Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Skip Heitzig: Why don't we bow and have a word of prayer. Father, once again we remind ourselves that all Scripture is inspired by God and all Scripture, as Paul told us, is profitable. Oh, the profit that there is in understanding the background to New Testament truths that we can take for granted until we read sections of the old covenant, the Old Testament, like we have in Leviticus.
Father, I pray that this would not be simply an exercise in listening, it wouldn't be simply an exercise in speaking, it wouldn't simply be an understanding of things mentally, as much as an entering into them spiritually and practically; that we would have an understanding of your mind and your heart in the giving of these laws, and the institution of these festivals in the calendar year of the children of Israel.
Father, we pray that your Spirit would help our minds to be clear and free from any distractions, any thoughts that don't glorify you. And help us to focus now upon these truths as we bring them up toward the taking of the Lord's Supper, in Jesus' name, amen.
I don't how your conversion was; I don't know what led up to your giving your life to Christ. Everybody has a story, and I always love to hear those testimonial stories. For a lot of people they come to the Lord because of some heartache, some hardship, some trial. Something happened in life that got their attention and gave to them, revealed to them, their need for the Lord; a need that they had, but they didn't know that they had until that event took place.
For some people a death of a family member, or their own personal divorce, or a disease, or whatever it could be that would lead up to that moment that the Lord used to get your attention. Everybody, as I said, has a story.
Now, my story was different. I was young, hadn't suffered a lot. I was eighteen years of age, and I remember going to a high school, secular high school. But one afternoon there was a rally that took place in our gym, and a band—we used to have bands back then that would show up every few months. And sort of as a courtesy the high school would bring the students in, and for an hour in the afternoon we'd get to hear this band play.
Well, on one particular occasion a Christian band came and shared through their music—because the school wouldn't let them speak, but would let them sing—shared their faith through song. And what really grabbed my attention is they were playing my kind of music. It wasn't a bunch of robes and organ music and stuff that I got when I went to church and was bored with, this was actually good music.
I listened to them and I thought—because I was a musician, I thought, "They're singing about Jesus, but they're singing with a musical language that I can understand. I'm really intrigued by this." Not only intrigued, I was attracted because of the joy, the celebration this band seemed to have.
I grew up in a church that was austere and solemn and boring and out of touch, had nothing to do with real life for me. So that moment when I saw that happen, I thought, "I really want to—what kind of religion allows this kind of music, my kind of music to be played and for that message to get out?" So that was the hook for me.
Then when I joined the church that I became a part of, I joined a worship team. And once again, being a guitar player and then a bass player, I was asked to be part of the worship team. I just loved the whole idea of celebratory music to speak about the Lord and to sing about the Lord.
Well, in chapter 23 of Leviticus we have the festivals of the year. Now, when you hear the term "festival," I hope you don't think "boring." Festive comes from festival. There's an element of joy in all of these feasts of Leviticus 23, except for one. There's only one feast in this entire list, and basically what you have in Leviticus 23, this is God's save-the-date campaign.
He says to the children of Israel, "Open up your calendar books and save these dates during your year for these celebrations, these public festivals, these feast days where you will honor me and you will celebrate me, and you will do it with joy." The only one that was more solemn was the Day of Atonement, and we'll explain as we get through that. But even that led to joy once it was all said and done.
Now, when we get to the New Testament there are no "save the dates," there really are no festivals that you and I are commanded to keep as believers, except for one; that is, the Lord's Supper, the one we're going to do tonight. And Jesus didn't even say how often to do it. He just says, "Do it often, and do it in remembrance of me."
Well, how often is often? Some people would say, "Once a month." Some people would say, "Well, that's not often enough; once a week." Some people say, "That's not often enough; every day." Okay, however you want to define "often." Jesus just said, "Do it often." But that's the only festival, feast, date that you and I are told in the New Testament to keep. Now, we do keep others; we keep Christmas, we keep Easter, Good Friday, but there's nothing written in the New Testament that tells us that we are to do that.
Of these feasts that we're going to read about in this chapter, of these seven feasts, three of them were compulsory that if you were male and you lived within a certain distance from Jerusalem , you had to walk up and celebrate it within the environment of Jerusalem. You had to attend the feast at Jerusalem. God wanted to keep his people tethered to that place, to the person, and to these practices that went on in the tabernacle and later on in the temple.
Now, let me give you a little historical note because we're going to get to something that can be confusing. Now, we touched upon this. The children of Israel in their calendar year kept the lunar calendar, the movement of the moon; not the solar calendar, the movement of sun or our relationship to the earth and the sun. They kept the lunar calendar.
