This message is dedicated to the High Holy Days beginning with Rosh Hashanah. Though this holiday is dedicated to judgment, repentance and standing in awe of our Creator it does not have the same resonance with Christians, as do Passover, The Feast of Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Shavuot (Pentecost). The reason is that Christian doctrine and theology diverge from the doctrine of Messianic Judaism as to our relationship with the Messiah and His work. We view His sacrifice from the perspective of reconciliation and not from the doctrine of eternal security once you have trusted in Yahshua’s saving work. I believe any reasonable person will see that reconciliation and not instant salvation is the result from trusting in Yahshua’s faithfulness, if viewed from and untainted and unacculturated mindset. It is difficult for anyone to lay aside even for a moment those things they have been taught from childhood. Yet, this is exactly what we all have to do. As a Jew, I can speak from experience. The scriptures are very plain on this matter and using the holiday as a backdrop we will explore only two for evidence.
As always, I ask you to pursue private study once the information is disseminated. Furthermore, I always ask you this congregation not to take my word for anything, but to compare my teaching with the Bible to ascertain if what I say is biblically credible. Today, there is too much of extra-biblical revelation going on in the “religious theatre” where no one can validate a speaker’s words because he or she claims special revelation from G-d. Quite frankly, this is the best way I know for a charlatan to disseminate all sorts of lies whatever the motivation to a willing audience. We have only the Bible to judge a person’s words against, and when they spout extra biblical proclamations without evidence of credibility, except for their own words then we must be wary. We are warned by Scripture that this is the time to beware of false prophets and prophecies.
This is a much-misunderstood festival by most Christians, since it seems to fly in the face of the doctrine of instant salvation and eternal security. We will explore that, but first Rosh Hashanah literally means, “Head of the year”. This is debated by many scholars as to whether or not it is the true New Year, but is accepted as the civil New Year; there being four new years in the Jewish calendar. Biblically, and that is what we wish to observe and acknowledge, it is the festival of the Feast of the Trumpets and note that this holiday carries much more significance than just the day of a new calendar year. Rosh Hashanah is a time of soul-searching and self-examination. Something we all should do and do frequently, but traditionally, Traditional Judaism believes it is the day on which the whole world is judged. Each creature is judged as an individual, such as sheep going one at a time under the watchful eye of the Shepherd.
Why do we have this day of judgement? Christians have been taught that judgment was nailed to the “cross?” Yahshua has taken all judgment upon himself? Salvation is assured and judgment is withheld. By this light that which is taught in most of Christianity, believers have eternal security with no prospect of losing or falling away from grace, so it wouldn’t make much sense to them to take this holiday seriously or celebrate it for that matter. Since judgment has already been administered and executed by Yahshua. Yet, YHVH Elohim has instructed us to faithfully observe it throughout all our generations. And to be sure, this commandment would include those who call themselves Christian believers because as Sha’ul (Paul) said, true Gentile believers are grafted into Israel making them the beneficiary of the covenants and of Torah along with their Jewish cousins. Therefore, we should reexamine the idea that this G-d given festival or any of G-d’s festivals may be dismissed. Messianic Judaism sees the matter quite differently than most Christians of course, since we view trust and obedience as synonymous. and in a different light than do most Christians. We see our trust in Yahshua’s faithfulness, as the Pascal Lamb, as reconciling ourselves to YHVH Elohim and that after YHVH’s judicial imputation of righteousness we are essentially on a probationary period, requiring us to act obediently within Torah, being obedient to G-d’s instructions found there. This frequently incites the accusation from well- meaning Christians that we’re teaching works, we are not! No one knows better than we that you cannot earn your way to heaven by the legalistic application of Torah. What we are teaching is obedience to G-d’s instructions for us, which according to Sha’ul is our reasonable service (Rom 12:1). Christians and Messianic Judaism would both agree that sins of which the individual has not repented will destroy our fellowship with the G-d of Creation, and although both might not agree that we run the risk of being cast into outer darkness by disobedience to Torah, it is well for us to settle the matter individually, whether it be valid or not. Furthermore, we are not talking about re-crucifying Yahshua as I have heard it said of those that live Torah Obedient lives, as if that were a weakness, for it plainly states in Scripture that Yahshua died for our past sins (Romans 3:25 and 2 Peter 1:9) including original sin, not future ones. By trust, we are judiciously found sinless, but for past sins only, and that is a once and for all event, as is taught, covered by Yahshua’s crucifixion. BUT future sins are not included in that judicial act, as we shall see. Because most Christians do not believe one can fall from grace or lose their salvation even in the face of biblical evidence such as the verse in Romans 3:25 they find little teaching or value in celebrating G-d’s festival of the Feast of Trumpets or Yom Kippur. But let me read verse 25 from the KJV and you decide what it plainly says. Sha’ul is speaking of Yahshua here as the instrument of the remission of sins from us by His death, but which sins? Read on.
