SHABBAT, 29 Heshvan 5778 — יוֹם שַׁבָּת כט חֶשְׁוָן ה' תשעח Saturday, 18 November 2017
Rosh Hashanah 2003

You may know the old story about the man who bought a boat and gets a captain's coat and a captain's hat and stands on the deck and announces to his mother and father, "Look, mama and papa, I am a Captain." To which his mother replied, "Son, To me you're a captain; to your father, you're a captain; but to a captain, you're no captain!"

I know there are many people in the Jewish community today, who would look at our service here tonight say, "that's no Rosh Hashanah." Simply because of our faith in Yeshua.

But I think if someone from the time of the Bible who really celebrated Rosh Hashanah as God commanded, saw how the Jewish Community around the world was celebrating Rosh Hashanah today. They would say, "That's no Rosh Hashanah"

Why? You might ask. For one very big reason. No Temple.

The temple is not just a minor part of these festivals. It is the central piece. Everything revolved around it. Almost every instruction given in the Bible about what we are supposed to do on these holidays, all the offerings, and priests, everything revolved around the temple. There is no true celebration of these feasts apart from the temple.

It would be like trying to drive a car without the engine. It just doesn't work.

Tonight, I want to talk about why the temple was so important. Specifically I want to look at the temple in the big picture. What did God want us to understand with this thing? This is a huge topic, but I want to hit on three very basic things he wanted everyone understand. Three aspects of God's character, that I believe were to be deadly obvious to the people of Israel from the temple.

Here are three I want to talk about. Firstly, I think we were to understand that God is near us, Secondly that there is only one God in all the earth, and thirdly, that God is holy. So God wanted us to know He is near us, that He is the only God, and that He is holy.

So Firstly, God is near us.

Some of you might even be saying what is the temple or tabernacle? Today, there are synagogues and temples all over the place today, that is not what I am talking about. Back then, there was just the one Temple, the one commanded by God to be built in very specific way. That temple was in Jerusalem, and before that it was a Tabernacle or a big tent that the Israelites took with them through the desert.

The single main feature of the temple was that God was in it. It was the house of the Lord. But keep in mind, it was a picture, God didn't actually live in the temple. Even King Solomon when he dedicated the temple, he said, "even the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple, which I have built." It was symbolic. The temple is where God said, there, I will be, and I will meet with you.

The whole idea of the Tabernacle, was that God is not out there somewhere, far away, but he is near. In the desert, the Israelites could look over at the tabernacle. There God was, a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night over the Tabernacle, our God is near us.

In Deut. 4:7, it says, "For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us whenever we call on Him?"

He says call on me, I will hear you. Tonight, Rob sang, Avinu Malkenu, which means our Father, our King. I think in Judaism we can understand God as our King, the Judge way out there, but he is also our Father, so very close to us. He loves us. God hears us when we call, like a father hears his children. That is why he is near to us. When we think of these things God wanted to teach us about the temple, I think each of them also tells us something about ourselves as well.

When we think of God's nearness to us, and his love for us we realize something I think. I think we realize how desperately we all need His nearness and his love. We were meant and created to have it.

I was listening NPR on the radio today, and they were talking about Psalm 23, and this Israeli called in and said he was an athiest, he felt excluded from the discussion about God, and then basically implied, "you just believe God loves you, because you need to." "This whole thing is a crutch for the weak".

Well my answer to that man is you are right, guilty as charged. I do need it, but here is the trick, so do you, and whether you are able to admit it or not.

Think of a person who says he doesn't need his wife to love him. Or a child who says, "I don't care if my parents love him."

What do you think of someone like that? Either they are lying to you, or they are self-deceived. We all need it. Because, we were built to have it. We were built to have a relationship with God; we were built to live with the security of knowing his nearness, and his care.

But just as a person can live without the love of his spouse or the love of his parents, or the love of anyone. So we can live without the love of God. But we were not meant to.

So God wanted us to know he is close to us, He also wanted us to know that there is only one God.

Israel lived in the midst of a polytheistic culture. Gods for everything, gods over every nation. God wanted Israel to know that there was only one God over all the earth. In Deuteronomy 4, The Lord speaking through Moses essentially asks a rhetorical question, basically has any other God done the kind of things that have happened to you. From verse 32 of chapter 4.

