The Solemn Assembly – “Atzerah”

In the book of Joel, the prophet calls God’s people to proclaim a solemn assembly.  “Consecrate a fast, Proclaim a solemn assembly (“atzerah”) for the day of the LORD is near (Joel 1:14).  The prophet declares it’s time to gather all the inhabitants of the land.  “Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly (“atzerah”), gather the people…weep… and say, ‘Spare Your people, O LORD” Joel 2:15,17.

The word “atzerah” (Strong’s #6116) is used only 11 times in the Scripture.  The original Hebrew language uncovers the definition and the time for the day of the solemn assembly.  Let’s look at the uses of the word “atzerah” in the Scriptures.  Many refer to the Feast of Tabernacles week during the fall of the year.  Every mention of the word “solemn assembly” in the English translation of the Bible is not necessarily the word “atzerah”.  Most of these uses are referenced below. The word “atzereth” can only be seen in the Hebrew text.  Go to www.blueletterbible.org and click on the red “c” square on the left to check it out in the original Hebrew language.

– FEAST OF TABERNACLES AND THE 8TH DAY “ATZERAH” – Lev.23

Using Scripture to interpret Scripture, we find the word “atzerah” in Leviticus.  “On the eighth day… have a holy convocation… it is an assembly (“atzerah”) Lev.23:36.  Chapter 23 of Leviticus gives the details of all the Appointed Times of the LORD – Sabbath, Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Feast of Weeks, Day of Blowing, Yom Kippur, and Feast of Tabernacles.  The word “atzerah” is only used once and that is for the 8th day assembly of the Feast of Tabernacles. It is a solemn assembly “atzerah”.

The LORD tells His people to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for 7 days with great rejoicing & feasting, eating & drinking.  Then God wants His people to stop the celebration on the 8th day for a solemn assembly “atzerah”.  The word “atzerah” comes from the root word “atzar” which means to restrain, shut up, close or stop.  Although this 8th day is part of the Feast of Tabernacles, it is NOT a day of celebration & rejoicing.  Scripture says celebrate the “Feast of Booths for seven days to the LORD…on the eighth day…have a holy convocation…it is an assembly (“atzerah”) Lev.23:34,36.

Again in the book of Numbers this same word is used to describe the 8th day of the Feast of Tabernacles.  “On the eighth day you shall have a solemn assembly (“atzerah”); you shall do no laborious work” Num.29:35.  The 8th day is a no work day – a high holy day, a sabbath.  The Feast of Tabernacles celebration/solemn assembly combination reminds us that “the day of the LORD is great and very terrible” Joel 2:11.  Each of the appointed times gives a shadow picture of what is to come (Col.2:17) at the end of this age.

– FEAST OF TABERNACLES AND THE 8TH DAY “ATZERAH” – John 7-10

The book of John gives great insight into the Feast of Tabernacles as it zooms in on the life of the Messiah in the year He died.  Looking closely, we see John 7:2 shows “the festival of the Jews was near, the Festival of Booths (Tabernacles)”.  The Scripture tells us His brothers, who didn’t believe in Him, “went up [to Jerusalem] to the festival, then He also went up, not openly, but as it were in secret” John 7:5,10.  When we go up to meet with Him during His appointed times, He always shows up!!!  During the Feast, the scoffers were saying, “Where is He?” John 7:11“Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? 2 Pet 3:3.  Even so, “there was much grumbling about Him” John 7:12.

During the middle of the Festival, Messiah went up and was teaching (John 7:14).  He is the Teacher of Righteousness.  “Children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the LORD your God for He shall give you the Teacher of Righteousness… you shall eat and be satisfied… and you shall know that I am in the midst…that I pour out My Spirit on all flesh” Joel 2:23,26,28.  God is always revealing more of Himself and His teachings during His appointed times.  Could it be that Joel is prophesying during the Feast of Tabernacles?

On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the seventh day, the apostle John notes: “Now on the last day, the great of the Feast, Jesus stood and cried, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me… from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water’… this He spoke of the Spirit” John 7:37.  And again, “a division came about among the people because of Him” John 7:42.  The Pharisees accused those who followed the Messiah of being “led astray” (John 7:47).  This writer knows there will be those who will grumble and say ‘observing the Feasts leads people astray’.  Yet, this writer knows that joining Him in His ‘cycles’ leads to greater blessings for those who are willing to enter in and meet Him there!  As R. Sterns says, “You can’t get to Zion following a roadmap to Babylon”.
The Scripture notes “everyone went to his home” (John 7:53).  On the next day, the 8th day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the “atzerah” solemn assembly, Messiah came again into the temple.  “Early in the morning He came again into the temple…and He sat down to teach them” John 8:2.

The woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus on this very day, the 8th day (John 8:3).  Jesus said, “He who is without sin…throw a stone at her” John 8:7.  There were no witnesses left to condemn her.  “Jesus was left alone” John 8:9.  Jesus alone was left to judge on the 8th day and He offers her His mercy.  The 8th day is a day to ask for mercy for the adulterous woman of Israel!  Today the Gentile woman also plays the harlot, commits adultery with pagan idols and commits acts of immorality (Rev.2:14,20).  “God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all” Romans 11:32.

Jesus also healed the blind man on the solemn 8th day assembly (John 9).  Remember the 8th day is a high holy day, a no work day, a sabbath.  “Now it was a sabbath when Jesus…opened his eyes… therefore some said He does not guard the sabbath…and there was a division among them” John 9:16. On this very day “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind” John 9:39.  Then He declares, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved” John 10:9.  This brings to mind the story of judgment in the days of Noah.  There was only one door to safety, only one door to go through to escape the judgment.  Jesus declares that He is the door!

The Feast of Tabernacles is also called “the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year” Exd.34:22.  It’s the last festival, the time of the final harvest.  Jesus said, “It is necessary… to work… while there is light because a time is coming when no man can work” John 9:4.

– FEAST OF TABERNACLES AND THE 8TH DAY “ATZERAH” – 2 Chronicles 7

Another time the word “atzerah” is used is during the Feast of Tabernacles when King Solomon dedicated the temple.  The glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house.  “Solomon observed the Feast [of Tabernacles] at that time for seven days… on the eighth day they held a solemn assembly (“atzerah”) 2 Chronicles 7:8-9.  Feast of Tabernacles always begins on the 15th day of the seventh month of God’s Biblical Calendar continues through the 21st day of the seventh month – 7 days.  That means that the 8th day is always on the 22nd day of the seventh month- in the fall of the year (Sept/Oct on the Gregorian Calendar).  The Scripture shows us God’s timetable:  “So Solomon observed the feast at that time for seven days… on the eighth day they held a solemn assembly (“atzerah”)…then on the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent people to their tents” 2 Chronicles 7:8-9.

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” 2 Chronicles 7:14.  The context of this promise is during the 8th day “atzerah” assembly.  God Himself is showing us how to partner with Him, how and when to pray and how to call out to Him corporately for His mercy.  He has promised if we repent and pray, then His eyes will be open and His ears will be attentive to the prayers (2 Chronicles 7:15).

– THE 8TH DAY –

Here are some other interesting notes about the 8th day.  The 8th day is a time of cleansing.  The priests were cleansed on the 8th day for their service to the LORD in the tabernacle (Lev 9:1).  The 8th day is also a day of new beginnings in Scripture.   So, it’s interesting to look at the word “atzerah” and try to put the pieces together as to what God is calling forth for this “solemn assembly to the LORD”.   Below is another use of “atzerah” during the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the spring of the year.

– ATZERAH: LAST DAY OF FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD – Deut 16:8

The last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is the time God has set aside for an “atzerah”- a solemn assembly in the spring of the year.
“Observe the month of the Aviv and celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God,
for in the month of the Aviv the LORD brought you out of Egypt…
for seven days no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory…
six days you shall eat unleavened bread;
and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly (“atzerah”)
to the LORD your God;  you shall do on work on it” Deut 16:1-8

Although this “atzereh” is the 7th day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, it is the 8th day in the season of celebration during this Passover/Unleavened Bread time frame. God’s Biblical Calendar is detailed in Lev.23. Passover is always on Nisan 14 and the Feast of Unleavened Bread is always the following seven days from Nisan 15 through Nisan 21.

The 7th day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is an “atzereth”, a solemn assembly.  This writer has done some research (noted in a different document) and is fully convinced the Scriptures reveal John the Baptizer was born on Passover (Nisan 14).  On the eighth day after his birth, he was circumcised.  This would have been on the “atzerah” solemn assembly day, the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  “And it happened on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child” (Luke 1:59)
Little Jewish boys were to be circumcised on the 8th day after their birth (Gen 17:12).  And six months after the birth of John the Baptizer, Yeshua (Jesus) was born. The Messiah was born on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles – “the Word became flesh and dwelt [tabernacled] among us” John 1:14. Yeshua was circumcised on the 8th day after His birth.  He was circumcised on the 8th day “atzerah” solemn assembly of the Feast of Tabernacles.  It is interesting to note that both boys were circumcised on the solemn assembly day.

