Tag Archives: anachronism

That Square Peg in a World of Round Holes Feeling

Worker Hammering Square Peg into Round HoleAccording to Ezekiel chapters 40-48, the millennial age will feature a magnificent temple (much larger than any historic temple of Israel) that will serve as the center for the priestly rituals and offerings. In attempting to explain the sacrifices of this temple, the thought is not that the death of Christ is insufficient but rather that the sacrifices are a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, much as those in the Old Testament looked forward to the fulfillment in Christ’s death. (emph. mine)

-John F. Walvoord from his book
Major Bible Prophecies
as quoted in my Sunday School class notes for Sept. 22nd

I’ve got material in my head for three, maybe four blog posts, but I’ve only got time to write one. So which one shall I write?

In going over my notes of Pastor’s sermon on Sukkot, I could make a blog post out of it, but I really think Pastor did a very good job on this topic. Nothing he said particularly surprised me and I don’t have hardly anything to disagree with him on (except maybe to say that while the future of Sukkot is the “meat” on his plate, we don’t have as much linkage into the future of “the feast” without a present, lived experience).

I have somethings I want to say about reading the last entry in the First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) Torah Club and ending my year-long study of Volume 6, Chronicles of the Apostles, but I think I’ll save that for another later this week.

Especially as the Torah cycle is ending and about to begin again, which marks the approach of the first anniversary of my return to church, I want to write an update to my review of Boaz Michael’s book Tent of David, describing my own experience, but I’ll need more time to re-acquaint myself with the book’s material and view it through fresh eyes.

But I do want to comment on my experience in the Christian church through the lens of today’s Sunday school class. Notice in the above quoted passage from Walvoord’s book, I emphasized text that threw me for a loop. Am I reading this wrong, or is Walvoord (and by inference, my Sunday school teacher), saying that the Israelites of old while making offerings to God realized that somehow this was all deficient and they looked forward to their fulfillment in Christ’s death? Of course, after reading the sentence a few dozen times, I realize Walvoord may not have meant that the ancient Israelites thought this way, but that the Temple sacrifices “looked forward” to a time when they would be fulfilled (ended) by the crucifixion.

Either way though, the anachronism is blatant.

jerusalem_templeFrom the context of the Israelites at the time of the Tabernacle, and later, Solomon’s Temple, the sacrifices were korban, a way of drawing closer to God, by removing barriers and obeying the God who gave them the Torah through Moses at Sinai. I seriously doubt that most of them considered a future time when the Temple would not exist and certainly they never would have imagined that Messiah, hung on a tree to die, would kill the sacrificial system. Sure, from a traditional Christian perspective, we’ve been taught to believe such things, but that means we become incapable of putting ourselves in the shoes of a Jewish person of old and comprehending his or her lived experience and how wonderful they thought the Torah mitzvot were (and modern religious Jews continue to see the Torah as a joy). Read Psalm 19 and Psalm 119 for examples of what I mean.

How about this?

Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths.

Zechariah 14:16 (NASB)

It shall be that all who are left over from all the nations who had invaded Jerusalem will come up every year to worship the King Hashem, Master of Legions, and to celebrate the festival of Succos.

Zechariah 14:16 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

Now, here’s one of the questions in my Sunday school notes regarding this verse:

In verse 16, what will the unsaved Gentiles in the Millennium be required to do each year? (emph. mine)

Excuse me? Unsaved Gentiles? Where does it say that in the verse? Actually, the answer has to do with my teacher’s perspective on “the end times” and the “Millennial reign of Christ” based on very traditionally Christian sources. I actually challenged him, saying that the term “saved” was being anachronistically inserted into the Jewish text. It just says that each of the nations that went to war against Israel will be responsible for sending representatives to Jerusalem at Sukkot to pay homage to the Jewish Messiah King and to celebrate the festival. There’s no implication regarding their spiritual state.

(For an alternate commentary on this passage, see Toby Janicki’s blog post God-Fearers: Zechariah 14, Sukkot, and Anti-Semitism.)

churchesBut then I realized that he believes (or could believe) that all of the “saved Gentiles” were living with the “saved Jews” in Israel and only “unsaved Gentiles” lived in the other nations of the world. Of course, that implies that somehow we believing Gentiles are given a portion of the Land, of Israel, during Messiah’s reign. I’m not sure how or if that sort of thing works out and I’m inclined to believe it doesn’t.

Pastor preached on this when he said that once the Church is “raptured” (in his view, up to Heaven) with Christ, they (we) will return to Earth with him with special jobs to do, especially during Sukkot. This is very confusing because it seems as if there aren’t very many believing Gentiles and Jews around if we can all fit in a country about the size of New Jersey. It’s also rather strange if only we believers live in Israel and the rest of the world are “Goyishe sinners” living in all of the other countries on the planet…and yet somehow, they acknowledge that they are ruled by the Jewish King from the Jewish Kingdom of Israel.

