One of the challenges we face as Jewish believers is finding forms that reflect and connect our faith in the God of our ancestors, our new birth in the Messiah Yeshua, and our Jewish heritage. Our desire is to keep those forms biblical and distinctly Jewish and to weave them creatively throughout our worship and our lives. We can find in the early believing communities, models from which to continue and develop our own forms.
A little-known, but powerfully simple and meaningful practice was documented by Tertullian at the end of the second century. After the new believers emerged from the waters during the baptism service, they were given milk mixed with honey to drink, undoubtedly representing the sweetness of the promises of God (A History of Christianity, K.S. Latourette, page 194). Baptism was an entree into the faith community, and this practice was reminiscent of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land of milk and honey.
During 1986-1990, while I was leading the New York branch of Jews for Jesus, I was privileged to also lend spiritual oversight to Kehilat Yeshua, a Manhattan-based messianic congregation (it had begun as a ministry Bible study and had developed into an independent work). We held our immersion services at a public beach on Long Island. Afterwards, small cups of milk and honey were passed around to the members of the congregation. Many people would stop to witness the festivities and listen to our music, and many conversations ensued.
When asked, we explained to the predominantly Jewish inquirers that we were partaking in an ancient custom, drinking milk and honey as a way of honoring new-found faith in God’s promised Messiah. Most people had no difficulty in identifying this as a Jewish rite, and we had opportunities to talk further of the connection between faith in the God of Israel and fulfillment in Yeshua.
Milk and honey offer a message that is simple yet sweet—faith reflected in a genuinely biblical, Jewish form—a witness to us of God’s promises and a story to others of His truth in Yeshua.
Editor’s Note: We’re always interested in hearing about forms and traditions that other Jewish believers have developed and practice in their worship and lives. Why not write and share these with us?