February 17, 2022
Now on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, "Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?" (Matthew 26:17)
There are 7 Jewish festivals (feasts) ordained by God in Leviticus 23. They include: (1) Passover, (2) Unleavened Bread, (3) Firstfruits, (4) Weeks, (5) Trumpets, (6) Day of Atonement, and (7) Tabernacles. While instructions for keeping these festivals are outlined in Leviticus 23, they are mentioned throughout Scripture. These are referred to as ‘appointed times’, ‘holy convocations’, and ‘holy days’. They were ordained by God to be kept in honor of His name. They are important not only to Israel, but also to the overall message of the Bible. At the beginning of the New Testament, 2 additional festivals were added to Jewish life to make a total of 9 such festivals. The 2 additional festivals include: (8) Purim and (9) Dedication.
The Jewish feasts are closely related to Israel’s spring and fall harvests and agricultural seasons. They were given to remind the Israelites of God’s continued power, protection, and provision each year. A visual representation symbolizing these festivals is seen in the Golden Menorah or Lampstand that was situated in the Holy Place of the Temple.
The Menorah is an ancient candelabra that has 7 or 9 ‘branches’ protruding from a central stem. Each branch bends upward in the shape of half a ‘U’ and has a lamp at the tip. The 7 branch Menorah represents the 7 Jewish festivals ordained by God in Leviticus 23. The 9 branch Menorah represents the 9 Jewish festivals observed by Jews today.
Each festival often began and ended with a ‘Sabbath rest’. The Jews were commanded not to do any customary work on those days. Both the normal weekly Sabbath (sundown Friday through sundown Saturday) and the special Sabbaths that were to be observed as part of the Jewish feasts point to the ultimate Sabbath rest, which is found only in Jesus Christ. It is a rest that Christians experience through faith in His finished work of salvation upon the cross.
Each Old Testament festival is a foreshadowing of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Not only did they play significant roles in Jesus’ earthly ministry, but they also symbolize the complete redemptive story of Christ, beginning with His death on the cross as the Passover Lamb and ending with His second coming after which He will ‘tabernacle’ or live with His people forever.
While the Christian church is not under Mosaic Law and therefore has no obligation to observe any of the Old Testament feasts (Colossians 2:16), we should understand their significance and importance for a clearer understanding of the theology and culture of the Hebrew people. Over the next several days we will examine each festival.
“Father, thank You for these reminders of Your overall plan of salvation provided through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Such reminders cause us to truly celebrate Your power, protection, and provision for us. Amen.”