On the Other Side of the Mass for Christ

Part I.  The Call of God and the Weight of Tradition

Part II.  Time, the Calendar, and the Seven Feasts of Israel

Part III.  The Feasts of Israel and the Messiah of Israel

Lawrence S. Jones

 

I. The Call of God and the Weight of Tradition

 

i

The roots of celebration                 

I want to take this time following the season of Christmas to reflect upon this holiday which receives such esteem in our culture, though its roots feed more on tradition than on any imperative of Scripture or faith.  As the person of Yeshua so the birth and earthly life of Yeshua are for me of significance beyond question.  I question only my relationship to the “Christmas”  nativity celebration as it has come down to us through centuries of nominally Christian culture.

Most of us have grown up with Christmas.   I have no desire to challenge memorable moments in my past, nor to doubt the complex history through which we individually come to know and worship God.  Few of us have come to knowledge of the Messiah of Israel outside of the culture of the Christian church, a body whose form is, tragically, founded in a millennium of Catholicism, centuries of spurious sacraments, marriage between church and state, and the common man groping for God without benefit of Scripture.  For one thousand years, from the days of Constantine until the days of Tyndale, the Catholic institution pretended that the word of God should be kept from the common man.  To this end, in plain sight, the Catholic church murdered thousands upon thousands who held the truth of Scripture more precious than the traditions of the church.  With such a foundation, we are more than justified in questioning the rites and celebrations inherited from the “church fathers.”

Whatever our prejudice for feasts and holy days, we also remember the words of Paul:

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike.  Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.  He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.  He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.  For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.   If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.  So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”  Romans 14.5-8

These words in no way suggest that all days are the same.  Paul is saying that our attitude of worship has more significance than any formal or uninspired adherence to tradition: “We live to the Lord.”  Paul would be the last person to say that the Sabbath is only a state of mind.  Throughout the book of Acts Paul and the disciples celebrate the traditional Sabbath, by one count 85 times, along with celebrations of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and, of course, Pentecost.  Paul says clearly, “Each one should be convinced in his own mind,” and, “If we live, we live to the Lord.”  In other words, conviction of and sincere devotion to the highest expectations of our king are the proper measure of our actions.

In the same vein, Yahveh expressed through Isaiah his abhorrence of feasts and Sabbaths celebrated mechanically and not from the heart.  At a time when God believed that Israel worshipped him only through appearances, he told them through Isaiah,

The multitude of your sacrifices – what are they to me?…Stop bringing meaningless  offerings! Your incense is detestable to me.  New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations – I cannot bear your evil assemblies.  Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts y soul hates….When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen.”[1]

Nevertheless, there are, even in this time, still hearts which seek the face of God.  We know that there are “appointed feasts” in Scripture.  We seek to know the heart of God in this matter.  We live in a culture which rarely questions the religious traditions of the churches.  But the traditions of the apostate church deserve to be questioned, and our hearts should be open to whatever brings most honor to our king and our kingdom.  We may find that in the ancient feasts of Israel, which are mostly ignored by the church, there are important prophetic indicators, and that our consideration of these feasts is intended to help us root ourselves in our history as well as see into future time.  The celebration of feasts manufactured by church hierarchies without concern for the will of God may cloud our understanding and render us less able to be alert and act courageously in the challenges ahead of us.

I want to determine whether Christmas deserves to be the true celebration of the birth of our Messiah, and if not, what is that celebration which truly honors him.

 

 

ii

God of history, Sabbath of history

In rehearsal for assessing the merits of Christmas it might be worthwhile to take a short detour and look at the church’s tradition of Sunday worship.  The conflict between Scripture and Tradition becomes clear when one seeks to weigh the church’s Sunday celebration against the ancient Sabbath of Israel.[2]

It is impossible to brush aside this conflict if one should find oneself bound to Yeshua and perceive that he is bound not simply to his Redeemer [a personal event], but even to the Messiah, the king of Israel [a political event].  In such a circumstance we feel compelled to explore the extent to which our bond to Yeshua goes beyond the simple intimacy of standing in the presence of God.  It becomes necessary to ask what it means to be bound to the king of the ancient nation.  In this context one feels the call of the ancient Sabbath, and the need arises to know how it has come to be replaced by a tradition without roots in Scripture.

One thing I hold to be unshakable: that no modern voice and no text of Scripture can deny that Yeshua is today on the historic and heavenly throne of David, seated as lord and king over the Israel of God, as should be the clear meaning of Peter’s announcement on the day of Pentecost:[3]

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Yeshua whom you crucified.”[4]  

The task, then, is to know the meaning and the reach of this Israel of God.  Inquiry into the Israel of God reveals the extent to which the many shades of modern Christianity originated on the pallet of Roman Catholicism in its ploy to substitute itself for the authority of God Himself, even to install its gentile rituals in the hearts of believers, while silently discarding the culture of the patriarchs and of our Messiah.

In the present age we are aggravated in the need to seriously reckon the meaning of the Israel of God as day after day we see the tragic insensitivity and criminal aggression of the Zionist “state” of Israel against its Palestinian and Bedouin citizens, as also we watch our own country, the United States of America, act always in unquestioning, obedient support of the agenda of the Zionist entity.  It is painful for faith in the Messiah of Israel to watch a most criminal political agenda transpire in the name of “Israel.”  This is not to ignore the degree to which Islam is also a renunciation of the God of Israel and of the Messiah of Israel.  It is rather to recognize that the Messiah of Israel will take possession of the dust and bricks of Jerusalem, not through the injustice of the bulldozer, not through the construction of containment camps and checkpoints, but through the power of his word of truth and by the faithful witness of his subjects.

In any inquiry into the nature of the Israel of God we study the Scriptures.  In them we see that Yahveh left record of many historic intentions for national/ genetically-defined Israel.   We see that Israel was first described by God in the promises to Abraham, first formed explicitly into a holy people for God under the Sinai covenant in the desert of the exodus.  There in the desert, however, Yahveh’s dialogue with his people revealed that Israel, the holy people of God, has existence on two levels – one might even say in two separate worlds.

The most apparent use of the term “Israel” is to denote that aggregation of families and genetic descendants of Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, who received from Yahveh the elevated name Israel, meaning “he who struggles with God.”  When Jacob’s family entered Egypt seventy strong, they were by then “the children of Israel.”  By the time they were ready to leave Egypt, four centuries later, the number of the children of Israel was closer to one million.  It was a group defined by genetics and culture, but not so narrowly defined that it could not take into its number individuals from other genetic groups.  While in Egypt, some children of Jacob possibly followed the example of Joseph and married Egyptian mates.  Joseph married Asenath, the daughter of an Egyptian priest.  As the children of Israel left Egypt their number was augmented by the addition of those Egyptians who preferred to remain with the Hebrew people.  Moses’ wife, Zipporah, was from Midian, essentially Ethiopian.

This exodus assembly was the original body of people to whom Yahveh introduced his covenant code, the parameters of fealty to their divine King such as would make possible the subject – king relationship.  Through Moses, Yahveh made it clear to his people that mere descent from the patriarchs fell far short of the parameter necessary for participation in the true Israel of Yahveh.  As made clear in the 29th chapter of Deuteronomy, in order to gain inclusion in the covenant people of God, Yahveh demanded something called “the circumcision of the heart,” the individual heart given in love and fealty and obedience to the living God.  Yahveh was cultivating a people for himself.  Men are made free, in the image of God; therefore the true child of God must come to him in freedom, not by the mechanism of genetic selection, and not through compulsion.  On the one hand, there is a people to which God has revealed himself, and on the other hand there are the individuals who seek his face.  As Paul said,

“Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel…it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise.”[5]

And,

A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.  No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.  Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.[6]

When Yeshua came into the world, this understanding was strongly reinforced.  John the Baptist, announcing the coming of the Messiah of Israel, was interrogated by Pharisees and by the leaders of the Temple.  They held that the kingdom of Yahveh was coextensive with national Israel.   John, skeptical of their intentions, asked them why they had come to see him: did they think that he was bringing a message of Messianic hope for everyone genetically favored to be born into national Israel?  John assured them that this was not the case.

John essentially said to them, “If God wants mere descendants of Abraham, he can make them out of local stones.”  John said that his message rather was for those who are ready for repentance, metanoia, abandoning the heart of rebellion in favor of true fealty to the Messiah, the eternal king of Israel.  The Pharisees, the zealots, and others were looking for a leader who would take the status quo nation into days of national glory and free them from the yoke of Rome.  But Yeshua was looking for an elite to inhabit the eternal holy kingdom of Yahveh.  Addressing this question of participation in the real kingdom of God, Yeshua gave the final answer:

am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”[7]

Apart from the Messiah of Israel there is no Israel of God.

There is, of course, a cultural Israel which is the product of a genetic history, and which is loved and favored by God for the efforts of the patriarchs and ancestors to understand and ingest the divine imperative.  [“…showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments[8]…]  But there is something else: there is transcendent Israel, the holy [“set apart,” “devoted”] people of God, which exists only in and through individual fealty to the Messiah of Israel.  Yeshua came to announce the substantial reality of this re-engineered kingdom of God.  He is Lord and King of the holy nation, transcendent Israel. 

This issue is not easy to confront, on the one hand because the name “Israel” is now attached to a very powerful secular Zionist state which carefully manages the public dialogue and in this century has insinuated itself, by wealth, by stealth, and by war, into the land which has been known as Palestine for the last two thousand years.  This new state is intimately bound to our own country, the United States of America.  This is the secular, geo-political import of the name Israel in the modern consciousness.

