The High Holy Days

The High Holy Days


Rosh Hashana
“And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you
shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work.
for you it is a day of blowing the trumpets.”
Numbers 29:1

Yom Kippur
“On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy
convocation. You shall afflict your souls; you shall not do any
Numbers 29:7

The Feast of Tabernacles
“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy
convocation. You shall do no customary work, and you shall keep
a feast to the Lord for seven days.”
Numbers 29:12

Rosh Hashana
With the onset of September, we are nearing the High Holy Days in Israel and all around the world. These begin with Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and conclude with the Feast of Tabernacles. One can view these as a whole or individually. In terms of the latter they remind us of God’s scrutiny over our lives and thus the need to live lives that please Him. It is the prayer of every Jew at Rosh Hashana that the year following be a sweet and blessed one. Hence apples and honey are served to exemplify this and are eaten with the greeting, “Shana Tova and may you have a good inscription.” That is, may God approve of your life and be pleased with your love for Him. Thus, at Rosh Hashana trumpets (Shofars) are blown everywhere in Israel in order to awaken the people of God to the things of God. Surely, we too, as never before, must awaken to the great purposes of the Kingdom of God. Paul urged the believers at Ephesus to do just this:

“Therefore, He says:
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”
Ephesians 5:14

So then, Rosh Hashana reminds us, that God, by Jesus Christ, scrutinizes our lives and brings us into seasons of correction if our lives are not fully pleasing to him (Hebrews 12:5-8). Certainly, Jesus’ message to the Seven Churches of Asia, found in the book of Revelation, reminds us of this. Therefore, on this day the book of Job is very often read because it is believed by many great Jewish sages that it was at Rosh Hashana that the sons of God appeared before Him for scrutiny and thus the Devil challenged God to really examine and test Job by allowing him to afflict his body (Job 1:6-12). It’s also worth noting that our first appointment in heaven will be that of Judgment and so we should live our lives in the light of this reality (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Yom Kippur
Rosh Hashana is followed by the “Ten Days of Awe”. During this period the believer is given the opportunity to prepare his heart for the great Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. The focus here is upon repentance and God’s grace in providing an effective atonement for sins. This atonement is vicarious in nature in that one dies in the place of another and so the sins of the people are confessed over a Scapegoat which is then released into the wilderness of forgetfulness and then the Lord’s Goat is put to death thus bearing the penalty of the people. This awesome “Day of Atonement”” is set apart or sanctified by national fasting and prayer. On this “Day” nothing moves in Israel. The roads are quiet and empty and there is a real sense of something different in the air. It is truly a day for one to humble oneself under the mighty “hand of God” and for the nation to do the same. In the end then it speaks of a redeemed nation living under the blessings and approval of God. On this great day, in times of old, the whole nation would gather outside the Temple in absolute awe, silence and expectation as the High Priest entered the very Holy of Holies with the blood of the “Lord’s Goat”, to be sprinkled on the Mercy Seat atop the Ark of the Covenant. He would have a cord tied to one of his feet in case the offering was not accepted, and thus he would be struck down by the anger of God. He could consequently be pulled out of the Holy of Holies. It was truly a heart-stopping moment. However, if the atonement was approved by Heaven, then the power of God would descend upon the High Priest and the little bells fastened to the fringe of his high priestly garments would begin to tinkle.

Tradition has it that a ribbon, dipped in the blood of the atoning goat, was attached to the outer structure of the Temple for all to see and so when the atoning sacrifice was well pleasing to God, it turned white as snow. You can imagine the joy of the people! The people and the nation were well pleasing to God and He had forgiven their sins. We too must be well pleasing to God in all things (Colossians 1:9-10). Isaiah caught this reality when he wrote:

“Come now, and let us reason together”, Says the Lord, though
your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though
they are red like crimson; they shall be as wool.”
Isaiah 1:18

The Feast of Tabernacles
No wonder, just a few days later, Yom Kippur is followed by the joyous celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Those who know God enjoy His blessings and have good reason to rejoice. All of this can be applied to us as Christians. We have great and special lessons to learn from a proper understanding of The Feasts of the Lord. However, these Feasts of the Lord also speak directly to us about the nation of Israel. They remind us that we share in “their spiritual things” (Romans 15:27) and rejoice before their God because a Jewish Messiah offered Himself on our behalf and by His spilt blood released us from our sins and the judgment of God (1 Peter 1:18-19). We have much to rejoice about as His atoning sacrifice, on our behalf, has been accepted by God. The Apostle Paul put it this way:

“…having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to
Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise
of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in
the Beloved.”
Ephesians 1:5-6

The Prophet Zechariah, in the fourteenth chapter of his book, wrote about this time of great joy that will not only befall Israel but indeed the nations. The whole world will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles as it represents the triumph of the Kingdom of God and as such is a Feast of great Joy. This reminds us that we too are to be a joyful people because the Kingdom of God is “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Our joy, as with all things, really only comes from God and thus during the Feast of Tabernacles the people of Israel live in flimsy booths or tabernacles covered with the leaves and branches from trees. By these they demonstrate their total trust in and dependency upon God. What a wonderful lesson as to how we should live our lives. Jesus must be Lord of our lives (Luke 6:46)! In the very near future all nations will ascend to Jerusalem to celebrate like this before the Lord God of Israel. The Prophet Zechariah, as I stated above, saw this day and spoke of it in these terms:

“And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations
which came up against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to
celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.”
Zechariah 14:16

These things are sure, that is they will come to pass, and this is why we have been called by God to comfort, bless and stand with Israel. For over forty years the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has led the way in celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles as a prophetic herald of things to come. Events unfolding in Israel are breathtaking and certainly against the tide of history. Who would have thought that the Arab states around her, like the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain, would begin to forge peace with her? Undoubtedly more will follow and It is because she is strong, reliable and no threat to them whatsoever. In fact, they will greatly benefit by living in harmony with the Jewish State. However, it is not only amazing but actually, supernatural, because the God of Israel is at work. How wonderful He is, doing all things well and without the permission of the world! Blessed be His name for He will shortly put His Son on His holly Hill of Zion (Psalm 2:1-6) and then there will be great joy in the earth. The Feast of Tabernacles will be here because the “Tabernacle of God will be with men” (Revelation 21:3).

I wish you all, and especially our dear Jewish friends, Shana Tovah!

Malcolm Hedding.