Be Stirred, Not Shaken

"We ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled…" ~ II Thes. 2:2 *** "But stir up the gift of God that is within you by the laying on of hands…" ~ II Tim. 1:6

Category: Holy Days Page 1 of 2

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.

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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.

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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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A New Lump, Purged From Sin

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow…Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:7, 10)

In a previous year’s study as the Days of Unleavened Bread drew to a close, we explored how the command is that we must eat unleavened bread for seven days—the focus being on taking in Christ as the Bread of Life, rather than on thinking, even unintentionally, that we can get sin (leavening) out of our lives on our own.

One of the scriptures we really focused on in that study was a key passage where Paul tells the Corinthians:

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you are truly unleavened.  For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity (clearness, purity) and truth” (I Cor. 5:7-8)

The word translated “purge” in this passage means to cleanse thoroughly, with the implication of cleaning or purging out rather than just wiping down.  It’s a very evocative, active word, and I think the King James translators used it very intentionally in this passage and one other (that we’ll get to later).

I hadn’t ever really thought about why and how the word “purge” is used here, but it caught my attention these past Days of Unleavened Bread, and brought to mind a few trains of thought that I wanted to share.

How are we supposed to become a new lump?

You can’t get leaven out of or “deleaven” your leavened bread dough.  The yeast spores so thoroughly permeate every inch of the dough that it’s physically impossible.  You have to start fresh with new dough.  When the Israelites left Egypt, God forced them to completely throw out their old dough starters, with yeast that had built up multiplied over potentially decades.  But He didn’t want them bringing any of that old leaven with them.

We, too, have to start fresh with new dough, metaphorically-speaking.  Paul covered this topic a LOT.  He illustrated it for us when he said, “For I am crucified with Christ:  nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).  In a letter to the Corinthians he told them, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (II Cor. 5:17).

When we came to understand the gravity of our former sins, repented, and were baptized, we entered into covenant with God and symbolically died in the watery grave of baptism.  We came out of it as a new being (Rom. 6), free from sin, a new, unleavened lump.  This is our purging, and it continues throughout the rest of our physical lives. 

So let’s explore a couple things related to purging out our old leaven and being purged from sin.  I’ll try not to get *too* graphic, but there are some parallels to our physical experiences that are hard to ignore.  Like I said, they chose the word for a reason 🙂

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Prophetic Harvest Seasons and Feast of Trumpets Food for Thought

I always find it interesting to see how people approach holy day studies and messages.  There are a couple of ditches that we can fall into when it comes to the holy days.

It’s understandable when something only comes around once a year to want to go over a certain set of scriptures that clearly pertain to that day.  Some people give the same message year after year or cycle through a few, sometimes taken almost straight from church literature, often implying that church leadership of a few decades ago figured out all the major things we need to know and that trying to dive deeper or consider something in a different way is simply a liturgical fidget at best and potentially hubris to think you could find something more.

Others try so hard to figure out every single detail, plot out specific timing and order of events, and connect every scripture that could possibly be related.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this at face value, because we’re supposed to be searching the scriptures and God expects us to have studied the events of the end time so we’re prepared for what’s to come.  The danger in this approach can be a myopic approach to individual holy days and how they fit together, and being too invested in our own way of looking at it to consider other ideas.

In giving each holy day its moment in the spotlight, we sometimes fail to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, and some of the keys that God has given us to help made sense of His plan.  One of those big thematic keys is the idea of harvest seasons.

God’s holy days and the harvest seasons

The bible is chock-full of harvest symbolism, of sowing and reaping, cycles of growing and coming to maturity.  It’s no accident that God tied His holy day calendar to the agricultural cycles.  Based on what He laid out in His word, I believe that the spring holy days and the fall holy days picture two distinct harvest seasons—each separate and complete.  This isn’t earth-shattering or “new truth”, but sometimes the actual implications of the harvest seasons in prophecy get overlooked.