The lunar calendar is 354.3 days in a year. So to keep that calendar their months were sometimes twenty-nine days, and sometimes thirty days. The Egyptians had a similar calendar, a lunar calendar, though they divided the months up equally, and six of those twelve months were twenty-nine-day months; six of those months were thirty-day months.
The Mesopotamian calendar is similar, only they have twelve months all of which are thirty days. But all three of those calendars, whether it's Jewish or Egyptian or Mesopotamian/Babylonian, all of them, because it was a lunar year, the twelve months of the lunar year still was not equal to the one solar year. So to make up the difference, which would be, depending on which calendar you used, between five days to eleven days. All three of those people groups added an extra month every few years just to make up the difference between the lunar and the solar year. So just kind of keep that in mind as we go through this, or throw it out of your mind if you wish.
Verse 1, "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: "The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations," ' " convocation means to get together, holy get-togethers, " ' "these are my feasts." ' " Now, the first one on the list is a weekly feast. It's the Sabbath day, and Sabbath speaks of rest. God created on six days of the week, and the seventh day God rested. The Sabbath predates the giving of the law of Moses. Sabbath speaks of rest.
Now, it happened every week, but you really need to go to Israel to appreciate what a cool feast the Sabbath day is. It's not like, "Oh, it's the Sabbath, we gotta go to synagogue." It's not like anything like that. The whole week works its way toward and culminates in the shabbath/shabbat, the Sabbath. So as the week progresses and you get to Friday afternoon, Friday afternoon's the busy time, because you want to get home early because you're going to celebrate the Sabbath.
And you're going to celebrate the Sabbath by dressing up just a little bit nicer, Friday evening meal, than you would Thursday or Wednesday or Tuesday. You're going to just step it up a notch, you're going to look a little nicer, wear some nice perfume or cologne, you're going to smell good, you're going to look good.
Sometimes a gift will be given by the head of the family to the family members or to the wife. Typically the husband every Friday afternoon buys flowers for his wife for the Sabbath. So the whole week moves toward the culmination of the family gathering together in their home before the Lord. It's a beautiful celebration; God at the center of the home.
" ' "Six days," ' " verse 3, " ' "work shall be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings." ' " The Sabbath was a gift that God gave to people to recharge their batteries. God loves us and as a gift, it is a gift where we just take a day and we chill, we relax, we hang.
To this day that is the week in Israel. It's not a five-day workweek, it's a six-day workweek with one day off. But I gotta tell you, because there's one day off, they take the day off. We have two days off, sort of. I mean do you really—a lot of you don't even take those days: "Oh, well, it's just Saturday, I can get some extra work done." Sunday there's stuff to do around the house.
Sabbath was a day where you totally chill, because they saw it as God's gift. Jesus said Sabbath was made for man as a gift of God. The problem is when we get to the New Testament. I say it's a problem because as you read through the New Testament you go, "Boy, this doesn't sound very restful to me." In fact, by the New Testament times there were thirty-nine different activities on a list that you were prohibited from doing. So you're always like walking on egg shells: "Oh, did I do that activity? Did I do this activity?"
There's even a section of the Jewish writing called the Talmud where twenty-four chapters are devoted to Sabbath laws. Twenty-four long chapters about what you can and cannot do on the Sabbath. For example, there's a section on the prohibition to bear a burden or lift something on the Sabbath, and endless discussions are in the Talmud about what that exactly means.
Can a woman wear a brooch as a decoration on her dress on the Sabbath? If you can't bear a burden, can you lift a lamp from one room to another to be able to see on the Sabbath? If your child is in danger and needs to be held, are you breaking the Sabbath law if you pick your child up, you're bearing a burden?
All the way down to: is it legal or illegal to wear artificial teeth on the Sabbath? [laughter] I didn't know they had artificial teeth back then, but evidently they had dentures. So what if you put them in on the Sabbath day? You're carrying extra weight; it could be constituted as burying a burden. So can you see keeping the Sabbath was hard work? After the Sabbath you needed to take a vacation just to rest from the Sabbath.
And that's why Jesus said as he was collecting grain with his disciples in the grain fields (Mark, chapter 2) on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees popped up and said, "That's illegal." Jesus said, "Sabbath was made for man. Man wasn't made for the Sabbath." And then he said, "The Son of Man," that's himself, "is the Lord of the Sabbath." Meaning I, Jesus, the Messiah, God's Son, can abrogate Old Testament law because I, Jesus, the Messiah, am the Lord even of the Sabbath.
Something else you should note: Sunday is not the Sabbath, and don't call it the "Christian Sabbath." It is not the Christian Sabbath, it's the first day of the week. The Sabbath is the end of the week; Sunday is the beginning of the week.
