Rosh Hashanah 5773

Festivals of the Lord

Commentary notes below:

Rosh Hashanah (17th September 2012)

In Lev 23 we read that there are ‘festivals’, Chagim, of which Rosh Hashanah (Yom Teruah) is one. We are commanded to appear before the Lord, cease our work, have a memorial blowing of the shofar and make an offering of fire, a sin sacrifice. Often seen as ‘Jewish’ festivals, we know of course that they are Adonai’s Chagim. A celebration (or festival) is an event that celebrates something, an action or moment in time, it has as its root a concept that something has happened and the ‘festival’ is the moment when it is celebrated. The fact that God calls us to be present at these times also signifies that He wants us to participate and enjoy the benefits of what He has done, to celebrate in His ‘success’. By being there with Him to rejoice and celebrate we partake – become connected – in what God does.

The eternal good news for us as Jews which we share with the rest of humanity is that we have a God who IS, an active God who is intimately involved with His creation and with us His people. Can we encapsulate in a sentence exactly what it is that God does? To answer this we need to look at the birth, life and subsequent sacrificial death and resurrection of Mashiach. These summarise the core concepts and heart of God – what He does.

We may often think that the main concern for God is to allow His righteousness and justice to flow and hence judge this evil and wicked world and all that are in it. It may come as a surprise to find that that isn’t true. If it were, then not one generation would go by without the threat of extinction. God’s concern first and foremost is to redeem that which was lost, to ‘save’ or make salvation operative in our lives. For this reason Mashiach Yeshua was revealed. Through the sacrificial and redemptive power of Yeshua we can be and are set free, released and the power (such as it is) of the evil one is destroyed in us.

One example of this that speaks so strongly to our own lives is recorded for us in Matthew 11:2-5. Today, in re-establishing an authentic Messianic form of Judaism with Yeshua at its heart, we can easily get caught up with doing ‘proper’ Hebrew and Jewish services, learning all the liturgy and restoring all the wonderful Mitzvot of Torah (and all these are good), but these things are not what Yeshua focuses on here to prove that God’s salvation has appeared. Instead He points to what He has done, the deliverances and healings, the powerful and visual indications of the presence of God in Israel to set free and reverse the power of the evil one, to destroy the works of the evil one. The testimony is clear: God was with us, alive and showing it. When we read of the Jewish communities in the first century as evidenced in the letters and the four records of the Life of Yeshua, we see God active, alive, breaking out amongst us to heal, deliver and even raising from the dead. Miracles were done in our midst and we should be expecting them today.

Ultimately, this is the message of Judaism: a redeemer would come who would reverse the effects of the first sin and thus usher in an age where peace with God is normal and the lion will lie down with the lamb. Judaism (real biblical Judaism, the kind that Yeshua taught and lived out) has at its heart a message of salvation to this lost world. It is this core message, the heart of all God’s acts and actions, that are celebrated in the Chagim. From the outset at Pesach the pattern is set, deliverance from Egypt, and all through the whole set of festivals the same line runs, culminating with the final harvest, the ingathering of all those who love Him and follow Him at Simchat Torah. Even as we are called to begin examining ourselves for 10 days from now to Yom Kippur, the same motif is there: we need salvation and redemption due to our sin and God has made a way possible for this atonement.