Question: As our group has been studying Month 4, Keeping the Sabbath, a question has arisen that I need help answering. Jews in New Testament times met on the Sabbath in synagogues to study God’s Word. In the Old Testament, the Sabbath is described as a holy convocation…convocation meaning gathering. What did that look like for the Jews in the Old Testament? They clearly did not travel to tabernacle/temple every Sabbath once they reached the promised land. So where and how did they gather? Did they gather? Were they supposed to be gathered?
Response: As far as I can tell, the passages that really speak of a holy “convocation” (or gathering) are all similar to Leviticus 23:3 and speak of refraining from work as the centerpiece of this weekly holy day. If we want to know what that “looked like” we might need to examine what communal or corporate worship required in Old Testament times. National corporate worship had to happen in the right place. Early on, of course, this place was the tabernacle. After Solomon’s day, the place of worship was the temple in Jerusalem. Even a casual reading of Deuteronomy 12 or Deuteronomy 16 leaves no doubt about the designated place of corporate worship. Numerous other passages make this clear. It becomes plain when we look at this, that a corporate worship assembly was not occurring each week in ancient Israel.
The important Sabbath-keeping injunction was physical rest. In Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15, the command enjoins rest from labor as the means of keeping the day “holy.” Other scriptures that mention or regulate the Sabbath in the Old Testament also define the Sabbath by rest; not by gathering at worship services. Look at the following passages, too:
You will note that the way to desecrate the holy day was by a failure to rest from physical labor; not by a failure to assemble corporately.
The “convocation” of Leviticus 23:3, in light of these passages, had to refer to something other than a big assembly at the designated place of worship. I suggest that the gathering of Leviticus 23:3 was a gathering of families for rest, reflection and worship together at home… similar to the kind of worship we still have together around our tables and at bedtime in our dwellings today.
Question: Were those Jews “fake” Jews who crucified Jesus? Was it fake Jews who reclaimed Israel as a sovereign nation in 1948?
Response: Following the initial question we discussed above, a comment was made about how that “fake Jews” or false Jews existed by the time of Jesus (the Pharisees) and how it wasn’t real Jews who placed him on the cross, but those who were merely claiming to be Jews. There’s a sense in which this is true. TRUE Jews (those who had been studying Old Testament prophecies and were sincerely attempting to look for their fulfillments) would have certainly recognized and become humble before the Messiah. Certainly those who crucified the Lord did not possess the heart of true Judaism, which is loving the Lord with all of their hearts, souls and minds (Deuteronomy 6:5). A reading of Matthew 23, along with many other passages in which Jesus addressed the scribes and Pharisees, makes clear to us that the hypocrisy and pride of these groups (at large) separated them from God. Very soon after their rebellious crucifixion of God, the Son, circumcised Jews were destroyed as a nation, and the spiritual Israel of God, today–that is, the church of Jesus–replaced them as God’s chosen people. Today, Israel consists of those who have been circumcised not in body, but in their hearts (See Romans 2, especially verses 25-29).
(It is important to remember, though, that, while the Jews who rejected and crucified Christ were not faithful Jews [while killing their own promised Messiah], they were still called Jews by Inspiration in multiple places in the New Testament. It would be be more accurate to term them “rebellious Jews” than “fake Jews”. After all, Jews were Jewish by birth; not based on their characters. They were unrighteous Jews or hypocritical Jews.)
We also saw that the comments contained the statement that the fake Jews had done it again in 1948. We assume that the writer meant that Jews had rallied to take back Jerusalem in a bloody war with Palestine and Egypt; a war that was at least partly based on Biblical land promises that had, in actuality, already been fulfilled in the Old Testament (Joshua 21:43-45). This is also true. Since the Roman armies came to obliterate Judaism in A.D 70, all Jewish ancestral records were destroyed at that time. There is not a single Jew today who can trace his tribal lineage. In that sense, those who claim Judaism today are “false” in that claim. Jerusalem is no longer the earthly headquarters of the religion of Jehovah and there are no outstanding land promises.
Things to remember:
- Whatever assembling occurred on the weekly Sabbath in Israel was, very apparently, not a corporate multi-family assembly for worship.
- The primary sabbath injunction involved physical rest.
- Jews were false to the very heart of Judaism when they rejected Jesus and crucified him.
- Jesus strongly denounced the hypocrisy of many scribes and Pharisees of his day, while approving many faithful, God-fearing Jews, who believed on Him.
- All land promises to Israel were fulfilled in the conquest of Canaan in Old Testament times.
- Those who claim Judaism today cannot trace their tribal lineages because God meant to destroy Judaism (and did, through the Romans in AD 70, as prophesied) and replace it with Christianity. He did that replacement, as well, in a marvelous event at Calvary and on the following Sunday morning and on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. I’m so glad because this Gentile grandmother in 2020 can be a spiritual Jew, bringing children and grandchildren to the Israel of God! Praise Him!
(Please feel free to comment further on the DD page. We always want to openly address any study related thoughts/questions. Thanks to those who took the time to comment previously on the postponed submission. Sometimes, we just cannot get to all of the page “traffic” as quickly as we’d like. Page “traffic” is a great thing. Whenever we stop having traffic, we will stop having a DD study! Thanks for always understanding.)