Arise, Reform and Rejoice!

[F]or everything that is revealed is Light. Therefore it says, “Awaken yourself, you who are sleeping, and arise out of the dead, and the Messiah will shine upon you.” Look diligently, then, at how you walk—not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:14-16, MJLT)

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, He set in motion a perpetual cycle of seasonal changes. Mankind, then, responded to and lived closely in accordance with those changes—changes many of us can largely ignore today, as we shuttle ourselves from one climate-controlled building to the next. But before there was the Internet or cars or supermarkets, people had to truly labor for their food. Literally, we had to harvest our own grains and raise our own livestock, and the longest and hardest season for working was summertime. People didn’t take vacations or time off from work or school like they do today—they toiled in the fields, in the exhausting heat of the sun, to bring in the life-giving harvest.

This was especially true for the ancient Israelites. Sum­mertime, which was the second major harvest time of the year, dragged on monotonously and uneventfully for months. Though it gradually produced a yield, it also induced the fatigue and lethargy that can come from hard, hot work. But then suddenly—virtually out of nowhere—the summer harvest season would abruptly come to its end. As the Israelites stood in their fields, bleary-eyed from the sun and sweat, heavy from the listlessness of unending labor, the faint sound of a shofar would begin to cut through the stupor. The workers would awaken from their laborious sleep to find that God was calling again.

According to the Torah, on the first day of the seventh month, the silence of summer is broken by the sudden, blasting sounds of Yom T’ruah. A dramatically different observance than the stoic Rosh Hashanah of Judaism, the Scriptures signal a day of t’ruah that is replete with the percussive praise of cymbal and drum, shofar and trumpet, stringed instrument and uplifted voice. The jarring explosion of sound generated by the people on Yom T’ruah interrupts the sleepy pace of summer, and reminds Israel that their purpose is more than just scythes and sheaves.

Sufficiently awake, all eyes are then directed toward a most austere event. As the cacophony of Yom T’ruah fades, the focus turns inward, and the inevitability of Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement—becomes palpable. In less than ten days’ time, the high priest alone will perform all of Israel’s annual atonements—spilling innocent blood for the sake of the people, and prefiguring the singu­lar sin-covering work that the Messiah has accomplished once and for all. No one walks away from that day unchanged.

Finally, almost immediately following the conclusion of this 24-hour soul-searching pause, Israel begins to bustle with activity once again, this time in celebration of the renewal of their redemption. During the seven-day Feast of Sukot—with an eighth day tacked on for good measure—the people rejoice in the remembrance of Adonai’s everlasting provision. By way of a throwback to earlier, simpler times, the people live for a week in primitive, temporary huts, as Israel is reminded of her long, desert-wandering history, and given cause to rejoice and look forward to a settled and certain future.

This trio of special times in the latter half of Israel’s yearly calendar reveals a remarkable pattern for life in the Messiah. In response to the Master’s call, we must arise from our slumber, reform from our sin, and rejoice in Yeshua’s salvation. Don’t miss this special season, when we are given such a unique opportunity to look back, gain some perspective, and then realign ourselves with God’s will.

Evil days are upon us, and we give greater reign to that evil when we exhaust and fatigue our spirits through the busyness and distractions of life. Let us be diligent, then, to be found awake in wisdom, instead of asleep in the light. It is time to be revived and hear the sounds of the shouting and shofars. May we give in to spiritual lethargy no more, but rather arise, reform and rejoice!

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