Michael Boling – The Feasts of the Lord: The Fullfillment of the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost)

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(Jeremiah 31:31-34)
“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

(Acts 2:1-21)
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”

Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.”

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.’

In our first post on the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost), we looked at the agricultural and marital background associated with the remembrance and celebration of this important event. In part two, we examined how the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai is also a vital aspect of the Feast of Shavuot as it symbolizes the betrothal marriage between God and Israel. In this final post on the Feast of Shavuot, we are going to look at how Shavuot was fulfilled in large part in Acts 2 and what it means for us today. Some common assumptions will also be examined for their validity based on the background we have established for what the Feast of Shavuot was all about, most importantly, a time when God and His people exchanged wedding vows.

The prophecy found in Jeremiah 31:31-34 carries great significance for the Feast of Shavuot, specifically as we get to exploring the events found in Acts 2. As we noted in the previous post, celebrating the giving of the law is a major function of the Feast of Shavuot. Additionally, the law was the marriage contract or ketubah between God and His people noting the relational expectations that constituted the manner in which God expected His bride to adhere to. Essentially, the giving of the law was the “I do’s” of the betrothal ceremony. Notice how in Jeremiah 31:32, God describes Himself as a husband further noting the way His bride (Israel), broke the terms of the ketubah. Despite their unfaithfulness, God promised something very important, that of renewing His marriage covenant with Israel and Judah so that the terms of the marriage contract would be written on their hearts in order that they might be a light to the Gentiles. But wait, there’s more!

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Michael Boling – The Feasts of the Lord: The Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost)

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The Feast of Shavuot (The Later First Fruits/Weeks/Pentecost)

“and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field;” (Exodus 23:16)

“And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest,” (Exodus 34:22)

15 ‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. 16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. 17 You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD. 18 And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the LORD. 19 Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. 20 The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. 21 And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. (Leviticus 23:15-21)

26 ‘Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the LORD at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. 27 You shall present a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the LORD: two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, 28 with their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for each bull, two-tenths for the one ram, 29 and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs; 30 also one kid of the goats, to make atonement for you. 31 Be sure they are without blemish. You shall present them with their drink offerings, besides the regular burnt offering with its grain offering. (Numbers 28:26-31)

9 “You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. 10 Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. 11 You shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. 12 And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes. (Deuteronomy 16:9-12) But wait, there’s more!

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Michael Boling – Feasts of the Lord: The Feast of Pesach (Passover)


The Feast of Pesach (Passover)

“And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. “It will come to pass when you come to the land which the LORD will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. “And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ “that you shall say, ‘It [is] the Passover sacrifice of the LORD, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’ ” So the people bowed their heads and worshiped.” (Exodus 12:24-27)

“These [are] the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. On the fourteenth [day] of the first month at twilight [is] the LORD’s Passover.” (Leviticus 23:4-5)

These scriptures demonstrate the Feast of Pesach (Passover) was to be an ordinance to be observed not just by the Israelites as the exited Egypt and not by them as they settled into the Promised Land. It was to be a holy convocation observed by all future generations. Before we examine exactly what is involved in the Feast of Pesach, it is vital to point out this is described by God as a feast of Yahweh. Also notice it was to be observed at a very specific time and date. These are things we will return to later in this study but that I wanted to note at the outset if anything to note this is not just a Jewish feast. It is a feast of the Lord to be observed forever.

So what is the background of the Feast of Pesach? Arguably, this is the most well-known feast outside of perhaps Pentecost. Additionally, many people have likely attended a Passover Seder (service) at some point, either at their own church, a Jewish synagogue or a Messianic Jewish congregation. Thus, much of the background and elements of this feast may be somewhat familiar. Nevertheless, we are going to walk through the background of this feast and how it is celebrated followed by, in the next post, a discussion of how Jesus, as the Passover Lamb, fulfilled this feast. But wait, there’s more!

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Michael Boling – Feast of Hag HaMatzah (Unleavened Bread)

Feast of Hag HaMatzah (Unleavened Bread)

“So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you. So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance.” (Exodus 12:14-17)

“Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days. And no leavened bread shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven be seen among you in all your quarters.” (Exodus 13:7)

“You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life. And no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory for seven days, nor shall any of the meat which you sacrifice the first day at twilight remain overnight until morning.” (Deut. 16:3-4) But wait, there’s more!

