Interview: Bruce Scott, The Fall Feasts of Israel
Fall is a special time of year for many, but it’s especially loved by the Jewish people. Several major feasts mark this season—Rosh Hashanah, the Ten Days of Awe, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. These are times of celebration and introspection focusing on the Lord’s goodness, provision, mercy, and holiness. They are days to rejoice, reflect, and remember who God is and what He has done.
This week Bruce Scott explains these fall feasts with great clarity and insight. These feasts have a special meaning not just to the Jewish people who celebrate them but also to believers who want to know and strengthen their relationship with the Lord. Bruce’s applications will open your eyes to the lessons God wants to teach you through these holidays. Enjoy this week’s spotlight on the fall feasts.
Steve Conover: Welcome to the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover, and with me in the studio is our host and teacher Chris Katulka.
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Chris Katulka: Today on the program, I am excited to have Bruce Scott, the Friends of Israel's program ministries director. He leads some amazing programs like Origins and Hesed over to Israel doing volunteer work over there, but he's also a specialist on the feasts of Israel. He's written a book, The Feasts of Israel: Seasons of the Messiah, and that's why today we're going to have him on the program, because we're actually entering into Israel's fall feasts. We're going to be talking about Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Feast of Tabernacles. I really think this is going to be a great kick start into our series on the fall feasts of Israel as well. We're excited to have Bruce Scott on the program.
Steve Conover: In the news, as we mentioned last week, the Trump administration has brokered a historic peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates called the Abraham Accords. The US is said to be pushing for the accord to be signed before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year holiday, and that begins on September 18th. It's also been reported by Israeli sources that Bahrain will be the next Gulf state to normalize relations with Israel.
Chris Katulka: You know, we mentioned this last week and it's just amazing to see how these Gulf states, these Arab Muslim countries, especially these Sunni countries are really beginning to normalize relationships with Israel. This isn't something that's just been happening right here right now, Steve. Actually, Israel has been working with a lot of these countries underground. They've been working with them for intelligence, security, communications. Netanyahu's been building relationships with these people, with these countries over time, but now all of it's starting to rise to the surface. For the UAE, Bahrain, and even Saudi Arabia, I believe that these countries no longer see Israel as their foe. Iran is. That's the way they look at it.
Personally, I think that many in the Arab world are beginning to wake up to the fact that they have more to lose by keeping the Palestinians happy than by making peace with Israel. For them, that unifying factor is Iran. They want to make sure that they can quell the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world together. Let's pray that these new relationships that are being formed somehow bring some calm to a region that's typically fraught with unrest.
Chris Katulka: Bruce, great to have you on the program.
Bruce Scott: Thank you, Chris. It's good to be with you.
Chris Katulka: I wish we were together in Israel, but we're going to have to do this over the phone and talk about the Fall feasts of Israel. Listen, Bruce, my kids are getting ready to go back to school in whatever capacity that is with COVID-19, but we live in a very Jewish area of South Jersey and my kids are going to have off from school for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, so these are very important Fall holidays. God designed these feasts for a reason.
First of all, can you explain the Fall feasts of Israel? I think you should even maybe give us an idea of what a feast is. I think that might be helpful as well. I'll turn that over to you.
Bruce Scott: Sure. Usually there are seven feasts that Bible students will find in Leviticus chapter 23. Four of them take place in the spring or early summer, but the fall feasts, the last three are very important. You've mentioned two of them already, Rosh Hashanah, which is otherwise known as the Feast of Trumpets or the head of the year, and then there is Yom Kippur, which is the Day of Atonement. Then the final one is Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacle. All three of those are very important prophetically, but especially important in relationship to the Lord Jesus.
But a feast as God describes it in Leviticus 23 is a time that he called a holy convocation where Israel would gather together to meet with God for a very specific purpose. These three feasts were times when the Jewish people would gather together. One in particular, the last one, Sukkot, was a requirement. In fact, along with Passover and Shavuot, or the Feast of Pentecost, there were three pilgrim feasts in which all Jewish adult males, and they would oftentimes bring their families with them, would go to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. One of those three pilgrim festivals is the last one that we'll discuss today, which is Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles.
Chris Katulka: When you're talking about a feast, you're talking about a holy convocation. Can you explain that again? What is a holy convocation? Those typically aren't terms that we use these days.
