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Category: Holy Days Page 1 of 3

“All Things Made New”:  The Eighth Day in God’s Holy Day Plan

“And on the eighth day, a sabbath rest…” (Lev. 23:39)

“Now I saw a new heaven & a new earth, for the first heaven & the first earth had passed away” (Rev. 21:1)

The holy day following the Feast of Tabernacles, simply called the “Eighth Day”, is perhaps the most meaningful—and yet least talked about or understood—holy day in God’s plan for mankind.  It often gets lumped in with the rest of the Feast of Tabernacles, or rushed through as everyone packs up their temporary dwellings and sets their minds toward home.

But we would be still majorly in the dark about God’s plan and His nature without the Eighth Day.  It is not just a tack-on, a bonus day of feasting before we go back to our regular lives.  Rather, it is the point of God’s holy days and His plan for mankind.

The spring holy days are quiet, personal, intimate.  They’re about salvation on a one-to-one level, focused on inward change.  But the fall holy days are about the whole of mankind, with dramatic and world-encompassing events that no one will be able to ignore.  And how He places those holy days on the calendar is very purposeful.

Across all of God’s created times and seasons, the number seven/seventh represents completion (or perfection), and the number eight/eighth represents the beginning of a new cycle.  We see this in the foundational seven-day week, to start with.

It’s also seen repeated in the Feast of Pentecost (the 50th day or “eighth day” after seven weeks, which beginning an eighth week).  And similarly, we see it in the Jubilee Year (the 50th year, or eighth year after seven “weeks” of years and beginning of the eighth “week”).  (If that felt a bit confusing, this study about Jubilee and Pentecost may help clarify a bit.)

In its most macro fulfillment, the Eighth Day represents the beginning of a new cycle after 6,000 years of man (six “days”) and 1,000 years (1 “day”) of Jesus Christ reigning on earth.

Placed right after the Feast of Tabernacles, the Eighth Day is the ultimate culmination of God’s plan, when sorrow and death cease to exist, mankind has been fully redeemed, Satan banished forever, the physical world destroyed and recreated as spiritual, and when God will dwell permanently with His children.

And while there’s a LOT we don’t know about what it pictures and what that will be like, there are several key themes throughout the bible that can help us learn a bit more and give a clearer picture of the Eighth Day as the conclusion of God’s plan for humanity.

What does the bible say about the Eighth Day?

Of all God’s holy days, the Eighth Day is the most mysterious.  Explicitly, the bible doesn’t tell us a lot.  So I’ll mention the few verses here and some additional food for thought, but will try to keep this brief so we can dive into the themes.

Do You Offer Your Firstfruits to God? (And No, I’m Not Talking About Money)

Something struck me the other day about the story of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4).  While we can’t know for certain why God honored Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s, it’s commonly believed that it was because Abel brought an animal, providing the required shedding of blood.  And that makes sense, given what we know.

But there’s an additional detail provided that I’d never noticed before.  The verse specifically states that Abel brought the firstborn of his flock, while it just says Cain brought something he grew.

So we know that Abel brought God the firstfruits of his labor, and it doesn’t mention the same of Cain.  That could just be an omission in the text, but I find that unlikely.

Throughout the bible, God makes it clear that the firstborn (of man and beast) and the firstfruits (of crops or produce) are set apart and belong to Him (Ex. 13:12, 22:29-30, Num. 18, Neh. 10:35-37, etc).

Because God is the sovereign Creator, technically everything belongs to God.  He owns it all.  When we bring the first yield of our labors and our lives to the (literal or figurative) altar, we are acknowledging that fact and asking for His continued blessings.

And God was very clear that His people should not be bringing merely what remains after meeting their own needs (leftovers), or bringing stuff that’s not quite “up to snuff” (flawed).

The true firstfruits in our lives

Today, WE are God’s firstfruits, spiritual Israel…those who have answered His calling, are keeping His commands, observing the sabbath and holy days, and striving to live a godly life (James 1:18, Rev. 14:4).

