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The Fall Feasts of Israel

Israel’s three most significant biblical festivals – Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot – are examined in full, including a look at their biblical roots, their celebration in the time of Messiah, and by Jewish people today. The Fall Feasts of Israel is an invaluable guide to help you understand these wonderful biblical festivals as well as their significance for your spiritual life as a believer in Messiah, whether Jew or Gentile.

Excerpts from Chapters 1 and 2

The feasts and laws of the Lord were a tutor (Galatians 3:24) to lead the Israelites to the Savior. The apostle Paul described the Hebrew calendar as a “mere shadow” of what was to come. He wrote, “Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17). The apostle was not condemning those Jewish Christians who wished to continue celebrating the Jewish holidays. Rather, Paul asserted that the festivals lead to Christ.

It is appropriate, therefore, for a Jewish believer to celebrate those holidays in a way that is consistent with the apostolic faith and that exalts the Person of Jesus. Non-Jewish Christians as well must recognize that the festivals of Israel find their fulfilment in Christ and His new covenant. Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the law or the prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfil” (Matthew 5:17). Christians who follow the church calendar will find that understanding the Levitical feasts adds a new depth and dimension to their lives. The feasts of Israel point to Jesus Christ as Lord of time and history.

In Leviticus 23, God calls the feasts of Israel “My appointed times.” It was important for the Israelites to remember that behind the intricate details of each feast stood the God who ordained them, to remember that He created time, and to remember that history bears the image of His presence. The feasts of Israel were God’s appointed times to remind His people that He was Lord of the calendar, the King of creation, and that He was to be worshipped every day. The feasts of the Lord have a great deal to teach all who have crowned Him Lord of their lives.

The fall feasts are unique among the appointed times of the Lord. The lessons they teach form a natural progression of thought: the feast of Trumpets teaches repentance; the Day of Atonement, redemption; and the feast of Tabernacles, rejoicing. On the feast of Trumpets, the sound of the ram’s horn calls upon each Jew to repent and confess his sins before his Maker. The Day of Atonement is that ominous day when peace is made with God. On the feast of Tabernacles, Israel obeys God’s command to rejoice over the harvest and the goodness of God. It is necessary to pass through repentance and redemption in order to experience His joy.

The themes of the fall feasts are especially meaningful to a believer in Jesus. The feasts – and the entire Old Testament – are fulfilled in Christ (Luke 24:26). We must repent of our sins before we can be forgiven by God, but repentance alone is not enough. Every Jew and Gentile must turn toward Christ, accepting His atoning sacrifice at Calvary and receiving Him in joy – unfathomable, everlasting, and indescribable – which this world cannot give or take away.

It would be easier to study the fall feasts if modern Judaism religiously practised the customs in Leviticus. But that is not the case. The feasts of Tishri have been reshaped and reformed over time. In every age, traditions, liturgy, and folklore have been added to their observance. By the time of Christ, every feast had already undergone significant changes when compared to its biblical foundations.

Changes continued after the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. In the early days of the second century, Jewish leaders struggled just to keep the feasts alive. Their task was to adapt the observance of the feasts to the sorrowful reality of the Temple’s destruction. The sacrificial altar had always been the focal point of the feasts. How has Judaism coped through the generations without it? How do Jewish people celebrate the feasts today?

To understand the feasts, we must first investigate what the Bible teaches about each of them, how they were observed in ancient times and in the time of Christ. We will also see how the feasts are celebrated today and will present the more classical beliefs and customs of Judaism. Our book depicts the way a practising Jew would celebrate the “appointed times of the Lord.” Yet we must keep in mind that for many modern Jews, the celebration of the festivals has been reduced to childhood memories. We should not presume that our Jewish friends observe the fall feasts exactly as presented in this book.

Understanding the fall festivals will enrich the lives and walks of believers in Christ. But we must not forget that Judaism is the religion of the rabbis. It is a religion based upon the Old Testament Scriptures, but it also incorporates centuries of Jewish interpretation and teaching. Tradition must not be confused with Scripture, or Judaism with biblical faith.

Nevertheless, as we learn about the fall feasts, we will gain insights into Jewish culture and be equipped to use the holidays to present the gospel to Jewish friends. The feasts of Israel are fulfilled in Jesus, for the entirety of the Old Covenant points to Him, the Lord of the calendar and Master of all.


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