Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Abraham, Terah, and the Moon God


Abraham (Abram) is our father in faith. His example is a testimony to what God can do in the life of an ordinary human being. But what kind of father did he have? We would expect to find similar characteristics that Abraham had. We would expect that he, too, would have been a great man of faith. But, oddly, this is not what the Bible records.

Genesis 11:24 (KJV)
24 And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah:

Genesis 11:26-28 (KJV)
26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
27 Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.
28 And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.

Genesis 11:31-32 (KJV)
31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.
32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.

From Genesis 11 we find that Nahor was 29 years old when he became the father of Terah. Then when Terah was 70 years old he became a father. He had sons, Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran died  in Ur of the Chaldees, but it doesn't mentioned when. Then it says that Terah took Abram, Lot (Haran's son), and Sarai (Abram's wife) towards the land of Canaan and stopped in Haran. It was in Haran that Terah died at 250 years of age. Genesis 11 gives the impression that it was Terah who was responsible for part of the family moving to Haran, but the next passage says that it was Abram.

Acts 7:2-4 (KJV)
2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,
3 And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
4 Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.

We don't really know why there seems to be a discrepancy between these two passages. Perhaps, Abram received the call, but didn't act on it until Terah got an urge to move. In any case, God's call was on Abram to leave Haran, once his father had died, and to go on to a land that God would show him. That land was Canaan.

The only other significant mention of Terah comes from Joshua.

Joshua 24:2 (KJV)
2 And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.

In this verse Joshua told the people that their fathers, after the time of the flood, worshiped and served other gods. This even included Terah, the father of Abraham and Nahor. This is really very shocking and revealing. How could this happen?

When Noah left the ark after the flood with his three sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives, there were no others left of the human race. After observing God's provision for them, the family had to have had a strong faith in God. Yet, within a relatively short amount of time and not many generations, the family no longer followed the One True God.

It is known through archaeology that the city of Haran was a center of moon worship (See: Even the names Terah, Laban, Sarah, and Milchah apparently show influence of this moon god worship. We also know from Genesis that worship of other gods continued after Abraham.

Genesis 31:19 (KJV)
19 And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's.

These were the household gods that belonged to Laban. The word used in the Hebrew is "teraphim". Notice how similar this term is to Terah's name. Obviously, the family that remained in the Haran area continued to worship false gods.

So, how did Abram become a believer? Is is possible that there were other true believers out there?

Genesis 14:18 (KJV)
18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.

After a battle Abraham gave a tithe to this Melchizedek, the king of Jerusalem. He does seem to be a believer of God separate from Abraham's family line. So he could have received some information from outside of his family. It is also possible that Noah and his son Shem might still have been alive when Abram was born.

Genesis 9:28 (KJV)
28 And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years.

Genesis 11:10-11 (KJV)
10 These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:
11 And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.

According to these verses Noah lived 350 years after the flood. Shem lived 400 years after he fathered Arphaxad, two years after the flood.  For those who believe that the Genesis genealogies should be taken literally, there are 292 years between the flood and the birth of Terah's oldest son. Easily Abram could have had some influence from his Godly ancestors, assuming that Noah and Shem were still believers.

But, if Abram had not come to faith because of the influence of his family, nor through the influence of someone else like Melchizedek, he had to have come to faith in another way. Some how God either spoke to him directly, or He spoke to Abram indirectly, that He was God, the only God.

Genesis 18:1 (KJV)
1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;

Much later in Abraham's life, God actually appeared to him. It is also possible that God had appeared to Abram earlier before he left Ur or Haran. We don't really know, of course.

But, this should be an encouragement for us. We often worry about our unsaved family and friends. Yet, from Abraham's story we see that God will accomplish His will. He is capable of bringing His people to faith, even under impossible situations. He will always be found by those who would have a heart for Him. Yet, our responsibility remains. We just might be the instrument God has chosen to bring faith to someone else.  We must raise our children to love and honor God, and we must share the Gospel whenever we can, knowing that God can and will complete the work of faith in another's life.

Although Terah was not much of a man for us to emulate, his son became a shining example of a man who, although not perfect, had faith in God. He is worthy of our emulation.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ur of the Chaldees

This morning I was thinking about our Father Abraham and his faith.  As I studied I came upon a couple of quirky facts that I found interesting, but really have no earth shattering relevance to our faith at all. I just wanted to share this with anyone who might also find them interesting. I will deal with one today.

The first mention of Abraham, or Abram, as he was first called, is found in Genesis 11:26.

Genesis 11:26-32 (KJV)
26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
27 Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.
28 And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.
29 And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram's wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah.
30 But Sarai was barren; she had no child.
31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.
32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.

Terah was Abram's father. He had three sons, Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran had already died by the time of this narrative. He died in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldees. He left a son by the name of Lot and daughters by the name of Milchah and Iscah. Nahor married Milcah. Abram married Sarai (later to be called Sarah) who was unable to bear children. (Some have believed that Iscah and Sarai might have been the same woman. Who knows?) Then in verse 31 we see that Terah took Abram, Lot, and Sarai away from Ur, traveled toward Canaan, and stopped in the city of Haran (spelled differently than Haran, Terah's son). Terah died there.

Genesis 12:1-5 (KJV)
1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.
5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

The narrative continues into chapter 12. In the first verse the Lord called Abram and told him to leave: his country, his family, his father's house, and to go to the land that God would show him (Canaan). In return God would make of Abram a great nation, would bless him, would make his name great, would make him a blessing to those who blessed him, and make him a curse to those who cursed him. Finally, through Abram, God would bless all the families of the earth. So Abram left with Sarai and Lot and they went into the land of Canaan.

In the Book of Acts before Stephen is martyred, he gave an account of the Jew's history. He related some further details about the time spoken of in Genesis.

Acts 7:2-4 (KJV)
2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,
3 And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
4 Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.

Acts confirms that Abram lived in Mesopotamia before living in Charran (Haran). Then verse 3 gives the impression that God called Abram before he dwelt in Haran and that it was the leading of God on Abram, not Terah, that led to Terah, Abram, Sarai, and Lot to leave Ur. Then after Terah died, Abram, Sarai, and Lot left Haran for Canaan.

The first interesting item that we find in Abram's life is that he came from Ur of the Chaldees. Where is Ur? Most scholars have believed that Abram's Ur is the great city of Ur of the Sumerians. This is indicated in the map below.


However, this location proves to be difficult. In the first place, if Abram lived in the famous Ur and wanted to travel to Canaan, he would not have gone by Haran. Secondly, the Chaldeans were not in southern Mesopotamia at the time of Abram (See: Thirdly, when Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac, he sent the servant to his homeland which is different from the southern Ur.

Genesis 24:4 (KJV)
4 But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.

The servant traveled to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor. This was in northern Mesopotamia, close to Haran. Gen. 25:20 refers to the area as Padan-aram, where Jacob (Isaac's son) lived for a time with his uncle Laban. Rebekah, Jacob's mother and sister to Laban, was Bethuel's daughter. Bethuel was the son of Milchah and Nahor (Gen. 24:24). Yet, according to Gen. 11:31 above, Terah had not taken his son Nahor with him to Haran. This necessitates that Nahor would have had to have followed Terah later, or Abram's Ur was not in southern Mesopotamia. Fourthly, there were other towns or areas in the region that seem to be taken from Abram's family line, like Peleg, Serug, Terah, and Aram (See:

Map of Ancient Syria

On this map you can see Haran, Serug, and the possible site of Ur up in the yellow portion of the map.