Bruce Scott: Sure. Well, there was food oftentimes involved in gathering together, but it was a meeting with God, and there were sacrifices involved, and there was internal examination where people would examine their spiritual relationship with God and would focus on that. There were times of remembrance when they would look back and consider what God had done for them. They would look forward to see what God was going to do with them as a nation. This was a time to meet with God for specific purposes that he outlined.
But the feasts were also holy convocations because the way that I like to describe them, it's as if you're going through an art gallery and God has painted these beautiful portraits that are symbolized in the feast. Each of these feasts are these beautiful portraits that paint a beautiful picture, or foreshadowing if you will, of the promised Messiah, the Lord Jesus. Each of these have an important part for the nation of Israel. They're coming to meet with God, but they also have an important part to play for all people in that they picture the promised Messiah.
Chris Katulka: Now, the spring feasts, we're looking at things like Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Shavuot, but now we're not looking at those. Those are the first of the three festivals of Israel, the feasts of Israel. We're looking at the latter half, the fall feasts, and I want to start with Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year literally in the Hebrew, the new year. Leviticus chapter 23 says that Israelites should rest from their work and consider the day a memorial announced by a loud blast. What's going on here, Bruce? What does that mean?
Bruce Scott: Yes, Rosh Hashanah does mean the head of the year, and it's a Jewish New Year. Jewish people look at it today as they're celebrating the new year on their calendar. On the Gregorian calendar, we have January 1st as the new year. Their new year is on Rosh Hashanah, which usually takes place around September or October.
There's actually more than one Jewish New Year. They actually had four. Two of them were for purposes of tithing. One was the new year for the religious calendar, which began in the month where Passover was celebrated in the spring. But then Rosh Hashanah is the head of the civil new year, so that would start their civil calendar.
What they would do is they would have different sacrifices and they would blow trumpets, specifically that of a ram's horn. Now, it can be made of any animal's horn, this horn that they blow, except there is a prohibition against using a cow.
Chris Katulka: Interesting.
Bruce Scott: Because the cow would remind them of the golden calf that the Israelites worshiped at the foot of Mount Sinai, and so to avoid any semblance of that, you can't use a cow's horn.
Chris Katulka: That's interesting.
Bruce Scott: But they would usually use a ram's horn, and that is a memorial to actually ... the scripture says it's a memorial or a reminder in Leviticus 23:24. The question is who is it supposed to remind?
Chris Katulka: That's what I want to know. What's the memorial all about?
Bruce Scott: Right. Biblically, the memorial is really supposed to be for God. Not that God needs reminding, but it's to remind God, a memorial of his covenant relationship with Israel and the promises that he had made to them. But over time, the Jewish people looked at the blowing of the shofar as more of a reminder to Israel than to God, that they're to be reminded that they're to offer their lives up to God.
One of the important parts of Rosh Hashanah, one of the things in their liturgy is they retell the story in Genesis 22 of Abraham offering up Isaac and how he was willing to be bound and sacrificed. Of course, you remember the story of how Isaac ultimately was not sacrificed, but there was a ram who was caught in the thicket who took his place.
But in any case, they were supposed to be reminded of Isaac as this great example. Based on Isaac's merits, God grants them mercy on this day. Then secondly, it's to remind them to have faith in the coming of the Messiah and the regathering of Israel.
Rosh Hashanah is looked at as a day of judgment. It really begins what Jewish people call the 10 Days of Awe.
Chris Katulka: Now, wait a minute. Bruce, before we get to the 10 Days of Awe, let me just let our listeners know, we're speaking with Bruce Scott, who is the program ministries director at The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. Listen, if this is something that interests you, to see how God used these feasts to bless Israel, and to encourage Israel, and to cause Israel to remember what God had done for them in the past, I want to encourage you to get Bruce Scott's book, The Feasts of Israel: Seasons of the Messiah.
I just want you to know, not only are you going to get insight as to what the biblical feasts are from Leviticus chapter 3, you're going to learn about Sabbath. You're going to learn about some of the minor feasts and fast days, and even the ones that the Jewish people celebrate today in Israel as they remember the Holocaust. They remember, have a Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel's Independence Day. What does it mean for the Jewish people in the Scriptures, and what does it mean for a believer today? If these things interest you, I want to encourage you to get The Feasts of Israel: Seasons of the Messiah by Bruce Scott. Steve, can you please tell our listeners how they can purchase their copy of Bruce's book.
