Sunday, 6 September 2015

Something Beautiful...

We are entering into a most exciting season. Next week we see the celebration of Rosh haShana.  The week after we celebrate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, & lastly we celebrate the festival of Sukkot.

Why?  We are not Jews.  We are not coming back under the Law of Moses. What do New Covenant believers have to do with Old Testament practices?

Romans 11:17~19 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in."…

Christianity is not independent of Judaism; it is the full flowering, the fulfilment of all the promises regarding the first coming of the messiah. Even the Hebrew word, moed, meaning appointed time, reflects the attitude with which we are to approach the festivals for they are God’s appointed times where we are to come apart & spend a special time with Him.

 Every single festival points in some way to Jesus. Over the coming weeks we will look at different aspects of the festivals & how Jesus fulfils them.  Today is just a brief introduction.

Take Rosh haShanah, which is celebrated as the anniversary of the creation of the universe.  Genesis 1:1… In the beginning Elohim created the heavens & the earth…Elohim is plural.  The Father planned; the son created; the Spirit revealed…& we see this again & again.
1Peter 1:20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days.  

The Father planned that Jesus should be the perfect sacrifice.  Jesus became that sacrifice & the Spirit reveals the Truth to us by faith.  We always, always look for the New Testament application that was hidden in the old & which the Spirit now reveals to us.  I can’t say that enough because people easily misunderstand but considering the Feasts is to reveal Christ to us & for no other reason.

Look at the progression. From Rosh haShanah to Yom Kippur are the High Holy Days which were designed to motivate people to walk more closely with God.  Now isn’t that a good thing? The shofar is blown to stir our spirits with greater love for God & a greater love for our fellow men, who are made in God’s image. The shofar also announces the return of Christ ~ & we are closer to that reality today than we were yesterday so it is a good reminder to separate ourselves from the world & be holy, because God is holy. Remember holy simply means separated from the common for a particular use. The shofar also reminds people of judgement ~ & we will all be judged. Finally it is a reminder of new beginnings.

 2 Corinthians 5:17 very specifically tells us: This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! So you see, we have good reason to celebrate!

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement.  Kippur means covering, specifically the covering of one’s sins.  Today is our Communion Sunday ~ a day in which we particularly remember & celebrate the sin offering of Jesus which, unlike the blood of bulls & goats, has the power to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Hebrews 9:12 - 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].

Yom Kippur is the only day on which the name of the Lord YWYH is uttered, the only day on which the High Priest wears special linen garments & enters the Holy of Holies where he sprinkles the blood offering on the mercy seat.

Now some of you have heard me talk about the day Jesus rose & how Mary mistook Him in the garden for the gardener ~ which always struck me as incredibly odd because how on earth could you make that sort of mistake?  And Jesus tells her bluntly she is not to hang on to Him because He has not yet ascended to His Father.  Being a curious soul I did some digging & found a gardener’s clothing closely resembled the High Priest’s garments that are only worn on this one day.  Mary saw Jesus as he prepared to enter the heavenly temple & make the sin offering there for us!

Leviticus 17:11 - For the life of the flesh [is] in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it [is] the blood [that] maketh an atonement for the soul.

Jesus fulfils all the requirements of the Old Covenant.  We can read through the Old Testament & find it confusing & obsolete.  When we read it with New Testament understanding it speaks to us clearly of the promises & of God’s great love for His creation.  Not only that, he so desires our company He set these moed in place to help us make space in our busy lives to spend quality time with Him.

The last festival is Sukkot.  One of its other names is The Season of our Joy.  I love that, don’t you?  Perry Stone, amongst others, teaches that this is probably the season when Jesus was actually born.  One reason for this is that the Greek phatnÄ“ would be rendered sukkot in Hebrew, meaning a temporary shelter such as are built during the festival Sukkot, rather than manger.

This festival has so many nuances it is impossible to cover them all briefly so I am only going to mention the lulav here because we have not discussed that before.

Leviticus 23:40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.

The lulav is the combination of different types of plants that are waved before the Lord.  The etrog, a citrus, represents the heart, the palm spiritual backbone, the myrtle,  spiritual vision, the willow represents lips of prayer. The branches are waved in 6 directions symbolising God’s omnipotence.  On the last day they are beaten against the ground.  Many of the leaves fall off symbolising ultimate victory over our enemies.  Jesus is our victory.

When the lulav is waved it symbolises too the Holy Spirit, who is often depicted as a rushing wind.  The sound of the air moving reminds us of the move of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I don’t have all these different types of plants growing in my garden so I just brought some palm fronds.  It will give you a bit of an idea ~ & remember too, these are festivals Jesus took part in so it is another way of bringing us closer to Jesus.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who sanctifies us with His commandments & commanded us regarding the waving of the lulav.

There is a phrase used during sukkot: hiddur mitzvah.  It means to make a commandment beautiful. Isn’t this what Jesus has done for us?  He has taken the law, which brought nothing but death & condemnation to Israel, & made it into something beautiful for us. He left us really just 2 commandments: Matthew22 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Sukkot is a 7 day festival ~ 8 for the gentiles or the diaspora.  The 7th Day is known as the Great Salvation.  Jesus again.

So as we come to the communion table we remember all that Christ has done for us. He has taken our sin, our brokenness, our sickness & made it something beautiful for God.

1 John 2:2 says:  And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.

As Revelation 5:9 says:  And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

Thou hast redeemed us…

As you prepare your hearts to receive communion remember that we can celebrate with great joy.  Jesus has made something beautiful of us.  He has redeemed us.  He rejoices over us.  He has forseen this from before the foundation of the world. The Father planned it, the son executed it, the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to us. Praise the Lord.  

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