While no one can, as of yet, prove where the location of Ur was, I believe that the evidence of Ur being north of Haran makes a lot of sense. Let me know what you think. Stay tuned for next time when we deal with another interesting quirky fact.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

How did Yeshua/Jesus Fulfill The Law?

There is often a deep divide between those who practice Messianic Judaism and those in traditional Christianity. This saddens me because after I took the plunge into a Messianic faith, about 90% of the true believers in my life were and still are in traditional Christianity. This causes a certain amount of difficulty. My family and friends believe I've lost my mind, my faith, or both. Yet, what I have experienced in coming to a Messianic faith rivals my initial born-again experience. And as I have studied, I have found that having a Messianic faith answers many of the questions that I have had over the years. So, I would like to begin a study of some of the Scripture verses that divide Messianics and other Christians in the hope of finding some understanding between us. At the same time I want to remind my traditional Christian audience that most of what Messianics believe is exactly what the traditionals believe. We are brothers and sisters in Christ.

Also, I want to recognize that the Messianic movement is not 100% unified in its beliefs. This seems to be the way of all Christianity. Therefore, I will be teaching what I have come to believe, but my views may not represent what all Messianics believe.

Has the Law been done away with?

We are going to begin by looking at the passage in Scripture that gives us Yeshua's/Jesus' understanding of The Law in His own words.

Matthew 5:17-19 (KJV)
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

In the Gospels we find that Yeshua came into conflict with the religious leaders of His day, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and others. We see in verse 17 that they believed that Yeshua had come to destroy The Law. However, Yeshua had to have observed and kept The Law perfectly in order for His death to qualify as our payment for our sin, so we know that Yeshua could not have actually broken The Law. The conflict must then be over a mistaken view that the religious leaders had over Yeshua's behavior, or over other things besides the written Law of God. In any case, the religious leaders accused Yeshua of violating The Law and by doing so "destroying" The Law.

Yeshua's answer is that He came not to destroy The Law, but to fulfill The Law. This is where Messianic believers and traditional Christians part company. Traditional Christianity says that by fulfilling The Law we no longer need to keep it. (Some would add that we still need to keep the "moral" law. Others say that we still need to keep those commandments that are restated in the New Testament.) But Messianics believe that fulfilling The Law doesn't mean that we don't need to continue to keep it.

The Greek word translated "fulfill" is the word "plerosai", which literally means "to fill". In other words Yeshua came not to destroy The Law, but to fill up, or complete The Law. He came to give it its full understanding. This meaning of the word "fulfill" should resonate with anyone reading the rest of Chapter 5 of Matthew from verses 20 - 48 where Yeshua actually stiffens the understanding of The Law. For example, the definition of adultery is broadened to include lusting after someone. Yeshua "fills up" or "makes complete" the understanding of adultery. And if The Law has been fulfilled in the sense that we don't have to keep it any more, why is there a distinction made for commandments like those against adultery? If that has been fulfilled, why can't we now commit adultery? Yet, no one seems to advocate this practice.

Verses 18 and 19 finish out Yeshua's thought. He plainly says that until earth and heaven are gone, not one small part of The Law will go away. It is not until the end of time that all will be completed or fulfilled. And verse 19 states that anyone breaking the least commandment or teaching others to break the least commandment will be called the least in the kingdom of God. Then the opposite is stated, that anyone keeping the least commandment or teaching others to keep the least commandment will be called great in the kingdom of God. Exactly what is the least commandment? Is is keeping the Saturday Sabbath, or fasting on Yom Kippur? It doesn't really matter. Yeshua is saying that we must obey The Law and we mustn't teach others to disobey.  Clearly, Yeshua is saying that The Law is still in force.

Traditional Christians at this point, no doubt, have many other verses in mind that refute the Messianic position. Most of these verses come from Paul. I will deal with these in future posts. But, in order to show that Paul was also not for abolishing The Law, we find the following:

Romans 3:31 (KJV)
31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

By insisting that fulfilling means "we don't have to keep The Law any more" we have "destroyed" The Law whether we think so or not. And since this is what Yeshua taught against, we should realize that our traditional understanding cannot possibly be correct. And let us not be religious Pharisees, convicting Yeshua of destroying The Law.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Most High God - Daniel 2:25-30


Confronted by the king's decree to kill all the wise men in Babylon, Daniel and his friends asked the Lord to reveal to them the king's dream. After Daniel received the information in a vision he went to the king.

Daniel 2:25-30 (KJV)
25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation.
26 The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?
27 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king;
28 But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these;
29 As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass.
30 But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.

Arioch, the captain of the king's guard brought Daniel in haste to the king. What did Arioch tell the king (verse 25)? He told the king that one of the captives from Judah would be able to tell the king  the interpretation of the dream that he had. What did the king ask Daniel, whose Babylonian name was Belteshazzar (verse 26)? The king asked if Daniel was able to tell him not only the interpretation of the dream, but the dream itself. What was Daniel's response (verse 27)? Daniel told the king that the secret information that he sought was beyond the capability of all the wise men, astrologers, magicians, and soothsayers. According to verse 28 who did know the secret information? Daniel told the king that there was a God in heaven that did know about the dream as well as the interpretation. Daniel then went on to tell the king that he would relate the information that he had received from God. What was the dream about (verse 29)? The king's dream was about things that would happen in the future. What else did Daniel say (verse 30)? Daniel again emphasizes that the secret information came from God. He also humbly stated that God had not given him the information because of any special wisdom that he had, but simply so that the king would understand what his dream meant.

What does this passage tell us about Daniel? Certainly, he was wise, but first and foremost, he was God's man. While Daniel could have arrogantly credited himself for being wise, he gave all the credit to God. He also spoke boldly about God without fearing the king's reaction. What do we learn about God from this passage? God is concerned about people. In this case he had given the king a dream that would reveal details about the future. As we will see next time, that information is relevant, not only for the king, but also for us in 2012.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mealtime Prayer

Many Christians come from homes where prayer is said before every meal. It was like that in my home even though my family was really only nominally Christian at the time. We were very faithful at the practice as well. I don't really remember ever not praying.

"Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen."

While praying before eating is a commendable habit, notice the focus of the prayer that my family and many others use. It is a prayer to God that He would bless us and the food that we are about to eat. It does recognize that the meal came from the bounty of God, but there is no word of thanks to God. In fact, this particular prayer makes it sound like we are afraid that the food might be poisoned or will be harmful to us. So we pray that God will bless us and keep us from that harm. This is superstition. I'm not sure that this is the kind of prayer we really should be praying.

John 6:11 (KJV)
11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.

In this verse we see that before feeding the 5,000, Jesus gave thanks for the food. This was a tradition of the Jews and Jesus obviously approved of it. But did you know that there is no command in Scripture to pray before eating? There is a command, but it is to pray after eating.

Deuteronomy 8:10 (KJV)
10 When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.

After eating we are to bless the Lord, which means to "honor as holy, or glorify" the Lord (The Free Online Dictionary). Basically, we are to thank Him and praise Him, not ask Him to bless us or our food. Secondly, we are to bless Him because of the good land that He has given us. This was written to an agrarian society that had to work hard to provide food for their families. For many of us, today, we get our food from the grocery store. This doesn't change where food comes from. So we should still thank Him for the land that has produced our food, but I think a general blessing of the Lord for our food, wherever and however we get it, is an acceptable aspect of our prayer.