Steve Conover: To purchase a copy of The Feasts of Israel by Bruce Scott, visit us at foiradio.org. That's foiradio.org. We'll have the link on our homepage, or you can call our listener line and that's (888) 343-6940. Again, that's (888) 343-6940, and someone will return your call during our regular business hours. In Canada, call (888) 664-2584. Once again, in Canada, that's (888) 664-2584 to purchase your copy of The Feasts of Israel by Bruce Scott.
Chris Katulka: We are having our discussion on the feasts of Israel, the fall feasts, and we've been going through Rosh Hashanah. Bruce, we have 10 minutes to really educate our listeners on the fall feasts, and we were just moving from Rosh Hashanah into this moment called the 10 Days of Awe. You talked about judgment. Bruce, what is the 10 Days of Awe? What's going on there?
Bruce Scott: Sure. What is happening is that the Jewish people look at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which happens 10 days later, as the most solemn days on their calendar. They're very serious about this. If they don't go to synagogue throughout the rest of the year, many Jewish people will go to synagogue on these two days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The reason for that is that God is seen as sitting in judgment. These are days of judgment. He's sitting on his throne of judgment, deciding each person's fate in this life for the coming year.
It's not so much as we look at it as determining someone's eternal destiny. When we think of somebody getting right with God, it's for his eternal destiny. For the Jewish person, it's more of whether or not God is deciding that they can live physically for the coming year.
God opens up three books on these days where one lists the righteous, and if they're considered righteous, then they're immediately inscribed for a life for the coming year; one book listing the wicked, who are immediately inscribed for death; and then one listing those who are somewhere in between. They have 10 days then according to Jewish tradition to repent and to perform enough good deeds to outweigh their bad deeds-
Chris Katulka: Wow.
Bruce Scott: So that they can be inscribed in the Book of Life by the end of Yom Kippur. At the beginning, at Rosh Hashanah, they greet one another with the greeting, "May you be inscribed in the Book of Life," and by Yom Kippur they greet one another with, "May you be sealed in the Book of Life."
Chris Katulka: Can we get to that too, Bruce.
Bruce Scott: Yeah.
Chris Katulka: You have Rosh Hashanah. You have the 10 Days of Awe, this time of repentance that's taking place-
Bruce Scott: Correct.
Chris Katulka: Because you want your name to be sealed in the Book of Life and not in the book of the wicked.
Bruce Scott: Right.
Chris Katulka: You want a positive year ahead of you. But let's talk about the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur for a moment, because this is really important. Leviticus chapter 23, it says this. The Lord goes into great detail about the Day of Atonement. It's not just found in Leviticus 23. It's also in chapter 16 in great detail. Bruce, can you quickly explain to our listeners the importance of Yom Kippur for Israel, but then the importance for the life of a believer?
Bruce Scott: Sure. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, was a day when only ... It only took place one day out of the year when only one man could enter the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle, and then later the temple. Nobody else could do this. Only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies.
What he would do is he would take blood with him, sacrificial blood from a bull, and then later a goat, and he would sprinkle it before the Ark of the Covenant. This was very important because the purpose of Yom Kippur was to bring atonement, an annual atonement for the Holy of Holies, for the tabernacle itself, the altar of incense in the holy place, for the priests, including the high priest for his own sins, and for the sins of all the people of Israel committed in ignorance. This was to cover. That's what Kippur means, to cover the sins of the people for another year.
This was very important. The Jewish people were told to afflict their souls. Literally it means to humble their souls. Now, later on, the rabbis believed that to afflict one's souls meant to fast from eating food for a 24 hour period. That's why it's sometimes called the fast.
But in Leviticus 16, there was an elaborate ritual in which the high priest would have to make atonement for all of these things, including himself and the people. All of was a picture of what the Lord Jesus was to do as our final high priest and as our final sacrifice.
The writer of Hebrews really makes a distinction where all of these sacrifices had to be repeated. Jesus's sacrifice was once for all. Jesus's high priesthood was better than the Levitical priesthood. This is what the writer of Hebrews is emphasizing. The sacrifice that Jesus made was not by the blood of bulls and goats, but it was his own blood and it was his own self, not for his own sins, because he never sinned, but for our sins. His sacrifice was once for all, never has to be repeated. That's why he sat down at the right hand of the throne of his Father, indicating that his sacrifice was complete and final, unlike the Day of Atonement that is repeated year after year.
Now today, Jewish people don't have the temple, so they no longer have sacrifices. When they go into the synagogue, they try to atone for their sins by repeating out of the prayer book, a lot of sins, they beat their breasts. The rabbis say that atonement for sin now is through prayer, repentance, and good deeds, but the Scriptures are clear that there must be a blood sacrifice, and that's what Jesus ultimately did.
