As someone who is not Jewish, it can be very common to read the traditions and customs of the Bible and have little or no understanding of what is mentioned there. With years of rich history and culture, the scriptures tell us of the people of God who were set apart by Him. This group of people continually failed and sinned and believed that the Lord would provide a Messiah. We know that Jesus was the Messiah and that he came from the Jewish people to save not only them, but all who believe in all tribes and tongues. The Lord taught the Jewish people to celebrate three annual festivals. Today we will explore each of them and their purpose in hopes of gaining a better understanding and appreciation of God and His Word.
One of the annual holidays that the Jews celebrated was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, also known as Passover.
Exodus 23:15 says, “Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt. “No one should appear before me empty-handed.”
Unleavened bread was celebrated in remembrance of God protecting the Israelites from the angel of death in Egypt. In the midst of Moses and Aaron going before Pharaoh to free God’s people from bondage, the final plague was sent. The angel of death would come and take the firstborn from every household. If the blood of an animal were smeared on the doorposts, the angel would “pass over” that house. The Israelites who did this in faith and trust in the Lord were spared death. (See Exodus 12)
Exodus 12:14 says, “It is a day you must commemorate; for generations to come you will celebrate it as a feast for the Lord, an enduring ordinance.
In Exodus 12:14-20, God instructs the people on how to celebrate this holiday.
- For 7 days eat bread without yeast
- On the 1st day, all yeast must be removed from the house and not eaten, otherwise that person would be cut off from Israel
- On day 1 and day 7, a sacred assembly takes place. There should be no work these days except food preparation.
- During the first month, the Israelites cannot eat any yeast from days 15 to 21. (Leviticus 23:4-8)
- 7 days of food offerings to the Lord
- During the seven-day festival, even visitors and strangers must abide by the rules.
New Testament Fulfillment: Jesus Fulfills Our Eternal Need for Salvation. Where the original Passover was a temporary rescue, Jesus came down as a sacrificial Lamb and died in our place and rose again to save us from eternal death. Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples. What we call the Lord’s Supper was part of the Passover feast. (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:1-38, John 13)
Jesus celebrated the Passover throughout his life. One of our only accounts of Jesus as a child was during Passover when his family went to the temple. (Luke 2:41-52)
1 Corinthians 5:7 says beautifully, “Cast off the old leaven, that you may be a new unleavened lot, just as you really are.” For Christ, our paschal lamb, was sacrificed.
The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)
This well-known festival is also called Harvest Festival.
Exodus 23:16 said, “Celebrate the harvest festival with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field.
Leviticus 23:15-22 describes how to celebrate this holiday.
- Celebrated 7 weeks (50 days) after the Feast of Firstfruits.
- Present a new grain offering to God.
- Bring 2 loaves (Made from two-tenths of an ephor of flour, baked with yeast). It is the offering of the wave
- Also present 7 male lambs (1 year and under without defect) 1 young bull and 2 burnt rams
- Sacrifice 1 goat (sin offering) and 2 lambs under 1 year old (purse offering)
- Proclaim the sacred assembly and do not work
There is also a beautiful statement about every time the people of Israel harvested their crops in their land to leave the edges to the poor and foreigners. (Leviticus 23:22) We see this come into effect for Ruth who is in the line of Jesus. (Ruth 2:2-3)
New Testament Fulfillment: 1 Corinthians 15:23 says, “But each in his order: Christ as the firstfruits, then those which are Christ is at His coming.” What is amazing in this verse is to think of how Jesus fulfilled Pentecost. His sacrifice on the cross was a First fruits offering to the Lord. Then, once he reappeared, he ascended to the right hand of God on the throne. However, Jesus promised to send his Holy Spirit. It happened beautifully at Pentecost.
Acts 2:1 says, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly, a sound like the blowing of a strong wind came from the sky and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what appeared to be tongues of fire which separated and came to rest on each of them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit permitted them.
To think that this day that meant so much to these Jewish followers of Christ was fulfilled in a new way when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks.
The Feast of the Cabins (Tabernacle)
Exodus 23:16b says, “Celebrate the Harvest Festival at the end of the year when you harvest your crops from the field.
This feast is the third feast Israel has been commanded to observe each year. It was a party party and almost like modern camping. It was a time of rejoicing and offering food to the Lord after a harvest.
Leviticus 23:33-43 describes how to celebrate this holiday.
- The 15th day of the 7th month of the Hebrew calendar
- Duration of days 15 to 21
- Day 1: Hold a sacred assembly and do no work. Take branches of lush trees (palms, willows, hardwoods) and rejoice before God.
- For seven days present food offerings to the Lord
- 8th day: Hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to God, do no work
- This festival comes after the harvest of the crops of the earth
- During the holiday, live in shelters (or huts) to remind you that the Israelites lived in temporary shelters when God brought them out of Egypt
New Testament Fulfillment: We see Jesus attending the Festival of Tabernacles in John 7. He ended up teaching halfway through the festival and it was very controversial for the people. Some believed he was the Messiah, some a prophet, and others thought he was possessed by a demon. On the last day of the feast, Jesus said: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from within him. (John 7:37-38) Jesus revealed himself as the Messiah to the Jews.
I love how God used these 3 annual feasts to remind his people where he brought them from and through Jesus where we are going. They are significant not only for Jews but also for Gentiles. By understanding the purposes and meanings of these festivals, we have a better understanding of our Savior Jesus and what he has done in our name.
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by Emma Danzey Mission in life stems from Ephesians 3:20-21, inspiring young women to embrace the extraordinary. One of his greatest joys is to walk with the Lord in his scriptures. She is Drew’s wife and they have been married for over a year. Drew and Emma serve with the ministry at Upstate CRU University in South Carolina. Emma is an avid writer for Salem Web Network and provides articles on the Bible, life issues and the Christian way of life. Her article on interracial marriage was the most viewed article on Crosswalk for the year 2021. All the glory to the Lord! She has the joy of being the host of His many hats podcast where she explores the many roles women play while serving one God.
Emma loves to sing and write songs, take fitness classes, try new recipes, do makeover shows and drink tea! During her ministry career, Emma recorded two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, ran Refined magazine, and served in early childhood music education. Currently, she is editing her first published book on celibacy. Emma also had the privilege of being a national spokesperson for Mission Mukti based out of India. Mukti has worked for over 120 years to restore broken lives in India. You can see her articles on her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com