• Sounding the shofar is a very serious matter
Teachings

Feasts Of The Fall

editor - 12 September 2013

By Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer.. The Jewish ‘civil’ year starts in the autumn with the Jewish New Year: ‘Rosh Hashanah’. It is celebrated on the first day of the 7th month, as all the fall feasts are celebrated during the 7th month – 7 being the number of perfection, of fullness. The first day of the 7th month is also the day of the New Moon, so a day of darkness with no moon at the sky at night.This is the 5th of the seven Biblical Feasts, because the Feasts start in the springtime with the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks. In the fall there are the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. These are the Biblical feasts mentioned in Leviticus 23. Other Jewish observances are: Tisha B’Av – the Fast of the Fifth Month; Hanukkah – the Feast of Dedication; Purim – The Feast of Lots, and the Jubilee Year.

And of course: Sabbath, the 7th day of the week.

The actual dates of the Biblical Feasts in September of any given year can be found on the following sites.
http://www.chabad.org/calendar/view/month_cdo/jewish/Jewish-Calendar.htm
https://www.hebcal.com/

ROSH HASHANAH – THE FEAST OF TRUMPETS

The Jewish New Year – ‘Rosh Hashanah’ (‘Head of the Year’) – is the first of the Feasts of the fall. In the Bible it is called the Feast of Trumpets, Leviticus 23:24, Numbers 29:1. The meaning of New Year was not applied to this Feast until at least the second century A.D., more than 1500 years after the institution of the holiday. It is the ‘Yom HaShofar’ (a shofar is a ‘ram’s horn trumpet’), the day of the blowing of the shofar, the Iom Teruah, the Day of Blowing.

 

SHOFAR/TRUMPET

Blowing the shofar is a very serious matter.

One thinks for instance immediately of Joel 2:1-2a, 12-17: “…Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on My holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand – a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness…”Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing – grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God. Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, O LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?…’ ”
(Compare for the Day of the Lord with Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:14-16; Isaiah 13:9-10, 34:4,8; Joel 2:30-31, 3:12-16; Acts 2:19-21; Revelation 6:12-17)

 

In Joshua 6 the shofar was blown and the city of Jericho fell.

 

And think of all the shofars/trumpets in the Book of Revelation.

 

But also the blowing of the shofar at the time of the giving of the Law: “…a very loud trumpet blast…” Exodus 19:16-23: “…On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet (shofar) blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet (shofar) grew louder and louder.

Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. The LORD descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up and the LORD said to him, “Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the LORD and many of them perish. Even the priests, who approach the LORD, must consecrate themselves, or the LORD will break out against them.” Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, ‘Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.’… “

 

After that God speaks to Moses.

Exodus 20:1-21: “…And God spoke all these words:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before Me.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love Me and keep My commandments.
“You shall not misuse the Name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His Name.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
“Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.
“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”

 

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet (shofar) and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was…”

 

God is a holy God. Man is a sinner. The shofar calls for repentance. The Day of the Lord is the Day of His Judgement. How can anyone stand before Him and survive?

 

TEN AWESOME DAYS

For the Jewish people this is the beginning of the period of the ’10 awesome days’. It starts with the day of the New Moon, a day of darkness that sets in with a moonless night. The beginning of a time of meditation, of self-scrutiny, of prayers, of hours spent in the synagogue. To plead with God. To look at all the wrongdoings and trespasses. To ask for forgiveness. Maybe the Lord will be merciful and add another year to one’s life. Maybe one will not be scratched out of God’s Book of Life.

Although today this ‘New Years Day’ is celebrated with sweet foods, the ‘real’ sweet food will only come after Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – when one knows for sure and trusts that the sins are forgiven and that God will add a new year to one’s life. That the terrible ‘Day of the Lord’, the Day of Judgement has not yet come.

Sometimes Jews eat fish on this day, with the head still attached to it, as a symbol that one day Israel will be the head of the nations, and no longer the tail. Moses, in Deuteronomy 28:13 says: “…The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be the at the top, never at the bottom…”

Orthodox Jews sometimes prepare for the 10 awesome days that start with ‘Yom HaSjofar’ by reading every day of the previous month Psalm 27.

 

EZRA AND NEHEMIA

The actual observance of the Feast of Trumpets is recorded only once in Scripture. Ezra the scribe says that it was during the Feast of Trumpets that the Temple altar was rebuilt, and sacrifices were re-instituted by those who returned from the Babylonian Exile. Ezra 3:1-6 says: “…When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled as one man in Jerusalem. Then Jeshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening sacrifices. Then in accordance with what is written, they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles with the required number of burnt offerings prescribed for each day. After that, they presented the regular burnt offerings, the New Moon sacrifices and the sacrifices for all the appointed sacred feasts of the LORD, as well as those brought as freewill offerings to the LORD. On the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD, though the foundation of the LORD’s temple had not yet been laid…”

 

Nehemiah recorded that a sweeping revival also took place in Israel at that same day as Ezra rehearsed God’s Law in the ears of the people of Israel.

Nehemiah 7:73-8:12 says: “…The priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers and the temple servants, along with certain of the people and the rest of the Israelites, settled in their own towns. When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns,
all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel. So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.
Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
The Levites-Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah-instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve.”
Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them…”

 

This is followed by the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.

