One concern I have in the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movement is the overemphasis on certain keynotes. From the outset I would like to make clear that I am not opposed to the feast days, but merely wish to see them kept in their proper perspective, the perspective which has been intended by God as revealed through His word.
I am not so much noticing a problem in certain individuals or groups, but I am here addressing an idea which has been floating around in my head for a while as a possible implication of some of the works of our ministry and others which bring a similar message. When people come into a realization about the Torah, specifically the feast days and the sabbath as these are typical ports of entry, I believe their immediate instinct is to really focus in on these things alone. This wouldn’t be a problem if this was done with a proper sense of perspective, but I can see how it would be feasible for one to go off the deep end and find themselves in an unsavory place. My point is that these days and seasons are indeed very significant and holy times, and they have lessons to teach us that are applicable to our daily walks as well. But they are not themselves daily events, and in order to maintain their holiness, they must be kept in their proper place in time. The problem arises when the full message of our ministry is one solely of things such as this.
Setting up a ministry to provide education about the feast days and the sabbath etc. is indeed a noble and necessary cause, but there is a danger in focusing only on these times without conveying the true purpose or spirit of them. I believe the ministry I am involved with has tried to do this with the utmost sincerity from the very beginning, as I am realizing as I ponder this. There is a reason the Apostolic Scriptures don’t really talk about these times except in passing. They were assuming that their audience was familiar with and observing these times. It is not difficult to pay attention to the calendar and do the necessary actions to observe an appointed time. And when these times come, it is excellent and good to take full advantage of the bountiful teachings which these times and the symbolism they are accompanied with provide for us, as well as understanding that these are times God draws near to His people. But the writers of the Apostolic Writings had to concern themselves with the conduct of a group of new believers: those coming in from multifarious backgrounds and levels of religious experience. It was necessary to provide instructions for the daily walk, things which would be immediately applicable to the life of the intended audience. We also must bear in mind that the letters found in the New Testament are far from an exhaustive collection of the correspondences between the apostles and the communities around the Mediterranean, and I would assume there are many teachings which have been lost.
The main point of my post is, when we teach on one subject, as a tautology we are not teaching about something else. As we teach about certain aspects of Torah, we are in that moment neglecting other aspects. This isn’t a problem so long as we dedicate ample time to covering the diversity of daily applications which the Torah has for us.
To reiterate, the issue isn’t the content, but the way it’s understood by those who until they receive the message as shared through a ministry such as ours have only perceived the Torah in a negative light. The revelation could be too much for them, and in a sense they overreact into a state of legalism. In the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster, he uses the illustration of walking along a narrow ridge. One one side of this ridge is a chasm of moral bankruptcy, and on the other is a chasm of legalism. He uses this to describe the walk of spiritual discipline, and I believe it is an excellent description of the life of the Torah-observant believer as well, and indeed anyone who seeks to live their life in a way pleasing to God. We shouldn’t shy away from the path because of these dangerous chasms, but the peril on either side should heighten our awareness of our inability to walk this road without God’s gentle hand leading us.
Being in a teaching position, it is of the utmost importance that we contemplate the effects of our words. Do we say things that are ambiguous or open to misinterpretation? Even if we understand what we’re saying, it is quite possible that other people don’t have the same background knowledge as you. I believe the solution to this is simply to be careful with what we say and what we teach. Even if our motives are good and the message that we share is true, we must formulate our thoughts in ways that are impervious to the corruption of the adversary. This is a universal truth, one which we must constantly hold in the back of our mind as we open our mouth or grasp a pen.