In a few minutes, we will sound the Shofar a final time and then go and break our fasts. As we come to the end of Yom Kippur and the Days of Awe I hope this has been a meaningful time for you. Hopefully, a time for self-reflection through prayer, reading God’s Word and even fasting. Our service right now is known as the Neilah or closing service. This comes from the tradition that between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, God writes who will live another year in the Book of Life. If your name is not written, then you will die the next year. So, before the gates of heaven closes to our prayers and repentance we make one final “push” to get right with God.
This makes me remember all those movies where the hero gets through just as the gate closes. For instance, in Indian Jones, as they rush through before the danger overtakes them. We tend to do a lot of that in real life too. There have been many occasions where I get in “just as the gate closes”, getting to a store right before they close. Or finishing a project I’ve procrastinated at the last minute and then completing it right on time. Or to get more specific when your bubbe asks you to get a dozen bagels for her and you forget when the bagel shop closes and fortunately there are still four onion sticks left.
Now the truth is that the tradition of the gates closing is just that, a tradition, one with no real basis in Scripture. But what is true is that we only have the promise of today. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” We read the Lord’s call in the books of Psalms and Hebrews. We all here still have a chance to get right with the Lord. An open invitation to return to Him. This is for all peoples, Jew and Gentile, whether we believe in Him now or not. But the invitation does not last forever. One day the gates will be closed, and no one knows when that will be.
So, it is good to get in just before the gate closes, but it is even better to get in way before the gates are closed. It’s much more peaceful to go to a store and know you have several hours to browse and take care of what you need to. It’s much better to get to the bagel shop in the morning when you know there are plenty of onion sticks. You have better sleep when projects are done, and deadlines are not looming over you.
It is also much better to return to the Lord now and not later. To experience now the only source of real and lasting peace, the Prince of Peace, Yeshua the Messiah. There is a peace beyond our circumstances when we know where we are going, to know that we are truly sealed in the Book of Life, through the Lamb of God, Messiah Yeshua. We are sealed through the true Yom Kippur atonement he provided, an atonement better than the blood of bulls and goats, better than prayers and fasting.
This peace is also more than just avoiding punishment, it’s more than the danger that lurks around us, it’s to experience the eternal joy and safety that can only be found in Him. As the writer of the letter to the Messianic Jews put it we have, “…come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the community of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Yeshua the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
Very soon we will hear the call of the Shofar for the last time, and for some of us it could be the last time in our lives. It is a call to return to the Lord, a call to get in before the gates close, a call to experience peace beyond the suffering of this world. If you have yet to put your trust in Messiah Yeshua then I pray that it will be this day the call of the Shofar will lead you to Him. May each of us renew our commitment to Adonai and to the Son of God. May of us know that we have gotten through the gate, that through Messiah Yeshua we know that we are forever sealed in His Book of Life.