There are three Feasts of the Lord (appointed times or moedim: mow-eh-DEEM) that occur each fall season during the Hebrew month of Tishrei. This is the seventh, or holiest, month of the Biblical Jewish calendar year, usually falling in September and October. This year, 2013, all three feasts occur in the same Gregorian calendar month—our month of September. That means that we have three holy convocations in September: holy Yom Teruah, holy Yom Kippur, and holy Sukkot or Tabernacles. Yom Teruah (Trumpets) begins on the evening of Sept. 4, 2013. Yom Kippur (Atonement) begins on the evening of Sept. 13, 2013. Sukkot (Booths or Tabernacles) begins on the evening of Sept. 18, 2013, and lasts for eight days.
We feel led to focus on the word “holy” (kadosh in Hebrew) this month, sensing that God desires that all of us hear what the prophet Isaiah heard when he saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up… “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isa. 6:3) “kadosh, kadosh, kadosh, Adonai Tzva’ot; m’lo kohl, ha’aretz k’vodo!” “! כבודו ,הארץׁכל מלא צבאות יהוה קדושּ קדושּ קדושּ”
A Holy God
The word holy is used for the first time in the Holy Scriptures when God called to Moses from the midst of a burning bush. Moses responded, “Here I am.” (Hineni) Ex. 3:4. Then God told Moses to remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground (Ex. 3:5). When God calls to each of us this month, may our response be the same. And may we have our own experience with the Holy God of Israel, who also said to Moses, “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified (Lev. 10:3).”
The Book of Leviticus, Vayikra in Hebrew, is replete with “holy” references. The truth that anchors all other truths concerning holiness is the very nature of God Himself. As the LORD said to the children of Israel, through Moses and Aaron, “…I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy.” (Lev. 11:44) Kadosh: Separate. Set part. Consecrated. Different from all others.
A holy God commands holiness in His service. Beginning in Exodus, we find holy people, places and things. The list is impressive: holy habitation (Ex. 15:13), holy Sabbath (Ex. 16:23), holy nation (Ex. 19:6), Most Holy (Ex. 26:33), holy crown (Ex. 29:6), holy garments (Ex. 30:25), holy tabernacle of meeting (Ex. 30:26-29), holy priests (Ex. 30:30), holy incense (Ex. 30:35), and holy day (Ex. 35:2). Continuing into Leviticus, we find holy grain offering (Lev. 2:10), holy sin offering (Lev. 6:25), holy trespass offering (Lev. 7:1), Holy Place (Lev. 16:16), holy people (Lev. 19:2), holy fruit (Lev. 19:24), holy name (Lev. 20:3), and holy convocations (Lev. 23:2, 4).
Holy Convocation #1
The first holy convocation in the month of Tishrei is Yom Teruah, also known as Rosh HaShanah. “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. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.'” (Lev. 23:24-25)
The major focus of this holy convocation is repentance (t’shuvah in Hebrew). This may be the only time during the year when the majority of Jewish people are confronted with the concept of “sin”— and the need to turn from it. Traditional rabbis developed the concept of Yom Teruah being a day of “judgment” of sin due to various scriptural texts which connect the trumpet (shofar) and judgment. One example is Isaiah 58:1, “Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet (shofar); Tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.”
Yom Teruah, in traditional Judaism, begins what is known as the Penitential Days. One of the most famous prayers recited during these days is “Avinu Malkeinu,” “Our Father, our King.” Each verse of this prayer begins the same way. For example: “Our Father, our King, we have sinned before Thee. Our Father, our King, we have no king except Thee. Our Father, our King, forgive and pardon all our iniquities. Our Father, our King, bring us back to Thee in wholehearted repentance. Our Father, our King, hear our voice, spare us and have mercy on us.”
There are actually ten days of repentance, the Yamim Noraim, between Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur, during which traditional Jews are obligated to turn with complete repentance to God, before the advent of the great and awesome Day of Atonement. This includes repenting to their fellow man for any wrongs committed during the year. Horizontal as well as vertical repentance is mandatory. The shofar blasts are said to have the following meaning: “Arise from your slumber, you who are asleep; wake up from your deep sleep, you who are fast asleep; search your deeds and repent; remember your Creator.”
God’s View of Repentance
Repentance pleases a holy God. “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones’ (Isa. 57:15).”
The Talmud (Exodus Rabbah 15:6) makes the following statement about repentance: “Israel is sunk in iniquity on account of the evil impulse which is within them, but they do penitence, and God each year pardons their iniquities and renews their heart to fear Him; for it says: ‘A new heart also will I give you’ (Ezek. 36:26).” Unfortunately, that new heart spoken of by the prophet Ezekiel—according to a holy God—does not come through repentance alone.
We read in the Brit Hadasha that Yeshua, upon being immersed in the Jordan River, saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. “Then a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'” This proclamation was followed by forty days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, ministered to by angels, and returning to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, at which time Yeshua said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) Yeshua also said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 3:32).”
The “gospel,” or Good News (besorah) in Hebrew, is that God has made a way to put a new spirit inside of man, a holy spirit, that changes people from the inside out, giving them a heart that seeks after God and finds it natural to walk in His ways. The power of sin has been broken by Yeshua’s death for each one of us. A new birth, a spiritual re-birth, has been made possible through the Messiah whom God sent—to the Jew first, and also to the non-Jew.
