Where we are:
Part 1: Judgment
Part 2: Historical Interlude
Part 3: Salvation
When this takes place:
Chapters 2-12 likely were written during the reign of King Uzziah. Some commentators believe this chapter was written before the Syro-Ephraimite War in 734-32 B.C.
Isa. 3:8: For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen because they have spoken and acted against the Lord, defying His glorious presence.
The Lord argues His case against Judah and Jerusalem and stands ready to execute judgment. He is particularly pointed in His wrath against corrupt leaders and haughty women.
Unlike chapter 2, which looks well into the future, chapter 3 focuses on the here and now for Israel, with an especially harsh assessment of the manner in which God’s people have squandered their wealth and privilege. The New Testament equivalent could be the words of Jesus in Luke 12:48: “Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.”
God will remove the leaders (Isa. 3:1-12)
Judah and Jerusalem are comfortable, given the peace and prosperity of King Uzziah’s day. But their wealth, economic stability and military security have led their leaders to become self-absorbed, complacent, and corrupt. Isaiah delivers a wake-up call, warning that the Lord God of Hosts is about to remove “every kind of security” (v. 1). The loss of food (“the entire supply of bread and water,” v. 1) and the removal of key leaders (“the hero and warrior, the judge and prophet, the fortune-teller and elder, the commander … dignitary, the counselor, cunning magician, and necromancer,” vv. 2-3) imply a military siege and captivity. Perhaps this describes the approaching Syro-Ephraimite War. The king and priests are not mentioned. It’s possible that Isaiah is speaking of the time when Uzziah would be separated from society because of his leprosy and a group of more than 80 priests would faithfully serve God (2 Chron. 26:16-21), although the text does not specifically say so.
The Lord then says He will make “youths” their leaders and place the “unstable,” or “mischief-makers,” in authoritative positions (v. 4). This could be understood literally, or it could be that the new leaders would be scraped from the bottom of the barrel – immature, unwise, mischievous, and strong willed. Gary V. Smith summarizes the situation well: “In a sense God seems to be saying, ‘If you want to trust in incompetent leaders then I will give you some really bad ones'” (The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 146).
With biting mockery, Isaiah predicts the day in which the only qualification for leadership will be whether someone owns a coat (v. 6). But even with the bar set that low, people will avoid leadership responsibilities. As a result, the worst possible types of people will become leaders by default.
In verses 8-9, Isaiah makes it clear that Judah and Jerusalem are bringing disaster upon themselves. They have “stumbled” and “fallen” because they have “spoken and acted against the Lord, defying His glorious presence.” The people made no effort to hide their defiant behavior before God or one another. They openly paraded their sins in public like those in Sodom did prior to their destruction (v. 9; see Gen. 19-20).
The righteous in Judah are assured that it will go well with them, while it will go badly for the wicked (vv. 10-11). This is not a pitch for the prosperity gospel. Nor does Isaiah tackle the thorny issue of why the righteous suffer as Job and the writer of Ecclesiastes do. Isaiah simply is telling his countrymen what the apostle Paul later told the Galatians – there are consequences of our actions; that is, we reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7).
God will judge (Isa. 3:13-15)
In light of the evidence of Judah’s sinfulness and rebellion, the Lord warns that He may have to take the leaders to court. Specifically, He accuses the leaders of oppressing the people, leading them astray, plundering the poor, and crushing God’s people. Part of their responsibility was to defend the poor and helpless against powerful landlords and skillful lawyers. Instead, they allow youngsters to rise to the throne and permit women (maybe the queen mother or women in the harem) to rule the people (v. 12). This charge could be interpreted literally, or it could be a sarcastic remark comparing Judah’s leaders with silly boys or women. The Lord seems astonished at this behavior and asks why the leaders “crush” His people and “grind” the faces of the poor. They have utterly rejected the divine mandate to care for the people and have come to adopt a low regard for human life.
