"Chag Sameach and Yom Tov! A joyous and good festival to you!" This is a common greeting heard throughout the month of Tishrei. Why? There are more festivals and holy days in this month of the biblical calendar than any other. Each of these appointed times have a unique thrust. Yet even with the diverse motifs of each day, there is a common thread — renewal, repentance, and restoration.
These are key components to a biblical worldview. One definition of restoration is the action of returning something to a former owner, place or condition. Since Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, God has been at work in this world to bring about restoration. Through Messiah, we are returning to our owner, our place, and our condition. Indeed, this is the prevailing theme of Scripture, and God's appointed times tell this story as well.
Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish new year, (Yom Teruah, the Day of the sound of the trumpet) tells the story of the restoration of our spiritual senses. This day is remembered in Judaism as the anniversary of the creation of the world, the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, and their realization of mankind's role in God's world. Repentance and restoration plays a major role in the calendar throughout the long months of summer and it reaches its peak with the blowing of the shofar (ram's horn) on Yom Teruah. The haunting sound of the shofar is a shock to the spiritual apathy of our flesh. Thus, we begin Tishrei with a realization of our spiritual condition and earnestly seek the Merciful King to restore us at the beginning of a new year.
We continue to beseech our gracious God throughout the subsequent ten days of awe. Furthermore, our prayers to God for forgiveness translate into action. We should seek to restore broken relationships with others. "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32). This shows the tangible reality of our restoration.
Yom Kippur brings us to face to face with the stark reality of our sin and the restoration God provides. "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), and yet God provided a substitute in our place. Restoration comes at a high price because the Righteous Judge does not simply ignore transgression. We who know the Messiah partake in the once-and-for-all sacrifice of this Great High Priest who offered himself as one who lives forever. "Therefore he is able to save forever those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25).
The Festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles) represents the restoration of God's Kingdom in the Messianic Era. This is the final restoration for which we long. The prophet Zechariah foretold of the time when all nations will come to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot (see 14:9-21). In that day, we will have returned to our owner, place and condition; a truly restored people.
Yet, this time is not yet. Simchat Torah (the Rejoicing of the Torah) shows us the ongoing process of restoration in our day. At Simchat Torah, we roll back the scroll of the Torah and embark on a new year of studying God's word. With this knowledge, we must continue to put to "death the deeds of the flesh" by the strengthening of God's Spirit (Romans 8:13b). The reality of restoration is present each and every day of our lives as we continue to follow after the ways of our Master.
May your year be filled with spiritual growth and blessing. May you reach new depths in your walk with the Holy One. May you continue to see restoration in your life, family, and community.
L'shanah Tova! May you be inscribed for a good year!