God has set appointed times on His calendar from the beginning of creation. Genesis 1:14 declares “And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years”. The sacred times, or seasons, referred to are moed – fixed or appointed times when God would meet with His people. These times are illustrative pictures for humanity of God’s redemption plan. In his book “Celebrating Jesus in the Biblical Feasts”, Dr. Richard Booker explains:
“In the Bible, God often used visual aids as object lessons to teach us spiritual truths that He wanted us to understand. God gave these pictures in the Hebrew Bible in the form of the various religious laws and rituals that the Jews were to observe. As the Jews practiced these laws and rituals, they would learn spiritual truths concerning their relationship with God through their physical senses. But just as child’s blocks are not the real alphabet, neither were these physical pictures complete in themselves. They were important, but they were only pictures. After centuries of looking at the pictures, the time came when the Jews were to enter into the spiritual reality of these visual aids. The transition from the physical to the spiritual was provided for them through Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world. While the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) provide the pictures, the New Testament provided the person. This picture-to-person connection is what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 5:17-18 when He said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” Because the common western understanding of fulfill means “done away with”, Christians have believed that Jesus meant the pictures pointing to Him were no longer needed. This is not what Jesus meant. To Jewish rabbis in the time of Jesus, the word that is translated into English as fulfilled meant the true or correct interpretation of Scripture, while the word destroy meant to give a false or incorrect interpretation. Jesus was telling them that He did not come to do away with or destroy (lead them astray by false teachings) the Hebrew Scriptures. Instead, He was the human embodiment of their true meaning and spiritual reality.” (p14-16)
The appointed times all find their fulfillment in the Messiah – Jesus Christ. Some of these appointed times have been fulfilled; others await fulfillment until the exact moment that God has decreed from the beginning. Note that they are the appointed feasts of the Lord, and as such they transcend Israel. The Hebrew word for “holy convocation” or “sacred assembly” is mikrah, which also means a “dress rehearsal”. Every time these festivals are acted out, it is a dress rehearsal for the prophetic plan of God (similar to the New Testament visual aids of water baptism and communion). These appointed times are the “Moedim” and are detailed in Exodus 12-13, Leviticus 23, Numbers 28-29 and Deuteronomy 16. We will examine Leviticus 23 here:
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.
“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.
“These are the appointed feasts of the Lord, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the Lord‘s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. But you shall present a food offering to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”
The Feast of Firstfruits
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord. And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the Lord with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
The Feast of Weeks
“You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall make a proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.
“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”
The Feast of Trumpets
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the Lord.”
The Day of Atonement
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the Lord. And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people. And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.”
The Feast of Booths
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the Lord. On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. For seven days you shall present food offerings to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the Lord. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.
“These are the appointed feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the Lord food offerings, burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each on its proper day, besides the Lord‘s Sabbaths and besides your gifts and besides all your vow offerings and besides all your freewill offerings, which you give to the Lord.
“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed feasts of the Lord.
God ordains one weekly and seven yearly appointed times in His prophetic calendar. While they were initially given to Israel, they are God’s appointed feasts. As such, they are just as applicable to believers today. These appointed times point clearly to Christ:
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)
While their observation and celebration is not commanded in the New Testament, it benefits believers greatly to have an understanding of how Jesus has fulfilled and how He will fulfill these prophetic appointments:
The Spring Feasts – Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits – point to the redemption we have through Jesus’ death and resurrection at His first coming. Through these, we find peace with God.
The Summer Feast – Pentecost – establishes the body of Christ on the earth. Through this feast we encounter God’s power.
The Fall Feasts – Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles – point to the future completion of God’s redemptive program in His second coming. These feasts point to God’s rest when the process of redemption is completed.
For a detailed discussion on the spring, summer, and fall feasts, please click on their names above. In this introduction, we will discuss the Sabbath, which really has a big picture of all the feasts in view.
The Meaning of the Sabbath
The Sabbath is a beautiful summary about relationship with God. On the seventh day of creation week, with His labors done, God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve in fellowship. God ordained the Sabbath to be a day of solemn rest, holy to the Lord, as a covenant to Israel throughout its’ generations (forever). It is a reminder of creation week, yes, but more importantly it is a reminder of the importance of fellowship with God. We set apart a day, distinct from the other days of the week. On it, we cast aside the world, with its’ enticements and labors. We remember that we represent God in the world and that He has redeemed us out of the world.
True Sabbath rest comes ultimately through Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (collective Old Testament) but to fulfill it. Because of Jesus’ finished work of salvation through the cross, we who believe are no longer under the burden of the letter of the Law. What an amazing way to celebrate the Sabbath each week, if we choose to! We get to celebrate our rest in the finished work of Christ!
Hebrews 4:9-10 – So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.
We are free under grace to worship any day (the early church actually met daily to worship in Acts). We are not bound to Saturdays, or Sunday mornings for that matter. In fact, we are to continually present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice – this is to be our spiritual act of worship (Rom 12:1). We should worship God every day!
The Sabbath was made for man, because we have such a tendency to forget God. To get choked out by the weeds and thorns – the concerns of daily life. To forget about what is truly important – the eternal. “Shabbat” is related to the word shevet, which means to dwell and abide. As believers, we are to abide in Christ continually:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:4-7
How fortunate we are to be able to celebrate the shadow and the substance – which still yet points ahead to our eternal rest in Him!
Come, Lord Jesus!
Messiah in the Feasts of Israel – Sam Nadler
Celebrating Jesus in the Biblical Feasts – Dr. Richard Booker
Hebrew4Christians – The Jewish Holidays
The Bible is infallible. I am not. Be a Berean – examine the scriptures for yourself to see if these things are so!