Background. The last four books of the Torah each contain a chapter describing when and how the Jews were to observe seven religious holidays on God’s calendar. Deuteronomy Chapter 16 reveals that three of the seven holidays included agricultural feasts in God’s honor that had to be observed in an appointed place (Dt. 16:16). At the time Jesus lived, the appointed place for these festivals was in Jerusalem. The four Gospels are filled with accounts of Him observing these festivals. Although the Jews did not understand it at the time, all of these festivals foreshadowed Him (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 10:1). Each festival was a “holy convocation” or rehearsal for Christ (Lev. 23:2). We are freed from any legal obligation to follow these festivals (Col. 2:16-17). These festivals might be thought of today like a wedding anniversary or a birthday. No one is obligated to remember a person on an anniversary or a birthday. Instead, observing a wedding anniversary or a birthday is a way to tell a loved one that you care. The same was true with God’s festivals. They were meant to honor Him. When the Jews turned the festivals into rituals or obligations, God said that He “hated” them (Is. 1:14). Every believer today is part of God’s holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). If you wish to honor Christ as one of His priests on the correct holiday anniversaries that mark important days in His life, the festivals tell you when and how to remember Him. First, during the Passion Week (which includes the Feasts of Passover (Pesach), Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits), you celebrate your new life in Christ by leaving the sins of your old life behind. Second, during Pentecost (the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot), celebrate Christ’s revelation in your life by giving thanks for the Holy Spirit and committing to serving God. Third, during the Feast of Tabernacles (also called Booths or Sukkot), you celebrate your transformation in Christ by manifesting the nine fruit of the Spirit in your life. Fourth, celebrate these feasts in the appointed place. Today, that is any place where two or more believers have gathered in Jesus’ name. Fifth, your inward transformation should manifest itself in the forms of compassion and charity for the needy. Sixth, your inward transformation should also cause you to be His “salt and light” in the world around. Finally, to allow Jesus to fully use you, stay holy by constantly removing sinful influences in your life.
Dt. 16:1-8; Nu. 28:16-25; Ex. 12:12-46. – Celebrating your new life in Christ without sin.
The Passover /Pesach. Passover was the first of three festivals that happened over one week beginning at sundown on the day of the first new moon after the spring equinox, sometime in March or April: “Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night.” (Dt. 16:1; Ex. 12:2). Passover was observed during the month of “Abib” or “Avivi”, a Hebrew name which refers to the month in when the barley harvest was ripe. The month is also referred to today by the name “Nisan.” It was the beginning of the first month of the religious calendar. It was the seventh month (eighth, in leap year) on the civil calendar. The purpose of the Passover was to remember that, during the tenth plague, the shed blood of the lamb allowed each family who acted in faith to have death “pass over” their firstborn son (Ex. 12:12-13, 22-23). The Jews remembered what God did as part of a Seder dinner. When Jesus celebrated the Last Supper, He was observing a Seder (Lk. 22:7-23). Although the disciples did not understand it at that time, each aspect of the Seder dinner foreshadowed Christ’s death.
The foreshadow of Jesus in the Passover Seder. During the initial escape from Egypt, the Jews slaughtered a lamb (Ex. 12:3-4, 6). Today, Jews will not eat lamb during the Seder because sacrificial lamb (the “korban Pesach”) cannot be made ceremonially clean without their Temple. Fortunately, God did not restrict the Jews to the use of a lamb. The sacrifice only needed to come from their “flock” or “herd”: “2 You shall sacrifice the Passover to the Lord your God from the flock and the herd in the place where the Lord chooses to establish His name.” (Dt. 16:2; Ex. 12:5). It was the blood of the sacrifice that allowed God’s judgment to “pass over” them (Isa. 53:7; Jo. 1:29; 1 Pet.1:18-19). By being born a Jew, Jesus was also a member of their “flock”. On the 10th day of the month of Nisan, the Jews selected the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:3). On the 10th day of Nisan / Abib, Jesus also entered Jerusalem. On the 14th day of Nisan / Abib, the Passover lamb was to be slaughtered on the ninth hour (3:00 pm), counting from 6:00 am (Nu. 28:16; Lev. 23:5; Ex. 12:6). On the 14th day on the ninth hour Jesus also died (Matt. 27:45-50; 28:1; Mk. 15:29; Jo. 2:19). The Passover lamb could have no broken bones (Ex. 12:46). Jesus also died without any broken bones (Jo. 19:32-36). The “people of the community of Israel” slaughtered the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:46). The “people of the community” of Israel also demanded that Christ be put to death (Matt. 27:17, 20-22, 25). The exact year that the Messiah would be “cut off” or killed was also predicted 483 years earlier in the book of Daniel (Dan. 9:24-26 – “69 weeks” with each “day” representing 7 years). Thus, the rabbis should have been looking for the Messiah when Jesus entered Jerusalem. The fact that He died and rose again during the first month on the religious calendar also has meaning. You have two calendars in your life. You have the day that you were physically born on the civil calendar. You also have a day on God’s calendar when you accepted Christ and were “born again.” (Jo. 3:7).