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Michael Boling – The Moedim (Genesis 1:14)

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years (Genesis 1:14)

It is that time again when the New Year’s resolution to embark on a yearly bible reading plan commences. As always, the reading begins in Genesis as well it should. After all, this book and especially the first 3 chapters sets the stage and provides the foundation upon which the rest of Scripture rests. Jump ahead devoid of a proper grounding in what happens in Genesis 1-3 and you will find you will become a bit confused as to the overall movement of what God is doing in history.

As I was reading through Genesis 1 this morning, something hit me. Now mind you, like many others, I have lost count of the number of times I have read Genesis 1 whether through a yearly reading plan, personal study, writing a paper for Bible College and/or seminary, or just because there was a need to refer back to that part of the biblical text. With that said, something I am increasingly learning is no matter how many times I come back to the well of Scripture, there is always a bounty of something or other to learn and discover.

The text in question this time around is Genesis 1:14, a seemingly simple verse that speaks of God setting lights in the firmament to divide the day and night and to serve as important markers for signs, seasons, days, and years. Seems simple enough right? God created the sun and the moon so we can know when it is day and when it is night. Well that is what I originally thought until something in particular caught my eye, namely the term seasons. Let me explain.

A couple of years ago, I worked through a study on the Feasts of the Lord. This was a very enlightening study and it not only opened my eyes to how our Messiah is displayed in each and every feast, it also brought to light the reality these feasts are still something the people of God should embrace. After all, they are the Feasts of the Lord and were established by God as an everlasting convocation (a word we shall return to here in a bit) for His people. These appointed times, again established by God, help to provide a purposeful reminder throughout the year of what God has done, is doing, and will do for His people. If you have never looked into them, I highly encourage you to consider doing a study of these feasts. My study can be found here: The Feasts of the Lord.

I noted above the term convocation and the phrase appointed times. Depending on what translation of Scripture you may use, convocation and/or appointed times are used to describe the Feasts of the Lord. The actual Hebrew word is moed which means assembly or appointed time. In the Old Testament, you will find this term used to describe the gathering together of the congregation of the people or to describe the gathering of the people for specific events, such as the Feasts of the Lord. The plural of moed is moedim and you will see that term used when God refers to His feasts in a collective sense.

What struck me about Genesis 1:14 in particular is the fact the term moed is used. It is fascinating, at least to me, to see God setting the foundation for His feasts in the very act of creation. Long before the assembly of the people of Israel were given instructions for Passover as they prepared to flee Egypt and long before they were gathered before God at Mt. Sinai to be given their marriage covenant with Him to include the instructions on how to observe the feasts, God had established at creation there would be appointed times. Additionally, He established the heavenly markers by which we would know the moedim were drawing nigh.

So not only do we have in Genesis 1-3 the reality of God as Creator, the reality of a six day creation event, the first man and woman, the entrance of sin, and the promise of redemption, we also have the establishment, or at the very minimum the signposts for the Feasts of the Lord. This makes these moedim (to include the Sabbath), a creation week event, firmly rooted in the formative chapters of Scripture and unfolding itself throughout the pages of Scripture.

It is interesting that even after all these years of reading through Genesis 1, this interesting factoid had not jumped off the page like it did today. If anything, this is further proof that as we continue to dig and mine the truths of Scripture, we will never be ceased to be amazed at what God reveals to His people if we simply study to show ourselves approved.

Now on to seeing what else God has to show me this year. Let the excitement commence!

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Michael Boling – Thoughts on What Sukkot 2016 Taught Me

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Last night our family enjoyed a wonderful evening with a family from our homeschool association. We had them over a couple of weeks ago to celebrate and remember Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). It was a great experience so we decided to get together once again to celebrate and remember the Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles). While the original plan was to have each family construct their own sukka and to camp out, the very chilly weather forced a change in plans. In the end, we constructed a sukkah, had a delicious meal, a time of excellent Bible Study, sang songs around the fire, and built the bonds of friendship.

As the evening went on, a couple of things struck me about this particular feast. While I have studied the Feast of Sukkot in depth (click here and here for those studies), perhaps it did not hit me when I did that study the true value of why God established these holy convocations. I would like to address three reasons why I believe He set these times aside for His people.