The appointed times of the LORD all point to the Messiah and His coming.  He fulfilled the Scripture in His first coming and yet, this “atzerah” also points to His second coming.  Men and women must circumcise their hearts to prepare for His return.  He is going to shake everything that can be shaken.  We must love Him with our whole hearts.  We must return to our first love in order to be able to stand firm and overcome in the last days (Rev 2).

– CIRCUMCISION: CIRCUMCISE YOUR HEART   Deut 10:16 –

God wants us to circumcise our hearts.  It is our responsibility to circumcise our own hearts. “So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.  For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe” (Duet.10:16-17).  And yet, God is circumcising our hearts so that we may live.  Unless our hearts are circumcised and tender to Him, we are not really living!  “God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live” (Deut.30:6). He is circumcising hearts by His Spirit for His glory and for the sake of His name.

We must return to Him with all of our heart!  We must return to Him with fasting and weeping and mourning.  We need to “rend our hearts…and return to the LORD…Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly (atzerah), gather the people sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and the nursing infants…let the priests, the LORD’s ministers, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, ‘Spare Your people, O LORD'” Joel 2:12-13,15.

– REPENTANCE AND PROCLAMATION –

The day John the Baptizer was circumcised and named was the very day that his father Zacharias’ mouth was opened.  The father’s mouth had been shut because of unbelief (Luke 1:20).  But on that day, on the “atzerah”, his mouth was opened and he proclaimed the glory of God.

“And it happened on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child…and at once his father’s mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God… He was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel…He has accomplished redemption for His people…as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old-  SALVATION FROM OUR ENEMIES AND FROM  THE HAND OF ALL WHO HATE US…to grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness all of our days”   (Luke 1:59, 64, 67-75).

The solemn assembly, the “atzerah,” is a time for fathers to repent for their unbelief.  It is a time for fathers to call forth their children, those in this generation whom God has chosen to go forth in the spirit and power of Elijah. God is raising up voices in this generation to go forth as burning and shining lamps to prepare the way of Messiah’s second coming.  He is raising up preachers and singers and voices “to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, to guide their feet to the way of peace” Luke 1:76-79.

John the Baptizer came proclaiming the message of repentance.   He was the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD” (John 1:23).  “Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.  Let every valley be lifted up and every mountain and hill be made low… Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed” (Isaiah 40:3-5).  There must repentance, there will be repentance, before the second coming of Messiah!  Every mountain must be brought low…every mountain of religion and every idol…will be brought low!  And every valley will be lifted up…the ways of the LORD and His Word and His ways… will be lifted up among His people and in their homes.   As the Scripture says,

“For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God;
and if it begins with us first,
what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
AND IF IT IS WITH DIIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED,
WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER?” (1 Pet 4:17-18).

– THREE DAYS JOURNEY INTO THE WILDERNESS –

God leads His people.  The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.  God delivered His people from the bondage of Egypt through the death of the lamb and the application of the blood, the blood of the substitute lamb at Passover (Exd 12).   They fled in haste with Unleavened Bread (Exd 13).  God led His people to the Red Sea and saved them that day from the hand of the enemy (Exd 14:30).  Then the people went three more days into the wilderness. The day they got to Marah would have been their 7th day of eating unleavened bread.  Let’s look at what God was showing them on this day at Marah.

“Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea…and they went three days into the wilderness” (Exd 15:22; Num 33:8). God wanted to show them something else about Himself here in the wilderness.  Remember the LORD had told Moses at the burning bush to tell Pharaoh, “Please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to LORD our God” (Exd 3:18).  And Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “Please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, otherwise He will fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword” (Exd 5:3). But Pharaoh did not let them go.  God sent plagues, yet Pharaoh still would not let the people go.  “Then the LORD said, I will set apart the land of Goshen…I will put a division between My people and your people” (Exd 8:22-23).  Then gnats came on the land of Egypt and not in Goshen. It was a “sign”.  Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and they said to Pharaoh, “We must go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as He commands us” (Exd 8:27).

