I’ve heard many sects of the Christian faith refer to the Jewish Holy Days as having been abolished and no longer significant under the New Testament. As a follower of the Catholic faith, this appeared to me a bit too eerily familiar to the protestant and early reformation attempts to “modernize” the church. A popularly coined phrase says it like this, “Let’s not be so eager to reform that we throw the baby out with the bath water!”
The baby in this case might just as well be the center of the Jewish faith and the intended meaning behind all its feasts. A baby that most Christians would be horrified to realize they tossed from their faith if they could only see the beauty behind the truth. A look into the Old Testament will quickly reveal the intended purpose behind the institution of the feasts.
The festivals of the Lord found in Leviticus 23 were given to us by God the Father so His people could understand the coming of the Messiah (Mashiach) and the role that the Messiah would play in redeeming and restoring both man and the earth back to God following the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Thus we see here, that “baby” many would quickly throw aside is actually the Lord Jesus. Although most non-Jewish Bible believers have heard of the feasts, the deep meaning and the importance of these feasts are almost universally not understood.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Gentile believers in Colossae that the feasts of the Lord, the new moon (Rosh Chodesh), and the Sabbath (shabbat) days were a shadow of things to come to teach us about the Messiah (Colossians 2:16-17). Yeshua (the Hebrew name for Jesus, which means “salvation”) was the substance or fulfillment of the greater plan that God revealed and foreshadowed in these seven important festivals. To all the readers who are familiar with the festivals, you will be fascinated to discover that the first four feasts or festivals, which are Passover (Pesach), Unleavened Bread (Hag HaMatzah), First Fruits (Bikkurim), and Pentecost (Shavuot), primarily teach about the significant events surrounding the first coming of the Messiah and why these events were an important part of God’s redemption of man. In addition, you will discover that the last three feasts, which are the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah; also known as Rosh HaShanah), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles (Sukkot), give fascinating insight concerning important events that surround the second coming of the Messiah.
You can easily learn more about each of these feasts simply by going to the source (the Holy Scriptures), and the keepers of their modern and orthodox traditions, as with any faith. And, I encourage you to study them more using the links provided at the end of this article. For the purposes of this series of articles, however, I wish only to focus on the importance of Rosh HaShanah and the days leading up to Yom Kippur.
What is Rosh HaShanah? In the Bible, nothing is without significance. The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh HaShanah) falls on the 1st day of the seventh month (Tishrei) in the Hebrew Calendar, making it the holiest of all months, and constitutes the Beginning of the New Year. In 2017, Rosh HaShanah falls on Wednesday, September 20th at sundown. It is also the only feast to fall on the night of the New Moon (Rosh Chodesh – Tishrei) making it the only feast intentionally made to begin under cover of darkness. Another reason, many Christians believe Jesus’ Second Coming will fall on Rosh HaShanah to fulfill the prophecy in Joel.
Why Trumpets? Like the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel, the trumpet (Shofar) is sounded each month on Rosh Chodesh (the New Moon festival) to remind us that we are flesh and bones, the short blasts awaken our hearing and other senses to the call on our souls to be people of light in the darkness. On Rosh HaShanah, however, the Shofar is blown 100 times in long blasts. It signals to the people of God that the 10 Days of Repentance (also known as Days of Awe, more on that next week) are upon us and we ought to remember why it is that we are Alive! These are the high holy days of the Jewish faith.
What are the Days of Awe and the Book of Life? Rosh HaShanah is also known as the Time of Sealing. The traditional Jewish greeting in these days before, “Leshana tovah tikatev v’tichatem” (לשנה טובה תכתב ותחתם). Meaning, “May you be written and sealed for a good year.”
Jewish tradition holds that the 10 days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are the “Days of Repentance or Days of Awe.” It is believed that God reviews the books of judgment on Rosh Hashanah and delivers final judgment on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). These 10 days are considered the last chance for a person to repent before God’s judgment falls, possibly resulting in the death of the disobedient in the coming year. It is believed that three books are opened and every person’s name is entered into one of the books:
- The Book of Life for the wicked. If a person’s name is entered here, judgment is final and that person’s life will be cut short in the coming year.
- The Book of Life for the righteous. Those whose names are entered here are granted another year of life and prosperity.
- The Book of Life for the in-between. Those whose names are written here have their lives hanging in the balance. If they sincerely repent during the Days of Awe, tradition holds that God will grant them life until the following Yom Kippur.
There is a Biblical origin of this tradition (Ex. 32:32-33; Psalm 69:28), but Jewish tradition has greatly embellished it. The Days of Awe are so solemn, weddings and other festive occasions are postponed until after Yom Kippur.
I’m a Christian though, why do I need to observe these feasts when my name is already written in the Book of Life? John tells us in the book of Revelation chapter 3 verse 5,
“The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.”
Similar to the Lenten high holy days of the Catholic and Protestant faiths, these times are highly revered as days of repentance for the sins committed against man, which grieves the heart of our Father in Heaven. For Christians, Jesus has already made atonement for the sins of men against God, but like our Jewish brothers and sisters believe, we could all do well to use these high holy days to reflect on ways we have offended our neighbor and even sinned against our own souls. Christ’ passion being a reflection of the road to purification, we are each called to repent and turn from sin’s decay that we may be purified to stand in the presence of our Father in Heaven.
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14
Jesus celebrated the feasts. If for no other reason than devotion to the Lord, lovers of God who seek to do the will of the Father, will find the beauty in the prophetic Messianic messages of the Jewish feasts. Feasts which were instituted by Our Father in Heaven and in which He chose to reveal Himself and His greatest gift to mankind, His only Begotten Son Jesus. As a young Jewish boy, Jesus would have devotedly celebrated these feasts with his mother Mary and Joseph, and he continued to example his devotion to all of us by celebrating them through to the Passover feast before his death.
Let us then follow in the footsteps of our Lord, and embracing the beauty of the faith and traditions of his own people, learn to welcome them even now into our own walk of faith. Trusting that like the Father, the Lord wishes to reveal Himself even now to us through these same feasts, not as one who wishes us to abolish the law but as one who came to fulfill it, that in uncovering the treasures of Truth buried in these feasts and other ancient truths embedded in His word, which is alive and breathing even to this generation, we may reveal them more brightly to a world covered in darkness.
Let the Trumpet sound over our hearts, body, mind and souls this Rosh HaShana to Awaken us to the merciful heart of Jesus!
Let us be reconciled to our brothers and sisters in all forgiveness that we may experience the full power of Christ’s Redemption!
Let us be filled with the Overcoming Spirit and known as “One who Conquers” and may we be sealed in the Book of Life forever!
*Come Celebrate the New Year 5779 with me at The Worship Center Friday, September 21st at 6:00pm. Click subscribe to our E-List to receive emails of our events.
Additional Resources on Rosh HaShanah:
Tree of Life – http://etz-hayim.com/festivals/rosh_hashanah.php
Founder, Sheerah Ministries
Kim is a wife, mother of two children, Author, Speaker and lover of the Word. She has a heart for encouraging women to Awaken to their God-given gifts and callings and to see the Body of Christ come together in unity as it continues the mission of Jesus Christ to bring love to the world in the hope of salvation and by the power of the Holy Spirit. She is founder of Sheerah Ministries, a collaboration of women intent on sharing the good news and inspiration of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit through teachings, retreats, speaking engagements, writing, media and the arts. Follow Kim on her Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/WakingEve and on Instagram and Twitter @WakingEve or contact by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. SUBSCRIBE to our blog to keep updated on Sheerah Ministries blogs by contributing partners, news and events.