"Timing is Everything"
As you consider Emor this week, more commandments are listed that carry on the theme of holiness which we have been considering in the past few Torah portions. Called into a priestly service for the Most High, the people of Israel continue to receive more instructions about how to maintain a state of separateness before the Creator. The Lord gives His people more details on what it means to be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests. He really does want them to be holy ones, which we reviewed last week in Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27), in all that they do.
When you look at the four chapters of Scripture composing Emor, as the Book of Leviticus prepares to wind down, one detects three distinct Hebrew verbswhich indicate to me that God is trying to communicate some important concepts to His people. The Hebrew verb amar is seen throughout this portion. Amar is translated in various ways depending on the context...In addition to vocal speech, the word refers to thought as internal speech (AMG). A similar Hebrew term used in our parashah is the verb davar. Davar has a variance of meanings, including: to speak, to say, to promise, to sing or chant, think, pronounce judgment (AMG), obviously each contingent on context. A final Hebrew verb that stands out is qara, used various times, and means to call, to declare, to summon, to invite, to read, to be called, to be invoked, to be named (AMG). When seeing this, the issue witnessed is not that God is speakingbut are His people even hearing, listening, and most of all, heeding His instructions? Leviticus 23:2 is one significant place where these three terms are all used together:
Speak [davar] to the sons of Israel and say [amar] to them, The LORD's appointed times which you shall proclaim [qara] as holy convocationsMy appointed times are these.
The Appointed Times
The most striking feature you will encounter, seen in reading Emor, is the list given of the moedim or appointed times. Leviticus 23 includes a summary of the appointed times and the significance that they have for Gods people. This chapter begins with the word,
The LORD spoke again to Moses, saying, Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, The LORD's appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocationsMy appointed times are these: For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings. These are the appointed times of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them (Leviticus 23:1-4).
The appointed times of the Lord are things to be taken very seriously, as they are labeled by Him to be miqraei qodesh or sacred occasions (NJPS). These special seasons will help to establish the yearly cycles for Ancient Israel, as they will continue to be formed and molded as Gods special people throughout the rest of the Torah. These appointed times will notably tell a story not only of Gods dealings in delivering His people in times past, but also of how He will deliver His people in the future via mighty acts of salvation. The appointed times will serve to not only give structure to each new year, but will teach future generations of Gods people about what it means to come together and join in a very special and reverent time of communion with Him.
It is notable that the first of the appointed times listed in Leviticus 23 is the weekly Sabbath or Shabbat:
For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings (Leviticus 23:3).
There is disagreement among Jewish interpreters as to whether or not the Sabbath can really be considered among the appointed times. One view, indicated in the Soncino Chumash, is that The Sabbath is not included among the appointed seasons of the Lord...[because] The reason is that the Sabbath is a day fixed by God, whereas the actual date for the observance of the festivals had to await the proclamation of the Sanhedrin. Contrary to this, the ArtScroll Chumash thinks, The Sabbath is mentioned with the festivals to teach that anyone who desecrates the festivals is regarded as if he had desecrated the Sabbath, and anyone who observes the festivals is regarded as if he had observed the Sabbath. Regardless of which position one takes, a person, who remembers the appointed times in Leviticus 23:5ff, is automatically expected to be remembering Shabbat every week. The Prophet Ezekiel declares that by sanctifying Shabbat, it would be a sign between God and His people:
I am the LORD your God; walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and observe them. Sanctify My sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God (Ezekiel 20:19-20).
The willingness to take one day out of seven, in order to spend time with our Creator, is recognized to be a sign between God and His people. It is a time not only to rest and be refreshed, but also consider Gods goodness and provision for us.
The Spring and Fall Feasts
With Gods people considering His goodness and blessing every week with Shabbat, the significance of the other appointed times seen in Leviticus 23remembered throughout the yearcan only be highlighted. Jewish interpreters of Leviticus 23 are agreed that seven specific holidays are listed:
Pesach or Passover (Leviticus 23:5)
Chag HaMatzah or the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6-8)
Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:9-21)
Yom Teruah or the Day of Blowing (Leviticus 23:23-25)
Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-32)
Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-44)
Shemini Atzeret or the Eighth Day Assembly (Leviticus 23:39b)
Why do these seven appointed times, observed throughout the year, bear significance for Gods people? What do they teach us about important things in the past history of Gods people, but also important things to come in the future?
Passover or Pesach is to specifically teach of Gods past and future dealings in salvation history. Deliverance from Ancient Israels bondage to slavery in Egypt and from the clutches of Pharaoh is recalled, and for Believers today the reality of our freedom in Yeshua from the condemnation of sin, are all to be remembered at this time of great celebration.
