"Nobody blogs anymore!" Mom Turner said yesterday. "I keep checking but no one's writing."
She's right about that - at least on my end. I've got a notebook list of blog posts I want to write, so I suppose now's the time to get down to business. It's a quiet evening here and since we've been resting all day I don't feel in any particular hurry to head off to bed any time soon. The baby is doing his evening constitutional (he seems to favor keeping his back partly tilted against my right side so he can drum away with his feet high on my left - it's usually always in the same spot this time of the evening) and Ben is busy with his current translating project (he's through Hebrews and working on Romans) while Grandma is happily buried in her latest Mossy Creek book.
It's been an unusual week because we have three Sabbaths to observe: one on Thursday for the Day of Atonement, one today because it's the seventh day, and one coming up on Tuesday to mark the beginning of the Feast of Booths. That's a lot of resting in one little stretch of time!
One of the things that's often been said to me when other Christians realize that I rest on the seventh day rather than Sunday is, "Well, if you do that, what about all the other holy days? Are you planning on doing those too?" It's usually said a little incredulously, as if I'd be nuts to do such a thing. I have to admit, I've often felt a bit shame-faced to say that no, I haven't come to any particular conviction about observing the other holy days God laid out. Not because I felt it was wrong not to celebrate them, but because it did seem just a touch odd to be cherry-picking what days of rest I was willing to observe and what I wasn't. A lot of people with similar outlook to mine have also settled in their own minds that while the Sabbath is a day that was set apart from Creation, the other holy days were specifically set apart for the Hebrew people and are a covenant with them that we as Gentiles - even Gentile Christians, grafted into God's people by our belief in his Savior - are not really part of keeping them.
Then along came Ben.
For me, I was pretty settled in the things my family had decided to do and not do. For Ben, it's a whole new realm of decisions and he was approaching each one with a fresh perspective. He discovered a facet of the holy days God set apart that I had never considered before: God seems to have set those days apart as practice so that we would recognize his Messiah when he came. Both times, when you look at prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled (Jesus coming as a conquering king, while the Jesus we know came as a humble servant...last time, anyway).
Passover is obvious. Jesus died on Passover to free us from the Angel of Death coming to take our lives. He was the fulfillment of the symbol of the Passover lamb. Most Christians know this pretty well. Slightly less well-known is the coinciding Feast of Unleavened Bread, in which people were commanded to clean all yeast from their homes and not consume any for that week as a way to teach how thoroughly sin must be cleansed from our lives - an impossible task without God's help, since yeast actually lives in our guts and wild in the air, clinging around us just like sin does. And during the Feast of Unleavened Bread - which starts with Passover - is the Feast of First Fruits...which takes place three days after Passover: the very day Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus is called "the First Fruits of all those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20). Pentacost - the day on which Jesus' disciples received the Holy Spirit, the fulfillment of God's promise to "write my commandments on your hearts" - is the anniversary of the giving of the Covenant, the Ten Commandments written on stone tablets rather than living hearts. That particular feast day has come full circle just like Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits, with the meaning suddenly obvious, clear, and fulfilled.
The comparisons go on, but the general gist is that it seems God set aside special days - in Hebrew, the word used translates as "appointed times" - so that his people would be practicing certain things designed to completely illuminate God's plan for our salvation. It was all a memory aid, meant to be so established and practiced that people would smack themselves in the forehead and say, "Of course! This is what God had in mind all along!"
The Feast of Trumpets, for example, starts with everyone spending days out on hillsides scanning the skies to catch the first glimpse of the new moon. Everyone knows about when it should appear, but the Feast doesn't start until it's actually sighted. No one exactly knows the day and the hour when that will be (though they have a good idea by reading the "signs of the times", so to speak), but when the moon is sighted there's a great commotion of shouting and blowing trumpets...just as we're told will happen on the day Jesus returns. We're not going to know the day or hour, but we're supposed to be aware of what time it is and be watching, because he could come back any moment and we're expecting to receive him with shouts and trumpets and a huge commotion just as you would recognize the triumphal return of an Earthly king.
It's true that people celebrated these holy days for years and didn't recognize Jesus when he came the first time. It's also true that some people looked at him fitting right into that pattern with every action he took and said, "This is the one the Law and Prophets spoke of! This must be the Messiah!"
As Christians, I think a lot of us are just as complacent about being able to recognize Messiah when he comes again as the very Scripturally-savvy Jewish sages were of Jesus' day. And my concern - our concern - is that we could be just as mistaken. It sure doesn't seem like we could miss him coming again...but a lot of very religious, dedicated, sincere people missed him the first time around. He stood right in front of them, the fulfillment of every prophecy they'd learned by heart, and they didn't have the foggiest idea who he was.
So are those holy days just for Jewish people to celebrate? Maybe. But does it hurt to set aside God's days of remembrance if there were even the slightest chance that he may have ordained them for the simple purpose of helping his people recognize his Salvation when He came? After all, just as with other things we've been convicted of, if a person happened to overhear a conversation God was having with his favored child and he said, "Now, here are very important things I want you to do without fail"...does it make sense to just shrug and say, "Whew - sure glad I'm not responsible for pleasing God that way!"?
