In the Old Testament, God established a religious calendar for the Israelites to follow. Within each year, there were seven specific feasts (Leviticus 23). Four were to be observed in the spring and three in the fall. Through these feasts, the Jewish people celebrated —
1. Their history
2. Their faith
3. The blessings of God
These are the Feasts or Festivals they were to observe.
1. Passover – They were to remember how God delivered them from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. We read that the death angel went throughout Egypt and killed the firstborn of every Egyptian family. This festival was to be observed in the spring on the 14th day of the 1st month.
• Each festival had a direct connection with Jesus Christ. Jesus was crucified on the cross at the exact time of the Passover sacrifice. His shed blood made the final atonement for the sins of the world. We are set free from the dominion of Satan by receiving Jesus as our Savior and LORD.
2. Unleavened Bread – This was observed as a reminder of their escape from Egypt and of God’s provision of bread from the earth – It was observed on the 15th of the ist month.
• The feast began by offering the first sheaf of grain to God. (Lev.
23: 10-11) It involved the baking of unleavened bread called matzo. God commanded the Israelites to eat only unleavened bread for 7 days after Passover as a reminder of their sudden deliverance from Egypt when their bread actually had no time to rise.
• How is this connected to Jesus? His burial coincided with the offering of the first grain.
• Jesus referred to Himself as “The Bread of Life.” God the Father has provided us with the Bread of Life by Christ’s resurrection from the grave. In that way, Jesus became the “first fruits” of a whole new order.
3. The Festival of First Fruits.
• This festival was to celebrate God’s gift of harvest.
• It was celebrated on the 15th day of the 1st month.
Note: On this occasion, the Israelites sacrificed the first part of their harvest, and flocks, and earned money in recognition that God was the giver of everything good.
The people also acknowledged God’s ownership of the land by bringing
seven fruits to the temple. One of these fruits was the pomegranate, a crop easily destroyed by foul weather. By giving these first fruits to God, they expressed their dependence on Him and their trust that He would provide the rest of the harvest.
• Note: This feast coincided with Jesus’ resurrection. When His followers
returned to the tomb on the morning of the celebration, it was empty. He became the first fruit of all who would experience a spiritual resurrection.
4. The Festival of Shavuot also known as Pentecost and Feast of Weeks. It was originally an agricultural festival, marking the beginning of the wheat harvest. It commemorates the revelation of the Torah given to the Jewish people. (Moses on Mt. Sinai). It occurred on the 50th day. It took Moses and the Israelites seven weeks of trekking through the wilderness to reach Sinai.
• Pentecost occurred fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection when the Holy Spirit came and the church was born. (Luke 24:53)
• Jewish people came from many places to observe Shavuot.
• When the Holy Spirit came upon the people like cloven tongues of fire, they heard the Gospel in many languages and thus came to understand what the Gospel was.
5. Rosh Hashana was established to prepare the people for God’s judgment. It occurred in the fall on the first day of the 7th month.
• This festival celebrated the beginning of a new religious year.
• The people celebrated by attending religious services and considering God’s sovereignty and His future day of judgment.
• The shofar was blown — its sound reminded the Jewish people of their ancient past, of God’s great power and their call to faithfulness in His coming judgment.
• Jesus, in keeping with tradition, described a coming judgment that
will be announced by the blowing of the shofar, (Luke 24:31).
6. Yom Kippur was established as a day for the people to seek God’s forgiveness. It happened on the tenth day of the seventh month.
• On this day the people fasted as a form of self-denial, repentance, and confession of sin before God.
• On this day, the priest entered the Most Holy Place and God appeared in a cloud over the ark of the covenant. Blood from sacrificed animals was sprinkled on the Most Holy Place and the altar to atone for the sins of the people. The high priest then placed his hands on a scapegoat, symbolically transferring the sins of the people onto the goat. The goat was then taken out into the wilderness to die, symbolizing that God had forgiven the people’s sins.
Note: In the New Testament, the Day of Atonement applies to the death of Jesus — His blood instead of the blood of the goat, now symbolizes atonement. (Hebrews 9:11-14). Through Him, our sins are truly forgiven (1 John 1:9)
7. Feast of Tabernacles (also known as Sukkot)
• This festival reminded the Jewish people of when they lived in the wilderness before entering the promised land of Canaan. It took place on the 15th day of the 7th month.
• God told the people to build booths/temporary dwellings reminding them of their wilderness living.
• The people ate their meals and prayed for seven days in these temporary dwellings as a reminder of God’s protective care.
Note: In John 7: 37-38 we read “On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, ‘Anyone who is thirsty may come to Me. Anyone who believes in Me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare ‘Rivers of living water will flow from His heart.”‘ Vs. 39 “When He said “Living Water,” He was speaking of the Holy Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in Him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into His glory.” How we need those rivers of living water flowing through us today.
In closing, I want to share the thoughts of Leonard Ravenhill – he was a great man of prayer. The LORD called him home in 1994. He wrote —
“The true man (or woman) of God is heartsick, grieved at the worldliness of the church, grieved at the toleration of sin in the church, grieved at the prayerlessness in the church. He is disturbed that the corporate prayer of the church no longer pulls down the strongholds of the devil.”
I wonder what he would say today when our beloved country has plunged to almost unimaginable depths and the church has become less vigilant?
Dr. Michael L. Brown, says that if we are to see change come to our nation, we must focus on three things.
1. We must give ourselves to focused, fervent, passionate, persistent prayer for revival in the church and for an awakening in society.
2. We must give ourselves to the Great Commission here in the United States of America, winning the lost and making disciples.
3. We must live out our faith without excuse, without compromise, and without hypocrisy.
I believe if we take seriously the series I am sharing, from the book of James, we will have a credible witness and make a difference in our world.
For His glory, Pastor Leonard