Jesus died in the appointed place for the Passover sacrifice. This account in Deuteronomy is important because God revealed that the sacrifice had to be performed at the “appointed place”, which at that time was Jerusalem: “ 5 You are not allowed to sacrifice the Passover in any of your towns which the Lord your God is giving you; 6 but at the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening at sunset, at the time that you came out of Egypt. 7 You shall cook and eat it in the place which the Lord your God chooses. . . .” (Dt. 16:5-7). At the end of the sacrifice, the “flesh” of the sacrifice had to be taken outside of “the camp” (Lev. 4:11-12; 6:10-11; 9:11). Jesus became our “flesh” and our sin (2 Cor. 5:21). Thus, to fulfill the Law, He was also led outside of Jerusalem to die on Calvary Hill (Jo. 19:16-19; Heb. 13:11-13). Calvary Hill is also most likely “Mount Moriah,” where Abraham prepared to offer up his son Isaac (Gen. 22; 2 Chr. 3:1). In a foreshadow of Christ, Abraham said at the time: ‘“God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’” (Gen. 22:8). The ram was later “caught in a thicket.” (Gen. 22:13). This again foreshadowed Jesus, who wore a crown of thorns (Jo. 19:5). Thus, Jesus was the Passover sacrifice who died at the predicted time and the appointed place. He fulfilled the Law perfectly.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread / Jesus’ Time in the Grave. The quick departure of the Jews did not afford the time required to bake leavened bread (Ex. 12:34, 39). To celebrate God’s deliverance, the Jews celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread over seven days: “3 You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), so that you may remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. 4 For seven days no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory, and none of the flesh which you sacrifice on the evening of the first day shall remain overnight until morning. . . 8 Six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord your God; you shall do no work on it.” (Dt. 16:3-4, 8). No yeast was used because leaven is a symbol of sin (1 Cor. 5:6-8; Gal. 5:9). The “matzo” or bread was also without yeast (which normally adds to the taste) to remind the Jews of their “affliction” while in bondage (Dt. 16:3). For the Jews, the bread without yeast over seven days symbolized a prolonged attempt to make a break from the sins in their past. It also symbolized the importance of acting quickly upon God’s calling in one’s life. Jesus was in the grave during part of this festival. Through Christ, you are freed from your old sins. Are you making a sustained effort to keep the yeast out of your life? Are you acting promptly on God’s calling for you?
The Feast of First Fruits / Jesus’ Resurrection. The last day of this week, the 17th of Avivi / Nisan, foreshadowed the Jews’ Red Sea salvation. The actual salvation at the Red Sea occurred seven days later (Ex. 3:18; 5:3, 14). According to Jewish teachings, God also saved Noah by bringing him to dry land in the mountains of Ararat on 17th of Avivi / Nisan (Gen. 8:4). On this day, God also saved the Jews by having Haman hung for plotting to have the Jews killed (Esther 3:12; 4:16; 5:4). Out of gratitude, the Jews brought their “first fruits” or their best of their barley harvest to God. On this day, Jesus also rose from the grave and became the “first fruits” for those who were once dead (1 Cor. 15:20). Are you giving back to Christ the “first fruits” of your time, your talent, and your money?
Dt. 16:9-10; Nu. 28:26-31; Ex. 34:22 - Give thanks for God’s revelation, the Holy Spirit, the Church, and commit to serving Him.
