Last September issue, I shared with you the wonderful things I learned when I attended celebration one of the Biblical feasts, which is Rosh Hashanah. It is part of the three High Holy Days being observed by the Jewish community during this time of year. The other holy days are Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacle). Yom Kippur is observed every 10th day of the seventh month (Tishrei) of the Jewish calendar. It is a one-day event and is normally observed in a most solemn way and usually with fasting and praying. Yom Kippur fell between 8th and 9th of October this year. Sukkot on the other hand is observed five days after Yom Kippur, that is every 15th day of the seventh month. This feast is celebrated for eight days with the first and the last day being the most holy days. Sukkot is also known as Feast of Ingathering and is being observed with joyous celebration. Sukkot is also known as Feast of Booths as the Jewish people observing it make temporary shelter or booths made of branches or poles as pillars and leaves as roof. They would decorate it with fruits and vegetables hanging around it. As a believer in the Lord, I was both joyful and sad when I celebrated the high holy days. I had so much joy because I am beginning to understand the Jewish roots of our faith and how rich the eschatological truths about these God’s appointed times. However, I also felt sad because as a Christian believer, we were never taught about these things and we missed out a lot of blessings and joy of knowing God’s perfect plan through His appointed feasts. As Christians, we celebrated holidays and festivities of the world, which are mere traditions of men and we even tried to Christianize these holidays or put a Christian flavour to worldly (most of them are pagan) holidays to somehow make it Biblically compliant. However, no matter how we Christianize these worldly holidays and feasts, they will never be God’s appointed times. It is my prayer that you will share the joy that I have as I relay to you the experience I had in celebrating God’s appointed times.
Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
Lev 23:26-32 “And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a Day of Atonement: it shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And ye shall do no work in that same day for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. Ye shall do no manner of work it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be unto you a Sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your Sabbath.“
During the 1st and 2nd Temple periods, the high priest would go to the holy of holies on Yom Kippur for the atonement of his sins and sins of the people. However, there were instances wherein some high priests who went inside the holy of holies never made it back alive. Because of these, they developed a practice to tie a rope around the high priest’s body and a bell whenever he would go inside the holy of holies so that they would know whether he was still alive or not and if they don’t hear anything anymore, they would pull the rope to bring his body out from the holy of holies. Another significant practice they would do during those times was that they would select two goats, one will be sacrificed as a sin offering to the Lord and the other one will be used as a scapegoat (Lev 16:1-34).
Yom Kippur started on the sunset (around 6:00 PM) of Wednesday, October 8, 2008 (Jewish Year 5769). The children of Israel and the Messianic believers welcomed this holy day with fasting and will last until the sunset of the next day in accordance to the command of God. They are expected to fast except the nursing mothers, the children and those who are sick. There are three kinds of fasting:
•1. Normal fast – No food but with water
•2. Absolute fast – No food or water
•3. Partial fast – missing a meal or to give up some favourite food
They celebrated it with a Kol Nidre service around 7:00 PM. The Kol Nidre, which literally means “all vows” is the holiest Jewish prayer and is recited several times on Yom Kippur. For Messianic believers, Jewish people believing in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), they would recite prayers or liturgies similar to bondage breaker to remove any foothold of Satan in our lives due to our unconfessed sins, habitual sins, unforgiving spirit or careless acts that were not pleasing before God. There were also prayers asking God for forgiveness for any careless vows we made before God in the past year or so. This is also the time when everybody do a lot of soul-searching and asking forgiveness and forgiving each other for any fault done in the past. Another holy convocation or assembly was made in the morning the next day. They would continue to have a very solemn assembly and everybody was praying to God and reflected on His holiness. They continued to recite a few more liturgies, which were quoted from the Bible and sang songs that were appropriate for the solemn convocation. Again they would come back at sunset (around 6:00 PM) to break the fast by uttering a few more prayers and liturgies. The evening service was the shortest and they would do the “Oneg” (which means “joy of the Sabbath”), by sharing the meal together.
There were several past events that happened that reflected the solemnity of this holy day:
•1. The first Yom Kippur (“Yom” means day and “Kippur” means covering) happened in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned against God and He made them garments of skin of the animal to cover them. By getting the skin of the animal, God has to kill the animal and shed its blood to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve. This became a symbolism of blood sacrifice as Heb 9:22 “…without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness“.
•2. There were some beliefs among the Rabbis that this was the day when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sin entered into mankind. This was the day of great sorrow for mankind as we were separated from the Holy God because of sin.
•3. Some believed that God made His first judgement to mankind and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, thus this day is commemorated as God’s judgment day.
•4. This was the time when the children of Israel became very sorrowful and repented from their sins due to the “golden calf” incident and God saw the sincerity of their hearts and He forgave them and replaced the two tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments. (Exo 33-34)
•5. This was also the time when the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, died for offering a strange fire before the Lord. In Lev 10:3 “By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy and before all the people I will be honoured.” (NASB). God showed us that He is Holy and we cannot just approach Him in just any manner we like but rather in the manner He wants.
•6. This was the foreshadow and a physical manifestation of spiritual truth whereby Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), being our High Priest, entered the Holy of Holies for the atonement of our sins. In Heb 9:11-12 “But Christ being come a High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.“
Oddly enough, many Jewish Rabbis believe that Yom Kippur is the day when God judges His people. It is the day when God opens the Book of Life and determines who will live and who will die the following year. That is the reason why the Jewish people would go to synagogue and pray hard to God for the forgiveness of their sins and hoping that God will favour them and let them live for another year. Whether this is true or not, we don’t know but for the Messianic believers, those who trust in Messiah Yeshua, would take this as a time to reflect on God’s holiness and express our gratefulness for the salvation we have in God’s Son who atoned us from our sins. Messianic believers would take Yom Kippur as a physical representation of spiritual truth and they believe that it represents the time of God’s judgement on the last day, when the Book of Life will be opened and those who belong to the Lord will go to life everlasting and those who are not will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).