1) They are a time of remembrance. We are a forgetful people. Whether it is the business of our lives or perhaps that we choose to forget things that are very important, we quite simply forget to do and say a great many things. God set aside times throughout the year for His people to slow down and remember. During these God appointed times, we are to reflect on what God has done, is doing, and will do for us as His children. God commanded us to observe these times and it is our solemn and joyful duty to obey that command. We remember His deliverance of His people from bondage and in turn reflect on our own deliverance from bondage to sin. We reflect on the need for repentance. We reflect on God’s holiness. We reflect on His relationship with us. We reflect on His provision. We reflect on His mercy and grace by providing the Passover Lamb, Yeshua our Messiah. In each Feast of the Lord, we are commanded by God to remember, reflect, meditate, and in turn to praise God for all He has done.

2) They are a time of fellowship. This reality became very evident for me last night. The Feasts of the Lord are not to be celebrated in isolation from fellow believers. Conversely, they are a time of fellowship and community. They provide a means to gather together, study God’s Word, pray, lift one another up, celebrate, and again to remember. As we gathered around the campfire and sang songs in praise to God, I could readily observe two families growing together in the faith. As a parent, I was thrilled to observe our daughter and the daughters of our friends sing out in praise to God as well as growing closer together. These holy convocations are truly a time of building godly relationships.

3) The Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles) reveals the true mean of Jesus being Emmanuel – God with us. I was struck by the meaning of this feast as we read the passages in Leviticus and elsewhere that outline why God established this Feast. In particular, I was again in awe that God desires to tabernacle with us. If we journey back to the Garden of Eden, we see God walked with Adam and Eve in a truly physical sense. Think about that. The Creator directly relating with His creation. Sin of course marred that, but God provided hope in Genesis 3:15, a hope that came to fruition when Jesus came. Our Messiah, the Emmanuel, died and rose again. Yeshua noted in John 14:3 a beautiful promise that really drives home what Sukkot is all about:

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

As our bridegroom, he is preparing a place for us and he will return for his bride. God will once again dwell with His creation. He will literally tabernacle with us. I don’t know about you, but I look forward to that day. Until that day comes, we are to be a chaste and holy bride, cleaning out the leaven (sin) in our lives and growing in relationship with our Lord through the work of the Holy Spirit.

I firmly believe these Feasts are not just something to study or to think about. I understand many take the position they were for the Jews and that Christians are provided a pass based on how their own conscience feels or that grace has someone trumped the necessity to remember these times. In my humble opinion, that is not what Paul is describing in Colossians 2:16 or Romans 14:5. Paul notes that when we celebrate special days, we are to do them to the Lord. Why? Because we love Him, He commanded His people do observe these days, and they bring us closer in knowledge and understanding of what God has done, is doing, and will do for His people. One can also note regarding Colossians 2:16 that we should not worry about what people think of us as we celebrate these days. If anything, Paul was exhorting the reader not to be puffed up like the religious leaders who observed the feasts yet ignored their meaning. Ritual devoid of truth and conducted in pride is sin. Times of remembrance done to give glory to God are wonderful and reveal the true reason for why these times are to be observed….yes observed even today. I realize there is some level of debate on all that, but in my own experience, observing these times has been nothing but beneficial.

For our two families, this was a glorious time. I wish we could have done some camping, but it was just too nippy. When all was said and done, we grew closer to God which after all is the ultimate purpose of why God desires us to remember these special times each and every year. They drive us to His feet. They drive us to the cross. They remind us of what a holy, loving, and mighty God we serve.