The Feast of Weeks / Pentecost / Shavuot . Exactly 50 days after God saved His people from death at the Red Sea, God revealed His will for their lives through the Ten Commandments: “ 9 You shall count seven weeks for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. 10 Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the Lord your God blesses you; 11 and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name. 12 You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.” (Dt. 16:9-10; Lev. 23:15-17; Ex. 19:20-25; 20:1-21; 34:22). This became the “Feast of Weeks” or “Shavuot”. It happened on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, ranging from mid-May to early June. The Law mandated a seven-week counting beginning on the second day of Passover and immediately followed by Shavuot. This counting of days and weeks is called the “Counting of Omer.” The counting was in anticipation of God’s giving them the Ten Commandments. It was also the birth date of modern Judaism. The Ten Commandments made up God’s wedding contract with His bride. Jesus was in fact the “I AM” who gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Jo. 8:58; Ex. 3:14). The Jews remember the day by committing to serving God. They remember that they previously made a vow by promising: “All that the LORD has spoken we will do!” (Ex. 19:8). Yet, they broke their wedding vow when they then built and worshipped the golden calf (Ex. 32:1-6). For Christians, the wedding contract has not been finalized. Before Jesus left, He promised that He would leave us with a Helper to teach us His will (Jo. 14:26). Exactly 50 days after Jesus’ death, God revealed His will for our lives by pouring out the Holy Spirit unto His believers (Acts 2:3). This day was also the birthdate of the Church. Because Shavuot occurs 50 days after Passover, Hellenistic Jews and later Christians gave it the name “Pentecost”, which in Greek means the “fiftieth day.”
Celebrating Pentecost today. We are under no legal obligation to celebrate the Feast of Weeks / Shavuot / Pentecost. God does not want worship done out of obligation. Indeed, the day is largely ignored in most churches. Yet, if you are grateful for God’s revelation through the Ten Commandments or the insights you receive from the Holy Spirit, this is the day God appointed to celebrate and give thanks. If you wish to observe the day as God intended, it is a day for you to commit to serving God and walk according to the Spirit. Jesus came to both fulfill the Law and correct people’s motives. Now, instead of following His Ten Commandments out of obligation or as a means to salvation, He wants you to follow them out of love for Him. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15; 15:10). If you are openly sinning, how thankful can you claim to be to Jesus?
The leavened loaves. With the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Jews did not use yeast because leaven is a symbol of sin (1 Cor. 5:6-8; Gal. 5:9). By contrast, the Feast of Weeks / Shavuot / Pentecost was observed with leavened bread (Lev 23:17). This was to recognize that the Church cannot rid itself of sin on its own. Indeed, Jesus once referred to believers as being “mixed with leaven” (Matt. 13:33). Thus, you are called upon to renew your mind in Jesus and repent of your sins each day. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:2).
The two loaves. The feast involved two loaves (Lev. 23:17). The number two in the Bible is a number of confirmation. The Bible also says that out of two mouths a matter is confirmed (Dt. 19:15; Matt. 18:19-20). Jesus wrote the Ten Commandments on two stones (Ex. 31:18). He also summarized the Ten Commandments into two commandments (Matt. 22:34-40). The receipt of the Ten Commandments was considered the birth of Judaism. Thus, it was the first loaf. The New Covenant is the second loaf.
Be guided by the Holy Spirit. This festival was also observed with oil, a symbol of the Holy Spirit (Nu. 28:28). Jesus again wrote the Ten Commandments on stone tablets (Ex. 24:12; 31:18). Now, His commandments are written on our hearts (Jer. 31:33; Ps. 40:8; 37:31; Is. 51:7; Ezek. 11:19-20; 36:26-27; 2 Cor. 3:3; Heb. 8:10). The Holy Spirit must lead you in all that you do. The Holy Spirit is also the administrator of the Church. Thus, it is important for Church as a body to honor the Holy Spirit and ask for His guidance. Are you walking according to the Spirit or the flesh? (Ro. 8:5; Gal. 5:16).
Dt. 16:13-17; Ex. 23:16; 25:8; 34:22; 29:44-45; Lev. 23:33-43; Nu. 29:12-40; 31:10-13; Zech. 14:16-19; Jo. 7. – Celebrate that Jesus dwelt with us and will one day dwell with us again.
