The Season of Sacrifice

palm frond with crown of thorns

As we round the corner from Summer to Fall, we can easily become distracted with the busyness, worries, and struggles of life. In times like these, it is more important than ever to fix our eyes on the Master, and to focus on the truth of our salvation. The second group of holy days on Israel’s annual calendar, which take place over the course of just twenty-two days, offers us a unique opportunity to do just this. The Fall Mo’adiym (“Appointed Times”) tell an extraordinary story of remembrance, atonement, joy and rest. These most special days point us powerfully and creatively to the reality of Yeshua’s sacrifice.

As if out of nowhere, the seventh new moon of Israel’s year arrives with a loud blast of sound—t’ruah! Yom T’ruah (Numbers 29:1), also known as Zikh’ron T’ruah (Leviticus 23:24), is the least-explained moed (“appointed time”) on the calendar. But from what we can glean from its name, this day somehow involves remembering (zikh’ron), and the remembering is meant to be loud (t’ruah means “loud blast of sound”). It would seem, then, that the clash of voices and instruments—anything capable of making t’ruah—is a wake-up call for the purpose of remembering; and when we look both backward and ahead, we can surmise that it is a memorial of our salvation, and of everything that God has done and promises to do for us again and again.

Indeed, we are reminded most deeply and profoundly of that salvation just ten days later, on the most significant day of Israel’s calendar: Yom HaKipuriym—the Day of the Atonements. Hearkening back to some of the themes of Passover a half-year earlier, Yom HaKipuriym is the one day each year in which no one but Israel’s High Priest was permitted within the Tabernacle, in the presence of Adonai (Leviticus 16:17). The people can do nothing for themselves—they can make no sacrifice, they can recite no vow—they can only stand aside and allow the High Priest alone to do his work to make atonement on their behalf. As believers in Yeshua, this is made even more real and meaningful, knowing that our great High Priest, Yeshua, has made this atoning sacrifice for us once and for all—a sacrifice both powerful and enduring for anyone willing to receive it (see Hebrews 9:11-12).

After being reminded most solemnly and vividly of how we have each fallen short of the glory of God, and are in need of His forgiveness, how much more cause do we have to rejoice and celebrate our victory over sin and death! And this, indeed, is the purpose of the Feast of Sukot (“Huts!”) which comes just five days later. As a reminder of how Adonai took care of Israel’s every need in the desert for forty-years, Sukot is a seven-day, outdoor party, which we may celebrate in memory of the provision of Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice, so that we may live out our salvation to the fullest, “only rejoicing” (Deuteronomy 16:15). It reminds us that, in reality, our only rescue from trouble is always Yeshua, no matter what our circumstances may proclaim to the contrary.

And finally, on the day after Sukot comes the Eighth-Day Closing Assembly: Yom HaSh’miyniy ‘Atzaret. With so much activity and celebration over the previous twenty-one days, all that then remains is to rest—to rest in everything that has been brought back to mind, to be refreshed with the memory, and to refocus only on what is good, what is right, and what is true.

So the story of the Fall Mo’adiym is one of remembrance, atonement, joy and rest—all of which would be for nothing without the once-and-for-all sacrifice made for us by the Messiah Yeshua. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the sheer magnitude of Yeshua’s selflessness was foreshadowed in the sacrifices prescribed for these very special 22 days: an overwhelming slaughter of more than 70 bulls, 17 rams, and 7 times 17 lambs (119 total)! Everything together reminds us that the work has all been done; and now we may rest, knowing fully—and with confidence—the sacrifice of the One who saves us.

Come to Me, all you laboring and burdened ones, and I will give you rest. Take up My yoke upon you and learn from Me, because I am compliant and humble in heart; and you will find rest to your souls… (Matit’ya­hu 11:28-29, mjlt)

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