Introducing the Feasts
Brian Clatworthy, Newton Abbot, Devon, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
The series now commencing is devoted to Leviticus 23 and other portions of both Old and New Testament Scriptures dealing with the "Feasts of Jehovah". By means of annual religious appointments, a forecast is presented of God's ways with His people with a view to establishing them in the enjoyment of His predetermined blessing.
We shall first consider the relationship between the Jewish Civil Year and the Jewish Religious Year.
Exodus 12. 2
Month Civil Year Religious Year
Nisan (Abib) 7th Month 1st Month
Zif (Iyyar) 8th Month 2nd Month
Sivan 9th Month 3rd Month
Tammuz 10th Month 4th Month
Ab 11th Month 5th Month
Elul 12th Month 6th Month
Tishri (Ethanim) 1st Month 7th Month
Bui (Cheshvan) 2nd Month 8th Month
Chisleu (Kislev) 3rd Month 9th Month
Tebeth 4th Month 10th Month
Shebat 5th Month 11th Month
Adar 6th Month 12th Month
Dates when the feasts occurred are as follows:
Month 1 of religious year, 14th day: Passover.
15th -21st day: Unleavened Bread.
16th day: Firstfruits.
Month 3 of religious year, 6th day: Pentecost, "Gleaning". Month 7 of religious year, 1st day: Trumpets.
10th day: Atonement.
15th-21st day: Tabernacles.
22nd day: "Eighth Day".
This tabular review should be used for reference when reading each of the papers in this series.
Divisions of Chapter. There would appear to be two divisions of the chapter. The first division can be easily observed by the recurrence of the phrase "and the Lord spake unto Moses'*, a phrase-formula commonly seen throughout the books of the Pentateuch. Thus we see that this chapter in Leviticus has a fivefold division as follows:
1. Verses i - 8: The promulgation of the seven feasts,
and the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread.
2. Verses 9-22: The feasts of Firstfruits and Weeks
together with the injunction concerning harvesting.
3. Verses 23 - 25: The feast of Trumpets.
4. Verses 26 - 32: The feast of Atonement.
5. Verses 33 - 44: The feast of Tabernacles.
F. W. Grant states that 5 is a number which will be found constantly associated with the thought of exercise as under responsibility; but also with the kindred idea that, under God, the way, according to its character, leads to a corresponding end. We will see as we consider each feast the significance of this division of the chapter.
The second division is not so evident as the first. The occasion of each feast reveals the typical truth of the chapter. The first 4 feasts all occur in the early part of the year; then there is a long interval until the 7th month when the remaining three feasts are celebrated. Thus the feasts are seen as two groups of 4 and 3 making the complete number 7 when combined, namely
first group of 4 feasts
. . . interval ... > = 7
second group of 3 feasts
F. W. Grant states that the number 7, when divided into 4+3, speaks evidently of the creature as manifesting the Creator, which, being attained, is for the creature its perfection and for God His rest. Here again the significance of this division will be seen when we consider each feast.
General Preamble. Leviticus 23 is a chapter of immense value to the people of God today. It presents the seven feasts of Jehovah into which Israel's religious year was divided. In essence the chapter reveals the unfolding counsels of God toward His earthly people, and the wonderful rest resulting from the death of the Passover Lamb. This rest can be enjoyed by all who know the work of the true Paschal Lamb of God.
The feasts., better translated as set times, were announced by a public proclamation, Lev. 23. 2; Psa. 89. 15, and were to be holy gatherings (convocations). The thought here conveyed is the fellowship of God with His Old Testament people, uniting them in obedience to Himself and gathering them around Himself upon redemption ground. The feasts are typical of events both past and future which have been planned and predetermined by Jehovah Himself. God reveals to His people His great joy in the convocations which He was now to share with them. If therefore the rest of God is based upon the work of the true Paschal Lamb, then these feasts undoubtedly speak in type of the work of Christ with all the subsequent events which have taken place or will take place because of His work. The feasts show that, through the work of the Paschal Lamb, God will fulfil His purposes. His purposes in Christ will be realized by and by, whether those purposes relate to His earthly people Israel, or His heavenly people the Church.
