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“The Feasts of the Lord”
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts…And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD.” (Leviticus 23:1-44)
In the Old Testament, throughout the legal, Mosaic dispensation, the Lord God required his people to keep seven distinct feasts, called “Holy Convocations,” every year. These “Holy Convocations,” these solemn assemblies of God’s people for worship, were to be observed in a specific order, on specific days, and in specific ways. Like all things in the law and worship of the Triune Jehovah, these seven feasts were typical of things spiritual, typical of our Lord Jesus Christ and God’s great salvation in him. The feasts are described in Leviticus 23.
This 23rd chapter of Leviticus is a chapter of tremendous importance. It is full of typical gospel instruction. These seven feasts were seasons of joyful solemnity appointed by God to point to Christ’s coming and the salvation he would accomplish. Each feast pointed the children of Israel back to something they had experienced and pointed them forward to things yet to come.
You cannot avoid noticing the facts that one feast, one commemoration of grace, led to another, and that each seemed to suggest its successor. In other words, the feasts were given by divine order, and were specifically given to teach (by type and shadow) the order of things to come.
Israel’s feasts seem to represent the course of time, from creation to the final end of all things. The Lamb slain (the Passover) begins it, and the eighth day of the blessedness represented in the Feast of Tabernacles is its close, while the Sabbath, symbolizing rest (God’s rest in himself and our rest in him) both precedes and follows this course of history.
These feasts also appear to be representative of the great works of our God in redemption, grace, and salvation, ultimately culminating in the Tabernacle of God being with men forever.
As you read the chapter, you cannot help noticing that the opening three verses appear to be out of place. They deal with the observance of the Sabbath. Then, the next 41 verses describe “the feasts of the Lord.” Why are these first three verses put here? What was God’s intention in opening this chapter with Sabbath instruction?
It is very obvious that the Sabbath occupied a very prominent and independent place in Old Testament worship. In fact, each of these feasts is specifically associated with Sabbath observance. Before Moses gives instruction about keeping the feasts, he gives specific instruction from God about keeping the Sabbath. It is as if the Lord is saying, “These feasts which I give are typical of my great salvation which shall give you everlasting rest in me, and will give me everlasting rest in you.”
Israel’s first great feast was the Feast of Passover. Their last annual feast was the Feast of Tabernacles. Strip away their typical dress, and you have full, complete redemption and eternal, resurrection glory. This everlasting salvation in Christ is that great rest of which the Old Testament Sabbath was typical.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.” (vv. 1-3)
The Sabbath was to be kept every week. It was a constant reminder to Israel of that sweet rest which Adam lost in the Garden and of that blessed rest that could and would be recovered only in and by Christ. The Sabbath was entirely and only intended to typify salvation in Christ, the blessed rest of life, and faith, and reconciliation to God in him.
“No work” whatsoever was to be done on the Sabbath, because salvation is altogether a matter of grace, a work of grace alone, enjoyed by faith in Christ, without our works of any kind. No other festival in the Old Testament had such a strict injunction put on it except the Day of Atonement.
Do you see the significance of that? The rest of faith in Christ is the rest of complete, perfect atonement, and the rest of complete reconciliation to God. This is what was typified in the beginning when the Lord God rested from all his works on the seventh day.
Is it so with your soul? Do you have such rest in Christ with God as if you had never sinned? Do you have no more conscience of sin? This is the rest Christ has won for all who trust him. Oh, come to the Lord Jesus Christ and rest! Cease from all work and labor and rest in him (Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 4:3, 7). The rest of faith is good, oh, how good! But the rest of heaven will be glorious (Hebrews 4:9.
The Feast of Passover
The first Holy Convocation God required Israel to keep every year was the Feast of Passover.
“These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s Passover.” (vv. 4-5)
This feast was a constant reminder of God’s great work of grace in bringing Israel out of Egypt by his mighty power and stretched out arm, because of the blood that was shed for them (Exodus 12-14). But it was more than that. The Passover was a picture of and a constant reminder of God’s promise to send a Redeemer, even Christ our Passover, who is sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7).
This feast is called “the Lord’s Passover” because the whole of the work was his. Three things were prominent in the first Passover: (1.) A Lamb — (2.) Blood! — (3.) Deliverance! — It was preeminently “the Lord’s Passover.” He ordained it. He provided the lamb. He accepted the lamb. He passed over the people. He brought them out of Egypt and across the Red Sea. And he was praised for it (Exodus 15). — “Salvation is of the Lord!”
As often as we eat the bread and drink the wine at the Lord’s Table, like Israel of old, we show forth the Lord’s death until he comes again, in remembrance of him.
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” (1 Peter 1:18-20)
“Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.” (Psalms 115:1)
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
Next, in verses 6-8, God required his people to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
“And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.”
The Feast of Unleavened Bread was really a continuation of the Feast of Passover. On the Passover night the children of Israel ate the Lamb with their coats on their backs, their shoes on their feet, and their staffs in their hand, ready to go out of Egypt. The Passover sacrifice represented the cause, the means, and the accomplishment of redemption by Christ. The Feast of Unleavened Bread represented the effects of redemption. The sacrifice of the paschal lamb (Christ and his shed blood) is the effectual means and cause of pardon. The sweet fellowship of faith, represented in the Feast of Unleavened Bread, is the effect, the sure and certain result of Christ’s death as our Substitute. And the Feast of Unleavened Bread pictures faith in Christ, eating his flesh and drinking his blood (John 6:53-56).
Don’t miss the connection of the Feast of Unleavened Bread with the Feast of Passover. The Feast of Unleavened Bread began the next day after the Passover was ended. So, too, the gift of life and faith in Christ follows the accomplishments of Christ at Calvary. All who were redeemed by blood shall be made to live and feed upon Christ at God’s appointed time (Galatians 3:13-14).