As we near the end of the firstfruits season this year, with Pentecost upon us, the Cain and Abel offering discrepancy got me thinking about the application in my own day-to-day life.

Our offerings today are different from those in ancient Israel’s sacrificial system, but the concept of setting apart the firstfruits of our labor to God is still applicable.

And perhaps even more importantly than material possessions or money, this should apply to our real resources—our time, our thoughts, and our energy. 

We acknowledge God to be the owner of everything that we are, and the giver of everything that we have.  Therefore, we should give Him our first and best.

So it’s worth each of us asking, is God getting my firstfruits?  Or does He get the dregs, what’s left over at the end of the day or week?

Passover Ceremony Themes: The Bread

Recently I found some of my notes from keeping the Passover as a small group a few years ago.  Rather than the very formal and consistent script that many of the corporate churches of God (COGs) use for Passover, the smaller groups often have a more interactive meeting where multiple people share speaking roles.

This post is adapted from my notes when I presented the portion of the service around the meaning of the Passover bread one year.  While a bit more perfunctory than many studies on the site, these are good themes to re-visit as we prepare for the Passover every year, and may be helpful for those keeping it in small, interactive groups.

If you want to download my speaking notes for your Passover night meeting, you can find that here: Passover Night Service: The Bread .  Also, here is a similar post on the Passover wine.

Themes of Keeping the Passover – Meaning of the Bread

During His ministry, Jesus Christ was already priming the disciples for His eventual institution of new Passover symbols.  We’ll start in John, where He said:

“I am the bread of life…the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world…Most assuredly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you…He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:48-56)

At the time, this was a hard and confusing statement, and it wasn’t until after their last Passover with Christ and His sacrifice that the disciples connected the dots.

Something that is often on my mind at this time of year is how we’ve historically approached deleavening.  (I realize we’re talking the Passover so this feels like a tangent, but stick with me here…)

In the past, so much of the way we’ve de-leavened was about us putting leaven (sin) out.  Sticking the vacuum back behind the stove, air canister-ing our toaster, obsessively reading food labels.

But we can’t put sin out of our lives by ourselves.  Not one iota.  So if we’re approaching “de-leavening” that way, it’s hypocritical and pharisaical, and kind of missing the point.

As a result, we’ve sometimes co-opted the Days of Unleavened Bread into a time focused on ourselves and what we’re trying to put OUT of our lives, rather than orienting around taking IN Christ—the Bread of Life.

“God Remembered…”:  Our Father’s Faithfulness in Action, & Future Fulfillment in the Feast of Trumpets

Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.” (Gen. 8:1)

The verse above is just one of several passages where we’re told that “God remembered” one of His people, or a promise He had made.

And to us this may seem like a strange or disconcerting statement…does God forget about us from time to time, we might ask?  You know, He has a lot on His plate, many people have bigger problems, and maybe He “back-burners” us?

Or, maybe we read that kind of statement and just gloss over it as one of those weird old-timey language things in the bible that doesn’t translate in quite the same way today.

We’re used to humans forgetting things, it’s just in our nature.  Some of us forget facts and knowledge, others can’t remember names or birthdays, and most of us get distracted mid-task and forget what we were doing.

So we may read a verse that tells us “God remembered” someone and accidentally take away an idea about the nature of God that isn’t accurate, or dismiss the statement as an irrelevant ancient turn of phrase.  And in both cases we’d be missing something powerful.

Bible verses about God remembering

The statement “God remembered” (or Him stating “I will remember”) is a common theme through the Old Testament…here are the key passages, including one from the New Testament:

  • Gen. 8:1 – “Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.”
  • Gen.  9:15 – “(book-ending Noah’s story)…And I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh”
  • Gen. 19:29 – “And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow”
  • Gen. 30:22 – “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb”
  • Ex. 2:23-25 – “Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and with Jacob
  • Lev. 26:42 – (telling of future events)“…then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac, and my covenant with Abraham will I remember; I will remember the land
  • Ex. 6:5 – “And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant
  • I Sam. 1:19 “…And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her” (she had been crying out in anguish for a child)
  • Ezek. 16:60 – “Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth”
  • Rev. 18:15 “(of Babylon the Great) For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities

It’s a lot!  This could be quite distressing if we believed this meant that God had forgotten and then remembered in all these examples.  But this phrase is a good example of where the English translation is a pale depiction of the Hebrew word’s intent.  So what does this actually mean?