The reason that Christians celebrate Sunday, the first day of the week, is because, number one, it was a first day of the week on Pentecost on which the church began, and it was the first day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead. That's why the early church began meeting—not on the Sabbath, but began meeting on the first day of the week, on Sunday. It's a day of new beginnings.
Now honestly, frankly, I believe the New Testament teaches days don't matter, and that Christians aren't compelled to keep the Sabbath simply because first and foremost it was part of the covenant God gave to the Jewish nation. I'm under the new covenant, and Paul in Romans 14 says, "One man will esteem one day of the week over all the other days, another man will esteem a different day over all the other days. Let each one be persuaded in his own mind."
Now in my own mind I am persuaded that Jesus and that his Father—that my God is to be worshiped on Sunday, and on Monday, and on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, every single day of the week. [applause]
So though we gather on Sunday, you know, we also gather on Saturday. If you are more hung up on the Sabbath, I invite you to our Saturday night service. If your tradition says Sunday's the day to worship, I invite you to our Sunday service. If it doesn't matter to you which day you worship, I invite you to our Wednesday service [laughter] or any of the other services we have with different groups throughout the week and in homes throughout the city.
Well, I better hurry up. Verse 4 is the Passover. The Sabbath speaks of rest, the Passover speaks of redemption. That was when the children of Israel were delivered by that mighty hand of God from the Egyptian bondage.
Verse 4, " ' "These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. On the fourteenth day of the first month," ' " the first month being the month of Abib, later it was changed to the name Nisan. Not the car manufacturer, the Jewish month: Abib and Nisan, same difference. " ' "On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight," ' " twilight is the glowing light when the sun goes beyond the horizon, " ' "it is the Lord's Passover." ' "
Now, Passover has already been described. It's the event that takes place in Exodus, chapter 12. It was the last plague in Egypt, the death of the Egyptian firstborn when the children of Israel were told to smatter the blood of the lamb on the lintels and doorposts of their homes. Not only did they sprinkle the blood on the lintels and doorposts, but later on in commemoration of that they took a lamb and they roasted the lamb, and they sat for a wonderful meal called the seder.
If you are writing notes: S-E-D-E-R. Seder means order, because the meal has a very stringent order to it. A very exacting order of what to say, and what to do, and there's four glasses of wine, and the breaking of the matzah, and it was a family event. It was fun for kids, because the kids before the Passover got to go through the house and look for leaven, and then they could dispense of the leaven.
And then during the feast the children ask a question: "What makes this night different from all other nights?" And that question gave the abba, the father, the chance to answer the question of how our forefathers were in bondage and then God delivered us.
Now Passover played two roles, a commemorative role and a predictive role. It commemorated past deliverance from Egypt, it predicted a future deliverance of Jesus our Messiah, the Lamb of God, dying on the cross. It is the one feast of all of the yearly feasts that our communion is tied to, the Passover.
It was on Passover that Jesus took the elements of the bread and the wine, the fruit of the vine, and said, "Do this, take this, eat this, drink this—often. Do it in remembrance of me." That doesn't mean that every time we gather for communion we need to have a seder feast, but that wouldn't be bad, it would be okay to do that.
If you want to have an elaborate Passover meal, you could do that once a month, you could do it often. Or it could be as simple as what we're going to have here tonight. It is commemorative, it's looking back to the cross, but it's also predictive for us. Paul said, "Every time you take communion, you are showing the Lord's death until he comes." You're looking forward to his return, his reign. So it's commemorative, and it's also predictive. And what was true for the children of Israel thousands of years ago in principle is still true for us today.
If you remember back to when the children of Israel were in Egypt, God said, now if you don't take the blood of the lamb and put it on the lintels and doorposts, what's going to happen to you? Your firstborn are going to die. So either you will let a lamb die in your place and display the blood in that form (lintels and doorposts, the form of a cross on your dwelling). Either you will let the lamb die in your place or you will die, you choose.
The lamb became a sacrifice, atonement for them. The same is true for us; either you let the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world die in your place and my place, or we will die an eternal death of separation from God; it's one or the other. It's the same principle, it hasn't changed.
Verse 6, "'"And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread." '" So he gives us the rules for the Sabbath, mark this date; Passover, mark that date; and now a third feast, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Actually, it's a second feast. Sabbath isn't really a feast, it's a weekly celebration.