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Michael Boling – Feasts of the Lord: The Fulfillment of the Feast of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)

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“Don’t let yourselves be disturbed. Trust in God and trust in me. In my Father’s house are many places to live. If there weren’t, I would have told you; because I am going there to prepare a place for you. Since I am going and preparing a place for you, I will return to take you with me; so that where I am, you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had passed away, and the sea was no longer there. Also I saw the holy city, New Yerushalayim, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “See! God’s Sh’khinah is with mankind, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and he himself, God-with-them, will be their God.” (Revelation 21:1-3)

“I will put my tabernacle among you, and I will not reject you, but I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” (Leviticus 26:11-12)

In this post, we will take a look at the current and future fulfillment of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. This important feast is pregnant with meaning, specifically the divine plan of God to one day restore that which was impacted by sin, namely God tabernacling and dwelling with His people. Barney Kasdan wisely notes “All the Feasts of the Lord have their own particular lessons to teach. Yet, because of its latter day fulfillment, Sukkot seems to be the apex of all the other appointed times of God. The goal of God’s plan is ultimately the establishment of his kingdom on the earth.”[1]

In order to understand the necessity for the restoration of relationship and fellowship between God and His people, we must first begin in the book of Genesis. Old Testament scholars Keil and Delitzsch note “By sin, men have departed and separated themselves from God; but God, in His infinite mercy, has not cut himself off from men, His creatures. Not only did he announce redemption along with punishment immediately before the fall, but from that time forward He continued to reveal Himself to them, that He might draw them back to Himself, and lead them from the path of destruction to the way of salvation.”[2] So it is clear the Scriptural message from the book of Genesis on is the movement towards restoration and redemption, a return in the future to that which was lost when the sin problem entered the picture.

At various points throughout Scripture, we can see God bringing this ultimate fulfillment of tabernacling with His people slowly but surely to fruition. In stages, God woos His people and at times dwells, albeit only in part in the presence of His people, both in a physical and a spiritual sense. This idea of tabernacling is woven throughout Scripture for a purpose. Bob Alberico comments “The idea of having a redeemer is based upon the premise that the God of creation has a plan to restore all things. Redemption after all, means to buy back. The essential question here is, to buy back from what, and to what? For the Hebrew, to buy back mean to restore in the now what we had in the past; to restore what we lost when we exited the Garden. “ So how does this idea of tabernacling reveal itself in the biblical corpus?

Beyond the Garden of Eden when God walked with Adam and Eve, we see God dwelling with His people, or at least a portion of His glory, in the wilderness tabernacle. In Exodus 40:34 we find “the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of Adonai filled the tabernacle.” So at least in part, God dwelled with His people through the means of the tabernacle. Keep in mind, God can by no means be contained in a dwelling built with human hands as noted in Acts 7:8. With that said, God was at that point in history, establishing the framework for relationship with His people, a relationship and fellowship that would be based on the institution of a series of covenants.

Within the framework of a covenant relationship, God established the means by which He and His creation would begin this journey towards renewal of relationship. Adherence to the stipulations of these covenants resulted in life, disobedience resulted in death. It is important once again to understand what that life and death in adherence to the covenants was all about. Certainly there was a physical element to obedience and disobedience respectively. Israel was told by God that if they obeyed Him, it would go well with them on the earth and if they disobeyed, well, let’s just say things would not go so well. With that said, obedience brought the life of relationship with God and disobedience or rejection of God brought death to that relationship.

We should realize this is really nothing new as God outlined that same reality to Adam and Eve. After all, God told Adam in Genesis 2:16-17, “Adonai, God, gave the person this order: “You may freely eat from every tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You are not to eat from it, because on the day that you eat from it, it will become certain that you will die.” Engagement of the Hebrew in Genesis 2:17 reveals an interesting verb construct which most English translations do not pick up on. It is the double verb muwth muwth which literally means dying you shall die. So physical death began as a process which would ultimately lead to the cessation of physical life and spiritual death resulted from the entrance of sin, thus the need for a Redeemer to fix both problems.

Man, being the wretched sinner that he is, is fully incapable of adhering to the requirements of God’s covenants, in particular the marriage covenant that forms the basis for the entirety of God’s commands to His people throughout Scripture. Again, this was why there was a need for a Redeemer, One who would do on our behalf what we could not do, namely to perfectly obey God’s commands. In doing so, this Redeemer, Jesus the Messiah, died on the cross to restore our broken relationship with our Creator, to make it possible for God to once again tabernacle with His people. The Apostle Paul states in Romans 5:10, “For if we were reconciled with God through his Son’s death when we were enemies, how much more will we be delivered by his life, now that we are reconciled!” Christ gave His life so that we might have restoration of life. His obedience provides the means by which eternal life and the restoration of all things is made possible.