Zakar ayth:  to bring to mind and act

In all those examples in the Old Testament, the word used is zakar (H2142), and specifically the compound phrase zakar ayth (H2142, H853).

Zakar means to bring to mind or recall, to remember, mention, recount, or think on.  It also means “to make a memorial” (more on that later).  It’s used a couple hundred times in the Old Testament, but only about 50+ of those include “ayth”.

Ayth is additive, used thousands of times in the bible, and basically provides a sense of entity, indicating the self and adding emphasis to what’s being remembered.  I’m not a Hebrew scholar in any sense, but the way that I think of is like “recalled to Himself” or “brought to His mind”.

Specifically, this “remembering” precedes acting on someone’s behalf—remembering with a purpose or intent.  It’s remembrance as a full-being activity, using mind and body rather than a simple head exercise.  When applied to God, it’s usually in response to a commitment He had previously made (Ps. 105:42, Ex. 6:5), or to the longing and pleading of His people (Gen. 30:22, I Sam. 1:19).

So we’re not talking “remembering” that’s simply the retention of information, the way you remember your spouse’s birthday, the family pancake recipe, or every lyric to “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

It’s not simply recollection or not-forgetting, like when you remember to pick up milk on the way home or remember that you’d promised to call a friend.

Instead, zakar ayth calls our attention to how God focuses on something or someone in a way that entails action or response.  When we’re told that “God remembered” in the bible, it’s to showcase an example of God’s consistent faithfulness to His chosen people…through ACTING on His promises.

So let’s go back to the original question…does God occasionally forget about us?

Through the Wilderness:  The Journey of Our Lives

When looked at in a very macro way, the spring holy day season pictures the journey of God’s firstfruits from start to finish, Passover to Pentecost.

That sounds simple, but in reality the time from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (at the Passover) all the way until Pentecost (picturing the acceptance of God’s elect before His throne in heaven at the Marriage Supper)…that’s a LONG time.

And in seeing the bigger prophetic pictures and focusing on the end point, we can sometimes forget to look at the more personal applications—separation from sin, being called out of the world to a different life.

Within that timeframe, the Days of Unleavened Bread signify the journey out of the bondage of sin for God’s firstfruits, picturing how we move through this physical life learning to rely on God and undergo the process of conversion.  It’s a time of spiritual challenges, doing our best to navigate our lives in a carnal world.

A constant theme in the bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is that of wilderness.  It is a place, an idea, and a feeling.  And what the bible shows us about the wilderness tells us a lot about how we should view our personal spiritual (and physical) journey through life.

Related post: From Wave Sheaf to Wave Loaves: the Feast of Firstfruits & Acceptance of the Elect

How do we see the idea of wilderness in the bible?

The word “wilderness” is used hundreds of times in the bible, particularly in the Old Testament.  It’s almost exclusively the word midbar (H4057), which evokes a pasture, an open field where cattle are driven, and can imply a desert.

In our modern world we often equate it with a barren, harsh desert where nothing can survive, but really it just means an uninhabited or uncultivated place, and the origins of the word actually seem to indicate good grassland or choice pasture.

And this is where the other implication of the word midbar comes in, which gives the sense of pushing out or driving (as in driving cattle forward to graze).  There is a sense of forward momentum, of being spurred forward…not simply plopping down and staying, but rather moving FROM something TO something else.

And it’s when we start to combine the sense of wilderness as a tangible place, with that idea of momentum and a journey with purpose, that we begin to gain a better understanding of how the wilderness factors into our spiritual and physical lives.