The tricky thing we've discovered as we've begun trying to understand how to celebrate God's Appointed Times is that sometimes God was pretty cryptic in what he wants done. Jewish tradition has often added layer after layer to what God said (and Christian tradition has made it taboo to even consider keeping the days in the first place), and sometimes other pagan traditions have been heavily mixed in as well (same problem that happened with traditional Christian holidays like Christmas). As with the Sabbath, going back to what God actually said and putting it into practice can take a little thought and effort to figure out. You should've seen us trying to figure out what day the Feast of Trumpets actually fell on this year, for instance. It's a strange place to be in, feeling our way and trying to sort out what we should and should not do. Even my years of being a Christian maverick when it comes to things like keeping the Sabbath and not eating pork don't keep me from feeling a little lost and odd trying to understand a whole new set of holidays. At this point, we don't really spend time with anyone who does what we're doing, so it's put us into a whole new level of strangeness even compared to my family.
Ah well. Everyone already knows we're weird anyway. What's a little trumpet-blowing here or there going to change?
A long time ago in a galaxy not so very far away (in our own, as a matter of fact), there lived a man and a woman. As with many other stories, this man and woman had everything they could want except a child. This was a serious thing, because the man carried a very special blessing that was intended to be passed on to his son just as it had been passed down to him. As they grew older and older, the man and woman grew very concerned that they would never have a child to inherit the special blessing. The man finally prayed earnestly that his wife could have a child...and to their surprise and joy, soon they realized their prayer had been answered and God had granted them a child.
Except that when the child grew big enough for the woman to be able to feel movement, she was dismayed that she seemed to have a wrestling match going on inside her. After days of being unable to sleep and having her ribs hurt from little feet drumming on them, she finally said in exasperation, "I can't endure this! Lord, what is happening inside me?"
And then a very special thing happened. God himself spoke to her, right to her just like a friend would. He said, "You are carrying two different nations inside you, two sons who will both become very strong peoples. But the younger is going to become much stronger than the older and the older will serve the younger."
Of course, she was both excited and worried, because in those days, having twins who survived was very rare. Not only was she going to have two babies - after so long without children - but God had specifically said that the youngest son was to be the inheritor of the special blessing her husband was expecting to pass down to his oldest son. To their people, the oldest son was the most special child of all children, the one who was just naturally the favorite and who was given the inheritance as a matter of course. Younger sons had to work harder and weren't given all the special attention oldest sons got.
She went to her husband and told him what God had said and her husband marveled that they would be having two sons. But he didn't say much about God's prophecy regarding older and younger sons. It didn't mean much to him yet; and two sons were a miracle enough - plenty of time for them to grow and receive his blessing.
After a time longer, it was time for the two babies to be born; and sure enough, the woman had two strong, healthy baby boys. Everyone laughed at the story of their birth, because the older son came out red and feisty and with a lot of dark hair...but the quieter younger son came right after him with his little hand clutched around his brother's heel. Twins aren't usually born that way - there's usually at least a little space between one birth and another. But this younger son sure didn't want his brother leaving their secure little home inside their mother without him.
When the proud father watched his two little boys begin to grow and change, he began to think about what his wife had told him before their birth and what God's prophecy meant. His feisty, strong, wonderful oldest son was not the inheritor of the special blessing. But of the two boys, the father admired the older son right from the start. The father was a quiet man himself, but he couldn't help but laugh and be proud of his older son's energy and precociousness as the boy grew. How could this son not be the Inheritor?
His wife, on the other hand, had a much easier time with the younger son - who did not like to practice shooting arrows at prize goats and who did not regularly sneak out to do things she told him not to - and she grew much closer to her younger son than the older. And she did not forget that this was the child of the promise, the special one who would inherit the blessing. No matter how much her husband favored their oldest son and treated him with the honor of his birthright in spite of his shenanigans, she looked at her younger son and said, "This is the one God said would be stronger."
The boys eventually became men. The older was one of those manly men who spent all his time out hunting and drinking with the guys and chasing the girls without a care in the world; the younger was quieter, reading and tending to things around the house and even turning into a pretty decent cook. His older brother was a bit scornful of this, but he just shrugged his shoulders at his wimpy twin and kept decorating with more antelope horns from his latest hunt. As for the younger son, he admired his brother's skillfulness, but the thing he really wanted was to inherit from his father as if he were the older son. He wanted to take on his father's responsibilities and manage the household - which was quite large and wealthy by this time - and raise strong healthy sheep and run the family business. It was not a very likely dream, though. He was the younger son and younger sons don't inherit. The shame of it was, the older son really didn't care to learn the family business. He found it boring. He would much rather be out shooting deer.
But in the meantime, the father was growing more and more uneasy. He loved his younger son, of course; and actually, he and his wife worried quite a bit about the older son's careless attitude and the way he didn't seem to care much about being a wise administrator (not to mention his taste in girls)...but he was determined that his older son should not be disgraced by having the Inheritance go to the younger son. It just wasn't right. It wasn't DONE. If he should pass the Inheritance down to his younger son, it would be like he was telling the whole world that his oldest son had displeased him and he was so irresponsible he wasn't worth the position he was born to. It would be a terrible disgrace and the father could not see how he could hurt his son that way. Perhaps his wife had made a mistake. Maybe she hadn't understood what God was saying all those years ago.