I guess the idea is all of those “unsaved Gentiles” will use the time and opportunity to become “saved,” but then, as my Sunday school teacher asked, will they receive “glorified bodies” instantly or will only their children get those? My question is, when a Gentile is “saved” during the “Millennial reign,” do they immediately “make aliyah” to Israel?

I’m putting a lot of words and phrases in quotes because most of them are Christian anachronisms and theological concepts being forced into the Jewish text (and let’s keep in mind that the New Testament is also a Jewish text). I think I’m getting a headache.

Here’s something else from my class notes. I’m not sure if it’s from Walvoord since the citation seems a little confused:

Note: The battle of God and Magog here (after the Millennium) is totally different from that in Ezekiel chapters 38 & 39 (during the Tribulation) -Walvoord. There, Israel is attacked (while her “friends” watch) by a coalition of Russian and Muslim nations from the north at a time when Israel is at peace. (emph. mine)

Not that it couldn’t happen this way, but how can the author possibly know with such certainty exactly which nations/powers are involved? Couldn’t some European (or other) nations also be attackers (and the way the EU and especially the French have been treating Israel lately, I wouldn’t be surprised)?

In discussing Revelation 20:11-15, the class notes ask the question, When they face Jesus Christ as their Judge (II Tim. 4:1, Phil. 2:9-11), what 66 “books” will He open to judge “their works”? In class, the teacher said he supposed other books could be involved besides the Bible, but even putting such a detail in these notes assumes quite a bit about what we think we know.

The last such “interesting” bit of wording I’ll insert comes from the notes for next Sunday’s class on Acts 15:1-21 (one of my favorite themes):

In Acts 15:1-2 and 15:24, Now with what Satanically inspired and dogmatic false teaching did these “certain men from Judaea” try to infect the church at Antioch, and why according to Galatians 2:4-5? (emph. mine)

Apostle-Paul-Preaches“Satanically inspired” teaching? Since when is discussing opposing theological viewpoints considered Satanic. Most Wednesday evenings, I meet with my Pastor to discuss similar topics and we don’t always agree with each other. Is that disagreement “Satanic?” Am I being “Satanic” when I disagree with my Pastor, since he represents a more mainstream Christian theological perspective?

I know it seems I’m really bashing my Sunday school teacher. Actually, he’s a great guy and I like him. He teaches a lot of the retired guys in the church on Wednesday mornings, which I consider a mitzvah. He obviously loves his wife and she loves him. He has a heart for Christ and is enthusiastic about the Master’s return and the restoration of Israel and the world.

But there are just some times I get that “square peg in a world of round holes” feeling, particularly in Sunday school.

Addendum: See an extension to this “meditation” by reading The Obscured Messiah in the Bible.

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Pop!

balloon-poppingAuthor’s note: I started writing this on very little sleep, which means that my internal filter, normally thinner than most bloggers, is approaching full transparency. I’m sure when I wake up tomorrow, things will look better, but right now, my “culture clash” with church life is experiencing a power surge.

Pop! That’s the sound of my balloon popping. I suppose I could have titled this “WHAM!” and said it was the sound of my crash dummy hitting a steel wall at 60 mph, but that might be a bit much. Let me explain.

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Galatians 2:11-14

Pastor Randy (he’s back from Brazil…yay!) was preaching on Acts 11 today, specifically on verses 19-30, and saying what a great guy (v 24) Barnabas and outlining all of Barnabas’ good qualities and why he was a terrific choice to send to Antioch. Of course, as Pastor rightly says, no one is perfect. Pastor mentioned the above-quoted verses from Galatians 2 and said something like (I can’t quote him word for word, so this is an approximation):

Paul criticized Peter because Peter had slipped back into some practices of Judaism and pulled Barnabas down with him…

Like I said, it’s not an exact quote but it gets the point across. Galatians 2 is coming up on the list of things Pastor and I will be talking about during our upcoming Wednesday night discussions. You see, I don’t think Peter’s problem was that he “slipped back into Judaism.” I think he was intimidated by “certain men” sent from James who weren’t on board with Jewish/Gentile table fellowship and he made the mistake of backing off. Maybe he started listening to the old and mistaken halachah that said “Gentiles were unclean,” but it’s not like Peter “came out of” Judaism and then slipped back into it, as if Judaism and being a disciple of the Jewish Messiah are mutually exclusive terms.

I flashed back to last week’s hollow man experience, and even though I subsequently regained some balance, my experiences during today’s service and in Sunday school afterward reminded me of the gulf of culture between me and normative Protestant Christianity.

