Walking In the Light of the High Holy Days (part 1)

"We are living in a time, my friends, where we must stay grounded in sacred Scripture to live for the glory of God. If we don't stand firm in our faith, we will fall. Designed by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and of Jesus—these feasts and holy days provide principles that can change the way we live." With these words from Dwight, we embark on a new four-week series on how to walk in the light of the Fall Festivals. ~ James

What is the biblical significance of the Fall feast season and how can twenty-first-century follower's of Jesus walk in the light they provide? In Leviticus chapter 23:23 we read about the great festivals designed by YHWH, And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD.” There is in the biblical worldview, in the biblical culture of the Jewish people, a wonderful sense of rhythm to life. Paul talks about redeeming the time because that is very much a part of his Jewish world. To sanctify time, to make holy certain days set apart by God for His purposes and for the edifying of his people is a biblical priority. The three great pilgrim feasts correspond with both agricultural seasons and spiritual events in Israel's history.

  • The first in the early spring is Passover (Pesach).

  • Fifty days later, after counting seven Sabbaths, comes Pentecost (Shavuot).

Passover celebrates the redemption of Israel out of slavery in Egypt while Pentecost celebrates their drawing near at Mt. Sinai to receive the revelation of Torah. Then in Autumn comes the third pilgrim feast, Tabernacles (Sukkot). I find personally, that these festivals have a beauty and significance that often escapes many Christians. For the most part, we all know the Passover connection with Jesus' death and resurrection, and we rejoice in God's outpouring of His Spirit at Pentecost. But I am suggesting to you that these divinely appointed times can take on even more profound meaning to you and me as disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. For me, the Fall feast season is like a spiritual symphony. It has various refrains and theological motifs that move with incredible beauty and rhythm. They culminate with the Feast of Tabernacles; a crescendo of praise, thanksgiving, and celebration. This heavenly symphony begins with the High Holy Days. First of all, let me give you an overview of what the sequence of events is:

  • The first day of the seventh month (Tishri) is the Feast of Trumpets (which is known today as Rosh Hashanah)

  • On the tenth day of Tishrei is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)

  • The fifteenth day begins a seven-day Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)

  • There is an intriguing eighth day added to Tabernacles that we will talk more about later

Biblical time is based on the exodus from Egypt, the great paradigm of God's salvation. That occurs in the first month on the Hebrew calendar, Nissan. This is, of course, new year's day. What sounds strange to our ears is that another new year, or time of beginning again, is the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) on the first day of the seventh month. To the sages of Israel, it inaugurates a spiritual new year because it is the biblical birthday of the world, celebrating God as Creator. Rather than explaining the rich history of rituals, customs and ways the Jewish people have honored and celebrated this season, I want us to meditate on the spiritual implications of these things. To those who have come to appreciate the unique Jewishness and beauty of our covenant roots, I would say it takes much more than an attraction to ethnic Judaism. It takes more than an interest in language and culture, more than a fascination with Hebrew styles of song and dance—as wonderful as all that can be. We must manifest an intense desire to serve the Holy One of Israel, through the death and resurrection of the Jewish Messiah Jesus, in the power of his Holy Spirit. We are living in a time, my friends, where we must stay grounded in sacred Scripture to live for the glory of God. If we don't stand firm in our faith, we will fall. Designed by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and of Jesus—these feasts and holy days provide principles that can change the way we live. That is the subject we will tackle in the weeks ahead. Shalom!

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