Meanwhile, there is a world-historical imperative bound to the name Israel which is at once sacred and political.  Through centuries of prophecy the name of Israel is attached to the great promise to Abraham, the very hope of human history, the divine promise that someday the people of God will know the rule and peace of God in an actual Messianic kingdom in the land of promise.

Our witness must be to stand for the truth and present reality of the transcendent kingdom of Yeshua, transcendent Israel, more real and more powerful than all the kingdoms of the earth, no less real for abstaining from its ultimate possession of dust and stone in the land of promise, no less real for being “Spiritual,” for Spirit, in particular the Spirit of Yahveh, is the ultimate power:

“’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ saith Yahveh.”

This political vision becomes the need to relate to Yeshua as Lord and King of Messianic Israel.   Somehow he must be known within the culture and covenants of transcendent Israel, and therein lies the call to come to terms with the seventh day Sabbath of the 4th commandment and to question the Sunday worship initiated [borrowed from pagan worship] and sanctioned by the Catholic church.

For myself, having been raised in the church and knowing many people who have loved God and have worshipped him on Sunday, I found it very awkward and disconcerting that I should contemplate a turn to worship on Saturday, a day which I associated with baseball, skiing, and raking leaves.  Even more awkward was the peculiarity that the Hebrew Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and ends in the evening of the following day.  I found it curious to contemplate that whenever I would visit a church on Sunday, I would not be worshipping on my Sabbath.  Conversely, most synagogues available to me would have lovely Sabbath rituals, yet never mention in awe the name of the true Messiah of Israel.

At length I made the change to the ancient Sabbath as I despaired of the incredible apostasy of the Chicago churches through which I had searched over a period of twelve years.  Often I would think of the song, “I would rather be in His world, than without Him in mine.”  I would rather know the true fabric of my historic kingdom and walk alone, than be surrounded by smiling faces in a context conjured by the magicians of Catholicism.

The change having been made, now many years ago, the seventh day Sabbath and all its peculiarities have become the treasured possession of myself and my family, a Sabbath which opens in the home with the ancient Friday evening ceremony of lighting the lights of Sabbath, recitation of traditional blessings, sharing in bread and wine, and reading from God’s word.  It is no longer associated with trivial weekend chores and pleasures.  It is a gift from God, a link into the most ancient traditions of the people of God, and it owns an indestructible peace which can not be taken away.

 

iii

Does it really matter?

If a change of Sabbath is difficult, because of the weight and pull of tradition, because good people seem to get along perfectly well in the embrace of ancient, long- approved rituals, even though their origins are murky, so then will we find reconsideration of Christmas to be difficult, for the very same reasons.

We might ask, Why bother?  The quick answer is that we must give it consideration because history matters, and celebrations which spurn the true word of God and spurn the true history of our God’s dealings with his people – these things efface and destroy our history.  Furthermore I will try to show that they not only efface our history, they obscure our vision of the future.

The modern church is deeply anti-historical.  It mostly ignores the truth that Yeshua came into the world on a foundation of centuries of expectation, appeared in the land of promise in satisfaction of the deep anticipation of the few, the faithful of Israel.[9]  Beginning with Constantine, the official imperial church drove into obscurity those who held to the Saturday Sabbath, the feasts of Israel and an interpretation of Scripture which discounted the increasing authority of the church hierarchy.  The Catholic institution, since the 4th century, has abandoned its roots in Israel, and, in modern times, abandons even the Ten Commandments of the Sinai Covenant as an adjunct to the ancient history of “the Jews.”  The Catholic institution has even redacted the commandments and considers them not as the terms of a holy covenant but merely as a standard of moral behavior.

Before pursuing an inquiry into why the consideration of Christmas matters, we should ask why our perception of the Sabbath matters.  The seventh day Sabbath matters, first of all, because it is the clear and explicit covenant expectation of the God to whom we belong in covenant loyalty:

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahveh your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For in six days Yahveh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore Yahveh blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

In the commandment itself, Yahveh pauses to explain the reason for the commandment, that “day number seven,” following the six days of creation, was a holy day set apart to God.  Yahveh could have created the world in six days and gone on straight from there.  But he did not.  With the seventh day our God, immediately following the work of creation, completed the meaning of creation by introducing the element of holy time.  Time is six parts mundane time and one part holy time.  This sacred proportion was established in the week of creation.  It is the design of Yahveh that every week of earth time is so established.  The “week” of months begins in the month of Passover and ends in the seventh month of the High Holy Days. The “week” of world history is to be the same: six millennia of secular history to be followed by the holy time of the Millennium in which our Messiah will rule all the earth from Jerusalem.  Our observance of the seventh day Sabbath teaches us the importance of holy time, past, present, and future.

The observation and honor of God’s holy time also keeps us cognizant of something more immediately important to our preservation: the understanding that we the people of Yahveh are a holy people, set apart to God.  We do not belong to the world.  We are in the world, but we are not of the world, not mundane.  We have been redeemed.  Our Messiah has bought us for himself at the price of his own blood.  We are called to live as set apart, like the Sabbath, for our God.  Our honor of the Sabbath day which He has chosen is an acknowledgement of the truth that it is nothing we do but He alone who redeems, who separates us for himself, who makes us holy.

 

 

 

iv

Nostalgia and the measure of Christmas

I cannot think of Christmas without remembering enchanted days in childhood, with the world made new in snow and the home filled with life by the presence of the tree and good holiday food and presents and friends and extended family.  With some effort, there would be celebrations at the church with shepherds and wise men and readings from the gospels to tell the story of Christmas, and the choir robed in its best, singing the rich repertoire of Christmas songs, and in it all we would see ourselves in a state of actual anticipation of the birth of Jesus.

I also remember a midnight mass on Christmas Eve in Vietnam with the church full of worshippers and revelers and a great excess of participants filling the street.  The curfew had been discarded and literally the whole town was present.  It seemed as if Christmas had overtaken the world.

I remember a Christmas Eve mass in the tiny village of Les Baux, France, where, at midnight, according to tradition, a shepherd entered the back of the stone church, lit only by candles,  guiding one of his sheep who pulled a cart full of straw, in the midst of which lay a doll representing the newborn Jesus.  I felt that I was as close as one could get to that ancient moment, short of Christmas Eve in Bethlehem.

I remember Christmas Eve in the great basilica in Montreal, surrounded by a crush of worshippers, feeling that the entire city had forced its way inside in order to not fail to mark the moment.  And another Christmas Eve in Montreal in the old cathedral on the square, listening to a great sung mass.  Each of these celebrations seemed to fulfill their promise, to mark a moment in divine history and to include me in it.

But in these celebrations, What was real?  Was there a real correspondence between me as a person of faith honoring an historic event, an actual anniversary of the birth of Yeshua on that day?  Was the event an exercise of real faith, a recognition of the historic fabric crafted by the hand of God, a heart yielded in honor of the God who enters history on our behalf?

In most of those celebrations I had little faith at all that could count as faith in the God of history.  My object of worship was a fuzzy idea of divinity that was being sustained by candles and incense and song.  I had a sense of belonging to something wonderful, but it was based in theater and wishful thinking.  And the day given for celebration had no known connection to the birth of our king.

Is not Christmas supposed to be grounded in the historical person of Christ?  How do we get there? Does God expect us to get there from Christmas?

I have come to the conclusion that there is no objective measure by which to determine what God expects for us in Christmas, since he has never asked us to set aside a day uniquely for the commemoration of the birth of Yeshua, and certainly he has never asked us to borrow a date from pagan worship.

 

v

Celebration of the life of our king without a debt to paganism

It is common knowledge that nearly every facet and ritual of Christmas has pagan origins, and that the date, December 25, follows the revelries of Roman Saturnalia and is precisely the day of the Roman dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun, entwined with December 25 as the birthday of Mithras, who was known as Deus Solo Invictus Mithras.  The architects of the Roman marriage between empire and church – Aurelian, Constantine, Justinian, and a long succession of Popes — contrived to superimpose Christmas over the ancient pagan celebrations in an attempt to let their Christians feel “like other people” and establish Christianity as the religion of the realm. There is a margin note in a manuscript of the 12th c. Syrian bishop Jacob Bar – Salibi which reads as follows:

“It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity.  In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part.  Accordingly, when the doctors of the church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day.”

Boughs of greens, yule logs, evergreen trees, holly, mistletoe, all have their roots in pre-Christian pagan tradition, even back into the times of ancient Babylon.  Jeremiah spoke out against these pagan celebrations:

“For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.  They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple.”[10]

“Christ” is the Greek form of the Hebrew “Mashiach,” meaning Anointed King, which we render in English as Messiah.  The very name “Christmas” [Mass for Christ] is a foul misuse of the royal title of our king, as the mass itself is an obscenity in which the Catholic church pretends first to conjure the very being of God into the “Eucharistic” wafer and then holds the very being of God to “a bloodless sacrifice”, hardly a celebration of the moment of divine incarnation.  They dispense this “body of God” to their supplicants as a counterfeit for the true Spirit of God which He desires to be present within us.

Scripture cautions us against romanticizing man-made traditions as if they were true celebrations of the being of our God.  Yeshua said to the leaders of the Temple:

“These people draw near to me with their mouth…but their heart is far from me.  And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”[11]

Or, as Mark recorded it,

“All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”[12]

Do we not fear to think that we might fall into such a category?  Do we not wish to examine God’s word and our own habits in order to know that we are focused, not on empty, if colorful, apostate traditions, but on the very cultural and historic fabric crafted for us by our God?  If only our search could lead us to the celebration of the coming of our king in a manner that is rooted in true history and owes nothing to the enemies of our God.