Today, the Lord still has high standards for people in positions of authority in the family, government, business, and the church (see Matt. 24:45-51; 2 Tim. 4:1-2; James 3:1). Since all governing authority is given by God (Rom. 13:1), all those in leadership positions ultimately are accountable to God, and there is a day of reckoning.
Judah’s women denounced (Isa. 3:16 – 4:1)
Since the time of Uzziah is a period of peace and prosperity, the wives of many government officials, businessmen and military leaders have the financial resources to pamper themselves and dress lavishly. It’s clear from the context that God is condemning the pride of the wealthy women of Jerusalem. He calls them “haughty,” meaning self-engrossed or proud. Isaiah notices these arrogant, well-dressed women in the temple area of Jerusalem, where God should be exalted and humility should be the prevailing attitude of the people. The Lord describes their behavior: they walk pompously, with their noses in the air, giving flirtatious glances, walking provocatively with short hops or steps that caused the jewelry on their ankles to jangle, thus drawing attention to themselves.
But God is determined to remove everything these women hold so dear, bringing them to the point of humiliation and shame, and making their appearance repulsive to others. Even though these verses do not say exactly how God will accomplish this, the description of the women indicates it may very well be as a result of the rape and savagery that comes with defeat in warfare. If they do not repent, their opulent world will come crashing down on them. Verse 24 uses the word “instead” five times:
- Instead of perfume (derived from the balsam tree) there will be a stench, probably from decaying flesh and festering wounds;
- Instead of fashionable belts, their clothes will be secured with a rope, or perhaps they will be bound as prisoners;
- Instead of beautifully styles hair, baldness;
- Instead of the finest fashions, sackcloth, symbolic of grief and mourning;
- Instead of beautiful clothes and makeup, a brand pressed into their flesh by conquering soldiers.
Added to this will be the shame of living without husbands or children, probably as a result of the death of many husbands and sons in warfare. The death of these males will take away the women’s income, security and social status, to the point where they will desperately grab hold of a man, vow to share him with other women, and even take care of their own needs in exchange for the opportunity to have children.
Gary V. Smith comments: “This passage challenges people to test their own heart to see if that tattoo, that new pair of shoes, that new job, that new house, or the purchase of that new car was motivated by pride or if it will result in a prideful attitude. Although pride differs from self-esteem, the concern for my rights, my opinions, my way, and my honor is a sign of a sick self-centered society that fails to give complete honor and glory to God” (The New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 153).
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips
Where we are:
Part 1: Judgment (Chapters 1-35)
When this takes place:
Opinions vary, but it appears that Chapter 1 is written near the end of Isaiah’s ministry and is placed at the start of the book as both an introduction and a summary. “This introduction is also a motivational attempt to convince [Isaiah’s] readers to acknowledge what God says and repent so that their sins can be forgiven” (Gary V. Smith, New American Commentary, Isaiah 1-39, p. 93). Possibly, this chapter is written some time after the 701 B.C. attack by the Assyrians.
Isa. 1:18: “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool” (NASB).
“Chapter 1 is God’s solemn call to the universe to come into the courtroom to hear God’s charge against the nation Israel” (J. Vernon McGee, Isaiah Vol. 1, p. 17).
Although Isaiah is identified as the prophet (v. 1), God is the source of the message. Note how God speaks throughout the chapter:
- “the Lord has spoken” (v. 2).
- “Hear the word of the Lord … listen to the instruction of our God” (v. 10).
- “‘What are your sacrifices to Me?’ asks the Lord” (v. 11).
- “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord” (v. 18).
- “the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (v. 20).
- “Therefore the Lord God of Hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, declares” (v. 24).