It’s interesting that the Scripture uses these exact words to describe their arrival at Marah.  It was three days’ journey into the wilderness.  “They passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness and they went three days’ journey in the wilderness…and camped at Marah” (Numb 33:8; Exd 15:22).  When they came to the waters at Marah, the waters were bitter. It was a test.  But the people grumbled.  And the LORD showed Moses a tree and he threw the tree into the waters and the waters became sweet!  The tree was a picture of the cross.  The tree, the wooden stake, made the bitter waters sweet.  “Messiah redeemed us from the curse…having become a curse for us – for it is written, ‘cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'” (Gal 3:13; Deut 21:23).  God is always able to take the curse and turn it into a blessing.  What He desires is our repentance and for us to cry out to Him.

– HEALING: TURNING THE BITTER INTO SWEET –

God can make the bitter waters sweet.   He says, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and guard all His statues, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD am your healer” (Exd 15:26).    God wanted to show His people that He is the healer.  He is able to heal all those who cry out to Him.  He does not always remove the bitter, yet He can make the bitter sweet.   His work on the cross must be thrown into every bitter situation in our lives.  “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom.8:28).  It is through repentance and forgiveness that we are able to drink the bitter water and taste the sweetness in it.  Messiah took the curse for us.  Vengence is His.  He will deal with our adversaries.  He understands every abuse and mistreatment. He just wants us to repent.  He is able to make every bitter situation sweet.  It is when we forgive that we can thank Him for the bitter situation and pray that He turn it into sweetness. “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Heb 13:15).  God is able to take every curse and turn it into a blessing (Neh 13:2).

– SHOUT, FOR THE LORD HAS GIVEN YOU THE CITY –

Forty years later, which included all the 38 years of wandering in the wilderness because of unbelief, the children of Israel entered the Promised Land.  They camped at Gilgal by Jericho and observed Passover on the 14th day of the first month (Joshua 5:10). On the day after the Passover they ate some of the produce of the land (Joshua 5:11)  “Now it came about that when Joshua was by Jericho… the captain of the LORD’s host said to Joshua…See, I have given Jericho into your hand…you shall march around the city…six days…on the seventh day…all the people shall shout (teruah) with a great shout and the wall of the city will fall down” (Joshua 5:13-6:5).    This writer believes that the seventh day of the march around the city would have been the seventh day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.   It would have been the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread when the wall fell down!!!

Are there walls and obstacles that are blocking the things God has in store for you?  Remember it is God’s strategy that brings the walls down.  Are there walls around certain areas of your heart? Are there walls of division in your city? Walls in your family? Walls between Hispanics & Blacks & Whites? Walls between fathers & sons?  Blow the shofar of jubilee!  Shout (Teruah)!  Shout the war cry to the LORD.  He will arise and scatter your enemies (Numb 10:35).  He will arise and give you freedom and liberty as you look to Him.

– THE “ATZERAH” ASSEMBLY – TODAY

God Himself invites us to join Him during His Appointed Times.  He is waiting for us to enter in.  The Appointed Times were established at Creation when He set the lights in the heavens and said, “Let them be for signs and appointed times (“moedim”) Gen.1:14.  The heavens declare His glory!  The LORD leads His people “in ‘cycles’ of righteousness for His name’s sake” Ps.23:3.  He invites us to join Him and enter into His heavenly ‘cycle’ of appointed times (moedim) to be in rhythm with Him, the One who created the universe.  God is going to shake everything that can be shaken…but the Appointed Times will remain.  “All nations will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles” Zech 14:16.

The Appointed Times of the LORD for a solemn assembly “atzerah” this year areSunday evening and Monday, April 24&25, 2011 according to God’s Biblical Calendar*.   The fall “atzerah” on God’s Biblical Calendar* is Thursday evening and Friday, October 20&21, 2011 as the appointed time for a solemn assembly.  (Note: a day is always reckoned according to God’s definition in Genesis 1 as “evening & morning”).  Of course, if your group is unable to schedule during these appointed times, anytime is always a good time for repentance and a solemn assembly.  God always blesses those who turn to Him.

Come, let us return to the LORD.  For He has torn us, but He will heal us.
                              He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us…       
that we may live before Him.  So let us press on to know the LORD” (Hosea 6:1-3).

*God wants to restore His Biblical Calendar to give a correct representation of Himself and His ways, to testify and witness of His sovereignty in this age and the age to come.  God’s Biblical Calendar agrees with Scripture and always points to Messiah and reflects the Scriptural picture of Messiah.  The Scripture is the plumb line and it always points to the Messiah.  God’s Biblical Calendar shows Messiah 3 days & 3 nights in the grave during the Feast of Unleavened Bread; always celebrates Firstfruits on Sunday- the first day of the week; and goes by the visual sighting of the new moon- so that even a little child can look up at the sky and know the seasons & the signs of the times.