The Festival of Unleavened Bread or Chag HaMatzah and the eight days of avoiding leaven is an important time to not only reflect upon the Ancient Israelites having to eat the bread of haste, but also for Believers to reflect and deal with some of the sin that can often creep into our lives. Purification from the stains of transgression, and turning ourselves toward the Bread of Life, Messiah Yeshua, is a beneficial exercise.
Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks honors two wonderful events. On this day during Moses era, the Decalogue was given from the heights of
. Some 1,300 years later, after the ascension of Yeshua into Heaven, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Believers assembled in
. Each year on this special day, Messianic Believers can remember these two powerful events, and pray for additional power and revelation.
In Jewish tradition, Yom Teruah is observed as Rosh HaShanah or the Civil New Year, with the blowing of the shofar or rams horn. Historically, this has been a season for the Jewish community to do teshuvah, or perform a return to God for His faithfulness and blessing. But it is also a time to mark the beginning of the ten days that lead up to the Day of Atonement. Rosh HaShanah begins the Ten Days of Awe, a season of special reflection on the previous year.
Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement is considered the holiest day on the Hebrew calendar. Originally, the high priest of
bore the sins of the people and presented himself in the Holy of Holies for forgiveness. On this unique day Gods people are instructed to deny themselves, or afflict their souls. Fasting and prayer are the major parts of this day. Today as Believers in Yeshua, we can reflect upon His finished work as not only the required sacrifice for our sins, but also His unique service for us as our High Priest. We can also use Yom Kippur as a specific time to offer up prayers and intercession for the lost of Planet Earthespecially Jewish people who do not yet know the Messiah.
The Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot is an eight-day celebration where we build our temporary sukkah and reflect on God dwelling among His people. Here, thankfulness, praise, and special consideration for the provisions made for us by Him should be the focus. It is also beneficial to look forward to the coming days when the Messiah Himself will come to tabernacle with us in His Kingdom on Earth.
If you are a Jewish Believer in Yeshua, have the appointed times at all taken on new significance and depth, as you now remember them every year? What are the similarities and differences between a traditional Jewish observance, and your new Messianic Jewish observance? If you are a non-Jewish Believer from an evangelical Christian background, how have the appointed times added richness to your understanding of the gospel and your faith in Jesus? Do you think that todays Christians can learn much more about the Messiah from the moedim?
Todays Messianic movement has been uniquely positioned to help all of Gods people learn to appreciate both the Sabbath and appointed times. We get to show others that these were not ordinances exclusively for His people in the past, but can have continuing relevance and value for His people right now. They are a shadow of the things to come...the substance [of which] belongs to Christ (Colossians 2:17, ESV).
As you consider Emor this week, it is my hope and prayer that the Holy One of Israel is speaking directly to you. How do you approach the Lords appointed times? Do you truly bask in His presence on Shabbat? Do you glory in the accomplishments of Yeshua at each one of the feasts? Are you truly interested in allowing the appointed times of the Lord to instruct you in His ways and His ongoing progress of salvation history? What do the appointed times teach you about the future?
Gods people get to visibly demonstrate that they are His by remembering the appointed times. Each one of us makes up His Kingdom of priests, serving as His representatives among the masses of sinful humanity (cf. 1 Peter 2:9). Does your Messianic congregation or fellowship make Shabbat and the appointed feasts a time for reaching out to others, and in demonstrating the goodness of our Heavenly Father to others? Are they used as times to bless others with what He has done for us? Or, are the appointed times used to condemn and harass those who presently do not keep them, or think that they are unimportant? If timing is everything, then position yourself to be a beacon of His light and salvation to all you encounternot only during the appointed timesbut during all times!
Leviticus 21:1, 16-17; 22:1, 3, 17-18, 26; 23:1-2, 9-10, 23-24, 26, 33-34; 24:1, 13, 15.
Baker and Carpenter, 72.
Leviticus 23:1-2, 9-10, 23-24, 26, 33-34, 37, 44; 24:1, 13, 15, 23.
Baker and Carpenter, 223.
Leviticus 23:2, 4, 21, 37.
Baker and Carpenter, 1009.
Cohen, Chumash, 749.
Scherman, Chumash, 683.
For more information and teaching on Shabbat, consult the Messianic Sabbath Helper by Messianic Apologetics.
Also commonly known by the Greek-derived term Pentecost.
Yom Teruah is observed in the Jewish tradition, of both the First Century C.E. and today, as Rosh HaShanah or the Civil New Year (m.Rosh HaShanah 1:1).
For more information and teaching on the Spring appointed times, consult the Messianic Spring Holiday Helper by Messianic Apologetics.
The term teshuvah, itself based on the verb shuv, means return to God, repentance (Jastrow, 1703).
For more information and teaching on the Fall appointed times, consult the Messianic Fall Holiday Helper by Messianic Apologetics.
Consult the article Does the New Testament Annul the Biblical Appointments? by J.K. McKee.
Outreach Israel Ministries
P.O. Box 516
McKinney, TX 75070