By Sam Nadler
Across the ages, God has sought after the people of Israel, in order to bless them and make them a blessing to many peoples (Genesis 12:2-3). He also gave Israel a sacred trust—to bear His Name and to be the nation from which His redemptive plan for the world would go forth (John 4:22).
This plan is illustrated in the various feasts He ordained. These feasts are called moedim in Hebrew, meaning “appointments” (Leviticus 23:2). In a sense, these times constitute God’s agenda with His redeemed people. Ultimately, they provide a Biblical and historical foundation for faith in Yeshua. Messiah was to be the fulfillment of the Feasts; He is the purpose for their existence. Indeed, all of the Scriptures are fulfilled in Messiah Yeshua, just as with regard to a festival . . . or a Sabbath day— these are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Messiah (Colossians 2:16-17).
Even as all Scripture is inspired and profitable, these “shadows” are relevant for followers of Messiah today, because they never stop pointing to Him (1 Timothy 3:16). God’s appointed times and seasons present us a clearer picture of the amazing, incomprehensible love of God and His eternal redemption. As we grow in understanding of His grace we will be motivated to walk closer with Yeshua.
The calendar as it is laid out begins to unfold in springtime. The first three feasts—Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits—illustrate the redemption accomplished in Yeshua’s first coming. The fourth, Pentecost, speaks of “the Body of Messiah” being established in the earth. In the fall, at the seventh month of the biblical year, we observe Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and Booths. These focus our attention on the period of time yet to come, the consummation of God’s redemptive program and also picture our glorification as Messiah gathers His Harvest: with the Feast of Trumpets, the Body of Messiah is gathered up to Him; with the Day of Atonement, the people of Israel are nationally gathered to Messiah Yeshua (Zechariah 12:10); finally, the Feast of Booths pictures the gathering of all the nations to Messiah.
If so, then currently we are living in the summertime - not just literally for the season, but until the Lord returns. So what does that mean for us? In Leviticus 23:22 we read:
This Scripture teaches that there
comes a summer of service and labor in the fields following
the Feast of Pentecost that directly leads to the fall
harvesting and gathering festivals. This verse gives us
insight and perspective on our lives as believers living for
our blessed hope, the return of Messiah.
However, before we can enter into His
presence as these festivals portray, we need to know how to
appear before the King of kings. In traditional Judaism, the
month preceding the Feasts, called Elul, serves as a time
for proper spiritual preparation. The month Elul is the
sixth month of the Hebrew calendar and falls on August 7
till September 4 this year . One of the customs is the
reciting of Selichot, special prayers for forgiveness
where people consider the profound issues of life and death,
sin and forgiveness. The significance given to these prayers
in traditional Jewish thinking shows up in the three levels
of forgiveness which people hope to attain.
We learn in the New Covenant that
there is One who can fully forgive sins (Matthew 9:6) even
to the core of our being and to the cleansing and healing of
our souls. Hebrews 9:14 states, “how much more will the
blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered
Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from
dead works to serve the living God?”
The Feast of Trumpets reminds us of the day when Messiah will return; let us prepare our hearts that we will not be ashamed at His coming (1 John 2:28). The Day of Atonement reminds us of the day when national Israel will trust in Messiah’s atonement (Zechariah 12:10, 13:1) and will be restored back to God as His servant people. So let us plant those seeds of faith by sharing Yeshua with Jewish people and all people, for the Lord loves us all. And finally the Feast of Tabernacles reminds us that one day He will reign over all as He is glorified by all peoples (Zechariah 14:9). As we approach the High Holy Days during this month of Elul, let us commit to pray not only that we would be prepared, but that in the true forgiveness which comes only through Messiah, Israel and all people will be prepared to meet with the Lord as it says in Amos 4:12, Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.