Sunday, April 1, 2012

the feasts of Israel: Scripture’s theme parties

The Word for today:
Numbers 33-35

mark this:
These you shall present to the Lord at your appointed feasts (besides your vowed offerings and your freewill offerings) as your burnt offerings and your grain offerings, as your drink offerings and your peace offerings. (Numbers 29:39)

I think I’m Jewish.

I don’t know how this notion entered the thicket that is my brain, but I think I am. It’s really just a feeling with no basis in fact. (As far as I know, not a single one of my ancestors was Jewish or even married to a Jew.)

But I still think, somehow, that I’m connected to the Jew. It may be my admiration for them—their race is loaded with seminal geniuses in science, music, literature, architecture, you name it. Or it may be that I identify with their rejection and their oppression and their history of national homelessness. (I’m probably not supposed to say this, but it’s been a long time since I’ve felt at home in my country and lately I feel more estranged by the day. I used to love her but she left me.)

Or it might just be the gratitude and indebtedness I feel toward them because out of their midst came Jesus, who is the only real difference-maker that I have ever known.

I even went so far as to inquire, informally, about the possibility. I was at a conference once, and went to a presentation by a messianic Jew (a Jew born again through faith in Jesus the Christ.) After his presentation, he was hawking his books out in the hall. So I waited until everyone else had drifted away. Then, glancing furtively around the room, I asked him, in a low voice, “Is it possible to—“

“--Be a Jew and not really know it?”

He’d finished my question for me! Then he continued, “I get that question a lot. What makes you ask?”

“I don’t know…a feeling, an affinity for them.”

“What’s your name?”

“’Pfeil’ -- it’s German.”

“I know—‘Arrow.’ (That’s what pfeil means in German. I was totally impressed!) That name could be Jewish, but who’s to know? Your affinity is understandable. You identify with Jesus like he identified with us. And furthermore, you identify with the authors of your Bible, who were almost all Jews. So you adopted them, as it were, into your family—and in a reverse way that makes you Jewish!”

Then he told me something I shall never forget. “If you want to honor the Jew, to act on your affinity for them, then incorporate some of their traditions into your Christianity.”


“Tell me about the Tabernacle.”

I did, and now it was his turn to be impressed. (He didn’t know, yet, that I was a Sunday School teacher who thinks the tabernacle is the foremost teaching method of God, outside of the cross itself.)

“Well done! Now tell me about the geographical progression of Israel from Exodus through Joshua.” So I did.

“I commend you!” he enthused. I was on a roll.

“Now tell me how the feasts reveal God’s plan for both Israel and the church.”

“The feasts? I’m, uhh, not as well-versed in those.” My roll was over.

He guessed that I was a Bible teacher, and told me that we honor the scripture when we teach the elements of the Old Testament and practice them.

“Practice them?”

“Sure. Celebrate the feasts.”

“Can Christians even do that?”

“Certainly. The Jew had to, but the Christian can choose to.”


I’ve never progressed beyond the teaching of the feasts, but as I’ve taught them, I’ve begun to understand how powerful it would be for the church to practice them!

Just as my messianic acquaintance said, while it is not required for Christians to celebrate the Jewish feast days, it is beneficial to study them. Certainly it could be beneficial to celebrate these days if it leads us to a greater understanding and appreciation for Christ’s death and resurrection and the future promise of His coming. As Christians, if we choose to celebrate these special days, we should put Christ in the center of the celebration, as the One who came to fulfill the prophetic significance of each of them.

The feasts are prophetic—revealing the future. The yearly cycle of feasts is an abridgement of God’s plan for the ages.

They are messianic—revealing Jesus. Their deepest fulfillment is found in Christ.

They are eschatological—revealing the end times. Three of the seven feasts have yet to be prophetically fulfilled.

And they are meant to be (with the exception of the Day of Atonement) both reflective and festive, all at once. So, cheers!


Over time, you will become more and more cognizant of how the feasts reflect the overall Story of Scripture. Toward that end, we leave you with these brief summaries (1) that will get you started—

1) “Passover” (Leviticus 23:5) – Pointed to the Messiah as our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) whose blood would be shed for our sins. Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation for the Passover at the same hour that the lambs were being slaughtered for the Passover meal that evening.

2) “Unleavened Bread” (Leviticus 23:6) – Pointed to the Messiah's sinless life (as leaven is a picture of sin in the Bible), making Him the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Jesus' body was in the grave during the first days of this feast, like a kernel of wheat planted and waiting to burst forth as the bread of life.

3) “First Fruits” (Leviticus 23:10) – Pointed to the Messiah's resurrection as the first fruits of the righteous. Jesus was resurrected on this very day, which is one of the reasons that Paul refers to him in I Corinthians 15:20 as the "first fruits from the dead."

4) “Weeks” or “Pentecost” (Leviticus 23:16) – Occurred fifty days after the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and pointed to the great harvest of souls and the gift of the Holy Spirit for both Jew and Gentile, who would be brought into the kingdom of God during the Church Age (see Acts 2). The Church was actually established on this day when God poured out His Holy Spirit and 3,000 Jews responded to Peter's great sermon and his first proclamation of the Gospel.

5) “Trumpets” (Leviticus 23:24) – The first of the fall feasts. Many believe this day points to the Rapture of the Church when the Messiah Jesus will appear in the heavens as He comes for His bride, the Church. The Rapture is always associated in Scripture with the blowing of a loud trumpet (I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and I Corinthians 15:52).

6) “Day of Atonement” (Leviticus 23:27) – Many believe this prophetically points to the day of the Second Coming of Jesus when He will return to earth. That will be the Day of Atonement for the Jewish remnant when they "look upon Him whom they have pierced," repent of their sins, and receive Him as their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10 and Romans 11:1-6, 25-36).

7) “Tabernacles” or “Booths” (Leviticus 23:34) – Many scholars believe that this feast day points to the Lord's promise that He will once again “tabernacle” with His people when He returns to reign over all the world (Micah 4:1-7).

(1) The summaries are reprinted from

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