The Day of Atonement: Down to the River

Dressed in white, my family made our way to the nearest river in our hometown. It’s a beautiful spot to watch the falls cascading down the rocks while a few ducks and geese float along the gentle rapids. We found a clearing near the water, and there, we opened our Bibles in observance of the second fall feast: The Day of Atonement.

What is The Day of Atonement?

Ten days after the Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement arrives as one of the highest holy days of the year. When the Israelites first built the Tabernacle, the Levitical high priest would perform a ceremony in order to cleanse the nation of their sin from the previous year. The Atonement ceremony included laying hands on the head of one of two goats. The chosen goat would then ‘receive’ the sins of the people and be released into the wilderness to die.

Only then could the high priest enter the Holy of Holies without being struck dead. Once the ceremony was complete, the Israelites were cleansed, symbolizing their readiness to dwell with God.

How do you observe?

The Days of Awe are the ten days after Feast of Trumpets, and it’s a time of prayer, repentance, and settling debts. The people have a feast the evening before Atonement, but on the actual day, they deny themselves with a fast to recognize God’s holiness and to hate their sin. Temples have several services during the day with blessings, prayers, and Scripture.

The Tashlich ceremony, typically done on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, is where the people cast bread crumbs or stones into a body of water to represent casting off their sin.

⇑ Keep reading to see why this is relevant ⇑

Scripture References633fa63917d243f219ff007e292e9fac--scripture-quotes-bible-scriptures

  • Hebrews 9:14
  • Matthew 6:14-15
  • Micah 7:19
  • Leviticus 16:29, 23:27, 17:11
  • Isaiah 58

Why is it important?

God instructed His people to observe this day, not because laying hands on a goat took away sin, but because it was a rehearsal to prepare them for when the Messiah, Jesus, would come and redeem them. He was the high priest who bridges the gap between us and God in the Holy of Holies. He was also the sacrifice, who took the weight of our sin, so we can be ready to dwell with Him in eternity.

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How do I apply?

Remember the stones I mentioned in my last blog? I’d passed them around earlier, and now was the time to bring them out. Mine was colored with different symbols revealing my sin. Holding onto our stones, we took communion, remembering Jesus’s blood shed for the world.

*This next part is something I added and is probably not done in other congregations. *

I poured the wine (juice) over the stones and then I poured water over them to represent the blood and water that gushed from Jesus’ side when he died. Then, we threw the rocks into the river, believing in Jesus’ gift of washing our sins away.

Hurling my rock into the water uniquely touched my heart. I sent the stone that kept reminding me of all my weaknesses and failings careening into the river, and once it left my hand, I realized I could never retrieve it again.

Going back to the person we were before the blood of Jesus would be just as impossible as me wading in the water trying to find my rock. Just like that stone, that sinful person is dead and gone never to remind me of who I used to be.

Our sins have been washed away, and now we can walk in the newness of life hand in hand with Jesus! Praise God!

The Day of Atonement is just the beginning. Are you ready to dwell with Jesus? That will lead us into my next and final feast blog: The Feast of Tabernacles. I hope you’ll join me!

 

God Bless!

-LJM

The Feast of Trumpets: The Jewish ‘New Year, New Me’

Welcome to Fall Feast number 1 as seen through the eyes of a Christian!

 

What is The Feast of Trumpets?

The Feast of Trumpets, also known as Rosh Hashana or Yom Teruah, is widely known as the Jewish new year. It’s partially because this time of year is significant in terms of renewal, re-dedication, and rebirth.

There’s something about a trumpet, that when it blasts, it awakens something in your soul.

The Feast of Trumpets is the opening preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus. For thousands of years, even before Jesus was born, Jewish people have been rehearsing and preparing for the moment the God of Israel would usher them into eternity with Him.

Why is it important?

The trumpet sound reminds us of the reality that Jesus is coming again. Knowing that eternity and judgement is real can be a sobering thought, because it reminds us that what we do in this life matters.

At the trumpet (shofar) blast, the people of God come together to worship and pray. The Feast of Trumpets first guides us in a time of repentance, or the Hebrew word teshuvah. This is a big season of introspection. It’s a time to look back on the year and inspect our hearts, our words, our actions, and our decisions and face them in all their glory and ugliness.

The good news is, when you repent, you can be washed of all the ugliness in your life through the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:9).

What can we do?

What in your life needs to be cleansed? Is your thought-life dark and getting darker? Are you treating people with kindness, compassion, and love, or are you treating them with disrespect, selfishness, and hate? Are there things in your life that you hold higher than God? Have you been drifting away from Him ever so slowly this year only to find yourself in a rut you can’t seem to get out of?

I know these are things I come up against in my heart, and if you do too, maybe now is the time to make a change.

Not only is this a time of introspection, but it’s also a time of settling debts, seeking forgiveness from the people you’ve wronged, and forgiving those who’ve wronged you. It’s a time of making the negative things in your life right, and that alone can be so freeing.

Is it based in Scripture?

To observe this feast, my family and a few others had a dinner to discuss the themes of this holy day and appreciate the importance of the customs. We take turns reading the Scripture associated with the feast.

Feel free to check out the verses listed below!

Leviticus 23:24-25

Isaiah 27:13

Zechariah 9:14

1 Kings 1:34

Nehemiah 8:2-3

1 Thessalonians 4:16

Numbers 10:9-10, 29:1

Matthew 6:14

Psalm 81

 

My personal application

I collected a few stones with smooth and flat surfaces. I passed them out to the family and told them that it was a representation of their sin. We could use the stone to pray over our sins, or we could carry it to symbolize the unnecessary baggage we carry every day. I chose to paint symbols on my stone that represented my specific struggles. Every time I looked at it, I was reminded of the areas in my life that I needed to work on with God.

I really liked the physical representation of my sins so I could focus on repenting from them and look forward to Jesus taking them away. I’ll get into that more with my article on The Day of Atonement, Fall Feast number 2.

Not all holy days are meant for celebration, but know we’re always working toward the goal of forever celebrating our Lord in eternity. I do believe that these days are meant for our good, designed for us to practice being sanctified by Jesus and to live in that freedom and love by sharing it with others.

Reach out to the person you hurt, pray for the person who has damaged you, and pay back the money your friends lent. Make something right today. It’s never too late.

 

God bless!

LJM