Fall Feasts

“A lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.” Matthew 5:15

The Jewish Hanukkah celebrations began this last Sunday night. We are now on night four. Eight nights of commemoration, celebration, and remembrance centering around a nine branched candelabra.

Hanukkah is a commemoration of the Hanukkah miracle. In order to rededicate the Temple after desecration, the Jews needed to have enough lamp oil to keep the Temple’s menorah lit eternally, but only had enough for one day.

One day versus eternity is quite a shortfall.

But, the insufficient oil miraculously lasted for 8 days. Still a laughable difference, however–not only did this eight day portion allow the rededication to begin, it also gave the Jews enough time to press more oil so that the Temple lamp could stay lit eternally as it is commanded in Temple protocols.

Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. In the tent of meeting, outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the Lord from  evening til morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for generations to come. (Exodus 27:20-21)

God performed a miracle that allowed the Temple to be rededicated and purified.

His people had the will to do it. But it was physically impossible without God inserting Himself into natural reality, commanding physics to rearrange its principles, and giving to men the element they needed to act on the obedience already in their hearts.

There is such encouragement to someone like me to see on record the principle of rededication.

There is a lot of discussion about assurance of salvation. There is now. There always has been.

Can you lose your salvation? If you apostasize does it mean you were never saved? When a professing, discipled Christian defiles himself with rebellion, stubbornness, and periods of recreational sin, is there a way back for them?

Are we once saved, always saved, if saved at all?

Well, no people has ever belonged to God simply by His confession, except for the ancient Israelites.

But, God Himself said repeatedly that there was no people on earth as rebellious, stubborn and determined to sin as the Israelites. He said the most sinful of their neighbors would be aghast at what they did.

God also said of them:

As for you, O people of Israel, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Go right ahead and worship your idols, but sooner or later you will obey me and will stop bringing shame on my holy name by worshipping idols. For on my holy mountain, the great mountain of Israel, says the Sovereign Lord, the people of Israel will someday worship me, and I will accept them. (Ezekiel 20:40-41)

Sooner. Or later. You’ll stop prostituting yourself out to other gods. Sooner or later. And when you do: I. Will. Accept you.

Jesus is the sooner or later. God has unleashed the irrepressible power of His acceptance. The Holy Spirit submerges us in the permanence of God’s confession to keep as as His treasure.

Jesus died for all peoples so that those who would confess Him as Lord would be saved, and adopted into the people of Israel that God unequivocally claimed as His own possession (John 3:16-18; Galatians 3:5-29; Deuteronomy 7:6).

Our confession for Him is one day’s worth of oil to light our Temple lamp. God’s confession for us is eternity’s worth of oil to provide us the means to obey the command that: “There in my presence it is to burn from evening until morning. This command is to be kept forever by the Israelites and their descendants,” Exodus 27:21 (GNT).

The Hanukkah menorah is placed in a window after it is lit, so that everyone who sees will remember the Hanukkah miracle.

We proclaim the Gospel as part of our confession of salvation through Christ.

It can be easy to conflate works of evangelism as our “eternal oil.” The “good things” we do “for God.”

As if God is not capable of exercising all manner of good on earth. As if God does not create and destroy with the perfect goodness of His will and judgment.

No. We put our light on a stand to say, “For one day I had a fleeting moment of belief. Somehow in one hour, my senseless skin felt a touch of the Spirit; and in a hasty moment my mouth broke free from my brain and I confessed Jesus as Lord of my life.”

We act on this one brief portion of the Anointing Spirit that draws near to us. And in return that Oil redoubles and reproduces and grows and increases from age to age– and keeps us forever as a people holy unto the Lord (Deuteronomy 7:6).

 

 

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” Matthew 5:16. 

 

 

Fall Feasts

“I made their ancestors live in shelters.” Leviticus 23:43

The Feast of Tabernacles is instituted in Leviticus 23 as the fever pitch of the Fall Feasts.

”For seven days you must live outside in little shelters. All native born Israelites must live in shelters. This will remind each new generation of Israelites that I made their ancestors live in shelters when I rescued them from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 23:42-43.

It is striking to me that God gives the Israelites the decree to celebrate and commemorate the time that He “made them live in shelters” while they were still living in those shelters!

The Lord commanded them to remember His faithfulness to them in the wilderness even before the wilderness was behind them.

This is not the first time we see this happening. In Exodus 12, God not only commands the Israelites concerning what they have to do to be saved from the angel of death on the first Passover, He simultaneously scripts out the ordinances for celebrating the Passover as “a day to remember” forever.

The Lord calls us to remember His faithfulness to us now, even while we a still in the midst of our trial.

The Feast of Tabernacles in modernity is called Sukkot or Succoth.

In Exodus 12:37, when the Israelites had just experienced the first Passover, Pharaoh begs for them to leave Egypt, and they head for a place called “Succoth.”