So let's examine our mealtime prayers. When do we pray? We can pray before we eat, but don't forget to pray after eating. Are we praying with the right focus? Remember to bless God and to thank Him for His provision. It is acceptable to pray a standard prayer or to pray spontaneously as long as the focus is correct.

My guess is that we all could use some improvement in our mealtime prayers. They deserve our attention and our best effort.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Thought About Prayer

I have never really experienced depression and for that I am especially grateful. But when I was a teenager and had begun my high school years, I wondered just a little. I had to wake up before everyone else in my house and for some reason, this was just an awful thing for me. I don't know, maybe it was because my mother had always been the first one up and it was a type of security for me. Anyway, this began a pattern of life for me. When I would wake up I would be so depressed, so unhappy, and crabby, that I truly began to think that I was suffering from depression. The goofy thing, however, was that within about an hour, as I woke up more, the depression and crabbiness would pass and I would be my normal self. This never happened on the weekends, and as I got used to being the first one up, it was better, too.

As I entered college, work years, and then marriage, I really only had a problem when I had to get up early. If I slept until 7:00 a.m. or later, I wouldn't experience any problems, but earlier than that, I would again be depressed and crabby. Having babies and small children also played some havoc with my mood because of their erratic wake times. My poor husband quickly learned to stay silent in the morning until I was fully awake.

Considering my life in its totality, this played such a small part. Yet, increasingly, the depression became an every day affair. It no longer mattered what time I woke up, I was just miserable. It didn't matter if it was the weekend, I was crabby. And as a Christian this made me angry with myself. My life was good and I had absolutely nothing to be depressed about. So I began to pray that God would help me to be grateful and to end the depression and crabbiness.

I had heard from many others that upon waking it was good to pray before doing anything else. In this way, I could practice being grateful as well as take that depression to God and to deal with it. Still, the unhappiness remained. It still didn't last long, but it was plain irritating and prayer didn't seem to be helping.

I came out of Catholicism while I was in college. Most of the prayers that I knew from my youth were rote prayers, although I had always talked to God as a friend from my earliest days.After giving my life to Christ I was saved.  In the first church that I found myself rote prayers were used, but there was some feeling that spontaneous prayer was better outside of the worship service. In the later churches that I was in, there really were no rote prayers at all. As I became Messianic I was introduced to the Jewish Siddur, their prayer book. It is filled with prayers that are recited. While there is room for personal additional prayer, the prayer used in worship is rote. I fell in love with many of them and I especially appreciated the Jewish focus on prayer that continues throughout the day. I began to use some rote prayer just as soon as I woke up in the morning. I memorized about four different prayers that I found meaningful. The first expressed my gratitude to God for giving me another day to live.

Oddly, enough, although I still wake in a bad mood, I pray and it's over. Perhaps, my spontaneous prayer was too often mixed with whining or it took too much effort to come up with truly grateful words. I don't know. But I have found that the prayer flows from my mouth and affects my thinking in ways that I had not expected. I will, of course, continue to pray spontaneously, but thank you, God for helping me to find a way for me to truly feel grateful in the morning!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Truth About Judging Others

"Don't judge me!" seems to be the mantra of today's society. We want to be able to do whatever we want without any regard to law, morality, or common sense. Behavior, long frowned on, is now touted as acceptable and is flaunted without shame.

Even Christianity is not immune. Sin must be tolerated in the public forum. No one can judge another's actions to be wrong even if Scripture clearly states the behaviors are sin. It doesn't matter, either, that these sinful behaviors offend or cause the Christian to go against his or her religious conscience. But even worse, sin is allowed to breed within our church circles and few dare to say anything. Church discipline has gone out the window.

How did this happen? Christians and non-Christians alike are aware of Matthew 7:1 that says, "Judge not, that ye be not judged."

So, everybody suddenly has the idea that judging is inappropriate in all situations. But, is this really what God meant? Are we really to accept all behaviors and allow them to flourish?

In the first place, we, as a society, make judgments all the time. We have laws that we enforce, that say murder is wrong. Theft, treason, and drunkenness are others. Society still believes adultery, child abuse, and bullying are wrong. Why can these sins be judged, but not others?

Obviously, our society doesn't truly believe that all behaviors are to be free from judgment. But with the belief that society's mores are changeable, behaviors that were once shunned in the public mind  are now to be found acceptable. And somehow it is the duty of these enlightened thinkers to force everyone else into their way of thinking. Alas, Christianity's resistance to these changes is softening and many Christians seem to be following suit.

But let's look at Matthew 7:1 closer. Could it be that Biblical illiteracy is the cause of Christians not standing up for the definitions of Biblical sin? Could Biblical illiteracy even be one of the causes that society, in general, doesn't understand sin?

Matthew 7:1-2 (KJV)
1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

Matthew 7 doesn't say that we can't judge. It merely cautions that by whatever standard we use for judgment will be the standard by which we, ourselves, will be judged.

Here are some other verses that point to our ability to judge:

Matthew 7:3-5 (KJV)
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

This is a continuation from Matthew 7. Again, we see that the caution is to be careful in how we judge. If we see a fault in someone else, we need to make sure that we have removed the worse fault  in our own life first. This whole passage is about hypocritical judging, not about never judging.

1 Corinthians 6:2-3 (KJV)
2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
3 Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

This verse speaks about how believers will judge the world and the angels.

1 Corinthians 11:31 (KJV)
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.

Here 1 Corinthians says that we should judge ourselves.

John 7:24 (KJV)
24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

John also says that we need to be careful in our judging, that the standard cannot be according to appearance, but rather righteousness.

And where do we find what is righteous? It is in the Word of God, the Bible, where we find what God considers right and wrong. This is to be the perfect standard upon which we are to make judgments, whether of ourselves, the church, or the world. And this standard never changes, contrary to what society is trying to tell us.

One last thing. There is something that we cannot judge, and that is another's heart. Only God can see that. He is the only one who knows whether someone is saved or not, or what motives lie in the soul. Based on what we see can cause us to judge incorrectly. That is why God cautions us about judging. There is a fine line between judging a person's character and judging his or her actions. God is responsible for the judging of one's heart. But we have the responsibility and duty to judge behaviors and to judge righteously. Don't fall for society's mantra. It is simply incorrect.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Most High God - Daniel 2:14-24


We last left Daniel in a precarious position. King Nebuchadnezzar had ordered that all the wise men of Babylon would be killed because they could not tell him his dream. Daniel and his three friends, as wise men in the kingdom, were to be sought out and killed, as well.

Daniel 2:14-24 (KJV)
14 Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king's guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon:
15 He answered and said to Arioch the king's captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel.
16 Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation.
17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions:
18 That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
19 Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his:
21 And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:
22 He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.
23 I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king's matter.
24 Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus unto him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will shew unto the king the interpretation.

