The Feasts of the Lord

Leviticus 23  •  17 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Leviticus 23
by R. Wilson
In Lev. 23 the Lord gave directions through Moses to the children of Israel concerning certain yearly feasts which they were to keep unto Him. But before outlining them, He told them to keep one weekly celebration—the Sabbath. This Sabbath was not a part of the yearly feasts that follow, but it is important that it should be given first. The first mention of the Sabbath is in Gen. 2:1-31Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Genesis 2:1‑3) when the Lord rested on the seventh day after His work in making the earth ready for man, but His rest in creation was soon broken by the sin of Adam and Eve.
God again began to work and prepared coats of skin for the guilty pair; even so, the Son of God could not take His rest in this sin-spoiled creation when He came. He could not rest from His work even on the Sabbath day, for all around Him He found the effects of sin and the works of the devil, but He came to undo the works of the devil. So on one occasion, when He was chided for healing a man on the Sabbath day, He said, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:1717But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. (John 5:17)), thus referring to God's rest having been broken by sin.
But a chief reason for the introduction of the Sabbath at the beginning of Lev. 23 is that God still purposes that there should be a period of rest for this creation. It was ever before Him, but inasmuch as it could not come in at first by reason of sin, God shows in this chapter how it will be brought in as we shall see later.
These seven yearly occasions, when the people would hold religious observances, were not equally divided throughout the year. Normally, three were held in the first month, one in the third month, and three in the seventh month. It was not God's plan to divide the year into three equal parts, but to teach us lessons about His dispensational ways.
The Passover
The foundation feast was the Passover. It was the basis on which all God's ways would be established, for man was a sinner, and his being sheltered by blood must come first. It took place in the first month. We need to go to Ex. 12 to learn more about the Passover. God's earthly people, the people of promise, were slaves in Egypt, and the Egyptians defied the Lord when He asked them to let His people go. Nothing was left for God but to execute judgment on that rebellious people and land. But when He was going to visit the land in judgment, His earthly people were amenable to judgment, for they were sinners and had fallen into the ways of the Egyptians. But God said that He would make a difference between the Egyptians and the Israelites. It was not a difference founded on parentage or previous privileges, but one which He would make-one founded on the blood of the lamb.
The secular year had been running its course, but God interrupted it and said, "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you." There was to be a new beginning and it was to be founded on redemption. A lamb without blemish was to be taken on the tenth day and kept until the fourteenth day. On that fourteenth day it was to be killed and its blood put in a basin; then the blood was to be applied with hyssop to the outside of their houses—to the two doorposts and the lintel above the door. After this was done, they were to enter into the house and take shelter under the sign of that blood-a mark that a substitute had died. God said, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you." Wherever this was acted upon, there was security, but not necessarily peace, for that depended on faith in God's word. They were safe under the blood, for God had spoken; they should have been in perfect peace about it, for His word should have dissolved every doubt.
The Passover pointed on to the "Lamb of God," and was a type of Christ, the true Lamb of God's providing. We are not left to our imagination on this point, for the Word of God says, "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." 1 Cor. 5:77Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: (1 Corinthians 5:7). What a blessed privilege it is for us who believe to rest in His work, His blood-shedding, and the Word of God who cannot lie. Nothing else secured those in Egypt from the destroyer that night, and nothing else secures the sinner now but faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His shed blood. Truly this is the foundation of all God's ways of blessing, both now and forever.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
The next feast in the yearly calendar was that of "unleavened bread." It began on the very next day after the Passover and was directly connected with it. The two could not be separated. They are often referred to as one, as in Luke 22:11Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. (Luke 22:1). We may inquire what lesson God would teach us in this feast, and here again we are not left to conjecture, for we read in 1 Cor. 5, along with the statement about Christ being our Passover, "Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." v. 8.
Here it is not Israel but we who are exhorted to keep this feast, but not in the outward manner as many Jews do to this day, making diligent search in the house to remove all leaven before the Passover begins. We are to put away "the leaven of malice and wickedness." Leaven is used throughout Scripture, without exception, as a type or symbol of evil. There is the leaven of Herod, of the Pharisees, of the Sadducees, etc. It is evil that works secretly, corrupting and assimilating to itself. It may be in practice (1 Cor. 5:66Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? (1 Corinthians 5:6)) or in doctrine (Gal. 5:99A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. (Galatians 5:9)), and frequently the practice becomes a doctrine to support the practice.
