How the practices of God’s people continue to set them apart from the culture they live in.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of God’s people is in recognizing a calendar set in place by him. Most Christians today don’t think much about special religious holidays other than Christmas and Easter. Saving an evaluation of those holidays for another post, I would like instead to focus on the days that do set God’s people apart from all other nations.
Since my focus on this site is the message of the Bible reduced to its simplest form in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, it becomes clear that remembering the Sabbath, the fourth of those Ten Commandments, is one of those set apart times.
But beyond the weekly Sabbath, we find there are other Sabbaths mentioned which should also be remembered: specifically seven of them listed in Leviticus 23. They include the first and last days of Unleavened Bread, Shavuot (Pentecost), Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the first day of Sukkot (Tabernacles), and Yom HaShemini (Eighth Day). These are listed as Sabbaths, days of rest from regular work, and days of special offerings.
Now, let me be upfront and say that in a liturgical sense, it is impossible to “keep” these days in a Scriptural fashion due to the fact that they involve sacrifices to be presented at the temple, which no longer exists since all of the temple activities have been fulfilled in Messiah. However, I believe there is benefit in observing them and recognizing their meanings for the lessons they can provide to believers even today. I believe that is the primary point as to why God established them in the first place: to teach his people about their history and place within his overall plan for all people.
Many people believe that God’s calendar is one of a prophetic timeline that outlines his plan for the ages in a linear fashion, and that if we just know where we are in the timeline, we will know what to expect is coming next in God’s plan. However, my opinion is that the calendar is not unfulfilled, but has been completed. It now speaks to an everlasting memorial of how God has worked to deliver a people to himself and establish the kingdom of God almost two thousand years ago. By “observing” this calendar today, we honor God by recounting his faithfulness with his own people, and demonstrating the fulfillment of all things in his Messiah, Yeshua.
The calendar is broken up into two main times: the Spring moedim or appointed times (Passover, Unleavened Bread and Pentecost) and the Fall moedim (Day of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Tabernacles). Each set of appointed times has a one-week festival exactly six months apart (Unleavened Bread in the Spring and Tabernacles in the Fall). The fact that they are spaced equidistantly throughout the year speaks not to a linear progression, but a cycle that is repeated but with a different emphasis. Just as Spring brings new beginnings, the Fall brings plentiful harvest.
For example, the week of Unleavened Bread recounts the miraculous departure from the slavery of Egypt. The week of Tabernacles recounts the wilderness journey where they lived in tents. The first is about deliverance, the second is about provision during their journeys. The first is about separation from worldliness (of Egypt), the second is about preparation for the Promised Land.
In like fashion, the holiday cycles memorialize not only the initiation of the nation of Israel, but its completion. How so? The Spring and Fall holidays also speak to the last days of the nation of ancient Israel.
In approximately AD 30, Yeshua was crucified at Passover, symbolically redeeming God’s “first born” nation. This began a “second Exodus” of the godly remnant coming out of unfaithful Israel in preparation for the Promised Land of God’s spiritual Kingdom. Forty years later, the temple was destroyed as Yeshua had predicted, ending the earthly priesthood once and for all, and ushering in the fullness of God’s Kingdom. The final celebration of Sukkot continues to this day, as more and more believers in each generation join the faithful remnant in the ongoing harvest for God’s Kingdom. The Yom Shemini (Eighth Day) marks the eternal dwelling of believers with God in his Kingdom.
Today I am focusing on one of those seven Sabbath days since the day I am writing this falls on its occurrence in 2022: today is Yom Teruah or the Day of Trumpets. This day memorializes the shouted announcement of the final judgment on that ancient nation.
- Mark 1:14-15 – After John was arrested, Yeshua went to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news! “
- Luke 21:20, 22 – “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that its desolation has come near. … “because these are days of vengeance to fulfill all the things that are written.”
It simultaneously marks the joyous celebration of the faithful at the arrival of the Kingdom which Yeshua mentioned in parables:
- Matthew 21:42-43 – Yeshua said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is what the Lord has done and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you [chief priests and Pharisees] and given to a people producing its fruit [the faithful remnant and all who would join them].”
- Matthew 25:34 – “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
All of this was announced forty years ahead of its coming to pass. God prepared a people for himself to be his own who would inherit the blessing of Abraham through faith in his seed, Messiah Yeshua. The zera Yisra’el (the seed of Israel), the name of God’s Kingdom, continues to this day. Through observance and recognition of these memorial holidays we can teach and celebrate all that God has faithfully provided for his own people, and how he continues to prepare believers for arrival into his heavenly abode when we each reach the Eighth Day, the day of our eternity.
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