Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Date with the Lord: Musings on the Moedim

 Okay, let me preface this newest post by sharing something personal with you: I am one of those stubborn people who googles everything, who needs confirmation about what I believe to be true and likes to know why I do what I do. I never say “I was just brought up that way.” And with religious activity in particular, I fiercely measure things against God’s Word, because I know that Jesus warned people about observing traditions over His actual Laws. My husband teases me because I'm such a precise words person, such a rule follower. So, with that in mind, I'd like to share with you my experience over the last year with the biblical feasts and festivals, in Hebrew called the moedim (appointed times). 

The Word says that these moedim are a permanent ordinance. That means that they are forever commands. I may have a lot to learn about God, but I know that all I believe and rest in hinges on one particular idea: God does not change. If He did, how could we ever rest securely in our salvation? How would we know that He would not change His mind about saving us? No, when God makes a covenant or a command, He means it, and He means it forever. So if these are 'forever commands,' I have always wondered why all believers don't observe them, or even know anything about them, why they seem to have been replaced with other traditions and holidays. And this initial epiphany is what began my journey. 

What I have learned is that these appointed times were (and are) a specific time to come and convene with the Lord-call it a 'date with the Lord' if you want. Many were pilgimage feasts during which people would travel from all over the world to the Temple to stand before the Lord. We read about this taking place a lot in the New Testament, actually. We just don't recognize it. Now, because of Christ's sacrifice, we can approach God's throne in prayer from the comfort of our home, office, car, wherever we happen to be. Our body is the temple, our heart the holy of holies, the place where He dwells with us. And through learning how these feasts apply to us today, we too can come before God at these designated times and reflect on the matters to which He is drawing our attention.

There are seven feasts, and they take place throughout the year to commemorate agricultural events in the year. At first glance, I saw that they also served as a memorial to remember events in the history of a people, a nation that belonged to God. But as I dug deeper, I began to realize that the complete redemptive plan of God was reflected in these annual feasts and festivals - a physical example to help us understand spiritual truths. In fact, the Messiah's death and resurrection, the giving of the Holy Spirit, the Messiah's return, and the Millenial Kingdom-they are all represented in these annually celebrated events!

God taught the Israelites physical practices to help them understand spiritual concepts. (Jesus actually does that too - think about all the parables He used to describe the Kingdom of Heaven.) And Paul indicates that Israel's history is the physical example teaching us spiritual truths now too (1 Corinthians 10). These times are appointed that we might be in the know regarding God's plan, that we might be able to stay focused on the big picture, with reminders all year long. God is so gracious to help us remember, to be such a patient Teacher. Year after year serves as a reminder and an opportunity for us to literally get with the program. We are going in so many directions during our days, weeks, and years, are we not? These feasts are a gracious gift, designed to help us recenter, to remember what it's all about, and to prepare us for what is to come. It's like our roadmap, in a way. Why would we not want to invest time in knowing something like that?

So can it be meaningful for us to celebrate these things now? The answer is yes, and I am becoming more and more sure that God uses them as a vehicle to move us into a deeper level of understanding of Him. He doesn't just want us to 'cross over,' to just be saved from hell. He wants us to move into intimacy with Him and bear fruit of righteousness, to become holy. And by remembering and observing these feasts, we make great strides in becoming kingdom-focused people. As we focus on Him all year long, on His plan, and on what He has already done, we can only naturally draw more close to Him in gratitude and familiarity. 

Skepticism Addressed

Some of you reading this say, "Well we already have things set in place that honor the death and resurrection of Christ. Why should we do it this way? God knows my heart." But I ask you this: if we truly love Him, shouldn't we be obedient by honoring Him in the way He has asked us to? The Israelites made the mistake of trying to honor God in other ways too. They saw the way others around them worshiped their gods and liked those methods, so they incorporated those into their religious practice. They loved Him and were trying to do the right thing, but He rebukes them and instructs them not to worship Him in this way. So why would it be any different for us now?

Let me add this. Do obligatory acts with no personal touch make our spouses, children and friends feel special? No, of course not! We try to understand their love languages, we get to know who they are and what they like, and we modify our behavior to please them. We read books on how to improve our relationships and how to create intimacy. We go to seminars. We spend time on our relationships. We seek to make our significant others feel thought of and cared for in a unique way, tailored to who they are. I love words of affirmation and quality time-so my husband can vacuum all he wants, but if he isn’t around and telling me how he feels, I feel deflated and misunderstood-unfulfilled, in short.

The same sort of behavior ought to follow in our relationship with the Creator of the universe. A big part of who He is can be found in the Old Testament Scriptures, and in the moedim (appointed times). The Torah, the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, whatever you choose to call them, are all the Father sharing His heart and basically writing a manual of His likes and dislikes. Can you imagine if our loved ones would do us such a favor? He is not expecting us to do anything that He hasn’t made clear-or that He didn’t do when He walked the earth, for that matter. He took the time to reveal a lot of who He is to us, so if we really love Him, shouldn’t we learn and obey the Scriptures, do things His way?

Some of you will say, "Now that sounds like legalism to me. We're free from the Law." Let me say something about this. We need to be very careful that we do not mislabel obedience as legalism. It is not legalism to seek God through His prescribed methods, with the heart to please Him. If you are simply trying to arbitrarily check boxes and earn your way to righteousness without your heart involved, that's legalism. When, out of an outpouring of gratitude for your salvation which you recognize you could never earn, you endeavor to please God in the way that He has asked you to through your life choices, it is not legalism. One does not observe biblical guidelines in order to obtain salvation. Let that be very clear. But we are called to be holy as He is holy...and last time I checked, the all of those guidelines were thoroughly detailed in the Old testament, then expounded upon in the New Testament.

Again, some of you will say, "But I thought Jesus said we were to love God and our neighbor, and those were the only two commandments now?" And I say to you, Jesus did say that. And then he followed up that statement in Matthew 22 by saying all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commands. That is the Old Testament He's referring to there. He's giving the overarching principle here, expecting that they will delve into those Scriptures for a thorough description of God's expectation. By the way, Jesus obeyed the law, which is what He meant when He taught that He was the fulfillment, not the end, of it. And the Bible tells us, "He who says He abides in Him (Jesus) ought to walk as He walked." If the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commands, how will you go about loving God and your neighbor correctly with no point of reference? These Old Testament scriptures are your reference book, if you will only learn the spiritual principles behind each commandment.

Much of the message of the Father and of Jesus in the scriptures speaks not only about having faith, but bearing fruit. And the fruit they are talking about is righteousness, obedience to God’s will, purity, emulating Christ in all that we do, making disciples. I don't know about you, but I want to become more and more like my Savior, and for me, that means observing the things that He observed and being holy as He defines it.

The Challenge

Throughout last year I was challenged by the Lord to observe these feasts, to deepen my relationship with the Him. I studied how they relate to us now, examined the results of this obedience to His word and explored how these appointed times serve the purpose of helping us recall what God has done, remind us of how we are to live in the present, and show us how to rehearse for what is to come. I wanted to see if there are timely applications to them. I was so incredibly blessed by this experience, that I have to share it with you. So as we come to these events in the year, I will post messages about the appointed times to serve as a point of reference, an encouragement to you, a reminder, and hopefully a help to those of you who are seeking truth on these things.

What is God trying to tell us through the moedim? My next post will be about just that. I'll start with Passover, since it is the first of the feasts and actually takes place next Tuesday. I hope you'll check that out!


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