In my walk with the Lord, I’ve often wondered why there were the Jewish people (the Israelites) and all the rest of us. We’re taught this in our churches and Sunday school classes. We’re taught this through the Bible itself. How many times have we read “first the Jew, then the Gentile”? Were Gentiles second class citizens? Why the need for distinctions? Being true to my nature, it was important for me to go back to the beginning; well, at least to Exodus.
We know the Lord miraculously brought His children, who were in such bondage, out of Egypt. With the Lord’s guidance, this should have been a fear-free adventure for the people to witness. We read how they saw the Hand of God move in incredible ways. And then, only days later, they thought the Lord was trying to kill them. Rejoicing & kvetching! The Lord brought them to Mt. Sinai where we read the powerful story of the 10 Commandments. Read Exodus 19:1-20:21 for a refresher. Not too long ago I heard a teaching about this time period. It was a distant memory, but in writing what I thought would be today’s newsletter, the memory came back. I need to share this as a preface to the writing about the High Holy Days found in Leviticus.
Was it God’s intention to keep the Israelites and the Gentiles apart? Keep in mind there were Egyptians as well as Israelites at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Still, with regards to my question, most would probably say yes; and, we have a large chunk of the Old Testament to back us up. But what if I said no? What if the Lord’s original plans were for His people to be representatives of God’s best for the rest of the world? Would these people become the first teachers and priests for the Lord Almighty? Would their lives be a living testimony of God’s presence? Think about it for a moment – Godly teaching AND reflecting God’s presence to others. Teaching others how to treat one another, what to eat/not to eat (not everything edible is healthy), how to worship, how to deal with sicknesses, and the list goes on. Can we see a correlation between this and Jesus’ Great Commission in Matt. 28:19-20 – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Emphasis mine)
Now it didn’t turn out the way the Lord perhaps had initially purposed but did that negate His original intention. The Old Testament is filled with stories of sinful behaviors where “man” often thought he was right and basically didn’t need God. We see how hatred for the Israelites grew. Sometimes it was their fault, sometimes it was the sinful nature of others. But, when we look at the New Testament, we see that through Jesus…….His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two (Jew & Gentile), thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. Eph. 2:15b-16
Ephesians 4:1-6, Paul encourages the reader (both Jew & Gentile) the following: I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you received…..There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Galatians 3:28 states: There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Romans 10:12 states: For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him….
So, why do I share this? Less than 3 weeks from now, on Sept. 25, many in the Jewish and Messianic communities will participate in Rosh Hashanah services. Some who read this may think – that’s Old Testament; not applicable for today. I remember years ago being approached by a church member who asked the question, “Why don’t we celebrate Passover?” My response was, “We do – it’s called Easter. Besides, that’s OT and we are no longer under the OT laws.” But, in having this mindset, was I being deprived of all of scripture’s riches? Yes!
In Leviticus 23:2 the Lord tells Moses to “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.’” Then later in verse 14b, the Lord tells us these appointed times were “to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.” If we think these appointed feasts were just for the Jews in the OT, we are missing out on the Lord’s work through the Jews to speak HIS truths to those outside the Jewish faith. Perhaps another way to say this is – are we missing out on the Lord’s work through His children to speak His truths to His children? Do we recognize that in Christ there is no longer Jew or Gentile but the “one new man”?
What are these “appointed feasts” the Lord refers to? Leviticus 23 tells us of seven yearly celebrations: Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles. The first 4 are in the spring and the last 3 are in the fall. And why are they important? Jesus/Yeshua is or will be reflected in these Holy times. For example – is Jesus/Yeshua in the Passover? Consider the following:
· At the time of the Exodus, the people were told by Moses to take a “male lamb without defect” to sacrifice. Ref. Ex. 12:5.
· John 1:29 – The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
· I Cor. 5:7b – For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
· Rev. 5:12 – “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power….glory and praise!”