Verses 13-18 say: “…On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the scribe to give attention to the words of the Law. They found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in booths during the feast of the seventh month and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make booths”-as it is written.
So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves booths on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim. The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.
Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the feast for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly… “

RITUAL BATH/BAPTISM

In Judaism there is also the tradition that during these days one immerses in the ‘mikveh’, the ritual bath, to be cleansed by water, called ‘tevillah mikveh’. It is not unlikely that Jesus’ baptism took place during this time of the year, around ‘Yom HaShofar’. It was probably not by accident but very likely and logically that John the Baptist’s preaching of repentance took place in these days of self-scrutiny.

The Gospel of Mark says this, in Mark1:1-8: “…The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send My messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”– “a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.’ “And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit…”

 

And in Matthew 3:1-11 it is written: “…In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ”
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire…”

 

Jesus is among those who are baptised.

We read in John 1:26-36: “…”I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie…” This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel.”
Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known Him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!…”

 

COMING OF THE LORD

Blowing the shofar, the trumpet, reminds one also of the Coming of Messiah.

Matthew 24:31 says: “…And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other…”

 

Who are these ‘elect’? First of all they are the Jewish people, who will come back to the Promised Land of Israel. We are witnesses of the beginning of that process in our days.

Ezekiel 36:24-27 says: “…” ‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws…“

Secondly, we also think of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 that says: “…For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call (shofar) of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever…”
It is the picture of the triumphant King on His way to the Royal City to take up His throne and with Whom His people, who have left the city to greet Him, meet. They will accompany Him to the city to share in His glorious reign.

 

It is the same shofar that blows in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, that says: “…Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed…”

 

It is the last shofar/trumpet, the 7th trumpet – after 6 trumpets full of judgements and plagues – to be blown in the Book of Revelation. We read in Revelation 11:15-19: “…The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give thanks to You, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and Your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding Your servants the prophets and Your saints and those who reverence Your Name, both small and great– and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within His temple was seen the ark of His covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm….”

 

What a glorious future this shofar announces, but also the Day of Judgement.

 

Thirdly, one thinks of the nations of this earth who will be called to gather around Jerusalem to worship and serve the Lord. First a remnant of Israel is gathered.

Isaiah 27:12-13 says: “…In that day the LORD will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, O Israelites, will be gathered up one by one. And in that day a great trumpet (shofar) will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain in Jerusalem…” Zechariah 9:14 says: “…Then the LORD will appear over them; His arrow will flash like lightning. The Sovereign LORD will sound the trumpet (shofar); He will march in the storms of the south…”
And Zechariah 14:16-17 says: “…Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, they will have no rain…“

 

Micah 4:1-4 says: “…In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.
Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in His paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken…“
(Compare Isaiah 2:1-5)

 

A real ‘Happy New Year’ will start with this event.

The apostle John in the book of Revelation says it will last for a thousand years!

Revelation 20:1-6 says: “…And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years…”

 

YOM KIPPUR – THE DAY OF ATONEMENT

Kippur is from the Hebrew word kaphar, meaning ‘to cover’. So atonement means covering. Leviticus 17:11 says: “…For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life…”

After the 10 awesome days, this is the most Holy Day for the Jewish people. It is the 6th of the Jewish/Biblical Feasts, celebrated on the 10th day of the 7th month. On the 15th of the 7thmonth followed by the Feast of Tabernacles, the 7th Feast.

Many of us know these words ‘Yom Kippur’, because of the Yom Kippur War, when in 1973 suddenly Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on this day. They hoped to wipe Israel of the face of this earth, thinking that they could take Israel on this day of fasting and praying totally unexpectedly and defeat them by surprise. But they did not succeed, although Israel suffered heavy losses. God – and has – other plans with Israel than their annihilation in the Promised Land. They are there to stay. The prophet Amos concludes his prophecies by saying in Amos 9: 14-15: “…I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the LORD your God…”

 

FASTING

Leviticus 23:27-32 says: “…”The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day. You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. It is a Sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your Sabbath…”

 

It is day of fasting, Ezra 8:21: “…There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions…”

 

No food and no drinks. A day ‘to afflict your souls’, Leviticus 23:27,32: “…”The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the LORD by fire…It is a Sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your Sabbath…”
The Israelite who failed to devote himself to fasting and repentance on this day was to be ‘cut off from his people’, Leviticus 23:29: “…Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people…”

 

COVERING BY THE BLOOD

On this day the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holiest to sprinkle blood on the Ark of the Covenant, when the tabernacle and later on the Temple were in existence an functioning.

Leviticus 16:12-16 says: “…He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the LORD and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain. He is to put the incense on the fire before the LORD, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the Testimony, so that he will not die. He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.
“He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the Tent of Meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness…”

 

SCAPEGOAT

Before that the bull and 2 goats were slaughtered, Leviticus 16:6-10: “…”Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats-one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering.  But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat…”

 

First two golden lots were thrown into a golden vessel. One was inscribed ‘For YHWH’; the other said ‘For Azazel’. The High Priest shook the vessel and randomly took one lot in each hand. As he held the lots to the foreheads of the goats and determined the outcome, he declared them ‘a sin offering for the Lord’. The 2 goats together were considered to be one singular offering. Binding a red, crimson thread of wool to one of his horns identified ‘For Azazel’. It was then turned around to face the people whose sins would later be placed on his head.

 

One goat is sacrificed as a ‘chattat’, a sin offering. He is sacrificed as a complete burn offering for the sins of the people. It dies in the place of sin-full people who deserved to die. The other goat is called ‘azazel’ (from a Hebrew word that means: remove, although the Hebrew word for the devil is also Azazel), the scapegoat, and the goat of removal. But together they form one sacrifice for sin.

