Messiah in the Feasts

Posted: September 29, 2011 in Christian Living
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Yeshua (Jesus) as well as all of his disciples and the apostles observed the feasts listed in TORAH. The most amazing thing about the feasts is the fact that every one of them symbolizes the coming of Messiah. In the coming weeks I will attempt to point out the symbolic importance of the feasts.

Many Christians today mistakenly believe that the feasts mentioned in TORAH are strictly for Jews, but in Exodus 12:38 it states, “And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.” (KJV) The NLT reads: “A rabble of non-Israelites went with them, along with great flocks and herds of livestock.” And Exodus 12:48 states: “And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.”(KJV) So it seems to me that God requires all who follow Him to keep His feasts.

Yesterday at sundown we celebrated Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year. It is a solemn as well as joyful holiday. Solemn – because of the Awe of judgment. Joyful – because it represents the hope of the future redemption of Israel. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the High Holy Days. It falls on the first day of the seventh month, according to the Hebrew calendar (see Leviticus 23:23). It could occur anywhere from the first to the last week of September on the Western calendar and it ushers in the ten days of repentance leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Rosh Hashanah in the Bible

(Leviticus 23:23-25) Rosh Hashanah is to be celebrated by blowing a shofar or ram’s horn and resting from all work and by calling a holy assembly. We are also commanded to present an offering. The offering is described in Numbers 29:2-6. Because of the sacrifice Yeshua made we no longer need to bring sin offerings of bulls, lambs, goats, and grain. But we can offer God an offering in the form of Tzedakah (Gifts of charity) to individuals or a church. In Nehemiah 8:2-9 we find Ezra reading TORAH to the assembled people of Israel on this date. Psalms 93-100 are also believed to have been composed for Rosh Hashanah.

The name “Rosh Hashanah” literally means “Beginning of the Year” You may wonder how this can be, since it is called the first day of the seventh month! The reason is that the Jewish calendar is built on two cycles-the religious calendar beginning in the Spring and the civil calendar beginning in the Fall. In the TORAH, the months are never named but only numbered, beginning with the month of Nisan in the early Spring, which is the first month according to the Hebrew calendar.

Rosh Hashanah Customs

There are many traditions of Rosh Hashanah that have been handed down over generations. They are:

The use of a round loaf of Challah bread instead of the usual braided one. The round loaf of Challah is in the shape of a crown and symbolizes the crown that the Messiah, King Yeshua wears and also the crown that we will all receive in at his return. (Rev. 14:14; 1 Pet. 5:4)

The dipping of bread and apples into honey after Kiddush, or blessings, as a symbol of the hope that the new year will be sweet.

The first blessing: Before the lighting of the candles: “Blessed are You, Lord God, King of the Universe, who makes us holy with Your mitzvot and commands us to kindle the lights of Rosh HaShannah

Kiddush before the bread: “Blessed are You, Lord God, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, and sustained us, and who has enabled us to reach this festive occasion. May it be Your will, Adonai our God, and the God of our ancestors, to favor us with a good and a sweet year.

Kiddush before the apples: “Blessed are You, Lord God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.”

Kiddush before the wine: “Blessed are You, Lord God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.”

We also perform a Tashlikh ceremony on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, in which “sins” are ceremoniously tossed into a river and washed away, as penitent prayers are said.

Blowing of the Shofar

The most obvious distinguishing feature of Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the shofar, or ram’s horn. The Biblical Hebrew name for this holiday is Zichron Teruah (Remembrance of the shofar blast), or Yom Teruah. (The day of the shofar blast) In some English Bibles it is called The Feast of Trumpets. Shofar preparations begin with the recitation of Psalm 47. Some congregations read this Psalm seven times. The Psalm ties the two main themes Rosh Hashanah, shofar and God’s greatness, together in a few short verses. “…For the LORD Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth. All nations should clap their hands and shout to God with a voice of joy because ‘Elyon is the highest, most mighty king over the land. ADONAI ascends with the voice of the shofar…” (CJB)

Cries that come from being debilitated by pain and struggling through difficulties are answered generously by God. Shofars have a shape that mirrors this. On one end the horn is narrow, like the cry to God that is limited by our circumstances and lack of understanding. At the other end the horn is wide, God responds to prayer with great generosity, giving us more than we could ask for.

