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G'mar Hatima Tova is a phrase Jewish people around the world when they greet each other in a season called Yom Kippur.
Before we go any further, I wish you a personal greeting like that, adding that my sincere wish is that you too will have your name inscribed in the Book of Life.
This annual event is the holiest day of all in the Jewish calendar that is like the climax of a ten-day period known as The days of awe.
In Hebrew, Yom means “day” and Kippur means “to atone” so it is it is also known as the Day of Atonement. What follows next is another special event called Sukkot, also known as the Feast of tabernacles. As it is with other Jewish feasts like Shavuot and Passover, they all have enormous prophetic significance to us.
Whilst Yom Kippur is a solemn event, Sukkot is totally different, being a time of great rejoicing.
I will touch firstly on G’mar Hatima Tova, then share a thought on Sukkot.
Yom Kippur is a serious and solemn day, so people do not greet each other with a “Happy Yom Kippur”.
Traditionally, Jews believe that God decides who will be sealed in the Book of Life to live for another year after judging their deeds over the past year. Others simply use the day as a time to reflect on what they want to do differently in the coming year, just as we in the Western world make New Year resolutions that are often forgotten.
Yom Kippur is “the tenth day of the seventh month” known as Tishrei and it is regarded as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths.” It is a period of time where Jews are required to take stock of their lives, to ask forgiveness from friends and family and to prepare to improve for the year to come.
When Yom Kippur begins, Jews are prohibited from eating or drinking, bathing, anointing the body with oil, wearing leather shoes and having any sexual relations.
During Yom Kippur (a 25-hour period) five synagogue services are conducted and a special memorial service is held for those who have died during the year. The Yom Kippur services contain many recitations of something called Vidui (confession) and a list of communal transgressions for which Jews ask for forgiveness.
Jewish believers in Jesus spend the day in similar manner, but with a difference. They give thanks that their names are indeed written in the book of life, as are ours. We see mention of this in Exodus 32:32-33, Philippians 4:3, Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12-15, 21:17 and 22:19. Those dear brethren usually wear white garments on this day, symbolizing purity and the promise in Isaiah 1:18 saying that our sins would be as white as snow.
On this day of atonement, we can think of Leviticus chapter sixteen, where God told Moses to instruct Aaron that he could not come into the holy place at any time he wanted because if he did, he would die.
He laid down strict guidelines on how to make his approach.
Aaron had to bathe first, put on his priestly garments, present sin and burnt offerings and bring two goats, one of which was for the Lord and the other was ʿazāʾzēl (the scapegoat).
The concept was that after first making sure he had properly prepared himself and his house by making his own sin offerings, Aaron took the two goats to the door of the tent of meeting. Here he cast lots to choose which goat was to be sacrificed and which goat was to be the scapegoat.
He is our ʿazāʾzēl.
As we have seen, the English phrase the Day of Atonement is Yom Kippur. The root meaning of Kippur seems to come from the word Kofer and here it gets interesting. Let us look at Psalm 49:7-
None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.
That word redeem is pādâ and it essentially means to transfer ownership of something from one person to another. The word ransom is kōper and it is really interesting. One meaning means young lion. Another meaning is a village. Other meanings relate to covering, a sum of money or even paying a bribe. OK, I think you can see some links here. Jesus is the lion of the tribe of Judah. He paid the price of the bribe to purchase our redemption and just as a village is somewhere someone lives, we are the temples of the Holy Spirit, He lives in us.
We have been redeemed because someone made an atonement by offering a substitute and paying the price for it...by the priestly rituals of sprinkling the blood of the sacrificial animal to sin and defilement...the placing of hands on an innocent beast and transferring sin to it to be taken away never to be seen again.
The whole meanings of the Jewish feasts now starts to mean something to a believer.
Leviticus 16:20-34 states-
When he has finished purging the Shrine, the Tent of Meeting, and the altar, the live goat shall be brought forward. Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities and transgressions of the Israelites, whatever their sins, putting them on the head of the goat; and it shall be sent off to the wilderness through a designated man. Thus the goat shall carry on it all their iniquities to an inaccessible region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.
As you can see from this, it is a perpetual event...a law for all time as per the reference and this is what Jews commemorate every year. This does not mean that you and I must keep this observance and convert to Judaism. Not in the least. What I want to get across is that we can remember all these Jewish observances and look at them through the eye of biblical typology. As I have said, it symbolizes our Lord and the plan of salvation to everyone.
As we have seen, only once per year was any Israelite permitted to enter the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle or the Temple and to approach the Lord where His Spirit resided above the mercy seat and this person was the Kohen Gadol (the high priest). He only did this on the Day of Atonement. He had to go through a complex set of sacrifices to atone for his own sins first and then for the sins of the people. A scapegoat was led away, symbolically carrying the sins of the people and only after that, the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies to sprinkle blood on the Mercy seat.
In Hebrews chapters nine and ten, we can see how Jesus fulfilled everything that this Old Testament event signified. You and I can now come to God at any time we want. We can call Him Abba Father, but they could not even say His name. We can call Him friend as He calls us friends. Jesus is our brother, or our everything.
Sukkot this year, 2018, was held on Sunday 23 September.
Sukkot celebrates the gathering of the harvest and commemorates the miraculous protection God provided for the children of Israel when they left Egypt.
It is the only one whose date does not seem to commemorate a historic event.
The Torah refers to it by two names: Chag HaAsif (“the Festival of Ingathering,” or “Harvest Festival”) and Chag HaSukkot (“Festival of Booths”).
In Israel, crops grow in the winter and are ready for harvest in the late spring. Some of them remain out in the field to dry for a few months and are only ready for harvest in early Autumn. During this time, the people thank God for His blessings of the harvest.
Chag HaSukkot commemorates the temporary dwellings God made to shelter the Israelites on their way out of Egypt.
Some people say this refers to the clouds of glory that shielded them from the sun, while others say it refers to the tents in which they dwelled for their 40-year trek through the Sinai desert.
Interestingly, this is the only celebration in which God actually commanded the people to be joyful.
‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you gather in the fruit of the land, observe the festival of יהוה for seven days. On the first day is a rest, and on the eighth day a rest.
If you are wondering what this means to Christians, let me say it is very important. This is the feast that Jesus attended when a water ceremony was performed and Jews quoted Isaiah 12:1-6-
On that day you will say:
During this celebration, He stood up and cried out loudly in John 7:37-39-
On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.” By this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believe in Him would receive. For the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Zechariah says that in the millennium, all nations will come up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles .
On that great last day of the feast, priests blew the trumpets loudly and waved branches as the people sang the Great Hallel (Psalms 113 to 118). The significance is that when the Lord returns, He will “Tabernacle” with us. Zechariah 14:16-19
There are other feasts I have not yet covered and they are powerful! Shavuot is one, but I shall not elaborate on this now. Perhaps you can see how important they are for us. Even if we are not Jewish in the literal sense, everything we see in their manners and customs, laws, feasts and observances has some kind of relationship to what Jesus is and did for us.
In closing therefore, I exhort you to dig deeper into the Jewish side of our inheritance. It is simply amazing how detailed it all is.
Blessings and Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah: Even More Joy...