Who had gone out to carry out the king's command (verse 14)? Arioch, the captain of the king's guard, had gone out to slay the wise men. He finally came to Daniel. With what characteristics did Daniel answer Arioch? He answered with counsel and wisdom. What did Daniel ask Arioch (verse 15)? He asked him why the king was so hasty in his decree. Arioch then explains what had happened. What does Daniel request from the king (verse 16)? Daniel goes in to the king and asks for some time. Then he would be able to give the king the interpretation of the dream. Where does Daniel go (verse 17)? Daniel goes to his house. What does he do there? He tells Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah about the king's decree. In verse 18 what do Daniel and his friends do? It appears that they pray together for God's mercy, that God would tell them the king's dream, and that the four of them would not perish with the rest of the wise men. What happens in verse 19? Daniel receives the information that he requested. How does Daniel receive it? He receives it through a night vision. What is a night vision? How is this different from a dream? A vision occurs when one is awake, while a dream occurs when one is sleeping. So in this case, Daniel received the needed information from God during the night while he was awake. What was Daniel's response? He blessed the God of heaven. Verses 20-23 relate Daniel's prayer. What things does Daniel say God is like and is able to do? Daniel says that God is wise and mighty (verse 20). He says that God changes the times and seasons, sets up and removes kings, gives wisdom to the wise, and gives knowledge to those of understanding (verse 21). He reveals secret things because he knows everything (verse 22). What does Daniel do in verse 23? Daniel thanks and praises God for giving him the information that he needed. What happens in verse 24? Daniel goes back to Arioch, tells him not to slay the wise men, and to bring him in to the king.

What can we learn from this section of Scripture? We see how wise Daniel was. The first thing that he did when facing a difficult time was pray. He gathered his friends together and they all prayed. Is this how you handle trying times? Then when Daniel received something that he had asked God for, he responded in thanksgiving. Do you remember to thank and bless God when He showers good things on you?

Next time, we'll see what happens as Daniel meets with the king.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Home Churching Update

When I asked the question as to whether or not it is OK to home church I was really torn about the answer. There are Scripture verses that point to an obligation to meet with fellow believers (See "Is it OK to Home Church"), but I wasn't totally comfortable in any of the churches around me.

However, God is so good! As I was writing about the history of the Sabbath, I came upon the following verses:

Acts 16:12-13 (KJV)
12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.
13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

This passage is describing Philippi, a city that Paul visited in his travels. As was his custom, he would spend his Saturday Sabbaths in the synagogues. However, Philippi did not have a synagogue. Apparently, there were not enough Jewish men in order to have one. So the Jewish or God-fearing women would meet at the river side and pray.

It dawned on me that the women were not there to simply pray together as Christians usually think of prayer. But rather, they would have been engaged in a prayer service, a structured time of recitation of Jewish prayers. They were literally doing the Saturday Sabbath without the walls and other trappings of the synagogue. These women were doing what they could given the situation they were in.

I found this passage to be so relevant to my own circumstances. While I could attend an acceptable Sunday church, none of them would satisfy my soul. Home churching meets the need that I have.

I've also thought about the growing apostasy that exists in the church. More and more churches are preaching a watered-down message, are allowing sin to exist in the church body, and are actually beginning to stray from sound doctrine. At some time, I believe that many Christians will find themselves in situations where no acceptable church exists in their area. They will likely find themselves in the same position that I am in now, although for different reasons. In any case, when a church body is not available, the only thing that you can do is home church.

Hopefully, soon, I will find others to worship with, whether that is in a formal church, or in a home where there are other like-minded believers. Until then I think my home churching is the best thing that I can do.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Are You A Good Person?

Are you a good person? Most people believe that they are. But I have a test for you today to see if you truly are a good person.

Have you ever lied? If you answered "yes", that makes you a liar.

Have you ever stolen anything, even a candy bar when you were a child, or a paperclip from work? If you answered "yes", that makes you a thief.

Have you ever looked at someone with lust? If you answered "yes", that makes you an adulterer.

Matthew 5:28 (KJV)
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

If you answered "yes" to all of these questions you are a lying and thieving adulterer.

These sins are discussed in the Ten Commandments. Yet, I only asked about three of them.

You might be thinking to yourself, "What's the big deal? Everyone commits sin sometimes. It doesn't make him or her a bad person.

But this thinking is very different from God's.

James 2:10 (KJV)
10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

James is saying here that if you fail to keep even one commandment you are guilty of breaking the whole law! This may seem too extreme for you, but because God is perfectly sinless and holy, He cannot tolerate to be with any sin at all.

And do you know what the penalty is for breaking the law?

Revelation 21:8 (KJV)
8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

The penalty is spending an eternity in hell!

This should make you concerned! Now before you dismiss these comments, please understand that you are not alone. Every single person on the face of the earth, myself included, has sinned and broken the law.

Romans 3:23 (KJV)
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

And we all face that eternity in hell!

Now, many of you may be thinking that God is a merciful God and that He forgives sin, that all you need to do is to say that you are sorry.

Let's look at this. Let's imagine that you have been convicted of being a murderer. The judge is about to sentence you to death. Even if this judge is merciful will he let you off if you say you're sorry? No, the sin must be paid for. But what if someone stood up and offered to take your place? The sin would be paid for, wouldn't it?

Well, this is what God has done himself. He was willing to die in the place of all mankind, paying the penalty for the sin that we all have committed. All we have to do is repent.  (Remember, though, that repentance is not just saying you're sorry, but rather turning away from sin, changing your behavior, and turning to God's ways.) Then we believe and trust in what God has done for us. We are then born again and are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. We have eternal life and will not have to suffer eternity in hell.

Yes, we all have sinned, but we have a God who has taken care of the penalty,  if we are willing to come to him in repentance and faith.

(Concepts taken from

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Sabbath Since the Reformation


In summary, the Saturday Sabbath has continued from the days of Jesus through the days of the Reformation, even though Sunday has replaced it in the majority of churches. Today we're going to move on to the history of the Saturday Sabbath after the Reformation.

The first known Saturday Sabbath keeper in America was Stephen Mumford who came over from England in 1664. He organized the first Saturday Sabbath church in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1671 (The Sabbath in America, Chapter 27,

The German Seventh Day Baptists began in 1728 in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. They are in existence today (

In 1844 the Seventh Day Adventist Church began in Washington, New Hampshire and now comprises a world wide organization.

"The current notion that Christ and His apostles authoritatively substituted the first day for the seventh, is absolutely without any authority in the New Testament" (Abbott, Dr. Lyman, in the "Christian Union", June 26, 1890).

"If it [the Ten Commandments] yet exist, let us observe it...And if it does not exist, let us abandon a mock observance of another day for it. 'But,' say some, 'it was changed from the seventh to the first day.' Where? when? and by whom? - No, it never was changed, nor could it be, unless creation was to be gone through again: for the reason assigned [in Genesis 2:1-3] must be changed before the observance or respect to the reason, can be changed. It is all old wives' fables to talk of the 'change of the sabbath' from the seventh to the first day. If it be changed, it was that august personage changed it who changes times and laws ex officio. - I think his name is "Doctor Antichrist" (Campbell, Alexander, "The christian Baptist", February  2, 1824, vol. 1, no. 7).

"We have seen how gradually the impression of the Jewish Sabbath faded from the mind of the Christian church, and how completely the newer thought underlying the observance of the first took possession of the church. We have seen that the Christian of the first three centuries never confused one with the other, but for a time celebrated both" (The Sunday Problem, a study book by the Lutheran Church, 1923, p. 36

"The [Seventh-day] Sabbath was binding in Eden, and it has been in force ever since. This Fourth Commandment [Exodus 20:8-11] begins with the word 'remember,' showing that the Sabbath had already existed when God wrote the law on the tables of stone at Sinai. How can men claim that this one commandment has been done away with when they admit that the other nine are still binding? Moody, Dwight L., Weighed and Wanting, 1898, pp. 46-47.).

