There has been a lot of interest lately in the coming harvest feasts celebrated by the Jews and whether or not it has any implications for us as Christians and Americans. There have been many attempts to answer and decipher its meaning. America has seen tragedy during this time of year and some people have determined it was judgment from God. Because we as Christians have not come into a clear understanding of God’s ways, His movements have often eluded us.
It was during these seasons that I received salvation and pursued a deeper understanding of God and events that occurred during these seasons. The untimely death of a loved one got my attention as I wondered why. I became angry with a God I did not know. God did not have to vindicate Himself to me but He did because He is just that kind of God. He wants us to know that He is always righteous and good. With God’s help I was able understand death and work through the grief process. I began to observe a pattern in deaths around the end and beginning of a year. As a new Christian, the Jewish feasts were unfamiliar to me until much later so it was attributed to some phenomenal related to the end of the year. For years I observed these times of unusual blessings and loss and sought to understand. This mystery was opened up further and further as I grew in Christian knowledge and searched out the ways of God.
God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He established patterns in the earth and patterns for His interactions with mankind. God’s laws are universal but His ways are to be understood by His people. There are those that can break down the Jewish feasts in ways that I would not even attempt. My intent is only to understand what God wants from us and how we are to give it. Recently I wrote out a paper of my own research in this area entitled “The Offering God Wants When He Comes to Meet With Us.” Through this research I found my answer and maybe my summary will suffice others as well.
The History of the Feast Times
To understand God, we always have to go back to what He originally instructed us and see the progression of this truth through the scripture. Because God does not change. What He originally wanted, He still wants. It is our sin that has changed the equation. God originally came to meet with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden on a regular basis (Gen 3:8). We saw in Genesis where the sons, Cain and Abel, prepared offerings for God (Gen 4:3). We are not told how these offerings began, just that they occurred. God was pleased with one offering and rejected the other. This story reveals that God expects to meet with His people at set times and that He wants us to offer up something of value to Him at His coming.
In the wilderness, we saw that Moses instructed the Children of Israel in the ways of God and how to please Him. The Israelites were told that several specific times during the year God would meet with them, how they would present their offerings, and that these would be times of a great celebration.
Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty: Deu16:16
The Israelites worked the land and were shepherds so their offerings to God were related to their labor during the year. God expected His people to recognize and bless Him at the end of their season of work where He had prospered them to have success. The combination of their work and God’s favor produced a crop or blessing of which God expected His credit, respect and reverence.
Man’s response to God’s expectation to be remembered at this time would show man’s appreciation and thankfulness for a good and gracious God. Cain, of course, did not show proper respect or appreciation and God was not pleased. What about us? Are we thankful? God has blessed America greatly. Are we showing thankfulness? God no longer expects animal sacrifice, but He does expect from His children thankfulness and reverence.
This coming season is about a tradition of God coming to meet with His children and bringing and receiving something of value in a time of thankfulness for all He has done for us. Will we have an acceptable offering? Certainly there will be praises and worship going up to God as we carry on church services but let us not forget other behavior.
America has recently thumbed its nose to God. The White House was lit up in rainbow colors to celebrate a practice that God hates. Our legislative branch is at war with each other. The Supreme Court has validated and made legal a homosexual life style that God specifically forbade. The nation has removed prayer and the Ten Commandments from public arenas, shunned the stranger, murdered millions of babies while the rich have decried the portion for the poor and many churches have rejected God’s truth and deceived believers. America that loves money and that has made money its god is now poised to elect a new president who appears to worship money. Shall God be pleased with what America has to offer Him when He comes to be celebrated in this season? I think not. America’s present state can be found in the book of Judges where the people were willing to say to anyone: “Come and be lord over us and take this mess under your hand.”
“Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you – Jdg 8:22-23.” (Read the rest of this chapter.)
“When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand…” Isa 3:6.
Perversion of the Season
Many false religious leaders have made a mockery of this time and required of God’s people a substantial money offering during these feasts. People looking for a blessing from God have been taken advantage of and some fallen into unbelief because of it. While God does expect us to give finances to the church that upholds His name and does His work, it is in the normal process of church obedience, not in a lottery to get future blessings. We must remember too, that there were some offering as mentioned by Isaiah that God did not want.
“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.” Isa 1:11-14
These verses were followed up with the truth of what God really wanted: Isa 1:17 – “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” God is more concerned about our heart and right behavior (New Testament Commandments) than our offering up vain offerings in an attempt to appease Him. So, like with Cain, an offering from impure or insincere hearts will not be acceptable to God. Malachi 3 helps us to see also that God will not be pleased with our refusal to give godly pastors the portion that is rightly due for the work of the Lord. The New Commandments that Jesus gave us refer to a changed heart. A right heart leads us to do right with our money.
The Expectation of God’s Coming
This upcoming season is about God coming to see what we have prepared as an offering for Him. Will it be good works, a heart of love, fellowship with Him and our brethren, an appreciation and thanks for His truth and blessings or will it be our disrespect? God will come to some in blessings for their good done toward His name but He will appear as a judge to others for their disrespect of His Word and Person. How will we meet our God?
Jewish Traditions Applied to Christians
The Jewish feast of Rosh HaShanah is September 13-15, 2015. It is the Jewish New Year and marks the beginning of a ten-day period of prayer, self examination and repentance. Jewish tradition teaches that during the High Holy Days God decides who will live and who will die during the coming year. It is a time of judgment for mankind and reconciliation with God.
The next significant feast is Yom Kippur – Atonement celebrated on September 22-23, 2015. This feast begins at sunset of one day and ends at nightfall of the next. During Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur and in the days leading up to them, the Jews begin to examine their lives and repent for any wrong doings committed the previous year. This repentance is called teshuvah. Yom Kippur is when the high priest went into the Holy of Holies each year to make an offering for the sins of Israel. The Jews during this time would make amends with those they have wronged and make plans for improving their lives during the upcoming year. Many Americans follow this custom but observe it at our New Year’s Day which starts in January. Where our calendar has gone through worldly changes the Jewish calendar is more exact. Yom Kippur is the deadline for making things right and by its end, God’s “Book of Life” is said to be closed until the next year. It is a time of fasting, repenting and cleansing to renew our relationship with God.
Even though some Christians may have difficulty with these holidays because they represent Jewish traditions, we must realize that our Savior and Christian blessings come through the lineage of Jews and that we must understand both the past and the present to get a full understanding of our God. These practices that we saw exercised in the Garden of Eden were evidently established long before Abraham. Though we do not follow the laws of the Jews, we do obey the spirit of the law and some principles are timeless as are some commands God gave to the Jews, i.e. honoring God and putting Him first. We are admonished through the word:
“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Pro 4:7
“But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” 1Jn 2:20
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Joh 8:32
God can move at any time in the life of a person but we are told specifically about His expectations at this time. Whether for blessing or judging, we would do well to be ready for God’s presence in love and preparedness. Christians are not Jews but we serve the same God and we have been brought into a better relationship with Him through our faith in Jesus Christ. Christ actually taught His disciples about divine visitations and how to be ready for them (Mt 24-44). This is a time when we should reach out to and pray for all souls. While God comes to bless and fellowship with the obedient, the ungodly will find His judgment of sin. There are yet deeper meanings to the season for the believer in fellowship with the Lord and they should diligently seek God for His purposes. We have a standing appointment with the Righteous God over the earth and it is always a good idea to take some time to examine our lives and prepare it to be a time of celebration.