I say all that to provide the background for why the fulfillment of Sukkot is a now but not yet phenomenon. Just like God dwelled in part with His people in the wilderness tabernacle and later in Solomon’s temple, he dwells in part within our lives, at least in the lives of the elect. So what do I mean by He dwells in part in our lives? As we noted at the outset of this post, God is slowly unfolding His plan of redemption and restoration of relationship. It is a return to that which was lost, that dwelling in full of God with His creation that is being accomplished in part at this time in history, with the ultimate and complete fulfillment taking place when Christ returns. Until that time, we await, holding on to the first fruits of the Holy Spirit as a down payment if you will on the future fulfillment of Sukkot. The Holy Spirit resides in our hearts, working in our lives so that we might be that chaste and holy bride, a people who constantly long for the return of the bridegroom. When the bridegroom returns, the glorious event Jesus spoke of in John 14:3 will take place, “I will return to take you with me; so that where I am, you may be also.” When Christ returns for His bride, He will bring her to himself, tabernacling with them in the finality of the betrothal marriage process. What a truly glorious day that will be!

Mitch Glaser aptly notes “Ultimately, the whole earth will become the sukkah booth of God, and He will reign in the presence of His Son for all eternity. This reminds us of Solomon’s prayer, where he understood clearly God’s intention to fill His redeemed earth with His very presence.”[3] When that time comes, we will be in the presence of God forever, dwelling with our bridegroom in a redeemed and restored creation, that return to that which was lost, the completion of God’s buyback program instituted from before the foundation of the world. The sin problem and the impact that sin had on all of creation will be finally and completely dealt with as death will be no more and the sin issue that impacted the dwelling of a holy God with His creation will also be dealt with. The first fruits harvest will become a completed harvest and we will dwell with our God, our Creator, our Redeemer for all eternity.

This is the message of Sukkot. God is moving history towards the time when all things will be made right. God will establish an everlasting sukkah. “How blessed are those who have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19:9)

As we close out this journey through the Feasts of the Lord, let us leave you with the following declaration of the Psalmist:

“Goodness and grace will pursue me every day of my life; and I will live in the house of Adonai for years and years to come.” (Psalm 23:6)

When the Feast of Tabernacles is fulfilled, we will forever dwell in the house of the Lord, we shall see Him face to face, and we shall praise the glorious name of Yahweh for all eternity. May that day come quickly!

References:

[1] ] Barney Kasdan, God’s Appointed Times (Baltimore: Lederer Books, 1993), 100.
[2] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996), 19.
[3] Mitch Glaser, The Fall Feasts of Israel (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1987), 213.

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Michael Boling – Feasts of the Lord: The Feast of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)

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“Tell the people of Isra’el, ‘On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the feast of Sukkot for seven days to Adonai.” (Leviticus 23:34)

“You are to live in sukkot for seven days; every citizen of Isra’el is to live in a sukkah” (Leviticus 23:42)

“You are to keep the festival of Sukkot for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing-floor and winepress.” (Deuteronomy 16:13)

The seventh and final Feast of the Lord is Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. Wrapping up the fall feasts, this holy convocation is celebrated for a period of seven days lasting from Tishrei 15 to 21. Unlike the previous two feasts, that of Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) which formulate the days of awe, a time of repentance and self-reflection before God, Sukkot is a time of great celebration when families and communities come together to built sukkah. Continue reading “Michael Boling – Feasts of the Lord: The Feast of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)”

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Michael Boling – The Feasts of the Lord: The Fulfillment of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)

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In our previous post, we explored the background and celebration in ancient Israel of the Day of Atonement also known as Yom Kippur. In keeping with how we have addressed all of the other feast days thus far, in this post, we will examine the fulfillment and future fulfillment of this holy convocation. I will be using the Complete Jewish Bible translation in this post in order to demonstration how the terminology we discussed in the previous post, is found in the passages of Scripture that identify the fulfillment of this feast.

In Romans 5:8-9, the Apostle Paul writes “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” In this passage, we clearly see that Christ’s death was the atoning sacrifice for our sin. His shed blood did that which the blood of bulls and goats, to include the azazel, could never fully do.