Deut. 4:32 Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created man on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Deut. 4:33 Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Deut. 4:34 Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders...

Deut. 4:35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.

There is no other God. Not one god for the sun, and one for the harvest. One for this people, and one for that one, no, one period. And it is the Lord. His name means He is, or I am as he said to Moses. Meaning he is, as opposed the gods of Egypt who are not.

I think that is the whole point of the first chapter of Genesis. Not gods for everything, but one God. the one who made the heavens and the earth, he made the waters, the land, the sun, the stars, plants, animals, and most importantly, he made you.

That is why he says, have no images, no idols, get all this stuff away from you. Don't even try to conceive what this God looks like. Don't belittle him into an image of your creation

But I think God wanting us to know that he is the one true God, also tells us something about ourselves as well.

It tells us that we are all the same.

It did not matter your standing in society, how much money you had, when it came to worship of God. You are no better than the rest. I don't care what a big important person you are. This is the maker of the heavens and the earth, and you don't impress him.

It was equal access to God. At these feasts especially, when the harvest would come in, don't be tempted to thank some imaginary harvest God, you come to the temple, and give thanks to the Lord. Everyone, small and great, stop whatever you are doing and come. No one is better than any other.

The laws given to Moses are radical like this. Especially within the culture of that day. Radical equality and rights for everyone, even the orphans, widows and strangers, even slaves.

Treat slaves well he says, for you were slaves once in the land of Egypt. All of you. That is our noble history, we were all once slaves, we were nothing. Therefore be kind to those who have nothing now.

If there was ever a reason to trust the Bible this is it. What kind of a people would want to be known as the slaves of Egypt. Peoples want to make up noble histories for themselves. Here, the Bible again and again, reminds them, you were slaves in the Land of Egypt. You were nothing, you were helpless, you were defeated. Wow, such nobility.

You can imagine if they did this in Australia. Do you know how England first populated Australia? With prisoners from their jails. The original immigrants to Australia were a English penal colony. There shirts said, Prisoners of Mother England, In many parts of the world, the English are still called Pommies. Prisoners of Mother England.

Now imagine if the politicians in Australia constantly reminded people. Remember, we were once, prisoners, put in jail because of the evil we have done. Powerless and condemned to the land we now inhabit. Yeah, nice election slogan.

It would never happen. What kind of national pride is that? But that is exactly the kind of language the Bible uses to describe the Israelites. This one reason you know the Bible is true. No one would make up a history like that. Nations make up noble histories about themselves. Why didn't Israel make up a noble history? Because the story is not made up.

So again, the point is that there is one God in all the earth, and that one God because of his love for us reached down with a mighty hand and outstretched arm to redeem us poor slaves out of the land of Egypt. In the process showing that Egypt's gods were nothing.

God wanted to be near us, so he had them build a tabernacle. But in the tabernacle God was all way on the inside, and we were on the outside, never to come into his presence.

You see, the tabernacle was a giant tent, inside it was another tent, and then that tent was divided into a smaller place. God would be all the way on the inside, and all the people of Israel had to be all the way on the outside. That doesn't make sense. If God loves us, why does he keep us away from him?

Well, Because God is holy

... and that is the third thing I wanted to talk about. God is holy, and the important thing to remember about us is that we are not. God is holy and we are not.

Look at the Tabernacle, God on the inside, us on the outside, what is being communicated. Separation.

How many people here remember Raiders of the lost ark? Do you remember the scene when the evil character dressed up as a priest and took the lid off the ark? Do you remember what happened? He melted, and all that looked were destroyed. But remember Indiana Jones, say don't look, don't look and he was spared.

I am not saying that is a Biblical scene exactly but it is based on a story in the bible. You the ark represented God, and when they took the mercy seat lid off, they came face to face with God, and they were destroyed. That is Biblical.

Why is that you may ask? Imagine if you had two pieces of cloth, one bright shining and clean, and the other one all dirty and covered with schmutz. What happens if you rub them together? Do they both become clean? No, they both become dirty.

It's like that with God and us. He is holy and pure, and we are dirty, in our thoughts, and actions. If he was to embrace us, we would defile him. But God can't be defiled, so with God, the defiled object is destroyed. That is why God kept himself separate from us, He wanted to be near us, but he couldn't embrace us.

