The Gospel & the feasts of Israel
We are pleased to offer a series of studies on the Jewish Feasts of the Lord.
Rather than regard these as Jewish traditions only, we want to show that in some way, Jesus and God’s plan of redemption is seen in some way in these observances. Passover and the Exodus has great significance to Jew and Christian alike. It speaks of a sacrificial lamb and deliverance from bondage. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5;7 that Jesus is our Passover.
Crossing the Red Sea has significance to us, representing how the old life has been left behind in order that we can start a new life.
The Tabernacle that God commanded Moses to build so that He could dwell with His people also represents Jesus and God’s plan of salvation.
Our series of presentations is by no means all-embracing, but we attempt to cover the core of each topic, relating to the original Hebrew as much as possible. We hope you are blessed and encouraged.
The old system of living under the law presented us with only a faint shadow, a crude outline of the reality of the wonderful blessings to come. Even with its steady stream of sacrifices offered year after year, there still was nothing that could make our hearts perfect before God.
For if animal sacrifices could once and for all eliminate sin, they would have ceased to be offered and the worshipers would have clean consciences. Instead, once was not enough so by the repetitive sacrifices year after year, the worshipers were continually reminded of their sins, with their hearts still impure. For what power does the blood of bulls and goats have to remove sin’s guilt?
So when Jesus the Messiah came into the world he said, “Since your ultimate desire was not another animal sacrifice, you have clothed me with a body that I might offer myself instead!
Multiple burnt offerings and sin-offerings cannot satisfy your justice.
So I said to you, ‘God— I will be the One to go and do your will, to fulfill all that is written of me in your Word!’ ” Hebrews 10:1-7
Jewish feasts represent the promise and the fulfilment of the promise in Jesus. A Hebrew word for Feast is Mo’ed, meaning Appointed Time, so they are appointed times set By God for His people to spend with Him. The Lord has set these special times to meet with His people. Scriptures show us that God took the initiative. Separated by sin, man could not otherwise reach out to God.
These appointed Feasts begin the biblical calendar and set the spiritual rhythm of the Kingdom. Each of the biblical Feasts are rich in symbolism that reveal prophetic truths and aspects of the nature of God and His redemptive plan for the world.
These feasts were revealed by God for his own particular reasons, and through them all believers can be blessed, Jews and Gentiles alike.
As I said before, we would do well to constantly remember that Jesus was a Jew and is still a Jew!
The Feasts of Israel are important for many reasons, some of which include-
- They are part of the Scriptures that have been given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and are written for our learning. See Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
- They are a shadow of things to come. See Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 8:5, 9:9, 23-24.
- They speak about Jesus. See Psalm 40:6-8; 29:9; Hebrews 10:7.
Holy Days in the Jewish calendar
There are several holy days or festivals in the Jewish Calendar. They are-
- Shabbat—The Sabbath (not to be regarded as one of the Feasts)
- Pesach—The Passover
- Sfirat HaOmer—The Early First Fruits
- Shavuot—The Latter First Fruits
- Rosh HaShanah—The New Year
- Yom Kippur—The Day of Atonement
- Sukkot—The Feast ofTabernacles
- Hanukkah—The Feast of Dedication
- Purim—The Feast of Lots (Purim is not actually one of the Holy Day observances as specifically listed in The Law, but is a very important event in Jewish life as it commemorates the event when a little Jewish Girl called Esther was prepared to give up her life to save her people from extermination. Her words, If I perish, I perish ring in our ears today and remind us of how one other person, a Jew called Jesus, gave up His life to save His people.
An overview of the feasts
Three times a year shall all your males appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed: Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you. Deuteronomy 16:16-17. See also Exodus 23:14-19.
God is light and that He made the rainbow as a token of His covenant. The rainbow has three major colours, each manifest in seven primary colours. There are three Feasts of the Lord, each of which are comprised of sub-sections or feasts.
Contained in the first group is the Feast of Passover seen in Leviticus 23:4-5, the Feast of Unleavened Bread seen in Leviticus 23:6-8 and The Feast of the Sheaf of Firstfruits as seen in Leviticus 23:9-14.
The second group is the time we know as Pentecost. It is the Feast of Weeks and is seen in Leviticus 23:15-22.
The last group of feasts comprises the Feast of Trumpets seen in Leviticus 23:23-25, the Feast of Atonement seen in Leviticus 23:236-32 and the Feast of Tabernacles seen in Leviticus 23:33-34.
Please notice that they are God’s Feasts. They were to be held in the place of His choosing or appointment and they were to be held at the time He prescribed. If you look at these things in the light of redemption, God chose Jesus to be our Passover Lamb, God chose the appointed time and God’s appointed place was Golgotha’s ugly tree... the cross.