Yeshua on earth only gave the command for one celebration, the commemoration of the covenant sacrifice of his body and blood through a rite of drinking the wine of the cup of blessing and eating the unleavened bread of Passover.  However, this does not mean that he had any thought that we would abandon the historic feasts of Israel.  Although he did not command us to keep the Sabbath, he kept the Sabbath, even though his Sabbath works of love disturbed those who had turned it into a day of empty ritual.  We have God’s promise that the Sabbath and even the new moon festivals endure forever:

“As the heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares Yahveh, “so will your name and descendants endure.  From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says Yahveh.”[13]

Ezekiel explains how Sabbaths, New Moons and Passover will be celebrated during the coming Millennium.[14]  Hosea suggests that the Feast of Tabernacles [Sukkot] will be celebrated in the Millennium.[15]  Zechariah states directly that the Feast of Tabernacles will be a major universal celebration during the Millennium:

“Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, Yahveh Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.”[16]

We will also consider how it is that the entire mission of Yeshua on earth is so woven into the Feast of Passover that it is difficult to imagine how our God might discard this sacred appointment.

There is no basis in all the world for imagining that the feasts which God gave our ancient people through Moses should somehow become irrelevant for us today.   Nor do we have any reason to oppose them.  The problem is, of course, our cultural attachment to Christmas and Easter, our tragic lack of familiarity with the historic feasts, and our failure to understand how they relate to Yeshua our king.

The church has disengaged itself from Israel and ignores the feasts, while prevalent currents of Judaism behave as if the feasts are exclusively appropriate to a belief which fails to recognize its Messiah.  Both visions leave us undone.

We must look at the seven historic feasts which were given to us by God himself.  We may find in them celebrations which root us in our past and lead us to our Messiah.  Through the perspective of mystical meaning and prophecy we may find in the seven feasts a synopsis of sacred history and a portrait of our Messiah… something of eternal grandeur and truth, something which could never be contained in a borrowed pagan festival with church trimmings.

 

 

PART II.  Time, the Calendar, and The Seven Feasts of Israel.

 

                                                                                    i

Time and planetary motion

The seven feasts of Israel are seven mo’edim, “appointments” between man and God.  They have specific locations in a calendar defined by the periodic movement of heavenly bodies.  We enter into the discussion of the feasts of Israel by first taking stock of time, the Hebrew calendar, and the references which define it.

Earth time begins in the measure of the orbit of the moon around the earth and of the orbit of the earth around the sun.  Measurable earth time began on the fourth day of creation:

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the    night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.’ …God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night.  He also made the stars.  God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night,[17]  and to separate light from darkness.”  Genesis 1.14-18

The earth and the other planets of the solar system are held in the gravitational pull of the sun and so move within an orbital plane which passes through the center of the sun.  The orbit of the moon about the earth lies in a plane which varies slightly from the earth’s orbital plane, at an inclination of about five degrees.  In  the greater plane of our solar system all the conjunctions and eclipses occur … Venus in alignment between earth and sun, the eclipse of the sun as it is obscured by the passage of the moon, the reddening of the moon as it passes through the umbral shadow of the earth.  This greater orbital plane is therefore called the plane of the “ecliptic.”

Around us the sphere of the heavens sits as a relatively unchanging arrangement of distant stars and galaxies.  Since earliest times these points of light have been seen to possess an order, described with some variation as intimations of animals, warriors, maidens, and artifacts.  If we should wish to track our progress around the sun, we may do so by considering the position of the sun upon the backdrop of the stars just before sunrise on each day of the year.

The observation of the sun on the horizon each morning reveals that it travels always within a narrow band of stars…. those stars in line with the plane of the ecliptic through which we travel around the sun.  This band of stars, seen as a belt around the heavens, seen as the road through which the sun travels, is called the zodiac.  Since ancient times this belt has been divided into twelve parts or “houses.”

We gauge our path through the heavens by observing each day the progression of the sun through the twelve houses of the Zodiac.

“…He has set a tabernacle for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming out of his    chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run its race.  Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit to the other end.”[18]

One complete circuit of the earth around the sun, beginning from a certain point and returning to that point, forms the measure of what we call a year.  In that period of time the earth turns on its axis approximately 365.25 full rotations, or “days.”  In nearly that time, 354 days, the moon makes twelve orbits around the earth, each lasting roughly 29.5 days.  These orbits of the moon around the earth are the foundation of our months.

The division of our yearly motion is further distinguished by seasonal differences which result from the tilt of the earth’s axis with regard to the plane of our orbit around the sun.  Since the waver of earth’s axis of rotation is imperceptible in a year, during one extreme of the orbital circuit our north pole is leaned into the sun, while at the opposite extreme our pole is canted away from the sun.  At the intermediate nodes the sun sees both hemispheres equally.  The extremes are called the summer and winter solstices and the intermediate nodes are the equinoxes.  These moments divide the year into four equal portions of time.

Most people assume that the year has always had the same length of days, at 365.25 rotations of the earth, but there is considerable evidence that there have been cataclysms affecting the velocity of the passage of the earth around the sun, such as might be achieved by allowing that bodies of considerable mass might enter our solar system and pass very near the earth, applying a gravitational pull in favor of acceleration or retardation.

That Enoch [3300 B.C. to 3000 B.C.] had a year of 364.8 days could be derived from his statement that “In 8 years the moon falls behind 80 days.”[19]  Enoch also said that “In the days of the sinners the years shall be shortened, and men shall err and take the stars to be gods.”[20]  The flood to wipe away sin came in 2274 B.C.  Following that time Noah is recorded as counting a period of five months as having 150 days, suggesting a 30 x 12 or 360 day year.[21]  Then, following the time in the 8th c. B.C. when Yahveh “made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the sundial of Ahaz — ” recorded as a sign to Hezekiah — from that time civilizations all over the earth began adjusting their calendars, apparently to take account of a new extension of the orbital time to a duration of 365.2422 rotations.  Additionally, there are hints that there might come another change to the length of the year at some time in the future.  There is some suggestion in Revelation that days “might be shortened” once again “as in the days of Noah,” producing the precise prescription of 42 months equaling 1260 days and equaling 3 ½ years, as suggested in Revelation 11.2,3,4 and in Revelation 12.6.

 

 

ii

Moses and the Hebrew calendar

It seems that Moses inherited the Sumerian /Babylonian calendar as his primary reference, possibly holding to it as cultural artifact from Abraham and Sumer.  At any rate, at the time of the Exodus, Yahveh addressed Moses in the context of something resembling the Sumerian/ Babylonian luni-solar calendar.

A luni-solar calendar attempts to keep its months in sync with the orbits of the moon around the earth, so that the first of each month will be marked with the first crescent of the new moon and the middle of each month will be the time of the full moon.  Meanwhile, being also a solar calendar, it attempts to make periodic adjustments to keep the year tuned to the seasons and the earth’s orbital period around the sun.  It takes the moon 29.531 days to orbit the earth.  So lunar months are fudged back and forth between 29 and 30 days to keep calendar and lunar motion in sync.  Since 29.5 x 12 = 354, eleven days short of the solar circuit, it is necessary to add in about eleven days of adjustment per year to keep the yearly period true to the seasons and our orbit around the sun.   The Sumerians did this by adding an extra month every few years.

It is possible that Moses was familiar with the use of this calendar in Egypt.  Ancient Egypt seems to have maintained at least three calendars: a 360 day calendar, a luni-solar calendar, and a star calendar which connected the annual flooding of the Nile with the rising of the star Sirius.[22]

The Hebrew calendar, as ordained by Yahveh and as brought into usage by Moses, has Sumerian-style lunar months and interjects, over a 19 year period, exactly seven intercalary months.  Over the centuries, in an attempt to make calendars more conveniently predictive, men have made their calendars depend more on refinements of calculation and less on observation.  However, the Hebrew calendar is interested both in periodic accuracy and in the capacity of the calendar to be a memorial and a predictor of events which Yahveh himself has attached to the periodic movements of the heavenly bodies.  So the Hebrew calendar, while it flexes the lengths of the solar years to remain faithful to the lunar periods, it also checks its accuracy every nineteen years according to the phenomenon known as the Metonic cycle.

Meton of Athens [5th c. B.C.] observed and recorded what was already a long- recognized synchronization: every nineteen years the sun, moon, and earth return to the “same” relative location.  More specifically, in a count of 6,940 days [and a few hours] two events coincide: The earth completes 19 orbits of the sun and the moon completes 235 orbits of the earth.  Since 19 years of 12 months equals only 228 months, the Hebrew calendar interjects exactly 7 additional “intercalary” months [each called Adar II] over the nineteen year period, at which point calendar and nature are again in confirmed agreement.

From this short study we can see that the Hebrew calendar is as interested in accuracy as any calendar in history, and that, unlike the Gregorian calendar, it devotes itself to recognizing the significant events in the interrelated motions of earth, sun, and moon.  It is a calendar rooted both in science and in nature, both in calculation and in observation.  We will see then how it is rooted not only in science and nature but also in the history of the world, past, present, and future.

 

 

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The calendar of planetary cycles as matrix of sacred history

The passage of time and the measurement of time are of great importance to our God.  Prophesy of future events is often in terms of unique increments of time.  The history of the holy people contains a detailed record of the passing of time.

Yahveh undertook with Abraham the beginning of the most important program in history, the redemption of a people for himself, and yet in that very beginning he announced to Abraham a coming time of interruption:

“Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.  …but afterward they will come out.”[23]

Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, followed his own son, Joseph, into Egypt.  Altogether they were seventy strong.  Joseph was a blessing to Egypt, but with the passage of time his deeds were forgotten and the strength of his children was considered a threat.  The Egyptians overtook them and enslaved them.  Yahveh then remembered his covenant with Abraham and his children.  He stirred the heart of Moses to hear His voice and to look to the delivery of his people from Egypt.  Yahveh had in mind that the Exodus of His people was to come about at a very specific moment.