The feasts were celebrated at various times in the year according to the divine ordering of Leviticus 23, and it is worth noting that God especially desired the males of His people to appear before Him three times in the year. All of these were occasions when various feasts of Jehovah were in progress, Exod. 23.14; Deut. 16. In the wilderness experience of the children of Israel these appearances demanded little as all the people were together, but when the nation entered the promised land it would have involved separating one from another. Thus their obedience to the word of God was tested. If they realized their wonderful blessings they would adhere to the word of God, and be found among the happy pilgrims trekking to the place where God placed His name. They would not only enjoy the fellowship of those who were also like-minded, but they would know the warmth of the fellowship of their God. Fellow believer, in these days of declension from the Word of God, let us strive to adhere to the Word of the Lord, Heb. 10. 25, that we may constantly know the warmth of His fellowship, 1 John 1. 3.
i. Exod. 34. 24: God's promise to the faithful pilgrim.
ii. Psa. 120 - 134: The psalms of ascent, songs of degrees sung by the pilgrim; note particularly 133. 1.
iii. 1 Kings 12. 26-33: Jeroboam's sin.
The Weekly Observance. The Sabbath which was celebrated weekly is reintroduced to us in Leviticus 23. 3. Although it is proclaimed again here, it is to be reckoned by itself. It has quite a unique and independent place from the feasts which are presented in this chapter, but although having historic eminence, the Sabbath prefigures the rest of God into which we shall enter (see Heb. 4. 9), and is in reality the type of that rest which the seven feasts blessedly introduce to the soul. Though the Sabbath rest of God's people will come when all the seven feasts have been historically fulfilled, Jehovah introduces in verse 3 that which is first with Himself. The Sabbath looks back to the creatorial rest of God, Exod. 20.11; Heb. 4. 4, which although broken through man's sin has been restored by the redemptive work of Christ at Calvary. His work there will produce the eternal salvation into which God's people will enter by and by. With what joy we wait for the heavenly Joshua to lead us into the eternal rest of God. We have, of course, already entered into rest when the Lord Jesus Christ became our Saviour, but this is a foretaste of that eternal unbroken Sabbatism of God, Heb. 4. 9. There is also the rest which the Lord Jesus gives us, but this again would appear to be a present stage of that eternal rest of God, Matt. 11. 27-29.
The Sabbath was the sign of the relationship between God and His earthly people, for it signified the association with God in His creatorial rest. This sign, the recognition of the seventh day, has however been set aside for us as God's heavenly people. The Sabbath represented the old creation and stood at the close of the week of God's creatorial work, but the new creation begins with the first day pointing to the resurrection of Christ, by which we are begotten again unto a lively hope, 2 Cor. 5. 17; 1 Pet. 1. 3. Our rest is in the new creation.
It should be remembered by those in our day who believe that Sabbath-keeping is still scriptural that the Lord Jesus has declared Himself to be "Lord even of the sabbath day"., Matt. 12. 8, and if, therefore, we maintain the authority of the Jewish Sabbath as such, we are in danger of denying the Saviour's authority. Moreover as J. N. Darby says in his Synopsis, "We would be re-establishing the old covenant and seeking rest from labour under law"; see also Galatians 4. 22, 26.
1. The three rests spoken of in Hebrews chapters 3 and 4,
(a) The rest of creation.
(b) The rest which Joshua gave.
(c) The rest of God,
ii. The Lord's Day - Rev. 1. 10.
The first day of the week is also referred to as the Lord's Day and the Greek word kuriakos, meaning lordly or dominical, is found only in one other place in the New Testament, namely, 1 Cor. n. 20, the Lord's Supper.
AUTHOR PROFILE: He is an elder and active member of a pioneer assembly work in Newton Abbott. For many years he has been welcomed as a ministering brother in the south of England and has written a number of articles for the magazine. He is married and has two children.