Chris Katulka: That goes back to the book of Leviticus, especially Leviticus 17:11, which gives the importance of why a blood sacrifice is substitutionary atonement. For those big words there in theology, a substitutionary atonement is so important because there had to be someone to stand in the place of the payment that we deserved, and God provided that way. Yom Kippur is a perfect picture of who Jesus Christ is both as our high priest and our eternal sacrifice as well.
Really quickly, Bruce, we've been going through the feasts of Israel in the fall. We have Rosh Hashanah, then the 10 Days of Awe, then Yom Kippur when God forgives Israel of their sins, and now we move into really a celebratory time, the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. Can you briefly describe what Sukkot is and what it means for a believer?
Bruce Scott: Sure. Sukkot is celebrated five days after Yom Kippur. You have Rosh Hashanah on the first day of Tishri, Yom Kippur on the 10th day of Tishri, and then Sukkot on the 15th day of Tishri, and that's celebrated for a full week.
Chris Katulka: They're back to back to back to back. I mean, they're happening pretty quick.
Bruce Scott: That's correct. The Feast of Tabernacles takes place at the end of the harvest season when God's bounty and his provision are clearly in view. Sukkot remembers when God caused the children of Israel to dwell in temporary shelters or booths in the wilderness and he provided their every need during that time. He dwelt in their midst. He tabernacled in their midst.
Sukkot is still celebrated today. Jewish people will put together these little booths or tabernacles made out of a four species of foliage, and they will waive these four species of foliage called the lulav, collectively called the lulav, and they will rejoice. It's a seven day celebration, and it's a wonderful time where they remember how God provided for them.
For the believer, Jesus celebrated all of these feasts. It's interesting that John chapter 7, where Jesus cried out on the last day of the feast, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." That was significant because one of the manmade customs that was later added to Sukkot was the practice of water libation, where they would go to the Spring of Gihon, and they would take water from that in a jug, and they would pour it in the temple area. That was supposed to represent the time when the Messiah would come and he would pour out his Holy Spirit.
Well, on that last day, Jesus comes and he stands up and he cries out for everybody to hear, "If anybody thirsts, let him come to me and drink. As the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." The Scripture says that he was referring to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. It's a wonderful holiday celebration of God's provision, and all three of these have prophetic connotations as well.
Chris Katulka: Okay, so let's close our time like this. We're talking about now the prophetic. We only have a few seconds here, but let's look at the feasts in light of God's prophetic words. There is an anticipation of something that's coming with the fall feasts. Bruce, could you explain what they are?
Bruce Scott: Sure. The fall feasts have to do with what's going to happen to Israel after Christ returns at his second coming. Rosh Hashanah, blowing the trumpets has to do with the regathering of Israel from the four corners of the earth back to their land. Secondly, Yom Kippur has to do with the national cleansing of Israel, where they will be cleansed as a nation. Number three, the feast of Sukkot has to do with once again the Messiah dwelling in the midst of Israel during the kingdom age.
Chris Katulka: Amazing, amazing things to look forward to, and really amazing, Bruce, that you and I could chat with one another. I'm so thankful for you, and I really appreciate you taking time to educate me and our listeners on the fall feasts of Israel. Thank you very much.
Bruce Scott: Thank you, Chris. It's been a pleasure.
Steve Conover: We're so glad you chose to be with us today for the program. Chris, we're continuing our series on the feasts of Israel next week. Where are we headed?
Chris Katulka: Yeah. Bruce Scott warmed us up for the fall feasts. He gave us the overview, which was fantastic. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, the Feast of Tabernacles. Now over the next three weeks, we're going to look more in depth of each one of those particular festivals. Next week, we're looking at Rosh Hashanah. I think our listeners are going to want to come back and hear about all that God wanted to let the Israelites know and to cause them to remember about him. It's a great time.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong, and I'm Steve Conover, executive producer.
One last quick reminder. Visit us at foiradio.org. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
The Feasts of Israel: Seasons of The Messiah
By Bruce Scott
The Bible is a Jewish book written by Jewish writers with a Jewish worldview. That means the holidays and feasts of the Old Testament have hidden meanings that are clear in a Jewish context that we should know too!
The Feasts of Israel: Seasons of the Messiah will teach you the fullness of Jesus’ ministry by explaining the rich symbolism of the feasts of Israel.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
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