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The 7 Biblical Feasts Part 1
We are in the midst of the Biblical Fall Festival season…..a very joyous season, yet one that should be approached soberly. The Sunday Torah Class has studied most of these Festivals to small degree already, as they are contained in Leviticus…… and I’m sure there are many here that already observe, or at least acknowledge, the Biblical Festivals.
I had planned only to talk about Sukkot today……the most obvious symbol of Sukkot being the Succah…..the booth or tabernacle…I’m standing in. But, I realized that I’m talking to people who like myself have NOT spent a lifetime celebrating these feasts as our Jewish members have, and are still somewhat fuzzy about what they are about, what is involved, and what they should mean to us. These Feasts are all connected; they are a series of Feasts, each one playing its role in an overall picture. So, this week, I’m going to briefly discuss the meaning of the Feasts in general, review the Spring and Summer Feasts, and then talk about the first 2 of the 3 Fall Feasts, which have just concluded. Next week, towards the end of the week of Sukkot, I’ll talk exclusively about the Feast of
Although a decade ago I would not have thought so, I can now see the immeasurable value for gentile Christians to join our Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters, as well as the Jewish community in general, in celebration of these Festivals, each of which are God ordained. To begin to celebrate these Feasts is not easy. It is something that we must approach slowly and carefully and thoughtfully. We should not treat them as the next
new thing, or a trend or fad. We must do it for the right reasons, and we must NOT disrupt our families in the doing.
Following the many well-established Jewish Traditions is generally a good place to start, because these traditions have been so well thought out and ordered for centuries. That
said, you are perfectly free to adopt some of these traditions and not others…..or to modify some or even add your own. The key is to add the proper meaning to God’s intended purpose for each of His appointed Feasts. And, we can’t do that, can we, until we UNDERSTAND His purpose?
So, as we begin to look at some of these Festivals……also called Appointed Times in Holy Scripture….let me point out that while we might reasonably question the multitude of Rabbinical laws and traditions that have evolved surrounding each Feast….laws often that include minutely detailed requirements of the proceedings…… we cannot question the legitimacy of the Festivals themselves; for they are called out, by name, in the Bible. And, not just in the Old Testament are they ordained….which should be reason enough for us to consider them. Even the New Testament talks about these Festivals; and every time we find Jesus either in, or on his way to, Jerusalem, (remember, He lived in Nazareth, quite a distance to the north of Jerusalem) it was for the purpose of His PERSONAL participation in these Appointed Times. That’s right; the observance of every one of these Biblical Festivals was validated by our Messiah in the NT.
Each of these Festivals is given Scripturally specified days and months for the observances to occur. Yet, in reality, precious little Biblical information is given about exactly HOW each of the celebrations are to be observed. So, over the centuries the Jews have come up with Traditions to fill that void.
Let me be clear: while the methods of observance of these Festivals as accomplished 2000 years ago and right on up until today, consist mostly of Hebrew Tradition, the command to celebrate them is fully Biblical. Contrast this with Christmas and Easter…..the highest gentile Christian Holy Days…… that are NOT Biblically commanded days of celebration (either Old or New Testament). The reality is that every single aspect of our celebration of these two days is but our traditions. Now, I know it seems almost like sacrilege to point this out, but it is the truth. We of the Church love to pat ourselves on the back for being so Scripturally oriented, but upon examination, it seems that most
of what occupies our time and activities amounts to traditions….things we prefer to call doctrines…..that have little or no Biblical basis.
For instance, that Jesus was born in Beit-Lechem of Judah we can know. We know many facts leading up to and surrounding the birth of the Messiah. Exactly when it happened, we do not know….not the year, not even the month, let alone the day. But, we can also know that there is absolutely NO Biblical command or day set aside in Scripture to celebrate His birthday; Christmas, as a day to celebrate His birth, was ordained by
men….Christmas is simply a manmade day, chosen to coincide with the already universally celebrated Winter Solstice.
Easter is similar; that He was crucified on Passover and then 3 days later arose on a Sunday (the 1st day of the week), we are certain because the Gospels plainly say so. What year, we’re not exactly sure (but it is in a very narrow range of about a 3 or 4 year time span). We’re also sure that Easter is NOT a God-ordained Holy Day……it is manordained…..and even the name we give this awesome day is after the pagan fertility goddess Ishtar (this is why the standard pagan fertility symbols of eggs and rabbits have become the outstanding features of this Christian celebration).
