The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.
“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places.
“These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD's Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. But you shall present a food offering to the LORD for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD. And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the LORD with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
“You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD. You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the LORD. And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. And you shall make a proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.
“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.”
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD.”
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the LORD. And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people. And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.”
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD. On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.
“These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the LORD food offerings, burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each on its proper day, besides the LORD's Sabbaths and besides your gifts and besides all your vow offerings and besides all your freewill offerings, which you give to the LORD.
“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. You shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”
Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed feasts of the LORD.
(Leviticus 23 ESV)
A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple.
I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O LORD,
you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.
To you, O LORD, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me!
O LORD, be my helper!”
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
(Psalm 30 ESV)
Something to Consider
Leviticus 23: The festal calendar given by God and kept by the Israelites was to serve as a reminder of God’s provision of deliverance for His people but also serves as a foreshadowing of God’s ultimate deliverance for His people. A deliverance provided in the work of Christ. The foundational marker for the scheduling of these feasts was the Sabbath which serves also as a reminder that rest and reflection ought to be the atmosphere during our intentional times of worship. As we reflect on the general meaning intended for each of these feasts, we can rejoice in the fact that these feasts find their greater fulfillment in Christ.
The Feast of the Passover (Feast of Unleavened Bread)
This was observed in remembrance of God’s deliverance for His people from their bondage in Egypt. This was also the day in which Christ instituted the ‘New Passover’ (Lord’s Supper) before suffering on the cross to secure our deliverance from our bondage to sin.
The Feast of the First-fruits
This was observed to remind the Israelites that all things new are a gift from God. We are to give of our new blessings before we enjoy them for ourselves. This was the very day on the calendar that Christ resurrected from the grave. He is the beginning of new life and the first-fruit from the grave (Colossians 1). We are to offer our new lives in Christ to God before we’ll find satisfaction for ourselves.
The Feast of Weeks (Feast of the Harvest or Pentecost)
This was observed in remembrance of how God descended before the presence of His people in giving His Law to Moses. This occurred fifty days after the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt. This was also the day that the Spirit descended before the presence of the people at Pentecost giving His people a new identity in Christ (Acts 2). This occurred fifty days after our deliverance from sin through the cross of Christ.
These following three feasts were held tightly together in the same month of the year and are very symbolic in nature.
The Feast of Trumpets
This was observed as a proclamation of preparation. The people were to prepare their hearts for the most sacred month of the Israelite calendar. This symbolizes the one who prepared the way for our Lord proclaiming from the wilderness, ”Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand."
The Day of Atonement
This was observed in remembrance of our sinful condition before a holy God. It was a time of great self-denial and self-mortification through fasting and prayer. It was to be a day of rest and sober reflection. This symbolizes that ultimate Day of Atonement in which Christ our Savior came to take away the sins of the world.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9)
The Feast of Booths (Feast of Tabernacles)
This was observed to serve as a reminder of who the Israelites were as a people. They were a people who had been called, gathered and delivered by God. God had prepared a Promised a Land for them and they dwelt as strangers in a wilderness that was not their own until the predetermined time had come for them to possess their inheritance. This symbolizes the way in which we ought to remember who we are as God’s people. We’ve been called, gathered and delivered by God in Christ. We’ve been promised a place that Christ has prepared for us. It’s another place that’s not of this world, and therefore we currently dwell in a wilderness that is not our own until the predetermined time comes for us to possess our inheritance.
The original intent in observing these feasts was to help the people remember the Lord and His work on their behalf. Each served a specific purpose in recalling a specific event that God had done in human history to bring salvation to His people. However, each also foreshadowed a future fulfillment revealed in a specific event that God would do in human history once and for all to gain salvation for His people.
How often have we overlooked that the message of the Bible is solely the message of Christ?
From beginning to end, the Bible is repeating the same message. Written over 1500 years by more than 40 different men on 3 different continents in 3 different languages, and yet the Bible is declaring one message all the way throughout. And it’s not man’s message about God. It’s God’s message about Himself, and what He’s done in human history to fulfill His plan of redemption through the work of Christ.
Perhaps the author of Hebrews has said it best;
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways [even through ceremonial feasts], God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son [Jesus Christ our Savior].” (Hebrews 1)