam-packed with neat scriptural connections.  (Although sometimes he moves a bit too fast for me.)

In this teaching, he shows what trumpets are used for in the scriptures.  He draws an interesting conclusion about what the scriptures mean when they say that the Savior will return at the “last trumpet,” connecting the seven trumpet blasts of Revelation with the trumpet blasts that are to occur at the start of each month on the new moon.  He also shares some ideas about how the final fulfillment of the Day of Atonement will fall 1,000 years after the return of our Savior. I had never heard that theory until this video, but I think it could be a good one.



Jim Staley

Jim Staley is a great teacher for Christians who are just coming to learn about the feast days.

Here are some time-markers for this teaching

  • First 28 minutes are introduction.
  • Around the 28th minute mark he begins teaching on the fall feasts, specifically, Trumpets.


Mark Biltz

Mark Biltz does a great job of showing the connection between traditional Jewish understanding of the feast days and their actual fulfillment in Messiah. Our older brother Judah has some great insights into the scriptures!

Here are some time-markers for this teaching:

  • The first 12 minutes or so are a terrific recap of the prophetic nature of the spring and fall feasts.  He also gives some great information on God’s calendar as opposed to our Julian calendar.
  • Around the 13th minute he starts in on the specifics of the feast of Trumpets, making some really neat scriptural connections in relation to the blowing of trumpets.
  • Around the 3oth minute he brings to light serious warnings for the church.
  • Around the 38th minute he addresses the whole “no man knows the day or hour” issue.
  • At the 42nd minute he does a short teaching on how Song of Solomon relates to this feast. Contained in it is another serious warning for those who disregard the necessity of remembering the Biblical feast days.
  • Just before the 57th minute he makes a neat connection between our betrothal to the Savior and this feast.

The Yearly Passover Question: Beginning or the End of the 14th?

Passover blood on doorposts
Passover is the next big feast day approaching, and I am excited! Passover talk and study has already begun in our house.  One of the yearly questions that comes up is:

Was the Passover lamb killed at the beginning or the end of the 14th day?

This year, after taking a look at the Hebrew phrase “ben ha arbayim,” I have some new considerations in this debate.

What follows is my study on this phrase.  Much of what follows was brought to my attention through various teachings/papers.  I am so thankful to have access to people who have studied Biblical languages and have rolled these questions around in their minds longer than I have.  I will make note of those sources as I go.

Though I did gain insights through other people, I have, to the best of my ability, verified everything here.  I didn’t just take an idea and run with it.  I have learned that all humans are capable of error, and all must be tested against the word.  Interlinearbible.org and I are close friends. 🙂

Calendars…

Because I know the subject of calendars can be sensitive, I wanted to make clear my intentions in sharing my study.

1) I share it here for my own reference.  It works better than printing off a document, because here I can have links. (Plus, if you’ve ever seen my desk or filing cabinet you’d know I don’t need any other papers cluttering them up. :-P)

2) I share it here and ask others to check it over. I certainly have not “arrived” in understanding, so it’s always nice to get a few people older in the faith to check my thoughts to be sure everything is lining up with scripture. Again, it’s easier to share a link than to print out a paper.  And the links within my study can be followed and verified more easily this way.

One More Word at the Outset

With that said, I want to present one other, very important thought before jumping in.  One of the papers I read on this subject, written by George Tabac (whom, for the record, I do not know a thing about other than his thoughts on this topic) concluded with these words, which I thought were very appropriate:

The purpose of this study is to strengthen our faith by harmonizing all the Scriptures on the subject. For unless we could answer in our minds each of the points raised, we would feel uncomfortable, for the Scriptures must be harmonious. We trust the study is beneficial to this end.

But, may we always remember what is of greatest import each year as we approach the memorial season: partaking of the emblems, applying the preciousness of what they symbolize to ourselves, participating with all our brethren in our Lord’s ransom merit for our justification, communion in the cup of sin offering experiences, and the opportunity to renew our consecration vows and, with renewed determination, to complete them.

Amen!

And now for the study…

Ben Ha Arbayim

“Ben ha arbayim” is translated “at twilight” or “between the evenings.”

It is a variation of the root word “erev.” This specific variation occurs 11 times, all in the Torah.

  • 5 times it references Passover
  • 1 time it references meat in the wilderness
  • 1 time it references the alter of incense
  • 4 times it references the daily sacrifice

I looked up each of the verses that contain this word in order to see if I could learn when exactly “ben ha arbayim” occurs in the day – at the beginning or at the end. (Remember that the beginning of a new day, according to Yahweh, is when the sun has set. See Leviticus 23:32)

The First Five Occurrences Regarding Passover

1) Exodus 12:6

and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight (ben ha arbayim).