Yahveh instructed Moses to represent His intentions to Pharaoh, and to interpret to Pharaoh the grave series of plagues meant to convince Pharaoh to let the children of Jacob go free.  A final plague, the passage of the angel of death through the houses of Egypt, would prove to be the effective evidence of the power of Yahveh and of the futility of refusing to recognize his authority over his creation.  The morning following that horrible plague of death the children of Jacob were on their way out of Egypt.  It is recorded that,

The length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years.  At the end of    the 430 years, to the very day, all Yahveh’s divisions left Egypt.  Because Yahveh kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor Yahveh for the generations to come.”[24]

Yahveh carefully instructed Moses in his intentions for this night.  And on that occasion Yahveh laid out his intentions for a new calendar of holy appointments between Yahveh and his people.

The count of years from the week of Creation maintains Tishri, a month in autumn, as the first month of creation, and Tishri remains as the first month of the Hebrew civil calendar.  However, Yahveh came to Moses toward the climax of the plagues over Egypt, in the month of Nisan [in spring, six months separate from Tishri], very possibly on the first day of the month, when the crescent of the new moon first appears, and at that moment Yahveh gave Moses the parameters of a new sacred calendar for Israel:

“This month [Nisan] is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.  Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.  If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are….The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, …Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.[25]  Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.  That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitterherbs, and bread made without yeast….Eat in haste; it is Yahveh’s Passover.  On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn – both men and animals – and will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt.  I am Yahveh.  The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I   will pass over you.  …This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations     to come you shall celebrate it as a festival [appointment] to Yahveh – a lasting ordinance.  For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. …On the first day  hold a sacred   assembly and another one on the seventh day.  Do no work at all on these     days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat – that is all you may do.  Celebrate the feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt.  Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.  In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the  fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day.”                     Exodus 12, excerpts

With the establishment of Passover [now to fall forevermore on a night when the moon is full] Yahveh had set in place the foundation of the Seven Feasts of Israel.  Immediately conjoined to Passover are two other feasts, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of Firstfruits.  Then, counting from Passover seven weeks comes the fourth festival, the Feast of Weeks.  In the seventh month [Tishri, the first month of the civil year] come the High Holy Days and the last three feasts: on 1 Tishri the Feast of Trumpets, on 10 Tishri the Day of Atonement, and from 15 to 21 Tishri the Feast of Tabernacles.

In looking at the seven feasts we are able to consider that they reveal their importance on multiple levels.  They are not celebrations chosen by the people. They are festival appointments installed in history by the dictate of Yahveh to his people.  They exist as covenant memorials of events in our sacred history.  They exist as prophetic appointments of future historical events, some already fulfilled, others yet to be fulfilled.  They, as an assembly, describe the critical moments of the involvement of Yahveh in human history from the Day of Creation to the great apocalyptic Day of the Lord, with Yeshua our Messiah at the center of that history.

 

 

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Passover, the first and fundamental feast

The focal point of the Passover celebration is a ritual dinner recalling the elements of the first Passover meal in Egypt.  It is prepared on the 14th of Nisan and is eaten in the evening at the beginning of 15 Nisan.[26]  At that time the moon is full.  [The light of it would have been of great assistance in the exodus from Egypt.]  The Feast of Unleavened Bread Begins within Passover in these first hours of the 15th  of Nisan.  During the day of preparation, on the 14th, all items containing leaven have been removed from the house.  For the coming seven days only unleavened bread is eaten.

The Passover meal is a memorial of the Exodus of our people from slavery, a release achieved by the power of Yahveh.  As such it is a celebration in memory of a past event.  But it also bears within it the seeds of something unfinished, something future.  In the context of the Exodus Yahveh had made a vast promise through Moses:

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am Yahveh, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.  I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.  I will take you as my own   people, and I will be your God…..And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.’”[27]

In the events of the Exodus we see Yahveh free his people through mighty acts of judgment.    But he is not only freeing them from slavery.  He is gathering them to himself as his own people, and he is promising to secure them within the great promise of history, the promise to Abraham.

In addition, this promise through Moses claims that Yahveh is “redeeming” his people.  Redemption denotes the paying of a debt in exchange for which one takes possession of something.  The Exodus is always spoken of as the Redemption of Israel.  But where is the redemption?  They owed nothing to Pharaoh or his people.  No ransom was paid in Egypt.  Who owed what?  Who paid what?

Yahveh had warned that the angel of death would pass over Egypt and bring death to every family that did not have the blood of the lamb over their doorway.  This warning implied that every person, Jew and Gentile alike, owed his life to the mercy of Yahveh, which was to say that all deserved death.   Those lambs brought into the dwellings of Israel on the 10th of Nisan appeared to be the only ones paying the price to spare Israel from the judgment of the angel of death.  But Moses and every other person with an ounce of reflection knew that the blood of a yearling lamb was no tally for the debt they owed to the God who was setting them free from slavery and from the immediate threat of death.

Passover, then, called for them to look beyond yearling lambs to the dreadful ransom that would be given for their lives.  Passover called out the future.  It called out to the groan of Yeshua upon the cross, the sacrifice of the Lamb which truly frees from sin and death.  And, as the Abrahamic promise is reaffirmed within it, Passover, now as then, still calls out the hope of that Day when we shall sit at table together with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

 

 

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The Feast of Unleavened Bread

The seven days of Unleavened Bread are a memorial to the way our people exited from Egypt, hastily, with no time to be setting loaves out to rise.  The celebration is also a sober commandment, including a warning[28]that whoever eats leavened bread during this time should be cut off from Israel.  Why so serious?  Leaven in the New Testament is equated with sin.  Leaven is something which, though small, enters the loaf and transforms its nature.  Israel was being gathered to God, and already their sin and unworthiness were made apparent by the grace with which a holy God was gathering his children to himself.  Yahveh associated with Passover this call to remember the need in our lives to be separated from that sin which can overtake us and undo our lives.  Again we are pointed to the gracious mercy of our God, who alone can absolve us of our sin and, through his Spirit, maintain our hearts as separated from the world and devoted to him.

 

 

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The Feast of Firstfruits

The Feast of Firstfruits is also appended to the Feast of Passover. On the day after the Sabbath of the week of Unleavened Bread there is to be a ceremony which acknowledges the inception of the yearly harvest:

“Yahveh said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the  land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest.  He is to wave the sheaf before Yahveh so it will be accepted on  your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. …This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.”[29]

This festival seems quite straightforward, with no obvious suggestion that it portends any future event.  The Feast of Firstfruits, so commanded, lay in place over centuries, until there came an event of such magnitude that it resonated against this day and the people of Yahveh were ever more certain that it is their God alone who watches over them.

 

 

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The Feast of Weeks [Shavuot/ Pentecost]

The fourth feast sits at the center of symmetry between the spring feasts and the fall feasts.  It also is counted with reference to Passover.  The Feast of Weeks, known as Shavuot and Pentecost, is counted from the day of Firstfruits…seven weeks up to the day after the Sabbath of the seventh week, making fifty days from the day of Firstfruits.  The counting of these fifty days is in itself a daily ritual, and is called “the counting of the omer.”

“From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks.  Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath,   and then present an offering of new grain to Yahveh.  From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to Yahveh….On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work.  This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to me, wherever you live.”[30]

The days of counting the omer are the days of the passage into the wilderness, from Egypt to Mt. Sinai.  By nearly every interpretation of the Biblical record of the counting of days on the way to Sinai, on the fiftieth day the children of Israel were at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  Although it is not definitively inscribed as such, Rabbinic scholars have held that the fiftieth day was the day Yahveh gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai.  Yahveh came down onto the mountain enshrouded in smoke and fire and spoke aloud the core commandments of the covenant.  After Moses received the remaining commandments from Yahveh and wrote them down, he offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to Yahveh.

“Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people.  They responded, ‘We will do everything Yahveh has said; we will obey.’ Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that Yahveh has made with you in accordance with all these words.’”[31]

This is the covenant by which Israel was transformed from a large clan of descendants into a people, subjects of God their King.  It was at this moment that Yahveh revealed to his people something of his majesty, inviting Moses and the seventy elders to come up into his presence and eat a memorial covenant meal:

“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel.  Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself.  But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.”[32]

This moment then is the formative moment of the people of Israel and the climactic day of Shavuot is equally the anniversary of the giving of the law of the covenant and the anniversary of the formation of Israel as a covenant people.  It is a beautiful and straightforward memorial, ordained by Yahveh.

However, when we go back to consider the elements of its celebration, mystery enters in.  Two loaves of leavened bread are to be waved as an offering before Yahveh.  Why?  Time would tell.  There would come a day when the civilizations of Greece and Rome would make a powerful mix with the culture of Israel, and Shavuot would become known as Pentecost, and the giving of the law at Sinai would become, in Jerusalem, an event in the eyes of the nations: the giving of the law within the heart.

 

 

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The Feast of Trumpets [Yom Teruah]

In counting forward six months from 1 Nisan we pass through the months of Iyyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, Elul [the sixth month, a time of preparation for the events to come], and we arrive in the seventh month, Tishri.  Here begin the High Holy Days, and their scale of reference is grand.

On 1 Tishri, the day of the new moon of Tishri, Yahveh established through Moses Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets.