God’s case against Judah (Isa. 1:1-9)
Isaiah begins by telling us what we are about to encounter: one vision, concerning two locations (Judah and Jerusalem), delivered during the time of four kings (Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah). A powerful new nation has arisen to the north. Assyria is about to take the northern kingdom of Israel captive, and does so in 722. B.C. Later, God asserts that the brutal Assyrian invaders will not take Judah. Rather, He is raising up another kingdom, Babylon, to judge the southern kingdom, but until then He is giving Judah one more chance to repent. Isaiah’s book is called a vision, suggesting that the prophet “saw” mentally and spiritually as well as heard what God communicated to him. The word “vision” also introduces the prophecies of Obadiah, Micah, and Nahum. The term “vision” (hazon) frequently refers to the general reception of a divine revelation, without accompanying visual imagery; Isaiah’s use of the word “vision” implies that what he is about to say comes from God.
God calls heaven and earth into the courtroom to hear His case against Judah. The language in verse 2 is similar to the way Deut. 32 begins. Having delivered the Jews from Egyptian bondage, the Lord laid down the conditions under which His people would inhabit the Promised Land and called heaven and earth as witnesses. If they failed to obey God, especially by engaging in the worship of false gods, then Yahweh had the right to chasten them even to the point of removing them from the land. It was happening to Israel. Judah was next.
The Lord uses satire in verse 3. He tells the Jews that two of the dumber beasts of burden, oxen and donkeys, know their masters and understand who feeds them, but the Jews live in oblivion to the Lord’s providential care.
Verse 4 lays out God’s description of who the Jews are and what they have done. They are a sinful nation, a people weighed down with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, and depraved children. They have abandoned the Lord, despised the Holy One of Israel, and turned their backs on God.
God has been chastening Judah according to Deut. 28-29 and asks, “Why do you want more beatings? Why do you keep on rebelling?” (v. 5). Despite the Lord’s correction and gracious invitation to return to Him, the Jews will not repent, so the time for expulsion from the land is drawing nigh.
“Isaiah first used the figure of a person who had been beaten and was bruised over his entire body (Isa. 1:5-6). Though these untreated wounds … welts, and open sores characterized the nation’s spiritual condition, Isaiah was also speaking of her condition militarily. They were beset on all sides by hostile forces and were losing some of their territory to foreign nations (v. 7). They should have realized that these terrible problems had come because of their spiritual condition” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary).
Isaiah depicts Jerusalem’s inhabitants as being like a shelter in a vineyard or a shack in a cucumber field – temporary structures built to shade the sun from persons hired to guard the crops against animals and thieves. Such huts were solitary and easily attacked. If not for a remnant of faithful Jews, Isaiah says, Judah already would have become like Sodom and Gomorrah, totally devastated.
“I have had enough …” (Isa. 1:10-17)
From a human perspective, the Lord’s words in these verses convey exasperation with His people’s empty religious rituals. D.A. Carson comments, “Of all prophetic outbursts at religious unreality …this is the most powerful and sustained. Its vehemence is unsurpassed, even in Amos, and the form and content build up together. First, the offerings are rejected, then the offerers (11-12); but while God’s tone sharpens from distaste to revulsion, his specific accusation is held back to the lurid end of v 15: Your hands are full of blood” (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, Section Is. 1:10).
The Lord is not abolishing, or even minimizing the importance of, the sacrificial system or the feasts by which His people could approach Him and enjoy His fellowship; rather, He is refuting their assumption that sacrifices and religious observances, without pure motives and repentant hearts, could atone for their sins.
Immediately following this thunderous rebuke are nine calls to repentance (vv. 16-17):
- Wash yourselves.
- Cleanse yourselves.
- Remove your evil deeds from My sight.
- Stop doing evil.
- Learn to do what is good.
- Seek justice.
- Correct the oppressor.
- Defend the rights of the fatherless.
- Plead the widow’s cause.
J. Vernon McGee comments: “God has spelled out His charge against them. They are guilty of spiritual apostasy. It led to moral awfulness and to political anarchy in the nation. God has called Israel into court and has proved His charge against them. Israel is like a prisoner standing at the bar waiting for the sentence of judgment. God can now move in to judge them” (McGee, p. 25).
