This section includes the festivals or “times” of the Lord (Leviticus 23). I will concentrate on these times in this study. Often these times are referred to as “Jewish” festivals. This is incorrect. They are the times designated by the Lord and all believers should give careful attention to them.
Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, “The Lord’sappointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations – My appointed times are these… (Leviticus 23:2, my emphasis)
Significance of Seven
The festivals of the Lord count days, weeks, months, years and multiple years in cycles based on the number seven. In the Bible, the number seven appears to represent Godly completion. Festivals associated with years and multiple years will be addressed later.
The first festival is counted in days and is the weekly Shabbat (Sabbath).
For six days work may be done; but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation (Leviticus 23:3a).
The second series is based on weeks and months. The cycle begins with the first month of the year (spring) and includes Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits.
In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread (Leviticus 23:5-6).
Firstfruits is observed during the week of Unleavened Bread.
Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, “When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord for you to be accepted; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it (Leviticus 23:10-11).
From the time of the waving of the Firstfruits offering, Israel is commanded to count seven complete Shabbats (i.e., seven complete weeks) and on the following day observe Shavuot.
You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as first fruits to the Lord (Leviticus 23:15-17).
The next cycle counts months from the first month. The seventh month festivals include Trumpets, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.
Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, “In the seventh month on the first of the month, you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation” (Leviticus 23:24).
On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the Lord (Leviticus 23:27).
Speak to the sons of Israel saying, “On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths for seven days to the Lord” (Leviticus 23:34).
On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days (Leviticus 23:39-40).
and, “You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt, I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 23:42-43).
Interpretation of the Festivals
The weekly festival ending in Shabbat is the easiest to understand. This follows the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2. By resting at the end of the week, we follow the pattern set by God. By doing so we declare that we serve the God of creation.
The festivals that occur in the first, third and seventh months rehearse the plan of redemption that God has implemented. Passover represent redemption purchased. The slain lamb whose blood was sprinkled on the doorpost of the Israelis in Egypt purchased freedom for the inhabitants of that home. 1500 years later, the blood of the Lamb of God was sprinkled on our hearts and we were redeemed. Messiah is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7). Unleavened bread commemorates the fact that Israel fled Egypt in a hurry when they were freed.
The festivals are built around the agriculture year. Winter grain crops would be about fully grown but not ripened at Passover. A sheaf of grain was waved by the priest as a prayer for a good harvest. This was waved on the morning following the Shabbat after Passover. 2000 years ago, as the priest was waving the firstfruit offering, Jesus was raised up from the dead. He represents the firstfruits of the resurrection (I Corinthian 15:20). This obviously points to the hope that many will be raised up in the resurrection.
Following the waving of the firstfruits offering, Israelis count seven complete Shabbats (weeks). On the following day (the 50th day) is the day of Shavuot (weeks). By this time of the year the grain harvest has been completed. Flour from the grain is used to bake two loaves of bread with leaven. In the Temple era these two loaves were waved by the priest like the firstfruits offering had been. This day coincides with the day that God cut a covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai. On the anniversary of this event, God brought the believers in the upper room into covenant relationship by filling them with the Holy Spirit. Thus, Shavuot represent the anniversary of God choosing covenant partners who will be used to accomplish redemption. The first and third month festivals have been fulfilled. Now only the seventh month festival remains to be fulfilled.
The seventh month festivals represent the completion of redemption. The three festivals of Trumpets, Yom Kippur and Sukkot remain unfulfilled at this time. We believe that Trumpets represents the Last Trumpet which will herald the return of Messiah Jesus. We suspect that Yom Kippur represent final judgment by God and that Sukkot represents the New Creation which is the end product of the redemption process.
Thus, God’s festivals reveal a picture of the redemption process. As God’s people observe these festivals year by year, the hope for the completion of redemption is renewed in the hearts and minds of His people. I maintain that the Church has done itself a great disservice by ignoring the “times of the Lord”.