By Rev SEIK PITOI
WHEN one mentions the ‘feasts of Israel’, some people will think this has to do with the Law therefore is obsolete for the believer in Jesus today.
However, the feasts of the Lord are actually blueprints for everything God does in His dealing with mankind on earth. While we do not observe the feasts to have eternal life, they are nonetheless rich with meaning for us today. We ignore them to our detriment.
The passage in Leviticus 23 which lays out the seven feasts or festivals are the basis through which God’s plan of salvation, as well as His future plans for Israel and the Church, can be found.
Jesus did not just die on any day, nor did the Holy Spirit get poured out on any old day. Everything relevant for God’s salvific work took place on a feast day. God opens chapter 23 with these words: “These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the Lord”. These ‘appointed times’ (mo’edim) were special appointments He made to meet with His people. They are not Israel’s feasts but God’s and are relevant in meaning for all believers.
The feasts are also types and pictures of what would ultimately be fulfilled. In fact, every biblical holiday given to the Jewish people has three aspects: to observe the holiday in the present; to remember something God had done in the past, and to look forward to some future prophetic purpose hidden within each festival
In Passover (Ex 12:5, 13), the little lamb that was inspected to make sure it was perfect with no spot or blemish before being slain has been replaced by the perfect sinless Lamb of God that was slain for all mankind (John 1:29; 2 Cor 5:21). The custom of Passover today celebrated by Jews worldwide is rich with types and pictures of what Christ did on Calvary, His dealing with sin (unleavened bread), and His resurrection as the first of first fruits (1 Cor 15:20). Then, 50 days after Christ’s resurrection, the Holy Spirit was poured out, again on another feast day – Pentecost (Acts 2:1ff).
To summarise the first fur feasts: Passover – Christ’s sacrificial death, Unleavened Bread – Christ’s burial, First fruits – Christ’s resurrection, and Pentecost – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
There is a four-month break between the Spring feasts and the last three Fall (Autumn) feasts. These final three: Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles have been fulfilled to a certain degree by Christ, but their complete and prophetic fulfilment will be seen when the Messiah (Jesus) comes again as King and Judge.
The long dry period from Pentecost to Trumpets is suddenly broken by the sound of the shofar/trumpet being blown in the synagogues. The Feast of Trumpets is also known as Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
The shofar blast calls the people to repentance (Ez 33:1-7). The 10 days from Trumpets to Day of Atonement are called the ’10 days of Awe’, a time for personal reflection, repentance, forgiveness and restitution. This culminates in the Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Hebrew calendar. Here, we see Christ fulfilling the twofold types in Atonement. He is Cohen ha Gadol (the High Priest) as well as the sacrifice (Heb 7:27). Jesus did not need a sacrifice to offer continually because He was the perfect sacrifice!
But it is Tabernacles we want to discuss here. Tabernacles is the season of joy. After repentance, forgiveness, restitution and atonement has taken place, it is now time to rejoice! Zech 2:10 says, “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says the Lord. The word “dwell” is the word for “tabernacle”.
During the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, the Jewish people were to gather together in Jerusalem. They were not only to remember God’s provision in the wilderness but also to look forward to that promised Messianic age when all nations will flow to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. Tabernacles is unique in that the Gentile nations were invited to come up to Jerusalem along with the Jewish people to worship the Lord. The Lord told Moses to gather all men, women and children, along with the foreigners in their land, so they can learn to fear the Lord (Deut. 31:12).
When Solomon later dedicated the temple at Sukkot, he asked the Lord to hear the prayers of any foreigners that would come there to pray (2 Chronicles 6:32-33). It may surprise some, but Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles as well. On the last “great day of the feast”, He stood in the temple and cried out: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38).
Sunday evening, Sept 23, ushered in the Feast of Tabernacles. In Israel during this feast, many families build a small booth on their deck or in their garden. The booths are decorated with the seven species which are the fruits of the land of Israel. Sukkot is also known as the Feast of Ingathering when the children of Israel would remember God’s faithfulness and give thanks to the Lord for the harvest of the past year. (Exodus23:16)
Zechariah 14 speaks about how even when Messiah dwells among us during the Messianic age, all who dwell on the earth will not only celebrate sukkot, but will go up to Jerusalem in accordance with God’s commandment (Zechariah 14:16-19). In view of that, every year, believers from all around the world – including from PNG, go to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. This is a ‘rehearsal’ of what will take place in the millennium.
If there is any lesson to take home from studying this feast, it is the practice of not forgetting the faithfulness of God in the past. Israel paused to think of how God looked after them in the wilderness when they slept in booths or tabernacles, meaning temporary dwellings. Despite their frequent moving from place to place, and despite the dangers that lurked in the desert, God’s hand was upon them.
That is the same for the believer today. In this journey that we are on in life, dangers lurk around every corner. Life is not easy in the fast paced world of today.
How many parents break into a sweat when they contemplate the future for their children in a cruel world that is getting crazier by the day? Listening to the world news before going to bed can give you night mares!
But that’s the beauty of the feasts; they point you back to see what your God did for you previously. He routed the Amalekites and all the other ‘ites’ for you; He walked with you through that dark valley you went through at that point in your life. He provided for you when you were just about to give up. If He was faithful to you yesterday, surely He will be the same today and tomorrow because He changes not! (James 1:17)
Finally, I marvel at the wisdom of God to set the feasts up in the order he has. Our whole life is pictured in the feasts. We begin with our salvation by trusting Christ as our Lord and Saviour (Passover).
Then, to walk this path of life, we are filled with the Holy Spirit who is our helper (Pentecost). But as we plod along, we get used to the monotony and soon we are tempted to fall away.
But the trumpet sounds a warning. We examine our lives and come in repentance before God, forgiving others and making restitution where we have to. Having our sins dealt with by His atonement, we are refreshed and rejoice in His goodness as we await His soon return!
May these ancient feasts keep reminding us that we serve a good and faithful God!
- Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.