Well, instead of going home loaded for bear and not firing a shot, he rounded up another group and invited me in to talk to them instead. I walked in to a full room of ladies, elder's wives I suspect, ranging from 40 to 70 years old. Nice. Would I have the courage to share the same lesson with these mature christian women, that I had prepared for the young men? Turns out I did.
The way I think about the abuse of Sabbath and the Torah in general goes back to a very important verse in 1 Kings. If you didn't know (THANK YOU www.TorahClass.com !!!!) the books of 1 and 2 Kings originally were one scroll, preceded with 1 and 2 Samuel. That's a combined 102 "chapters" of one huge scroll called the Scroll of the Kingdoms. Due to it's size, it was broken into the 4 sections we now have in our Bibles. If it were left in it's original form it would be the largest book in the entire Bible, and draw much more attention. At the beginning of the Scroll, Israel would be 12 distinct tribes with no earthly king. By mid-scroll, we'd see King David ruling over 12 tribes united. Shortly afterward, we'd read about Israel and Judah becoming separate Kingdoms (hence the name of the scroll) and by the end of the Scroll, both Kingdoms are banished from the Holy Land as punishment for ignoring the instructions in the Torah, especially His instructions regarding worship. Very powerful. I admit that in my former, far more boring, life as a mainstream Christian, I would be hard-pressed to give you even the gist of one of the four books, let alone see how they connect as a complete work.
That said, the verse that hits home for me is in 1 Kings Chapter 12. The context is that Solomon's 700 wives had led him from YHVH, and as punishment the united Kingdom is torn from his hands. His son, Rehoboam, is allowed to remain as King of Judah (to satisfy YHVH's promise to David's descendants and the House of Judah), while a new Ephraimite King, Jeroboam, is given control over the rest of Israel. The first thing that Jeroboam does as King is detailed in 1 Kings 12:26-33.
"And Jeroboam said in his heart, "Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah." So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, "You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt." And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings."
To paraphrase, Jeroboam took council because he was afraid of losing his power and his people to Judah. Judah had Jerusalem, the Temple, and a functioning Levitical priesthood. The Torah commanded at least three trips to Jerusalem annually, plus all the tithes that were due to the priests. Jeroboam's remedy was to create his own holy cities, his own feast day (like Sukkot, but 30 days later, closer to modern-day Halloween), and his own non-levitical priesthood. And following in the pattern of the "golden calf incident" of Exodus 32, he kept the Name of YHVH connected to this unauthorized and unholy religion. This was not the same as converting to Baal worship, for example. This was leading his people, 10 tribes of Israelites, into a deadly mixture of man-made religion and true worship. They were led to believe, being mostly uninformed of Torah Law, that YHVH fully endorsed these improvements to the House of Israel.
At this point, it seemed like I had the attention of my sunday school class. Nobody seemed to think that Jeroboam's idea was a very good one. To underscore how YHVH reacted to this sin, nearly 20 times throughout the rest of the House of Israel's brief history as detailed in 1 and 2 Kings, this "Sin of Jeroboam" is specifically detailed as the reason for Judgement on Israel. To drive the point home, I reference the story of Jehu, the warrior called by Elisha to "clean house" in Israel (2 Kings 9 and 10). On a divine mission from YHVH, he kills the King of Israel and the King of Judah (who were related by marriage to Jezebel and her wicked daughter). He then kills Jezebel herself (she was the daughter of the high priest of Baal in neighboring Sidon). So far so good. Then he tricks every single Baal worshiper in Israel to come to a huge Baal party, and kills every single one of them. Baal worship is now NON-EXISTANT in Israel. How cool is that?
Here is how the history of Jehu is wrapped up in 2 Kings 10-29-31:
"But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin--that is, the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan. And the LORD said to Jehu, "Because you have done well in carrying out what is right in my eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart,your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel." But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin. In those days the LORD began to cut off parts of Israel. Hazael defeated them throughout the territory of Israel."
Even though Jehu was faithful in wiping out the glaring and obvious evil in Israel, he was still misled by Jeroboam's false religious idea's and therefore he and the entire nation were still facing judgement. This again underscores the danger of forsaking the law of YHVH, especially by changing his Holy Days and methods of worship. It also should give pause to those of us simply blindly following our religious leaders without reading the instructions for ourselves.
To wrap up my history lesson, I read 2 Kings 17:6-18:
"In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced. And the people of Israel did secretly against the LORD their God things that were not right. They built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city. They set up for themselves pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, and there they made offerings on all the high places, as the nations did whom the LORD carried away before them. And they did wicked things, provoking the LORD to anger, and they served idols, of which the LORD had said to them, "You shall not do this." Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, "Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets." But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the LORD their God. They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them that they should not do like them. And they abandoned all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made for themselves metal images of two calves; and they made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings and used divination and omens and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only."
