BY NICOLE JANSEZIAN, TRAVELUJAH—
This evening ushers in the first of several consecutive Jewish—or biblical—holidays, celebrated in Israel in the autumn in highly festive fashion, beginning with Rosh HaShanah and ending with the Feast of Tabernacles.
During this time, residents of the Jewish country partake in the observations of these holy days, but what about Christians? Many evangelical Christians who live in the Holy Land, and even some who don’t, make it a point to come to Israel, and specifically to Jerusalem, to celebrate these feast days as the Lord commanded in the Bible.
“We recognize that the feasts are not really the Jewish feasts—in the Bible they are called the feasts of the Lord,” Jim Schutz, a Christian who lives in Israel, told Travelujah. “They have a special significance for both Jew and Gentile.”
Christians can relate to the Feast of Tabernacles through its prophetic New Testament meaning, including the return of the Lord, Schutz said. The metaphor of living in tabernacles symbolizes believers being strangers in this world, living in temporary tabernacles awaiting another kingdom. Also, the days of repentance and Yom Kippur are symbolic to the Christian of the sacrifice of Yeshua, Schutz outlined.
“The feasts should intensify the whole message, the whole meaning of what our lives are like in Yeshua,” he said.
Schutz, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem liaison to local congregations and international speaker, offered another aspect of celebrating the biblical feasts: to encourage Christians identify with the Jewish people and to better grasp the mystery of Israel as explained in Romans 11.
“The whole point of Romans 11 is for the non-Jewish believer to understand God’s heart for the Jewish people,” Schutz explained. “It is so that Gentiles can understand this mystery from the heart of God’s perspective.”
Observing the feasts, though not a requirement, helps a Christian gain that perspective, he said. Schutz and his family will celebrate Rosh HaShanah on Wednesday evening with Jewish friends.
This year thousands of Christians from the nations will join Jews from around the world in “coming up to Jerusalem” during these appointed festivals. Michael Onifer, a leader of the Eagles’ Wings’ Israel tour, is one of them.
“Something that has been lost (among Christians) is the sacredness of space, the holiness of actual geography,” Onifer told Travelujah. “God was very specific about places and certainly about Jerusalem. He had a purpose for choosing the city of Jerusalem and the land of Israel. The feasts can be celebrated here in a different way than any other place in the world and were originally intended to be celebrated in Israel.”
Onifer said he makes it a point to be in Israel to observe these holy days. Some 35 Christians joined the Eagles’ Wings tour, purposely scheduled to coincide with the fall feasts.
“There is the very prophetic promise of the nations in coming to worship in Jerusalem and we feel it is in our hands to begin doing that now in anticipation of what the scripture promises,” Onifer said.
Onifer maintains that the feasts are more than a religious activity given to the Jewish people, but an “invitation” for believers to understand God’s heart, times and the places he has chosen.
“This is an invitation to deepen our knowledge of God and to understand how to cooperate with him and his purposes,” Onifer said.
Rosh HaShanah is known in the Bible as the Feast of Trumpets and was mandated in Leviticus 23:23-25. The following 10 days leading to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, are known as the days of awe and are a time of repentance. A single Sabbath, known as the Sabbath of Repentance, occurs between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (this year on Oct. 1) and is marked by a special reading from Hosea 14:2-10, urging the nation to: “Return, Israel, unto the Lord your God.” Yom Kippur begins at sunset on Oct. 7. This is considered the holiest day of the year on the Jewish calendar and is a full fast—no food or water.
And finally, the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, mandated in Leviticus 23:34-35 and 23:39-43, begins at sunset on Oct. 12 and concludes at nightfall on Oct.19. During Sukkot, Jews build tents or tabernacles in which they eat their meals and sometimes even sleep.
Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on connecting Christians to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.