Yahveh said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.  Do no regular work, but present an offering made to Yahveh by fire.”[33]

First and foremost it is a day chosen by God for teruah, the mournful and penetrating sound of the shofar.  Amos wrote, “When the shofar is sounded in a town, do the people not take alarm?”[34]  The sound of the shofar can inspire both fear and repentance.  Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets, is the beginning of the Days of Awe, up until the Day of Atonement on 10 Tishri.

In the commands to Moses, in the Torah, there is no direct connection between Yom Teruah and any past event, other than the command of Yahveh that it be commemorated each year.  However, ancient tradition has bound this day to the sixth day of Creation, the day upon which Adam and Eve were created.  Therefore 1 Tishri is, from early times, the birthday of humanity.  As the day which is the ultimate starting point of human history, in the first year of human history, 1 Tishri is then also the head of the civil year, Rosh Hashanah. 

Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of the kingship of our God over his creation.  [As also the kings of Israel count the beginnings of their reigns from 1 Tishri, in recognition of the fact that they are nothing more than caretakers on behalf of the One eternal King on the eternal heavenly throne over Israel.]

“When Adam first opened his eyes and human consciousness was born, he immediately understood that the LORD created all things, including himself.  According to midrash, Adam’s first words were  ‘Adonai malakh olam va’ed: The LORD is King for ever and ever.’ [Exodus 15.18].  God then said, ‘Now the whole world will know       that I am King’ and he was very pleased….The birthday of humanity is therefore the Coronation Day for the King of the Universe.  Psalm 47 celebrates the Kingship of God that mentions the ‘shout’ [teruah] and shofar blast of God’s coronation:  ‘God has gone up with a shout [teruah], the LORD with the sound of a trumpet [shofar].’        [Psalm 47.54][35]

So Rosh Hashanah stands as a feast commemorative of the birth of the world while retaining its primary nature as Yom Teruah, Feast of Trumpets, the call to repentance in preparation for the Day of Atonement.  It will come in the last part of our study to consider how Yahveh will uniquely use this day to affirm his being and exercise his kingship.

 

 

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The Day of Atonement

Yahveh designated 10 Tishri as the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.  “Kippur” comes from the root “Kaphar” as used in Psalm 49.7,8 to mean “redeem” or “pay a ransom” to God for a man:

“It [riches/ wealth] cannot redeem a man, or pay his ransom [kaphro] to God…”[36]

Therefore, while Passover describes the sacrifice by which our king paid the price for our sinfulness, the Day of Atonement describes the moment at the end of our days, at the end of the era, when we stand before God and the Book of Life is opened.  At that moment we stand before him with nothing hidden – our lives, our faith, our lack of faith, and the mercy of our Redeemer – in the gravity of knowing that as his children, only by his stripes were we healed.  Only by his death are we at this moment rescued, bought back, redeemed from the fate of death.

“The conqueror I will allow to eat from the tree of Life which is within the paradise of   God….Be faithful though you have to die for it and I will give you the crown of             life….The conqueror shall not be injured by the second death….I will never erase his name from the Book of Life but will own him openly before my Father and his angels.”[37]

Yahveh told Moses, “Atonement is to be made once a year for all of the Israelites.”[38]  10 Tishri is the day in which Israel stands before Yahveh in recognition that only by his covering of our sinfulness may we come to be in his presence.  Where Passover contains all the joy of sudden release, The Day of Atonement stands austere, even dreadful, as if at the summary moment of our lives.

Yom Kippur is the most solemn of all the seven appointments…prepared through the Days of Awe and now ending in a day of compulsory fasting and appearing before God in sacred assembly.

“On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work …because on this day atonement will be made for you to cleanse you….It is a Sabbath of rest and you must deny yourselves [fast]; it is a lasting ordinance…[39]

During the time of the Tabernacle and Temple, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies and presented the blood of sacrifice on this day for his own sin and for the sins of Israel.  This was the only day of the year that anyone was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies.  In preparation he was to sprinkle fire from the altar with incense so that

“the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the Testimony [ark] so that he will not die.” 

With sacrifice, through anointing with blood, the high priest was to make atonement even for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting, and the altar.  He was to sacrifice a goat for the sins of the people and he was to send another scapegoat “bearing their sins” live into the desert.

“The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release  it in the desert.”[40]

Prior to the sacrifice of Yeshua on the cross, this laborious ceremony and solitary point of the year must have illustrated to Israel that only the most severe and directed purposes of Yahveh could free the people from their sin.

Just as it must have filled them with awe that year after year their representative, their mediator, their High Priest, could come successfully before Yahveh on their behalf, so it must have raised their anticipation that someday their Messiah would stand as final mediator before God and offer the full value of their ransom, becoming for them that potent sacrifice of which the yearling lamb was only a symbol.

This annual Yom Kippur ceremony is that which is described in resignation by the author of the book of Hebrews:

“But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never  without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.”[41]

This Atonement ritual of blood and sacrifice came to an end.  The death of Yeshua on the cross caused the curtain over the entrance to the Holy of Holies to be “rent in two,” revealing that Yeshua himself had, by his sacrifice, covered us eternally with his blood and, as our eternal High Priest, had opened the way for all his children to stand blameless before God, to enter the Holy of Holies.  Meanwhile, for all who chose to reject the efficacy of the sacrifice of our Messiah, so for them also the Temple ceremony came to a close, as Rome crushed the Jewish rebellion in 70 A.D., and in the process destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the Temple.

Nevertheless, the honor of the appointed feast of Yom Kippur goes on in our time, especially marking for us that there is a time when sorrowing for our sins, as in the Days of Awe, must culminate in a response, an actual act of repentance, a true turning from sin.  On Yom Kippur we stand before God in dreadful awareness of the massive gesture by which he has entered our world to remove us from our sin, and in dreadful awareness of the total response to which we are called.

Until the coming of Yeshua our King and High Priest, Yom Kippur stood prophetically to point Israel toward the day of Messianic atonement.  Now, in this time, Yom Kippur still stands, always as the time of sober repentance, but also, we believe, as prophetic of things to come.  We will consider the possible significance of this when we review the seven feasts in terms of the actions of Yeshua on our behalf.  It is very possible that a coming Yom Teruah, Feast of Trumpets, will mark the beginning of the seven trumpets of Revelation, calling the world to repentance….leading to a final time of decision for all the world, after the manner of all who have stood before God in the yearly appointment of the Day of Atonement.

 

 

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The Feast of Tabernacles

The Feast of Tabernacles is the climax of the cycle of seven holy “appointments.”  As the long journey of redemption began in the darkness of Egypt, so the High Holy Days begin in sober meditation in the month of Elul up until the 1st day of Tishri.  Then the sliver of the new moon and the call of the shofar mark Yom Teruah, the day of blowing.  And for ten days Israel places itself in the presence of God, until, on the Day of Atonement, we stand before Yahveh in consciousness that we stand before the Judge of the world.

Then, on the 15th, the full moon of Tishri, we are called to remember the goodness of God in the desert of Sinai as we lived in huts with manna to eat and water from the rock and the promise of eternity.  Equally we are called to recognize and give thanks for His goodness which brings us harvest at this time of year.  And we celebrate the faithfulness of God by which He brings us out of the furnace of history and joins us to himself for eternity.

The commandment of this feast through Moses is straightforward, a celebration in recognition of living in huts in the desert of the Exodus and a celebration of the harvest:

“’So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to Yahveh for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest.  On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before Yahveh your God for seven days. …This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month.  Live in booths for seven days.  All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt.  I am Yahveh your God.’”[42]

The analogous command of Yahveh in Deuteronomy emphasizes that this is to be a most joyful celebration for all who are joined within Israel: “Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress.  Be Joyful at your Feast – you, your sons  and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the    fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.”[43] 

The mention here of the deliberate inclusion of servants, widows, and aliens points toward the endtime significance of this feast.   In Exodus Yahveh refers to this feast as the Feast of Ingathering.   Therein lie the overtones which mark this feast as predictive of the great Ingathering of the children of God from all nations, and the celebration which will follow the final Day of Judgment:  the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

Today people fabricate little huts in their back yards or even in their living rooms.  In this time, sleeping and eating [camping out] in a little hut is probably no less awkward than it was in the days of the return from exile when Ezra restored the people to the knowledge of God’s will:

“They found written in the Law, which Yahveh had commanded through Moses, that the    Israelites were to live in booths during the feast of the seventh month and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: ‘Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make booths’ – as it is written.  So the people went  out and brought back branches and built themselves booths on their own roofs, in their  courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim.  The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them.  From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this.  And their joy was very great….”[44]

Undoubtedly the awkwardness only amplifies their joy, living in the knowledge that as they recline in the shade of a small hut their God has actually bent heaven and earth and all of history to the favor of the people whom He gathers to Himself.  I pray that many people in this time will rediscover that they are true children of the Messiah of Israel, that they are themselves the Israel of God.  As they face forward into the darkness of the coming days of persecution, may they take comfort also in the celebration, however awkward, of these wonderful feasts given to us by the appointment of our God in order to direct us to the glory and riches of our kingdom and of all that awaits us.

 

Part III.  The Feasts of Israel and the Messiah of Israel

 

“Every reader of the New Testament knows how frequent are such allusions to the Exodus, the Paschal Lamb, the Paschal Supper, and the feast of unleavened bread.  And that this meaning was intended from the first, not only in reference to the Passover, but to all the feasts, appears from the whole design of the Old Testament, and from the exact correspondence between the types and the antitypes.  Indeed, it is, so to speak, impressed upon the Old Testament by a law of internal necessity.  For when God bound up the future of all nations in the history of Abraham and his seed [Genesis 12.3], He made that history prophetic; and each event, and every rite became, as it were, a bud, destined to open in blossom and ripen into fruit on that tree under the shadow of which all nations    were to be gathered.”

