Feasts, Fulfillment, and Faith: An examination of the Appointed Feasts of Israel.
Presented by Richlon Merrill
Noah and his family had been adrift at sea for several months. How ironic that death prevailed round about them while Noah and his family performed their prescribed duties within the confines of their coffin shaped ark. Their vessel, a symbol of death, was to this family, their source of life. By God’s grace they had been protected from the destruction which came upon the earth. It would soon be time to disembark upon an anomalous port-o-call. Noah sent forth the dove to explore the earth. Eventually the winged explorer returned with an olive branch… a symbol of hope. The ark had settled down on the mountain of Ararat (meaning in Hebrew, “the curse reversed”) on the 17th day of the 7th month. This date, according to the Hebrew calendar, also happens to fall within the Feast of Tabernacles which was later to become one of the Lord’s seven appointed feasts for his coming chosen people; the nation of Israel.
Our Lord sat upon the Mount of Olives, possibly holding an olive leaf in his hands as he spoke of things to come. His disciples, conscious of the coming kingdom on earth foretold by prophets where their Messiah would reign in righteousness, desired to know when this new kingdom would emerge. “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” they asked. Jesus shared with his beloved disciples the kinds of signs that mankind could perceive with their eyes. He knew signs perceived only through spiritual eyes had been previously revealed through the scriptural words of Moses and the prophets. The Holy Spirit would one day open the eyes of the Lord’s servants to His special revelation. Jesus continued. “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.” (Matt. 24:37). Jesus then continued to expound upon this reference to the “days of Noah”. Jesus conveyed hope intermingled with warning. “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” He said. (Matt. 25:13)
Jesus, like Noah’s dove, was holding out hope of God’s appointed day when the earth would produce new fruit… a day of deliverance and refreshment. The account of Noah’s deliverance from death foreshadows an ultimate day of glorious deliverance for the people of earth. Deliverance from the devastating flood, just as Jesus’ account of deliverance from this evil age, is combined with warnings and judgment. Deliverance will be for those seeking His Lordship but judgment for those who turn a deaf ear. We are told elsewhere in Scripture that Christ’s coming Kingdom will reign upon earth for 1000 years. It is referred to as the Millennial Kingdom. Six thousand years, according to the Biblical timeline, have come and gone since the days of creation. “Six days you shall toil”, said God to his chosen nation, “but on the seventh day you shall rest.” (Exodus 34:21 & Lev. 23:3) The earth is on the cusp of experiencing a glorious 1000 year rest and an ultimate fulfillment of appointed feasts by our Lord Jesus Christ, ushering in His long awaited Kingdom.
Through his servant Moses, the Lord began to reveal his principles, requirements, instructions and desires for this newly formed nation of the Sons of Israel. Never before had the Lord revealed himself in this manner to an assemblage of people. It was the Lord’s intent to utilize this nation in order to reveal himself to the entire world. Embedded within the Lord’s required ordinances were his holy convocations, also referred to as His appointed feasts. These were implemented in order that the sons of Israel would continue to remember and acknowledge the Lord their God who had delivered them out of bondage. These feasts additionally hold a profound message for you and me.
In order to gain a greater understanding of these holy days, it is necessary to address the calendar used by the Hebrews which God used in establishing the days for observing these feasts. The calendar is based on the phases of the moon. One month constitutes one complete cycle of the moon which is 28 days. One could approximate which day of the month it was by simply observing the phase of the moon. Each month began with a new moon, reaching a full moon at the mid-way point or 14 days later. It is also important to note that a new day began at moon-rise in the early evening hours. This is alluded to in Genesis 1:5, “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” Sun worship was a leading form of paganism, especially in Egypt from where the Israelites had been delivered. Thus, the lunar calendar was utilized.
Every feast finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ. As each feast is examined, a further explanation as to its messianic fulfillment will be supplied.
The first appointed feast and remembrance is that of Passover. It occurs early in spring.
“In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening is the Lord’s Passover.” (Lev. 23:5)
The first month is the first month of spring or the new moon after the blooming of the almond blossoms. This occurs near Easter in about late March or early April of our calendar. Passover commemorates the Passover of the angel of death back in Egypt when the first born of Egypt perished in one night. Only those who had the blood of the sacrificial lamb applied to the doorposts of their home were spared. The Hebrew people, by faith, were diligent to apply the blood and therefore were delivered from death. The feast of Passover is observed on the very date when the Israelites were delivered out of bondage from the land of Egypt. Clearly this is synonymous with the sacrifice of the “Lamb of God”, Jesus Christ. Through the sacrifice of the sinless Son of God we too are delivered out of death and bondage while given new life.
It is no mere coincidence that Jesus Christ was crucified on Passover. Just as the sacrificial lamb was to be without blemish, so too Jesus Christ was without sin. He was obedient to the Father even to the point of fulfilling every appointed feast. This brings us to the second feast, that of unleavened bread.
The feast of unleavened bread occurs the day after Passover.
“On the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread to the Lord; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.” (Lev. 23:6)
Leaven, or yeast, in the bible, symbolizes sin. Jesus is described in the Gospel of John as the “Bread of life.” He was born in Bethlehem which, in Hebrew, means the “house of Bread.” During the Passover meal in which Jesus established the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, He referred to the bread as His body. Anyone who has seen the Jewish matzoh (bread used in the Passover meal), will notice that it is striped and pierced. The imagery is astoundingly clear as it pictures our Savior who was flogged and pierced on our behalf. As part of the Passover ceremony, the bread is divided into thirds. The middle slice is wrapped up in a white linen cloth and hidden or “buried”. The children are to then find it and produce the unburied bread. Jesus, the second person of the trinity, who died on Passover, was buried on the day of the ordinance of unleavened bread. The imagery just keeps getting clearer and clearer. The next feast to be observed during the week of Passover is the feast of first fruits.
“Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord for you to be accepted; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.” (Lev. 23:10-11).
The feast of Passover would occur on various days of the week from year to year depending upon the date of a full moon during the first month of spring. But the feast of first fruits was to always occur on Sunday, the day after the Sabbath (Saturday) during the Passover week. Planting would occur in late winter in order to take advantage of early spring growth. The first gleanings of the harvest or “fruit” would soon appear. This first fruit was to be offered to the Lord in recognition of his provision. After-all, it is the Lord who produces the harvest. The term “first fruits” is used frequently throughout the torah (books of the law). For instance, the tithe is referred to as the first fruits of our labor. Quite simply, the Lord should occupy top honor in our affections and agendas.
Christ is referred to as the first fruit of the resurrection. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:12). Christ was resurrected first followed by the great harvest of souls to be resurrected at the end of the age. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” (1 Cor. 15:23). Of particular interest is this curious account tucked within the description of bizarre events surrounding the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. “And the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matt. 27:52-53). Upon His resurrection Christ brought with him the first fruits of souls offered to the Lord. Jesus Christ continued to fulfill the Lord’s appointed feasts.
Jesus Christ, the “sacrificial Lamb of God”, was crucified on Passover. Jesus Christ, the sinless “Bread of life”, was buried on the feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus Christ, the” First Fruits of the resurrection” harvest, was raised on First Fruits. As the old expression goes, “You couldn’t even make this stuff up.” And it just keeps getting better and better. The next feast to be fulfilled is Pentecost or the “Feast of Weeks.”
PENTECOST- THE FEAST OF WEEKS
“You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete Sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the Lord.” (Lev. 23:15-16)
Doing the math and counting down the days puts this feast day on a Sunday in about mid-May. Some of the wheat harvest was used to bake two loaves of bread as an offering to the Lord. These loaves were different from the loaves used in the feast of Unleavened Bread. These loaves were to be made using leaven. Scripture specifically notes that this offering is to be a “holy” offering to the Lord. Holy means “set apart for a special purpose.” Have you caught some of the imagery and implications of this feast day yet?
Observe what occurred on the day of Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection. After Christ was resurrected He remained with the disciples for 40 days before His ascension. (Acts 1:3) He told his followers, “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) The disciples did as the Lord commanded. For ten days they waited. The day of Pentecost had arrived. Devout Jews had gathered to celebrate the feast of weeks. We’ll pick up the story at Acts 2:2: “And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” (Acts. 2:2-4). What just happened? On that day, Christ ushered in the age of the Church. Now look at the correlation. The Church is made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers. The offering to the Lord was of two loaves. The loaves were to be baked with leaven, a symbol of sin. Unlike Jesus Christ, the sinless “unleavened bread”, we, the Church are made up of sinful, “leaven” filled followers of Christ. But the Church which in Greek is translated “Ecclesia” meaning the “called out ones”, are made holy, set apart for service to the Lord. How many of you would agree with me that there are few aromas as sweet as fresh baked bread? Scripture tells us that we are a “fragrance of Christ” to the Lord. (2 Cor. 2:15)
This feast of weeks came just before the hot summer days of working the fields where the threat of pests and adverse conditions would require diligence on the part of the laborers in order to overcome and bring in a bountiful harvest. So too the Church labors in the field where “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few” (Matt. 9:37 or Luke 10:2) It would be several months before time to bring in the harvest. It would be several months before the next series of appointed feasts were to be observed on the Hebrew calendar. So too would it be several centuries of the Church age before Christ would bring fulfillment to the remaining three appointed feasts and usher in a new age. After two thousand years of working the fields, the “trump of God” may soon sound and the ingathering of the Harvest of souls will be upon us.
FEAST OF TRUMPETS
“Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, In the seventh month on the first of the month, you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any laborious work, but you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord.’” (Lev. 23:23-25)
This feast occurs in around late September or early October of our calendar. The days of laboring were just about over as it was time to harvest the crop and rest from your toil. The trumpet was called a shofar, or ram’s horn. Several references to this shofar are found in Scripture. Ever since Isaac, Abraham’s son, was spared by virtue of the ram’s horn being caught in the thicket, God used the horn in proclaiming liberty and signaling triumph. The trumpet was blown by the priests, the people gave a great shout, and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. This was the first of many victories by the Hebrew nation upon entering their “promise land.” Believers in Christ too will inherit a land of promise when the trumpet is blown.
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
“Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:51-52)
One more: “And I shall send forth my angels with the sound of a mighty trumpet blast, and they shall gather my chosen ones from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.” (Matt. 24:31)
Just as the Israelites “ascended up” (Joshua 6:20) into beautiful Jericho, the oasis city of flower gardens and citrus fruits, after their 40 year wanderings in the desert wilderness, so too will the Church ascend into our heavenly oasis after our wilderness wanderings here upon this earth. Even the leadership of then and now appear to be analogous. Joshua and Jesus are transliterations of the same Hebrew name, “Yeshua”.
The message for the one who has received the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God’s sacrificial lamb, and given ownership of his or her life over to Christ is this: Listen for that trumpet blast. You are experiencing that 5th appointed feast, the Feast of Trumpets.
The message for the one who has turned a deaf ear to Christ’s warnings and chooses to be the captain of his own soul, is this: You too will be experiencing this feast in the form of an “offering by fire” which also means you will be experiencing the 6th feast, the “Day of Atonement”.
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