Friday, September 27, 2019

Remembrance and Concealment

Image by Ponciano on Pixabay

When I celebrate New Year's Day, I look back on the previous year and remember.  Do you?  There is also a remembrance aspect to Rosh HaShanah, the New Year's Day on the Jewish civil calendar, which is why one of the names for Rosh HaShanah is Day of Remembrance (Yom HaZikkaron).  But, remember ... what?  What is remembered on Rosh HaShanah?

You may be surprised to learn that here is something Jews believe in common with biblical Creationists:  that the Earth is almost 6000 years old, as opposed to many millions.  While this seems like a strange seque, it is relevant.

Do you know what year it is?  2019, you say.  But, on the Jewish calendar, do you know what year it is today (September 26, 2019)?  It is 5779, and will become 5780 on Rosh HaShanah.

Through the centuries, Jews have believed that God has a 7000 year plan for the Earth,1 a timeline which mirrors in millennia each of the 7 days of Creation (one day of creation for each thousand years).  So, the Creation (some say Man/Adam) was initiated on Tishri 1, and we are living in "Day Six", so to speak.  Day 7 of Creation was the first Sabbath, and "Day 7" in millennia will be the Millennial Reign of Messiah, whom we know is Jesus Christ.
When God, in the time of Moses, rotated the months so that Aviv (Nisan) became the first month on the religious calendar, Tishri then became the seventh month, the "Sabbath month".  Accordingly, it represents the seventh millennium in the 7000 year plan of God.  Ancient Jewish prophets and scholars spoke often of this period called the Messianic Kingdom.

So, the creation of the world is one thing that is celebrated and remembered on Rosh HaShanah.  What else happened, according to Jewish history and tradition, on Tishri 1?2
Well, we read in Nehemiah 8:1-9 that on Tishri 1 the prophet Ezra gathered all the returning exiles from Babylon at the Water Gate, where he read to them the Torah (the Law of Moses).  There was a huge outpouring from the people, a tremendous repentance and returning to God.  Further, ...
  • It's believed that Sarah, Rachel and Hannah became pregnant with Isaac, Joseph and Samuel, respectively, on Tishri 1.
  • It's believed that Noah released the dove the third time from the Ark on Tishri 1.
  • It's believed that Abraham bound Isaac to the altar of sacrifice on Mt. Moriah, on Tishri 1. (Torah readings read on Rosh HaShanah are from Genesis 21 and 22.)
{In all three of these bulleted instances, I say "it's believed" because my study of the book of Genesis can find no actual references to Tishri 1 in any of these accounts.}

Regardless, it is established by God in Leviticus 23:24 that Rosh HaShanah is a day of remembrance.  The word "memorial" in that verse is "zikkaron" in the Hebrew.  This is a day when God's people remember His miraculous works and for the people to rededicate themselves to God and His ways.

What does "concealment" have to do with anything?  Rosh HaShanah, Tishri 1, because it falls on the first day of the month, occurs when the new moon may not yet be visible, may still be concealed.  For this reason, Psalm 81:3 is thought to pertain to Rosh HaShanah.

Blow the shofar at the new moon, at the time of the concealed moon.

Each of the 12 "new moons" on the Jewish, lunar calendar is a Rosh Chodesh, a special celebration, a rebirth.  Jewish sages used to say that, when the moon was renewed at the beginning of its cycle, it was being "born again". Paul affirmed, in Colossians 2:16-17, the new moon and the festivals were given by the LORD to teach things to come, particularly things concerning Messiah.  So, this is another beautiful, prophetic aspect of Rosh HaShanah.

Before we leave Colossians 2:16-17, let's take another look, as I wind up this post, because this is an important point for Christians studying these Old Testament festivals.

16Therefore let no one judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a feast, a New Moon, or a Sabbath. 17These are a shadow of the things to come, but the body that casts it belongs to Christ.

These verses tell us that the Jewish practices mentioned in verse 16 pre-figure the future, but that the "body" (heavenly body) that casts the shadow belongs to Jesus Christ, the true Messiah.  So, Jesus Christ eclipses (sorry!) everything; He fulfills and supersedes it all.  Paul was a practicing Jew.  He kept the Sabbath, the festivals, etc. His admonition about letting no one judge Christ-followers as to how each person applies the principles of these Jewish elements to their Christian walk is important.  The more I study the alignment of these feasts to Jesus' life and ministry, finished work and future promises, the more rich my appreciation of them becomes.

I have a precious friend who was born Jewish and who became a Christian in her young adult years.  She is now what you would call a Messianic Christian.  She incorporates many elements of Jewish practice into her life and worship.  She has her doctorate in religious studies and her dissertation was written on this very point of "how much of Old Testament Torah should the modern-day Christian live out?"  As Christians, we know that our salvation is not by our own works or efforts, but instead by the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  That being true, there are many Christians who embrace many of the Old Testament practices as a choice, because they believe doing so honors God.  Some of my best friends in the Hebraic Christian (I have no better term) denominations have no Jewish blood in their veins.  They firmly believe in salvation by grace, through Jesus Christ alone, but they have also recognized the prophetic patterns, the beauty of the festivals of Leviticus 23.  "Keeping" the festivals deepens their worship.

Reflecting on many of the aspects of Rosh HaShanah can be genuinely edifying for all Christians.  Voluntarily undergoing Teshuva, that is, to examine our lives and measure them by God's standard of holiness, to repent and to return to God, to renew our commitment to walk in His ways - - all of these practices are commanded by God.3   (See Lamentations 3:40, Haggai 1:5, Psalm 119:59, Matthew 7:3-5, Galatians 6:3-4, 1 Corinthians 11:28, 2 Corinthians 13:5, James 5:16, 1 John 1:8-9 etc.)  And, when done in light of the truth of the gospel, this can be a healing practice for our spirit.  Furthermore, it is exciting to meditate on the parallels, the precursors for Jesus' return, in light of the Fall Festivals.  We'll look at more of those in upcoming posts.

Paul has given us an outstanding life example.  He practiced in his Christian walk what the Holy Spirit led him to do.  He was an ardent follower of Jesus Christ, believing in salvation by grace and faith alone.  Yet, he was also an observer of the rites and rituals common to the life of a Jewish man.  In the Spirit of Jesus Christ, he extended "life walk latitude" to new believers in Christ, particularly those who were from a Gentile background.  Like Paul, I believe it to be a matter of personal conscience, as the Holy Spirit directs each believer.


1   Good, J. (1998). Rosh HaShanah and the Messianic Kingdom to come: an interpretation of the Feast of Trumpets based upon ancient sources. Nederland, TX: Hatikva 



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