Alfred Edersheim, The Temple, pp. 141,142

 

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Yeshua in the great feasts

In the historical record, in the narrative of Scripture, we see the correspondence between the ancient feasts and the progress of Messianic activity in history.  It is, of course, much more than mere correspondence.  The world groans for restoration.  Rebellion has betrayed the purposes of creation.  A remnant has lived in groaning desire for the victory of their only king, victory to be accomplished by the hand of Emmanuel, the seed of the woman, the Messiah of Israel.

We are all stained by the revolt of our ancestors against God.  Our king, through much preparation, has opened the path for our redemption.  What remains is the dramatic confrontation which shall define the end of the era…the final warning, the final call to repentance, the judgment and harvest through which the faithful will be gathered to their king, and the forces of rebellion swept from the earth.

The passion of Yeshua in the week of his crucifixion was congruent with the pattern laid down in the covenant rituals of Passover and Firstfruits, while the feast of unleavened  bread has always been the leitmotif reminding us of the need for holiness.  The count of fifty days from the original Passover event leads to the day of Pentecost when the  law was given at Mount Sinai, while our king, a millennium and a half later, cautioned his disciples to wait an equal period until on that very same fiftieth day came the revelation of the Holy Spirit by whom we come to know the law within the heart.

Now, at this time in prophetic history, we are in transit between that fulfillment of the Feast of Pentecost and the coming fulfillment of the three great feasts of the seventh month.  In the yearly celebration of the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles we await the resonance of their fulfillment.  By the elements of each feast our God attempts to educate our anticipation of that coming time.  In the sobering hours of Yom Teruah we are able to foresee an ultimate call to repentance for all the world, and, as we shall see, we are also given reason to look back at the glory of that day on which our Messiah was born of a woman.  In the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, we are called to live with our hearts open to the scrutiny and care of our mediator and high priest.  In Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, we are encouraged to remember not only the past but also the great Abrahamic promise and the coming ingathering of the children of God from all nations.  In these feasts we are able to celebrate the full expanse of sacred history, without need to embellish our faith with borrowed pagan rituals.

 

 

ii

Yeshua in Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits

The triumphal exodus of Israel from Egypt circa 1446 B.C. was made possible only by the triumphal entry of Yeshua our Messiah into Jerusalem circa 30 A.D., as the lambs slain on the eve of Passover in Egypt were without meaning apart from their portent of the great sacrifice to come in the city of Jerusalem.  On the 10th of Nisan lambs were chosen for the sacrifice yet to come in the waning hours of the 14th  of Nisan, lambs to be held apart in the home, so that the lamb whose blood was shed would have a face and a character familiar to those who sacrificed him, the lamb also to be scrutinized for final assurance that it was without blemish.  On the 10th of Nisan Yeshua came to the home of his closest friends, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, and ate with them and their guests.  During the following three days he spent evenings with friends and disciples, while each day he spent in the courts of the Temple, opening his heart to the people, to the priests and Pharisees and Sadducees, with these words in his heart:

“If only you [Jerusalem], even you, had only known …what would bring you peace – but   now it is hidden from your eyes.”[45]

Meanwhile the priests and Sadducees and Pharisees questioned and tested Yeshua with questions and riddles, hoping to find fault with him, but in response to the perfection of  his answers they could say nothing.

He was given a mock trial and sent to the cross, but this was a moment crafted in the earliest stirrings of Creation.  The victory of the Passover in Egypt was not founded on a tragedy in Jerusalem.  It was founded on the great victory of our king at the cross:

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”[46]

“Jesus…looked toward heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the time has come.  Glorify your   Son, that your Son may glorify you.”[47]

“Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.”[48]

Yes, on the cross he was “lifted up,” and the cross was his glory.  Upon the cross he spoke the words, “It is finished,”  the completion of that work which he came to earth to perform.  All the treasure of our destiny, the restoration of hope, was secured in those hours of his sacrifice.

“Here at the cross is the man who loves his enemies, the man whose righteousness is  greater than that of the Pharisees, who being rich became poor, who gives his robe to  those who took his cloak, who prays for those who despitefully use him.  The cross is not  a detour or a hurdle on the way to the kingdom, nor is it even the way to the kingdom; it is the kingdom come.”[49]         

A careful harmonization of all the gospel accounts reveals that on 14 Nisan, in the waning hours of the afternoon, as the men of Jerusalem were seeing to the slaughter of their lambs at the Temple, Yeshua was being nailed to the cross at a place called Golgotha, “the place of the skull.”  A day earlier, on the 13th, his disciples had already set about preparations for the coming Passover, and as the sun set, then in the first evening hours of the 14th they joined in a Preparation Day meal.[50]  In that night of the 14th Judas went about his business “to do quickly that which he was to do.”   Yeshua and the eleven left for the Kidron Valley and the Garden.  Yeshua was seized in the night and taken to Caiaphas and Ananias and to Pilate.  By morning there was a decision to put Yeshua to death.  In the brightening of the day he was beaten.  By afternoon he was carrying his cross to Golgotha.  He was, as John tells us, sacrificed that afternoon, on Preparation Day, the 14th of Nisan.[51]  And as it was the Day of Preparation, they hastened to place him in the tomb before nightfall and the beginning of the high Sabbath of Passover.[52]

As Yeshua went to the grave for our sins so all Israel at that moment undertook, in conjunction with Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, in recognition of their profound need to be free of sin, though few recognized that victory over sin was at that moment being achieved within walking distance of their homes.  They saw that the afternoon skies were filled with darkness, but they did not hear the sound of the curtain in the temple being torn in half.

The next day, “the one after Preparation Day” [Passover, in the morning of the 15th , when Israel would have been setting out from Egypt] “the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate” to make sure that the tomb was securely sealed.[53] The following day, the 16th, was the regular weekly Sabbath, the first Sabbath after the high Sabbath of Passover.  The day after that, the 17th, was the first day of the week, the day appointed as the Feast of Firstfruits, and the day on which Yeshua rose from the dead, fulfilling the  prophesy that he would remain in the tomb three days and three nights.

“After the Sabbaths [plural], at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and    the other Mary went to look at the tomb.  There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of    the Lord came down from heaven and going to the tomb rolled back the stone.”[54]

So even his resurrection was in accord with the appointment honored by Israel over a span of  nearly fifteen hundred years, the Feast of Firstfruits.  And Yeshua rose from the dead, firstborn among us his brothers, first in all things, first in the great harvest of God:

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own turn:    Christ the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him,[55]

 

 

iii

Yeshua in the Feast of Weeks  

For seven weeks Israel made its journey from Egypt to Sinai, to its appointed appearance before God.  Yahveh had told Moses that the day would come when he and all of Israel would worship Him at this mountain:

And God said, “I will be with you.  And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have  sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”[56]

It was not the purpose of Yahveh merely to bring an end to physical servitude and relocate his people.  It was his purpose to bind them by covenant as his own.   There are many arguments pro and con as to whether it took exactly 50 days to get to the moment of receiving the covenant at Mt. Sinai.  I believe there is a strong argument in favor of the exact timing.  More important, however, is that Israel, Messianic or not, has consistently held that the day of the giving of the Torah was Shavuot, Pentecost, the 50th day.  And we know that on this same 50th day following the Passover sacrifice of Yeshua, the disciples, having been admonished by Yeshua to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, were gathered together in one place and

“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the    whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that  separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit  and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”[57]

This was that to which John had pointed when he said,

I baptize you with water but he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”[58]

This was the fulfillment of a core prophecy of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, that the day would come when the law, first given in the covenant at Sinai, seemingly on the day of Pentecost, would someday be placed in the heart of all who belong to Yahveh:

“The time is coming,” declares Yahveh, “when I will make a new covenant with the     house of Israel and with the house of Judah…I will put my law in their minds and write it  on their hearts.  I will be their God and they will be my people.”[59]

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your     heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move   you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”[60]

 

 

iv

 

Yeshua in the Feast of Trumpets, Yom Teruah

For Yom Teruah the instructions of Yahveh to Moses seem slight, as if it were the most inconsequential of Feasts:

Yahveh said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you    are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.  Do no regular work, but present an offering made to Yahveh by fire.’”[61]

Tishri 1, Yom Teruah, is the first of the High Holy Days of the seventh month, but, other than that, it is listed among the other feasts with little elaboration.  As it happens, however, its lack of specified purpose portends the rich usage of this day in the designs of God.

The surface of the feast is significant.  It is a new moon feast, a day of new beginnings.  It is also “a day of blowing,” when the shofar is to be sounded, the haunting call which evokes everything from extreme elation to the call to battle to the call to repentance.  As a call to reflection and repentance it exercises its function as point of commencement leading to the Day of Atonement on the 10th of Tishri.

The history of Yom Teruah is significant.  It is of course the inception of the civil New Year, such that in our time its primary celebration is as Rosh Hashanah, New Year’s Day.  However, as we mentioned earlier, the roots of this civil New Year run deep – all the way back to the beginning of the first year of human life on earth, day six of Creation, the day when God created Adam and Eve.  This day in fall is considered to be the first day of human life on earth, therefore the date of the birthday of Adam and the date of the beginning of the rule of God among men.  As anniversary date of the kingdom of Yahveh in the world it is also the date from which the kings of Israel have dated their years of rule as stewards of God over the people of God.

But there is more.  Shepherds and flocks do not abide in fields in the land of promise in the middle of winter.  Even Caesar Augustus would not order a census in the middle of winter.  Since the census, for many, involved migration to the place of birth, it would have been more reasonable in an agrarian society to order it in the fall at the end of the harvest.   In Luke’s account of the birth of John the Baptist and of the birth of Yeshua there are clues to the reasonable season of the birth of Yeshua, and these clues witness to 1 Tishri as that time.