2) Leviticus 23:5

In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight (ben ha arbayim), is Yahweh’s Passover.

3) Numbers 9:3

On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight (ben ha arbayim), you shall keep it at its appointed time; according to all its statutes and all its rules you shall keep it.

4) Numbers 9:5

And they kept the Passover in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight (ben ha arbayim), in the wilderness of Sinai; according to all that Yahweh commanded Moses, so the people of Israel did.

5) Numbers 9:11

In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight (ben ha arbayim)they shall keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

These Passover instructions don’t shed much light on exactly when “twilight” is.  Is it at the beginning of the 14th or the end?

Two theories

There are two theories (that I know of, anyway) on this subject:

1)  The Passover lamb was killed after the sun had set below the horizon, but while there was still light – a time between sunset and dark.  This theory places the lawful Passover at the beginning of the 14th.

2) The Passover lamb was killed after noon (when the sun begins the process of going down or “setting”) and sunset (when the sun drops below the horizon).  This theory places the lawful Passover at the end of the 14th.

This graphic gives a good visual for the two theories here:

Ben ha arbayim

The question is: Which of these theories is right? Do any of the other occurrences of this phrase (ben ha arbayim) shed any light on it?

One Occurrence Regarding Meat in the Wilderness

6) Exodus 16:12

I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight (ben ha arbayim) you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am Yahweh your God.

This doesn’t give us much insight. Yahweh could have provided the meat at the start of the day – when the sun had set below the horizon, but there was still light.  OR He could have provided the meat at the end of the day – when the sun was in the process of going down, but hadn’t yet gone below the horizon.

One Occurrence Regarding the Alter of Incense

7) Exodus 30:8

and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight (ben ha arbayim), he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before Yahweh throughout your generations.

This doesn’t give much insight either. Again, it could be that Yahweh wanted the lamps set up at the start of the day – when the sun had already set below the horizon.  OR He could have wanted them set up  at the end of the day – the afternoon when the sun was in the process of going down, but hadn’t yet set.

The Last Four Occurrences Regarding Daily Offerings

These verses are a very important part of this puzzle.

8) Exodus 29:38-39

Now this is what you are to offer on the altar: two lambs a year old, regularly, every day. One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the second lamb you shall offer at twilight (ben ha arbayim).

9) Exodus 29:41

The second lamb you shall offer at twilight (ben ha arbayim), and shall offer with it a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to Yahweh.

10) Numbers 28:3-4

Tell them, “This is the offering made by fire that you are to bring to Yahweh: male lambs in their first year and without defect, two daily as a regular burnt offering. Offer the one lamb in the morning and the second lamb at twilight (ben ha arbayim);

11) Numbers 28:8

The second lamb you shall offer at twilight (ben ha arbayim). Like the grain offering of the morning, and like its drink offering, you shall offer it as a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to Yahweh.

In these instructions we have more information about when exactly “ben ha arbayim” is.

Two lambs have to be offered each day:

  • One has to be done in the morning.
  • The second has to be done at twilight (ben ha arbayim), which must be before the end of the day.

Though some translations say one has to be done in the morning and the other has to be done at twilight, this is an incorrect translation.  The specific Hebrew word used is “second” – an ordinal number.

So, “between the evenings” takes place on the same day as the morning sacrifice, before that day ends. It cannot be the second sacrifice if it is made after sunset, because then it would be the first sacrifice of the day.

Here is another helpful graphic I came across to illustrate the timing of the sacrifices:

Two Daily Offerings

Elijah’s Sacrifice

There is another section of scripture that bears second witness to the idea that the evening sacrifice would have been before the sun set below the horizon. 1 Kings 18 tells about the show-down between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal. By paying close attention to the timing of the events, we gain more insight into what time of day the evening sacrifice was made.

26 They [the prophets of Baal] took the bull he gave them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon. They said, “Baal, answer us!” But there wasn’t a sound or an answer. So they danced around the altar they had made.

27 At noon Elijah started to make fun of them. “Shout louder, since he is a god. Maybe he’s thinking, relieving himself, or traveling! Maybe he’s sleeping, and you have to wake him!”

28 So they shouted louder. They also cut themselves with swords and spears until their blood flowed. (This is what their ritual called for.) 29 In the afternoon they continued to rant and rave until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no sound, no answer, no attention given to them.

Recap: From morning until noon, the prophets of Baal appealed to their god to consume the sacrifice they had prepared on their altar.  At noon, Elijah started to make fun of them.  They made their appeals with more fervor until the time for the evening sacrifice.

In the meantime, Elijah was preparing his altar. We’ll resume with the story at verse 36:

36 When it was time to offer the sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward. He said, “Yahweh Elohim of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, make known today that you are Elohim in Israel and that I’m your servant and have done all these things by your instructions. 37 Answer me, Yahweh! Answer me! Then these people will know that you, Yahweh, are Elohim and that you are winning back their hearts.”