"Nowhere in the bible do we find that Jesus or the apostles ordered that the Sabbath be changed from Saturday to Sunday. We have the commandment of God given to Moses to keep holy the Sabbath day, that is, the seventh day of the week, Saturday. Today, most Christians keep Sunday because it has been revealed to us by the [Roman] church outside the bible" ("Catholic Virginian", Oct 3, 1947).

"The Church changed the observance of the Sabbath to Sunday by right of the divine, infallible authority given to her by her Founder, Jesus Christ. The Prostestant, claiming the Bible to be the only guide of faith, has no warrant for observing Sunday. In this matter the Seventh Day Adventist is the only consistent Protestant" ("The Catholic Universe Bulletin", Aug. 14, 1942, p. 4).

Besides the Seventh Day Adventists, the Seventh Day Baptists, and  the German Seventh Day Baptists,  the Church of God, the Seventh Day Pentecostals, and many other smaller groups world-wide observe Saturday Sabbaths.

Perhaps the newest group to enter this field are the Messianic Jewish congregations. This movement began in the mid-nineteenth century in Kishinev, Ukraine, in 1884. The International Hebrew Christian Alliance began in 1925. But it was during the 1960's that many Jews came to believe in Jesus and the Jews for Jesus organization was founded. Today, there are many Messianic Jewish congregations where both Jewish and Gentile believers observe not only the Saturday Sabbath, but continue to observe the Mosaic Law, as well. Even many mainline denominations are beginning to see the value in learning about the Hebrew Roots of Christianity and are studying the Jewish character of the first century when Jesus was alive on the earth (

From these five posts it is clearly seen that contrary to the opinion of many, Saturday Sabbath is not only a choice that many have believed in, but that it is the right choice based on Biblical and historical evidence.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Sabbath from the Fifth Century to the Reformation


Today we're continuing in our search for Saturday Sabbath history. We have found that up through the fourth century there is evidence that believers have observed a Saturday Sabbath. This actually appears to be the norm and it isn't until about this time that Sunday began to be the new Sabbath. Although the majority of believers make the switch today's discussion will focus on those groups that continued in the Saturday Sabbath.

Saturday Sabbath History of the Fifth and Sixth Centuries

"Centuries of the Christian era passed away before the Sunday was observed by the Christian church as the Sabbath. History does not furnish us with a single proof or indication that it was at any time so observed previous to the Sabbatical edict of Constantine in A.D. 321" (Domville, Sir William, Examination of the Six Texts)

"The last day of the week was strictly kept in connection with that of the first day for a long time after the overthrow of the temple and it worship. Down even to the fifth century the observance of the Jewish Sabbath was continued in the Christian church, but with a rigor and solemnity gradually diminishing" (Coleman, Ancient Christianity Exemplified, Chapter 26, Section 2).
Near the end of the sixth century Pope Gregory, in an epistle, condemned those who either observed a Saturday Sabbath or those who observed both Saturday and Sunday as preachers of Antichrist (Heylyn, History, Sabbath, Part 2, Chapter 5, Section 1).

"Having continued his labors (Colomba, missionary to Scotland, born 543) in Scotland thirty-four years, he clearly and openly foretold his death, and on Saturday the ninth of June said to his disciple Diermit: 'This day is called the Sabbath, that is, the day of rest and such will it truly be for me; for it will put an end to my labors'" (Butler, Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principle Saints, Art. St. Colombo, A.D. 597).

Saturday Sabbath History from the Seventh Century to the Reformation

Saturday Sabbath keeping was never totally extinguished. Nazarenes, Cerinthians, Hypsistari, Vaudois, Cathari, Toulousians, Albigenses, Petrobrusians, Passagii, and Waldenses. All of these groups were believed to observe Saturday as the Sabbath.

Regarding the Cathari, "He lays down also as one of their opinions, that the law of Moses is to be kept according to the letter, and that the keeping of the Sabbath, circumcision, and other legal observations, ought to take place" (Ecclesiastical History, p 168).

"Like the other sects already mentioned, they had the utmost aversion to the dominion and discipline of the church of Rome; but they were, at the same time, distinguished by two religious tenets, which were peculiar to themselves. The first was a notion that the observation of the law of Moses, in everything except the offering of sacrifices, was obligatory upon Christians, in consequence of which they circumcised their followers, abstained from those meats, the use of which was prohibited under the Mosaic economy, and celebrated the Jewish Sabbath" (Mosheim, Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 2, p. 273, 1860 edition).

Of a group of eastern Christians, "Fasting periods are very numerous and about half of the days of the year, including the Jewish Sabbath and Sunday, are religiously observed. Indications of Jewish influence, besides Sabbath observance, are the practice of circumcision, and distinction between clean and unclean animals, etc." (Newman, A.H.,A Manual of Church History, Vol 1, p. 646, 1933 edition).

Regarding the Nestorians, "These eight festivals of our Lord they observe and we have many holy days and the Sabbath-day, on which we do not labor ...The Sabbath-day we reckon far- far above the others... Incense is burned on the Sabbath and feast days" (Coleman, Ancient Christianity Exemplified, p. 573).

"But when the period of the Auto da Fe approaches, the Proctor waits upon him and declares, that he is charged by a great number of witnesses, of having Judaized; which means, having conformed to the ceremonies of the Mosaic law, such as not eating pork, hare, fish without scales, etc., of having attended the solemnization of the Sabbath, having eaten the Pascal Lamb, etc." (Dellon, Account of the Inquisition at Goa, 1684).

Saturday Sabbath History Since the Reformation

"Louis XII, king of France, being informed by the enemies of the Waldenses inhabiting a part of the province of Provence, that several heinous crimes were laid to their account, sent the Master of Requests, and a certain doctor of the Sorbonne; who was a confessor to His Majesty, to make inquiry into this matter. On their return, they reported that they had visited all the parishes where they dwelt, and inspected their places of worship, but that they had found there no images, nor signs of the ornaments which belong to the mass, nor any of the ceremonies of the Romish Church; mush less could they discover any traces of those crimes with which they had been charged.

"On the contrary, they kept the Sabbath day, observed the ordinance of baptism according to the primitive church, instructed their children in the articles of the Christian faith and commandments of God. The king having heard the report of this commissioner, said with an oath that they were better men than himself or his people" (Jones, Church History, Vol II, Chapter V, Section 4).

Following the Reformation this comment was made about  a university professor named Carlstad. "Carlstad differed essentially from Luther in regard to the use made of the Old Testament. With him, the law of Moses was still binding. Luther, on the contrary, had a strong aversion to what he calls a legal and Judaizing religion. Carlstad held to the divine authority of the Sabbath from the Old Testament; Luther believed Christians were free to observe any day as a Sabbath, provided they be uniform in observing it," (Sears, Life of Luther, p. 402).

"In the reign of Elizabeth (1558-1603), it occurred to many conscientious and independent thinkers (as it had previously done to some Protestants in Bohemia), that the fourth commandment required of them the observance, not of the first, but of the specified seventh day of the week, and a strict bodily rest, as a service then due to God; while others, though convinced that the day had been alteed by divine authority, took up the same opinion as to the scriptural obligation to refrain from work. The former class became numerous enough to make a considerable figure for more than a century in England, under the title of 'Sabbatarians' -- a word now exhanged for the less ambiguous appelation of 'Seventh-day Baptist'" (Chambers' Cyclopaedia, Article, Sabbath, Vol 8, p. 402, London, 1867).