 

After the sprinkling of the blood on the Ark of the Covenant the High Priest lays his hands on its head and confesses the sins of the people upon it. Then he sends the scapegoat into the desert to die, never to be seen again. Actually the Temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem was located on the edge of the desert. The scapegoat during the Temple days was then actually killed, because it was led to the edge of a rocky crag and pushed backwards by the priest.

 

Christians believe that the one sacrifice of both goats has been fulfilled in the one sacrifice of Jesus, Who died for our sins on the cross, and was led outside the camp, outside Jerusalem to do so.

 

When the High Priest entered the Holy of Holiest, he wore his special garments. At the fringes of them were tiny tinkling bells. The people outside stood silent, intensely listening to the bells. As long as they tinkled they new that the High Priest was still alive. That he was not killed by the Holiness of the Lord. They knew that God was still accepting in His grace the blood of innocent animals to cover the sins of sinful people.

 

HIGH PRIEST

We as Christians cannot help but think of Hebrews 9:1-15: “…Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lamp stand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered Ark of the Covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.
When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings–external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a New Covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance–now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant…”

 

Psalm 103: 10,12 says: “…He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities…as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us…”

 

TEMPLE DESTROYED

In the year 70 AD the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. On Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the Temple. Actually on this same day also king Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonians had destroyed the Temple of Salomon, in 586 BC. Since then the blood sacrifices have ceased to exist.

 

The Jewish rabbi’s found the following solution for this huge problem.

The sacrifices were replaced by 3 substitutes:

– Tefilah, prayer

– Teshouvah, conversion

– Tsedakah, deeds of righteousness

 

Of Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai it is recorded in Jewish history:

‘As Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai was coming forth from Jerusalem, Rabbi Joshua followed after him and beheld the Temple in ruins. “Woe unto us!” Rabbi Joshua cried, “that this, the place where the iniquities of Israel were atoned for, is laid waste” “My son,” Rabbi Yohanan said to him, “be not grieved; we have another atonement as effective as this. And what is it? It is acts of loving-kindness, as it is said, “…for I desire mercy and not sacrifice…” (Hosea 6:6)’ – Avot de Rabbi Nathan 4:18.

 

The morning sacrifice has become the Morning Prayer, and the evening sacrifice has become the Evening Prayer. Repentance and conversion are central on Yom Kippur as well. And righteous deeds, meaning giving of money to the poor and to other good causes, must follow true conversion. But most important on this day is the fasting for 24 hours, as we have seen.

 

NATION-WIDE

When one is in Jerusalem on this day, one is struck by the totality of the keeping of this Holy Day. No people on the streets, except to go to or from the synagogues. Because you are in the synagogue – not at home – as you would have been in the Temple. No cars, no buses, no shops open, no TV programs, etc. The whole country cries out to God.

 

Psalm 51:1-19 says: “…Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love;
according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are proved right when you speak and justified when You judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Surely You desire truth in the inner parts; You teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will turn back to You.
Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.
In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight You;
then bulls will be offered on Your altar…”

 

There are 5 services in the synagogue on Yom Kippur. Central in the beginning of the evening service at the synagogue is the Kol Nidre (‘all our vows’) prayer. The Jewish people ask forgiveness that they did not keep their vows to God, as they should have. It is sad for us Christians to realise where and when and why this prayer was originated. It stems from the Middle Ages when many Jews were forced into baptism. To save their life they became ‘Christians’, but in their heart they remained Jewish. They were forced to do things that they were not supposed to do as Jews. And not to do things that they were supposed to do. In secret they came together on the Day of Atonement to confess: “Lord our God, forgive us. We were forced to it. But please give atonement for all our vows (Kol Nidre) that we did not keep.” The Church has a lot of confessing and repenting to do.

 

A beautiful and astounding statement is found in the ancient Aramaic Musaf prayer for Yom Kippur: “Our righteous Messiah is departed from us, horror hath seized us, and we have none to justify us. He hath borne the yoke of our iniquities, and our transgressions, and is wounded because of our transgression. He beareth our sins on His shoulder that we may find pardon for our iniquities. We shall be healed by His wounds.” The writer sure must have known and understood Isaiah 53.

 

The next morning one is in the synagogue again. People are silent before God. Some of them are wearing white clothes, because Isaiah 1:18b says: “…Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like (white) wool…”

 

The day ends with the ‘nehila’ service, the ‘closing of the gates’. Then the shofar is blown for the last time. That is the moment that the decision has been taken about your fate. Your name has been written in God’s book of life for another year. Now you can celebrate by eating sweet food, to taste that the Lord is sweet and good. At the meal that follows one wishes one another ‘May the coming year be really sweet and good!’

 

JONAH AND JACOB

In Jewish tradition always the book of Jonah is read on the Day of Atonement. The wonderful story of prophetic preaching to the people of Nineveh and the repentance that followed, so that God did not destroy the city. Jesus makes a connection to Himself. In Luke 11:29-30 we read: “…As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation…“
So in a hidden form Jesus is present in the book of Jonah and also present when the book is read in the synagogue on Yom Kippur.

 

In Jesus’ days, as part of the three-year reading of Scripture, on the Day of Atonement the story of the wrestling of Jacob with God was read in the synagogue, Genesis 32. In the end the Angel of the Lord takes away Jacob’s anxieties and fear of the future meeting with Esau. Some rabbi’s identify Esau/Edom with Rome/Christianity.