Background: Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are the fifth and sixth festivals. Yet, they are not listed in Deuteronomy because they were not part of the three agricultural harvests. Rosh HaShanah is New Years’ Day on God’s civil calendar. It is celebrated by the blowing of trumpets (Lev. 23:24-25). The Jews celebrated Rosh HaShanah over two days because no one knew the exact date that it began. Some believe that this foreshadows the rapture, the next event on the Christian calendar. Like Rosh HaShanah, the rapture will be preceded by the blowing of a loud trumpet (Matt. 24:31; 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16-17). Yet, no one knows the exact day or hour of His return (Matt. 24:36, Mk. 13:32). This is a day to renew yourself, make your vows to God for the year to come, to study the Law out of devotion (not obligation), and to meditate on the Jesus’ return. Yet, we should live every day being ready for His return. Yom Kippur is the appointed day of atonement for the nation’s sins (Lev. 23:26-32). It was a somber time for repentance, fasting, and prayer. Those who failed to repent faced God’s judgment. This foreshadows the day of wrath when the Messiah will judge the nations (Joel 2:1; Rev. 8-9).
Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. Sukkot was the last of God’s holy days. It was the most joyful of all. It celebrated when God came to dwell or “tabernacle” amongst us: “13You shall celebrate the Feast of Booths seven days after you have gathered in from your threshing floor and your wine vat; 14 and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the ]orphan and the widow who are in your towns. 15 Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.” (Dt. 16:13-15). It also foreshadowed both when Christ dwelled with us and when He will again “tabernacle” with us during His 1,000-year reign on Earth. This Feast celebrates God. It is a “perpetual statute throughout your generation. . . ” (Lev. 23:41). Although not required, if you celebrate it, “your God will bless you. . .” (Dt. 16:15). If you chose to observe this festival out of love and devotion, there are seven things to celebrate.
(1) Celebrate that Jesus once dwelt amongst us. This festival lasted eight days and began on the 15th day of the month of “Tishrei”, which was the seventh month on the religious calendar and the first month of the civil calendar (Lev. 23:39). This celebrated when the Jews made a “sukkot” or tabernacle for God to dwell with the Jews: “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell (“tabernacle”) among them.” (Ex. 25:8). To observe the time when God dwelt in a temporary structure, the Jews built small booths or tents to dwell in for one week. Few Christians observe this holy day because we are freed from any legal obligation to do so (Col. 2:16-17). Yet, believers also have reason to celebrate that God dwelt with us. Again, God will also bless you if you do so (Dt. 16:15).
(2) Celebrate that Jesus delivered you from your bondage of sin. You also have reason to celebrate on this day that God freed you from all forms from bondage (Ex. 29:45-46; Lev. 23:42-43). If you are thankful for your freedom, this is the appointed time to celebrate.
(3) Celebrate that Jesus provides food for you. The feast of Tabernacles became known simply as “the Feast.” (Jo. 7:37). It was the greatest celebration of all. The Talmud states: “He who has not seen Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles does not know what rejoicing is.” In addition to celebrating the harvests in the promised land, the Jews celebrated that God provided manna in the desert (Ex. 16:31; Nu. 11:8-9). He even provided quail after they grumbled about their food (Ex. 16:1-8; Nu. 11:4-6, 32-33). He further protected the Jews’ feet from swelling (Dt. 8:4). Jesus later revealed that He was the Manna that rained down from heaven (Matt. 4:4; Jo. 6:33-35). Just as God cared for the Jews in the wilderness (Hos. 13:5), He also cares for us. He provides all that you need (Matt. 6:25-34). He protects you on your journey from the evil one (Matt. 6:13). If you are thankful for all His provision and blessings in your life, this is the appointed time to celebrate it.
(4) Celebrate that Jesus provides us with “living water” in the desert. During their time in the wilderness, God also provided the Jews with their water. For example, He transformed the dirty waters of Marah to provide drinking water (Ex. 15:25-27; Isa. 48:21; Nu. 20:2-12; Ps. 81:16; 106:41). Jesus was also the Rock who gave the living water (1 Cor. 10:3-4; Isa. 26:4). During the Feast of Tabernacles, the Jews again celebrated that God gave them the water of life. The High Priest took a golden pitcher of water from the pool of Siloam and poured it into a basin at the altar of the Temple (Talmud: Sukkah 4:9). This was done in conjunction with prayers for rain to allow there to again be crops in the land the following year. On the last day of this festival, Jesus stepped forward and cried out: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” (Jo. 7:37-39). If you are grateful for Jesus’ water of eternal life, this is the time that God appointed for us to celebrate it.
