The Jewish Church
The word ‘church’
Some words have different meanings. Take, for example, the word ‘school’. If I said to you that the school needed a new roof, you would know I was thinking of the building. If, however, I said that the school was getting up a concert, that would mean the children and young people, including you.
In the same way the word ‘church’ can mean either the building or else the Church people. Over the next few weeks we shall be thinking about the Church as the People of God.
The Jewish Nation-Church
When the Queen and Prince Philip visit another country, the people there begin making preparations to receive them a long time beforehand, so that when they arrive everything is ready for them to be given a good welcome.
The same kind of thing happened before God visited this world as Jesus Christ, except that he arranged for the Jewish people to make ready for his coming. They had 2,000 years in which to prepare, and during that time they learnt what God was like and what kind of lives he expected them to lead.
The Jewish people were really one big Church or people of God. That is why they are often called in the Old Testament ‘the congregation’ of Israel, and all who belonged to the Jewish nation also belonged to the Jewish Church as the two were the same thing.
That is why the Jewish nation had holy days and festivals as the Christian Church has today. We keep Sunday as our day of worship, but the Jews kept Saturday or the Sabbath. Every Saturday they went to worship God in the synagogue, and every day services were held in the Temple at Jerusalem.
The services in the Temple were taken by priests and at their head was the High Priest who was also head of the government.
Just as we have our special festivals, like Christmas and Easter, so they had theirs; for example, the feast of the Passover, which commemorated the escape of the Israelites from Egypt, the Feast of Unleavened Bread which marked the beginning of the corn harvest, and the Feast of Pentecost seven weeks later which marked its end. The Feast of Tabernacles (or Feast of Ingathering) in the autumn was a great harvest thanksgiving after the fruit and grapes and olives had been gathered in.