The establishment of the Day of Atonement with the various sacrificial rituals, all pointed to one individual, Jesus the Messiah. The book of Hebrews spends a great deal of time outlining the fact that the sacrificial system was a temporary goal that was leading to a time when the Perfect Lamb of God would come to deal with the sin problem. No longer would there be a need to shed the blood of an animal or to send an animal into the wilderness. At the cross, the shed blood of the Lamb of God atoned for our sins before a holy God.

If we remember back to our last post, it was noted the Day of Atonement was a yearly convocation, one that was to be celebrated permanently. Let’s first look at why this had to be celebrated yearly with the requisite sacrifices and cleansing rituals. Once a year, the high priest presented himself to God on behalf of the people, following the sacrificial requirements in order to atone for his own sins, the sins of his family, and the sins of the people of Israel. There was a yearly requirement to perform this sacred duty because until the coming of the Messiah, the shedding of the blood of the perfect Lamb who was promised to come and deal with the sin problem had not yet taken place. Hebrews 5:1-5 states:

“For every cohen gadol taken from among men is appointed to act on people’s behalf with regard to things concerning God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and with those who go astray, since he too is subject to weakness. Also, because of this weakness, he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as those of the people. And no one takes this honor upon himself, rather, he is called by God, just as Aharon was. So neither did the Messiah glorify himself to become cohen gadol; rather, it was the One who said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”

Let’s reintroduce ourselves to some terms as we examine this passage. The cohen gadol is the high priest. He was appointed to represent the people before God and to offer the required gifts and sacrifices in the temple. Notice that Hebrews 5 mentions the necessity for the high priest to offer sacrifices for his own sins due to his own weakness and proclivity to sin. The high priest was a godly man, but not a perfect man. The shedding of the blood of the animals was necessary because the Messiah, the perfect One, had not yet come to do what that system could not. Jesus willingly took it upon himself to be that perfect sacrifice. In doing so, he is not our great high priest in the order of Melchizedek as noted in Hebrews 5:6 which states “Also, as he says in another place, “You are a cohen forever, to be compared with Malki-Tzedek.” No longer was there a need for the Aaronic priesthood to offer the blood of animals. Our Great High Priest, Jesus the Messiah, came to be that representative before God on our behalf so that through Him we can access God. But wait, there’s more!

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Michael Boling – The Feasts of the Lord: The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)

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“For on this day, atonement will be made for you to purify you; you will be clean before Adonai from all your sins. It is a Shabbat of complete rest for you, and you are to deny yourselves. “This is a permanent regulation. (Leviticus 16:30-31)

“The tenth day of this seventh month is Yom-Kippur; you are to have a holy convocation, you are to deny yourselves, and you are to bring an offering made by fire to Adonai. You are not to do any kind of work on that day, because it is Yom-Kippur, to make atonement for you before Adonai your God…You are not to do any kind of work; it is a permanent regulation through all your generations, no matter where you live. 32 It will be for you a Shabbat of complete rest, and you are to deny yourselves; you are to rest on your Shabbat from evening the ninth day of the month until the following evening.” (Leviticus 23:27-28, 31-21)

“‘On the tenth day of this seventh month you are to have a holy convocation. You are to deny yourselves, and you are not to do any kind of work;” (Numbers 29:7)

We are now going to move on to a discussion of the second of the Fall Feasts of the Lord, the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. This particular day was one of the days of awe, a holy convocation just like the other Feasts, but considered to be “Israel’s most awesome holy day.”[1] A day of such religious significance certainly deserves our attention and in this post, we will examine how the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur was observed as commanded by God.

Before we begin our examination of the Day of Atonement, it is worth mentioning this particular event, as is often the case with the Feast days, is known by a few other names throughout Scripture. Being able to recognize these other titles for this day is important, given the necessity to identify when this Feast is being referred to and why. Other than the title Yom Kippur, this Feast is known by at least 5 other titles. I will include Yom Kippur in the list in order to provide at a glance the entire range of names.

1. Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
2. Face to Face
3. The Day (or the Great Day
4. The Fast
5. The Great Shofar (Shofar HaGadol)
6. Neilah (the closing of the gates[2]

As we walk through this Feast, we will discuss each of the above names to include noting the importance of each facet in the process, demonstrating why those names were used.