So it is plainly evident that the Christian who is sheltered by the blood of Christ, "as of a lamb without blemish and without spot," is called upon to put away evil, and that immediately after conversion, for the feast of unleavened bread followed the Passover immediately. There is still another point: that is, the feast lasted for seven days. Seven is a number always used to signify completeness, and indicates that the complete period of our lives should be marked by "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." There is never a time when the Christian may carelessly sin; he is to remember that he is "unleavened.”
The Feast of the Wave Sheaf
The next yearly feast is the "wave sheaf." We read: "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it." Lev. 23:10, 1110Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: 11And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. (Leviticus 23:10‑11). They were not to eat of their new harvest until the very first sheaf of it was presented before the Lord, as was said, "to be accepted for you.”
Now we are not left to devise some means of explaining the typical meaning of this feast, any more than the preceding ones. In 1 Cor. 15:2020But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (1 Corinthians 15:20) we read: "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept." Also, "Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His coming." v. 23. The Christ who died as our Passover also rose from the dead. He had said, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." He was the true "corn of wheat" who died as "our Passover" and rose again as the firstfruits of a new harvest. This feast definitely represents Christ in resurrection as the firstfruits of them that slept. And in resurrection He is accepted for us. We are "accepted in the beloved." We are seen in Him before God-in Him in resurrection.
The very day that the Lord Jesus died, the priest and the people were keeping the Passover, not realizing that in His death the type had come to its completion-that type had met antitype. Then on the very day in which He arose, the priests were waving the wave sheaf in the temple. Little did they realize that as they sought to bribe the soldiers to falsify the report of His resurrection, they themselves were actually doing that which for 1500 years had foretold His resurrection.
Another singular thing is that this was done on the "morrow after the Sabbath"—the first day of the week, the Lord's Day. He was not only the firstfruits of a new harvest, but He arose on the first day of a new week. Let the Jews (and those who say they are Jews) explain why this departure from the Sabbath was written into their own Scriptures.
The Feast of Weeks or Wave Loaves
Next comes the "feast of weeks," which took place fifty days later than the waving of the sheaf of the firstfruits. "And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete: even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord." vv. 15-17.
The harvest from which they offered the wave sheaf had now had time to be made into flour, and they were to present "two wave loaves" unto the Lord. Fruit of the same harvest, but offered fifty days later. Are we left to our inventions as to the meaning of this feast? No, in no wise. In Acts 2 we read, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come." Pentecost means fifty, or fifty days. Therefore on the very day when the priests in the temple were presenting the wave loaves with their necessary offerings, a new offering was being presented unto the Lord, not now in the temple, but in the upper room.
The disciples were assembled there awaiting the promised coming of the Holy Spirit. On that very day, another first day of the week, He descended from heaven and dwelt in each believer individually, and in all collectively. Thus was something new formed, something never before known—the Church on earth united by the Spirit to Christ the Head in heaven. The fourth of the yearly feasts had its fulfillment in the inauguration of the Church on earth by the Spirit from heaven.
It is worthy of note that in these two feasts (the wave sheaf and the wave loaves), and these two only, the first day of the week is the day on which they were performed. The one speaks of the resurrection of Christ, and the other of the formation of the Church of God. Should not this silence the Seventh-Day Adventists and all who would have Christians keep the seventh day, that in those feasts which foretold of this period of time, the first day of the week should be preeminent? It should forever resolve any doubt in the minds of those who are subject to the Word.
Another important point to notice with regard to these two feasts is that there was no sin offering presented with the wave sheaf, but there was with the wave loaves. How accurate is Scripture! How could a sin offering be offered in connection with that which spoke of Christ in resurrection! But how fitting that it should be offered with that which spoke of the Church. The wave sheaf needed no preparation; it was presented as it was taken from the field. The wave loaves prefigure the Church (two perhaps referring to ample testimony on earth, or to its composition of Jews and Gentiles), and there is sin in it. There is leaven baked in the loaves, therefore the need of the sin offering. Other offerings were also presented at both times, but we shall not go into them. Leaven was never burned on the altar; it is used here as a type of sin in the Church. On another occasion it is used to represent sin in the individual offerer (Lev. 7:1313Besides the cakes, he shall offer for his offering leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings. (Leviticus 7:13)). The leaven in the loaves was baked, indicating that it was not seen as active before God.