“Let us reason …” (Isa. 1:18-20)
While some see chapter 1 as a courtroom setting, it’s probably more accurate to see it as an arraignment, where the Lord states His case against His people, anticipates their defense and refutes it. Essentially, He tells Judah as well as all who witness His words that there is overwhelming evidence to secure a conviction. But rather than go through with a trial, conviction and sentencing, God gives the Jews a chance to settle their case out of court.
The term “let us reason” is sometimes rendered “enter a lawsuit” or “let us test each other,” but the basic meaning of the term is “to determine what is right.” Some translators favor the term “to settle out of court.” There is graciousness here on God’s part, as well as an opportunity for the Jewish people to “reach a settlement quickly” with their adversary (Matt. 5:25). The blessings of repentance and the curses of rebellion are clearly laid out: “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword” (vv. 19-20).
God’s use of the word “scarlet” is significant. The Hebrew word means “double-dyed,” emphasizing the deep-fixed permanency of sin in the people’s hearts. But there is hope. The color of Jesus’ robe when bearing our sins was scarlet (see Matt. 27:28). So was the color of the cord that spared the life of Rahab and her family (Josh. 2:18), as was the color of the thread tied to the scapegoat. The rabbis say that after the high priest confessed his sins and the people’s sins over the scapegoat, the thread turned white. The miracle ceased, they say, 40 years before the destruction of Jerusalem, coinciding with the crucifixion of Christ (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Isaiah 1:18).
“I … will burn away your dross” (Isa. 1:21-31)
Verses 21-26 describe a theological cycle for Jerusalem. First, the city was faithful (v. 21a). Now it is in rebellion (vv. 21b-23). God will purge the evil from Jerusalem with His refining fire (vv. 24-25). Finally, the city will return to its faithfulness (v. 26). God compares Jerusalem in its faithfulness to silver and wine but says the silver is now dross and the wine is diluted with water. Sin has been welcomed into the city and into the hearts of its inhabitants and has corrupted both. The Lord spares no rebuke when he calls the leaders rebels, friends of thieves, and lovers of graft (v. 23).
Therefore, God is determined to purify the city. He will satisfy His holiness (v. 24b), remove impurity (v. 25), and restore His city (v. 26). His promise to Jerusalem is an encouragement to faithful believers everywhere and at all times when they suffer through life at the hands of sinful and selfish leaders. Gary V. Smith writes, “A day will soon come when God will transform this world, remove all sin, replace all evil leaders, and rule his kingdom in righteousness and justice. This passage is also a warning to every leader. You will be held accountable for how you lead the people God has called you to serve” (p. 114).
Isaiah argues that God deals with sin in one of two ways. He removes the stain of sin if His people repent (1:18-19), or he removes the sinner with His refining fire so His nation is purified (1:25-27). Does Judah repent? No, and as a result, she is carried away into Babylonian captivity a century later. Will we as God’s people repent of our sins or face chastisement? That is the fundamental question that nations and people must continue to answer.
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips
The idea of salvation in the Jewish mind — as written in Isa. 12:2 for example — is tied to the feast of tabernacles. The reference in verse 3 to joyfully drawing water from the springs of salvation reminds the people of the ceremony practiced each day of the feast in which water is drawn from the Pool of Siloam, and it foreshadows the day when Jesus would stand, on the final day of the feast, and proclaim, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink” (John 7:37).
“As the Jew was reminded by the feast of tabernacles of his wanderings in tents in the wilderness, so the Jew-Gentile Church to come shall call to mind, with thanksgiving, the various past ways whereby God has at last brought them to the heavenly “city of habitation” (Ps. 107. Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, S. Is 12:2).