Now, is it wrong for us to commemorate and celebrate Jesus’ birth and His resurrection, as a Christian tradition? Heavens NO! But, for the Church to declare these two days as HOLY….. is to do something for which it has no authority. Now, if you are Catholic, you might argue with that because it is Catholic doctrine that the Pope indeed DOES have the authority of Heaven to do so; that the Pope CAN declare days, people, religious sites, events, and so on, holy. But, if you are a Protestant, and do not hold to Papal authority, then you’re in an even worse bind! Because the Protestant denominations say that man cannot declare things holy; things which God has explicitly not. God declares that which is holy……and these two highest Christian Holy Days are NOT declared to be holy days
of observance by our Creator, per se, anywhere that is recorded. So, it is important that we separate those things which are God-ordained from those things which are man’s
attempt to do something good.
I tell you this not as a challenge to the traditional Christian celebration of Christmas and Easter, but rather as the point of an important question that we cannot avoid if we want to
mature as Believers: if we Disciples of Jesus find it unthinkable not to acknowledge and observe Christmas and Easter…. Man made observances, traditions, that admittedly celebrate two critical events of Messiah……then how is it that we so easily dismiss the God-made, God ordained Biblical Feasts? Feasts that are NOT traditions but are written down in the Scriptures. Not as simply things mentioned in Scripture, but as
COMMANDED Feasts that the Lord God says are perpetual. This is the fallacy and just plain error on the part of the church in general when it demands that the Bible begins with the book of Matthew, and that everything before it (such as Sabbath keeping, Bible Feasts, and more) is dead and gone; obsolete and worthless.
Let me remind you yet again of those critically important words of Yeshua as He was speaking His famous sermon to vast crowds of Jews and gentiles; the one we call The Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said this DURING that teaching just so people would NOT do exactly what the church HAS done; think that because He was explaining the spiritual significance of all the Torah commands and all the words of the great prophets, that now that He has come, we can just wad up those great works…..that we call the Old Testament…..and throw them in the trash bin of history. Listen to Jesus:
NAS Matthew 5:17-19: "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth
pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so
teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Don’t think the Biblical Feasts were for us……the followers of Christ? He just said they were. And, He just said woe be to man who teaches that ANYTHING has passed away from the Law (the Torah) and the Prophets. So, you’ll certainly not be hearing that, here! When might these commands and prophecies become of no further bearing to us? Not until heaven and earth pass away. Well, we’re still here, standing on Terra Firma, so not one jot or stroke of the Torah has been ruled invalid. And, this is coming from the mouth of the one who both CREATED the Torah, and redeemed us under its covenants.
Now, let me state without equivocation that our personal Salvation is in no way dependent on our observation of these Feasts. So….a typical gentile Christian might ask….. then why should we observe them? Because, as Jesus equates, Salvation is being born again. Being born is but the beginning of new life……the first word of the first chapter of our lives. But, we’re not to stay newborns, though many of us do. We are to grow, and learn, and put into practice…..to work…..that which results FROM our birth…..or in the case of Salvation, our RE-birth. Because these Feasts are commanded by God; because it is a matter both of our obedience and of our WANTING, as redeemed people, to please our Lord, we should begin to include them in our lives. Further, they remind us of foundational Biblical principles and they demonstrate the work of Messiah
and the plan of God, and they are great teachers of our children.
The 7 Biblical Feasts lay out the plan of God for Mankind; they completely model the mission, the sequence, and the significance of Yeshua’s redemptive work. In other words,
these Feasts, in addition to being literal commands of God that are fully intended to be practiced, also outline a prophetic pattern that will be carried out by the Savior.
The 7 Feasts are timed to be in tune with the agricultural seasons; so when the Bible speaks of seasons, remember that for the Hebrews, a season was all about when to plant and when to harvest, and these are organically connected to when to observe God’s appointed times. There are 3 Spring Feasts, one Summer Feast, and 3 Fall Feasts, for a total of 7. Now, these are NOT the total of ALL of God’s appointed times, only the appointed so-called Festivals.
Because these feasts (or Festivals) are based on the ancient Hebrew calendar which was based primarily on lunar cycles, by our modern solar calendars, the days…..even the months….that these Holy Festivals occur vary a bit from year to year. However, by the Hebrew calendar, they remain the same; the first feasts being in the month of Nissan, the final feasts in Tishri.
