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Leviticus Bible Study – Lesson #11

THE FEASTS OF THE LORD

The Sabbath (Lev. 23:1-3)

The religious calendar of Israel now becomes the subject of God’s legislation. The Lord told the children of Israel through Moses to proclaim the feasts of the Lord as holy convocations.

After six days of labor, the seventh day, or Sabbath, was to be a day of rest from work. This was the only weekly holy day. The weekly Sabbath cannot properly be labeled one of the feast days. It is pre-Mosaic and goes back to the original creation. It was repeated to Israel, and in Deuteronomy an additional reason for its observance is given. “And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day” (Deut. 5:15).

When they were slaves down in Egypt, they had to work every day. The Sabbath day is tied in with their deliverance. Now that they have been delivered from Egypt, they are to set aside one day to worship God. There is to be cessation from all labor and activity.

When the early church set aside a day of the week to come together, they chose Sunday, the first day of the week, because it was the day our Lord came back from the dead. That is the day full deliverance was given to us. “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25).  Many early Christians honored both days as a way of making unity among the Jewish and Gentile believers, by starting their worship on the Sabbath (Saturday) afternoon, and continuing past sundown into the first day of the week (Sunday).

The Sabbath day was not a feast day. It is geared to the week and not to the year. It was not a feast, but a set time.

 

The Passover (Lev. 23:4-5)

This verse makes it clear that the feasts begin properly with the Passover and not the Sabbath. In Exodus 12:2 God said, “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.” This holy season represents the sacrificial death of Christ and the value of His blood. “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7).

The Lord’s Passover was held on the fourteenth day of the first month (Nisan, or Abib). It commemorated Israel’s redemption from slavery in Egypt. The Passover lamb was a type of Christ, the Lamb of God, our Passover (1 Cor. 5:7), whose blood was shed to redeem us from slavery to sin. He did not die at Creation but in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4–6).

 

The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:6-8)

The Feast of Unleavened Bread occurred in connection with the Passover. It extended over a period of seven days, beginning with the day after Passover—i.e., from the fifteenth day of Nisan to the twenty-first. The names of these two feasts are often used interchangeably. During this time the Jews were required to put away all leaven from their households. In Scripture, leaven speaks of sin. The feast pictures a life from which the leaven of malice and wickedness has been put away, and a life which is characterized by “the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:8). There was no lapse between the Passover (our redemption) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (our obligation to walk in holiness).  Even today the Jews eat unleavened bread during this feast. The bread is called matzo. The preparation of matzo involves piercing the bread, and in the baking process it becomes striped. This unleavened bread clearly reminds us of the sinless Messiah. He was pierced for us, and by His stripes we are healed.

 

The Feast of Firstfruits (Lev. 23:9-14)

This feast could not be observed until Israel got out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land. When they had sowed their grain in the land, they were to watch for the first heading of the barley. When they would see a stalk here and there, they would cut each one down and put them together to make a sheaf. This was then brought to the tabernacle, and the priest would offer it to the Lord.

The exact day that he did this is not stated. It may have been the first day of Unleavened Bread or the last day of that feast. The important item to note is that it was done on the first day of the week. This is so important because Christ is called the firstfruits. “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Cor. 15:23). The time of His resurrection is clearly stated in Matthew 28:1: “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” On the first day of the week, Christ, “the firstfruits” was resurrected from the dead.

Someday the church will be included in resurrection, but so far He is the only One who has been raised in a glorified body. At the rapture of the church, we shall all rise. There will be a coming out of the graves just as Christ did. He is the firstfruits, afterwards they that are Christ’s at His coming. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24).

You see, the offering of the firstfruits indicated that there would be a harvest to follow. Believers are that harvest.