May the time come that the Angel of the Lord will take the fear of Israel for Christianity away, so that real and true Christians (because there are Christians and Christians!) can really meet with Jews. That will be totally dependant on a changed attitude on the part of the true, Bible-believing Christians.

 

CHRISTIANS AND ATONEMENT

We as Christians could contemplate and meditate on this day on verses like Romans 3:25: “…God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in his forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished…” And on 1 John 2:2: “…He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world…” And on Ephesians 2:13-15: “…But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace…”

Hebrews 10: 1-18 says: “…The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming–not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for Me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings
You were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am–it is written about Me in the scroll–
I have come to do Your will, O God.’ “

First He said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not desire, nor were You pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). Then He said, “Here I am, I have come to do Your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool, because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First He says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put My laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.” Then He adds: “Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin…”

Jesus atonement will reach its climax and full meaning when really ‘all things’ have been redeemed and renewed. In the Greek language (in which the New Testament was written) ‘ta panta’ means everything, not just everybody but also all things, the whole of creation, the whole universe.

Colossians 1:15-22 says about Jesus: “…He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…”

And Paul says in Romans 8:18-25 says about creation and us human beings: “…I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently… “

 

THE COMING OF THE LORD

Hebrews 10:19-24 urges us: “…Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…”

 

And we look for His Coming, as Hebrews 9:23-28 states: “…It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did He enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him…“

 

ISRAEL AND JERUSALEM RESTORED

One day there will be a well in Jerusalem, says Zechariah 13:1-2: “…”On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. “On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more,” declares the LORD Almighty…”

 

The order of events in the book of Zechariah reflects the 3 Feast of the fall.

In Zechariah 9 there is the blowing of the shofar.

In Zechariah 12/13 there is the atonement for Israel.

In Zechariah 14 there is the Kingdom and peace flowing forward from Jerusalem into the entire world.

 

NO CHEAP GRACE

Atonement is not cheap grace. Paul says in Romans 6:1: ”…What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!…”
And Hebrews 10:26-39 says: “…If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But My righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved…”

 

The same warning we find in Isaiah 58:1-14 (‘fasting’ probably meaning Yom Kippur): “…”Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to My people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek Me out; they seem eager to know My ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask Me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and You have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations;
You will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on My holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honourable,
and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
The mouth of the LORD has spoken…”

 

SUKKOT – THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES

The 7th and final Feast of the Lord is the Feast of Tabernacles. It starts on the 15th of the 7thmonth, only 5 days after the Day of Atonement, and lasts for 7 days.

The first day and the day after Tabernacles (the 8th day, known as ‘Shemini Atzeret’) are considered to be sacred assemblies, or Sabbaths, Leviticus 23:36,39.

This Feast is also called: Feast of Ingathering, the feast of the harvest, Exodus 23:16, 34:22.

Sukkoth is a Feast to celebrate God’s goodness,

–          in the past,

–          present,

–          and future.

 

The people were to live in booths and rejoice before the Lord with branches (Leviticus 23:33-43); there were to be many daily sacrifices (Numbers 29:12-39) and in a sabbatical year, the Law was to be read publicly (Deuteronomy 31:10-13).

 

It is one of the three pilgrim feasts. Three times a year all Jewish males were required to appear before the LORD in the Temple:

–          the Feast of unleavened Bread, Exodus 23:17;

–          the Feast of Weeks, Exodus 34:22-23;

–          the Feast of Tabernacles Deuteronomy 16:16,

and one should not come ‘empty-handed’!

 

It became the most prominent of Israel’s holidays, simply referred to as ‘The Holiday’.

 

It was during the Feast of Tabernacles that the Shekinah Glory of the Lord descended from heaven to light the fire on the altar and fill the Holy of Holies.

2 Chronicles 5:13-14: “…The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: “He is good; His love endures forever.” Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God…” (Compare 1 Kings 8, 2 Chronicles 7:1-10).

 

JOY

It is a feast of joy. There are many reasons for Israel to be sad. The rise of anti-Semitism, the daily threats on the streets of Israel, the suicide-bombers, the snipers, the never ending pressure from the outside world, the hostile Arab surrounding nations, the Islamic terrorist forces all around the globe, neo-nazism, the often biased, hostile media of the international press, the international political pressure, so there are many reasons for Jewish people not to be joyful and glad. Not to mention the personal reasons one can have to be distressed, like illness, unemployment, poverty, loneliness, the loss of loved ones (6.000.000 Jews killed in the last century just because they were Jewish – added to all the other troubles, to me it is just a miracle that Israel today is not one gigantic psychiatric hospital) Israel has all the right in the world not to be happy at all. As if the LORD knew all of that, He gave Israel a commandment just to be happy during these days of the Feast.

Exodus 23:40: “…You are to…rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days…” Sometimes someone else has to tell you: just relax, be happy, it will be all right. That’s what friends are for. And the Holy One of Israel is their best Friend. A very modern and liberal Christian theologian in Germany, Dorothee Soelle, once said: “Since Auschwitz I cannot believe in God anymore.” A rabbi replied: “Since Auschwitz I can only just believe in God. Not in man anymore.”

TRUST

During the Feast of Tabernacles (tabernacle is from the Latin ‘tabernaculum’, meaning ‘booth’, hut or tent, also the name for the ‘Tent of Meeting’, Leviticus 1:3) referring to the Biblical requirement for all of the people of Israel to live in huts or tents during 7 days because they had lived in such shelters during their 40 years of wandering in the desert when they had left the house of slavery of Egypt and were on their way to the Promised Land. In the hard life of the desert they had to learn to trust God for every need of their lives. Over 600.000 men who could carry weapons had left Egypt: 603.550, Numbers 1:44-46. Add to that the women, children and people of old age, there must have been over 2.000.000 people living in the desert.