(5) Celebrate that Jesus provides us with the light of the world. During their time in the wilderness, God guided the people with a visible pillar of light (Ex. 13:21-22; 14:19). When they got to the Promised Land, they celebrated the light that God provided to them. From the second night of Tabernacles until the final day, the people gathered in the outer court of the Temple and lit oil lamps. The lights were to remind them of God’s Shekinah glory that dwelt with the Jews in the Holy of Holies in the wilderness and later during King Solomon’s day. It was also to remind the people that His Shekinah glory would return with the Messiah (Ez. 43:1-5). It was also in the context of “the Feast” that Jesus revealed that He is the real light of the world: “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (Jo. 8:12). He guides us with His light today through the Word, which is “a lamp unto thy feet.” (Ps. 119:105). He also gives us light through the Holy Spirit (Jo. 14:26). The Jews were meant to also be a light to the rest of the world (Is. 42:6; 49:6). So are we (Matt. 5:14; 1 Pet. 2:4-5). If you are grateful for the light that Jesus created for you, this is God’s appointed time to celebrate it.
(6) Celebrate that we will one day be glorified in new “tabernacles” and dwell with God. God’s Shekinah glory entered the Tabernacle when it was complete (Ex. 40:34). The feast of Tabernacles celebrated this. God’s Shekinah glory also entered Israel’s first Temple after Solomon dedicated it. Without coincidence, this also took place during the Feast of Tabernacles (2 Chron. 5:3; 7:1-4; 1 Kings 8; Ezra 3:1-4). Because of our sins, we were separated from God’s presence (Isa. 59:2). Even Moses could not be in the presence of God’s Shekinah glory (Ex. 40:35). Yet, because of Jesus’ death at the cross, we can now be directly in God’s presence. One day, we will be glorified in heaven with new bodies (Phil. 3:21). There, we “will see His face. . . [and] the Light of God (“Shekinah glory”) will illumine them forever and ever.” (Rev. 22:5). If you are excited about one day dwelling directly in God’s presence, the Feast of Tabernacles is the appointed time to celebrate this.
(7) Celebrate that Jesus was the final and complete sacrifice. Finally, we celebrate that Jesus was the one-time sacrifice that freed us from the obligation to sacrifice animals to have our sins forgiven (Heb. 10:14). During the Feast, the Jews made an offering by fire to God (Lev. 23:37). Including two lambs that were normally sacrificed each day (Nu. 28:2), the burnt offering includes a staggering 215 expensive animal sacrifices: (1) 71 one-year old bulls without defect; (2) 15 rams without defect; (3) 121 lambs without defect; and (4) eight goats without defect. In addition, the meal offerings included oil offerings, wine offerings, and 336 tenths of “ephahs” of fine flour (Nu. 29:12-39). If God was willing to accept the sacrifice of animals on our behalf, we have no reason to doubt Christ’s ability to atone for even the worst sinners (Heb. 9:14). If you are grateful that you no longer need to buy and sacrifice these expensive animals, this is God’s appointed time to celebrate that.
Jesus’ observance of the three appointed festivals: After summarizing each of three festivals, Moses advised the Jews that they were to make three pilgrimages at three appointed times “moedim” to God’s appointed place to celebrate the festivals. With each pilgrimage, the Jews needed to offer something specific to God: 16 “Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.” (Dt. 16:16). Because Jesus came to fulfill the Law, He observed these appointed festivals throughout His ministry. As a child, He made regular pilgrimages to Jerusalem to observe the three feasts (Lk. 2:42). As an adult, He traveled again to Jerusalem for Passover (Jo. 2:13). His trip to Galilee is believed to have been His return trip from observing Pentecost in Jerusalem (Jo. 4). He later returned to Jerusalem, most likely during the Feast of Tabernacles (Jo. 5). Later in His ministry, He returned again for Passover. (Jo. 6). He later returned again for the Feast of Tabernacles (Jo. 7). He later returned again for His last Passover (Jo. 12). Many also believe that Jesus was born during the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. That might explain why His parents could not find lodging in the nearby town of Bethlehem (Lk. 2:12). The Greek work for manger “phatn’e” is also translated in the Bible as a “stall.” (Lk. 13:15). The word Sukkot literally means “shelters, stables, booths, stalls or huts.” Jacob is likewise said to have made a “booth” or “stall” for his animals while traveling to Succoth (Gen. 33:17). The people were to live in booths during Sukkot. Although His booth or stall was meant for animals, Jesus would have fulfilled the Law by being born in such a booth or stall. It was also the season of joy (Dt. 16:15). And the angels came to proclaim joy to the world (Lk. 2:10).1 Jesus also never appeared empty-handed before God. Each time, He blessed us by revealing new truths through His Word.