Sabbath speaks of rest; Passover speaks of redemption; unleavened bread, I believe, speaks of recuperation. Now follow me here. The reason for the unleavened bread was because the children of Israel had to leave Egypt in a hurry with haste. They didn't have time to let the dough cause the bread to rise. They didn't have time to bake leavened bread, so they had to bake bread with just no leaven, just flat cake, flatbread. And it became known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Verse 7, " ' "On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; for you shall do no customary work on it." ' "
Okay, so this feast is a seven-day feast marked by the beginning—or the beginning of the feast is marked by the Passover. The Passover day begins the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Now, because this is true, we find both of these lumped together and sometimes indistinguishable in the Scripture.
Sometimes Passover is simply called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And sometimes when you just say "the Passover" it includes the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread because Passover began a seven-day feast that ended on the twenty-first day of the first month. So this is often used interchangeably even in the New Testament.
It commemorated Israel having to leave Egypt in a hurry, and all the hardship that came along with that rapid departure. As I said, they didn't have time to let their bread rise, so this was the Feast of Flatbread you might say, the Cracker Feast. Have you ever had matzah bread? Its crackers, it's unsalted flat crackers, and that's unleavened bread.
I believe that this feast is a picture of the recuperation and restoration that comes as a follower of Christ. We get redeemed, but then he works on us immediately to restore us, to bring us into rest and recuperation. We don't have to live our lives in haste and hurry and running to and fro. He's building us up; he's growing us up. And it's a symbol of removing bad things like hatred and wickedness, and instilling good things. It's part of the sanctification process.
At least that's how Paul uses that analogy in the New Testament. Listen to this Scripture; this is 1 Corinthians 5 verse 8, speaking of this festival: "So let us not celebrate the festival, let us celebrate the festival, pardon me, not by eating old bread of wickedness and evil, but by eating the new bread of purity and truth." Speaks of restoration, recuperation, sanctification.
Just as there was no gap between Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, there is no gap between your being redeemed by Christ and him sanctifying you. The moment you're saved he starts working on you. As soon as Jesus catches his fish, he starts cleaning them, and that is this feast.
The next feast is the Feast of Firstfruits. Verse 9, this speaks of representation. "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: "When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest." ' " Now, he's telling them this when they're in the desert, but this is a feast they will celebrate once they get into the new land, the land of Canaan.
" ' "He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it." ' " This was the beginning of the barley harvest in the early spring. And they would take a portion, the first portion, the firstfruits, the first of the produce of the barley harvest, and they would wave it before the Lord.
It was a representation that more was to follow. We're taking this, we're dedicating it all to God. But also, we're taking this with the trust and with the belief that there's going to be abundance and a plentiful harvest. So it was to them an act of faith.
I lived on a farm, on a kibbutz in Israel, and I saw this festival firsthand. I was in my early twenties, and I remember how they would dress up in kind of costume, like ancient costume. And these young ladies would have baskets of fruit, and the young men would join them, and they would do these dances on the farms.
Because I was in an agricultural setting it was so meaningful, this Festival of Firstfruits and the songs and the dancing and the celebration, once again, joy. It was not austere; it was not boring. You know, there wasn't somebody playing an organ in the background and people just sort of blah, it was, like, singing and exuberant and clapping and dancing, and it was a representation that more was to follow. And that struck me, I thought, "Look at how they're worshiping during this festival."
"' "He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf," ' " verse 11, " ' "on the day after the Sabbath the priest will wave it." '" Now this, this Feast of Firstfruits speaks of representation. But, but let me give it to you in another way, it's the representation of resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15 speaking of Jesus' resurrection, he calls that, Paul calls Jesus' resurrection the "firstfruits." He's using this analogy. He's going back in his mind to the Festival of Firstfruits.
I'll quote it to you, 1 Corinthians 15 verse 20, "Now Christ has risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep," or died. What that means is the resurrection of Jesus Christ requires our resurrection. How do we know that we're going to rise from the dead, that our bodies are going to be reconstituted, and given new life, and live forever? Because it happened with Jesus; He died, was buried, and he rose from the dead, and Paul says that's the firstfruits.
That's the beginning of the barley harvest. If you have the firstfruits, you know the harvest is going to come. If Jesus rose from the dead, his body that's alive is the guarantee that your body will rise from the grave, that's the firstfruits. And then beginning in verse 12 it talks about how that's to be celebrated and what sacrifices that's to be celebrated with.
I take you to verse 15 at this point. The next feast is mentioned, the Feast of Pentecost. What does Pentecost mean? It means fifty. Its fifty days after Passover.
" ' "And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord." ' "
Pentecost, also known as shabua/Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks was a festival of recognition. I've gotten the firstfruits, I collected the firstfruits of the barley harvest. Pentecost is the last part of the wheat harvest. So now it's a recognition that God has abundantly blessed through the late spring into the early summer, and that's what Pentecost was all about.