 

The Feast of Weeks (Lev. 23:15-22)

The Feast of Weeks (Heb., Shāvûôt) or Pentecost (“fifty”) was held fifty days after the Passover Sabbath. It was a harvest festival thanking God for the beginning of the wheat harvest. The firstfruits of the wheat harvest were presented at this time, along with a burnt offering, a new grain offering, drink offerings, and a peace offering. According to Jewish tradition, Moses received the law on this day of the year. The Feast is typical of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, when the church was brought into existence. The wave offering consisted of two loaves of bread made from the freshly reaped fine flour. (This was the only offering that was made with leaven.) These loaves represent, in type, the Jews and the Gentiles made into “one new man in [Christ]” (Eph. 2:15).

We need to note the time sequence. After the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, He showed Himself alive for forty days. Then, just before He ascended into heaven, He said to His own that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father. He told them they should be endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49). In Acts 1:5 it states: “… but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Ten days later, on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit of God came upon them.

After Pentecost there was a long interval, about four months, before there was another feast. This span of time may picture the present church age, in which we eagerly await the return of our Savior.

 

The Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:23-25)

The Feast of Trumpets took place on the first day of the seventh month. The blowing of trumpets called the sons of Israel together for a solemn holy convocation. At this time there was a period of ten days for self-examination and repentance, leading up to the Day of Atonement. It typifies the time when Israel will be re-gathered to the land prior to her national repentance. This was the first day of the civil year, today called Rosh Hashanah (head of the year).  Some also see a connection to the time of trumpets leading up to the Day of Redemption (Atonement) as paralleling the trumpets in Revelation leading to the return of Christ.

 

The Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:26-32)

The Day of Atonement (Yôm Kippur), occurring on the tenth day of the seventh month, has been described in detail in chapter 16. It prefigures the national repentance of Israel, when a believing remnant will turn to the Messiah and be forgiven (Zech. 12:10; 13:1). In almost every verse dealing with the Day of Atonement, God repeats the command to do no work. The only person who was to be active on this day was the high priest. The Lord reinforced the charge by threatening to destroy any person who violated it. This is because the salvation which our High Priest obtained for us was “not on the basis of deeds which we have done” (Titus 3:5). There can be no human works involved in the business of removing our sins. Christ’s work and His alone is the source of eternal salvation. To “afflict your souls” (vv. 27,29) means to fast. Even today religious Jews observe the day as a time for fasting and prayer. Although the Day of Atonement is listed among the feasts of Jehovah, it was actually a time for fasting rather than feasting. However, after the sin question was settled, there came a time of rejoicing in the Feast of Tabernacles.

 

The Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:33-44)

The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkôth, “booths”) began on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. For seven days the Israelites dwelt in booths (v. 42). It pictured the final rest and final harvest, when Israel will be dwelling securely in the land during the Millennium. This feast is also called the Feast of Ingathering (Ex. 23:16).

One of the things the Lord sought to teach His people through the feasts was the close association between the spiritual and the physical aspects of life. Times of bounty and blessing were to be times of rejoicing before the Lord. The Lord was portrayed to them as the One who abundantly provided for their daily needs. Their response as a nation to His goodness found expression in the festivals connected with the harvest.

Notice the repetition of the commandment that the Israelites were to do no servile or customary work on these solemn occasions (vv. 3, 7, 8, 21, 25, 28, 30, 31, 35, 36).

This feast is not only prophetic of the Millennium, but also points to eternity and the everlasting kingdom. “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev. 21:3). This is the ultimate fulfillment of the great Feast of Tabernacles.

A definite chronological progression can be traced in the Feasts of Jehovah. The Sabbath takes us back to God’s rest after creation. The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread speak to us of Calvary. Next comes the Feast of Firstfruits, pointing to the resurrection of Christ. The Feast of Pentecost typifies the coming of the Holy Spirit. Then looking to the future, the Feast of Trumpets pictures the regathering of God’s People. The Day of Atonement foreshadows the time when a remnant of Israel will repent and acknowledge Jesus as Messiah at His Return to the Earth, and of Jesus taking His rightful place as King of the Earth.  Finally the Feast of Tabernacles sees the millennial reign of Christ, as Christ dwells among us for 1000 years here on earth, followed by our permanently dwelling (tabernacleing) with Him in the eternal kingdom.