Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, ‘There’s an appointed time for everything. And there’s a time for every event under heaven – a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; a time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.’
We all know what seasons are in the natural world, Spring, Summer, Winter, Autumn. In certain places of the world the natural seasons are very distinct and defined, and in other places of the world, they’re not distinct at all. For example, the closer you are to the equator the seasons become more like a single hot season that lasts almost all year, and the further away from the equator you are and closer to the poles, the cold season seems to last most of the year. But between those extremes, most places around the world experience and enjoy the four seasons that keep nature humming along.
But there are also seasons in life and seasons for God’s plans as well. The seasons of life and the plans of God are most notable and visible in Israel, and the reason for this is because God told His people to mark feasts and festivals that in and of themselves speak of God’s plan of redemption for humanity. He told His people to remember important things, to mark anniversaries and never forget the things God has done for them and that’s exactly what they do.
God’s people understand that God’s Word is – the majority of the time unless it states otherwise – a very literal, practical Word that they’re supposed to act on as well as believe. This is the Hebrew mindset.
Here’s a rundown of how Israel remembers and celebrates their ‘seasonal’ year in both a spiritual and national sense.
Purim is the first season of remembrance, where they remember how their ancient enemy Haman tried to orchestrate a legal means of annihilating the Jewish people, but it backfired and the Jews were saved. This is a season of incredible joy and gladness.
Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread and First Fruits are the next remembrances where they commemorate the deliverance from slavery at the hands of the Egyptians. God’s provision and the first fruits to arise after their deliverance and liberation. This is a season of gratitude and liberty.
Yom Hashoah is the commemoration called Holocaust Memorial Day, where the Jewish people stop to remember the six million Jews who were slaughtered during the Nazi Holocaust for the simple reason that they were Jewish. It’s a very solemn day and everyone is affected. This is a serious and sorrowful season.
Yom HaZikaron is Israeli Memorial Day, and this is a commemoration and remembrance for all those Israeli soldiers and victims of terrorism, who have lost their lives because of the aggression and hatred of others, since their national rebirth in 1948. This is a season of great sorrow and mourning.
Yom HaAtzma’ut is Israeli Independence Day and it’s a commemoration and celebration of Israel gaining her sovereignty and independence on May 14, 1948 once again after nearly 3000 years of both occupation and dispersion. This celebration sparks a season of intense joy and national pride. Especially because the very day before is so hard as they remember so many friends and loved ones who’ve paid with their lives for being Israeli and Jewish. The change in mood is stark and immediate.
Yom Yerushalayim is the celebration of the day that their ancient capital city, Jerusalem was reunified at the close of the war of 1967. This is a season of immense joy, it’s a very emotional day because the city of Jerusalem, the Holy City is both central and essential in the heart of the Jewish people around the world and always has been.
Shavuot, the festival we call Pentecost is next, the celebration of the giving of the Law of God and the giving of God’s life giving Spirit to His people. This is a season of love for the receiving of God’s Word that reveals so much of Himself to His people.
Tish’a B’Av or the Ninth of Av is a serious remembrance of the many disasters and catastrophes that have befallen the Jewish people throughout their history, including the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temples, the very heart of their worship of God. Also, many other tragic events occurred on this date. This is a season of mourning and sorrow.
Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year, the first month of the calendar year and a time to celebrate new beginnings and the hope of the coming of redemption. This is a season of joy and expectation over the coming year.
Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, a remembrance of the day the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to offer sacrifice to have the sins of the people washed away for another year, and that their names would be written in the Book of Life. This is a season of incredible solemnity and seriousness, a time of fasting as they deal with sin in their own lives.
Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles is the remembrance of their ancestors who wandered in the wilderness, trusting God for every provision they needed, a time when God literally dwelt among them to not only provide for them, but to protect them day and night. It’s a time of joy and trust at all that God has done and continues to do for them.
Simchat Torah is a celebration of rejoicing over the Word of God. It celebrates the completion and beginning of the annual reading cycle of the Torah and the other books in the Bible, a celebration that the Word of God is never ending. For Orthodox Jews, they’ll often stay up all night reading the Torah. It’s a very joyous and happy season.
