How Should We Honor The Days God Sets Apart For Him?

Practicing righteousness. Learning to love. Developing the mind of God. Following Christ. Those are all essentials of the Christian life, and there are many “tools” God has given us to help us succeed in these goals. These include prayer, Bible reading and study, the Holy Spirit inside us, and fasting.

God’s Sabbaths and holy days are also vital, and often overlooked, gifts given to help us align with God and His ways. Keeping these days as God commanded helps line us up with His will, reinforces His plan, and deepens our relationship with Him. Just as responding to an invitation to get together with your physical family lets you build relationships with them, so does responding to our heavenly Father’s invitations help us build relationships with Him, our Bridegroom, and the other children in His family.

For many Christians, keeping God’s holy days is a foreign concept because they’ve been (incorrectly) told “that’s just a Jewish/Old Testament thing. But when you start to recognize there’s lasting value in the days God calls holy to Him, you come up against the question, How do you keep the Sabbaths in a way that honors God?

Even if you have been keeping these days for a while, you know this isn’t always an easy questions to answer. There are certain rules and guidelines in scripture, but they don’t answer all our questions. Plus, knowing what to do, and what not to do, in keeping the holy days is about more than a list of rules. It’s about honoring God’s instructions on how to come before Him. So let’s take a look at what God says to do for these days and how we can obey those commands in the spirit and from our hearts. Read more

Understanding The Days That God Calls Holy To Him

Did you know that there are certain days in the Bible that God calls holy? One of these holy times happens every 7 days and we call it the weekly Sabbath. The other 7 holy days happen at set times in the spring, early summer, and fall.

If you’re reading this when it was posted, the fall holy days ended a couple weeks ago and the spring ones won’t start again for 6 months. This in-between time seems to me like the perfect opportunity for those of us who do keep the holy days to reflect on their meaning, along with how and why we keep them. And if you’ve never observed God’s holy days before, I hope you’ll find value in learning about them and maybe even join us in keeping them.

All the holy days are outlined in Leviticus 23, and then expounded on in other passages as well. In this chapter they’re all called “set feasts” (mo’ed) and “holy convocations (miqra). This identifies them as appointments that God has set at specific times for specific reasons. We talked about these Hebrew words, and others that describe God’s holy days, in last week’s post (click here to read it).

Sabbath

“The children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” (Ex. 31:16-7, WEB)

As spiritual Israel (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 3:29; Eph. 2:12-13), this covenant is transferred to us (see post “Inheriting Covenants“). The author of Hebrews talks about this from 3:7 to 4:9, which concludes, “There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” The Greek word sabbatismos literally means “keeping Sabbath” (G4520, Thayer’s dictionary).

The Sabbath (which happens every Saturday) is a time when we stop doing work and other things that clutter our weeks and enter God’s rest. It’s a time to gather with other believers in God’s presence, to learn from Him, and take on His delights as our own. The Sabbath reminds us of His plan, purpose, and presence, and let’s us practice His rest. Read more

What Are God’s Holy Days and Why Would We Care?

Prayer is a time we can choose to come before God however we are, whenever we want, and whatever we need. In these cases, we’re sort of “in control” of the interaction. There are also times when God commands/invites us to come before Him on His terms. Those times when God “hosts” us are His weekly Sabbath and the yearly holy days.

Though I’ve been keeping the holy days outlined in Leviticus 23 my whole life, I hadn’t thought about them quite like this before. My family and I kept the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) with a group in West Virginia this year, and one of the Bible studies there was called “Keeping A Holy Convocation.” It’s one of the best, most thought-provoking messages I’ve ever heard and it’s what prompted today’s post (click here to listen to that Bible study).

I won’t take the time here to address the question of whether or not modern believers should keep these holy days, but you can check out my posts “Top 5 Reasons for Christians to Keep God’s Holy Days” and “Rhythms of Worship” if you’re curious. One reason these days are important to us is that they teach us about God’s plan and His priorities, including who we’re meant to be in Him. They’re part of our identity as God-followers, which makes them a key part of our faith and it also relates to this blog’s theme of finding our true selves in God.

This is probably going to be the first post in a series, since there is so much to explore in this topic and I don’t want today’s post to become unreadably long. So for now, let’s just take a look at the ways God describes His holy days. There are 5 key Hebrew words that give us a picture of what these days are and why we should care about them. Read more

Do You Value The Gifts From Your Bridegroom?

God has invited us to become part of the greatest love story ever told. As Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man — a king — who gave a wedding feast for his son” (Matt. 22:2), LEB). That’s what God the Father is doing. He’s inviting us to be part of the marriage He’s planing for His son in the key role of the bride.

The people listening as Jesus spoke this parable would have known about all the wedding customs implied by this comparison. If you want to learn more about what was involved in a father planning his son’s marriage, I recommend “The Ancient Jewish Wedding” by Jamie Lash (click to read). There’s a lot of incredible things in these traditions that point to Jesus, but we’ll just focus on one for today.

