This week our Jewish friends and neighbors celebrated Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of the Jewish new year. On the Jewish calendar, we just entered the year is 5778, though no one seems exactly sure where that date begins from. Rosh Hashanah and the ten days of repentance that follow, which is highlighted by Yom Kippur, are the Jewish high holy days. The biblical basis for Rosh Hashanah is found in Numbers 23 where we read, “The Lord said to Moses, “say to the Israelites: ‘on the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with the trumpet blast. Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the Lord by fire,’” (Num.23:23-25 NIV). Rosh Hashanah is not at all like our celebration on New Year’s Eve on January 1. Rosh Hashanah actually begins ten days of repentance that will lead to Yom Kippur. The Jewish tradition says that God writes every person’s words, deeds, and faults in the book of life, which He opens and examines on Yom Kippur. If the good deeds outnumber the sinful ones for the year that person’s name will be inscribed in the book of life for another year on Yom Kippur. So during these ten days, called the days of repentance, people will do good deeds to increase their chances of having their name inscribed in the book of life. The shofar is usually blown to call people to repentance and to remind them that the holy days are arriving. Many Jewish people attend Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services even if they have not attended synagogue services for the rest of the year. That’s kind of like “Christians” who show up on Easter and Christmas morning. So that is why it is not a time of festive drunkenness as we frequently see in the Gentile world on New Year’s Eve. Rosh Hashanah is sometimes referred to as the day of judgment. Rosh Hashanah is a serious new year holiday, and it is a common custom for people to send cards to relatives and friends to wish them a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.
We as Christians also believe there is a day of judgment coming. We also believe that there is a book of life, in fact, it’s called “the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27). The only way to have one’s name inscribed in this book of life is to have trusted through faith in Christ’s finished work on our behalf. Those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life will be sentenced to hell (eternal separation from God) as Scripture says, “if anyone’s name is not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire,” (Rev.20:15 NIV). We do not get our name written Lamb’s book of life by doing ten days of good deeds. We don’t merit our salvation by any other way than by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. I love what Paul said in Titus when he said, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:4, 5 NIV). There is a wonderful peace that is found in having my name written in the Lamb’s book of life. I know that my salvation is not dependent on what I do or anything I keep doing. But it is totally and completely dependent on what Jesus Christ has already done for me. A lot of people think that they’re going to work out their salvation by having their good deeds outweigh the bad deeds. But the premises are wrong and because God not only does he see our deeds but what he sees our motivation that brings about those deeds. What a wonderful thing it is to experience God’s forgiveness through the cross of Christ. Jesus declares that he is the one who will judge. We read in John’s Gospel, “For as the Father has given life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man,” (John 5:26,27 NIV). Do you know Jesus as your friend or as you judge? Then perhaps the most important question: Is your name written in the Lamb’s book of life? If not call out to him today, you will meet you where you are and come into your heart life.
All for Christ,
Pastor Rich Sivo