Ezekiel 20:37 “I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.”
One need not look very hard to find the beautiful, symbolic meanings woven by God into the fabric of the Fall festivals. The days are heavy-laden with the ripe fruit of needful repentance and reflection, just as the trees and fields yield their bountiful harvests for the storehouses. Abba gave us these days because He is intimately acquainted with our dusty frames, of how we need regular, obvious reminders that we are called heavenward. In our frailty, He gives us set apart moments of looking inward, of pausing to purposely view the work He has been and is doing in our hearts. These planned interactions are my favorite time of year.
I love the colors and scents of Fall – the crunchy yellow and orange leaves, the bright red apples piled into my kitchen sink ready for applesauce-making, the oranges stuffed with cloves and filling the house with their spicy scent, the pumpkins and squash yielding their delicious undertones for a winter’s-worth of soups, stews, and pies, and Fall in the air, oh the crisp air coming down from the Colorado Rocky Mountains – fresh and windy on my face. I can’t seem to get enough of it. I can finally start baking bread again now that we don’t need to worry about the blazing kitchen baking the rest of the house in the summer heat. The warmth will actually be sought after as a comfortable place of congregating through the cold months ahead. It’s truly amazing the picture God gives of bounty and fruitfulness, on the heels of which will follow a long, cold, dormant season before new life will spring anew.
In taking stock of my own life, do I see enough fruit in my harvest to carry me through the wilderness of winter? Has my fruitfulness even approached the capabilities of abundance I know are mine in Yeshua’s strength? Who am I today, right now, as the New Year begins on Yom Teruah? Do the trumpet blasts come as a shock and surprise, warning me to repent and turn back to the Lord whom I’ve been forsaking? Or have I maintained a weaned soul, ever aware of God’s kingdom and on alert for His heavenly business being accomplished in me? Each year, it’s usually a little bit of both for me. Sometimes I see in myself the labors of much growth, and some years I’ve seen an apathy in my attitude that disturbs me to the core. Either way, in God’s calendar we start the year in repentance looking forward to a year of experiencing obedience. The sound of the shofar blasts on the Day of Blowing have an unearthly quality to them. “Repent, turn back to your heavenly Abba!” “Judgement is near, humble yourselves before the Lord!” “Sin is crouching at the door! Take heed and stand guard!” The trumpet blasts train our spirits to prepare for the Ten Days of Awe, leading up to Yom Kippur. Our atonement has been sealed by the blood of the Lamb, but these days are for us to look at our lives. Have we allowed sin to increase this past year so that grace may increase? As Paul says, “May it never be!” When I gaze at the sky during harvest-time, its blue only offering its deepest hues when contrasted with the golds, my heart stirs within me and I listen for the sound of the trumpet.
There is a picture in Rosh Hashanah that Jews discuss each year. It’s a metaphor of coming before the Lord and passing by Him as He gazes on us and “measures” us. Much like a shepherd with his rod, examining and counting each sheep as it passes under his rod, so the Lord examines us. “You have searched me, LORD, You have known me,” and “You know my thoughts from afar.” Paradoxically, Yahweh calls us to come before Him during this time of accounting and yet He knows what He will find when we approach the throne – the righteousness of a pile of dirty rags. But because of the New Covenant, we draw near under the gleaming curtain of Yeshua’s blood. The Lord examines us as we draw near through the blood of His precious Son. A traditional greeting on Yom Teruah is, “May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year.” I could point to plenty of examples of consequences for sin and blessing for faithfulness in my own life. It’s God’s mercy that draws us to repentance, and He disciplines us because He loves us. The pages of these books play out for us through the days and years we live on this earth. But what an astounding gift that we have been inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life for all eternity! As we approach the Day of Atonement, I ask the Lord if I am living a life worthy of His high calling. Is there sin that separates me from Him even now? Am I trampling His grace by living licentiously, or do I treat His gift as the inestimable prize it is? Yom Kippur is the soberest day of the year but not because I believe that I will earn some favor by fasting and humbling my soul. No, I bow with reverence, I posture before the Great King of the universe in humility. But even as I bow my head low, my heart is light as a feather. Because my Savior has appeared. His offering has been accepted in the Holy of Holies for all generations.