You might also like:  Do You Offer Your Firstfruits to God? (And No, I’m Not Talking About Money)

How should we think about the wilderness, spiritually?

As I mentioned above, today most of us probably have a somewhat negative association with the idea of wilderness, and particularly a spiritual wilderness.  We might conjure images of physical and emotional desolation, feeling alone through trials, maybe of a barren place that can’t sustain life.

And in focusing only on those aspects, we’d be missing a very important truth—that the way to the Promised Land lies through the wilderness.

As we reflect on the entirety of God’s spring holy day season and how it pictures our physical lives, we should meditate on how it is also our own personal journey into—and through—the wilderness.

For the ancient Israelites, the wilderness was a physical place with a divine purpose.  And this remains true for God’s chosen people today, even though we’re not (usually) tramping through a physical desert.

A few key themes we’ll explore below are the wilderness as a place of…

  • Separation, being called out and set apart from the world
  • Preparation, through testing and trials to make us ready for the future God has planned
  • Surrender, learning to rely on God and fully put ourselves in His hands

Themes From the Book of Lamentations for the Fall Holy Days

How this oft-overlooked book can highlight themes of Trumpets and Atonement

I can count on one hand the number of sermons I’ve heard on the book of Lamentations.  I could maybe even count them on one *finger* (and I had to search for it).

While Lamentations never directly mentions either the feasts of Trumpets or Atonement, its themes are unmistakably linked to the themes of both holy days, and the fall holy day season overall in God’s plan for mankind.

What are those themes?  Complete destruction and anguish from God’s wrath as His promised judgment comes, mourning and confession of sin, and acknowledgement of God’s righteousness in that judgment.  Humility and asking for mercy while recognizing that it’s undeserved.

And harder to find, but definitely present, is hope in God’s faithfulness and mercy, and ultimately reconciliation through His promises of a coming restoration.

These holy days occur in the seventh month (seven being a number of completeness).  Chapters 1, 2, and 4 are written in acrostics, one for each letter of the alphabet and signifying the completeness and totality of God’s wrath and the destruction of Jerusalem.

What is the book of Lamentations about?

Lamentations is one of the five scrolls comprising “The Writings” in the Old Testament.  It mourns the destruction of the first temple, the “funeral of a city”, and foreshadows the destruction of the second temple and Jerusalem in 70 AD.

The Jews recite the book on Tisha b’Av, called the “dark fast” to commemorate the destruction of the temple.  Tisha b’Av is seen as a fast without hope (dark) in contrast to the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) which they see as a “white fast” due to the hope embedded.

It’s generally accepted that the book of Lamentations was written by the prophet Jeremiah due to both internal and external evidence, but the author is never named in the text.  The fairly dramatic, evocative language certainly seems to fit with the book of Jeremiah though.

Much of Lamentations goes into excruciating detail about the consequences of Jerusalem’s repeated rebellions against God, and paints a terrifying picture of His promised wrath.  It is punishment with purpose, prophesied beforehand again and again to turn them from it.

It is an expression of grief and sadness, a detailed account of tragedy, and a denunciation of the sins of His people.  The book moves us through tragedy and sorrow toward a confident hope in God’s ultimate salvation of His (and all) people.

In our culture today we tend to close our eyes to suffering, grit our teeth through it, or try and ignore it in favor of looking forward to a better time.  Lamentations, instead, wallows in it.  Lamentations surrounds you in Jeremiah’s grief over Jerusalem’s destruction, in the suffering of God’s people.

Is Lamentations relevant to God’s people today?

In a word, yes.

The book of Lamentations is written to encompass Jerusalem and the nation of Judah, the remainder of God’s people at the time.  It should serve as a very sobering warning to us as His people today.

Jerusalem rebelled against God, and for centuries God warned that the judgment He promised for their sins would come.  When the wrath of His judgment finally comes upon Jerusalem, the book of Lamentations doesn’t question the reason or justice of God’s actions, but rather asks for His mercy.

The end-time application of the book is focused on Jerusalem as well. Because of this, it fits more naturally into the fall holy days and what the world will experience during end-time events, and the book’s themes very much tie into this.