Succoth is a borderland. Exodus 13:20 says, “the Israelites left Succoth and camped at Etham on the edge of the wilderness.”

Interestly, even though Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles was established in the wilderness at Mt. Sinai, it is again given attention in Numbers when the Israelites are on the border of the promise land. Numbers 27 sees Joshua taking over leadership and Numbers 28 finds God commanding Moses to reiterate how the feasts and festivals are to be celebrated.

There on the edge of the wilderness, again, God commands “remember me” before He commands “go forth.”

To celebrate being housed while you are still homeless is an act of faith.

Have them celebrate to remember when— but Lord we’re still here in these tents!

The Feast of Tabernacles/Sukkot calls to remembrance God’s faithfulness in the trial.

The establishment of Sukkot at the “borderland,” reminds us that God wants our praise in the midst of the prayer, not just after it’s answered.

He is just as faithful in the wilderness as He is in the borderlands as He is in the promised land. 

Regardless of the changes in your circumstances, He is still the same.

We worship Him for His ability  to act, just as much as we praise Him for acting on our behalf.

 

 

“I go to prepare a place for you.”  – Jesus

 

 

Fall Feasts

“Blow the trumpets with a different signal.” Numbers 10:7

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, just passed us and signals the coming of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the most solemn and holy day of the year for Jews.

Rosh Hashanah means the “Head of the Year.” There are actually four New Years on the Hebrew calendar, but Rosh Hashanah is the “head.” Each new year on the Hebrew calendar is used as a “first day” from which to count a year for a specific thing. The closest our calendar comes to this is April 15th being the start of the fiscal year even though by all other measures the year starts on January 1st.

What makes Rosh Hashanah special is what kind of year it starts. The year that it starts is more important than the others, and because of this, it is the head over the other new years.

Rosh Hashanah is the “New Year of the Sabbatical Year.” From Rosh Hashanah the year is counted out to make sure that every seventh year the land is given a “sabbath” by laying fallow, and that after every seven sevens (49) years, the whole culture in Israel was given the 50th year as not only a sabbath but a “jubilee,” in which every form of bondage and burden was released and lands that were lost were redeemed to their ancestral owners.

This sabbatical new year is considered more important than 1st of Nisan, which is the start date to count in years the rule of a king. This sabbatical new year is more important than 1st of Elul, which calculates the year to determine the timing of giving tithes to the priests. Finally the sabbatical new year is more important than 15th of Shvat. Tu B’Shvat is used as the start date to calculate the age of trees. That might sound a little strange, but it was unlawful to eat from a tree until it was three years old. So, in this case, having a specific date to determine how long three years is becomes very important!

In these new years, I see God’s relationship with His people– with us. Four new years giving detailed care to kings, to priests, to sabbath, and to trees. All images of His kingdom and His peoples experience in it.

The biblical name for Rosh Hashanah is “The Feast of Trumpets.” It is established as “a solemn day of rest and a holy convocation for all time” in Leviticus 23 (paraphrase.) It was to be commemorated by the blasts of trumpets.

Rest and trumpets are not natural companions in my mind, so I looked up every verse relating to trumps, trumpet, trumpets, and trumpeters in the whole of the Bible– Old and New Testament.

What is the quality of a trumpet in the Bible?

The broadest categories of trumpets in the Bible are trumpets signifying God’s approval and trumpets signifying God’s disapproval.*

More specifically there are trumpets that: call to worship, sounds of praise, and jubilation. There are trumps that signal the presence of God, that announce God’s victory and His coming to protect or avenge His people. There are reverent trumpets whose sound lays prostrate the people before God’s terrifying holiness. Another kind of trumpeting signifies the moment in which God’s people can draw near to His holy place– the moment He gives His permission to interact with Him. And finally, trumpets that herald the second coming, the rapture, and the resurrection.

All of these trumpets depict the story arc of God’s covenant, loving relationship to man.

In several passages, the trumpets are used to initiate a “release,” verbatim. In Numbers 10, Exodus 19 and 20, Judges 7, and Revelation 8, the trumpet blasts specifically are what the people, warriors, or angels were waiting to hear to know that it was time to run up, throw caution to the wind, unleash, let loose, go wild, do what they came for and what they were made for, set free, release.

And unironically of course, as I see more and more how poetic God is, the Shmita, the name for that seventh year, the year of rest for the land– the whole reason for having a “head of the year,” Rosh Hashanah– that carefully counted Shmita is known as: “the Year of Release.” 

I still contemplate exactly why God has made the seventh day holy and commands us to remember it, but the Feast of Trumpets insinuates something cosmic, eternal, and divinely orchestrated in the Sabbath that is far more terrifying, powerful, and purposeful than I have considered before– something that we are obliviously a part of as we wait in worldly tension for a release into uninhibited relationship with Him.

*I’ll deal with the “disapproval of God” trumpet references in my upcoming Yom Kippur post.