"In the seventeenth century, eleven churches of Sabbatarians flourished in England, while many scattered Sabbath-keepers were to be found in various parts of that kingdom" (History of the Sabbath, 1873, p. 491).

"Several leaders and preachers of the Puritans have retransferred the rest day from Sunday to Saturday (1554). . . . In Bohemia Sabbatarians sprung up as early as 1520. Such Sabbatarians, or similar sects, we meet about 1545 among the Quakers in England" (Kohn, Chief Rabbi, Sabbatarians in Transylvania).

From these quotes we see that as the fifth century dawned the observance of worship on both Saturday and Sunday continued. However, the observance of the Saturday Sabbath was diminishing. This was especially true in the sixth century as the bishop or pope of Rome became the head of all the Roman Catholic Church. It was really at this point that the Saturday Sabbath went "underground", being observed by splinter groups and those opposed to the Roman church. During the next centuries the Sunday Sabbath was considered the norm in the church, but there were still groups that observed the Saturday Sabbath. During the Reformation, the Protestant reformers generally kept the Sunday Sabbath from the Roman church, although again we find evidence of Saturday Sabbath keeping.

Next we will look at the Saturday Sabbath after the Reformation.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Sabbath During the Apostolic Days through the Fourth Century


Today we're going to go on and cover the history of the Saturday Sabbath from the time after the immediate disciples of Jesus through to the fourth century.

In summary, we found that Jesus scrupulously kept the Saturday Sabbath. We also found ample evidence that after Jesus' death the disciples and the new Christian converts spent their Saturdays either in the Temple (for those in Jerusalem) or in the synagogues (both Jews and Gentiles).

Before we get into the further history I need to point out that heresy in the church began during the days of the disciples. Many of the epistles in the New Testament were written because of some heresy that had begun to catch on amongst the believers. For example, John spoke against the Gnostics and Paul battled the Colossian Heresy. This is human nature. I believe that moving away from the Saturday Sabbath was one such heresy. And because this began so early on we do find evidence in the early church fathers that Sunday had crept into the practice of some. This was not universal, however, and there remains a strand of Saturday Sabbath practice throughout our history. This is what I want to report on.

Saturday Sabbath History of the First and Second Centuries

"The first Christian church established at Jerusalem by apostolic authority became in its doctrine and practice a model for the greater part of those founded in the first century...These Judaizing Christians were first known by the outside world as 'Nazarenes.' ... All Christians agreed in celebrating the seventh day of the week in conformity to the Jewish converts" (Smith, Hugh, History of the Christian Church, pp. 50, 51, 69).

Prior to the destruction of the Temple Christianity was viewed as a sect of Judaism. When the Christians feared that the Romans were on the verge of attacking Jerusalem in 70 A.D. they fled to Pella, a town in Perea (Eusebius III:5). The Jews stayed and many were slaughtered. This resulted in increased tension between the Jews and Christians.

Then after the Second Jewish-Roman War in 135 A.D. the Jews were forced to leave Judea and spread throughout the Roman Empire. This also created further animosity between the two religious groups. At this time of history it became very dangerous to be considered a Jew, so the Christians began to remove themselves from any association with the Jews. Many Christians no longer wanted to share rites viewed as "Jewish".

Yet there were many who still held to a Saturday Sabbath.

"Yet, for some hundred years in the primitive church, not the Lord's day only, but the seventh day also, was religiously observed, not by Ebion and Cerinthus only, but by pious Christians also, as Baronius writeth, and Gomarus confesseth, and Rivert also" (Twisse, William D.D., "Morality of the Fourth Commandment", p.9, London, 1641). (Notice that the practice of meeting every day that existed in the early church quickly became just the Saturday Sabbath and the meeting on Sunday to commemorate the Lord's resurrection.)

"Have before thine eyes the fear of God, and always remember the ten commandments of God,- to love the one and only Lord God with all thy strength; to give no heed to idols, or any other beings, as being lifeless gods, or irrational beings or demons. Consider the manifold workmanship of God, which received its beginning through Christ. Thou shalt observe the Sabbath, on account of Him who ceased from His work of creation, but ceased not from His work of providence; it is a rest for meditation of the law, not for the idleness of the hands" (Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, p.413, 1951 Edition).

"Before the second century was half gone, before the last of the apostles had been dead forty years, this apostate, this working of the 'Mystery of Iniquity,' had so largely spread over the east and the west, that it is literally true, that a large part of the Christian observances and institutions, even in this century, had the aspect of the pagan mysteries" (Mosheim, in Ecclesiastical History, Century 2, Part 2, Chapter 4, Paragraph 1).

Saturday Sabbath History of the Third and Fourth Centuries

"The observance of the Sabbath among the Jewish Christians gradually ceased. Yet the Eastern Church to this day marks the seventh day of the week (excepting only the Easter Sabbath) by omitting fasting, and standing in prayer; the Latin Church, in direct opposition to Judaism, made Saturday a fast day. The controversy on this point began as early as the end of the second century" (Schaff, Philip, History of the Church, p. 372, 1864 edition, p. 205, 1952 edition).

"Nazarenes, an obscure Jewish-Christian sect, existing at the time of Epiphanius (fl. A.D. 370) in Coele-Syria, Decapolis (Pella) and Basanitus (Cacabe). According to that authority, they dated their settlement in Pella from the time of the flight of the Jewish Christians from Jerusalem, immediately before the siege in A.D. 70; he characterizes them as neither more or less than Jews pure and simple, but adds that they recognized the new covenant as well as the old, and believed in the resurrection, and in the one God and His Son Jesus Christ" (The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, Vol. 19).

In 313 A.D. when Constantine was emperor of the Roman Empire, the Edict of Milan ended the persecution of the church. This put Christianity on an equal footing with the pagan religions. In A.D. 321 he recognized the "day of the sun" (Sunday) as the day of rest.

But it was Sylvester I (314-337 A.D.) that used his authority to coerce the abandonment of the Saturday Sabbath. Following Constantine's Edict he said the following.

"If every Sunday is to be observed joyfully by the Christians on account of the resurrection, then every Sabbath on account of the burial is to be execration [loathing or cursing] of the Jews " (-quoted by S.R.E. Humbert, Adversus Graecorum calumnias 6, in Patrologie Cursus Completus, Series Latine, ed. J.P. Migne, 1844, p. 143).

At the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) the question of when to celebrate Easter was decided. It would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. This was to make Easter independent of Passover.  Pressure was brought to bear on those who wanted to continue the observance of Passover as proscribed in Scripture. Yet, not all fell in line.