38 So a fire from Yahweh fell down and consumed the burnt offering, wood, stones, and dirt. The fire even dried up the water that was in the trench. 39 All the people saw it and immediately bowed down to the ground. “Yahweh is Elohim!” they said. “Yahweh is Elohim!”

So, at the time of the evening sacrifice, which we know to be at twilight (ben ha arbayim), Yahweh sent fire to consume his burnt offering. (Which is awesomely cool.  Our God is incredible!)

Now let’s see what transpired after twilight to get clues as to how much time there was from twilight until darkness.

40 Elijah told them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let any of them escape.” The people seized them, and Elijah took them to the Kishon River and slaughtered them there.

41 Then Elijah told Ahab, “Get up, eat, and drink. It sounds like a heavy rain is coming.” 42 Ahab got up to eat and drink.

Elijah went to the top of Carmel and bowed down on the ground to pray. 43 He said to his servant, “Please go back to Mount Carmel, and look toward the sea.”

He went up, looked, came back, and said, “There’s nothing.”

Seven times Elijah told him, “Go back.”

44 After the seventh time the servant said, “A little cloud like a man’s hand is coming from the sea.”

Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and leave before the rain delays you.’”

45 Gradually, the sky grew darker with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. Ahab got into his chariot to go back to Jezreel. 46 Yahweh’s power was on Elijah. He hiked up his robe and ran ahead of Ahab until they came to Jezreel.

I’m going to borrow the bullet points summarizing the activities done between twilight (ha arbayim) and darkness from another article on this same topic.

  • The capture of the prophets of Baal by the people of Israel (I Kings 18:40).
  • The execution of the 450 prophets of Baal by the Brook Kishon (I Kings 18:40).
  • Elijah’s message to King Ahab to eat and drink because rain was coming (I Kings 18:41).
  • Elijah’s climb to the top of the 1,600+ ft. Mount Carmel (I Kings 18:42).
  • Elijah sending his servant to look toward the sea seven different times (I Kings 18:43).
  • The sighting by his servant on the seventh look of “a cloud as small as a man’s hand rising out of the sea” (I Kings 18:44).
  • The blackening of the sky due to clouds (not night!) as heavy rains began to fall (I Kings 18:45).

Conclusion

Based on this understanding of the evening sacrifice given in Exodus, Numbers, and 1 Kings, we can interpret Exodus 12:6 as:

And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs in the afternoon of that 14th day, as the sun is going down, but before sunset.

I still have more studying to do to figure out whether Yeshua’s last meal was a Passover meal or not.  But for now, it seems reasonably clear to me that the Passover lamb was to be killed at the end of the 14th and that Yeshua’s death at 3pm on the 14 day of the month was a perfect fulfillment!  Here is another helpful resource regarding this topic:

Was the Last Supper a Passover Meal

I wish blessings to everyone preparing their hearts to partake of this incredible appointed time!

No More Mosaic Law? Shadow/Substance (Colossians 2:16-17)

This is part of a series that began here.

Adjusted Colossians 2

“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink,
or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.
These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”

Colossians 2:16-17

What the Verse Seems to Say

Don’t let anyone judge you for eating foods that were once considered unclean or for not keeping feasts or Sabbaths.  They were merely a shadow of things to come.  Since the substance is Christ, if you have Him, you have all you need.

The Problems

This interpretation requires re-working lots of other scriptures where we see the apostles and new disciples adhering to the dietary law and keeping the feasts even after the Savior’s death.  It also makes Paul, who kept the feast days, even “hastening to be in Jerusalem” for them (Acts 20:16), seem a bit hypocritical.

Aside from being hypocritical, this understanding of Paul’s words makes him a heretic when we consider that the Father warned that only false prophets would speak against His commandments (Deut 13:1-5). For the sake of brevity, we’ll look only at a few of His commandments on the topic of His Sabbaths:

  • “Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.” (Exodus 31:13)
  • “Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” (Isaiah 56:2, but the whole chapter highlights how important the Sabbath is to our heavenly Father.)
  • “Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.” (Ezekiel 22:26)

By God’s own words, those who profane His Sabbaths profane Him.  This makes it all the more critical that we rightly understand Paul’s words here in Colossians.

The interpretation that God’s instructions are no longer important doesn’t fit with the larger context of the Bible.  It also doesn’t fit with the context of the second chapter of Colossians.

Context of Colossians

In Colossians 2:6, Paul begins by telling the Colossians not to be taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world.  He doesn’t want them to follow human traditions.

