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The High Holy Days (part 2)

Post Title: From Trumpets to Atonement: Let Go of the Defiling Reptile

The Fall festival cycle is full of wisdom, designed as a gift from a holy and gracious God to his people for their good. The year’s third and final pilgrim feast is the Feast of Tabernacles, occurring on the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month Tishri. The path to Tabernacles begins on the month’s first day with the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah). Ten days later is a solemn day of fasting and corporate intercession called the Day of Atonement. The full festival picture is outlined in Leviticus 23.

Designed by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and of Jesus—these feasts and holy days provide principles that can help us return to our first love. So far, we’ve identified two of them.

  • We must know and acknowledge that God alone is holy

  • We must engage in authentic acts of repentance

Awareness of the utter holiness of God and our responsibility to walk upright before him leads to repentance, which in turn leads us to imitate him by walking in forgiveness.

The third lesson we can learn from these Ten Days of Awe is our need to walk in the light of forgiveness.

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin [...].” - Exodus 34:6-7

Listen to the word of our King. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14). Hmm, I do not hear any amens.

Now, look carefully at Matthew 5:23, where Jesus says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,” in other words, you’ve offended him. Note that Jesus does not say to go ahead and offer your offering to God; all that matters is that you’re right with him. No. Jesus was a Jew, not a Protestant! The Master says, “Leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

Jewish tradition teaches that if you go to offer sacrifices before God but you have not repented, or you ask him for forgiveness while still holding onto unforgiveness, it is like going into the ritual immersion pool clinging to a defiling reptile. In other words, you can go through all the religious motions, but if you are still holding on to something defiling, then you are offering a sacrifice of fools.

We in the West are so individualistically minded that we think all we must do is get right with God.

Perhaps we engage in spiritual disciplines, maybe study God’s Word, pray more, etc. But that is not the world or worldview of Jesus. To engage in discipleship with the King means to join his community, and when two or three kingdom people gather together, he is in the midst of them. That idea comes out of Jewish tradition, radicalized in Jesus because the Spirit is poured out on the entire community.

I am preaching this with conviction because many Christians I encounter are greatly hindered, hampered, and not experiencing the pure intimacy of God’s salvation in Jesus because of holding on to unforgiveness. The High Holy Days remind us to walk in the light of God’s holiness, in the spirit of repentance and the grace of forgiveness.

Whom does God forgive? The one who has forgiven. Whom does God bless? The one who has blessed.

The most solemn day of the biblical calendar is the Day of Atonement. According to Jewish tradition, on that day, the satan cannot accuse the people of God. I find that to be a profound insight. My friends, if you are walking in the light of atonement, then the adversary has no authority over you.

However, you are blocking the presence of God if you are not acknowledging that he alone is holy, not engaging in authentic acts of repentance (not only out of fear of judgment but out of love for your heavenly Father), not practicing forgiveness. And with that comes accusation, oppression, and the absence of blessing.

I learned a powerful kingdom lesson from my friend Clint. Over his career as a biblical counselor, he has been privy to some of the most indescribable human pain and suffering. He rightly observes that God never asks us to forgive and forget, which is an unfortunate cliché imposed on the text. Instead, when grievous memories return—as they inevitably do—Clint wisely counsels to reinforce forgiveness by forgiving again. He has story after story of the transformational healing that occurs when God’s people imitate him by exercising forgiveness.

The Feast of Trumpets, the Ten Days of Awe, the Day of Atonement. These are times of grace, designed for our good by a God who abounds in steadfast love. So, in Jesus’ name, let go of the defiling reptile.

Read more: Previous Post


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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.

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