God made a way for man to be holy, since he could not do it on his own. He (we) needed the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) to indwell us. Yeshua, the Holy One of God, promised that Spirit to His disciples when He told them that He would be leaving them. He kept that promise, and we can testify that the Spirit still lives inside those who repent of their sin, believe the gospel, and receive Yeshua as the One who “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26).
Holy Convocation #2
The second holy convocation in the month of Tishrei is Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of the Fast, the Day or the Fast (see Acts 27:9) Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day on the Jewish calendar: “Also the tenth 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. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God.” (Lev. 23:27-28). The actual name in Hebrew for this holy day is Yom HaKippurim (plural) since many atonements took place during the lengthy atonement rituals when the Temple existed in Jerusalem.
Today? The day is “holy” today because the phrase “afflict your souls” has been interpreted to mean complete abstention from work, food, and water for 24 hours. Self-denial, special prayers, charity, repentance, and synagogue attendance are all involved in the goal of self-purification. Solemn rituals are designed to induce men to purge evil from their lives and appear pure in the sight of the LORD. Yom Kippur is certainly a day “set apart.” But there is no Temple, no High Priest, and no sacrifices, commanded in the Torah as God’s Way of forgiving sin. There is no blood of atonement. Yet, Leviticus 17:11 makes God’s chosen way very clear: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I give it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.”
When the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., the rabbinic leadership faced the dilemma of restructuring Yom Kippur without the blood sacrifices. Their thinking is expressed in the Talmud: “Now that we have no prophet or Kohen or sacrifice, who shall atone for us? The only thing left to us is prayer (Tanchuma, Vayishlach 10). Prayer was a natural substitute for the sacrificial offerings. Did not the prophet Hosea declare: ‘Let us render for bullocks the offering of our lips’ (14:3)?” The rabbis later added two more “keys to salvation,” which they considered essential to winning God’s mercies on Yom Kippur: charity (giving), and penitence. These three pillars of Yom Kippur continue to this day.
About forty years before the Temple was destroyed, (30 A.D.) the God of Israel sent the final atonement for sin. (Many knew this since the red cord in the Temple that had always turned white ceased to do that—indicating that God no longer accepted the yearly Yom Kippur sacrifice.) Yeshua, the Messiah, God’s Son, had already become the Eternal High Priest. The Book of Hebrews, addressed to Messianic Jews, explains the fulfillment of Yom Kippur in detail. “But Christ (Messiah) came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sacrifices for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from deed works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:11-14)
When Yeshua died on the tree, becoming the final, eternal Yom Kippur sacrifice, the huge veil (parochet) in the Holy Temple supernaturally split in half (a fact of history). This indicated that the God of Israel had made a way for man to enter the Most Holy Place—the dwelling place of God—to have intimate fellowship with Him. A holy happening.
Holy Convocation #3
The third holy convocation in the month of Tishrei is Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Booths, the Feasts of Ingathering, or simply the Feast (HaHag). There is a natural progression in the holy convocations from repentance on Yom Teruah, to atonement on Yom Kippur, to joy on Sukkot. There is great joy in being forgiven. Holy joy. That’s Sukkot. And God commands us to rejoice in this reality: “Also on the fifteenth of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the LORD for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a statue forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God (Lev. 23:39-44).”
Sukkot is about God dwelling with His people—past, present, and future. There is fullness of joy in His holy presence (Ps. 16:11). The Torah contains a triple reference to rejoicing on this holy convocation: Deut. 16:14, 15 and Lev. 23:40. We are to rejoice because our God is Faithful. We are to rejoice because our God provides for us. We are to rejoice because God has blessed the work of our hands. We are to rejoice because God is Holy, unlike any other god, a God of love, justice, mercy and truth.
Disciples of Yeshua the Messiah rejoice because God has made a way for us to be in His holy presence daily, as we abide in Yeshua, obeying His Word, harkening to His voice. What a holy privilege! When He redeemed us from spiritual Egypt, we were spiritually betrothed—to our heavenly chatan (bridegroom). He purchased us with His own blood. He loves us unconditionally. He sees no spot in us (Song. 4:7). We have been set apart, by virtue of His Holy Ruach, as a pure, holy spotless bride (Eph. 5:27). We are now the temple of God, an awesome truth expressed in 1 Cor. 3:16-17, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?…For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”
The Book of Ephesians tells us that we were chosen before the foundation of the world, “…that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4). The Book of 2 Timothy tells us that God “…saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in (Messiah Yeshua) before time began” (2 Tim. 1:9). Finally, the Book of Titus tells us that “…according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5).
Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice! God is Holy. Yeshua is God’s Holy Servant. You are holy—in Yeshua.
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God…” (Jude 1:20-21a)
P.S. Twelve Sons of Israel is a great book to share with Jewish pre-believers, especially for those who are still observing rabbinic traditions.
P.P.S. New Heart by accomplished Messianic singer Phil Klein is sure to renew your spirit this “holy” season. Songs include: “Holy God” & “My Repentance Day.”