My sunday school class was still with me here, with the exception of one lady who had mostly dozed off. Been there. Sunday mornings used to be rough.
"So, what does this have to do with us today?", I asked. I told them that despite the fact that Jesus (yes, I used "Jesus") kept and honored the biblical Sabbath, despite the fact that he specifically taught that nothing would ever change in YHVH's simple instructions (Matt 5:17), despite the fact that Paul says multiple times that he never once taught contrary to the Law of Moses (Acts 25:8), somebody somewhere tricked us into thinking that the 1st day of the week was a "new" holy day for Christians. Turns out that it's not a mystery, I told them. I pulled out several quotes from the always sickening but still very obscure Council of Nicea in 32 1 AD, including:
"Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on the Sabbath, but shall work on that day; but the Lord's Day (Sunday) they shall especially honor, and as being Christian, shall, if possible, do no work that day. If however they are found Judaizing they shall be excommunicated."
"On the Venerable Day of the Sun (the sacred day of the Sun-god, Sunday) let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all the workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue in their pursuits' because it always happens that another day is not so suitable for grain-sowing or for vine-planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost..."
then I quoted from a 100 year old letter from the Catholic Press:
"Sunday is a Catholic institution, and its claim to observance can be defended only on Catholic principles...from beginning to end of Scripture there is not a single passage that warrants the transfer of weekly public worship from the last day of the week (Saturday) to the first "Sunday".
At this point, I literally heard the worship music starting right outside the door (the worship pastor is Jewish by the way), and most of these ladies had been patiently sitting through my diatribe when they were supposed to have been up on stage with the worship team. I begged them for one last quote before we ended:
Cut and pasted from the Southern Baptist Convention's 8th statement of faith:
Furthermore, they list Exodus 20:8-11 as their source for this doctrine. They had been tricked by a sun-worshiping Pope of Rome, into exchanging YHVH's holy day for a false one. "The Southern Baptists, your very denomination", I said, "has been sinning the same sin as Jeroboam. The very same sin that caused your ancestors to be banished from the promised land, and removed from the sight of YHVH."
I guess I should have been less surprised at the speed at which they left the room. The leader of the group, my Doctor's mother, stayed behind to clarify a few points. She asked me if I thought that worshiping on Sunday was a sin. I told her that it was the breaking of the true Sabbath that was the sin. She asked me if breaking that sin fell into the category of Paul's "if you break one you've broken them all" statement. I told her if you were trying to earn your way to heaven, then yes it would. In this case, I borrowed a quote from 119 ministries. "Faith is the root, obedience is the fruit". She asked how we could expect a man who has to work to pay for food and shelter for his family to take off Saturdays--isn't not providing for his family a sin as well. I asked her if she would give that same excuse to someone who said they couldn't afford to tithe. Doesn't holding back that act of obedience actual cause the person to suffer? Who is this poor guy worshiping and putting his trust in, his employer or YHVH? Aren't there endless promises of blessing for those who obey? No wonder he's broke and in this position!
In the end it was hard to tell what sunk in, what was deemed too offensive to hear, and what if any conversations this encounter may have spawned since then. I was invited back, and I certain will take them up on their offer. I thought of two more points that may have shocked them into deeper prayer.
This one at first seems like a non sequitur: The word for "rainbow" does not exist in the Hebrew language. The word is simply the same word for BOW, the weapon. In Genesis, YHVH says he will set his bow down in the clouds as a reminder that he will not destroy man again in a flood. The "rainbow" then, is YHVH's weapon (imagine rain-drops as arrows), that he will no longer use against us due to our sin. Hopefully you'll get that vision of a giant bow next time it rains. It's suddenly much more humbling than it is pretty. Doesn't that make the international gay rights symbol of a "rainbow flag" especially dangerous and offensive? Isn't that like pridefully waiving a banner in YHVH's face, using His own symbol of His graceful covenant, and daring him to break his promise to not destroy mankind due to our sinfulness? Isn't that like trying to poke him in the eye with the flagpole to see how angry you can make him?
Why is that any different than using naming the false Sabbath "The LORD's Day". Look at the verses that talk about a day already named "The Day of the Lord":
- Joel 1:15 "Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes."
- Joel 2:1 "Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near,"
- Joel 2:11 "The LORD utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the LORD is great and very awesome; who can endure it?"
- Joel 3:14 "Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision."
Is that any way to show the fear of YHVH?
I'll keep you posted. I pray we'll get some of these folks to visit us during Sukkot this year. Baby steps.