Why Celebrate “Jewish” Holidays?

Why celebrate Jewish Holidays?

Have you grown up with a distant view of Judaism as it relates to your own faith? Many people I meet  live in a New-Testament-only environment where they do not read or understand the Old Testament and many find themselves disconnected from the ancient faith. We find it hard to relate to the people and we have a tougher time reconciling their God to the image we perceive of our God. But Jesus’ work is not only found in the New Testament (John 8:58). But the covenant work of God that culminates in the person of Jesus begins with Abraham. The 4000 years that God invested in the nation of Israel is worthy of study. Yet understanding the work of God through Israel goes beyond a Sunday School knowledge of the stories. We need an intimate identification with the people. We celebrate Jewish holidays to foster this intimacy; and this intimacy leads us to God. Consider Paul’s words to the Corinthians For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, "THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY." Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Corinthians 1:1-11) Jewish history illumines the Lord and sheds light on our very being. It is more than just an example for our instruction. Jewish history is our history. Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you."  So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:7-9 NIV) We also celebrate Jewish festivals because they hold immense theological value. God has been planning His actions since before the creation of the world. Even the most ancient Jewish history points to Christ and through Him ultimately to the Father. He is the Passover lamb and he is the living water of our harvest. He is the pure sacrifice; he is the fulfillment of the law. By celebrating these festivals we gain appreciation for the work of God throughout time. Let your heart delight in these traditions. Our delight must go beyond a cerebral formal academic recognition. Our whole person and whole life must be transformed by the knowledge of God. We celebrate festivals because in these experiences we find a deeper connection to the truth than by knowledge alone. My hope is that as we celebrate the festivals of Israel we will echo the words of Moses song concerning this history that “it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life.” (Deuteronomy 32:47)

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