While Lamentations has seen its first and second fulfillments, like most major prophecies in the bible there is a future and final one at the end time.  So although it’s focused on Jerusalem, it IS written to God’s people, and that alone makes it important for us to pay it some attention.

We know that all scripture is given by God and is good for instruction and to equip His people (II Tim. 3:16).  So what should we take from this book?  I submit that there are clear messages to God’s firstfruits, warnings that if heeded today can keep us from the terrible future reality that is laid out in the book.

Passover Themes: The Wine

Recently I found some of my notes from keeping the Passover as a small group a few years ago.  Rather than the very formal and consistent script that many of the corporate COGs use for Passover, the smaller groups often have a more interactive meeting where multiple people share speaking roles. 

This post is adapted from my notes when I presented the Passover wine meaning portion of the ceremony one year.  While a bit more perfunctory than many studies on the site, these are good themes to re-visit as we prepare for the Passover every year, and may be helpful for those keeping it in small, interactive groups.

If you want to download my speaking notes for your Passover night meeting, you can do so here:  Passover Night Service: The Wine and I have a similar study for the Passover bread.

Themes of Keeping the Passover:  The Wine

We know that every single one of us has sinned, and so fall short of the glory of God.  And we know that the penalty for that sin is death (Rom. 3:23, 6:23).

God told the Israelites that the blood of the many sacrifices He required was to help make atonement for them, saying “For the life of the flesh is in the blood…for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11).

Prior to Christ coming to earth and giving His life for our sins, for Israel to keep the Passover entailed the slaughter of thousands of lambs as a symbol of this need for cleansing.  But in Hebrews, Paul makes it clear that it’s not possible for the blood of animals to actually take away sins (Heb. 10:4).

Instead, Jesus Christ—God in the flesh—came as our eternal High Priest to make this atonement for us.

“Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God

And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:12-15, 22)

That word translated “remission” means freedom, pardon, forgiveness, or liberty.  As our kinsman-redeemer, Christ purchased us with His blood, freeing us from the debt (death) that we owed and from our bondage to sin.

He was able to pay the price for our sins, and transfer ownership of us from Satan (the ruler of this world) to the God family ONLY because He didn’t owe the same debt.  He was perfect and blameless, never having committed even a single sin.

“But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet. 1:15, 18-19)

As our Passover Lamb, only Christ was qualified to make this sacrifice.  This redemption out of sin makes possible our eternal salvation, and opens the door for our future roles in God’s kingdom.

As Far As East From the West:  The Second Atonement Goat

All of the holy days picture the steps God is taking to reconcile mankind to Himself, and the Day of Atonement is in many ways the culmination of that.  Atonement is a mirror of the Passover, when Christ’s sacrifice is applied to the entire world rather than just a select group of God’s firstfruits.

According to Jewish tradition, the Day of Atonement was when Adam and Eve, at the serpent’s urging, ate of the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  If that is the case (and it makes sense), then this day marks both the exact moment that mankind was separated from God, and fittingly pictures the restoring of that connection.

One aspect of the Day of Atonement that God gave Israel was the ceremony of the two goats.  It involves a high priest made symbolically sinless by a separate sin offering, taking two unblemished young goats as a sin offering for the people.  After Aaron cast lots for the two goats, the one chosen “for the Lord” was killed and its blood used to pay the price of the nation’s sins.  The other goat had the nation’s sins laid on it and was led out into the wilderness and left there.

This is not a ceremony that is often talked about or studied in-depth.  For many decades, most of the churches of God have taught that the second goat, who is sent into the wilderness after having the sins of the congregation placed on him, symbolizes Satan.  The theory was that this represented Satan’s culpability in mankind’s downfall and the sin that permeates this world, and that the goat taken into the wilderness symbolizes Satan being bound in Revelation 20.

This interpretation, though, is not consistent with what the bible tells us in this particular passage, nor is it consistent with what we read throughout the rest of the bible regarding the sacrificial system, the role of Jesus Christ, and our personal accountability for our sins.

