YOM KIPPUR, A MESSIANIC PERSPECTIVE, 19.09.18
Why should Yom Kippur remain important? Isn’t it just for the Jews, for the Old Covenant? What should Messianic believers do about God’s Feasts/Yom Kippur? Are we locked into Rabbinical tradition and liturgy, or can we celebrate Yom Kippur in another way?
During Rosh Hashanah the shofar is blown to awaken God’s people to prepare for Yom Kippur. It is a call for God’s people to remember who they are – that they are to be His children, His servants, His followers. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement that follows the ten days of awe/repentance, is a celebration of this return of God’s people, through their repentance, resulting in forgiveness and reconciliation with the Father.
Consulting Acts 15 provides us with a useful framework for how we view this. Let us first see how Paul and Barnabas responded to the situation they were confronted with when: “some belonging to the party of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to command them to keep the Torah of Moses””(Acts 15:5). There were meetings amongst several of the inner circle of disciples, and while these legalistic Pharisees were determined to enforce rules upon the Gentile believers, “Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God chose from among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the message of the Good News and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them by giving them the Ruach ha-Kodesh—just as He also did for us. He made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts through faith [i.e., not through rules]. Why then do you put God to the test by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples—which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But instead, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Yeshua, in the same way as they are”” (Acts 15:7-11). Peter is pointing out that since it wasn’t keeping rules that brought salvation to themselves, there was no reason to apply a different standard to the Gentile believers. It wasn’t keeping the rules that saved them, and they knew it. In the end it was agreed that the only requirements that must be placed on these Gentile believers was “not to trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God—but to write to them to abstain from the contamination of idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what is strangled, and from blood” (Matt.5:19,20). There were no impositions about diet, other than strangulated meat sources, and ingesting blood; neither were there any requirements regarding keeping feasts or special days spelled out. These were not identified as salvation issues.
Obviously, those who believe in Yeshua know that born-again believers are reconciled by the blood of Yeshua, for “through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, making peace through the blood of His cross” (Col.1:20); therefore, believers in Yeshua are not required to subscribe to the Feasts. Having said that, neither does it mean, nor intend, that believers in Messiah Yeshua should not honour Him by keeping the Feasts. If Yeshua’s followers are living their lives for HIM, as they are called to do, it should not be an objectionable undertaking to celebrate any of His Feasts, especially when they are a foreshadowing of His ultimate return. It could not be in any way harmful or erroneous to participate in the celebration of the Feasts that are designed to bring His chosen people to Him, and which represent and point to the ultimate second coming of Messiah Yeshua.
“If all of God’s born again believers on one day came before Him, fasting and repenting . . . . collectively asked to be fed with spiritual food, and forgiveness, think what would happen,” says Hershberg. “This is a time that God chose; and if God asks you to go somewhere, He is going to anoint it” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUm8eDxNuKE ). The sound of the trumpet on Rosh Hashanah is to wake up the people to make themselves right before Him, to come back to Him. “The whole idea is repentance, to return to God. This is the cry of John the Baptist; this is the cry of Yeshua . . .. it’s turning and returning . . ..” (Hershberg). It’s not just confession; it’s repentance – a change of behaviour, as Hershberg points out. So the reconciliation being celebrated at Yom Kippur, serves as a valid reminder for all believers to check their walk with the Lord. “Let’s look at what Jesus says . . .” (Hershberg). “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets! I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. Amen, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass”(Matt.5:17,18). “The misunderstanding of this Word has so messed everything up,” Hershberg points out (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUm8eDxNuKE&t=30s). “The Torah will not go away because heaven and earth have not passed away . . .” He continues to explain “I think keeping the Feasts are the least . .. there are heavier issues like mercy and giving . . . but He didn’t come to destroy the Law, He came to show us how to walk it out . . .”
“One can celebrate the Feasts & not believe in Yeshua; one can believe in Yeshua and celebrate the Feasts. If the body of Messiah came before the Lord collectively and repented, how could it be bad? It gives us a deeper perspective of Christianity,” says Hershberg. After relating a personal story about his selection of a diamond ring for his wife, describing in detail the importance of the setting to show off the stone/diamond, he makes the analogy of the Feasts as being the setting which frames and raises up the jewel. The jewel is Yeshua; the Feasts are the setting. So why would a lover of Messiah not want to honour Him by keeping His Feasts?
“You don’t worship the Feasts; you worship the King of the Feasts. All of the Feasts point to the King. And if you worship the Feasts in the right way, you honour the Lord . . . . ” (Hershberg, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUm8eDxNuKE&t=30s). He points out that: “Celebrating the feasts can be legalistic . . . . but so can a lot of things. Legalism is not what you do, it is the reason why you do it.” He defines an effective sorting out between legalism and sincere worship/honouring God. He calls it the fruit test: “Examine the fruit that is being produced by observing the Feasts of the Lord. Is the fruit being produced legalistic, or is it legitimate? The fruit of legalism is arrogance, pride, selfish ambition, arguments, and envy .. . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . . . If you’re celebrating them, and you think you are better than everyone else, then your fruit is legalist/useless; if you’re celebrating them and it’s producing more lovingness, kindness, in you, then it is legitimate. As we celebrate God’s Feasts bear in mind that Yeshua is coming back soon” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUm8eDxNuKE&t=30s).
There are likely blessings for those who keep the Feasts and celebrate them from a sincere heart; but there is no condemnation for those who do not. “The Spirit of God will dictate to your soul . . . . will tell you what you will do,” teaches Rabbi Greg Hershberg: ”It’s The Word that judges us; not us that judges The Word,” for “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword—piercing right through to a separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb.4:12). Repentance leads us back into safety, back home with Daddy. The trumpet is blaring for His people to come back, to tell the people of Israel that they are to remember that what is most important is the motive for keeping the Feasts. Service and worship done out of a true heart of love is what counts. “They were serving and worshipping, but they were not doing it out of a willing, loving heart,” says Hershberg. “For me, personally, I would not wait for Rosh Hashanah to hear the trump of God . . . .”
For true born-again believers repentance should be a lifestyle, a daily walking in righteousness before God, not an exceptional/occasional act. True believers should not be dependent upon the Fall Feasts to remind them; however, a reminder would serve well to ensure right standing before God.
Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.
Rabbi Greg Hershberg, Sept 8, 2018, “Prepare To Hear The Trump of God,”
Rabbi Greg Hershberg, “Feast of Trumpets,” Sept. 10, 2018, http://Getzel.org