The wife was worried, too. She saw how foolishly her older son was behaving - when he ran off and got married to an air-headed local girl without even a proper wedding, she was ready to disinherit him herself - and she knew she had not made a mistake in what God had said. He had spoken so clearly. The younger son was the one who needed to be blessed with the Inheritance. It became a bit of a sore point between the man and the woman, because the man stubbornly stuck to his determination to give their oldest son the Inheritance and the woman believed it would be a disaster to try to ignore God's instructions.
Finally, the day came when the husband realized it was time to pass on the Inheritance. He was very old by then and his eyesight had failed so badly he had to have his studious younger son do all the accounting for the family business. He wasn't able to run the household as he should anymore, which meant he had to make his final decision.
And he stuck to his decision: his older son would get the Inheritance.
His conscience pricked him a little. He knew it was not wise to ignore a prophecy God had given his wife. But he just could not see depriving his older son of his rights.
So he called his oldest son in and told him to go bring him a very special dish: freshly-caught venison prepared in a stew. This meant the oldest son actually had to go out and shoot the deer, which was going to take a while: but it was custom back in those days for there to be a task for the son to complete before he was considered worthy of the Inheritance.
The woman sat beside her husband as he sent their son off in search of venison and knew the time of reckoning had come. But she did not try to argue with her husband that day. She had said all she was going to say. So she got up and left quietly and went to find her younger son. She made the special stew with goat instead of venison and she tied the skins neatly to her son's arms so that her blind husband would not realized that his much-hairier older son was not the one serving him the special meal. And while she did it, she prayed that God would forgive her for tricking her husband and that her husband would forgive her too.
The trick worked. The old man ate the stew, was only a little suspicious that the bearer of the stew wasn't his older son, and finally took a deep breath and prepared to give away the inheritance. It was a legally binding thing, this special moment, this special blessing. And finally, finally, he was going to give it to his beloved older son.
And he didn't just give a blessing to pass on the Inheritance. He gave the most binding, complete one he could come up with - and he'd been thinking about it a long time - with not a single loophole in it. He didn't just pass on the Inheritance, but he deliberately gave his son his brother as his slave and said every single bit of the Inheritance would be his, nothing held back, nothing left over. He didn't leave anything at all for his younger son. He knew when he was saying it that he was being defiant and even unnecessarily harsh to his faithful and quiet younger son...but he was very determined. There was one prophecy that was not going to come true, he promised himself.
Then it was all done and his son took the dishes and left, the proud bearer of the Inheritance. The man settled back tiredly and closed his blind eyes, ready for a nap. Part of him was very satisfied. He had provided for his oldest son. He hadn't disgraced him. Another part was suddenly uneasy, though. Had it really been necessary to be so very thorough? He could've passed on the Inheritance without making one brother the slave of the other. That had perhaps been a little unwise, he thought.
Then the door opened again and he smelled a familiar smell, heard a familiar voice. "Father, I'm here with the venison you asked me for!" his oldest son said in his rough, boistrous way. "Sit up and eat it so you can give me your blessing!"
The old man began to shake. He knew immediately what had happened. He had been tricked. The prophecy had come true. He had irrevocably and completely given away the Inheritance...to his younger son. Just as God had said so many years ago. He had made his beloved older son a slave to the younger and he had left nothing at all behind. In his defiance, he had cheated his older son of even the small portion that usually belonged to younger sons. It was all his fault, because he had been so determined to do things the way he wanted to instead of what God had planned.
This is a true story. The man's name was Isaac and his two sons were Esau and Jacob. And in the end, Isaac's refusal to accept that Esau would not be the son who inherited God's promise to be the Chosen Nation caused Esau's line to actually die out. Today, there are recognized descendants of Jacob, the Younger Son, in every nation on Earth. God himself states his name as "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Our Messiah was born from that family. But Esau the Older Son literally ended up with nothing. If there are Edomites left in this world, they are few and scattered and no longer identified by their father's name. Isaac was very thorough in that blessing in his attempt to circumvent God's plan; so thorough that there really was nothing left to give his favorite older son after the trick was discovered.
I'm not completely sure what the ultimate lesson is here for us. But I do know that it had never occurred to me before how defiant Isaac really was in that blessing. He had to have known of the prophecy. Rebekah his wife must've told him. But he was blinded by his love for his son and the fact that he thought he knew better than God who should inherit the promise. That's certainly something that's easy to do, thinking that whatever God's doing here must be a mistake.
God doesn't make mistakes. No matter how hard it is for us to figure out what he's doing, trying to correct him or make his plans bend to ours will always end up far more disastrous than anything we could've imagined.
And as kind of a funny footnote: I've always found it interesting that the "Man's Man" Esau had only five children while his quiet, bookish, homebody brother Jacob...had thirteen. Don't overlook the quiet men!
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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