Allow, for the sake of argument, that Yeshua should be born on 1 Tishri, the 1st day of the civil calendar.  As for the year of his birth, we reason as follows.  John began preaching along the Jordan “in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar.”[62]   Yeshua came to John and then began his ministry soon afterward, at the age of “about thirty years.”[63]  [Apparently Luke never ventured to ask him his precise age.]  Precision of “the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar” seems impossible, but the arguments tend to favor the spread of years between 26 and 28 A.D.  Since we are already working with approximations, we might begin by trying the year 27 A.D.  Then the birth of Yeshua would have been 30 years previous, in about 3 B.C.

Now we propose that the birth of Yeshua is on the 1st day of the Hebrew month Tishri in the Gregorian year 3 B.C., or by the Hebrew calendar, Tishri 1, 3759 A.M.[64]   Thus the full date on the Gregorian calendar would have been September 11, 3 B.C.!  By the Hebrew civil calendar it was also Rosh Hashanah, New Year’s Day.

If you imagine or draw two horizontal bars representing the two years prior to the birth of Yeshua, and their monthly divisions, everything is easier to visualize.  [The year 3758 has twelve months and the year 3757 has 13 months, being an adjusted year.]  Counting back 9 months from 1 Tishri, 3759 A.M., places us in the beginning of the 4th month of 3758 A.M., 1 Tevet.  The first day of the fourth month of 3758 is then the date of the conception of Yeshua.

year 3757 A.M.       Aug. 31, 5 B.C. through Sep. 19, 4 B.C.

TIS – HES  – KIS – TEV – SHE – ADA – AD2 -//- NIS – IYA – SIV – TAM – AV  –  ELU

1          2       3       4        5        6A     6B         7        8       9      10      11     12

 

year 3758 A.M.       Sep. 20, 4 B.C. through Sep. 8, 3.B.C.

TIS – HES – KIS – TEV –  SHE – ADA – // –  NIS –   IYA –  SIV –   TAM  –   AV –   ELU

1          2       3        4       5         6             7          8        9        10        11        12

 

year 3759 A.M.         begin September 9, 3 B.C.

TISHRI 1 – Yom Teruah, birth of Yeshua. also Rosh Hashanah

We know from Luke that the pregnancy of Elizabeth with John the Baptist was six months in advance of Mary’s pregnancy with Yeshua.

“In the sixth month [of Elizabeth’s pregnancy], God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a  descendant of David.   The virgin’s name was Mary.”[65]

Gabriel announced to her that the Most High would overshadow her and cause her to bear a child who would  be called the Son of God.  And he advised her of the condition of her relative, Elizabeth:

“Even Elizabeth is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be       barren  is in her sixth month.”[66]

So we can go to our calendar and go back six more months to tentatively locate the conception of John the Baptist.  We traverse the beginning three months of 3758 and the last three months of 3757, placing us at the beginning of the 10th month or 1 Tammuz, in the year 3757 A.M.  Tammuz 1 is the beginning of the 10th month in the civil year, but just four months away from the beginning of the sacred year on 1 Nisan, 3757.

Conveniently, we are able to locate events surrounding the birth of John the Baptist because the annunciation of his birth to his father Zechariah occurred at a very specific time in the sacred calendar.  Zechariah was a priest belonging to the “course” of Abijah.  Under King David the priesthood had been divided into 24 courses or turns, with a fixed [double] rotation through the year, plus the obligation of all courses to be present in the Temple for the three main festival weeks: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.

We know that Zechariah belonged to the course of Abijah[67] and that Abijah held the 8th turn or course.[68]  The rotation was counted from the first Sabbath of the sacred year in Nisan.  As it happens, before the priests of Abijah could have their first regular turn they would have already been in Jerusalem twice for feast weeks, once for the week of Passover and once for the week of Pentecost.  So their first regular turn came in the 10th week of the sacred year.  Counting from the beginning of the sacred year, we come to the middle of the 3rd  month, Sivan, just two weeks prior to the proposed conception of John at the beginning of the 4th month.

Zechariah, serving in the Temple in that 10th week, was standing alone at the altar of incense when Gabriel appeared to him and told him that his wife Elizabeth would bear to him a son to be named John, who would

“go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah… to make ready a people   prepared for the Lord.”[69]

Then we are told,

“When his time of service was completed he returned home.  After this his wife        Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.”[70]

We now have a space of two weeks, the last half of Sivan, in which John could have been conceived.  By this count, going forward nine months, John would have been born on approximately 1 Nisan, the New Year, the new moon, two weeks before Passover.  Allowing for the two week margin, he might also have been born on Passover, on the 15th of Nisan.   There is, of course, a long tradition of expectation that “Elijah”, the one who announces the Messiah, should appear at Passover, for which Elijah’s cup is set out at the Passover feast.

Now, going forward again the six month difference between the two births, from the first weeks of Nisan 3758 we come to the time of the birth of Yeshua between 1 Tishri and 15 Tishri at the beginning of 3759 A.M.  There are interesting Scriptural suggestions tending to favor his birth on both dates.[71]  However, there is another argument which favors 1 Tishri, an argument based on astronomy and the book of Revelation.

Revelation, chapter12, describes the birth of Yeshua and connects his birth to a portent in the heavens:

“And a great portent was seen in heaven, a woman clad in the sun – with the moon under her feet, and a tiara of twelve stars on her head; she was with child, crying in the pangs of travail, in anguish for her delivery… She gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to  shepherd all the nations with an iron flail.”[72]

We circuit the sun in one year, and the backdrop of the zodiac, against which we [if we rise early] see the rising of the sun, is divided into 12 sectors, each inhabited by the figure of a constellation.  One of these constellations is the figure of Virgo, “the woman with a tiara of stars/constellations over her head.”

During a twelfth of the year, in fall, the sun rises in Virgo, during which time she is said to be “clothed in the sun.”  As the sun takes a year to move through the twelve sectors of the zodiac, the moon, orbiting also in nearly the same [ecliptic] plane, makes a full journey by leaps and bounds through the zodiac in 29.5 days.

Only at a very specific time would one be able to see both the sun rising in Virgo [roughly September] and also the moon rising under the feet of Virgo.  In the zodiac, solar position describes months and lunar position defines days.  According to NASA computations and the research of many others, this conjunction could only have happened on one day in the vicinity of 4 B.C. to 3 B.C.: that is on September 11, 3 B.C. or the new moon of 1 Tishri in 3759 Anno Mundi.  At that time the stars within Virgo would have been on the eastern horizon in the night sky, with the sliver of the new moon under her feet, the stars then fading into dawn as the sun rose in that same position of the horizon, “clothing her in the sun.”

This moment, according to Revelation, defines the moment of the birth of Yeshua.  This approximate moment is strongly suggested by the chronology surrounding the birth of John the Baptist.  The birth of our Messiah on 1 Tishri would have been the new moon of Yom Teruah, the day of blowing the shofar, the first of the High Holy Days of the year 3759 A.M.  He would so come into the world on the birthday of Creation.  He, the second Adam, coming into his world on the anniversary of the birth of the first Adam.

There is one final aspect of Yom Teruah which we must consider.  That is to ask what will be the eventual realization of this feast in the unfolding fabric of history.  What does it portend for the future?  What does it tell us about the coming return of our king?

My own suspicion is that the Feast of Yom Teruah, the day of blowing the shofar, will soon find its reality in history as the seven trumpets of Revelation.  As the shofar on 1 Tishri is meant to call us to repentance in preparation for standing before our God on the Day of Atonement, so the seven trumpets of Revelation are Yahveh’s final call to the people of all the earth to come before him in repentance, to turn from their rebellion and to devote their hearts to their God, all in preparation for a coming day of judgment.

That final call, sounded on the seven trumpets of Revelation,[73] is a series of warnings even more grave than the warnings given in Egypt leading up to the Exodus: hail and fire mixed with blood, a mountain on fire hurled into the sea, a star name Wormwood disturbing our sources of fresh water, the darkening of sun and moon, a plague of demonic locusts from the abyss attacking mankind, the attack of a great cavalry of cross-species beings, and a final curse of seven bowls of wrath laying waste the earth… as the armies of the nations surround Jerusalem and make war upon each other.  With each trumpet there will be the opportunity to turn to our Creator, but those who persevere in rebellion will ultimately be called before God, along with everyone else, to declare the virtue of their purposes and their actions.  Every soul who ever lived will stand and  make his case before God.

 

 

 

v

Yeshua in the Day of Atonement

Out of Yom Teruah and the Days of Awe comes the Day of Atonement.  Out of the time of the seven trumpets comes an end to all speculation about our place in the heart of God.  All that we have hoped for begins to happen.

“In the days of the seventh [last] angel’s [shofar] voice, …then shall the secret purpose of God be fulfilled, as he assured his servants the prophets.[74]

We are told the secret purpose of God in the book of Ephesians:

“And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which   he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.[75]

Such is the ultimate atonement, redemption and union with our God.

“Then the seventh angel blew; and loud voices followed in heaven, crying, ‘The rule of  the world has passed to our Lord and his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.’   Then the four and twenty Presbyters who are seated on their thrones before God, fell on  their faces and worshipped God, saying, ‘We thank thee, Lord God almighty, who art    and wast that thou hast assumed thy great power and begun to reign; the nations were  enraged, but thy wrath has come, the time has come for the dead to be judged, the time    for rewarding thy servants the prophets and the saints who reverence thy name, both low and high, the time for destroying the destroyers of the earth.’”[76]

After Michael and Satan fought in heaven, Michael prevailed, curiously “through the blood of the Lamb” and the witness of the saints.  As a result there was “no more place” for Satan and his angels in heaven.  It will be the same on earth.   Once the partisans of rebellion have staged their battles against our king, once they have fully demonstrated the emptiness of their purposes, there will no longer be a place for them in this world.