Polycrates, a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John, said the following:

"As for us, then, we scrupulously observe the exact day, (the Feast of Passover), neither adding nor taking away. For in Asia great luminaries have gone to their rest, who shall rise again in the day of the coming of the Lord, when He cometh with glory from heaven and shall raise again all the saints. I speak of Philip, one of the twelve apostles who is laid to rest at Hierapolis; and his two daughters, who arrived at old age unmarried; his other daughter also, who passed her life under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and reposes at Ephesus; John, moreover, who reclined on the Lord's bosom, and who became a priest wearing the mitre and a witness and a teacher-he rests at Ephesus. Then there is Polycarp, both bishop and martyr at Smyrna; and Thraseas from Eumenia, both bishop and martyr, who rests at Smyrna. Why should I speak of Sagaris, bishop and martyr, who rests at Laodicea? of the blessed Papirius, moreover? and of Melito the eunuch, who performed all his actions under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and lies at Sardis, awaiting the visitation from heaven, when he shall rise again from the dead? These all kept the passover on the fourteenth. day of the month, in accordance with the Gospel, without ever deviating from it, but keeping to the rule of faith.
Moreover I also, Polycrates, who am the least of you all, in accordance with the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have succeeded-seven of my relatives were bishops, and I am the eighth, and my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven.-I myself, brethren, I say, who am sixty-five years old in the Lord, and have fallen in with the brethren in all parts of the world, and have read through all Holy Scripture, am not frightened at the things which are said to terrify us. For those who are greater than I have said, 'We ought to obey God rather than men.'" (quoted from Eusebius).

While this doesn't speak about the Sabbath it does lend support to the changing of the so-called Jewish customs from Scripture.

"Opposition to Judaism introduced the particular festival of Sunday very early, indeed into the place of the Sabbath" (Neander, Church History).

It was at the Council of Laodicea in 364 A.D. that Sunday became the official day of worship and Saturday was to be a work day.

"Christians ought not to Judaize, and to rest on the Sabbath, but preferring the Lord's day, should rest if possible as Christians. Wherefore if they shall be found to Judaize, let them be accursed from Christ" (Bishop Hefele, History of the Councils).

The progression of history shows that after the death of Jesus the disciples continued the custom of a Saturday Sabbath. When they could they met on the other days of the week as well. Eventually, Christians dropped meeting on all days except for the Saturday Sabbath and a meeting on Sunday in honor of the Lord's resurrection. As we come to the end of the fourth century we see that this is still the practice, but the Sunday meeting is beginning to look more and more like the Sabbath day while Saturday is beginning to be viewed as a day of work. Observing a Saturday Sabbath is becoming a supposed identification with hated Judaism.

Stay tuned for the next installment.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Sabbath During the Days of Jesus and His Disciples


After my last post a commenter tried to convey the message that Sunday worship has been the rule of the Christian church since the days of the disciples. However, I don't believe this to be the case, and I feel that it is necessary to take us through the history of the Saturday Sabbath.

First, a couple of comments. Anyone can find what they want online. If you want to prove that Sunday worship has been the rule, you can find sources that will say just that. At the same time, if you want to prove Saturday worship is the rule, you can find as many or more sources about that. So, how can we attempt to find the truth? I will try simply to prove that Saturday Sabbath has been observed by Christians throughout church history.. The reader will have to decide upon the evidence and determine whether it is credible or not.

My other concern has to do with my commenter's insistence on claiming that in the Christian church Sunday is not considered the Sabbath. He or she acknowledges that Saturday is the Sabbath, but that Jesus' death and resurrection fulfilled the Sabbath command and Christians no longer have to observe it. This is an issue that I'm not going to deal with at this time. As long as Christians do not worship on Saturdays I believe they treat Sunday just as if it were a Sabbath, whether it's called that or not. For the purposes of this history I will use Sunday worship or Sabbath interchangeably.

The Seventh Day

The first instance of anything pertaining to the Sabbath occurs in Genesis

Genesis 2:2-3 (KJV)
2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

I bring these particular verses to our attention because of my commenter's reference connecting the observance of a Saturday Sabbath to the giving of the Law in Moses' time. While these verses say absolutely nothing about whether or not Adam and Eve observed a Sabbath, we do see that from the beginning God blessed and sanctified the seventh day.

Genesis 26:5 (KJV)
5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

Again in this verse nothing specifically is said about Abraham's observance of a Sabbath. However, it does point to the fact that commandments, statutes, and laws were given to the people before the giving of the so-called Mosaic Law. Even prior to this, Cain and Abel and Noah (not yet considered Jews) obviously had an understanding about sacrifices, since they made offerings to God. Could they have not understood something about the Sabbath?

The first time that the actual observance of a Saturday Sabbath is referenced in Exodus.

Exodus 16:4-5 (KJV)
4 Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.
5 And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.

Exodus 16:23 (KJV)
23 And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.

These verses all come before the giving of the Law. Therefore, prior to the Law of Moses the people were observing a Saturday Sabbath. (Exodus 16 occurs in the second month after the people left Egypt. The Law was not given until the third month.)

The Sabbath That Jesus Observed

Luke 4:16 (KJV)
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

This verse in Luke comes at the very beginning of Jesus' ministry. Clearly, He observed the Saturday Sabbath. He had to obey all the Law in order to be sinless and to qualify as a sacrifice for mankind's sin. Why wouldn't His disciples (ourselves included) do what our teacher and master did?

The Sabbath That Jesus' Disciples Observed

For this section I would like to offer a couple of statements against the verses that are commonly used to "prove" a Sunday Sabbath.

Acts 20:7-8 (KJV)
7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.

The Jewish day begins at sundown. Therefore, the first day of the week in verse 7 does not have to refer to Sunday, but can refer to Saturday evening after sundown. Traditionally, the Jews met for a closing service after the Saturday Sabbath. Since verse 8 describes the use of "lights" it is obviously night and not a Sunday morning. An argument could be made that the verses are describing a Sunday night, but then Sunday evening after sundown for the Jew would have been the second day of the week and not the first. There is absolutely no proof to be had here regarding a Sunday Sabbath.

1 Corinthians 16:1-2 (KJV)
1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.
2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

This passage has also been used to "prove" a Sunday Sabbath. However, the Jews would never have gathered money on a Sabbath day (Nehemiah 10:31). So, this verse actually proves that Sunday was not considered a Sabbath day. Could they have gathered for worship? Yes, but this doesn't prove that the disciples weren't  observing a Saturday Sabbath.

Now let's look at several verses that show that the disciples did observe a Saturday Sabbath as well as kept the Mosaic Law.

Acts 13:42-44 (KJV)
42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.

This passage very clearly points out that Paul and those with him spent their Saturdays at the synagogue. The day is specifically called "the Sabbath day". Notice also, that there were Gentiles there as well, in fact "almost the whole city" came together to "hear the word of God."

Acts 15:19-21 (KJV)
19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

This passage is often used to say that the new Gentile believers did not have to follow the Law. Unfortunately, verse 21 seems to contradict this. There was an expectation that every Saturday these new believers would be in the synagogues hearing the teaching from the books of Moses.

Acts 18:4 (KJV)
4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.

Again, where did we find Paul? He was teaching every Sabbath in the synagogue.

Acts 16:12-13 (KJV)
12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.
13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

On this particular Sabbath Paul couldn't find a synagogue (too few male Jews?) so he went out to the river where he found a group of women conducting a prayer service.

Acts 2:46 (KJV)
46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,

But it wasn't only Paul that continued to observe the Laws of Judaism. This early verse in Acts points to all the disciples gathering together daily in the temple. This means they would have been in the Temple both Saturday and Sunday. However, in order to go into the Temple, the Jewish men and women would have had to be ritually clean. Therefore, they continued to observe the Law.

Acts 21:20 (KJV)
20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:

The key idea here is that thousands of Jews became believers and they were all zealous of the Law.

But it wasn't only Jews that observed the Law of Moses either.