  • The spring holy days are a smaller harvest, focused on the journey of God’s spiritual firstfruits from calling, repentance and reconciliation (Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread) to resurrection and acceptance into God’s spiritual family (Pentecost). The spring holy days are focused on a very small, specific group of people, and do not apply to the world at large.
  • The fall holy days tell the same story, but for the whole world—and because this physical world is hostile to God, the process of reconciliation requires its complete destruction as a starting point.
    • Traditionally, the Jews believe that Adam was created on Trumpets. In this case, then, we have Trumpets picturing the creation of physical man and this physical world, and then finally Jesus reclaiming dominion of the kingdoms of this world from Satan as the earth nears self-annihilation.
    • In Atonement we see (again, traditionally) the fall of man with the first sin in the Garden of Eden (requiring the death penalty), and ultimately Jesus’s perfect sacrifice being applied to all mankind to wipe away its sins, which makes reconciliation possible.
    • This larger harvest ends with a seven-day journey toward eternal life for those still alive and the establishment of God’s kingdom on this physical earth, followed by the resurrection of all of humanity since the beginning of time.
    • The entire plan is capped off with the cessation of the physical and creation of a new heaven and new earth on the eighth day, as all of mankind is brought into God’s family and this physical world ceases to exist.

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From Wave Sheaf to Wave Loaves—The Acceptance of the Elect

Ancient Israel was an agricultural society revolving around two harvest periods, one in the spring and one in the fall.  The harvest timing was governed by God’s holy days, and vice versa.  We understand from the scriptures that the holy days provide a picture of His plan for mankind, but the fact that there are two distinct harvest periods often gets overlooked in favor of a purely linear interpretation.

Most of what I’ve heard talked about where the Feast of Firstfruits (also called Pentecost) is concerned is that it pictures the giving of God’s holy spirit, a historical event.  But I believe that the bible very clearly outlines a much greater future fulfillment that brings the spring harvest season to an end—when the saints are resurrected, changed to spirit, and brought before God’s throne for the marriage supper of the Lamb and His Bride.

Historically, both the giving of the law at Mount Sinai and the giving of the holy spirit shortly after Christ’s resurrection occurred on Pentecost.  Neither of these is accidental, but instead are two sides of the same coin.  Law and grace, old covenant and new covenant.  The future and final fulfillment of this day will be when God’s elect—obedient to His laws, redeemed from sin through grace, and having His holy spirit—are brought before His throne as newly-resurrected eternal children of God.

There are so many other aspects of this holy day, it’s impossible to cover them all in one study (and this one is long enough as it is)—the seven weeks, the Year of Jubilee and receiving our inheritance, the kinsman redeemer, the book of Ruth.  But in this study we’ll cover some of the reasons why I believe that the feast of Pentecost pictures the resurrection of the saints and the marriage supper of the Lamb.

The Firstfruit Harvest

In order to get a deeper understanding of Pentecost’s ultimate meaning for God’s elect, we have to first start a little bit earlier with an often-overlooked ceremony that happened during the Days of Unleavened Bread.  After commanding that they keep the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, God continued His instructions:

“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave [elevate] the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath [during the Days of Unleavened Bread] the priest shall wave it. And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the Lord. Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the Lord, for a sweet aroma, and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin.  You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.” (Lev 23:10-14)

Until the wave sheaf was cut and brought to the priest for offering, harvesting could not begin.  Once the first of the firstfruits harvest was offered, only then did it become ceremonially legal for the Israelites to begin bringing in the rest of the grain.  To my knowledge, this is the only time this ceremony is spoken of in the bible but it’s the only way that we can get to Pentecost, because God’s instruction continues:

“And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord…The priest shall wave [elevate] them [the meat and drink offerings] with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering, before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest.” (Lev. 23:15-20)

Pentecost is unique among God’s holy days because it does not fall on a fixed date—it’s the only floating holy day and must be counted based on another of God’s commands.  We have no way of getting to Pentecost without the wave sheaf.  Similarly, understanding the wave sheaf offering is key to understanding the future events signified by the Feast of Firstfruits.

