Reformation Thought: Manipulatives
Neither my wife, nor I, ever planned to be educators. Certainly, parenting has an inherent requirement involving education as we ‘train up our children,’ but homeschooling was not our expectation when we began some six or more years ago. During that time-frame I think we have learned more about education and how to educate than we ever expected. If anything, we are the ones getting an education.
One interesting concept I had never considered was the developmental thought process of a child, particularly in the area of math. In the earliest stages of mental development and awareness, a child can only deal with concrete items. Abstract concepts are so foreign that they cannot process or grasp them.
An example is how children are taught to count. Universally, parents use concrete items like fingers, blocks, Cheerios, etc. Just look in any kindergarten classroom and see the plethora of toys that are designed to engage the child on a concrete level. They can manipulate these items and through the physical, begin to grasp principles that will later enable and enhance their abstract thinking skills.
A couple of our boys struggled with math, so we chose a program called Math-U-See to help in learning the basic skills using manipulatives. The interactive nature of the concrete objects helped and continues to help them in understanding concepts, even as they mature into adolescents capable of abstract thought.
About a month ago, during our celebration of Hanukkah, it dawned on me that Yahweh (God) knew exactly what He was doing whenHe instituted His special feast days. He was instituting manipulatives that would teach us and help us teach our children about Himself and His plan for history and Redemption. While Hanukkah is not one of the seven major feasts instituted by Yahweh in Leviticus 23, the lesson of manipulatives was not lost on me.
All of Scripture uses direct lessons, metaphors and allusions to the created order and the times and seasons instituted by Yahweh to teach and draw us nearer to Him. As early as Genesis 1:14 we are told that Yahweh’s creation has a purpose to teach and lead us to Him. “Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons (H4150: moed) and for days and years;”
According to Strong’s, ‘moed’ means ‘appointed time, place or meeting.’ ‘Seasons,’ as it appears in Genesis 1:14 is in keeping with the nature of ‘appointed times.’ More significantly, it is Yahweh’s time and beyond our ability to change or ignore… but we won’t go that route today.
In Leviticus 23 we are told at least five times that Yahweh has appointed a particular feast (moed) or time for a holy convocation. Why? For what purpose?
In pondering this I think in His infinite wisdom, He understands our frame and our needs. Let me explain.
We are charged with training up our children in the way they should go. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 articulates the continual nature of our task to teach and even alludes to manipulatives in terms of times (‘when you rise up’), places (‘in the way’) and objects (‘hand, eyes, door’).
More significantly, nowhere in Scripture are we ever referred to as the ‘adults of God.’ In fact, quite the opposite. Over and over Scripture calls us the ‘children of God’ or teaches and treats us as children. We are continually called to run to Him as a child to his father. We are portrayed as fickle and without sense apart from Him and His ways. Perhaps that is why He gave us so many manipulatives to continually draw our attention back to Him and through which He can teach new truths.
So, why does Christendom tend to eschew manipulatives? We particularly ignore feasts, fasts, and dietary instructions from our Creator?
The answer, I believe, is in the gnostic influences present in the early church. Gnosticism, a Greek thought process that pre-dated Yeshua by a couple hundred years, teaches, among other things, that the spiritual world is superior to the physical world. Through absorbing some of the Gnostic heresy of abasing the physical while focusing on the spiritual leads directly to the elimination of the very manipulatives Yahweh instituted and commanded to be kept forever (see RT: Olam!). His design is to give us physical, tangible reminders through which we can learn and teach our children, thus being obedient on a number of levels.
In fact, I believe we cannot fully learn and understand most abstract concepts without some concrete basis to work from. Thus, the Feasts of Yahweh are significant!
My family and I are neophytes as we have only enjoyed the Feasts for the last two years, however, I continually hear from those who have been on this Hebraic walk for 10, 15, even 20 years that with every feast they learn something new! No wonder Rav Shaul (Paul) tells us in 1 Corinthians 5:8, “therefore let us celebrate the feast,” and in Colossians 2:17 that the Feasts are “shadows of good things to come!” See? They are instructive and point us toward yet future goodness that is embodied in Yeshua Messiah!
Both of these letters are written long after the death, burial and resurrection of Messiah, yet Shaul says, “Keep them!” Further, his example in the Book of Acts is the keeping of the feasts and the rest of the Torah. (See Acts 15:20-21; 20:6, 16; 21:21-26; 24:13-15; 25:7-11; 28:17-18; as well as a dozen or more references to him teaching and preaching on the Sabbath to both Jew and Greek.)
So, before I head off on a tangent, here is the point: Yahweh has given us manipulatives for our benefit and for that of our children as we train them up: His Feasts, fasts, dietary instructions, etc. Why do we ignore them? Why would we want to? They are for our benefit and His greater glory!
The next Reformation Thought will be a fun one! It will be a chance for deep introspection for all of us. Consider: Antisemitism.
May our King grant you His everlasting peace!