1 Corinthians 5:8 (KJV)
8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Paul was admonishing the mostly Gentile believers to keep the Feast of Passover.

Then before we get into the observance of the Sabbath during the centuries after Jesus and His disciples let's look at a passage in Matthew.

Matthew 24:15-20 (KJV)
15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:

Jesus is speaking in this passage. He is describing the future event of the destruction of the Temple, which occurred in 70 A.D. Notice how in verse 20 Jesus tells the disciples that they should pray that they don't have to flee during winter nor on the Sabbath day. This is certainly an acknowledgement that there was going to be a Sabbath day that the people would continue to observe after His death. Could it have switched to Sunday? I don't believe so, but let's find out next time.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

When is the Sabbath Day?

Whenever I teach, speak, or write about the necessity of Christians observing a Saturday Sabbath I get the following response. "We don't have to obey the Old Testament Law any more, because Jesus fulfilled it! Therefore, we can observe a Sunday sabbath if we want to, especially since that commemorates the day Jesus rose from the dead."

Well, this would have been my own response five years ago, but today my thinking has completely changed. Let me tell you how I came to a different conclusion.

When I became a born again Christian I began to voraciously read the Bible. Whenever I would read the Old Testament I would come across verses like the following:

Exodus 31:16-17 (KJV)
16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.

Clearly, God said that the observance of the seventh day, or Saturday, Sabbath was to be kept for a perpetual covenant (verse 16) and as a sign forever (verse 17). I could not understand why "forever" didn't seem to mean "forever", since every Christian I knew at the time worshiped on Sunday and not Saturday. I brushed it off thinking that the "church" for sure would know the right way. Yet, this little thing kept bugging me at the back of my mind.

And then there was Paul, who said in Romans:

Romans 14:5-6 (KJV)
5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

So after reading this I felt much more comfortable about the observance of Sabbath on Sunday. I fell in line with the pervasive thinking of traditional Christianity. I was content until many in Christianity began to push the envelope even further. Some were beginning to state that you could have any day as a Sabbath day. So, if you needed to work on Sunday, that was fine. Just worship on Tuesday or any other day that was convenient. But Exodus 31 came back to haunt me. Why didn't God's "forever" mean "forever"?

As I learned about the Messianic movement I found that there were some Christians who believed that God did mean "forever" when He said it. These people were observing a Saturday Sabbath. I was blown out of the water. After several weeks of study, meditation, research, and prayer I came to understand what the Messianics were believing.

It hit me like a ton of bricks! When God said "forever" He had to mean it or He was a liar. Let me be blunt. Christianity has made God into a liar!

Yet, still Paul stood like pillar against what was written more than once in the Old Testament. How could the two passages contradict each other? In Exodus we know that God is speaking. In Paul's book of the Romans a man is speaking. I would much rather find Paul to be the liar rather than God. I believe this is how the Jewish people look at Paul. He generally is dismissed. However, this did not satisfy me since I believe that the New Testament is just as inspired as the Old Testament. Although Romans is written by Paul, God was speaking through him. The only solution MUST be that we are misunderstanding Paul. The two passages cannot contradict each other.

Simply, rereading Paul did not help me. The contradiction remained. Learning some history made all the difference.

Acts 21:17-24 (KJV)
17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.
18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.
19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.
20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:
21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.
22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.
23 Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;
24 Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.

In this passage Paul had come to Jerusalem to fulfill the obligations of a vow that he had taken. While he is there he meets with James, the head of the Jerusalem church, and the elders. Paul tells them about God's working amongst the Gentiles. The church glorifies God and then comments on how many Jews are believing, but are also zealous of the Law. They go on to describe how Paul has been viewed in verse 21. They had heard that Paul was telling the Gentiles to forsake the Law, telling them not to circumcise their children, or to walk in Jewish customs. Because of this, to show the people that Paul was not guilty of these things, James recommends that Paul go with the four men and fulfill their vows together. Paul was to also pay for their expenses. In this way, the people would understand that Paul was keeping the Law and not teaching against it.

So from the Acts passage we see that Paul would not have contradicted the Old Testament. But how can we explain Paul's statement?

In Judaism the rabbis and sages wrote other "laws" to place a hedge around The Law of God. In this way, the people would find it harder to sin against The Law of God. Some of these "laws" had to do with days. For example, outside of Israel Rosh Hashanah is observed for two days instead of the command in Leviticus to observe one day. There are reasons for this that are unimportant to this discussion. The same is true about the observance of the new moons. There are also fast days in several of the months of the Jewish year that are not in God's Law. The Jews observe by their laws many days. A new convert to Christianity back in the first century would have found it very difficult to try to observe all of these days. But, since they are not commanded by God is it truly essential that they be followed? No. This is what I believe that Paul was talking about in Romans. One Christian might observe Rosh Hashanah for two days because he's familiar with the Jewish custom. But another Christian simply looks at the Biblical requirement and decides that the second day of observation at Rosh Hashanah is not essential. Paul was saying that each had to be convinced in his or her own mind, but not that the observing of Rosh Hashanah was voluntary.

This is the only way that the two Bible passages can be read together without contradiction. Paul was not talking about the voluntary observance of a Saturday Sabbath. When God said the command was "forever" He truly meant it!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Earth Trembled!

Yesterday, as I was reading the Hallel (a series of Psalms of praise, Psalm 113-118, that are recited during morning prayers during such days as feast days) I was particularly impressed by Psalm 114.

Psalm 114:1-8 (KJV)
1 When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language;
2 Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion.
3 The sea saw it, and fled: Jordan was driven back.
4 The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs.
5 What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?
6 Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like lambs?
7 Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob;
8 Which turned the rock into a standing water, the flint into a fountain of waters.

The fascinating part of this Psalm is that it is written from the perspective of the earth. We see this in verse 7. This is made even more clear in the Artscroll translation that reads, "Before the Lord's Presence -- did I, the earth, tremble -- before the Presence of the God of Jacob,"

Verses 1 and 2 describe the circumstances of this Psalm. The people of Israel had gone out of Egypt and had now come to the Promised Land, the land of Judah and Israel (the names given to the two kingdoms of Israel during part of her history).

But how does the earth respond to the coming of the people? The sea saw it and fled. The Jordan River was driven back. The mountains skipped like rams and the little hills skipped like lambs. Of course seas, rivers, mountains, and hills can't choose to move like it sounds in this passage. This is an example of personification, the giving of human characteristics to animals or inanimate objects in order to make a literary point. From this colorful image we can understand that the coming of the people is a big deal.

Then in verses 7 and 8 we see the reason why the earth responded in such a way. It was because of the Lord's Presence that the earth "trembled". And it trembled because the God of Jacob (Israel) turned the rock into a "standing water" (pond) and the flint into a fountain of water.

This is describing how the people crossed the Jordan river under the leadership of Joshua. As they came to a flooded river without any noticeable means of crossing, the Lord instructed the priests to take the Ark of the Covenant into the middle of the river. When they stepped into the water, the Jordan river backed up so that the people could cross on dry ground.

Imagine if the earth had been capable of seeing this event. It would tremble at the sight of such a powerful God, wouldn't it? How should we respond? We maybe don't get to see such miracles every day, but how has God been with you? What has He kept you from? What danger has He removed from your path? What blessing has He bestowed upon you? Our God is powerful, even the earth knows it. Shouldn't we give Him the praise He deserves for all that He does?