Briefly, each Biblical feast is significant and prophetic as follows: 1) Pesach, The Feast of Passover, speaks of redemption…..that the Messiah, our Passover Lamb, was slain for us and his blood atones for our sins. 2) Matza, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, is about sanctification. The ordinance against the use of leavening is Biblically symbolic of a) absence of sin, and b) absence of decay and corruption. Christ’s sinless body was put into the tomb and it did NOT decay. 3) Bikkurim, the Feast of Firstfruits, speaks of firstlings……the first of things which always belongs to God. In the work of Messiah, it is about resurrection; Messiah is called the firstfruits of the resurrection from the dead; Yeshua was the first man to be resurrected from the dead….but, far into the future, other men….you and me….will also be resurrected. These are the 3 Spring Feasts.
Next, we have a Summer Feast: Shavuot, called The Feast of Weeks. We know this one better as Pentecost. While Bikkurim, the final Spring Feast, represented the firstfruits of the first grain harvest of the year, which was Barley……..Shavuot represents the celebration of the SECOND grain harvest of the year, which was wheat. Shavuot was timed to occur exactly 50 days from Bikkurim, the Feast of Firstfruits. The Greeks gave
this Holy Day the name “Pentecost” meaning 50. This is the awesome day that the Holy Spirit came to indwell men. And, by the way, just so we’re clear: a holy day was NOT created by Christians to celebrate the New Testament happening of the coming of the Holy Spirit; rather, the Holy Spirit CAME on the long established (over 1300 years established), day of Pentecost, Bikkurim. And, in fact, we’ll find that Jesus died on
Pesach, went into the tomb on Matza, arose on Bikkurim, and the Holy Spirit descended on men on Shavuot. Now, that is 4 very interesting “coincidences”, are they not?
Well, naturally, I say “coincidences” tongue-in-cheek….for this was not coincidence, this was the whole point of the Festivals in the first place. Now, am I allegorizing each of these important works of the Messiah so that they equate with a Festival? Nope. The New Testament TELLS us that’s what occurred.
Well, we’ve reviewed the first 4 Festivals….now we come to the last 3….the Fall Festivals…..the season we’ve just entered. What is important for us to grasp is that Messiah fulfilled the first 4 Festivals on the exact appointed day of each of the Festivals.
By doing this He has shown us something I believe we can count on: the pattern of the great works of Salvation occurring on the Feast days will continue. Why would we think that the acts and works of the Messiah that are perfectly typified in the first 4 Biblical Festivals, would suddenly STOP being so in the final 3? Therefore, it is my Belief that ALL of the final works of Christ will occur on the last 3 Biblical Feasts. And, these last 3 feasts occur in a very narrow scope of time……15 days. Indeed, as the Bible tells, we don’t know the year of His coming, but we CAN know the season; and that season is the Fall. Let’s look at these Fall Feasts now.
The Feasts always begin on the 7th month of the year by the civil calendar, which is the same thing as the 1st month of the religious event year; Tishri. On Tishri 1 is Rosh Hashanah, Tishri 10 is Yom Kippur, and Tishri 15 begins the week-long celebration of Sukkot. This year, those dates correspond to October 4th, October 13th (obviously they’ve already been celebrated), and Sukkot begins on October 18th, this coming Tuesday.
The first Fall feast is Rosh Hashanah….what is usually called Jewish New Year. Now, we won’t detour, but be aware that there are number of different Jewish calendar years;
one is the civil calendar year, another is the tithing calendar year, and still another is the religious event year. By the civil calendar year, Rosh Hashanah occurs on the 1st day of the 7th month, called Tishri. But, on the religious event calendar, Rosh Hashanah occurs on the 1st day of the 1st month….on the religious event calendar, Tishri is the 1st month. Don’t let that confuse you…..it doesn’t mean they change the names of the months around. It’s like the idea we have in our society where we have a civil calendar year (the one we’re all familiar with), but we also have in business a Fiscal Year which can begin
and end on any number of months, a school year, and so on. For instance, in Florida a school year is typically August through May. August is the FIRST month of the school year, right? Or in the Hebrew way of speaking, the school year is from the 8th month to the 5th month. That the 8th month of the year, August, is the FIRST month of the school year is exactly synonymous to the idea that Tishri is the 7th month of the regular calendar year, but it is the 1st month of the religious event year. That is how it can be related that the New Year is on the 1st day of the 7th month…..because although it is the 7th month of the regular calendar year, it is the FIRST day of the FIRST month of the religious event year. It’s just that for us, New Year is a secular civil event…..for the Hebrews, New Year
is a religious event.