Just for starters, where does your ‘daily bread’ come from? You cannot do anything else than just trust God for it. And He provided. Every morning in a miraculous way. Manna for bread, water from the rock. Even meat in the form of quails, Exodus 16-17. God will provide, till the end of time.

Jeremiah 31:35-37 says: “…This is what the LORD says, He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar- the LORD Almighty is His name: “Only if these decrees vanish from My sight,” declares the LORD, “will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before Me.” This is what the LORD says: “Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,” declares the LORD…”

 

So God will take care of and protect (the faithful remnant of) Israel forever.

And He will provide for every need. Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34: “…”Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own…”

 

BOOTHS

Leviticus 23:42-43 says: “…Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’…”
In the booth are colourful harvest fruits and vegetables. Because the harvest is in, safe and sound. Thank God! You invite your friends to come and eat with you in this hut, and some even sleep in this shack at night! Leviticus 23:40 says: “…On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days…“
Sadducees believed this referred to the building materials of the booth. Pharisees thought that you had to hold these in your hands. Compromise: do both!

 

Four types of trees are mentioned:

–          etrog, a tree with a lemon-like fruit, fruit held in left hand

–          lulav, long branch of a date palm: ‘palm trees’

–          hadas, myrtle tree with tiny leaves (usually 3 branches)

–          arava, willow tree (2 branches, because the Scripture uses the plural)

The branches are bound together and held in the right hand.

 

It is good to remember God’s goodness in the past.

When one lives in the ‘Promised Land’ – wherever that is on earth for you – and you live in your brick wall houses or concrete apartment buildings, when you have your regular income, your health insurance, your life insurance, and whatever other insurances you can think of; your old-age pension-plan, running water, refrigerator, central heating and all the rest of the benefits of today’s modern society, you might think that you can manage yourself perfectly well. Without God. Then it is very good to live for one day a year in a hut that has to have an open roof so that you can see the stars at night, but also feel the rain coming through. And the cold, as well as the heat. Makes you think, doesn’t it? Then you remember the old days that you had nothing. That you were with your back against the wall. That you prayed and prayed, and totally had to rely upon God. And how He had answered your payers and provided for the things you needed. Thankfulness will come to your heart, and praise of this God that took care of you then, and still does today. Then you know Who it that you are dependant upon every day, minute, second of your life.

Suddenly you remember what Jesus said, about Who has your life in His hands.

Luke 12:16-21: “…And He told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God…”

 

Sitting in a booth really puts your life back into the right perspective, doesn’t it?

In Jewish tradition the book of Ecclesiastes is read. Try it! It really gives you a sobering insight about ‘life under the sun’. King Salomon really knew what he was talking about when he wrote the book. But he also knew about the reality that is ‘above the sun’, the reality of God and living your life in accordance with His will, far more satisfying than anything else in the world.

The booth is fragile. One’s life and future as well. James says in James 4:13-15: “…Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that…”
And you understand that your daily bread is not to be taken for granted. That it was – and is – important to pray for rain. In Israel – hopefully – the winter rainy season sets in about this time. When for some weeks these rainfalls are missed, a serious water problem could arise later on. Israel today knows all about it!

 

PILGRIMS

It is good that we realise ourselves that we are pilgrims. That we should not be too seriously attached to the things of this world. That we should be like Abraham, to whom God said in Genesis 12:1: “…The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you…”

 

It must have been not easy for Abram to leave his country, culture, friends, etc. behind, and head for an uncertain future. Hebrews 11:8-19 says: “…By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
By faith Abraham, even though he was past age–and Sarah herself was barren–was enabled to become a father because he considered Him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death…“

 

Living by faith, that is what Sukkoth is all about. Experiencing His goodness in the past, present and future. During the Feast Jewish people often read Psalm 27.

Listen to verse 3-4: “…Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple…“ His hut = His sukkah.

And verse 10-11: “…Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. Teach me Your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors…“

 

One day His tabernacle (‘tent’) will cover all His children.

Revelation 7:9-17 says: “…After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen!”
Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God
and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes…”

 

And although Paul knows that he must to serve the Lord in his earthly body, his earthly sukkah, his earthly tent, he longs for the day that he will live under God’s covering. He says in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10: “…Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad…”

 

Reminds you of the words of Salomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes, about the life ‘under the sun’ and ‘above the sun’, doesn’t it?

 

SACRIFICES

Numbers 29:12-39 says: “…” ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. Celebrate a festival to the LORD for seven days. Present an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the LORD, a burnt offering of thirteen young bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. With each of the thirteen bulls prepare a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil; with each of the two rams, two-tenths; and with each of the fourteen lambs, one-tenth. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering.
” ‘On the second day prepare twelve young bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bulls, rams and lambs, prepare their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings.
” ‘On the third day prepare eleven bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bulls, rams and lambs, prepare their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering.
” ‘On the fourth day prepare ten bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bulls, rams and lambs, prepare their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering.
” ‘On the fifth day prepare nine bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bulls, rams and lambs, prepare their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering.
” ‘On the sixth day prepare eight bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bulls, rams and lambs, prepare their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering.
” ‘On the seventh day prepare seven bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bulls, rams and lambs, prepare their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering.
” ‘On the eighth day hold an assembly and do no regular work. Present an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the LORD, a burnt offering of one bull, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bull, the ram and the lambs, prepare their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering.
” ‘In addition to what you vow and your freewill offerings, prepare these for the LORD at your appointed feasts: your burnt offerings, grain offerings, drink offerings and fellowship offerings.’…”

