Archive for the ‘Sabbath’ Category

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.

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Dancing with Babies

A friend just sent me this photo he took one Shabbat as I danced with Kieryn and Simeon in worship. What a great memory!

Dancing with Kieryn

Whole Wheat Challah

For the last several months, I’ve enjoyed making challah bread as part of our meal to welcome in the Sabbath.  After we bless our heavenly Father who alone brings forth bread from the earth, we pass the loaf around, each breaking off a piece and remembering that He provides for all of our needs.  This includes our most pressing need of a Savior.  Yeshua is our ultimate bread of life (John 6:48).

Unfortunately, I can’t find any pictures of the challah I’ve made, but I did find something that looks close:

This is a simple, easy recipe that I tried out early on and have stuck with because of its success. My version is closely based on the challah recipe in the book A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays.

Two Loaves

The following recipe will make a double-decker loaf that will feed 8-10 people.

The fact that there are two loaves reminds us that when the children of Israel were in the wilderness, the Father provided a double portion of manna on the sixth day so that his children would be able to enjoy rest on the Sabbath day (Exodus 16).

If you have a small family, and don’t want leftovers, you may want to halve the recipe.

The Recipe

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 packages of Rapid Rise yeast (or 1 1/2 Tbsp instant-active bulk yeast)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 2/3 cups very warm water (120 degrees to be exact.  If the water is too hot, the bread won’t rise.  If its too cool, it will take longer to rise.)
  • 1/4 cup oil (I like to use grapeseed oil – its healthy and neutral in flavor)
  • 1/4 cup honey

Here’s how to make it:

1) Put half the flour (1 cup whole wheat and 1 1/2 cups white), all the yeast and salt in a bowl.  Mix.

2) Add the water, oil, and honey.  Mix.

3) Add the other half of the flour (1 cup whole wheat and 1 1/2 cups white).  Mix well. The dough should feel soft like new play dough and should pull away from the sides of the bowl and stick to itself.  If it seems like you need a bit of extra flour, only add 1/4 cup at a time.  If you add too  much flour, the dough will be too hard, like clay, and will not rise as well.

4) Rest the dough for 10 minutes. During this rest, the dough will rise some.

5) At this point, you can pinch off a bit of dough to be given to the Lord as a contribution as our ancestors were commanded to do when they came into the Promised Land (Numbers 15:17-21).  Challah actually refers to the portion of the bread that was donated in Temple times to the priests. Even though we’re not in the land and don’t have the Levitical priesthood in tact, I think its a neat way to remember that the first of all we have is to be given back to our heavenly Father in gratitude for His provision.  You can either take an olive-sized piece and burn or discard it, OR you could take a larger portion and make a separate loaf to give to someone else as a gift.

6) Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle some flour on top and knead for several minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.


7) Break off about one third of the dough.  (I like to use a wide spatula or dough cutter – like the one to the right – to do this.)  This will be the dough for the top braid.  Separate this ball into three equal parts and roll into approximately 8″ or 9″ ropes.  Don’t worry if the ropes are longer or shorter.  Longer ropes will make for a longer loaf, and the opposite will be true of shorter ropes.  Once you have the ropes made, braid them.


8) Now take the larger portion of dough, which will be for the bottom braid, and separate it into three equal parts.  Roll into approximately 14″ or 15″ ropes and braid.

9) Place the larger braid on a lightly oiled cookie sheet.  Lay the shorter braid on top of the larger one.

10) Allow to rise until double in size.  This will take 45 minute to an hour away from a draft.  I like to stick my loaf in the oven just so its out of the way.  Please  note that the oven should not be on if you decide to stick it there.

11) Once your dough has doubled in size, preheat the oven to 325 degrees, making sure to remove the loaf before the preheating process begins if you’ve allowed your loaf to rise there.

12) While the oven is preheating, you can brush one beaten egg white onto your loaf to add shine and color.

13) Bake on the middle rack for 45 to 55 minutes until nicely brown.

I like to try to time it so that the bread is coming out of the oven close to the time we are ready to eat it.  Warm challah is an incredible way to bring in Shabbat!

The Covering

While the bread is waiting on the table, it is traditionally covered.  Some people have a special challah covering while others (like myself) use a cloth napkin.  The covering symbolizes the dew that covered the ground.  When the dew had gone up, the manna was revealed (Exodus 16:13-15).  In the same way, when the cover is removed, the challah is revealed.

The Blessing

Here is the blessing typically recited before receiving the gift of bread.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe
Who brings forth bread from the earth.
Amen.

It’s been a part of the tradition of God’s people for a very long time.  Though it’s not a blessing specifically commanded in scripture, it does have its origins in scripture.  Psalm 104:14 says:

You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth.

In the following graphic from Hebrew4Christians.com,  you can see the Hebrew, how to pronounce the Hebrew, and the English.  (Note that Hebrew is read from right to left.)  To hear a recording of what the Hebrew actually sounds like, you can press the audio icon next to the blessing on this page.

Happy Challah-making!!!