A Jewish bridegroom would give his bride gifts as part of the betrothal process. He’d seal the betrothal agreement and then go away for a while to prepare their new home, leaving a gift along with his pledge to return. The gift(s) were meant to remind the bride of her groom. Think of it like an engagement ring. It’s no surprise, then, that our bridegroom Jesus Christ also “gave gifts to people” (Eph. 4:7-8, WEB).

Gift Of the Spirit

As we talked about in my Pentecost post earlier this year, the holy spirit is the chief of our bridal gifts.

in whom you also, having heard the word of the truth, the Good News of your salvation—in whom, having also believed, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, [which] is a pledge of our inheritance, to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory. (Eph. 1:13-14, WEB with “who” corrected to “which.” See article, “What Is The Holy Spirit?”)

The holy spirit wasn’t given until after Jesus was glorified and had fulfilled the other parts of establishing the marriage covenant (John 7:39). Only then did He and His father give “the gift of the holy spirit” (Acts 2:38). Each time God gives the holy spirit to a new believer, He’s marking us as belonging to the Bridegroom and pledging that He will come back and fulfill all His promises. Read more

Clean Temples For Yom Kippur

Back in the Old Testament when there was a tabernacle or temple standing, it included a room called “the most holy place” or “the holy of holies.” This was where the ark of the covenant was and a heavy veil separated it from the rest of the inner temple. It wasn’t a place that people, even the priests, could just walk into.

and Yahweh said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother, not to come at all times into the Most Holy Place within the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark; lest he die: for I will appear in the cloud on the mercy seat. (Lev. 16:2, WEB)

The only time someone could enter this most holy place was on the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. Even then only the high priest could go in and only if he followed the proper rules for entering a place God had sanctified.

Clean Temples For Yom Kippur | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: “Clean” by Sara Laval, CC BY via Flickr

But why bring this up now? We don’t have a temple or a priesthood or sacrifices anymore. And many Christians will say all that Old Testament stuff belong in the past. Or does it? There actually is a temple today, for “you are a temple of God” (1 Cor. 3:16, WEB). There’s a priesthood, too, because Jesus Christ is the High Priest and He has “an unchangeable priesthood” (Heb. 7:24, KJV). We’re even included in that because we’re meant “to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices” (1 Pet. 2:5, WEB). So given these facts, what can we learn from Yom Kippur today?

Temples Defiled By Association

When I was re-reading Leviticus 16, I was surprised to notice that the high priest was told to “make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, even all their sins” (Lev. 16:16, 33 WEB). I knew he was to make atonement for himself and “all the assembly of Israel,” but hadn’t noticed the holy place needed atoned for as well (Lev. 16:17, 30). There was something about being in the midst of an unclean, sinful people that defiled even the part of the temple where God’s presence appeared.

Today, the church body is described as a temple of God (there’s also a temple talked about in heaven, which we’ll get to later). The Greek word used in those passages is always naos (G3485), which refers to the inner sanctuary rather than the entire temple complex (which would be hieron, G2411). We are now God’s most holy place. And like the other holy of holies, we can become defiled by choice (see 1 Cor. 3:16-17) or by the sinful world around us. Read more

Fasting

Fasting is one of the things Christians are supposed to do. And it’s something I’ve never done except on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) when it’s strictly commanded. I’ve never even studied it because I didn’t want to be convicted on the subject (a rather embarrassing admission, but an honest one). But faithful followers of God fasted in the past, it’s counted right alongside prayer as a way of drawing nearer to God, and I suspect I should take it more seriously.

One of the churches I attend with recently called a church-wide fast, which had me thinking on the subject again. In this church, it’s generally accepted that “fast” means abstaining from food and drink for 24 hours (unless you have a medical reason you can’t do a full fast). In my Messianic group, though, I’ve heard people talking about different kinds of fasts using phrases like “full fast” and “Daniel fasts.” Having avoided studying the subject in the past, I had no ready answers for the questions this brought to mind about whether or not there really are different types of fasts and what sort of fasting God expects. Hence, this Bible study.Fasting: exploring the what, why, and how of the Christian fast | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Types of Fasting

The Hebrew words for “fast” are tsum (H6684) and its derivative tsome (H6655). The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament defines it as “depriving the body of nourishment.” In Greek, the basic word for “fast” comes from a compound of ne (not) and estho (to eat). Spiros Zodhiates says nestis (G3523) means “not having eaten” and its derivatives nesteuo (G3522) and nesteia (G3521) mean “to fast or abstain from eating.”

There are three main types of fasting that Christian groups as a whole typically recognize. They all involve not eating food for a set period of time. Some churches/writers also add a fourth kind of fast for abstaining from certain activities (such as watching TV or having sex, which they get from 1 Cor. 7:3-5).

  • A “full,” “absolute,” or “dry” fast means no food or drink.
  • A “normal,” “regular,”  or “liquid” fast means no food, but you can drink water or sometimes juice (some incorrectly refer to this as a “full fast”).
  • A “partial” or “Daniel” fast involves abstaining from a specific meal or certain types of food.

These are also the types of fasts that secular resources discuss when they talk about fasting for health reasons. But does the Bible support these distinctions in fast types? Read more