 

An impressive amount of sacrifices! Remember, your sins are always between Him and you. Isaiah 59:1-2 says: “…Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear…“

 

That is the main problem of our lives. We are not right before God. Sin is in our blood. God hates sin. He cannot and will not bless sinful man, but the day of judgement will one day come. But know this, He provided for the problem of sin! True repentance and faith in His grace are sufficient. The blood of innocent animals was allowed to cover the sins of sinful man! And finally Jesus’ sacrifice fulfilled them all. So blood sacrifices in the future can only point backwards to His sacrifice, as the blood sacrifices in the Old Testament pointed forwards to Him. So rejoice, God is good! And His love endures forever!

 

LAW

During the Year of Jubilee the Law – Torah – was to be read every day. Deuteronomy 31:10-13 says: “…Then Moses commanded them: “At the end of every seven years, in the year for cancelling debts, during the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place He will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. Assemble the people-men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns-so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess…”

 

When one has experienced God’s goodness in the past and the present, when one is joyful over His provisions now, when one is redeemed by faith in His grace, then it is only natural that one wants to serve Him with all one’s heart, soul and strength, as Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says: “…Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates…“

Jesus quotes this great ‘Shemah Israel’ in His conversation with one of the teachers of the Law, in Mark 12: 28-34: “…One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask Him any more questions…“

 

So listen to His guidelines, His Torah, His Law! Listen to the beautiful 10 commandments! Serve God with all your heart! Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit! When people on earth would follow this Golden Rule for all of mankind, the world would be a different place. These commandments are like green and red traffic lights: go that way, because that is safe, and STOP, because that leads to your destruction!

 

In the Middle Ages a new holiday arose: ‘Simchat Torah’ – the Rejoicing of the Law. It occurs on the 9th day from the start of the Feast of Tabernacles. When you are in Israel and see the – even very orthodox – Jews dancing in the synagogue and from the synagogues even on o the streets with their precious Torah scrolls in their arms, pressed to their hearts, uplifted in the air, you see the joy of them having the Word of God as the most precious thing on earth one can have. During the year the entire 5 books of Moses = the Torah = the Pentateuch are read, portion by portion, each Sabbath. The last chapter of Deuteronomy and the first chapter of Genesis are read this day, as the cycle starts anew. Every one in the synagogue has an opportunity, receives an ‘aliyah’ to read the Scriptures from the pulpit.

 

WATER

Isaiah 12:3 says: “…With joy you will draw water from the well of salvation…”

The Hebrew word for ‘salvation’ is Jeshuah, which is also the Hebrew name of Jesus and also of Joshua. The expectancy of the winter rains and the prayers to God to send these waters that bring fertility and life to the earth, led to the ceremony of the Water Libation (sacrificial pouring out of water) in the years that the Temple still existed. The ceremony goes back at least to the time of the Maccabees, 165 BC.

 

Shortly after dawn each morning the High Priest in joyous procession with other priests, with music and worshippers, a joyful crowd, went to the Pool of Siloam to fetch water in a golden pitcher. At the same time another procession went down to another place – Motza – to cut long, thin willows of the willows of the brook, to bring them back to the Temple there they were placed at the sides of the altar, so their tops formed a canopy, a covering, over the altar.

 

Meanwhile the High Priest with his golden pitcher with water had reached the southern Water Gate of the Temple. Silver trumpets were blown, the priest recited Isaiah 12:3 and the High Priest went to the inner court of the Temple. The people shouted: “Raise your hand!” Then he poured the water out as a water libation before the Lord in one of the silver basins at the side of the altar.

 

At the same time a wine libation, a drink offering of wine was poured into the other basin. Being a Christian, I cannot help but think now of ‘water and blood’ as referred to in John 19:33-34: “…But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water…” And 1 John 5:6-8: “…This is the One who came by water and blood–Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement…” The cup of wine that represents His blood – John 6:53-56: “…Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him…” Mark 14:23-24: “…Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” He said to them…” Paul writes in I Corinthians 11:23-26: “…For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the New Covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes…”

 

Again silver trumpets were blown. Then all listened to a choir of Levites sang the ‘Hallel’, the Praise Psalms 113-118. The people started to waive their palm branches and joined in singing: “…Save now, I pray, o Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity…” Psalm 118:25. Psalm 118 was considered to be a messianic psalm, so the Feast got a messianic emphasis. This is why Jesus on His triumphant entry in Jerusalem was greeted by the people with the shouting of: Hosanna = Save now, from Psalm 118:25.

Matthew 21:8-9: “…A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest…!” (Compare Luke 19:38 and John 12:13)

The same palm branches are waived in Revelation 7:9-10: “…After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb…”

 

LIGHT

While the water-libation took place in the morning, the Temple Lighting Ceremony took place in the evening. In the Court of the Women of the Temple 4 huge towering menorah’s stood, each with 4 branches of oil lamps. Each menorah had 4 long ladders leading up to the lamps, which were periodically refilled with olive oil. The wicks were made from worn-out garments of the priests.

