The month has been FULL of celebration and learning of God. The people are ready to recommit their lives to Him and follow His commandments as His people.
I have been wracking my brain and searching the internet to find out which holy day falls on the 24th of Tishri. I’m coming up with several holy days celebrated in that month but none specify that they are to be celebrated on the 24th of the month. The celebration that I am leaning towards is called “Simchat Torah” which means rejoicing in the Torah. This comes on the ninth day of the Sukkot celebration. Sukkot only lasts seven days but on the eighth day there is a solemn celebration. On the day after this celebration Simchat Torah is observed. This day celebrates Israel committing to the Law of God.
The celebration that holds closest in meaning to what we are reading, to me at least, would be Yom Kippur, the Day of Attornment. This occurs on the eleventh day of the month (or maybe the 10th). Rosh Hashanah kicks off ten days of introspection. This time is meant to consider what you have done good and bad over the last year. These days are spent in repentance and prayer. At the end of those ten days is a day spent in prayer, fasting and meditation. The cleansing of the slate with God. This is what it feels like the people are doing in our text.
What is confusing me is that Yom Kippur comes before Sukkot and Sukkot was the celebration we read about the people observing the last time we were together. Yom Kippur also occurs too early in the month for it to be the observance we are looking at in our reading now.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that things in this month may have moved around throughout the years. We know there were a lot of changes, including making this the start of the Jewish year. Nissan is still the start of the religious year. It could be that the attornment they were working through in our text was what is now known as Yom Kippur and the Simchat Torah was added to the list as a remembrance of this day.
The participants in this day’s activities are sincere in their repentance, acceptance of the faults of the past, and commitment to do better in the future. Not every good, bad or ugly instance in mentioned in the listing of Israel’s past but enough is included for the hearer and speaker to understand where things went wrong and where the fault lies. It does NOT lie with God! It is the people who have broken the covenant. God was patient and faithful even in the face of Israel’s unfaithfulness. And when He did finally take corrective action, He was waiting for their cry for help and turning back to Him.
Even though Israel repented she is stuck with the consequences of her actions. God is faithful to forgive us our sins but that doesn’t always mean we escape unscathed. “Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that You gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruits and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves” (verse 36). Their repentance didn’t release them from their bondage of slavery. They were free to worship their God in their land but nothing they had was their own; even their bodies belonged to someone else. Their hearts though belonged to God. THIS they could, and would, give Him.
I wonder how long it would be before they turned away again. Was this the last big turning? I suppose we are going to find out as we continue on in our journey. I hope that this was at least the last turning away for the generation that signed the covenant in writing.
This too is something that wasn’t done before. When Moses and Joshua and all the kings called on the people to serve the Lord, it was always a verbal response. The people answered as one. It could easily be said that they were acting on ‘mob mentality’ and some might have disagreed if it weren’t for that mentality. This time though each individual who made this commitment did so in writing. I don’t know if anyone felt free to abstain from agreeing to this commitment but either way, they KNEW what they were signing.
We don’t have a document that we can put our name to that says we have covenanted with God. Instead we have witnesses. We are to stand and proclaim that we too will follow where He leads. We do this before witnesses either intentionally or otherwise. Our mouths are to proclaim our faith as well as our lives. They both need to line up for our witness to be effective. “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35). This is how He wants us to show we are His children. Sign your commitment with your heart and do so before all those who may watch you. NOT to be seen by others but so that they may see Him through you.
Father God, thank You for loving me enough to send Your Son to take my place. Thank You for making a way for my sins to be wiped away. Thank You for protecting me from consequences I have RIGHTLY earned. Help me stand for you at ALL times. Don’t let me breed confusion with a mismatch between what I say and what I do. Let my life reflect Your love in ALL I do. I know this is going to take some work, especially when I’m frustrated by interruptions. Help me once again to focus on this issue and resolve it for good!