The Day of Atonement as commanded by God in Leviticus was a solemn day of the year. It was on this one day that the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, essentially entering the presence of God, thus the use of the term “face to face.” Keep in mind that entering the Holy of Holies was no small matter. It required a great deal of preparation on the part of both the priesthood and most importantly, the high priest. For instance, “the high priest was required to wear holy garments woven from white linen instead of his normal colorful garments overlaid with the golden breastplate. His linen garments were worn only on that day and never again.”[3]

Another interesting element of the pre-Yom Kippur preparations was that “Seven days before Yom Kippur the high priest moved from his home to his chamber in the Temple. During this week he alone conducted the service, offered the daily sacrifices, sprinkled the blood, burned the incense, and tended the lighting of the Menorah. He did this for seven successive days in order to become well versed in the details, so that he would make no mistake on Yom Kippur.”[4] One can quickly see the high priest took this Feast day very seriously. It was a day of meeting God in order to perform a very important yearly event.

This yearly event that formed the crux of the Day of Atonement is noted in Leviticus 16:30, “For on this day, atonement will be made for you to purify you; you will be clean before Adonai from all your sins.” The high priest, as the spiritual representative of the people of Israel before God, made atonement for his own sins and the sins of the people on this particular day. Thus, there was an increase in the amount of sacrifices and cleansing rituals over that of the typical priestly work. Unlike the typical Jewish day, the services at the temple on Yom Kippur commenced the following morning. The high priest, instead of the typical washing of the feet, was required to totally immerse himself in a special golden bath behind a curtain held by the other priests to provide a bit of privacy. It was after this ritual washing, that the high priest donned the special linen garments. Interestingly, this washing and donning of the special linen garments was a ritual that took place five times during this special day, if anything, signifying the great care taken to remain ritually clean as the high priest carried out the duties of this special day.[5]

Since the high priest was the one responsible for providing the atonement sacrifice for himself and the sins of the people, this involved its own ritual methodology. During the period of the second temple, the high priest’s confession before God involved a total of three separate confessions, each leading up to one another in a progression. The process of the giving of the confessions went like this:

“The first confession was on the account of his own sins and those of his household; the second, on the account of the priestly tribe of Levi; the third, on the account of the whole people. On this occasion only, in the entire year, the confession included the priest’s saying aloud the name of God embodied in the Hebrew letters YHVH (called the Tettragrammton)…In each confession, when the high priest reached the recitation of the name, the whole people would prostrate themselves and say aloud, “Baruch shem K’vod malchuto l’olam va’ed,” which means, “Blessed be the Name of the radiance of the Kingship, forever and beyond.” On the third recitation, the one for their own sins, they knew that the high priest had just before on this one occasion in all the year, entered the Holy of Holies, the inmost room of the temple where God’s presence was most fully felt. He entered it three times and only then came out to confess on behalf of all the people and put their sins upon the head of the goat for azazel.

The result of this triple entry into the Holy of Holies, this tripe recitation of God’s most holy name, and this triple prostration by the entire people, was an utterly awesome sense of God’s presence making atonement for His people, cleansing them from their sins, permitting them to begin the year afresh, renewing their lives. So total was this sense of transformation that, after it, the mood of the people shifted from solemn awe to joyful celebration. The young, unmarried men and women went to dance in the fields and to choose spouses for themselves. Yom Kippur and the fifteenth of Av were the only days in the year when this kind of mass public espousal would take place.”[6] We will return to a few elements of this process a bit later.

Another important element of Yom Kippur was the fasting leading up to the actual Day of Atonement. The idea of fasting for Yom Kippur stems from the command given by God in Leviticus 23:27 with the notation to deny themselves. The Hebrew word oni which is often translated as humble, deny, or afflict literally means to fast. Barney Kasdan notes this idea also comes from Isaiah 58:5 where “this word is used specifically for going without food.”[7] Prior to this time of fasting, there was the observance of a holiday meal with white cloths and the best dishes being used as a remembrance of this high holy day and the white symbolizing the cleansing from sin that would take place on the Day of Atonement. Once the fast began, it took place from the point of sundown on the 9th of Tishri until sundown the following day. This fast involved total abstinence from any food or water.

