As I strive to live out a more intentional, purposeful life and immerse myself in the things of the Lord, I often find that there is a lot of white noise -- distraction, if you will. Sometimes in the flurry of activity that accompanies daily living, it gets more difficult to carve out that peaceful quiet time in order to seek out that perfect will of God. I have to say that I love all of my "distractions" (family) because I feel so blessed to be able to have experienced being a wife and mother of those dear to me. However, there are times when I try to seek out quiet pockets of time -- and I just cannot find them in the chaos that comes in having a large family.
However, aside from the normal distractions of family, commitments and the like, there are also some other things that seem to me to get in the way of my understanding the Scriptures. Mainly, I feel that I lack the basic understanding of the Jewish customs and references and traditions that enhance and make clear the beauty of the New Testament. For example -- how can anyone completely realize the symbolism of Christ as the Sacrificial Lamb without understanding the basis of how sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, how a blood sacrifice was required of God for the atonement of sin, how God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians during Passover by having them sprinkle the blood of a lamb over their doorposts and instructing the Angel of Death to pass over those houses but take the life of the firstborn of each family who was not protected by the covering of the blood of the lamb...the list goes on.
Many parables and New Testament instructions were plain to the people of the day, because Jesus was a practicing Jew who was knowledgeable of the traditions and customs of the people, and who clearly knew the Torah.
I am thankful that our pastor does not avoid the Old Tetsament, as it seems to me that many pastors of Christian churches do. There is a whole culture of Christians who feel that the Old Testament is irrelevant, and a whole movement called "replacement theology" that is attempting to divert God's promises for the Jewish people out of any Christian teaching. This is WRONG! The Scriptures tell us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that the Israelites are the apple of God's eye. God is the same -- yesterday, today, tomorrow -- unchanging and constant and stable. His love for the gentiles is a truth, but cannot replace the fact that the Jewish people are His chosen ones.
It frustrates and angers me when I hear that people who practice Christianity are spewing hate against the Jewish people for any reason. One often expressed is that some accuse Jews of "killing Jesus"...First of all, Jesus was undeniably Jewish. He was a rabbi, a teacher, thoroughly indoctrinated in Judaism and following the rules, rites, customs and such of the Jewish faith. When Christians are ignorant of those teachings, I feel it opens the door to more unwarranted and unnecessary prejudice against that blessed line of people. The Jewish religious may not have recognized Jesus as the Messiah, but can we so easily fault them and force blame where it is not deserved? There are Christians today who would not recognize Christ because of wrong perception...Do we really think that He would be standing at the pulpit and dialoging on the evils and horrors of sin while eschewing the very sinners He sought to save? I would venture to guess that if He was indeed walking on earth at this stage in history, He would be among the sinners and ministering to them at the place of their need. He would be merciful and loving, not refusing to associate with any. However, some Christians actually refuse to meet sinners where they are, feeling that to do so would somehow tarnish their own righteousness.
At a Christian assembly opened to the public one time, I was appalled to hear several Christians judging those around us who were smoking and swearing and who certainly did not appear to be Christians, saying that they should not have attended...However, the purpose of the assembly was to reach out to the lost (and who were they to know the hearts of those standing there anyway!?). If I was unsaved, I would have left in disgust to think that brothers and sisters walking supposedly with Christ were so narrow-minded as to exclude me based on outward appearances, but also the hypocrisy was a loud and clear message to the masses -- it seemed to scream "Come back when you have no sin!" And yet...Jesus died for that sin and already covered it. Sometimes it just takes a while for the gift to get to the recipient. Attitudes like that in the hearts of those who are Christian are driving people away from God rather than to Him, which saddens me considerably. At any rate...back to my original thoughts. I apologize for the tangent.
Jesus, as a Jewish man, would have also celebrated as ordained by God in the Torah. We as Christians are lacking when we fail to understand the Biblical significance of the Old Testament Biblical celebrations, such as Yom Kippur and Passover. God outlined His laws throughout the Torah (which are the first five books of our Bible or the Old Testament: Genesis through Deuteronomy). In fact, many Christians just ignore these Scripture passages as being tedious or unnecessary because Jesus has freed Christians from the burden of the law. However, Jesus himself claimed after His famous Sermon on the Mount:
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 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. 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. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." ~Matthew 5:17-20.
We can see that Jesus did not abolish the commandments ordained by God. We are free from the burden of the sin the law carries, but it does not mean that we can live our lives ignoring what God has set forth in His Word. Christianity is based on so much, and when pastors refuse to preach of hell or God's righteousness in favor of a "feel good" kind of message, they are doing a disservice to the people in denying them the whole story. Of course everyone likes to feel good and not think about the consequences of their sins, but the whole point of Jesus' amazing sacrifice cannot ever be fully appreciated when a person is unaware of the true gift of His saving grace. I am so aware of how my sins could have caused me to spend eternity in death, but that through God's saving grace, He allowed His only Son to die and take on not just my own sin, but the sins of everyone, in order that I could be free to spend eternity with Him. Without the knowledge of hell and the eternal damnation and separation from all that is good, a person really cannot fully comprehend what Christ's sacrifice has given. Can we then really expect that a person saved with a "feel good" kind of message will fully understand the why and how of avoiding sin, how the enemy tries to trap them or how they need to live intentionally for the Lord? I am not saying it cannot be done at all, but how much more deeply can we accomplish living a life for God when we know what our sins cost.
Although there are of course secular Jewish people, the religious Jews are still holding true to the traditions that stemmed from God in His Word, and though we as Christians may feel that we are justified in ignoring God's precepts, we are sorely mistaken. To live a life set apart from the world, we have to immerse ourselves in God's Word thoroughly -- both Old and New Testament should be given equal devotion, for one is inexorably linked to the other. They are not meant to be read as separate and apart, but as one complete picture of God's plan for our salvation.
I think that it is extremely important and necessary that Christians learn and put into practice some of the oracles of God that were written down so carefully for us thousands of years ago. To ignore the one part in favor of the other is to deny that part of God's commandments. We do not have to get so caught up in the learning of and adhering to the letter of the law that we lose focus or sight of God's mercy and grace as He has called us to accept the gift of the blood of His Lamb; however, we cannot live Christian lives that are ignorant of the desires of God to follow after His commandments. He is merciful, loving and forgiving; however, He is still a righteous and just judge. God reveals so much of His character throughout the Old Testament, especially through the Torah, which many Jews and Christians believe was given by God Himself directly to Moses.
The Old Testament is often the missing piece, and we, as Christians, need to embrace the beautiful stories and mysteries and precepts of the Old Testament to get a better, deeper understanding of who God really is and what God desires for us. In doing so, we can find our purpose, live intentionally and grow closer to Him as we embrace the gifts He has given to us and then, in turn, share His love, mercy and compassion with others.