And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one. (Zechariah 14:9; ESV)
I present this week's message in anticipation of the holy day of Yom Kippur (English: the Day of Atonement), which begins this evening. At the same time the synagogue readings upon which this message is based are for the Feast of Sukkot (English: Feast of Tabernacles or Booths), which begins Friday evening. These two God-ordained occasions are intimately related, being part of the series of holidays of this Jewish month. Ten days ago was what is commonly known as Rosh Hashanah (English: New Year), but referred to in the Torah as Yom Teruah (English: the Day of Blowing [most likely of the shofar]). The blowing of the shofar (English: ram's horn) at Rosh Hashanah reminds us in our busyness not to forget that God is the creator of all things and the one to whom we must give an account. This begins a process of self-examination to make sure that we are in right relationship with both God and other people. The culmination of this process is Yom Kippur, when in ancient times, the Kohen HaGadol (English: the High Priest) would take the blood of a special annual sacrifice into the Kodesh Ha'kedashim (English: Holy of Holies). Contrary to how some may think, the observance of Yom Kippur was not to attain spiritual cleansing and forgiveness from God, but to receive it. Once this process was complete, then we are sufficiently prepared for the week-long festival of thanksgiving and rejoicing, Sukkot, five days later.
According to the prophet Zechariah, the Feast of Sukkot is intimately associated with the restoration of all things and the establishment of the age to come. The culmination of the ages will be marked by this festival of thanksgiving and joy.
Just like in the Torah where Yom Kippur is part of the necessary process on the way to celebrating Sukkot, so there are necessary steps to participating in the Sukkot of God's future reign. Unless we are right with God, we will not be part of this celebration. Being right with God requires that we take our lives very seriously and accept God's standards for cleansing and forgiveness. I don't know how many people attending synagogue for the high holy days understand how much the ritual has strayed from its roots in the Torah. While the essential aspect of humbling oneself before God has been retained, God's provision of cleansing and forgiveness through the blood of the sacrifice has been replaced by the merits of our own actions. The provision of God has been replaced by the deeds of people as if our own efforts could ever make us right with God.
The main reason for this error is our failure as a people to accept God's provision of cleansing and forgiveness, the one that the original Yom Kippur rituals foreshadowed, that is the atoning sacrificial death of the Messiah. While we must play our part in our restoration of right relationship with God, we will never attain to God's standards in this regard as long as we reject his provision of cleansing and forgiveness in the Messiah.
Yeshua the Messiah is the fulfillment of all that Yom Kippur anticipated. It is through him, his death and his resurrection, that we become adequately prepared to participate in the great celebration of Sukkot in the age to come. Yom Kippur reminds us that God's intent for us is to know his cleansing and forgiveness. A great future celebration awaits us if we would receive God's provision though Yeshua now.