The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.
(Leviticus 23:1-2 ESV)
I want to introduce my Christian brothers and sisters to the Feast Days, other wise known as the LORD’s appointed feasts. Many Christians think of the appointed times as strictly Jewish. But God didn’t refer to these are Jewish festivals, he says they are “my appointed feasts.” Yes, it is true he was speaking to Israel specifically in Leviticus 23, but God is the God of the Gentiles as well as the Jews (Romans 3:29)
And yes it is true that there was no Apostolic decree for Gentiles to observe the appointed times, but they didn’t restrict them either. They were silent on the matter. Why? Because it was presumed that Gentiles would naturally begin to observe the LORD’s appointed times after they began to worship the God of Israel. It was a divine invitation.
The goal of this post is to introduce you to the appointed times of the LORD. You may be familiar with some of the festivals already. But the best way to learn about them is to celebrate them. After all, they are meant to teach us about God!
The Weekly Sabbath
“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places.
(Leviticus 23:3 ESV)
The biblical Sabbath starts at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. The Sabbath is for taking a break from the mundane day to day activities and spend some time to focus on the kingdom of heaven. It is a time for not only physical rest but spiritual rest.
As Gentiles, we are not under obligation to keep the Sabbath, but we are invited to. The LORD set aside the Sabbath as holy and blessed and even if we choose to ignore it, it is still the Sabbath. I would encourage anyone to try keeping the Sabbath some time to see how much of a blessing they will receive. By not keeping the Sabbath, we miss out on a blessing.
In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD’s Passover.
(Leviticus 23:5 ESV)
Passover is the 14th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar, which normally falls in April. On the first Passover, God told the people of Israel to slaughter a lamb and sprinkle its blood on the doorposts of their homes. That night, they ate the lamb with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. That night the angel of death passed over their homes and God took them out of Egypt.
Today, Passover is an important day that is usually filled with preparations for the Seder that happens after sunset, which kicks of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. Passover is a time for self-examination. It is also the anniversary of the crucifixion of Jesus. We remember that Jesus became our Passover.
Festival of Unleavened Bread
And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.
(Leviticus 23:6 ESV)
The Passover seder normally kicks of a week that is known as the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The rituals such as removing the leaven remind us that our sins have been removed through Messiah. We have a Passover seder in commemoration of Jesus’ last supper, which was also a Passover seder. Paul says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26 ESV)
“You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.
(Leviticus 23:15-16 ESV)
After Passover, there is a 50 day count up which leads to Pentecost. During the days of the Temple, the Israelites would bring their “first fruits” to the Temple during this time. Today, the significance is the actual counting of the Omer until we get to Pentecost. More importantly, the Day of the Omer is the anniversary of the resurrection of Jesus.
And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.
(Leviticus 23:18 ESV)
You may have heard Pentecost referred to as the Feast of Weeks or in the Hebrew as Shavuot. During the days of the Temple, the first fruits of the wheat harvest were offered with two loaves. Pentecost is also significant because it is traditionally the anniversary of bvthe day God spoke the Ten Commandments. It is a time to read the Ten Commandments and celebrate the giving of the Torah.
It is also a time to remember the gift of the Holy Spirit. It was at Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus was resurrected, that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples in Jerusalem (Acts 2)
Feast of Trumpets
“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.
(Leviticus 23:24 ESV)
The Feast of Trumpets generally falls in the months of October or September and begins the series of fall festivals. The first day of the seventh month is a high Sabbath. It is a day of trumpet blowing. It reminds us that Jesus will return with a trumpet blast. It is also kind of a biblical new year and is known in Jewish tradition as Rosh HaShanah. That is because God reordered the calendar in Exodus 12:2.
Rosh HaShanah is a day of somber reflection and introspection. It is a time of reflecting on the past and making resolutions to do better because 10 days later comes Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement.
Day of Atonement
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the LORD.
(Leviticus 23:26-27 ESV)
The Day of Atonement is a fast day, a day of confessing sins, and repenting. During the days of the Temple, it was the only day the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies. There was a very long service of various sacrifices for the priest and for the People of Israel. There was a ceremony where two goats were brought to the Temple and lots were cast to see which one would be sacrificed and which one would be the scapegoat.
Today, the Day of Atonement is a day to humble yourself. It is a day of supplication, prayer, fasting, confessing, and repentance. It is important to reflect on the day as it teaches us the work that Messiah did on our behalf for our redemption.
Feast of Tabernacles
“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD.
(Leviticus 23:34 ESV)
The Feast of Tabernacles is also known as the Feast of Booths and in the Hebrew it is Sukkot. It is a seven day festival with the first day being a high Sabbath. The Lord told the people of Israel, “You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths,” (Leviticus 23:42 ESV) It is a reminder of the time that Israel spent wandering in the wilderness after leaving Egypt.
The traditional way to celebrate Sukkot is to build a sukkah, which is just a temporary shelter like a tent that can be made out of just about anything. It is meant to be temporary and taken down after the festival. It should be big enough to the entire family to eat in and even sleep in. The top has to be made with materials such as bamboo or cornstalks or some type of foliage so that you can still see the stars at night. The point is to be vulnerable to the elements.
Having big holiday meals in the sukkah is part of the celebration. It is a time to celebrate the harvest and enjoy God’s blessings. Gentiles are also welcome to take part in building their own sukkah and joining in the celebration. It reminds us the God is our provider, sustainer, and protector.
This was a very brief introduction to the LORD’s appointed times. I hope it was informative and I would like to encourage all Christians to join in the celebration of God’s festivals. Yes, these are known as Jewish holidays, but our Messiah, Jesus, was Jewish and He observed these festivals. God didn’t intend for Gentiles to have separate holidays.
The biblical festivals contain many spiritual lessons and will not only provide blessings but draw you closer to God.