According to Jewish tradition, and it is just tradition, Moses received the Law from God on Mount Sinai on this day of the year even before the feast was celebrated. On this particular day of the year is when Moses received the Law from God on Mount Sinai. Because of that tradition to this day orthodox Jews don't sleep the entire twenty-four hours of this feast. And the reason they don't is they spend the time awake discussing the Torah, some praying over the Torah, discussing and memorizing certain portions of it.
And the reason they do that is based on another tradition that said the night before Moses received the Torah on Mount Sinai the children of Israel were asleep. And once Moses got the Law, he had to wake them up. So to symbolize that they're vigilant and not going to sleep, the observant Jew will stay awake the entire time.
Verse 17, "'"You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; and baked with leaven." ' " So you're going to bake bread this time with leaven. " ' "They are the firstfruits to the Lord." ' " It's interesting when you come to the New Testament book of Acts, chapter 2, that you see the church was birthed on the day of Pentecost.
Jesus rose from the dead, he hung around for forty days ministering to his disciples, he ascended into heaven, the disciples met in the upper room and prayed for about ten days, and then Pentecost came. As they were gathered together the Holy Spirit came upon the church, and that was the day the church was born. That's significant especially because we now have two loaves of bread in the ancient feast, and the commandment is you bake them with leaven.
Two, not one; I believe the two loaves of bread are symbolic of Jew and Gentile being brought together into one group known as the church. There's no difference between Jew, Gentile, male, female, Scythian, bond, or free; we're all one in Christ. So the two loaves with leaven, a symbol of the Jew and the Gentile, salvation going out now to all of the world.
Now we have something interesting in this chapter. About four months pass before the next feast. So the Sabbath is given, you do that every week. There's Passover, etcetera, etcetera, all these feasts until Pentecost. Those are the spring feasts of the year. Then there's a whole gap where nothing takes place for four months until the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. In the seventh month you now have three more feasts that are offered.
It's my belief and it's the belief of many conservative scholars that this long gap, just as the church was birthed on Pentecost, that the long gap between the feasts is a picture of the church age when God is reaching out to Gentiles and saving Gentiles. Israel has rejected her Lamb, she has lost her temple, she has lost her altar, she has lost the priesthood, she has lost her king.
And that's why I'm glad the chapter doesn't end, because you would say, "What of the future of Israel?" And that was the question Paul asked, "Has God forsaken Israel? Does God not have any more plans for Israel? God forbid." So we have to read through the rest of the feasts to get the whole program to find out what happens.
So again, verse 18 and the subsequent verses more details about this feast are given. Verse 23 introduces us to the Feast of Trumpets. Now we're in the seventh month, and in the seventh month, as I mentioned, there are three more feasts.
Have you noticed so far an emphasis on the number seven? The seventh day is important. The seventh week is important. You count seven Sabbaths and then one day; God said that's Pentecost and now the seventh month. And then pretty soon when we get to Daniel, chapter 9, we'll see that periods of seven years become important. But this idea of seven, and we'll try to expand more on that later, becomes very important in Scripture.
Now in the Feast of Trumpets beginning in verse 23, it's the feast that speaks of a reminder to them, a reminder; a reminder that something in ten days from now—I'm going to announce it by blowing a trumpet. A certain call of a trumpet announces to you, reminds you that something very, very important and solemn happens in ten days.
You know, if you have a phone or even your computer, if you write it in your calendar book it will tell you fifteen minutes in advance, or an hour in advance before you have a schedule. Well here is God announcing to them ten days in advance that another festival is coming up. He does that by a festival. God likes to party. [laughter] This is the Festival of Trumpets or the blowing of the trumpets.
Verse 23, "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, saying: "In the seventh month, on first day of the month, you shall have a Sabbath-rest, a memorial blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer on offering made by fire to the Lord." ' "
We won't get to the book of Numbers for a while, but when we do, you notice something. In chapter 10 we're told that every month the beginning of the month is introduced to the people by the blowing of two silver trumpets. Every month, twelve times a year, or thirteen times a year depending on what calendar year it happens to be in Judaism. The blowing of two silver trumpets signifies the new month.
Now we have on the seventh month, the blowing of the trumpet. Not the two silver trumpets, but the shofar, the ram's horn, which is the indication that in ten days the Day of Atonement is coming. So it's a reminder to them, a feast of reminding them "get ready for the Day of Atonement."
The ten days from the Feast of Trumpets to the Day of Atonement are known in Hebrew as Yamim Nora'im. Can you say Yamim Nora'im? That's pretty good. And it means "days of awe," or "days of repentance." Get ready by holy contemplation. Get ready for the day when your sins will be atoned for by that scapegoat running out in the wilderness, and by that other sacrifice that will take place in the tabernacle and later on in the temple. That's the preparation for it. So this begins the calendar of the High Holy Days of Judaism in the seventh month.