It’s the feeling I get when one of the Pastors leads the congregation in an “old-time” hymn that “everyone knows,” except I don’t know it. It’s the feeling I get when people in Sunday school start using “Christian-isms” in their speech, and even if I understand what they’re talking about, it still sounds like a foreign language. Ironically, the person I’m thinking of used the “Christian-ism” term “baby Christians” when describing how more mature members of the faith can erect barriers at a number of different levels that inhibit very new Christians. Without realizing it, she was exhibiting the very behavior she knew put off “baby Christians.”. While I suppose I’m not a new believer, I’m fairly new to normative Christian culture. This re-entry thing has lots of trapdoors.

Another way I felt pretty strange today was noticing how, in our discussion about the events of Acts 11, modern Christian missionary concepts were dropped with complete anachronistic abandon into the synagogue (“church”) at Syrian Antioch. I don’t think that the Jewish Hellenists who fled Jerusalem after Stephen’s death were witnessing to the Greek-speaking Gentile pagans on the street. In fact, I don’t think that full on idol worshiping Gentiles were even “witnessed to” by Jewish disciples until Paul’s encounter recorded in Acts 14:8-18. The world of religious Judaism would have been exceptionally difficult to describe to pagan Gentiles. It’s far more likely that God-fearing Gentiles in the synagogues were the first non-Jewish audience (outside of the Samaritans) of “Jewish evangelists.”

tape-over-mouthBut I kept my mouth shut. As I’ve already said, I didn’t sleep well last night and got up at 4 a.m., so I was (and still am) pretty tired. It was wiser for me to be silent than to open my mouth and inject everything that was going through my head into the middle of the Sunday school class conversation. It’s not like anyone was saying anything wrong, but the perspective from which they were looking at the Acts 11 material was completely off to one side of how I see it. It’s not that I must have my way, but it just seemed like the story of the ancient Jewish and Gentile believers in Messiah had been stripped of its religious and cultural Jewish context and had been remade out of wholly Gentile Christian cloth…from the twenty-first century.

In presenting Acts 11:27-30 the study notes for today’s Sunday school lesson read:

How did this church respond, and what is there about Christians that gives them such joy in giving away what the world worships?

Paul and Barnabas were charged with taking a donation to the Jewish population in Judea when a famine is prophesied as relief for the suffering. The donations were given with abundance and joy but is this a “Christian” quality and one that had never been seen before in Israel?

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44

I suppose I could have mentioned that tzedakah was Jewish value long before there were such people as “Christians,” but it didn’t seem worth it to drop a bomb in the middle of the room. I figured this was just another indicator of the cultural and perceptual rift between me and the rest of the class.

Then I thought of another one. As I listen to people talk, in the foyer before services, in the sanctuary before (sometimes during) and after services, in the hallways between services and Sunday school, during and after Sunday school, I realize that these people have known each other for quite a while. I can’t believe they’ve developed these relationship seeing each other just once or twice a week at church. They probably associate with each other outside of church, go to lunch, go to barbecues at each other’s homes, and that sort of thing.

I remember when my wife and I were invited to a Christian’s home a few years back. My wife said it was OK if I went but she wasn’t interested. She doesn’t invite her Jewish friends to our house. She sometimes is involved in social activities at the synagogues here in town, but she doesn’t feel comfortable in primarily “Christian” environments and she doesn’t feel comfortable taking me to primarily “Jewish” environments. I kind of doubt I’ll be inviting people from church over to our home for a Sunday dinner any time soon.

This is quite an interesting effect of a “bilateral” life. It doesn’t affect anything else in what you would consider normal, family life, but my family life, defined as it is, will never intersect with my religious life.

If I can separate my experience from my emotions for a minute, this could actually be a useful study of the impact of the propositions put forth in Boaz Michael’s book Tent of David. One thing I am hoping Boaz will do eventually is to collect the stories of people who have actually followed his pattern of returning to churches to find out the real results in people’s lives and in the church environment.

I’m atypical in that my wife and I are not only intermarried, but I’m a believer and she isn’t (in the Messianic world, there are many intermarried Jewish/Gentile Christian couples, but they share faith in Jesus as Messiah). I know I’m only one voice, but if Boaz can bring together enough voices, we can all see the outcome of returning to the church for those folks like me who think so differently about God, the Bible, Messiah, and everything.

My day at church wasn’t a complete loss, though. I usually don’t care much about the music at church. It’s more something I tolerate than enjoy, but occasionally a little gem will be sprinkled in among the usual fare.

Don’t seek Judaism and don’t seek Christianity. Seek hope in God.

149 days.