Rosh Hashanah was first established in the book of Leviticus chapter 23, and more information was given in Numbers chapter 29. Together with the next Feast we’ll discuss, Yom Kippur, these two Feasts and the intervening days are called the High Holy Days, and also known as the Days of Awe by the Jews.
Rosh Hashanah is also called the Feast of Trumpets. Because on that day, the Shofar….the Ram’s horn…..is to be blown. (show the Ram’s horn). During the 10 days that connect Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, every person is supposed to carefully consider their lives and repent…..but, note, THAT is a Tradition. Biblically what is ordered by God, is that on that day it is to be a holy day of convocation……meeting together….. and a day of Sabbath rest. Those who have studied with me for a while know that in addition to the weekly 7th Day Sabbath that we are all familiar with, God appointed other ‘sabbaths’, usually associated with the various feasts. Rosh Hashanah is one of those OTHER Sabbaths. On that day special sacrifices,
centering around the ‘Olah, what we usually call the Burnt Offering, was to be presented to the Lord. And, finally, a Shofar…..what many Bibles mistakenly call a ‘trumpet” was to be blown. Indeed on certain occasions a trumpet…specifically a silver trumpet…..was to be blown. But in this case the word teruah, which not only indicates that the instrument is to be a Ram’s horn….NOT a silver trumpet…..but that teruah is a very specific series of blasts on the horn.
Like a military Bugler, or a Drummer, used to do in times of war……that is, they would play certain notes, or drum a certain cadence as signals to the troops to advance, or retreat, or form-up, or rest, or whatever…..the Shofar was played using different calls to tell the troops what to do. The Teruah is such a signal; it consists of 9 or more short blasts in rapid succession and it is an alarm, a warning; it was the “the ready to go to war”signal; a kind of battle cry.
Now, what I’ve just told you is the sum total of what the Bible instructs for Rosh Hashanah……all other celebration associated with Rosh Hashanah is Tradition. That said, we should pay close attention to these traditions; because the Rabbis knew well that these Holy Days had a significance much greater than just days of celebration and the rather simple instructions that come with them.
Rosh Hashanah, by tradition, is the day God sits in Judgment on the Universe. This is NOT an eternal judgment, but rather it is when He hands out merits for those who have been obedient and discipline on those who have not; it applies to individuals and to nations. He decides on Rosh Hosanna who will be blessed in the following year, and who will be cursed. Does one have plenty, or famine? Does one have a time of peace, or war?
Is it to be a year of sickness, or of health? Rosh Hashanah, more than any other day, exemplifies Yahweh’s judging attribute. So, while there is celebration, there is soberness
of mind and heart.
Today, preparation for Rosh Hashanah usually begins by a week of prayer BEFORE Trisha 1, asking for forgiveness of sins. An interesting ritual is also performed, called Tashlikh. It means “casting off”, and on the day of Rosh Hashanah Jews will either
gather in a group, or as individuals, near a body of water; they’ll pray a specific prayer of Tashlikh, and then typically cast breads crumbs into the water symbolizing the casting away of their sins.
Now, the spiritual significance for this day, according to the great Hebrew sages is quite interesting. And before I tell you about it, let me point out something of interest: Rosh
Hashanah is the ONLY Biblical Feast that occurs on the day of the new moon. Now, unlike what you might think, the new moon is NOT that huge, bright FULL moon….rather, the new moon is when the moon doesn’t shine at all…..it is when the moon is just a dark disk hanging in the sky. It is the darkest night of the month.
Listen to the Rabbincal sage’s view of Rosh Hashanah from the Talmud, in chapter Rosh Hashanah 11a: “…..in the month of Nissan (Passover) our ancestors were redeemed, but in Tishri (Rosh Hashanah) they will be redeemed in the time to come….”
Prophetically, Rosh Hashanah signal the Day of the Lord; or as we Christians often call it, the Day of Judgment. It is the day Messiah returns and begins to execute God’s judgment on a wicked and unrepentant world. And, all of the prophets refer to it as a “day of darkness”…..Amos says in chapter 5, “Is not the Day of the Lord darkness, and not light? Is it not VERY dark, with no brightness in it”. Zephaniah said in chapter 1, “…the
great day of the Lord is near……a day of wrath…..a day of darkness AND a day of trumpets…”. In the NT John, in Revelation, says the sun became black and the moon red
as blood…..for the great day of His wrath has come.