Now I'm going to throw another wrench, if you don't mind, into the calendar for you. I just told you all about the lunar and solar calendar. According to Exodus, God said the first month of the year to you shall be the month of Abib or Nisan during the Passover, right? It's the first month of their year. When they come back from captivity, the first day of the seventh month, this that we're dealing with, called in Hebrew Tishri, they start celebrating Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah means new year.
So God says the very first month when Passover is celebrated, the month of Abib or Nisan, that's the first year, first month. But when they come back from captivity they started celebrating the feast of New Year's in the first day of the seventh month, Rosh Hashanah. So we now have two calendars in Judaism. One is a religious calendar that begins in Abib/Nisan, the other is the civil calendar that starts in the seventh month calendar Tishri, our September or October.
Make sense? You're going, "Not really. This is very confusing." Well, we have the equivalent in our culture. When's our New Year's? January 1 is New Year's. That's the beginning of our year, but that's not the beginning of the school year. The school year begins in September, well, that was when I was a kid. Now it's what, July, May? I don't know, they keep moving it back. It's a whole different way of reckoning time—the school year.
And many businesses have what they call the fiscal year. They keep time differently on different sets of calendar, different sets of books. It's the same way with the children of Israel is they have the religious calendar and they have the civic calendar. The blowing of the trumpet, get ready. Get ready and recognize what is coming up; a reminder to them.
Something else, in Isaiah, chapter 27 he makes a prediction that God will gather in the future the children of Israel together in their land by the blowing of the trumpet, a regathering. Ezekiel gives us more information that Israel will be gathered and restored to their land, and then to their Lord; geographically in Israel, and then spiritually to their Lord. They will be gathered in unbelief, but at some point they will be gathered to the Lord in belief, in faith that God will do a work with the Jews in the last days in their own land.
Something else that you and I are familiar with, the church will be taken up into heaven by the blowing of a trumpet. First Thessalonians, chapter 4, ". . . the trump of God and we who remain and alive will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord."
Now when the church is raptured in the air, I believe, my view, my reading of eschatology, you may or may not agree, that's okay. Sort of, but [laughter] when we're taken up in the air, that begins what is referred to by Daniel as the seventieth week of Daniel. A seven-year period where God is going to deal with the world, but also he's going to deal with his people, the Jewish nation, to recover them, to restore them back to covenant relationship where they trust in Jesus as the Messiah.
And I'll refer to that in a few verses in the next feast which is in verse 26, the Day of Atonement that which the Feast of Trumpets reminded them was coming. Now the Day of Atonement speaks about repentance. Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement; kippur means "covering"; yom is "the day." It's the day of covering, the day when sins are covered. So these are days of repentance. We've already talked about this in chapter 16, but he's saying, "Save the date."
Verse 26, "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be a Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you.' " Now this is the only time this phrase is used is in relation to this feast. " 'You shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.' "
The question remains and has been debated: What does this mean, "You shall afflict your souls"? Other translations translate from the Hebrew into English, "You shall deny yourself." You shall deny yourself. Because the Jews to this day take the Day of Yom Kippur and they fast, they don't eat food on that day; it is believed that the idea to afflict one's soul, one's person, is to deny one's self of food. That was the intent still believed among Jews to this day.
Verse 28, " 'You shall do no work on that same day, it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people.' " It says anybody who does work will be destroyed from his people, and then more stipulations are given, and then we have verse 33, the Feast of Tabernacles.
I mentioned that this was the only really solemn feast or austere feast where you contemplate, and you afflict your souls, and you mourn, and the idea is repentance. So these, this is a time of fasting, not feasting. But though it's a time of fasting, not feasting, at the end of this is a time of feasting, not fasting.
Because one goat was killed in the tabernacle, another goat was led out into the wilderness, you remember, called the scapegoat. And as long as that one priest could see him he would just keep looking at it and keep looking at it until it disappeared from his sight, symbolic that your sins have been taken away and removed. Then that priest would signal to a priest on another lookout, you know, it's gone. And then to another priest on another lookout, all the way back to the temple in Jerusalem from that wilderness point in the desert.
And when they got the news in the temple that the scapegoat had, well, escaped, then there was great celebration in the temple, singing and dancing. They went from fasting now to feasting, especially since in a few days another festival will take place that, again, is a day of great joy that God commands.
