High Holy Day Greetings in Yeshua,
All three fall feasts, appointed times or moedim (mow-eh-DEEM), given by God to His People, occur this year in the month of October. That makes the month of October an especially “holy” month, according to God’s calendar. We see it as a month of three R’s: Repentance, Redemption, and Rejoicing.
Yom Teruah (aka Rosh HaShanah) is the first fall feast, or “holy convocation.” God said to Moses, “Speak to the children of Israel saying, ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a Sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation’” (Leviticus 23:24). The seventh month on the Jewish biblical calendar (as opposed to the secular calendar) is called Tishrei (TISH-ray). Seven in biblical thought represents holiness, completion, and fullness, so Tishrei is a month to encounter a Holy God and all that He has for His children.
The major theme of Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets, is repentance, in Hebrew teshuvah (t’shoe-VAH). This is our first approach to God. He is holy and cannot abide sin. In repentance we turn from sin and toward God. We return to our Father. We ask His forgiveness. He is gracious and long-suffering, always ready to forgive.
There is a rabbinic parable about returning that expresses this truth: “A prince was far away from his father—a hundred day’s journey away. His friend said to him: ‘Return to your father.’ He replied: ‘I cannot. I have not the strength.’ Thereupon his father sent word, saying to him: ‘Come back as far as you can according to your strength, and I will go the rest of the way to meet you.’ So the Holy One, Blessed be He, says to Israel: ‘Return to Me, and I will return to you’” (Mal.3:7).
The word for “return” in Hebrew is shuv (shoove). The shofar, or ram’s horn trumpet, is blown 100 times on Yom Teruah, calling God’s people to return to Him. He is not only our Father. He is also our King. God’s sovereignty and kingship are major themes of this holy day, which begins this year on the eve of October 2, 2016 (Sunday), and continues until October 4, 2016, outside of Israel. In Israel, Yom Teruah is observed for only one day instead of two.
Days of Awe
The ten days between Yom Teruah and the next fall feast, Yom Kippur, are called the “Days of Awe,” in Hebrew Yamim Nora’im (yah-MEEM no-rah-EEM). These are days of examining our lives, a time of introspection and allowing the Lord to show us our sin, our pride, and the discrepancy between what we believe and how we live. The Days of Awe are characterized by heartfelt prayer and heshbon hanefesh (hesh-BONE ha-NEH-fesh), taking stock of one’s soul. They are days set aside to restore relationships, with God and others. The Sabbath that occurs during the ten days of repentance is called Shabbat Shuvah (sha-BAHT shoe-VAH), the Sabbath of Return (Saturday, October 8, 2016).
The second fall feast focuses on the blood of atonement, being at one with God, salvation, forgiveness, cleansing, and holiness. This most solemn of all the biblical feasts is called Yom Kippur (YOME key-POOR), the Day of Atonement. “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Also the 10th day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD” (Leviticus 23:26-27). Yom Kippur is observed as a solemn fast, since the rabbis interpret “afflict your souls” as denying the flesh through fasting. This idea is even found in the Brit Hadasha in Acts 27:9, where the Apostle Paul called Yom Kippur “The Fast.” Yom Kippur is observed this year on the evening of Tuesday, October 11, 2016 (Erev Yom Kippur or Kol Nidre), and October 12, 2016 (Wednesday).
In traditional Judaism today, there is no blood of atonement, since there is no temple and no high priest. God makes it very clear in the Torah that there must be a blood sacrifice for sin. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your soul; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11). The substitutes for blood in Judaism today are teshuvah (repentance), tefillah (prayer), and tzedakah (charity or giving). While these are all good, they neither cover nor remove sin. Only one final blood sacrifice did that—the blood atonement of the New Covenant High Priest, Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus the Messiah. The Book of Hebrews says of Him, “… He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself…” (Hebrews 9:26).
Our God always brings us from darkness to light. The High Holy Days are an example of this pattern. We go from repentance to redemption to rejoicing. From sin to salvation. From sorrow to joy. From separation to union. From estrangement to reconciliation. From sackcloth to garments of praise. From slavery to freedom. From wandering to home.
Our final destination is God’s tabernacle—His sukkah (SUE-kah) or booth. The final fall feast is a celebration of God’s faithfulness to provide for His People. For Messianic believers who have repented of their sin, allowed the Holy Spirit to examine their heart, and accepted the blood of Yeshua by faith as their atonement, there is great cause for rejoicing. God not only dwells with us, He dwells within us.
The Lord instructed Moses concerning this moed (mow-ED), or holy convocation, “…The 15th day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD” (Leviticus 23:34). “…You shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days” (Leviticus 23:40). Sukkot (sue- COAT) begins this year on the evening of October 16, 2016 (Sunday), and continues until October 24, 2016. (We celebrate a bit longer if at all possible, since we so enjoy our time in our sukkah. Sukkot culminates with Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Torah) which occurs this year on Tuesday, October 25, 2016. All Jews, traditional and Messianic, celebrate this holiday by dancing with the Torah scrolls. Lots of joy. The song that Jamie wrote that opens each of our Jewish Jewels TV programs expresses it well: “Thy word is unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart” (based on Jeremiah 15:16).
A Call to AWAKE
As Messianic believers, we have redemption. Our sins are forgiven. We can rejoice because our names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20), in the “Lamb’s Book of Life.” Nevertheless, we still sin and will continue to sin until we are in our heavenly home. We still need to repent. In fact, repentance should be a way of life for a follower of Yeshua. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
The Lord has impressed upon us this month to focus on one area in which we, as Yeshua’s bride, have missed the mark in our walk with Him. Many of us are ASLEEP spiritually. This is a universal problem, one that has characterized Israel, from generation to generation, and the “Church” or Body of Yeshua even today.