God through the temple would teach his people how this Holy God could embrace a sinful people. And that is really what these High Holy days are all about. Really, Rosh Hashanah, the feast of trumpets in the Scriptures was essentially signal that the big event was coming, for 9 days later is Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. He wanted us to be ready for the day of atonement. Because as the Lord tells us in Lev 16, verse 30:

"for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you shall be clean from all your sins before the LORD."

On this one day God would provide atonement or covering for the sins of the whole nation. God on that would cleanse Israel.

This is not about the individual things they knew they had done wrong, for those there would be sacrifices they could offer. This is for the stuff you don't even know about, just who you are. It was just because of their defilement as humans.

I know many of us may think we are not sinners, or we don't need forgiveness or a sacrifice, we are not defiled. But listen, God does not grade on a curve. The fact that you don't think you are as bad as Jeffrey Dahmer or Osama Bin Laden, or your neighbor for that matter, does not matter much. The issue is can you stand in the presence of a holy and righteous God who sees through you, who knows all your thoughts, actions, motives, everything. When you stand before him, you will know you are defiled. Each of us would run to hide our faces, recoil.

So what God did on Yom Kippur was to have a sacrifice; an animal would bear on it, the judgement of all the people, one dying on behalf of the rest. So the people did wrong, but the innocent spotless animal bore the cost.

And thus God could dwell with Israel. Not because they were holy, but because God had made them holy had cleansed, by taking away their defilement. But again, this is symbolic; it's a giant picture teaching us about God and about sin and sacrifice.

It was ceremonial, pointing to the one who would come. I believe the temple system was a giant arrow pointing to what the Messiah would come to do.


We do not have a temple now, nor do I believe we need one to worship God now, because the fulfillment of the picture has come. Yeshua, Jesus our Messiah.

When he came 2000 year ago, John said he is the word that became flesh, he was saying that Jesus is God tabernacled in the flesh. God in a tent of flesh. As we behold him, as we see him, we behold the glory of God.

And as we look to him, we understand that God loves us and wants to be near us. He wanted to be near us, so much that he came to dwell with us.

His becoming flesh, showed God's tender care and love for us. You can see his disciple's head resting on his chest. Yeshua's hand reached out to touch leper to heal him. The eyes which see us and know us.

He is the one sent from God, our king. You cannot get to God by ignoring the one he has sent. There is only one God, we must listen to the one he sent. That is why Jesus said things like, "Come to me," and "If you knew the father, you would recognize me, for I come from him."

And ultimately Yeshua shows God is Holy. Even Peter in awe of Yeshua, recoiled and said to him, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"

But God's ultimate expression of his holiness and love came in Yeshua. For no one took Jesus' life, no, he laid down his life. The Lord sent him for this very purpose. To die as a sacrifice, just like on Yom Kippur, for the sins of the whole nation.

This was predicted in the prophets, in Isaiah 53, it says,

"It was the Lord's will to crush him ...if he would render himself a guilt offering" (v. 10)

To wrap things up, I know for some here, all of this may seem just too much to even comprehend tonight. Some of you may be saying I don't even know if I believe there is God, and I definitely don't know about Jesus. Well, I hope you will at least walk away with a few thoughts.

I hope you will see why God wanted Israel to have the temple, and why we were even supposed to have Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? It was because God wanted to reveal himself, he was teaching a people about himself and preparing a people for the one who would come, the Messiah.

This people, the Jewish people, would uniquely understand the one true God who is near us, who is holy, and who loves so much that he sent one to bear the judgement for our sins. It was these Jewish people, John, Paul, Peter among them, who took this message out to the world. A message still transforming lives today, like Mike's as we heard earlier. And it is a message that can transform yours.

So you might ask, "without a temple, then why are you even having a Rosh Hashanah service tonight?" It's because I see it as an amazing opportunity to remind ourselves of this great God, who revealed himself through these feasts, the Great God who is so near to us, this one true and holy God. But most importantly it will remind us of the Messiah, Yeshua who he sent to us, the fulfillment of these feasts.

For me personally, this is not some hypothetical, academic exercise. God changed my life. He gave me hope, peace and meaning. My Rosh Hashanah prayer is that he will do the same for you.