Feast of Sukkot
This Feast is also known as the Feast of Booth (Hebrew for Sukkah) or Feast of Tabernacle or Feast of Ingathering and is the last Biblical feast for the year. This Feast was described in Lev 23:39-42 “Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a Sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a Sabbath. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths“
The Jewish people including the Messianic believers started to celebrate this feast on the sunset of Monday, October 13 and ended on the sunset of October 22, 2008. We were invited by a Jewish believer to join them in their celebration at their home. He built a booth or a Sukkah at his backyard. The booth has a cloth covering on the three sides and open on the front. The roof was made of leaves and branches that cover most of the sunlight in the daytime but enough to see the stars at night. He decorated it with fruits and vegetables all around it as God commanded the children of Israel. There at the booth, we prayed and thank God for all His blessings and we joyfully shared the meal and the word of God. It was a joyous occasion and I am looking forward to celebrate it once again.
The next day, we attended the Sukkot service at the Shul (literally means place of learning or also known as synagogue) and worship the Lord together. The Messianic Rabbi explained the significance of Sukkot especially for the believers of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ).
Significance of Sukkot
•1. Sukkot is one of the three festival feasts that the men of Israel should appear before the Lord God (Exo 23:14-17)
•2. It is a commemoration to remember the children of Israel who lived in booths in the desert when God took them out of Egypt. (Lev 23:42-43)
•3. The first Temple was dedicated to God by Solomon on Sukkot (1 King 8:1-5)
•4. Ezra and Nehemiah read the Law to the children of Israel for the first time after coming back from exile in Babylon (Ezra 3:1-5; Neh 7:73-8:3, 13-18).
Some significant commemoration of Sukkot
•1. The theme of Sukkot is “God tabernacles or dwells among us”
•2. It is celebrated by building booths
•3. It is a time of thanksgiving
•4. People would march around carrying palm leaves while praising God.
Sukkot – Probable birth of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ)
Although nobody knows when exactly was the birth of Christ but there is a lot of indications or clues that it may have been during the feast of Sukkot for the following reasons:
•1. There were shepherds out in the field (Luk 2:8), thus the birth of Christ was not December for it is wintertime and shepherds cannot tend their sheeps that time.
•2. There was a census and everyone should register in his own city where his family belonged (Luk 2:1-5). The only way to accurately implement the census without resistance will be during the 3 appointed Feasts when the men of Israel were obliged to present themselves to God in Israel and Sukkot is one of them.
•3. Yeshua (Jesus) was called Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matt 1:23). This is the theme of Sukkot.
•4. He was born in a manger (Hebrew is fatne – a container usually in a barn or stable from which cattle or horses feed). The housing of the stable was normally a temporary shelter, which resembles like a booth or Sukkah.
If ever we want to celebrate the birth of Christ, isn’t it better to celebrate Sukkot instead of Christmas? Sukkot is God’s appointed time while Christmas is not and will never be.
Sukkot will be celebrated in the future
•1. All nations and all families of the earth will celebrate Feast of Booths on the millennial kingdom of Christ (Zech 14:16-19)
•2. A great multitude in white robes holding palm branches will celebrate Feast of Tabernacle (Sukkot) in Heaven. (Rev 7:9-17)
Some Christians may argue that these feasts are no longer valid because these are Jewish traditions and are but traditions of men. In Lev 23:1-44, we can see that these were the commandments of God and in verse 44 it referred to these feasts as “God’s appointed times”.
Some Christians may argue that we are now under new covenant thus we no longer have to celebrate the Feasts. In Lev 23:31, 41, God said that Yom Kippur and Sukkot are both perpetual statute throughout your generations. If they are perpetual then it means they are continuous or forever. In Psa 89:34, God said “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.“ In this verse it is very clear that God will not alter His covenant. In Numbers 23:19, it was written that “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?“ Time and time again, God made Himself clear that He never changes and it was all written in the Bible:
1Sa 15:29 “And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent for He is not a man, that He should repent.”
Mal 3:6 “For am the LORD, I change not.“
Heb 13:8 “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever“
Yeshua (Jesus) said in Mat 5:17-18 “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled“. I believe that He fulfilled some of the Feasts and He will fulfill the rest when He comes back in God’s Appointed Times.
If Christians don’t want to celebrate the Biblical feasts, then why are we celebrating worldly festivities such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, All Saints day, All Souls day, Easter (instead of Passover?), Mother’s day and many others? Why are we trying to Christianize worldly feasts? Will it not be better if we commemorate God’s appointed times instead? God placed these feasts for a purpose and it will bring us more blessing and joy if we come to understand and practice them.
God’s Appointed Times (Lev 23) “So Moses declared to the sons of Israel the appointed times of the Lord” (Lev 23:44 – NASB) Name of Feast Fulfillment Reference
Sabbath (v. 3) Heaven’s rest Heb 4:9-11; Rev 21-22
Pesach/Passover (v. 5) Death of Jesus Christ Jn 1:29; Luk 22-23
Early First Fruit (v. 10) Resurrection Luk 24; 1 Cor 15:23
Unleavened Bread (v. 6) Sinless life of Jesus Christ Heb 4:15
Shavout / Pentecost (v. 16) Giving of the Law/ Holy Spirit Acts 2:1-4
Trumpets (v. 24) 2nd Coming? / Crowning of Yeshua as King of Israel? 1 Thes 4:16-17
Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement (v. 27) Judgment Day? Rev 20:11-15
Booth (v. 34) Birth of Christ? / Millennial Reign? / new Jerusalem? Zech 14:16-19; Matt 1:23; Rev 7:9-17