The Day of Atonement was a day of mourning. I believe this will be fulfilled for Israel in the tribulation period, in that seven year period, the seventieth week of Daniel. They're gathered in their land now since 1948. They have been returned and restored to the land, but not totally to the Lord. But they will be because the Bible says like on the Day of Atonement when they mourned, it says, "They will look upon him whom they have pierced. And they will mourn over Him or for Him as one mourns for his own son." There will be a time in the future of recognition: "This is our Messiah."
Verse 33 begins the Feast of Tabernacles. This is a feast of relocation, that's what I call it. They have been provided for and protected in the wilderness for forty years, and that's what this really is all about: "God you kept us as we relocated from Egypt to Canaan." It's the festival of relocation.
"Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel: "The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles,' " ' or booths, if you like, "'"for seven days to the Lord. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work in it." ' "
Verse 39, "'"On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a Sabbath-rest, on the eighth day a Sabbath-rest. And you shall take for yourselves," ' " get this, " ' "on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees." ' "
I've always said that was God's favorite tree, the palm tree. Well, maybe not, at least it's my favorite tree. " ' "The boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate in in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths." ' "
The Hebrew word for booths or tabernacles is the word "sukkot/sukkah." So you will often hear the "Feast of Sukkot/Sukkah," just like for Pentecost the feast of shabua or weeks. Now you have the Feast of Booths, sukkot/sukkah, tabernacles.
And this is a cool feast. Listen, if I'm a kid and I know that for a whole week my going to church means I'm camping out, I want to go to that church. They're having service outdoors for a whole week? And that's really what it was. All of the families would build a little lean-to with just little leafy branches.
And to if you go to Israel today, all over you see people on the rooftops of flat houses or flat buildings or in courtyards or corridors or even streets, these little booths, and they will live in them. They'll have their meals, but at night they go out and they sleep in them.
They're camping out for a week to remind them that while the children of Israel marched through the desert for forty years and they were living outside, camping out, that God gave them everything they needed, protected them, provided for them. So imagine the impact of this kind of a celebration for the kids. It's the camping week. I guess if this were modern times it would be the "Jerusalem Camping and RV Convention" as the week everybody camps out.
This is an important feast when we get to the book of John, chapter 7, because in that chapter the children of Israel, the Jews are celebrating this feast in Jerusalem, and Jesus happens to be at the Feast of Tabernacle in the temple. And it says something interesting, it says, "On the last great day of the feast, Jesus stood in the temple, and said, 'If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink. "For out of his innermost being," as the Scripture says, "shall flow rivers of living water." ' "
According to history we know that that seven-day feast that took place in Jerusalem culminated on the last day, the eighth day. That was the day that the priest took a pitcher of water from the pool of Siloam and marched upward the hill, back up to the temple, walked up the steps of the altar, and poured water at the base of the altar. And when he poured the water, which was symbolic of water coming from the rock in the wilderness, God took care of our forefathers by giving them water out of the rock.
As the water was being poured, the children of Israel in unison quoted saying, a Scripture, from Isaiah 12. The Scripture was this: "With joy you will draw waters from the wells of salvation." On the eighth day of the feast the priest did that twice. And on that last time that he poured the water out and the people in unison: "With joy you will draw waters from the wells of salvation."
Then there was a hush that would fall as the priest would continue pouring. It was, I believe, at the very moment when there was that hush that Jesus stood up and said if and he "cried out" the Bible says. It was a deep, loud, guttural scream to command the attention of everybody, thousands of people in the temple courts. Can you imagine the drama? They're doing their thing and they're celebrating and then Jesus shouts, "If any man thirst . . ." And everybody goes , "Who said that? Oh, it's that guy from Nazareth."
"If any man thirst let him come to me and drink," you see, they're celebrating the fact that their forefathers' thirst was quenched. "I am the source of that quenching. I can satisfy your deepest thirst." A very, very significant—that set the wheels in motion for the leadership of Jerusalem to want to get Jesus crucified.
What does this feast have to do with the future? I believe the fulfillment of this feast on the prophetic timetable is the millennium. The literal thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ from Israel with his capital headquarters at Jerusalem. According to Zechariah, chapter 14, this is the one feast that we're going to celebrate during the thousand years reigning with Christ upon the earth. It says those that remain from all of the nations will go up to Jerusalem every single year, Zechariah 14 tells us, and will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.
So Israel, many of them saved, trusting in the Lord during that thousand year period, dwelling securely for a thousand years fulfills and completes the prophetic progression of the feast.
Verse 44, "So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord." That's the chapter, but I want to just begin where or end where we began. Verse 40, notice the wording, "You shall take for yourselves on the first day, beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, willows of the brook; and you shall," what? "You shall rejoice."