The Wave Sheaf

What does Leviticus 23 tell us about the wave sheaf offering?

  1. The offering was given on the day after the Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread
  2. It was the very first of the firstfruits harvested
  3. It was offered by the High Priest to God to be accepted on behalf of God’s people

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Seven Days You Shall Eat Unleavened Bread…Now What?

As the sun set last night on the Days of Unleavened Bread, each of us had probably heard several messages about various themes that these holy days are meant to help us remember.  For a lot of people, a heavy emphasis before and during was probably placed on the process and concept of deleavening, and over the past few years that major focus has given me pause.

When you take a step back and think about it, the way many of us have been taught to deleaven is all about how WE are getting rid of leavening—how we vacuum every nook and cranny of our house and car, scour the ingredients of every label to find a little-known chemical that’s technically leavening, and find deeper meaning each time a box of baking soda hides in plain sight or we find a pack of crackers in our purse.  The spiritual analog for this in the days leading up to the Passover for many people is making a checklist of everything they’ve done wrong in the last year to see where they’re falling short and how they can do better in the next year, and not to only look in the obvious places for sin.

None of that is wrong necessarily, but in doing so we’ve made these holy days a time that symbolizes how WE put sin out of our lives.  And that’s not something we have the ability to do by ourselves (nor is it something we can finish by a certain date).  It’s hypocritical.  We’ve accidentally hijacked the Days of Unleavened Bread and made it into a time all about us, not about Christ and what He’s made possible in our lives.

“Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread”

This hyper-focus on deleavening (and making it about us) has also caused focus to shift away somewhat from the much more emphasized command to put the unleavened bread of Christ into us.  In fact, the passage that lays out all the holy days in in Leviticus 23 doesn’t even say anything about putting out leavening.  However, ALL the commands say we must eat unleavened bread for the seven-day period.  Here’s the initial command in Exodus:

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Leaving Egypt & The Fall of Jericho:  Prophetic Implications of the Days of Unleavened Bread

“By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe” (Heb. 11:29-31)

The spring holy days are aligned with, and represent the firstfruit harvest, and each has specific themes that keep showing up.  Passover is a sacrifice and redemption from slavery.  The Days of Unleavened Bread are overcoming sin and acceptance or victory.  Pentecost is a celebration, receiving an inheritance.

The holy days show us God’s plan for His people and all mankind, and give us a framework for prophecy.  But while we often talk about the fulfilled prophecy of Passover and future implications of the fall holy days, people get really mealy-mouthed around both the Days of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost.  We’ve been told the Days of Unleavened Bread picture our journey out of sin and putting sin out of our lives.  These are likely true, but what if there are even more concrete fulfillments?

This time of year I think it’s important to look at two significant occurrences on the Last Day of Unleavened Bread that help us begin to figure out its place in the future prophetic framework.  God performed similar baptism-like miracles for two generations of Israelites, then destroyed the worldly system standing in the way of establishing His chosen nation in the land He had promised them.  Together these show us a picture of the future when God will destroy sin and the carnal world—the death knell of Babylon—and help His people enter His kingdom.

Coming out of Egypt

The children of Israel started their journey out of Egypt on the first holy day during the Days of Unleavened Bread, after experiencing the horrifying and humbling tenth plague and God’s favor as their own firstborn were spared death.  Over the next few days, God led them away from the heart of Egypt, by day with a pillar of cloud and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light along the dark path.  His presence was visibly with them every second of the day.

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Book of Ecclesiastes & the Feast of Tabernacles

A while back I was speaking with someone and they mentioned their group was getting ready to go through the book of Ecclesiastes, and they weren’t really looking forward to it. They said they’d always kind of struggled with this book and found it depressing and nihilistic—basically “life sucks and then you die”.