In this study we’re going to go through what both of the goats picture in God’s plan.  I know it seems somewhat distant and esoteric, but stay with me—I promise this is actually going somewhere real and weighty and relevant to us today.

Two goats, one unblemished sin offering

We see first that the high priest could only come into the Holy of Holies one time a year, and he first had to offer a sin offering for himself, wash himself, and put on special garments.  This was because the sin offering could only be accomplished by a sinless high priest, picturing Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9 and 10 cover this in-depth).

After the high priest had performed the sacrifice for his own sins, he then started the rest of the ceremony:

“And he shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats as a sin offering, and one ram as a burnt offering…then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the azazel [goat of departure]” (Lev. 16:5)

The first thing that Leviticus 16:5 tells us is that both goats are for a sin offering—each is a distinct necessary element and together they constituted a single sin offering.  They could not be complete or accepted separately.  This was a unique requirement since most sin offerings were only one animal, and it signals to us that God was accomplishing something additional in this ritual beyond just payment for sin.

Circumcision, Baptism, and the Passover:  Coming Into Covenant

[Author’s note:  I wrote this study almost 15 years ago as a means of trying to understand what God’s word said about who should partake of the bread and wine within the Passover ceremony, as that was a topic of debate in our small group at that time (specifically regarding children).  The study outlines what I concluded, though in my mind this is not a topic I would “fall on my sword” about.]

Circumcision required in God’s covenant with Abraham

Abram was a righteous man who followed and obeyed God throughout his life.  In Genesis 12, we see the Lord (who later came as Jesus Christ) come to Abram and initiate a covenant, which was later reiterated and expanded upon in Genesis 13 and 15.   More than thirteen years later, the Lord again appeared to Abram, tells him to be blameless, and instituted a new part of their covenant:

“This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you…and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” (Gen. 17:1-14)

These verses show circumcision being added as requirement of God’s covenant with Abraham and applying to his descendants as well.  Circumcision was a symbol of the faith Abraham already had, an outward symbol or action of the change already evident in Abraham’s heart.  It was also used to signify the people God had made a covenant with.

Circumcision involves the shedding of blood, a crucial component in sacrifices for the atoning of sins.  Leviticus 17:11 tells us that “the life of the flesh is in the blood…for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul”.  This is a forerunner of Christ shedding His blood for the atonement of mankind’s sins (I John 1:7).

Israel’s requirements as God’s covenant people

Fast-forward to Israel preparing to leave Egypt and to keep the Passover for the first time.  Throughout Exodus 12, God gives Moses and Aaron the instructions for the sacrifice of the lamb, the blood on the doorpost (again, the shedding of blood and coming under it), and eating the meal.  Towards the end of the chapter, God instructs them that no foreigner shall eat the Passover (the body of the lamb that has been sacrificed), and tells them:

“All of the congregation of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised…For no uncircumcised person shall eat it.” (Ex. 12:47)

The Lord is very clear that no uncircumcised person can keep the Passover, because it’s impossible to come under the blood of the lamb (Lamb) and partake of its (His) body without being circumcised—the sign of God’s covenant with His people.  In this patriarchal society where God made a covenant with the nation as a whole, circumcision for family members was ascribed to the head male family member, who stood for the whole family (and all males in the family were also circumcised).

Over the centuries, God frequently made a connection between the act of physical circumcision and an analogy of spiritual circumcision, or circumcision of the heart.  Throughout many years of wandering in the desert, Israel continually rejected God and longed with their carnal hearts to return to their old ways.  Before they finally were allowed to enter the Promised Land after the 40 years of wandering, God hammered home this connection and how He wanted His relationship with them to function.

  • “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?…Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.” (Deut. 10:12-16)
  • “Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed…And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live…And you will again obey the voice of the Lord and do all His commandments.” (Deut. 30:5-8)

Circumcision represented removing the part of a person that is resistant to God.  This never happened with physical Israel, though they were (often) physically circumcised.  The fact is that this circumcision of the heart can’t truly happen without God’s spirit at work in a person, and this was not available beyond a few specific cases until Christ’s sacrifice.