The way that's worded it sounds like God is giving them a command. "When you come before me on this party, I want you happy. I want you to rejoice. You're celebrating me. You save the date. And when you celebrate me, you celebrate it with joy 'before the Lord your God for seven days.' "
Listen, I know that we all go through hardships, and heartaches, problems, and deep stuff in our lives. I know we all do that, and all that's true; it could be true when we come to church on Wednesday or on Saturday or on Sunday. But that's the time where we deliberately say, "Lord, no matter what I'm going through, or no matter how I feel, you are worth me celebrating you."
You know, to be around some church people it's like witnessing an autopsy. [laughter] It's just like, oh, goodness. Whatever you have—yet, if you don't witness that's okay with me, don't spread that around. Where's the joy? Going to church for a lot of people is something they have to do, it's an obligation.
Eighteen times, eighteen times I counted in the book of Psalms this commandment: "Make a joyful shout to the Lord," a joyful shout. Can you get into that? [cheering] So listen, when you come for worship, none of this [folds arms and frowns] [laughter]:"Don't like this song. It's too loud. It's not loud enough. It's too this, it's too that." Make a joyful shout. "You shall rejoice before the Lord."
Charles Spurgeon said something that I wrote down. I've tried to commit it to memory, but I try to commit so many things to memory that I make Wesley saying what I thought Spurgeon said, so I'm just going to read it to you. [laughter] "Our happy God should be worshiped by a happy people. A cheerful people is in keeping with God's nature."
You know what I notice about bars? You go to a bar, they have a thing called "happy hour." Oh, so they can be happy, but we can't. Let's call it "sad hour." Let's call it "austere hour." Let's call it "boring hour." [laughter]
I think the church, this should be happy hour. Our happy God should be worshiped by a happy people. [applause] And that's why we want to express that in, in our worship. So you don't get to watch worship, you get and I get to participate in worship and make a joyful noise, make a joyful shout.
Well, we have a celebration, the Passover fulfilled in Jesus. That Jesus said, "Do this and take this, and when you do it, do it in remembrance of me." He gave us the bread, the wafer, broke it and said, "This signifies my body broken for you."
The vine, the vine the fruit of the vine, the wine in Jesus' day. We have grape juice simply because some people get hung up if you have wine on communion. There's whole debates, believe it or not. Christians fight over the stupidest things, that's one of them. So to make it okay, we have grape juice, which is technically the fruit of the vine; and bread, symbolic though, of the broken body and the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It ties us to the Passover. It has us look backward and it has us look forward. It's commemorative, it's celebrative, and it's predictive. And so we want to conclude this time together before we close in a song of worship by taking these elements together. And I'm going to ask two of my pastors to come up and do that. Kerry Rose and Neil Ortiz are going to lead us in taking these elements together.
Kerry Rose: Father, we do thank you so much for this time of remembering your plan, your purpose, and how you fulfilled it through your Son. As I was listening to my pastor, I was just thinking in the Psalms it says the water did come from the rock, and then there's a phrase that David uses that says we get to drink from the rivers of your pleasure.
I pray, Father, as we remember how your Son was broken so that we might drink from the rivers of your pleasure that we'd quietly confess to you anything that would keep us from taking that drink. We love you and we thank you so much for this time. Please take the bread.
Neil Ortiz: Why don't we peel the next layer of our cup and join me in prayer please.
Father, we do want to thank you so much. This is a celebration; this is a celebratory meal. And, Lord, it's a meal that yet again we come to with unspeakable awe. We thank you so much that we get to partake of this meal in a very personal way. Father, as we in a moment will, will take in this juice, will imbibe this fruit of the vine, our minds can't help but go to the fact that you gave your life that we might live.
And as often as comes to my mind at this time of how easy it is for me to be distracted by trying to make my life something that isn't worth living, by pursuing things that are not worthy of your death and resurrection. You led from the front by giving your life for me and choosing to relinquish every, every earthly pleasure, your very life that we might live.
Thank you that by what Paul tells us regarding this ministry of reconciliation, we have the joy of no longer being regarded or regarding one another according to the flesh, that if any man be in Christ we are a new creation, and that, Lord, you are in the world reconciling the world to yourself and have thus given us the ministry of reconciliation.
So, Lord, as we drink may we not only rejoice and thank you for this meal and what it means to us, but as we emerge from this time of communion in a few moments may we then look at one another, not regarding each other according to the flesh, but rejoicing that the foot of the cross, it's the great equalizer. That we are all satisfied beggars because we take of this meal together and we do it with great joy in the name of our wonderful Rescuer and Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. It's to you we drink, Lord. Let's drink. Amen.