Gleaning the Harvest
There was a long interval between the feast of weeks and the next feast-from the third month to the seventh month. This no doubt illustrates the period of the Church's history, for just before the next yearly festival there is a strange statement in verse 22: "And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God.”
This seemingly has no connection with the seven feasts. It appears to have been dropped in almost at random, but its very position is full of instruction for us. How will the Church's history on earth end? With the harvest-the gathering of the redeemed of this age into the heavenly garner. What a blessed hope we have! This verse is undated, just as the hope of the Lord's coming is undated in the New Testament. Nothing intervenes between the offering of the wave loaves and this verse 22. There is also an answer here for those who say that the Church must go through the great tribulation first, if only they would see it.
Soon the Lord shall come and gather the Church home, but there is going to be a little grain left in the field, in the corners. The poor Jew and the stranger Gentile who will believe in the coming King during the tribulation period, and suffer martyrdom, will also have a heavenly portion. Rev. 20:44And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4), in the JND translation, gives the account of the two classes which will be raised from the dead for heavenly blessing at the end of the tribulation period. This is before the fulfillment of the fifth feast of Lev. 23. The grain left in the corners of the field may also indicate the food of these tribulation martyrs who will apprehend the truth of the Scriptures regarding Christ as coming King.
Feast of Trumpets
This feast signifies the time when Christ will return to the earth with His heavenly saints and recall His earthly people, the Jews, to Palestine. When the Son of man appears in power and great glory, "He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Matt. 24:3131And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:31). "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown." Isa. 27:1313And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem. (Isaiah 27:13). The Jews are now going back to Palestine in unbelief to accept the antichrist, but then their Messiah will call them back to settle them in their own land with His blessing.
The Day of Atonement
The next unfulfilled feast (that is, in its typical meaning) is the "day of atonement," which took place on the tenth day of this seventh month. This feast prefigures the day of Israel's mourning when they look on Him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, the land and every family shall mourn (Zech. 12:10-1210And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. 11In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. 12And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; (Zechariah 12:10‑12)):Thus our chapter says, "For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people." v. 29.
This was also typified in Joseph's dealing with his brethren when he had them recall their sin concerning their brother. It will be a solemn time for Israel when they go through in reality the fulfillment of the type of the Day of Atonement. After it is over they will say, in the language of Isa. 53 "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities." (Lev. 16 gives the details of the Day of Atonement and the offerings to be offered.) Then the repentant remnant of Israel will be ready to fulfill the type of the next feast.
The Feast of Tabernacles
The "feast of tabernacles" prefigures the Millennium (which will be the Sabbath for the earth), founded on Him who was the true Passover. Here we see the rest which will come in, not on the basis of creation, but on that of redemption. This last feast is a feast of gladness and joy. It, like the feast of unleavened bread, lasts for seven days, that is, a complete period of time. "And ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days." v. 40. In that day all the promises made to Abraham and to Israel respecting their ultimate blessing will be fulfilled in detail. Israel shall be made a rejoicing, and blessing will flow out from the earthly Jerusalem to the whole earth. Space does not permit a more detailed examination of this wondrous scene of joy and blessing, not only for Israel, but for the nations and for the whole animate creation. "For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God." Rom. 8:1919For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19).
There is something special connected with the feast of tabernacles which is not found in any other feast: that is, that after the feast runs its allotted seven days, an eighth day is mentioned. This brings before us another new beginning, and that without an end being mentioned. We may call the eighth day the day of eternity, or a hint that God will then bring in a new and final scene of blessing.
In Deut. 16, the three times that all the males in Israel should go up to God's center were mentioned as Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, but they were so arranged that in doing this they could keep all seven of the feasts. They were the times when God gathered the people around Himself. But while they kept them unintelligently, not realizing what they pointed onto, it is ours to rejoice in the knowledge of their typical meanings. We have this knowledge not only in those that have already been fulfilled as part of our blessings, but of those yet to be kept in their real meaning for the blessing of Israel, the nations, and the animate creation, when Christ shall have His rightful place.