This past Wednesday evening we continued our walk through the book Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) by diving into the opening and closing chapters of the book of Leviticus (chs. 1-7 & 23-27). In these chapters, creating the bookend of Leviticus, we find God giving instructions to Moses and the people regarding certain rituals of worship.
To summarize them: these rituals are to be the people’s response to God, who has come to dwell among them. These responses run the gamut of reasons, including confession of sin, thanksgiving for forgiveness, gratefulness for God’s presence and recalling all that God has already done among them.
The last emphasis is what the feast and celebrations of chapter 23 are all about
Below I’ve outlined each one of these seven times of remembrance, giving a short explanation for each one and then tying the to the life of the Christian today, answering a big question many have: Why exactly don’t Christians today observer the feast of the Jewish faith?
Let’s look at each one and see if we can find out!
PASSOVER — Leviticus 23:4-5
A Spring festival, Passover was a feast of the nation of Israel consisting of the death of an unblemished lamb, retelling the story of the tenth plague the people saw in Egypt (Exodus 12) — the plague that secured their redemption and salvation.
The passover feast is important for us to know and understand today because it points ahead to Jesus, the Son of God, who is the True Passover Lamb — sacrificed to safely bring us out of bondage of sin, Satan and death (1 Corinthians 5:7).
UNLEAVENED BREAD — Leviticus 23:6-8
A Spring festival, the feast of Unleavened Bread was meant to retell the story of the last night the people spent in Egypt and how it was that they escaped from the hands of Pharaoh — taking bread without yeast, not left to rise (Exodus 23).
This feast is important for us because it points ahead to the break a believer is to make from the bondage of sin and the old life (called leaven), as we enter into the new life that should not be marked by sin (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
FIRST FRUITS — Leviticus 23:9-14
Another of the Spring Festivals, the celebration of first fruits, observed when they entered the land, retold the story of how God had, in his kindness, given them the gift of the promised land full of bounty, fulfilling his promises to his people from generation to generation (Genesis 12).
This celebration points us forward to Jesus Christ’s own resurrection, as the first fruits from the dead and the guarantee of the harvest of God’s people in the future resurrection into the eternal Promised Land. (1 Corinthians 15:20)
PENTECOST — Leviticus 23:15-22
The final Spring festival, Pentecost takes place 50 (pente-) days after Passover. It is also known as the Feast of Weeks because it surrounds the late spring harvest, showing God’s initial providence for his people during the calendar year. The purpose of this celebration is to recognize the Lord as the provider of all crops, sustaining His people, not just spiritually, but physically as well.
It is no wonder, then, that we read of the Holy Spirit falling on the Apostles in Acts 2 during Pentecost. The coming of the Spirit at that time marks the initial fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to bring in the harvest of souls, as he says: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”” (Matthew 9:37–38).
TRUMPETS — Leviticus 23:23-25
Following Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets was the first Autumn Festival, happening on the 1st day of the 7th month, beginning the final three feast of the calendar year and marking the end of one agricultural year and the beginning of another.
This feast often gets overlooked, but has a huge significance when held against the New Testament. Particularly, it shows how Christ will return and break the silence between the initial harvest and the final harvest, where he will forever establish the people of his fruitful Kingdom.
As he says: “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” (John 4:35) or “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:29–31).
DAY OF ATONEMENT — Leviticus 23:26-32
As another Autumn Feast, the Day of Atonement, the very centerpiece of the book of Leviticus, has great significance because it is the one day that the High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies. We will explore this day and what took place in the coming weeks.
For now, it’s helpful to know that this day points us to the single offering of Christ upon the cross, where he sacrificed himself, once for all, being both the Lamb that was slain in the presence of God and the scapegoat which was taken outside the camp, removing our sin from us.
TABERNACLES (BOOTHS) — Leviticus 23:33-43
An Autumn Festival and the last festival of the year was the Feast of Booths. God gave this feast to remind every generation that “I made the people of Israel dwell in booths (tents/tabernacles) when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (v. 43). In other words, God literally sheltered the people on their journey.
This feast points us to the temporary dwelling we have in this world, both in our bodies and in the body of Christ, as we await the full entering into a new body and when the full Bride of Christ will be bought together in the everlasting Kingdom of God.
So now, we return to the question: Why exactly don’t we observe these feast ourselves?
The answer could simply be, because of Jesus! You can see how each one of these feast point forward to what God would do in Christ, granting us salvation, mission and a future promised hope. All of these feast were physical shadows given to the people of Israel that would point forward to the substance of Jesus, the Son of God who brings everlasting feasting, tasted in part now but experienced fully at his return.
Instead of devoting ourselves to a handful of feast throughout the year, as reminders, we can feast on Christ everyday within our souls and partake of communion with him both individually and corporately. This is the great gift of being welcomed into the family of God — where the feasting never end!