by Don and Pam Harris
For years I fought the secularization and commercialization of Christmas and Easter. I wanted these days to be celebrated as God intended - Holy Days not holidays. I insisted that Santa Claus and the Easter bunny be eradicated. I wanted the holidays to speak only of Jesus, our Messiah.
My study into these holidays was enlightening in an unexpected way. I was surprised to find that the Holy Days Jehovah expects us to keep are not celebrated at all (except in Jewish community). What's more, I found that the holidays I was trying to protect and restore (Christmas and Easter) were pagan in origin, nature, and form.
Worse, I discovered they have no Scriptural basis or mandate in Scripture! Instead, these days are condemned as abominable and are even referred to as "the way of the heathen."
What a shame that the Festivals (Feasts) of our God, those that are recorded in the Bible, have been neglected and even forgotten.
Opportunity to look forward to the future and reflect on the past is offered in the keeping of each of them. The reasons they are celebrated is clearly specified in their Scriptural descriptions and divine ordinance; and, a blessing is offered to all who participate in them.
Yet, these Feasts remain in obscurity and take a back seat to pagan rituals wrapped in Christian gossamer.
If we desire the richness of our heritage, the fullness of prophecy, and satisfaction of obedience, nothing can equal keeping these Festivals! By neglecting them we lose something very precious.
What a joy it would be to be asked by the children around us, "Why do we celebrate this holiday every year?" If we keep Christmas and Easter, we will never be able to answer according to truth. We can hardly point to the Scriptures for support and answer, "Because Jehovah has commanded us to do so."
Instead, we have to mentally separate the "good" from the "bad" and the so-called truth from the lies, and try to convince our children that when we speak of Santa Claus, elves, reindeer, and the Easter bunny they are to somehow know these things are not true.
How, can we expect to be trusted when we speak of a man who walked on water and resurrected from the dead?
This is a mess of our own making - all because we do not follow Jehovah's way; rather, we choose the way of comfortable familiarity.
Will we continue to ignore what is Scripturally ours to heed?
How Do We Obey?
Over the years the Law of God has changed.
Okay, the Law itself has not changed, but the way we view and interpret it certainly has!
The best example of this changing was Eve in the garden being confronted by the serpent who asked, "Yea, hath God said, "Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"
Typical of many well-meaning folks whose intention it is to please their God, she added to the Law in order to keep herself from violating it and said, "...neither shall ye touch it." The Creator God had said nothing about touching that tree!
Today, we seem to have the idea that we cannot live without breaking the Law. Men add to it and made it harder than ever. Some have the idea that we cannot live under the Law because it's just too hard to obey.
When some folks learn that Pam and I keep the Sabbath in our home, we are often subjected to opinions about the impossibility of doing this. Sometimes we are asked if we push elevator buttons on Sabbath Day, or if we walk more than 3000 feet away from home, or a myriad of other silly ideas about Sabbath-keeping that simply are not in the Scriptures.
These ideas are like "fences" around the Law, and they (mostly) originate from the opinions and traditions of misguided men.
The Talmud, an ancient rabbinical document imposes laws of man's own making on well-intentioned Believers. It is rife with "fences" placed around the Law in order to keep us from violating it.
Jesus clearly condemned this practice in RED letters:
"Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers." (Luke 11:46)
Many Laws of God are easy to obey. There are some that will require years of living just to clearly understand. Somewhere between the bloody sacrifices and wars mandated in the Old Testament and the Commandment "Thou shalt not kill" (equally a part of that same document) an understanding of His Laws and His ways make life beautiful.
How do we find understanding?
In order to have an understanding of the Laws and ways of Jehovah, we must find that harmony and balance that shows the heart and mind of our God. Balance is to be found in the actions of our Messiah!
Theologians have slaughtered Truth, mocked the Law, and shoveled Grace into the theological gaps to make a doctrine we can all "live with" while continuing to do just as we please. The Scriptures forbid this dissecting of the Law. Believers are not permitted to "take or leave" the Commandments of our God. We cannot pick and chose what Laws we like.
We are to Keep the Whole Law!
Delineation, understanding, or discerning of the Spirit of the Law must be realized. Obedience does not allow us to walk leisurely through the Bible taking a bit here and a verse there. This is exactly the snare that has already caught so many.
If we are dedicated to Truth...if we are to walk in righteousness... we must find our God's way in order to remain obedient to all His Laws. His Son, Jesus Christ, came to fulfill the Law in us. How will this be accomplished in a people who don't even try to keep His Law, and are, for the most part, ignorant of it?
It becomes clear that the first order of business for those of us who are intent on building our faith upon the whole Bible must read the whole Bible. As simple as this seems, it is usually not a part of our study or our theology.
Jesus always seemed to be puzzled that the Stories of the Old Testament were not familiar to His disciples. (How many times did He ask, "Have ye not read ...?)
We hear the Great Teacher tell His detractors to go back to the Scriptures for guidance:
"But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Matthew 9:13)
When the Apostle Paul admonished Timothy to, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15) are we to believe that Timothy was to pour over Paul's own letters and study them? Yet, this is how many of us believe we are to study.
What did Paul, Timothy and other "New Testament" Believers Study?
"And Paul, as his manner was, went ... reasoned with them out of the scriptures" (Acts 17:2)
The Bereans, "... searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11)
A certain Jew named Apollos was described as, "...mighty in the scriptures" (Acts 18:24)
Paul, "... mightily convinced the Jews... showing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ." (Acts 18:28)
Paul declared, "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." (Romans 15:4)
So, most definitely the Scriptures of Paul were NOT his own letters. No, the Scriptures to Paul was the "Old Testament".
What were the Scriptures to Timothy?
That answer is clearly written, "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:15)
The "OLD" Testament is not a threat to the "NEW" Testament. The Tenach (Old Testament) is not a threat to true Christianity. It is the traditions of men, the vocabulary and opinion of modern Christian thinking that will totter and fail when drawn into the light of the God of the Scriptures.
When instructing and warning of doctrines and advice from those who doubt, there was only one acid test:
"To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isaiah 8:20)
The Law and the Testimony (we have dubbed these the "Old Testament") ARE the Scriptures of which the Apostles spoke. There was no "New Testament" before these men, well-versed in the Scriptures, wrote it!
If we are to take this journey into the world of Commandment and Feast-keeping...If we are to be Scripturally compliant in all we do, forsaking all other doctrines and practices, we must do the following:
1. Study the Scriptures.
2. Obey the Scriptures.
3. Subject study and understanding to Holy Spirit whose purpose it is to draw us toward Messiah.
Jesus certainly directed us back to the Scriptures for understanding:
"...Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." (Matthew 22:29)
"But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?" (Matthew 26:54)
And Jesus answering said unto them, 'Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?'" (Mark 12:24)
"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." (John 5:39)
Understanding will come from the same Scriptures read by the first century Christians!
Will YOU Read, Hear, and Obey?
Alas, a snag...As you begin to read about the Feasts, you read the instructions about slaying animals and making blood sacrifices. Are you willing to kill and sacrifice animals?
When it comes to the Law (or any ordinance), when it comes to keeping the Feasts of Jehovah... What is required of us?