And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
God has a beautiful plan for the redemption of His children. So great is His love, that He would spare not even His own precious Son. And our Heavenly Father never intended for us to wait and wonder if His redemption would ever come.
In order to assure us beyond a doubt, God gave the blueprints of His great plan through the rites of His chosen people, Israel.
In my last post I talked about the Seven Feasts of The Messiah, and how four of those feasts have been fulfilled by actual events in history. We now look to the fifth and sixth feasts as they relate to Nehemiah 8.
“Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel.
So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month.
Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”
It is important to know that, at this time, Israel has been allowed to return to Jerusalem after seventy years of Babylonian captivity. Having learned the cost of disobedience, the people are crying out for The Law, crying out for God.
It is not a king or prophet forcing God on the people as in the past, but the people pursuing God.
Secondly, they are gathered not in the temple, but “in front of the Water Gate,” and I’m not talking about the hotel, but one of the gates of Jerusalem. Water symbolizes cleansing, here of God’s Word:
“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”—John 15:3
“…that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.”—Eph. 5:26
And later, of Christ Himself as water flowed from His pierced side.
The Water Gate was also a place where justice was administered and oaths were taken.
Most importantly, note the time this takes place, the first day of the seventh month. Seven represents Spiritual Perfection and is the hallmark of the working of The Holy Spirit.
There are seven feasts in all. There are three yet to be fulfilled. Three is the number of Devine completeness (The Holy Trinity).
The first day of the seventh Jewish month (Tishri) begins the first of the fall feasts.
The Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah), which was changed after AD 70 to The Head of the Year (Rosh Hashanah):
On the first and second days of Tishri (Sept. or Oct.), the ram’s horn (shofar) is blown 100 times. Blasts of four different lengths, the last being a “great blast,” the loudest and longest of all. The sounding of the shofar can be traced back to Exodus 19 and the giving of The Ten Commandments. Note especially Exodus 19:16:
“Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.”
What followed was the appearance of God “in a thick cloud.”
During The Feast of Trumpets, the blast of the shofar signals the beginning of ten days of intense self-examination (The Days of Awe or The Days of Repentance), giving people a chance to repent and have their names written in The Book of Life before the final judgment on The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). In fact, this is the only Jewish Feast that isn’t marked by celebration.
Now, back to Nehemiah for a moment. Although this great meeting at the Water Gate occurred on The Feast of Trumpets, there is no mention of the shofar being sounded. Why? If you recall, it was the people who came to Ezra, calling out for God’s Word.
I believe the conviction of that Word was all the alert the people needed at that time to get right with God and make Him Lord of their lives. Indeed, we read in Nehemiah 8:6:
“And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”
We also read in this chapter that the people understood The Word and were so captured by it, they stood from early morning until midday. The Word had a profound effect on the people, convicting them of their sin and driving them to repentance.
But this day was not followed by nine more days of repentance. Notice what Nehemiah tells the people in verses 9 and 10:
“This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.
Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Why would Nehemiah tell the people to celebrate? Because they had seen the salvation of The Lord, and realized that God is God, and worthy of their obedience and praise.
Traditionally, the shofar is blown for two days. Seven Days of Awe follow, leading to:
The Day of Atonement:
Because this is the day each person’s fate will be sealed, it is the most holy of all days, marked by total fasting, prayer, and synagogue teaching . It is a time to afflict one’s soul and atone for past sins. It also marks the end of the 40 days Moses was on Mt. Sinai. If you recall form former posts, forty represents human probation.
However, Nehemiah deviates from this formula once more, ushering the people directly into the last feast, The Feast of Tabernacles.
Next time, I’ll be covering this feast, and what light Nehemiah 8 sheds on the not-so-distant future of The Church. Until then, be thinking about Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:31:
“And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
And Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52:
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
And ask yourself, what will I do when I hear that last trumpet, mourn or rejoice?
God’s grace and peace be yours,