As one great family the children of Israel kept the first day of this feast as a “Holy Convocation.” No servile work was done. It was a blessed time of rest. (Faith in Christ is a perpetual Sabbath rest.) The people were all joined together, united as one holy body of redeemed souls, remembering what God had done for them (Ephesians 3:17-19; 4:1-7). They were all bought with the same blood. They were all saved by the same power. They were all going to the same homeland. They all ate the same bread.
The Feast of Firstfruits
The third feast, the third Holy Convocation, the children of Israel were required to observe every year was the Feast of Firstfruits.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD. And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.” (vv. 9-14)
In 1st Corinthians 15:23, God the Holy Spirit tells us plainly that this feast speaks of Christ’s glorious resurrection and of our resurrection with him, in him, and by him (Romans 11:16; James 1:18; Revelation 14:4).
The sheaf of Firstfruits was offered to God with the lamb of burnt offering. This portrayed the fact that God’s elect are accepted in Christ by the merit of his precious blood. And our offerings, our works, our worship, our praise, our prayers are accepted in Christ by the merit of his precious blood
The Feast of Pentecost
The Feast of Weeks described in verses 15-22 was held fifty days (seven weeks and a day — a Sabbath) after the Feast of Firstfruits. This feast is commonly called the “Feast of Pentecost” because it was held on the 50th day. This is the harvest, or ingathering feast. This great harvest feast speaks of the ingathering of God’s elect by Christ.
“And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD. And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD. Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.”
The risen Christ gave us a delightful picture and foretaste of the ingathering of his elect in Acts 2:1-4. When the Day of Pentecost was fully come, he poured out his Spirit upon all flesh and 3000 souls were gathered into the fold of his grace at one time. Just as the harvest follows the firstfruits, so the salvation of God’s elect follows the resurrection of Christ. Indeed, all the redeemed shall be gathered unto God (Isaiah 43:5-7; John 10:15-18; Romans 11:26).
Commenting on this passage, Robert Hawker rightly observed, “As gleanings of the harvest were to be left in the corners of the field for the poor and the stranger, so in every corner of the earth there are gleanings of grace for poor and miserable sinners.”
Even in requiring Israel never to gather all their harvest, the Lord is teaching us about his grace. As Boaz left some handfuls of purpose for Ruth, so the Lord God always provides for his own. In the Old Testament, there was a remnant according to the election of grace among the Gentiles. The Lord said, “You take care that you provide for them.” And even now, in this Gospel Age, there is a remnant according to the election of grace among both Jews and Gentiles. The Lord says, “You take care that you provide for them.”
In other words, our God would have us ever mindful of the needs of others, specifically of the fact that he has a people to whom he will be gracious. And he gives us the privilege of serving their souls’ needs.
The Feast of Trumpets
The Feast of Trumpets represented the glorious triumph of Christ proclaimed by the gospel.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.” (vv. 23-25)
I have no doubt at all that “the joyful sound” mentioned in Psalm 89:15 referred to the Feast of Trumpets. — “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.” (Psalms 89:15)
Every saved sinner enters into the joyful sound of grace proclaimed in the gospel. We hear the sweet sounds of mercy and grace, justice and judgment, righteousness and peace blended together in blessed harmony, and rejoice. Do you know the joyful sound of justice satisfied, redemption accomplished, sin pardoned, righteousness brought in, God glorified, salvation sure, grace abundant, and eternal salvation in, by, and with the Lord Jesus Christ? Read Psalm 89:14-37, and rejoice.
The Feast of Atonement
In verses 26-32 the Lord God graciously required his worshippers to celebrate for a Holy Convocation the Feast of Atonement once a year, every year, throughout their journey here.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.”
The word “atonement” in verse 27 should be in the plural, “atonements.” Really, the word would be better translated “expiations.” This feast has reference to our perfect, complete restoration to our God and the restitution of all things when our great Savior shall have gathered all things together in one for the glory of God (Acts 3:21; Ephesians 1:10-11; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28). The Feast of Trumpets was a prelude to and a proclamation of “the glorious liberty of the sons of God” (Romans 8:18-24).
The Feast of Tabernacles
The seventh Holy Convocation God required his people to observe every year was the Feast of Tabernacles. “This Feast of Tabernacles, which was,” Hawker tells us, “one of the highest in points of enjoyment to Israel, very mercifully follows five days after the Day of Atonement. And is there not this gospel mercy typified in it, that the conviction of sin by the Spirit is sweetly followed by the conviction of the righteousness of Christ; whereby the soul is made glad in righteousness, and peace, and, joy in the Holy Ghost?”
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD. On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein. These are the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, everything upon his day: Beside the sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which ye give unto the LORD. Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD.” (vv. 33-44)
This Feast of Tabernacles was a time when Israel was reminded that they dwelt in booths in the wilderness and God dwelt with them in the cloudy and fiery pillar. But it spoke of more than that. It spoke of that time when God came here and tabernacled in human flesh that he might at last bring God and man together in eternal glory and perfect fellowship, with sin and every evil consequence of it forever expiated, put away, purged, gone, and forgotten (John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:5-9; Psalm 72:16-19; Revelation 21:1-7).
The Eighth Day
Let me show you one more thing. The eighth day was considered the great day of the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:37). On the eighth day all grapes and fruits were gathered in (Exodus 23:16). The harvest was completed. What a time of celebration it was! The joy of harvest and the shouting and dancing associated with the treading of the winepresses must have been something to behold.
Who knows? It just may be that this is the eighth day of the feast. This may just be the last day there is. So I want you to hear the Son of God, as he speaks on the eighth day, the great day of the feast.
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38)
“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” (Revelation 21:5-7)
That is the message of “the feasts of the Lord.”