 

As the Feast of Tabernacles took place in the middle of the lunar month the harvest moon was full and the autumn sky clear. The sight of the light of the Temple celebration must have been breathtaking. All night long elders of the Sanhedrin performed impressive torch dances. And the yellow flames of the menorah lamps flooded the Temple and the streets of Jerusalem with soft, brilliant light.

Then a group of Levites gathered in the Inner Court – the Court of the Israelites. They moved to the Nicanor Gate and stood on top of the 15 steps leading to the Court of the women. The sound of Temple flutes, trumpets, harps and other stringed instruments sounded when the Levites sang the 15 Psalms of Degrees, which are Psalms 120-134. One Psalm for each step when they slowly descended.

 

This Ceremony was performed from the second night until the final night, as a prelude to the water drawing in the morning. The rabbi’ said in Sukkah 5:1: “He that hath not beheld the joy of the drawing of water hath never seen joy in his life.” The light celebration reminded of the descent of the Shekinah in Salomon’s day – 2 Chronicles 7:1: “…When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple…”  – and looked forward to the return of the Shekinah in the days of the Messiah. Ezekiel 43:1-5 says: “…Then the man brought me to the gate facing east, and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with His glory. The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when He came to destroy the city and like the visions I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown. The glory of the LORD entered the temple through the gate facing east. Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple…”

 

On the 7th and last day the Feast reached its climax. Instead of 3 blasts on the trumpets: 7 blasts. Instead of one circuit by the priests around the altar: 7 circuits. They sang the Hosanna verse – Psalm 118:25 – and the people waved their palm branches. It is the HOSHANNAH RABAH (Great Hosanna) Ceremony.

 

One day a Jewish man in the crowd (Jesus) raised His voice and shouted: “…On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified…” (John 7:37-39)

Earlier in His ministry He had already spoken about ‘living waters’ to the Samaritan woman at the well. One reads in John 4:7-14: “…When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give Me a drink?…” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to Him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life…”

Water refers to the Holy Spirit and the new life He creates in man when they come to faith in Jesus and are born again. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in relation to salvation was a much-repeated theme of the prophets. Isaiah 44:3 says: “…For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants…“ (Compare Isaiah 32:15; 59:21; Ezekiel 11:19; 36:27; 37:14; 39:29; Joel 2:28-29. And Zechariah 12:10 and 13:1!)

 

On this day Jesus stood and spoke about Himself being the source of living water. So immediately debates start about His messianic claims.

 

JESUS MESSIAH

Let us read in John 7 the whole story about Jesus revealing Himself at the Feast of Tabernacles: “…After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take His life. But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to Him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even His own brothers did not believe in Him.
Therefore Jesus told them, “The right time for Me has not yet come; for you any time is right. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify that what it does is evil. You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for Me the right time has not yet come.” Having said this, He stayed in Galilee.
However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, He went also, not publicly, but in secret.

Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for Him and asking, “Where is that man?” Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about Him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, He deceives the people.” But no one would say anything publicly about Him for fear of the Jews.
Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?”
Jesus answered, “My teaching is not My own. It comes from Him who sent Me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether My teaching comes from God or whether I speak on My own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honour for himself, but he who works for the honour of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill Me?”
“You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill You?”
Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”
At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? Here He is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to Him. Have the authorities really concluded that He is the Christ? But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where He is from.”
Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know Me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on My own, but He who sent Me is true. You do not know Him, but I know Him because I am from Him and He sent Me.”
At this they tried to seize Him, but no one laid a hand on Him, because His time had not yet come. Still, many in the crowd put their faith in Him. They said, “When the Christ comes, will He do more miraculous signs than this man?”
The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about Him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest Him.
Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the One who sent Me. You will look for Me, but you will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come.”
The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find Him? Will He go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? What did He mean when He said, ‘You will look for Me, but you will not find Me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”
On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
On hearing His words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
Others said, “He is the Christ.”
Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize Him, but no one laid a hand on Him.
Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring Him in?”
“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared.
“You mean He has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. “Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in Him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law–there is a curse on them.”
Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee…”

 

The leaders did not dare to arrest Him because of the big impression He made upon the thousands of people who were gathered at the Feast. They called an emergency security meeting of the chief priests (the 24 who head the 24 divisions of priest who served at the Temple, 1 Chronicles 24:1-19), aristocratic Sadducees who controlled the Temple worship. Also present were Pharisees. They controlled the synagogue worship, being the perpetuators of the oral, extra-biblical traditions within Israel. But when they heard the reports of the officers, Levites who patrolled the Temple compound and enforced the Temple law – the security force – they could not do anything else than rebuke them in great rage and send them away.

 

Next day Jesus again raised His voice, on the day after the Feast of Tabernacles – the 8th day, which was considered a Sabbath – when He returned from the Mount of Olives to teach in the Temple. John 8:2 “…At dawn He appeared again in the Temple courts, where all the people gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them…”   Then in verses 3-11 He teaches about real compassion for transgressors of the Law by not condemning the woman caught in the act of adultery, thus revealing to the teachers of the Law, the Pharisees, the true meaning of the Torah on this matter.

 

Then John 8:12: ”…When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ”I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of Life…” Light meaning Messiah. He is called the Star out of Jacob, the Light of Israel, the Light of the (Gentile) nations, a refiner’s Fire, a burning Lamp and the Sun of righteousness. His Light is salvation. Isaiah 49:6 says: “… It is too small a thing for you to be My servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring My salvation to the ends of the earth…”

 

Then Jesus starts to talk about Himself and His relation to the Father. And again discussionsarise about Him being Messiah and about His true nature.