Yom HaAliyah is the celebration of Jews around the world coming home to Israel; making Aliyah. This is a season of joy and belonging because God promised that after living in the Diaspora for 2000 years, He would bring His people back to live in their own land and that is exactly what God has done. Aliyah is a core value of the Jewish State, that Jews around the world have the right of return after living in exile for thousands of years.
Hanukkah is the remembrance of the rededication of the Temple after the Maccabean Revolt, when they liberated Jerusalem, cleansed the Temple and re-lit the lamps inside. This is also called the Festival of Lights and it’s a very happy, joyous season, for the faithfulness of God and deliverance over their enemies.
God gave His people instruction to remember things that happened to them, and to celebrate things that have yet to happen. Why would He do that?
There are several reasons. Firstly, when you remember the good things, the amazing things that God has done, the victories He’s given them, the promises fulfilled to them, the joy and euphoria they lived through, it confirms over and over again that God is faithful, God is trustworthy, God never lies and always keeps His Word. It builds trust and endurance in His people. It’s encouraging for them and gives them enduring hope during the tough season.
Which brings us to the second reason. When you remember the hard seasons, the sad and mournful seasons, it’s also a reminder that God warned they would come, especially when they’re a result of rebellion and disobedience to Him. They’re also a reminder that God sustained and kept them through tragedy and hardship and that those times were so painful and so traumatic, that they have to ensure they don’t make those same errors again because avoiding such pain again is paramount.
Finally, the seasons we go through, both good and bad let us know that all seasons bring about growth and maturity. All seasons, both good and bad are actually for our good and ultimate benefit. Different plants grow best in some seasons but not others, the land rests and heals during some seasons, and it works hard and produces greatly during other seasons. Some seasons are necessary for restoration, some seasons are necessary for relationship development, some seasons are necessary for quiet and solitude.
I remember being in Israel one year for Israeli Memorial Day and Israeli Independence Day and the difference in the mood of the people was really something to observe. I remember we were in the bus driving down toward the Dead Sea, and we were already told that on Israeli Memorial Day, the entire nation stops for 2 minutes of contemplation, and a siren goes off all over the country – everywhere – to let everyone know when to stop. We watched the clock, and at about a minute before the siren was due, we pulled over and got out of the bus, we were driving through a small town in the Hula Valley. The siren wailed and every vehicle stopped on the road, every person no matter where they were or what they were doing, stopped and stood stock still for a full two minutes to remember the human loss of life that has occurred because of war and terrorism. Remember, it was also Holocaust Memorial Day just before Israeli Memorial Day as well, when they remembered the decimation and bloodlust against Jews by Hitler and the Nazis.
It was sad, somber and heart-wrenching. Every Jew, especially in Israel, has been affected either directly or indirectly by the Holocaust, war or terrorism. Every single one! This is another way that the Jewish people are unique in the world.
Yet the very next day the nation was jumping with joy and excitement in celebration of Israeli Independence Day, the day when Israel was reborn on May 14, 1948. Born out of the ashes of the Holocaust, against all odds, and they’re still alive and thriving and once again a sovereign, independent nation no longer under the boot of despots and dictators occupying the homeland of their ancestors.
We have seasons too, seasons in our annual calendar as well as seasons in life. There’s the seasons of age that everyone experiences when they travel through childhood, the school years, earning a living, building a family and watching children begin their own lives independently of us, and the senior years. There are the good times, the bad times, the struggles and the easy times. There are seasons in the history of nations and empires, in politics and in the areas of freedom and oppression. All these seasons influence how our world, our nations, our societies and our own families function and progress. How we live and respond in those seasons is what God is interested in, they’re all important and useful for us in helping us trust Him more diligently.
There are seasons in our spiritual life as well…seasons are literally the circle of life for us and they have start times and stop times. Nothing is static. But we’re supposed to learn and grow through them all.
Looking back over the course of human history, we can see that there’s been a long painful and costly season of sin and lawlessness but eventually there’ll come a season for absolute restoration and that will be when Christ returns. That will usher in the season of perpetual peace, joy and righteousness.
In the meantime, here’s a passage that should really encourage you as you make your way through the ever-changing seasons of your life.
Psalm 31:14-16, ‘As for me, I trust in You, Lord, I say, “You’re my God.” My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me. Make Your face to shine upon Your servant; save me in Your lovingkindness.’
Based in part on an article at oneforisrael.org