Blessing before sounding the Shofar: “Blessed are you, Lord God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and who has commanded us to hear the voice of the shofar.”

Significance

According to Talmudic tradition, the Ten Days of Awe which begin at Rosh Hashanah are the time in which God determines the fate of each human being. On Rosh Hashanah, the righteous are supposedly inscribed in the Book of Life, while the wicked are inscribed in the Book of Death. The fate of all others hangs in the balance until Yom Kippur. Consequently, it is a time for introspection, for taking stock of one’s behavior over the past year and making amends for any wrongdoing. I believe this influenced the tradition of making resolutions for the American New Year.

The Book of Life in the Bible

There are a number of references in the Tanakh (Old Testament Scriptures) which mention God blotting out or not blotting out someone from the Book. In Psalm 51:3-2, David asks to have his sins blotted out. Psalm 69:28-29 uses the exact phrase “Book of Life” See also 2 Kings 14:27, Psalm 9:5-6.

Modern Observance and Tradition

In modern observance of Rosh Hashanah, the principal themes are:

1. Creation

2. Repentance (Teshuvah in Hebrew-literally “turning back” to God).

3. Redemption-restoration of a severed relationship with God.

4. The coming of Messiah.

5. Judgment.

The Coming Messiah

The following quotes underscore the theme of the coming Messiah in Rosh Hashanah tradition: “The sounding of the shofar is related to the Messianic theme, and is to be the time of the ultimate redemption. Rosh Hashanah in many ways allude to God’s enthronement, for the kingship of heaven and the advent of Messiah, who presides over the last judgment. The Brit Hadashah (New Testament Writings) also associates the sound of the shofar with the coming of Messiah. (1 Thess.4:16) Some Christians use this scripture as a basis for the coming event known as the “Rapture,” from the Latin word for “caught up. However, 1 Cor. 15: 51-53 states plainly: “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For (at this time) this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (Italics mine) Rev. 8:6 plainly states that there are seven angels with seven trumpets who prepared themselves to sound. It isn’t until Rev. 11:15 that the last trump is sounded. It’s at the last trump when we will be changed and given immortality. NOT at the first.

The description of “Things to Come” given in the Brit Hadashah fits well with all the modern themes of Rosh Hashanah. In order to be written in the Book of Life, one must 1) Repent: Turn away from sin and toward God. Then you will 2) be personally redeemed. 3) We are redeemed immediately, and we will all be changed when Messiah comes again and 4) we will be like him! (1 Corinthians 15:51, I John 3:2) And 5) Afterward the world will be created anew (Revelation 21).

The Book of Life in the Brit Hadashah

The Concept of the Book of Life is found in the New Testament Writings as well. In Philippians 4:3, Paul mentions his faithful as being written in the book of Life. The book of Revelation, dedicated to the themes of judgment and the coming Messiah, contains several references to the “Book of Life.”

Tashlikh

One very interesting ceremony of Rosh Hashanah is the custom of Tashlikh. In a Tashlikh service, worshippers go to a body of water such as a stream or an ocean, and toss the contents of their pockets (usually pieces of bread to symbolize leaven, or sin) into the water while reciting passages such as Micah 7:19, “You will hurl all their sins into the depths of the sea.” We do this as a symbol of sin being swallowed up in forgiveness.

A New Covenant

This is not the only place in the Tanakh where God speaks of such total forgiveness for his people. Jeremiah 31:34 says: “For I will forgive their iniquities and remember their sins no more.” Only one verse before, God declares Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD. “

Concerning Messiah Scripture declares:  “And the LORD visited upon him the guilt of us all.”-Isaiah 53:6

“My righteous servant makes the many righteous, It is their punishment that he bears” — Isaiah 53:11

“For he was cut off from the land of the living through the sin of my people, who deserved the punishment” — Isaiah 53:8

“He bore the guilt of the many and made intercession for sinners.” — Isaiah 53:12

I believe that Yeshua is that Righteous Servant, and that his Atonement is the basis of the New Covenant spoken of by Jeremiah. The New Testament Writings confirms that God has not abandoned or rejected Israel. I believe that Messiah has come in the person of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach to rescue his people from their sins as a prerequisite to the final restoration of the people of Israel and to the Land, when Messiah will rule over them as King.

Amen! Even so, come quickly, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach!

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