Rosh Hashanah is the Biblical Feast that typifies the return of Christ, and the beginning of judgment by God. A day of both literal AND spiritual darkness for most, a day of wonder and awe for those who trust Him. I have no doubt, that whether it is next year, or in some year after that, it is the Biblical Feast of Rosh Hashanah on which the Messiah will come; otherwise, it would break the pattern of the Feasts that up to now signaled
precisely every signal event of Messiah. A pretty good reason to celebrate, and look forward, to Rosh Hashanah each year, I think.
10 days following Rosh Hashanah, on Tishri 10, is THE holiest day of the year: Yom Kippur, which means “Day of Atonement”. What this day means to the Hebrew people is probably best summed up by means of a prayer usually recited by most observant Jews either in private, in Synagogue, or both, on Yom Kippur. It is a most profound prayer and it affects me deeply every time I read it or hear it…..so please quiet your minds, and
hearken to the Lord, and listen carefully:
“For the sin which we have committed before Thee by unclean lips, and for the sin which we have committed before Thee by impure speech; for the sin which we have
committed before Thee by our evil inclination, and for the sin which we have committed before Thee wittingly OR unwittingly; for all these, O God of Forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement. In the book of Life, blessing, peace and good sustenance, may we be remembered and inscribed before thee.”
Wow. What that says in a few words is enough food for a lifetime. But, also notice a certain element of that prayer that is quite different from what I think is a far too narrow
Christian view: it constantly uses the word “we”, instead of “I”. This is a prayer for the body of Israel as a whole. This is a prayer of confession and repentance on a national basis. Naturally, by definition, a nation is made up of individuals. But, the emphasis is the corporate body…..ALL Israel…..its not about ME. It is about the fact that we are seen by God as individuals AND as the nation we belong to. We cannot escape it. When a nation is judged, ALL who belong to that nation are affected. When Israel was judged, the great prophets who sent the warnings and were persecuted for their efforts were NOT
protected. ALL suffered. We need to keep this in mind for the times we’re in and the days of wrath ahead of us.
The observant Jews believe that Yom Kippur is the day that a person’s fate for the coming year….the New Year that began just 10 days earlier, on Rosh Hashanah….is decided by God. The Day of Atonement is a Biblical command, and first established in
the Torah in the book of Leviticus chapter 16. It’s purpose was to cleanse the sanctuary…..the Wilderness Tabernacle….the earthly dwelling place of God… and to atone for the sins of the people of Israel.
The Tradition surrounding this awesome day is that it is the day that a person’s fate is sealed before God, for the coming year. As with Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur is a Sabbath (not the 7th day weekly Sabbath, but another day of ceasing from work).
Historically, and Biblically, Yom Kippur was the one day per year a man…..the High Priest…..was allowed to stand before the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies inside the Sanctuary. There, he would sprinkle blood on the Ark, and then eventually on other furnishings, to make them clean from the human contamination of sin and uncleanness from the previous year. Later in that day, the Scapegoat ceremony occurred in which a specially selected he-goat, the Scapegoat, was loaded up with the sins of Israel, by the High Priest, and sent out into the wilderness, away from God’s people, never to return.
Yom Kippur, Biblically, is a very solemn day. It is a day for people to put themselves in proper perspective before the Lord God; to recognize our complete dependence on God not just for our physical lives but our spiritual standing before Him.
Prophetically, Yom Kippur symbolizes the day all Israel will be saved. After the Messiah’s return on Rosh Hashanah, Israel will be cleansed and saved from the hand of the gentile world that has come against it by the Anointed One. Yeshua came 2000 years ago as our Passover. He came meekly to be slaughtered as the Lamb of God. But, when He returns, He comes as the greatest warrior of all time. He comes as the Kinsman
Redeemer who will take blood vengeance on a world that has persecuted His set-apart people, Israel, and all those joined to Israel under the ancient covenants by means of
Involved within all this is the end of the rule of the Anti-Christ, the end of the rule of Satan over the world, and the end of people and nations who go against Israel. So, what we term the Battle of Armageddon also likely falls within this period of the Fall Feasts. Another pretty good reason for ALL Believers……gentile or Jew…… to pay attention to these Biblical Feasts.
Now, 5 days after Yom Kippur comes the FINAL Biblical Feast……Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. I have in my hand what is called a Lulav……a Biblically ordained part of the celebration…..that has great symbolism. So, with all this as a background, we’ll spend all of our next week’s time together going over the MANY significant aspects of the Grande Finale of all the Feasts….the one that the Holy Scriptures say we’ll be
celebrating even upon the new earth of the future, in God’s very presence….the Feast of Tabernacles.