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Walking In the Light of the High Holy Days (part 4)

The Feast of Trumpets, the ten Days of Awe, and the Day of Atonement are times of grace, designed by a gracious God for our good. They remind us to ...

  • Know and acknowledge that God alone is holy

  • Engage in authentic acts of repentance

  • Practice a lifestyle of forgiveness

The fourth and final lesson is this, to walk in the light of the High Holy Days is to walk in the light of faith. Put into right relationship with God and with others, we go boldly into the world to fulfill our high calling in Messiah Jesus, walking by faith, not by sight. By rabbinic calculation, there are 613 commandments found in the five books of Moses (Torah). Through the years those 613 were seen in a more distilled form. For instance, the ten commandments embody the entire Torah. Jesus himself encapsulated God's Torah by fusing two verses in Leviticus, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40) At one point the teachers in Israel reduced all 613 commandments into one. Would you like to know what it is? They said this commandment expresses the essential thing that God is looking for from his people, "The righteous shall live by their faith" (Hab 2:4). But we must be thorough here. What did faith mean to the Jewish Jesus in the Second Temple period? The Hebrew word for faith is emunah, which has to do with faithfulness. The faithfulness of God, and our faithful response to him. In Exodus 17, Israel has just come out of their captivity in Egypt by the redeeming hand of YHWH. No sooner are they gloriously saved than they come under attack. Has that ever happened to you? God's victory in your life stirs up a hornet's nest of opposition? That is because they, and you, are no longer on the adversary's side. The Amalekites attack Israel. Do you remember the story? Moses goes up and sits on a rock. Standing on one side of him is Aaron and on the other side is Hur. As long as Moses' hands were upward aloft, his hands and staff pointed heavenward; the Israelites prevailed against their enemy. But when his arms grew tired, their attackers prevailed. These men stand alongside Moses and support him by keeping his hands steady. That word steady is emunah, the first occurrence in the all the Bible of the Hebrew word for faith. To walk in the light of the Fall Feasts is to walk in faithfulness. We tend to think and speak of faith in terms of belief only. When we say, "Do you have faith in God?" we are effectively saying, "Do you believe in God?" Belief is only one aspect of biblical faith. But the essence of faith (emunah) is not right belief but right conduct. Biblically speaking faith is steadfastness, fidelity, persistence, loyalty to God and what he wants of you. Faith, in one word, is faithfulness. Faithfulness is one of the chief characteristics of the one, true God. Jeremiah witnessed God's holy hand of judgment upon Jerusalem, and he wept over the fate of the people of God. Yet in Lamentations, he can still declare, "Oh, God of Israel, great is thy faithfulness. Morning by morning you renew me, your covenants are secure, your word is true, you are faithful." My friends, for me this is part of what is at stake with Israel and the Jewish people. If we cannot depend on God to be loyal to his promises to Israel, then we have no certainty that he will remain true to us. Paul says that even though Israel may be fickle, God remains faithful. And that is what he wants of you and me. To walk in the light of the Fall Festivals is to recognize that is is not a matter of your faith, it is a matter of God's great faithfulness. For many of us, prayer becomes a matter of trying to change God's mind because we are unconvinced regarding his character and intent. I suggest to you that we do not have to change God, we have to let God change us, to make us faithful. There are times when it's not easy to walk in faithfulness, but that's precisely the time you must. There are times when Habbakuk says, "The fig tree is going to fail, the cattle will no longer be numerous, and the olive trees will not produce their fruit." All of this is symbolic of the fact that you may have times where there's no joy in your life, there's no spiritual abundance and illumination, and your material prosperity may not be what you want. Jesus tells us that, "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." For me, that is the bottom line. I am not suggesting that you are legally obligated to keep these festivals. What I am saying is they can help by reminding you to enter into the fullness of your salvation in the Lord Jesus, our Passover Lamb. If we walk in the light of the holiness of God, in a spirit of repentance, forgiveness, and faithfulness, then comes rejoicing. And that is what the Feast of Tabernacles is all about. We will take up a study of this amazing festival in our next installment.

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