You can already see a wonderful and amazingly intricately woven pattern in these feasts, but we shall focus on one only, namely the Feast of Passover. See Hebrews 10:7.
There is one aspect to the Feasts of the Lord that is often overlooked. The New Covenant under which we live was provided through Jesus’ passion as the substitute for all of our sins. Before then, sacrifice for sin was continual, or repetitive, because the sin principle itself was not dealt with. Thankfully we no longer need to offer blood sacrifices or adhere to a rigid set of rituals. The blood of Jesus has cleansed us from all sin. Hebrews 10:10 reveals that Jesus made a once-and-for-all-times sacrifice, so that we do not have to live under the curse of the law, but many Christians do not fully comprehend the fullness of all Jesus did, without having some understanding of these holy events. If we have been grafted into the vine, then we are partakers of the same fruit of that vine, so our rich heritage embraces everything. Whilst we may not need to continue in their observances as the Jews did, the rich truths of these feasts impacts our lives. They looked forward to the promise whereas we can look back to them.
Clearly defined blessings are available by celebrating the feasts of the Lord.
In Exodus 23, God will be an enemy to your enemies (verse 22), assigns an angel to us (see verse 23), will give prosperity (verse 25), provide healing (verse 25) and bring increase and inheritance (verse 30). These blessings in themselves are another matter to consider elsewhere. I have discovered that as I unearth one treasure, another gem is revealed, only to reveal yet another. Little wonder John said in John said he could not record everything there is to write down.
Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31.
What is given to us is there to reveal Jesus and God’s plan for us. Everything points to the Son of God. There is therefore much more to this than meets the eye, but having said that, please understand that I am not advocating that Christians start embracing Judaism in any way whatsoever. Enter into the liberty with which Christ has made us free.
Jesus is our Passover Lamb
As I stated before Jesus was Jewish. Jesus… the Jew Is Our Passover Lamb.
He was brought up in accordance with The Law.
And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. Luke 2:21-24. See also Exodus 13:1-2; Leviticus 12:2-4.
It became His custom to worship on the Sabbath, but He did not adhere to the man-made religious traditions that invaded the purpose for which it was given. See Matthew 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5. Paul (who was a Jew) reinforces this in many places, saying that we have been set free from such things. For example-
When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets. So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ. Don’t tolerate people who try to run your life, ordering you to bow and scrape, insisting that you join their obsession with angels and that you seek out visions. They’re a lot of hot air, that’s all they are. They’re completely out of touch with the source of life, Christ, who puts us together in one piece, whose very breath and blood flow through us. He is the Head and we are the body. We can grow up healthy in God only as he nourishes us. So, then, if with Christ you’ve put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? “Don’t touch this! Don’t taste that! Don’t go near this!” Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are worth that kind of attention? Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important. Colossians 2:13-23.
God’s kingdom does not consist of what a person eats or drinks (or the adherence or not of holy days). Rather, God’s kingdom consists of God’s approval and peace, as well as the joy that the Holy Spirit gives. The person who serves Christ with this in mind is pleasing to God and respected by people. Romans 14:17-18.
We see more about Him when He was twelve years of age. The full account (continuing from after His dedication at 8 days old) reads as follows-
And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace (favor and spiritual blessing) of God was upon Him. Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year to the Passover Feast. And when He was twelve years [old], they went up, as was their custom. And when the Feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem...After three days they found Him [came upon Him] in the [court of the] temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished and overwhelmed with bewildered wonder at His intelligence and understanding and His replies. And when they [Joseph and Mary] saw Him, they were amazed...And He said to them, How is it that you had to look for Me? Did you not see and know that it is necessary [as a duty] for Me to be in My Father’s house and [occupied] about My Father’s business? But they did not comprehend what He was saying to them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was [habitually] obedient to them; and his mother kept and closely and persistently guarded all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom (in broad and full understanding) and in stature and years, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:40-52.
If this were modern times, we could say that Jesus was studying for His Bar Mitzveh at that point and in twelve months time He would be an adult according to Jewish Law and Culture. On the very night He was betrayed, Jesus ate the Passover. He stated that He desired to do this, but we forget that what we call the Last Supper was a Paschal Meal that took days of prior preparation! The Passover Haggadah, which I shall mention later, was the actual dinner that I shall describe as the climax of days of observances and that the preparations were lengthy... not merely putting a roast lamb into the oven for a few hours! See Matthew 26:2,17-19; Mark 14:1, 12-16; Luke 22:1-15; John 2:13,23; 6:4; 11:55; 13:1; 18:28-40; 19:14. Jesus was the Passover Lamb. See 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.