Going back to the 12th century, Maimonides, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, known in the traditional Jewish world as “Rambam,” pointed this out in the following Yom Teruah exhortation: “Arise from your slumber, you who are asleep; awake from your deep sleep, you who are fast asleep; search your deeds and repent; remember your Creator. Those of you who forget the truth because of passing vanities, indulging throughout the year in the useless things that cannot profit you nor save you, look into your souls, amend your ways and deeds. Let everyone give up his evil way and his bad purpose. Return to God, so that He may have mercy on you.”
Are we asleep spiritually? In 1980, Jamie had a vision of a sleeping bride. The bride was both Israel and the Church. They both looked “dead.” (That is how we look when we are asleep!) Israel was indeed dead—in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), but the Church was merely asleep. Both were in need of resurrection (revival).
A sleeping bride appears in Shir HaShirim (the Song of Songs). In Jamie’s new soon-to-be published book, Kiss Me Again, she deals with this topic. Below is most of Day 48 of her Bible Study/ Devotional. It is a commentary on Song 5:2a, “I sleep, but my heart is awake…”
“The sleeping bride. This is the bride that I saw in the vision of 1980. It is the church asleep, even though the Holy Spirit within her is very much alive. It is nighttime again in the Song, indicative of some kind of separation, trial, testing, or pain. The flesh is probably the source of the bride’s loss of intimacy with her Bridegroom. Hudson Taylor calls it “slothful self-indulgence.” He also would have us consider that the bride might have fallen prey to spiritual pride, or become satisfied with her blessings, rather than finding satisfaction in the Blesser Himself. Spiritual lethargy. Love of ease. Self- satisfaction. Could this be us today? Absolutely, since we have two different and opposite natures which James Durham calls “the carnal and sleeping ‘I,’ and the renewed and waking ‘heart.’”
There is much internal evidence in the Holy Scriptures of a sleeping bride. The very first members of the bride fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane. When the Bridegroom found them sleeping, He said to Peter, ‘What? Could you not watch with Me one hour?’ (Matthew 26:40). The disciples fell asleep right after their intimate feast of Passover with the Lord.
We read in Matthew 25 about ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were wise, and five were foolish. ‘But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept’ (Matthew 25:5). How is this possible? Even the wise virgins slept? Yes. It is easy to lose our spiritual edge, to fall into spiritual laziness, apathy, and even deception. This is a very real and present threat (Matthew 25:26).
‘Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak’ (Matthew 26:41). Guilty as charged! I recently found an old journal from the 1980s when our son Jonathan was an infant. I was up at six in the morning, talking to the Lord and hearing from Him consistently. The last time I was up at that hour was over 20 years later, at MD Anderson, the morning of surgery. As I opened my Bible, half-asleep, my eyes fell upon the following verse: ‘God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn’ (Psalm 46:5). I looked out the window, and it was the ‘break of dawn.’ I was in awe at the grace and mercy of God and His faithfulness to speak to me and reassure me of His presence.
“I still don’t get up at 6 AM. We seldom get to bed before 11 PM, and I sleep at least eight hours a night. My most alert, productive time of the day is from eight until noon, and that’s when I spend time with the Lord. Yeshua is a patient Bridegroom. He is more than willing to meet with us at ANY TIME. The important thing is to be SPIRITUALLY AWAKE, and not let the flesh rule us.”
Come Alive with Ephesians 5!
We asked the Lord for something SPECIFIC that He wanted us to do in this season in order to arise from our spiritual slumber, and be awake to His plans and purposes in the earth. He led us to Ephesians chapter 5, and we were amazed at the extensive list of actions that are God’s will for His bride. Following is the verse-by-verse exhortation which includes eighteen specific actions that are the Lord’s will for each of us:
1. Be imitators of God as dear children (verse 1)
2. Walk in love as Messiah loved us (verse 2)
3. Do not engage in fornication, uncleanness, or covetousness (verse 3)
4. Flee from filthiness, foolish talking, and coarse jesting (verse 4)
5. Give thanks (verse 4)
6. Do not be deceived with empty words (verse 6)
7. Walk as children of light (verse 8)
8. Find out what is acceptable to the Lord (verse 10)
9. Have no fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness, but expose them (verse 11)
10. “AWAKE, YOU WHO SLEEP, ARISE FROM THE DEAD AND MESSIAH WILL GIVE YOU
LIGHT” (verse 14)
11. Walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise (verse 15)
12. Redeem the time, because the days are evil (verse 16)
13. Understand what the will of the Lord is (verse 17)
14. Do not be drunk with wine; be filled with the Spirit (verse 18)
15. Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (verse 19)
16. Sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord (verse 19)
17. Give thanks to God always for all things (verse 20)
18. Submit to one another in the fear of God (verse 21)
It is interesting to note that verse 14 is similar to the traditional Jewish exhortation of Maimonides. There is one big difference. Messiah. We have the power to both awake and arise because the Light has come. Yeshua is the Light of the world. He said that Himself (John 8:12). We are not left to find the way on our own, or to stumble in the dark. The Light of the World is our Light and our Salvation. We can do all things through Him (Philippians 4:13).
Praying for you to be AWAKE to all that God has for you in this new year.
Love in the Beloved,