|"My appointed times are these." So says the Lord in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus, about the seven annual festivals now commonly called the "Jewish holidays" or the "Feasts of Israel." Actually, this cycle of festivals that mark the Jewish calendar are as much for the Church as for Israel, and can best be understood by those who are redeemed by Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ). Why, then, don’t we know anything about them? Why have these feasts been shuffled out of our lives? Good questions!
To make a very complicated history simple, this is what happened. During the time from the second to the fourth centuries, the demographics of the Church changed. What was once a sect of Judaism had become a predominantly Gentile culture. Particularly during the reign of Constantine, the Church suffered grave revisions in doctrine and in practice. In an effort to make Christianity a distinct religion, the Early Church leaders removed all Jewish customs and practices from the worship of the G-d of Israel. In effect, they laid an ax to the root of the tree to which the wild branches had been grafted. (Read Romans 9, 10, & 11.)
Psalm 89:15 in the Amplified Bible states: "How blessed---happy, fortunate (to be envied)--are the people who know the joyful sound (who understand the spiritual blessings symbolized by the Feasts); they walk, O Lord, in the light and the favor of Your countenance." Yet, for 1600 years, the Church has not heard the joyful sound of the shofar, nor the singing at the Feast of Passover; they have not celebrated with meals under the canopy of the Sukkah, nor danced in celebration of the giving of the Holy Scripture. Each of the seven annual Feasts of the Lord is rich with meaning and with the revelation of the character of G-d, and with signs of the coming Messiah.
Yeshua died on Passover; He was in the ground at the beginning of Unleavened Bread, and He rose on the Feast of FirstFruits. (Read John 12) He is our perfect Passover sacrifice; He is the Unleavened Bread that came forth from the earth; and He is the FirstFruits of the resurrection.
Fifty days after the Sabbath of Passover is the Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost). In Acts 2, we have an account, not of the Feast of Pentecost, but rather of that year’s celebration of this ancient Biblical custom. Those who were gathered in a room in one accord were doing so to commemorate the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, just as it had been observed for some 1500 years by that time. When Moses returned from the Mount, 3000 were slain because of sin; when the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) came upon those in Jerusalem, Peter preached for about ten minutes, and 3000 were saved. The letter of the Law brings death, but the freedom of the Spirit brings life! It is important to note that only those who were celebrating the Law, received the Spirit.
Then comes Summertime, when there are no feasts. It is a time to labor in the fields, and to work while it is light. Interestingly, Leviticus 23 inserts instruction to leave gleanings for the poor at this point in its explanation of the Feasts. The last month of Summer is the month of Elul. During this entire month expectancy builds with the single blast of the shofar each day, in anticipation of the coming Feasts of the Messiah in the Fall.
Finally, on the first day of the seventh month is the Feast of Trumpets, when the shofar (ram's horn trumpet) is blown 100 times. This signals the laborers to cease from their work and to enter a time of repentance and of reconciliation. After ten days of awe, comes Yom Kippor (the Day of Atonement), when the holiest man in Israel enters the holiest place in Israel and pronounces the holy Name of G-d, and only with the blood of a perfect sacrifice. Finally, five days after that comes the Feast of Tabernacles, when we remember living in the very presence of G-d for forty years by dwelling in booths for eight days. It is this final Feast that the prophet Zechariah foretells of in chapters 12 through 14. We will all go up year after year, and celebrate this final Feast with Messiah when He returns.
Four Levels of Understanding