Are the feast days and Sabbath human traditions? Hardly.  In the verses quoted above, we saw God refer to “MY Sabbaths.”  In Leviticus 23, He clearly says, “these are MY appointed feasts.” They are our Father’s days.

So then what kind of human tradition is he warning the believers about? In verse 18 he tells us: asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind. In verse 23, he mentions asceticism again.

Asceticism

Merriam-Webster defines asceticism as “practicing strict self-denial as a measure of personal and especially spiritual discipline.” This definition precisely matches Paul’s warnings in this passage.

The ascetic philosophy and empty deceit says, “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” (v 21).  These rules, based on severity to the body, are merely “human precepts and teachings” and “self-made religion,” not at all based on the word of God. They only have “an appearance of wisdom” (v 22-23).

Instead of walking in these ascetic ways, Paul wants the Colossians to walk in Christ, rooted and built up in Him (v 6-7). He wants them to hold fast to Christ, the Head (v 10, 19).

So, we have Paul warning about the danger of this ascetic philosophy and of not remaining rooted in Christ between verses 6 and 23.  In the middle, we’ve got verses 16-17 where Paul seems to be saying not to worry about keeping God’s days anymore.  But how exactly does asceticism fit with the feasts and Sabbath? Were the ascetics judging the Colossians because they weren’t keeping the dietary laws or because they weren’t keeping the feast days?

A closer look at the Greek

I am no Greek scholar, but when I watched this 15 minute lesson on the Greek construction of this passage and then tested it by looking at it for myself on interlinearbible.org, it made perfect sense why Paul was discussing being judged on the feasts and Sabbath in the middle of a discussion on wrong ascetic behavior.  And it all hinges on a couple of conjunctions.

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Another Small, But Critical Word

Another point in the Greek that isn’t made in the video above is regarding the Greek conjunction “de” translated as “but” in verse 17. (These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.)  This word can also mean “yet,” “and,” “moreover,” “indeed now.”  So, instead of making the two parts of the sentence seem to contradict each other, the writer could very well have intended to show the connection of the two thoughts.

A Literal Translation

After looking closely at the Greek, this literal translation emerges:

Do not, therefore, let anyone judge you in eating and in drinking
either in part of a feast, or a new moon, or a Sabbath,
which are a shadow of the things to come, yet the body is of Christ.

The Greek is clear. The Sabbaths, new moons, and feast days are valuable because they point us to what is still to come. They are not a shadow of things that WERE to come. They are a shadow of what IS to come – future tense.  Just as Christ precisely and perfectly fulfilled each of the spring feast days during His first coming, He will also precisely and perfectly fulfill each of the fall feast days during His second coming.

The substance of the Sabbath, new moon, and feast days belong to Christ Himself.  He is the body of these appointed times, and Paul wants the believers to hold fast to Him. The Colossians had no reason to be ashamed of these God-given days. In fact, they should stay firmly connected to them.

The eating and drinking associated with these joyous days were not to be abandoned as the ascetics would lead them to believe.  The believers should not let anyone judge them for how they eat or drink, either in partaking of a feast or a new moon or Sabbaths.

Rich Symbols

It is true that the feast days are shadows and symbols that point to Christ.  Many symbols are made rich with Christ’s meaning, but this doesn’t negate the necessity of the symbol. Churches use the symbols of baptism and communion.  Just because we understand deeper meaning when we understand how the symbol points to Christ doesn’t mean we then toss the symbol.  We continue to use the symbol as we celebrate all meaning that God always intended.

Woven Scripture

I love it when all the different parts of scripture the kids and I read each day end up weaving together to paint a perfect and beautiful picture. Check this out:

Last week, in Deuteronomy 28 and 29, we read about the blessings that would come to God’s people if they loved Him and obeyed His instructions.  We also read about the curses that would come to them if they stopped loving God and disobeyed His instructions – curses like losing wars, not having rain or enough food, being sick, etc.

Today, in 1 Kings 8, we read Solomon’s prayer as he was dedicating the newly built temple. He spoke of a future time when God’s children would be defeated in war, lack rain, experience famine, and disease because they sinned against God’s instructions.  They would experience the curses God promised in Deuteronomy, but Solomon asked God to hear the people’s prayers when they repented by confessing their sins and walking rightly before Him again in love.

And then, we read 1 John 1:7-9. Verse 9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He’s saying just what Solomon said!

Is that not cool?!

We are God’s children, the children of Israel. The Bible is the story of every believer.  It hasn’t changed, except that we can now see a few things clearly.

  • We can see the means by which our heavenly Father forgives us – the blood of the spotless Lamb, Yeshua.
  • And we can see the means by which He cleanses us from all unrighteousness – the Spirit that Ezekiel prophesied would empower us to walk in His statutes and to carefully obey His rules (Ezek 36:27).

HalleluYAH!