In our previous post on the Feast of Trumpets, we discussed the various reasons the Shofar was blown. One of the reasons was the call to the people to gather and remember. Specifically, we noted the Shofar’s mighty blast is a reminder for humility and the power and awesomeness of God. The necessity for humility has already been noted in relation to the fast that preceded Yom Kippur. The blowing of the Shofar on Yom Kippur was known as the Great Trump or the Great Shofar, signifying that call to humility before the power and awesomeness of God on this most solemn of days.

Yom Kippur was also known as Neilah or “The Closing of the Gates of Heaven.” This title was derived from the final or closing element of the Yom Kippur service. It was believed “the gates of Heaven are open during the days of repentance to receive our prayers for forgiveness and that they close after the neilah service…When the final blast of the Shofar (the Shofar HaGodal, the Great Trumpet) is heard at the end of the neilah service, those who have observed the day with sincerity should feel that they have been inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.”[8] The neilah and Yom Kippur concluded with the people reciting the Shema, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”

One final element I would like to discuss is the azazel or the scapegoat. Leviticus 16:21-22 states:

“Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.”

The azazel was “The high point and most unusual element of the Yom Kippur sacrificial ritual.”[9] The word azazel is not used in the Old Testament other than in Leviticus 16:21-22 and thus its meaning is somewhat shrouded in a bit of mystery. Some Old Testament scholars, such as Keil and Delitzsch averred the azazel represented “the head of the evil spirits” or “the father of all sin.”[10] In other words, the scapegoat or the azazel literally would take back the sins of the people to Satan as it was let go into the wilderness. Others have noted the root of the world azazel “contains the idea of removal. The name azazel and the action of sending away the goat was designed to teach the Israelites that their sins, once removed, would also be forgotten. The Septuagint, Vulgate, and a number of other ancient translations understood azazel to literally mean “the goat that departs.” The word is viewed as a combination of ‘ez, meaning goat, and azal, to turn off or away.”[11] Regardless of the true meaning of the word azazel, both the sacrificial goat and the goat that was sent into the wilderness formed an important part of the Yom Kippur ceremony. The sacrifice of the one goat signified the shedding of blood for sin. The sending away of the other goat likely meant the removal of sin or the sending away of the sins of the people back to the place where sin derived.

Hayyim Schauss provides some additional background on the azazel and the process of the goat going into the wilderness. He notes:

“The goat is led to a specified spot about ten miles beyond the city, where a precipitous cliff overhangs a ravine. Prior to Yom Kippur, ten booths were erected as stations along the way. Food and drink is available in each booth for the escorter of the scapegoat, for he may break his fast if the journey weakens him. But he never does break his fast. A group of Jews escort him from the Temple to the first booth, and in each booth there is somebody to meet him and escort him to the next booth. He is not escorted, however, all the way to the cliff, his escort stopping and watching from afar.”

When man and goat come to the cliff, the red sash is removed from the goat’s horns and divided in two. One part is attached to the cliff and the other half tied to the horns or the goat, which is then pushed over the cliff, life passing out of him as he falls into the ravine.

The news that the scapegoat is in the wilderness is quickly brought to the High Priest. Meanwhile he has sacrificed the young bull and the second goat on the altar; he now begins the reading of the Torah.”[12]

The observance of the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur was a very solemn occasion, most notably due to the realization this was a time of retrospection and forgiveness of sins by God for His people. In our next post, we will look at the fulfillment of this high holy day.

References:
[1] Marvin Rosenthal, The Feasts of the Lord (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), 119.
[2] “Yom Kippur: The Day of Atonement,” Feasts of the Lord, September 15, 2013, accessed September 15, 2013,http://www.feastsofthelord.com/ss/live/index.php?action=getpage&sid=204&pid=2192.
[3] Rosenthal, 120.
[4] Hayyim Schauss, The Jewish Festivals: From Their Beginnings to Our Own Day (Cincinnati: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1938), 126.
[5] Rosenthal, 122.
[6] “Yom Kippur.”
[7] Barney Kasdan, God’s Appointed Times (Baltimore: Leder Publications, 1993), 79.
[8] “Yom Kippur.”
[9] Mitch Glaser, The Fall Feasts of Israel (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1987), 88.
[10] C. F. Keil and H. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996), 590.
[11] Glaser, 89.
[12] Schauss, 139.

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