John 8:13-59: “…The Pharisees challenged Him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on My own behalf, My testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, My decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent Me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for Myself; My other witness is the Father, who sent Me.”
Then they asked Him, “Where is Your father?”
“You do not know Me or My Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized Him, because His time had not yet come.
Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for Me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”
This made the Jews ask, “Will He kill himself? Is that why He says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?” But He continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”
“Who are you?” they asked.
“Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But He who sent Me is reliable, and what I have heard from Him I tell the world.”
They did not understand that He was telling them about His Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on My own but speak just what the Father has taught Me. The One who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” Even as He spoke, many put their faith in Him.
To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill Me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father. ”
“Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God Himself.”
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on My own; but He sent Me. Why is My language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me! Can any of you prove Me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe Me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
The Jews answered Him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”
“I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honour My Father and you dishonour Me. I am not seeking glory for Myself; but there is One who seeks it, and He is the judge. I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death.”
At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
Jesus replied, “If I glorify Myself, My glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the One who glorifies Me. Though you do not know Him, I know Him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing My day; he saw it and was glad.”
“You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to Him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping away from the temple grounds…”

 

Later on the day He heals the man born blind (John 9) and tells him to wash in the Pool of Siloam, the Pool from which the High Priest filled his pitcher for the water libation ceremony! Now Jesus says: “…As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world…” John 9:5.

 

Again heated discussions with the Pharisees! But we must always remember that these are discussions of one Jew with other Jews. There is no anti-Semitism in the New Testament. Jews have written the book. There never is a condemnation by Jesus or the apostles of the Jewish people as such. He only protests against a form of outward religion without ‘circumcision of the heart’, and blames the Jewish leaders for that, in order to turn their hearts around. He does the same thing as all the prophets of the Old Testament did.

Jesus is Prophet, Priest and King.

 

HARVEST

The sukkah was – and is today – filled with fruits and vegetables. Feast of the Harvest, Feast of Ingathering. Even the grapes are in now and the process of making wine can commence. And although the water-drawing ceremony and light-celebration ceremony do not exist today anymore because the Temple has ceased to exist, the concept of rejoicing is still connected with the Feast of Tabernacles as we have seen in the new Holy-Day of ‘Simchat Thorah’, the Rejoicing of the Law. In messianic Jewish circles there is a difference of opinion about this holiday. Some celebrate it as the synagogue celebrates it. Others celebrate it as ‘Simchat Mashiach’, the Rejoicing over Messiah Jesus, Who became the Torah in the flesh.

 

But The Bible speaks also about the harvest as being the final judgement when Israel and the nations are gathered in. Malachi 4:1-4 says: “…”Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the LORD Almighty. “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel…”
Revelation 14:14-16: “…I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man” with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested…”
Joel 3:13: “…Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow – so great is their wickedness…”

Matthew 13:39b: “…The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels…”

Hosea 6:11a: “…Also for you, Judah, a harvest is appointed…”

 

One day Messiah will gather His people, the remnant of Israel back to her Promised Land. Isaiah describes this event as the harvesting of olives, where rods beat tree branches and the olive berries were gathered once they had fallen on the ground. Isaiah 27:12-13 says: “…In that day the LORD will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, O Israelites, will be gathered up one by one. And in that day a great trumpet will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain in Jerusalem…” And Isaiah 11:11-12 says: “…In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea…”
And Jeremiah 23:7-8: “…”So then, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but they will say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ Then they will live in their own land…”

 

The righteous among the Gentile nations will be gathered in as well.

Zechariah prophecies in chapter 14:16-17: “…Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, they will have no rain…“
The nations who do not come to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem will not get any rain. Wasn’t the Feast of Tabernacles the time to pray for rain as well?

 

Finally the Lord will ‘tabernacle’ among His people. Ezekiel 37:27-28 says: “…My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever…’ ”
And Revelation 21:3: “…And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God…”

The Shekinah will be present again.

Isaiah 60:1 and 19-22 say: “…”Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you…The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.
Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever.
They are the shoot I have planted, the work of My hands, for the display of My splendour. The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly…”

 

Zechariah 2:1-5 says: “…Then I looked up-and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand! I asked, “Where are you going?” He answered me, “To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is.” Then the angel who was speaking to me left, and another angel came to meet him and said to him: “Run, tell that young man, ‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will be its glory within…”

 

Therefore Israel has to return from all the corners of the earth. Verse 6-13 say: “…”Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north,” declares the LORD, “for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven,” declares the LORD. “Come, O Zion! Escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon!” For this is what the LORD Almighty says: “After He has honoured me and has sent me against the nations that have plundered you-for whoever touches you touches the apple of His eye- I will surely raise My hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me.
“Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the LORD. “Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. The LORD will inherit Judah as His portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. Be still before the LORD, all mankind, because He has roused Himself from His holy dwelling…”

 

Isaiah 4:2-6 says: “…In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; He will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain…”

And Ezekiel sees the Shekinah return to the Temple.

He says in Ezekiel 43:1-7a: “…Then the man brought me to the gate facing east, and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory. The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when He came to destroy the city and like the visions I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown. The glory of the LORD entered the temple through the gate facing east. Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. While the man was standing beside me, I heard someone speaking to me from inside the temple. He said: “Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place for the soles of My feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever…”

 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful when the Church would return to her Jewish roots and contemplate in a creative form all these elements (and many more!) of the ‘appointed feasts of the Lord’ at the ‘appointed times’ during the year that He set for them to be celebrated?

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