Everyone can see Jesus in the Feast of Tabernacles by noting the Messianic symbols God gave us — and Jesus fulfilled — in the feast, most notably:
1. The tabernacle.
2. The water.
3. The light.
4. The harvest.
|Name||Scriptures||Time / Date||Purpose||Fulfillment|
|Tabernacles||Lev. 23:33-43; Num. 29:12-39; Deut. 16:13-17, 31:10-13||15th – 21st of Tishri, with an 8th day added as a climax to all the feasts (September/October).||To commemorate God’s protection during the wilderness wanderings and to rejoice in the harvest.||Restoration: The peace and prosperity of God’s Kingdom on earth.|
The Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, is the seventh and final feast God gave Israel. It is the most festive of all the feasts and is mentioned more often in scripture than any of the others. The word sukkot in Hebrew is translated “tabernacles” in English and means booths or huts. Throughout this seven-day feast, the Jews are required to live in temporary shelters to remind them of God’s provision during their 40 years of wilderness wandering. The holiday also is called the Feast of Ingathering (Ex. 23:16; 34:22) because it is observed after all the fall crops are harvested. This happy feast commemorates God’s past provision in the desert and His present goodness in providing the fall harvest.
The feast begins on the 15th day of Tishri (September/October), five days after the Day of Atonement. The first day of Tabernacles and the day after Tabernacles (known as Shemini Atzeret) are sacred assemblies, or Sabbaths. No work is permitted on these days. This is one of three pilgrim feasts, along with Unleavened Bread and Weeks (Pentecost), requiring all Jewish males to appear before the Lord in the Temple.
The Biblical Observance
Four passages of scripture outline the observance of Tabernacles: Lev. 23:33-43; Num. 29:12-39; Deut. 16:13-17, and Deut. 31:10-13. A great number of sacrifices are required each day: one goat, 14 lambs, two rams, and a number of bulls – 13 on the first day, then decreasing by one each day. In addition, the accompanying meal offerings and drink offerings are presented. The work is so intense that all 24 divisions of priests help carry out the sacrificial duties.
It is during the Feast of Tabernacles that Solomon dedicated Israel’s first Temple. The Shekinah glory of God descended from heaven to light the fire on the altar and to fill the Holy of Holies (2 Chron. 5:3; 7:1-4).
Jewish pilgrims from around the world travel to Jerusalem for this feast. They build booths, or huts, in which they live for one week – all carefully located within a Sabbath day’s journey (a little more than half a mile) of the Temple. At sundown, the ram’s horn (shofar) blasts and the celebration begins as fires from thousands of Jewish camps blaze in a half-mile radius around the Temple.
Water-libation ceremony. Israel’s rainy season is from November through March. Tabernacles gratefully acknowledges the harvest and, at least in part, beseeches God for the coming moisture necessary for future harvests. So each morning of the feast, the high priest pours a pitcher of water from the Pool of Siloam into a special basin in the inner court of the Temple as a visual prayer for rain. At the same time, a drink offering of wine is poured into another basin. Three blasts of a silver trumpet follow, and the people listen as the Levites sing the Hallel (Ps. 113-118). The congregation waves palm branches toward the altar and join in singing Psalm 118:25: “Lord, save us! Lord, please grant us success!”
Psalm 118 is a messianic psalm and gives the feast a messianic focus. Centuries after this Psalm was penned, the crowds in Jerusalem greet Jesus with shouts of Hosanna (“save now”) and wave palm branches as He enters the city triumphantly (Matt. 21:8-9; Luke 19:37-38; John 12:12-13). This imagery continues in heaven where the saints worship around the throne with palm branches in hand (Rev. 7:9-10).
Temple-lighting ceremony. On the second night of Tabernacles, the people gather in the spacious outer court of the Temple known as the Court of the Women. Four towering lamp stands are in the center of the court, each with four branches of oil lamps. The wicks are made from the worn-out linen garments of the priests, who ascend tall ladders to keep the lamps filled with olive oil. The elders of the Sanhedrin perform torch dances all night long. Levites stand at the top of the 15 steps leading down to the Court of Women. As flutes, trumpets, harps, and other stringed instruments accompany them, they sing the “Fifteen Psalms of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134). With each psalm, they descend one step.
