“Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: The feasts of the Lord [Yehovah] which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts” (Leviticus 23:2).
After defining the Sabbath day of rest, Moses gave specific times that Israel was to set aside for the God who had just delivered them from Egypt. Initiating a new calendar to begin with their redemption from slavery, the Lord told them to celebrate Passover (Pesach), Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and in the third month, the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost (Shevuot).
We are now in Israel’s High Holy Days of fall, the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), the day of fasting and repentence on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and a few days later, the Feast of Tabernacles (Succot, or Sukkot).
I began writing this on Rosh Hashana. At the Feast of Trumpets, a ram’s horn is blown calling God’s people to assemble in a holy convocation, celebrating the creation and the beginning of God’s intended purpose for his world.
I am a Gentile Christian and for many years I have followed as the Hebrew calendar cycled through its holidays. Holy days. Appointed times. Times appointed by God for his people to meet with him, personally and corporately. Mostly corporate, in family and community units.
I listen to teachers whose call is to educate Gentiles like me who did not grow up knowing the difference between challah and matzo. I study the Old Testament and its foundation for the New Testament with awe, seeing Jesus Christ, the Messiah, revealed from Genesis to Revelation and especially through God’s appointed times.
Every year I learn a little more, like a child who learns family traditions year by year as they rehearse familiar patterns. I am blessed now to have Jewish neighbors who grew up in kosher homes and practice their traditions as much as they find possible in Southern California. My mother’s Catholic family lived in a Midwest Jewish neighborhood for a while and she told me she assumed at one time that she was Jewish! Community life at its best!
She passed on her love for the Jewish people, and for people from all backgrounds, but that is a story for another day. For now I enjoy having my own Jewish friends, sharing recipes, faith and life. I make a really nice challah (Sabbath bread) and I love their chicken soup. We talk about our holy day celebrations, and I long for the day they will fall in love with Yeshua, their Messiah.
Jesus, God’s son, is the fulfillment of the Law and of the appointed times set by God. Thinking of the first verses in Genesis, the apostle John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” (John 1:1-2). John described Jesus as Creator, Light and Life, themes of Genesis 1.
Thinking of the tabernacle presence of God and the realtionship he and the other disciples had with Jesus, John continued, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt [tabernacled, pitched his tent] with us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).
How can the Feast of Tabernacles be anything other than a celebration of the God-Man Jesus who came to dwell, literally pitch his tent, among us? The Hebrew name for the feast in modern times is Sukkot, coming from the temporary shelter called a sukkah that Jews make in remembrance of how their fathers lived in tents in the wilderness for 40 years. Families build shelters where they can eat together for a week, teaching their children and remembering their heritage. I’m sure kids are happy to just camp out and sleep in the family sukkah! What a great way to make a lasting memory! I think of my son learning to camp with the Boy Scouts. His dad wasn’t interested in camping but having his uncle share his tent was not just great fun but gave him an amazing sense of security!
The feast is also known as the “Ingathering of Nations.” Zehariah prophesied, “And it will come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations who came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zechariah 14:16-17).
The Feast of Trumpets is understood by Christians to point to the return of Christ. The regathering of Israel in preparation for the final day of atonement is foretold by Jeremiah. While speaking of the return from the Babylonian captivity, the Lord also promised, “They shall be My people and I will be their God; and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good, but I will put My fear in their heart so they will not depart from Me.” (Jeremiah 32:38-40). This new heart was made available to us by the Holy Spirit who was given after Jesus’ ascension, poured out on his church at Pentecost.
Yom Kippur is then understood as pointing to the Atonement made by Christ in his sacrificial death and resurrection. It is a sober day of fasting and repentance that looks forward to the Day of the Lord’s judgment, where those who finally turn to Messiah Jesus will be washed in the blood of the Lamb.
Tabernacles, as the final of the High Holy Days, looks forward to the millenial reign of Christ when all nations are gathered together under his kingdom reign. Hungry for that time, my heart longs after God’s eternal presence. For now, I daily give him praise for being “God with me” in the tabernacle of my heart and home. It has been a sweet time to meditaate on these truths and enjoy his presence. The rest that he promised is ours to enjoy even now.
After my friends celebrate a week of Sukkot, a final day known as Simchat Torah celebrates the Torah, the teaching of the law and prophets. The resilience of the Jewish people can be attributed to their home life and community life that is centered around the observance of Torah and teachings that are passed on from generation to generation.
And the annual cycle begins again. I hope you will read the articles below by fellow Word Press bloggers. Let us follow the example of our Jewish friends and continually feast on the Word of God, learning from one another. Their Scriptures are our Scriptures.
May your new year be blessed with new revelation of God your Savior!
- The High Holy Days (celebratethemessiah.wordpress.com)
- The Seasons of Our Lord (eternalchrist.wordpress.com)