The Holy Assembly and the Everlasting Covenant

6 - The Feasts of the Lord


Continuing with Leviticus chapter 23 we find the seven Feasts of the Lord, which Israel is commanded to observe. They are,

1. Passover

2. Feast of Unleavened Bread

3. Feast of Firstfruits

4. Feast of Weeks

5. Feast of Trumpets

6. Day of Atonement

7. Feast of Tabernacles

Each of the seven feasts shares similar characteristics. Each is a commemoration of God's act of redemption of his people and the events of Israel's exodus from Egypt. Each feast is a living observable picture of the original events.

Not only are these feasts commemorations of past events, but are also yearly reminders, or pictures, to teach the people about God and his mighty hand. They are a continual reminder of his love and grace which he poured out on his people, not only at the time of the exodus but for each current generation who also receive the redemption of God from death.

Each of the feasts, with the exception of one, is identified as a lasting ordinance (olam huqah). Again we have the same Hebrew word "olam" as discussed in chapter 4.

 

The Passover

The LORD's passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. (Leviticus 23:5).

The first Passover was observed the night before Israel left Egypt.

The LORD said..."each man is to take a lamb for his family... Slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast...On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn... The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. (Exodus 12:1,3,6-8,12,13)

Then God instructs Israel to commemorate this event each year as an everlasting ordinance.

"[The Passover] is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD - a lasting ordinance (olam huqah). (Exodus 12:14)

Each year Israel observes the Passover with a meal of lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread, all of which are symbols of God's deliverance of Israel from Egypt. The lamb symbolizes the sacrifice of a lamb and its blood for the redemption of the firstborn. The bitter herbs symbolize the bitterness of slavery which Israel endured for 400 years and the unleavened bread symbolizes the haste in which they left Egypt, because there was no time to let yeast rise, the bread was made without yeast (leaven).

 

The Feast of Unleavened Bread

On the fifteenth day of that month (Nisan) the LORD's Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. (Leviticus 23:6)

Immediately following the Passover was the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This was a seven-day feast commemorating the day Israel left Egypt.

"Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come". (Exodus 12:17)

Again we see that this Feast is to be celebrated as an eternal ordinance for the generations to come.

 

The Feast of Firstfruits

The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest... This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. (Leviticus 23:9,10,14)

Again we see that this Feast is to be celebrated as an everlasting ordinance for the generations to come. We also see added here that the feast is to be celebrated "Wherever you live". The feasts are not only to be observed throughout all time, but throughout the whole earth.

This feast is a celebration of God's gift of the land and of its harvest.

 

The Feast of Weeks

"From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live." (Leviticus 23:15,16, 21)

Again we see that this feast is to be celebrated as an "everlasting ordinance, wherever you live".

This feast is also a harvest festival which is to be celebrated seven weeks (hence the name - feast of weeks) after the Feast of firstfruits. Jewish tradition holds that the Torah was given to Israel seven weeks after the deliverance from Egypt, therefore the feast of weeks is also a celebration to commemorate the giving of the Torah to Israel.

 

The Feast of Trumpets

The LORD said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites: 'On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. (Leviticus 23:23,24)

This feast is the only feast that the scriptures do not identify as an everlasting covenant, but since all the other six feasts are everlasting ordinances, we can conclude that this one is also.

Whenever Israel was called to assemble before the Lord or for war, the trumpet was blown. The first time the trumpet was blown for the assembling of Israel was when they first arrived at Mount Sinai and God blows the trumpet.

Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. (Exodus 19:18-19)

This feast is to commemorate the holy assembly when God's covenant was received.

 

The Day of Atonement

The LORD said to Moses, "The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God... This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. (Leviticus 23:26-28, 31)

Again this feast is to be celebrated as an "everlasting ordinance wherever you live".

The Day of Atonement is a commemorative holy day of God's act of grace and forgiveness to his people (Israel and the other nations). The covenant God made with his people at Mount Sinai requires that his people obey him. God knew that not one of them could do that completely and therefore he provided a means to cleanse the assembly of their sins through the sacrifice of a goat to cover the sins in order that he might forgive them.

"on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins." (Leviticus 16:30)

 

The Feast of Tabernacles

The LORD said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites: 'On the fifteenth day of the seventh month (Tishri) the LORD's Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days...This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites in booths when I brought them out of Egypt.'" (Leviticus 23:33,34,41,42)

After Israel left Mount Sinai they spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. During this time they lived in tents called booths or tabernacles while God taught Israel his Torah. This feast is to be observed as an everlasting ordinance to remind Israel of the 40 years in the wilderness. This is a reminder to obey God and his Torah. This feast also reminds Israel that their body and the earth are only temporary dwellings, just as the tabernacles are, and one day they will receive their eternal home.

 

Conclusion

We can see two major purposes for the weekly Sabbaths and the seven yearly feasts. First, as we have discussed earlier, God's people are set apart from the other nations through God's commands. The Sabbaths and feasts are one of the ways that God has made them different then the other nations. Secondly, the Sabbaths and feasts are symbols and pictures of God's acts of creation, grace, redemption and forgiveness of his people. When the weekly Sabbath is observed and the holy days are celebrated throughout the year, Israel is continually reminded of God's love, grace and covenant which he as given to his people.

 

Chapter Summary

  • The seven Feasts of the Lord are,

1. A commemoration of God's redemption of Israel

2. Yearly reminders of God's love, grace and mercy

3. An everlasting ordinance to be kept forever

 

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