This celebration is repeated every night from the second night to the final night of Tabernacles. The brilliant lights, bathing the Temple and flooding the streets of Jerusalem, remind the Jews of the descent of the Shekinah glory in King Solomon’s day as the people look forward to the return of the Shekinah in the days of the Messiah (Ez. 43:1-5).
It is the day after Tabernacles that Jesus proclaims in the Temple, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Later that day, He heals a blind man and declares, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). The Pharisees bristle at both statements. The best they can do is to accuse Him of healing a man on the Sabbath. Incidentally, there are no Mosaic laws against healing on the Sabbath; the tradition of the Pharisees is the only thing Jesus violated.
Hoshana-Rabbah ceremony. On the seventh day of the feast, the Temple water-pouring ceremony, which is performed each morning throughout the week, takes on great importance. Jewish tradition holds that it is on this day that God decides whether there will be rain for the next year’s crops. Instead of three silver-trumpet blasts, there are seven sets of three blasts. Rather than one circuit around the altar, the priests make seven circuits. The day is known as the Hoshana Rabbah, or “Great Hosanna.”
It is during this ceremony that Jesus stands up and shouts, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within” (John 7:37-38). The Jewish leaders are infuriated; some want to seize Him, but no one lays a hand on Him A debate ensues among the people, many of whom do not realize, or will not believe, He is the Son of David, born in Bethlehem, the Messiah (John 7:40-44). The chief priests and the Pharisees rebuke the Temple officers, who had the authority to arrest Jesus for disturbing the ceremony, but the officers reply, “No man ever spoke like this” (John 7:46).
The Modern Observance
The sukkah, or tabernacle, is the primary symbol of the feast today. As soon as Yom Kippur is past, observant Jews build rough booths in their yards or on their patios. The booths are three-sided and covered with branches. The roofs are thatched so that there is partial shade in the daytime, and so the stars can be seen through it at night. Throughout the feast, Jewish families eat their meals in the booths, and some even sleep there. These booths remind the Jews of their hastily built housing in the wilderness.
Leviticus 23:40 instructs the Jews to take fruit, palm branches, the boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook and rejoice for seven days. Observant Jews may build their booths with these items, or carry them in their hands as they rejoice, or both.
At the synagogue, congregants circle the building and sing Psalm 118. The Torah scroll, rather than the ancient altar, is the center of the ceremony. Since the destruction of the Temple, the feast is more closely connected to Yom Kippur. Hashanah Rabbah, the last day of the feast, is seen as the last day on which the judgments God declared on Yom Kippur could be reversed, so observant Jews ceremonially beat willow branches on the synagogue pews to remove the leafs, symbolizing repentance and the removal of sin.
The Bible often compares the harvest with God’s judgment (Hos. 6:11; Joel 3:13; Matt. 13:39; Rev. 14:14-20). In keeping with this imagery, God designed the Feast of Tabernacles to foreshadow the day in which He will gather His people to Himself and send away the wicked (Mal. 4:1-3). When the Messiah returns and sets up His earthly kingdom, He will bring together Jew and Gentile to worship Him in Jerusalem (Zech. 14:16-17).
Further, the Lord Himself will tabernacle, or pitch His tent, with the redeemed (Ez. 37:27-28; Rev. 21:3). The Shekinah glory will be seen again (Isa. 60:1, 19; Zech. 2:5), covering Mount Zion with a cloud by day and a fire by night (Isa. 4:5-6). God’s people will enjoy intimate, face-to-face fellowship with their Savior.
An interesting observation: Some believe Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, based on scriptural information regarding the timing of John the Baptist’s birth. If that’s true, it more fully illustrates the truth that Jesus is the Tabernacle of God. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and took up residence (lit. and tabernacled or and dwelt in a tent) with us.” Col. 2:9 states, “For in Him the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily.” Jesus will again tabernacle with us when He returns in power and great glory.
In another way, the shelters that are built represent the physical bodies in which we temporarily live today – bodies that eagerly await their glorification at the return of Christ (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:51-57; 2 Cor. 5:1-4).
