Today we are in the middle of what worshipping Jews call The Days of Awe — the first ten days of every Jewish New Year during which one is meant to spend extra time reading the Scriptures, set aside more time with God, to examine one’s heart and life in the light of God’s ways:
Am I walking rightly with the Lord? With other people?
Are there any sins I need to confess…. any broken relationships which need to be mended?
It is a time to take stock and make things right, in order that one can be renewed in every way with God and man.
I love it that God made a special season for this; new year, new clean slate of the heart. Christians celebrate Easter and Christmas as a means to honor both the birth of Christ and his sacrificial death and resurrection. As much as I love the traditions surrounding these, I am also being awakened to a beauty and purpose in God’s original appointed seasons prescribed for his people in the Old Testament. These seasons, known as the Feasts of the Lord, are all built around one thing: entering, honoring, knowing and renewing relationship with God.
These God-appointed seasons, described in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus, are meant to be times of turning one’s attention back to the Lord, celebrating and renewing our relationship with him. In addition, the annual observance of God’s seasons provides a natural calendar to educate young ones about the nature of God, our place in his family and a right response to Him.
Though Jewish rabbis added many traditions to these celebrations down through the ages, we need to look back to the beginning and never forget that God himself set up this calendar of celebration, remembrance and renewal. Furthermore, he said that the observance of them was appropriate …. forever. You see, these appointed seasons are not about being Jewish, they are about being God’s people, and we are those people. We are not called to keep Jewish rituals, but we are called to honor God’s heart and ways. My heart has been quickened to learn God’s purposes in these special seasons; this is on my table, so I offer it to you as well.
These Ten Days of Awe began with the first day of God’s New Year on his special calendar, which occurred last Thursday on September 29, originally accompanied by the blowing of trumpets — God’s wake-up call to his tribe (no iPhone alarm clocks then, my friends…) to turn and return their attention to him. The Days of Awe culminate this Saturday, October 8, with the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), which for worshipping Jews is a holy day of fasting, repentance, receiving of forgiveness, and seeking of reconciliation. No work is done on this holiest of days; it is entirely set aside for God and his purposes of the heart.
This was originally the day that the high priest entered the Holy of Holies with the blood of a perfect, spotless lamb and poured it on God’s mercy seat to make atonement for the nation. Then one day, Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, came once and for all with his blood; He fulfilled and achieved atonement for mankind forever.
So what remains for us in observing this special season? The never-ending need to turn and return to God in our hearts; the need to examine oneself and make things right with God and man in a deliberate way, not subject to the whims of life and occupation and pre-occupations.
All that one might discover through meditating, reflecting and seeking God these 10 days needs to find its resolution and be put to rest. God gives a deadline (the Day of Atonement), not because he’s bent on forcing us into a corner about our sin, but because this adoring Father wants everything dealt with that would steal life and joy, so we can get on with the celebration. Because five days after the Day of Atonement, a huge celebration begins….His prescribed Feast of Tabernacles, a joyous time of enjoying God, family and life’s blessings that his people were asked to celebrate for a full 7 days. God knows how to start a year off right. As his people, it is wise to pay attention; as his children, it is good to honor our Father’s heart for his appointed season.