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Monday, September 17, 2012

Rosh Hashanah: God's Lordship and His Coming

Today marks the first of the "High Holy Days" on the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year's day.  I'm talking about it today, because it bears greater symbolic significance today for the world than it has, perhaps, in previous decades.
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This holiday is traditionally celebrated by blowing the shofar horn (which gets its significance from Numbers 10: 1-7, and Exodus 19: 16-19) and eating symbolic foods like honey and apples. The horn signifies God's leadership and lordship over mankind, and is also blown in praise of the Lord.  The honey and apples represent a blessing for a "sweet new year."

The Jewish people believe that on Rosh Hashanah the Lord opens His records on every person to review the sins and pass judgement at the beginning of the new year. His judgment is "sealed" 10 days later, on Yom Kippur (the "Day of Atonement").  This means that from today until Yom Kippur, Jewish people all over the world will be contemplating their deeds over the past year, and seeking to make atonement for the wrongs they've done, so that God will "seal" them in the Book of Life for the next year.

Significance for the World

While Christians do not have to observe this particular traditional holiday, they should at least contemplate the spiritual and symbolic meanings it has to the Jewish audience. The day also means something to Christians and Muslims (but I'll get to that).

First of all, in these troubled times, it would do us good to stop on a day like this and think about the lordship of God, and His authority, which gives Him the right to pronounce absolute judgment over our sins.  As my parents put it often enough to me, "If the Lord was to come back right now, what would He think about what you're doing?"  We talk a lot about the blessings of God or the salvation of Christ, but we ought to remember to consecrate our daily lives to God's service, as well.  God has been abundantly merciful and generous, "not wanting anyone to perish," (2 Peter 3:9 NIV), but He desires our obedience, and deserves honor from us!  I believe God is always watching, throughout the year and not just today, and that the standards He has shared with us in the Bible are boundaries He holds us to, as people who know Him and seek Him.  If sin was grave enough that Jesus had to die to atone for it, it should not be treated more lightly by those He has redeemed!

Secondly, the shofar of Rosh Hashanah has significance to those who are waiting for Christ's return. The Bible says that Christ's second coming will be heralded by horns, just as in the days of Moses (Exodus 19: 16; 1 Corinthians 15: 51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).  This has prompted many Biblical scholars to suggest that the Second Coming could very well happen on Rosh Hashanah or some time during the 10 days before Yom Kippur.  I don't know--Jesus Himself didn't tell us when He will come back--but it certainly is possible, and the perfect symbolism of this timing would make sense, since Christ's death and resurrection, as well as the day of Pentecost, were timed according to Jewish festivals.  If Jesus came back this week, it would be wonderful, but I suggest being prepared for His coming, whenever it could happen. It would be best for the Lord to find our hearts ready and watching for Him throughout the year (Luke 12: 35-37). 

Finally, the day is significant in light of world events this week. I would be insulting the intelligence of everyone in the Middle East if I failed to point out that the widespread violence there is occurring during the holiest week in the Jewish calendar, with rather significant timing. The anti-American and anti-Jewish speech I've already been hearing for a week seems perfectly timed to blot out this Jewish holiday, and to show aggression toward the Jewish race. It might be important to point out that the New Year of the Islamic calendar starts at sundown on November 14th this year, but it draws its name Ras as-Sanah from Rosh Hashanah, as well as some of its traditions.  In light of all of this, I now better understand what Israel's Prime Minister meant in a tv interview I saw yesterday, in which he said that in the Muslim's eyes "We are the same [the U.S. and Israel]."

I choose to accept this cheerfully (Matthew 5: 11-12)!  This is just another reason why Christians should pray for peace throughout the Middle East (Luke 6: 28), for the "sweetness" of the coming year, and for the salvation for many souls!

So, in summary, this week is significant because of the cultural meanings to the Jewish people and the world.  It is also an important reminder for Christians to contemplate their lives in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ.  He could very well come today!

P.S. As an interesting note, although I am not Jewish, this holiday has personal significance to me, aside from all that I just discussed, because I accidentally timed the completion of the first draft of my novel for September 26th (Yom Kippur this year). The novel just happens to cover a lot of the topics significant to this holiday! Ironic, huh?

See you here next week!  As my Jewish friends would say it, Shana Tova (A good year)!