The Old Testament visions of the coming of all nations to worship at Jerusalem refer to the Feast of Tabernacles on the occasion of their pilgrimage (Zech. 14:16-21). This feast speaks of Christ’s millennial reign – a new beginning without the ravages of sin. The earth gives bountifully, all animals are docile (Isa. 65:25), armies no long march against each other, every man sits under his own fig tree (Micah 4:4), and righteousness becomes a lasting reality on the earth. As the Apostle John wrote in Rev. 22:20b: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
This concludes our study of the Jesus in the Feasts of Israel.
The Day of Atonement foreshadows two significant events: Jesus’ sacrificial death, and Israel’s repentance at the Messiah’s return. “They will look at Me whom they pierced” and repent, the Lord declares in Zech. 12:10. God will deal with the nation’s sins and remember them no more (Isa. 43:25; Jer. 31:34). Isaiah prophesied that the nation would be born spiritually in a day (Isa. 66:8; Rom. 11:26-27). This will be the prophetic fulfillment of the Day of Atonement as Israel comes face to face with its Messiah at the end of Daniel’s “70th week” (Dan. 9:24-27), a seven-year tribulation period that begins with the rise of an evil world ruler known in Jewish theology as Armilus and in Christian theology as Antichrist. Throughout the tribulation, many Jews will turn to Christ in the midst of great persecution, acknowledge Him as Lord and receive Him as Savior. At the same time, God will pour out His wrath on a wicked and Godless world. At the end, perhaps on the very Day of Atonement, the Jews will receive their Messiah as He comes in power and great glory as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Note the similarities between the work of the high priest on the Day of Atonement and the work of Jesus in His sacrificial death:
- The high priest does all of the work – offering 15 blood sacrifices, lighting the candles, etc. Jesus, our “great high priest” (Heb. 4:14), did all the work of redemption so that salvation is by grace alone through faith (Eph. 2:8-9).
- The high priest humbles himself, wearing simple white linen clothing. Jesus humbled Himself by becoming a man (Phil. 2:5-8).
- The high priest must be spotless, having his sin atoned for before he may enter the presence of God behind the veil. Jesus was sinless (2 Cor. 5:21).
- The high priest enters the Holy of Holies only once a year, taking the atoning blood of bulls and goats behind the veil into the presence of God. Jesus offered His own blood once and for all, and the veil of the Temple – symbolizing the separation between holy God and sinful man as well as representing the body of Christ – was torn in two (Matt. 27:51).
- The blood the high priest takes into the Holy of Holies can only cover sin. Jesus’ death at Calvary took away sin (Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 25-28; 10:4; John 1:29).
In addition to the high priest, the goats also foreshadow the work of Messiah. Both goats have to be spotless, as Jesus was sinless. The goat “for YHWH,” whose blood is shed, symbolizes the substitutionary death of the Messiah. The goat “for azazel” symbolizes the finished work of Jesus in taking away our sins, never to be remembered again. Just as the high priest takes the blood of the goat “for YHWH” into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the people, Jesus entered the heavenly Holy of Holies with His own blood as the once and final payment for our sins.
Finally, in Lev. 25:8-17, God gives instructions for the Year of Jubilee (every 50th year). He tells the Jews to sound the trumpet on the 10th day of the seventh month, which is the Day of Atonement. Why not the first day of the seventh month – or, for that matter, the first day of the first month to mark the beginning of this special year? The reason becomes clear when we see the results of the Day of Atonement. In the Year of Jubilee, land reverts to its original owner, slaves are set free, all debts are cancelled, and the land rests. What a marvelous picture of the results of Christ’s sacrificial death. Jesus cancelled our sin debt, redeemed us out of the slave market of sin and set us free, promised us a place in heaven, and gave us rest. The sorrowful self-denial of Atonement is turned to joy as Jesus, the Lamb of God, invites us to enter His rest.