Rom 3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God (meaning G-d’s grace)
So you see when we to use the terminology of the church “when you are saved” ” once save always saved” we are expressing a statement not congruent with Scripture for it plainly says we are only saved for “past sins,” not those future ones we may commit. Repentance, true repentance is reserved for that, to enable reconciliation with YHVH and maintain our path of progression to salvation culminating at the throne judgment to come. For High Handed sin there is no repentance. Peter also addresses the same subject in 2 Pet 1:9, I’ll read: But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Peter reminds the reader it is old sins that you were purged from at the point of our acceptance of Yahshua’s faithfulness, and trust in His work of reconciliation. Peter is calling for us to be observant, not lack these things and the things of G-d found in His Torah to preserve our salvation through a Torah Observant lifestyle, while personally acknowledging the grace of our Creator in forgiving our past sins by living in obedience to Him in our rebirth.
So, Rosh Hashanah can actually be seen as an undeserved kindness of HaShem because it points out to us that we need to reexamine our lives for sin that has crept in unknowingly or with little resistance. Here at this time of year, according to tradition, YHVH Elohim reviews our deeds so that they may not continually build up to a whole lifetime of sin. Though we should deal with our sins continually and individually, YHVH has set aside this time to bring to our attention the importance of dealing with them by His setting a time once a year to review, acknowledge, and through His love, He graciously gives us room for repentance and atonement during the 10 days of awe until Yom Kippur. HaShem can justly and kindly deal with us if we examine ourselves and sincerely ask for forgiveness for all of the sins brought to the surface of our mind by the stirring of the Ruach HaKodesh. We ask forgiveness of those we have wronged and make restitution where it is needed. It is a time to set things right between God, our fellows and ourselves. Much as a pool is cleaned by a system, which stirs up the sediment on the bottom to be sifted off the top by the powerful filter, we sit quietly, focusing on the past year, allowing the Ruach to filter out our impurities, as the Master Cleanser of our souls. As we are revitalized and renewed, we are better able to reflect the ways of Torah, which should permeate the deepest recesses of our being.
While we realize that HaShem (G-d) is showing us much undeserved kindness during this time, we must conduct ourselves with a level of fear and awe not seen on other festivals. This is the reason we do not say “Hallel” (which is a special prayer of praises to HaShem). It is not fitting to sing songs of praise and dance while standing in judgement. We must examine who we are and become cognizant of how we have failed others, G-d, and ourselves. This introspection is meant to lead to regret and remorse for the harm we have done and to attempts to turn away from our past selves to better selves who will act differently in the coming year. Because this process is difficult, we have from this night until Yom Kippur, which is called the Yamim noraim, or Days of Awe to examine ourselves and our relationships and to allow the Ruach to filter our systems.
On Rosh Hashanah we wear white to symbolize the fact that HaShem can make us as white as snow if we seek His forgiveness. It launches the special Days of Awe and Repentance. Traditionally recognized as the anniversary of the creation of man, it is a time for self-renewal, a time to make a fresh start. The shofar is blown to instill fear and awe in us of Our Creator, the Master of the Universe in whom we lay prostrate with remorse for all our sins and unfaithfulness. The sounds of the shofar call for Repentance (Shofarot) and Remembrance (Zikhronot) of God’s Sovereignty (Malkhuyyot).
Since the Jewish ‘day’ begins at sundown, a festive meal in the evening of Rosh ha-Shanah sets the holiday mood. A special challah (bread) is served: round to symbolize the cyclical year, braided as a ladder to G-d, or bird-shaped to symbolize G-d’s mercy. Pieces of challah or apple are dipped in honey for a sweet year. In synagogue the Shofar is blown several times totaling 100 notes during and after morning services. People are symbolically freed from sins through the Tashlikh ceremony in which pockets are shaken clean over a body of running water to demonstrate our ridding ourselves of sinful habits. It is reminiscence of being washed in the Holy Spirit. The Book of Jonah is read during this time for Jonah represents an excellent example of repentance, of return, to God’s grace, and Rabbis take the opportunity to remind their congregations of Jonah each year on the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. That day, known as Shabbat Shuvah (Sabbath of return), being the first Sabbath of the New Year, establishes a precedent for all the days in the coming year. On that day, the Believer, who admits his shortcomings, seeks a return to the relationship once enjoyed between God and man.
I hope as we share together in this festival, we might say to all L’shanah tovah tikatevu… “May you be inscribed for a good year in the Book of Life.”
Rabbi Davis-Hart originally presented by Rabbi Milchama ben David