The City of God will then truly become the home of those who have given their hearts to their king.  Out of the time of the seventh trumpet will have come a time of confusion and battle, but out of it all will come the faithfulness of those who know their God, and God’s harvest of those who have remained faithful.

vi

Yeshua in the Feast of Tabernacles

Ostensibly a feast to celebrate having lived in huts in the Sinai Desert, Yahveh himself also calls Tabernacles the Feast of Ingathering.  This is the season of the year for the harvest to be brought in and the goodness of God to be celebrated.  This portends also the time in history when our God will gather in his people from all the earth.  This is the festival above all others in which it is emphasized that all nations shall participate.

This is the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, toward which all hope advances, our celebration at table with Abraham and Moses and Yeshua our king.  In the Jewish wedding of ancient tradition, the consummation of the marriage was followed by a week of celebration, the marriage feast.  We are the bride of Yeshua our Messiah, and the consummation of our marriage will be celebrated.  The week of Sukkot looks forward to that day.  John describes in Revelation the coming of that day:

Then I heard a cry like the shout of a great host and the sound of may waves and the  roar of heavy thunder – “Hallelujah! Now the Lord our God almighty reigns!  Let us       rejoice and triumph, let us give him the glory!  For now comes the marriage of the Lamb. His bride has arrayed herself.  Yea, she is allowed to put on fine linen, dazzling white.”   The white linen is the righteous conduct of the saints.  Then I was told, “Write this:    ‘Blessed are those who have been called to the marriage-banquet of the Lamb!’”[77]

Zechariah describes the importance the Feast of Tabernacles will have in the millennium following the return of our king:

Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him….The Lord will be         king over the whole earth.  On that day there will be one Lord and his name the only    name….Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.[78]

Sukkot will become the great enduring victory festival for all the earth.

 

 

 

vii

In conclusion, How, after so much time, do we presume to meddle with the celebration of Christmas, or presume to adopt the unfamiliar practices of the seven feasts of Israel?  It would be misguided to expect the synagogue to welcome us with open arms. It is unlikely that they would show great interest in teaching us their ways.  For them, most of us will be outsiders.

But, of course, that is not the point.  It does not matter what men think of us.  Paul addressed this situation so clearly:

A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and  physical.  No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of  the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.  Such a man’s praise is not from men,  but from God.[79]

Furthermore we are not interested in breaking into the ossified habits of a Judaism which spurns the idea of personal salvation and counts on the collective destiny of genetic Israel.

If we choose to adhere to the appointments of our king, it is between us and our king.  We may never know anything but the most awkward relationship to the synagogue.  But our love for the God of history can shine even more clearly through the clumsiness of our heartfelt festival arrangements.  The temple and the synagogue were essential components of the old covenant tradition.  But in our time, He is our tabernacle and we are His.  We live each moment in the presence of our king, and nothing can deprive us of the richness of these festivals undertaken in intimacy with our king.

Let the question persist!  Hasn’t God found Christian culture to be an adequate culture within which to call men to himself?  I don’t know how to answer that question.  I believe the vast majority of Christian culture does not lead us to God; tragically, for most, this culture is something we have to overcome.  For me, Christian culture has been both a foundation and an obstacle.  The church does not lead men to Yeshua because the church does not know or seek Yeshua.  They entertain themselves with scripts of morality and formulas for salvation, while not at all seeking the Spirit and presence of God.   Exactly as in the time of his first coming, there is hardly a faction of the church which will confess that Yeshua is at this moment seated on the throne of David, the eternal heavenly throne, ruling victoriously over his people through the power and presence of his Spirit.

No. The traditions of Christian institutions are not enough.  Furthermore, a change is taking place.  We are on the threshold of the return of our king.  He is not returning in order to silently ignore the feasts which we ignore.  As we see, the Feast of Tabernacles will be the centerpiece of worldwide celebration.  Nor will he graciously abandon the seventh day Sabbath to honor the day chosen by Rome.  He is not returning merely as our personal savior.  He is returning as Lord of lords and King of kings; he is returning as King over his people Israel, to rule victoriously from Jerusalem.  For this reason he is calling out to his people to see him with greater precision, with increasing historical accuracy.

When Yeshua comes, what will glorify him will be warriors who serve him as faithful subjects of the realm, not skeptics watching for him to prove to them the validity of his “candidacy.”

We are in the time of prophecy.  Zechariah describes this time, this time of change, a time of new cultural imperatives.  For us who have grown up in traditionally Christian environments such changes are awkward, to say the least.  But I believe that each of us is obliged to present ourselves prayerfully before God and seek his will on this issue of the appointed feasts, each in his unique environment, each in his unique mission for our king.

Again the word of the Lord Almighty came to me.  This is what the Lord Almighty says:  “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months will become  joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah.  Therefore love truth and peace.”

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities   will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at    once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty.  I myself am going.’  And many    peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to   entreat him.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten men from all languages and      nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with    you, because we have heard that God is with you.’[80]

 

© Copyright 2014

Lawrence S. Jones

Chicago, Illinois

Email: lstewartj@sbcglobal.net

website: www.jerusalemgraffiti.com

 

[1] Isaiah 1.11,13,14,15

[2][2] The Catholic institution is quite open in bragging that its historic establishment of Sunday as the day of worship rather than the historic Sabbath is prime evidence that its own pronouncements “carry all the weight of Scripture and divine decree.”

[3] This core truth of the kingdom of God is little discussed and little recognized in the modern world, but it is the very truth which shall most vividly describe itself in the coming years.  I discuss this at great length in other essays.

[4] Acts 2.36

[5] Romans 9. 6,8

[6] Romans 2.28,29

[7] John 14.6

[8] Deuteronomy 5.10

[9] Comah, Haggai 2.7f

[10] Jeremiah 10.3,4

[11] Matthew 15.8,9

[12] Mark 7.9

[13] Isaiah 66.23

[14] Ezekiel, chapters 45,46

[15] Hosea 12.9

[16] Zechariah 14.16

[17] In the Hebrew calendar, days begin at sundown, therefore all regular Sabbaths and Festival Sabbaths begin at sundown on the day before it is listed in the calendar.

[18] Psalm 19.4-6

[19] Enoch 74.2

[20] Enoch 80.2

[21] Genesis 7.11,24; 8.3,4

[22] Galloway, William Brown, Egypt’s Record of Time to the Exodus of Israel: Critically Investigated, p. 155

[23] Genesis 15.13,14

[24] Exodus 12.40-42

[25] In Hebrew, “between the evenings”; see Edersheim, The Temple, p.142, “The lamb was to be killed on the eve of the 14th, or rather, as the phrase is, ‘between the two evenings’ [Exodus 12.6; Leviticus 23.5; Numbers 9:3,5].  According to the Samaritans, the Karaite Jews, and many modern interpreters, this means between sunset and complete darkness [or, say, between six and seven p.m.]; but from the contemporary testimonies of Josephus, and from Talmudic authorities, there cannot be a doubt that, at the time of our Lord, it was regarded as the interval between the sun’s commencing to decline and his actual disappearance.  This allows for sufficient period for the numerous lambs which had to be killed, and agrees with the traditional account that on the eve of the Passover the daily evening sacrifice was offered an hour, or if it fell on a Friday, two hours, before the usual time.”

[26] days begin at sundown

[27] exodus 6.6,7,8

[28] Exodus 12.15

[29] Leviticus 23.9-11

[30] Leviticus 23.15-17,21

[31] Exodus 24.7,8

[32] Exodus 24.9-11

[33] Leviticus 23.23-25

[34] Amos 3.6

[35] hebrew4christians.com, Teshuvah and Creation, John J. Parsons

[36] Psalm 49.7,8

[37] Revelation 2.7,10,11; 3.5

[38] Leviticus 16.34

[39] Leviticus 16.29-31

[40] Leviticus 16.22

[41] Hebrews 9.7

[42] Leviticus 23.39-43

[43] Deuteronomy 16.13,14

[44] Nehemiah 8.14-17

[45] Luke 20.42

[46] John 12.23

[47] John 17.1

[48] John 13.31

[49] John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, p. 51

[50] John 13.2

[51] John 19.14,31

[52] John 19.42

[53] Matthew 27.62

[54] Matthew 28.1

[55] I Corinthians 15.22,23

[56] Exodus 3.12

[57] Acts 2.2-4

[58] Mark 1.8

[59] Jeremiah 31.31,33

[60] Ezekiel 36.26,27

[61] Leviticus 23.23-25

[62] Luke 3.1-3

[63] Luke 3.21-23

[64] Anno Mundi, dated from  Creation –however under the influence of the “Babylonian adjusted calendar”.

[65] Luke 1.26,27

[66] Luke 1.36

[67] Luke 1.5

[68] I Chronicles 24.10

[69] Luke 1.17

[70] Luke 1.23,24

[71] See Luke 2.10; Zechariah 14.16-19

[72] Revelation 12.1,2,5

[73] Revelation 8.1 through 11.18

[74] Revelation 10.7

[75] Ephesians 1.9,10

[76] Revelation 11.15-18

[77] Revelation 19.6-9

[78] Zechariah 14.5,9,16

[79] Romans 2.28,29

[80] Zechariah 8.18-23

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