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The Jewish fall feasts begin this year on The evening of Sept 29, with Rosh Hashanah. Even though, as Christians, we’re not obligated to observe these feasts, if we understand what they mean, we can use them as a time of spiritual reflection on our relationship with God.
If you’ve never heard about the Jewish feasts, they are the three feast seasons (seven feasts in all) that God asked the Jewish people to set aside as special appointed times (Hebrew word – mo’ed) to meet with Him. All Hebrew males were required to go to Jerusalem at these times.
WHAT ARE THE JEWISH FEASTS?
The feasts can be separated into three seasons. The first of these seasons occurs at the beginning of spring, usually in March or April. It consists of Passover (Pesach), The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of First Fruits.
The second feast season is Pentecost or Shavu’ot which occurs fifty days after Passover and the third feast season, occurs in the fall and includes the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).
As mentioned above, in biblical times, all the males were required to go up to Jerusalem for these feasts. In the Gospel we see also Jesus celebrating these feasts. Jesus fulfilled the first four feasts in His first coming and it is believed that He will fulfill the last three feasts at His second coming.
We’re going to focus on the last three feasts, the fall harvest season feasts. We’ll take a look at what they are, their future significance in the second coming of Jesus and how we can use the fall feast season to set aside time to reflect on our relationship with God.
THE FEAST OF TRUMPETS – A CALL TO SPIRITUAL REFLECTION
The Feast of Trumpets falls on the first day of the Jewish month Tishri (see Biblical Feasts calendar for the Gregorian date) and is the first feast in the Jewish fall feast season. It is also known as Rosh Hashanah (head of the year) because it is the beginning of the Jewish civil calendar year (the Jewish religious year begins at Passover in the spring) or Yom Teruah which means Day of Trumpets.
On this day, which is a sabbath, a trumpet or shofar was blown to let the Jewish people know that the seventh month was about to begin and they need to begin preparations for the Day of Atonement over the next ten days.
These ten days are called the Days of Awe or the Ten Days of Repentance and were used to meditate on one’s good or bad deeds done during the previous year.
Because Jesus so specifically fulfilled the first four Jewish feasts, some believe the His second coming and the rapture will occur at the time of the Feast of Trumpets. 1 Thess 4:16-17 indicates that Jesus’ second coming will be signaled by the sound of a trumpet.
In the same way that the trumpet signaled the Jewish people to get ready for the Day of Atonement, it is believed that the sound of the trumpet will signal Jesus’ triumphant return and warn the world that judgment is coming.
As a Christian, you can use the Day of Trumpets to think about Jesus’ second coming. Are you ready? Are you living your purpose and doing what He has called you to do? Do you need to pay more attention to your unsaved loved ones and friends?
THE DAY OF ATONEMENT
The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur, occurs on the tenth day of the seventh month of Tishri. It was considered the Holiest Day of the Year for the Jewish people. It was also a sabbath day and was spent fasting and praying.
This was the day when sacrifices were made for the sins of all Isreal and the only day of the year that the High Priest was allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies. The blood of the sacrifices was sprinkled on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies and the sins of Israel were placed on the scape goat which was lead outside of the camp, symbolically taking away the sins of Israel.
Some believe that this is a foreshadowing of the Second Coming of Jesus when Israel will finally recognize Him as their Messiah (Zech 12:10, Rom 11:1-6, 25-36).
Jesus was both High Priest and sacrificial lamb (our scapegoat) and no other sacrifice is needed. As Christians, we rejoice that we are forgiven for all eternity and not for only one year.
You can use this day to fast and to pray; simply consider all that God has done for you. Don’t ask for anything just meditate on His goodness toward you.
the FEAST OF TABERNACLES
The Feast of Tabernacle is also known as Sukkot. Sukkot means booths or tents and this feast is a time for remembering how God tabernacled with Israel, providing for them and protecting them during their journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. It is celebrated on the fifteenth day of Tishri and was the last of the seven appointed times.
The feast lasts for seven days, the first of which is a sabbath day. In biblical times, the sukkot were structures that could be dismantled as the Israelites moved through the wilderness. Today, during the Feast of Tabernacles, Jewish people live in sukkot built in their backyards (or at least have their meals in them) for the duration of the feast.
It is believed that Jesus will fulfill this feast when He returns to earth to reign and tabernacle among His people as Emmanuel – God with us.
You can use the Feast of Tabernacles to remind you that God is always with you. The last year may have been filled with challenges, some which you thought you would never overcome. But God always showed up.
Use this time to remember God’s goodness and to know that He is always with you and He is always faithful. Reflect on the times in the past year when God unexpected showed up and trust that whatever you face in the future, He will be with you in the same way.
ONE MORE FEAST?
God also commanded that the day after the Feast of Tabernacles should be a sabbath. This day is known as the Eighth Day or Simchat Torah (rejoicing in Torah). It is a day for rest and rejoicing in the fact that God has given us the Torah, His instructions for right living.
In English the word Torah is translated as law and the word law might have negative connotations. But in the Jewish culture it is better known as teaching or instruction and it Is a delight and a positive thing to follow the instructions of God. This is why they rejoice in the day that they were given the Torah.
The number eight indicates new beginnings and corresponds to the new heaven and new earth that will be created just prior to Jesus’ reign on earth.
On the Eighth day you can rejoice that in Christ you are a new creation. You don’t have to worry about the things you did in the past (yes, even the most recent past like yesterday), because you have been forgiven and made new through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Receive that forgiveness everyday and know that you can look forward to spending an eternity with Jesus.
Because Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice once and for all, you don’t have to celebrate the Jewish feasts but knowing about them helps you to use these appointed times to take a break from the busyness of the world and spend time in spiritual reflection on the goodness of God. Let’s use them as a time to grow our relationship with God and to better understand His eternal plan for us.
If you’d like to know more about the Jewish Festivals and the Hebraic foundations of Christianity, I suggest reading the books by the authors below:
Dr. Richard Booker – Celebrating Jesus in the Biblical Feasts
Mark Bilt – God’s Day Timer
Chuck D. Pierce – A Time to Advance