I was surprised. Apparently I’m in the minority, but I’ve always loved Ecclesiastes. In college it was my go-to set of scriptures (along with the latter half of Romans 8) when I was having a bad day, when I felt shaky on my foundation, when I needed a dose of perspective. What I’ve always taken from Ecclesiastes is that buying into this carnal and physical world—the pleasures, the pursuits, the ambition, the struggles—is ultimately a path to destruction.

If I were to paraphrase Ecclesiastes, it would be thus:  all you try to accomplish on your own on a physical level will eventually pass away, so look to God now and follow His ways above all else and you will succeed. To me that is actually a very encouraging, inspiring message. We may have it hard in this life or we may have it easy, but the only thing that ends up mattering is not how far we got in our career or how big our house was, but how much our character reflects Christ’s.

A few weeks later while studying the holy days and their meanings, I learned that the book of Ecclesiastes is traditionally read by the Jews every year during the Feast of Tabernacles. I didn’t see the immediate connection, so I decided to look into it more. And the more I studied, the more it made sense and gave one of my favorite books of the bible even deeper meaning.

The Book of Ecclesiastes Summed Up

At its heart, Ecclesiastes asks the question, “In what direction is your life headed? Toward man or toward God? Toward death or toward life?” In its very lyrically-written 12 chapters, the narrator tries to find fulfillment and happiness through all the things man values—seeking after human wisdom, the pleasures of food and drink, great accomplishments, hard work, wealth, having children. His take on it all? It’s all vanity (futile, meaningless). People live and die, civilizations rise and fall, everything in life has a time and purpose, but it all eventually passes away. All of the work of man will come to nothing, and only God’s way works and lasts.

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The Day of Atonement & Covering the World

The meaning of the Day of Atonement

When I was a kid, I was told that the meaning of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) was “at-one-ment”, or becoming one with God.  For something that’s a linguistic lucky coincidence, it’s surprisingly not too far off in terms of the end result, but it’s also a massively over-simplistic view of the Day of Atonement and misses a lot of the day’s meaning.

In fact, as a kid I always had trouble connecting this idea of “becoming one with God” or drawing near to Him (which seemed like a good thing) with the command to fast on this holy day (which seemed like a bad thing, like I was being punished somehow).

The day’s name itself tells us that there’s more to the story, though.  Kippur means “expiation”—making amends for something, reparation of guilt and that guilt being cancelled, or when another takes the punishment for sin.  Kippur comes from the root word kaphar, which means to placate, reconcile, extend mercy, cancel, or cover over.  The Israelites were told that the Day of Atonement was a sabbath of solemn rest, when they were to afflict their souls and the priest was to make atonement (literally “covering”) for them, to cleanse them from all their sins (Lev. 16:30-31).

It’s the concept of “covering” that this study dives into.  Like two sides of a coin, there are two separate-but-related “covering” aspects of the Day of Atonement and drawing near to God.  The first is Christ’s sacrifice covering the sins of (by finally being applied to) the whole world, while the second involves removing the covering (or veil) that Satan has cast over the whole world to separate them from God.

One way to look at God’s holy day plan is as two harvest seasons that kind of mirror each other—the firstfruits in the spring, and the rest of mankind in the fall.  In this scenario, the Day of Atonement is really the flip side, or final fulfillment, of the Passover.  When Jesus gave His life and was resurrected, He made it possible for humans to receive God’s spirit, have their sins wiped clean, and eventually become spirit beings as God’s children in the kingdom.  As He breathed His last, the veil on the temple sealing off the Holy of Holies was ripped from top to bottom, granting initial individual direct access to God.

However, this access to God’s spirit is currently only extended to a small group of people, His firstfruits.  In the final fulfillment of the Day of Atonement after Christ’s return, His sacrifice will be applied to all mankind, their sins will be blotted out, and the dark veil that shrouds the world (along with its creator, Satan) will be entirely, permanently removed (Is. 25:6, Lev. 16, Rev. 20).

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