The Feast of Tabernacles and the Fleeting Nature of Man

We live like we have unlimited time.  Even though we know better, this is human nature.

As I’ve said before, I don’t believe the fall holy days are really about us, as they picture God’s plan for reconciling the whole of humanity to Him (while the spring holy days are about the salvation of His called-out people).

The spring holy days are quiet, personal, intimate.  It’s about salvation on a one-to-one level, focused on inward change.  The fall holy days are about the whole of mankind, with dramatic and world-encompassing events that no one will be able to ignore.

We know that the Feast of Tabernacles pictures the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth.  His faithful saints will have been resurrected to eternal life, and God will begin reconciling the rest of the world to Himself.  So for those of us who understand God’s plan and are striving to be in that first group (the spring harvest), what should this holy day period mean to us on a personal level?

Dwelling in tents

Let’s look at the original command to keep the Feast, back in Leviticus:

“Speak to the children of Israel, saying: the fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord…when you have gathered in the fruit of the land…you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook: and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days…You shall dwell in booths for seven days…that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths [tents] when I brought them out of the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 23:34-43)

Why did God make the Israelites dwell in temporary dwellings during this time of rejoicing and feasting?   Yes, it’s a literal reminder of how the Israelites were made to wander for 40 years, living in tents in the wilderness and relying on God to sustain them before they could enter the Promised Land.  But we know that there’s a spiritual analogy here as well.

He commanded it to remind us of where we’re going.  Dwelling in tents during the Feast of Tabernacles is meant to remind us of the lack of permanence—the fleeting nature of mankind, of this life, of this world.  It also is meant to drive home our total reliance on God.

Ephemeral humanity

Several of David’s psalms dwell on the idea of humanity’s transience, how man is “like a breath…his days like a passing shadow” (Ps. 144:4).  He gets to the heart of why he’s focusing on this idea in Psalm 39:

Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am.  Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but a breath.  Selah.  Surely every man walks about like a shadow; surely they busy themselves in vain; he heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them.  And now, Lord, what do I wait for?  My hope is in You.” (Ps. 39:4-7)

The book of Ecclesiastes explores this idea in-depth, making it a perfect pairing with the Feast of Tabernacles (the Jews traditionally read Ecclesiastes during the Feast).  At its heart, Ecclesiastes asks the reader:  What direction is your life headed in—toward man or toward God?

It starts (and ends) with the famous exclamation that “All is vanity!” and then Solomon goes on to talk about all the ways he tried to seek physical fulfillment, only to discover that it’s all emptiness.  That word translated “vanity” is hebel (H1892), used heavily in Ecclesiastes but more than 70 times throughout the Old Testament (including David’s Psalm 39).

The KJV/NKJV versions exclusively translate it as “vanity”, and other translations (like the NIV) use “meaningless” or “emptiness”, but none of these really captures the true meaning intended—it’s definitely not accurate to say that this life is meaningless.  Hebel is a notoriously tricky word to translate, but its true meaning is closer to “breath”, “vapor”, or “mist”.

Or in other words, insubstantial, temporary, and impossible to cling on to.

James cautioned his readers about this very thing, saying, “You do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).  The prophet Isaiah echoed a similar sentiment, likening flesh to grass that withers and fades (Is. 40:6-7).

Like the Israelites in the desert, God is showing us we are in temporary dwellings until He gives us a permanent habitation (“a body incorruptible”).  The apostle Peter, as he neared the end of his life, wrote of knowing his “tent must soon be folded up” (II Pet. 1:13-14; Moffatt version).

Do we see our lives—our bodies, our jobs, our houses—in this manner, as a flimsy covering that one day will abruptly be taken down?  Generally speaking, the way we focus on our houses, careers, and physical appearance would suggest not.  Paul also uses this analogy, telling the Corinthians, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands (II Cor. 5:1).

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