The barley harvest - justification . The Feast of Unleavened Bread / First Fruits (Dt. 6:16). The Jews used Barley with the first feast, and wheat with the second feast. They used fruit with the final harvest during the Feast of Tabernacles. Each harvest represents a stage in a believer’s walk with God: (1) barley = justification, (2) wheat = sanctification, and (3) fruit = the fruit of the Spirit and later glorification. Symbolizing the first feast, Jesus fed the masses with “barley loaves.” (Jo. 6:9). They were not committed believers. Yet, their belief was enough for Jesus to instruct His disciples to, “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” (Jo. 6:12). As believers, even if they were not strong in their walk, they had overcome death through Christ. As a new believer who has not set himself apart from the world, the fruit you have to offer God is barley. Although it has nutrition, it does not taste good. Today, it is mostly used for making beer. Thus, you should aspire to offer more with your life than just barley.
The wheat harvest - sanctification. Unlike Passover where no yeast could be used, the Feast of Weeks included the use of wheat made with flour or yeast (Nu. 28:28). The priest was told to use only “fine flour.” (Lev. 23:17; same Lev. 2:1, 7). Fine flour has to be continually refined. The offering was also burned by fire. God sits as a “refiner and purifier of silver, and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” (Mal. 3:3). Symbolizing the second feast, John the Baptist referred to the “wheat” harvest: “He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire . . . He will thoroughly purge His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with fire that cannot be put out.” (Matt. 3:11-12). Wheat bread is much more enjoyable to eat than barley bread. Yet, the baptism by fire used to create wheat can sometimes be a painful process of purification (1 Cor. 3:13-15; 1 Pet. 1:7). Thus, a believer is given a choice. Do you want your life offering to God to be like a new believer, who is not set apart from the world who tastes like barley bread? Or, are you willing to be purified of sin by the Holy Spirit to taste like fresh wheat bread to God?
The fruit harvest – the fruit of the Spirit / glorification. The third harvest was a fruit harvest. It represents the final stage of your walk. It also represents the fruit of the Spirit in a believer: “But the fruit of the Spirit is (1) love, (2) joy, (3) peace, (4) patience, (5) kindness, (6) goodness, (7) faithfulness, (8) gentleness, (9) self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23). It also symbolizes your future “glorification” through Christ in heaven. For most believers, all nine fruit of the Spirit are not present at every moment. “Self-control,” for example, is something that takes constant vigilance. The “disciples” were the “disciplined ones” who were willing to set themselves for Christ. Are you making constant efforts to be set apart for the nine fruit of the Spirit to be visible in your life?
Your walk as depicted in the layout of the Tabernacle. The three stages of your walk are also shown in the layout of the Tabernacle. First, the outer court yard was where the sinners made their sacrifices (Ex. 26-27). This is where you were justified by the blood of Christ at the bronze alter (Ex. 27:1-8). Second, there was the tent of meeting. This is where the priests went to light both the incense and the Golden lampstand and to prepare the table of “shewbread” (Ex. 25:23-40). This is where you are sanctified by the Holy Spirit, i.e. set apart for God. Finally, there was the Holy of Holies where the ark of the covenant was kept (Ex. 25:10-22). Only the High Priest could go there on Yom Kippur. This place represents the final stage of our walk when we will one day dwell with God and be glorified in His presence. The gold was kept inside the holy of holies because God cares more about what is on the inside then what others can see. If your heart is filled with the gold of God’s righteousness, all nine fruit of the Holy Spirit will be evident in your walk?
Celebrate the three festivals of Christ in the appointed place with other believers. God appointed a place for all three festivals (Dt. 16:16). He also had a place for all “burnt offerings.” (Dt. 12:13). While in the wilderness, the appointed place for worship was in God’s Tabernacle because His holy presence or Shekinah glory was there (Ex. 40:35). His Shekinah glory later entered Israel’s first Temple after Solomon dedicated it during the Feast of Tabernacles (2 Chron. 5:3; 7:1-4; 1 Kgs. 8; Ez. 3:1-4). Yet, after the Philistines captured the ark, “The glory is departed from Israel.” (1 Sam. 4:22). It was also later prophesized that the Shekinah glory would return with the Messiah (Ez. 43:1-5). While Jesus was on Earth, He fulfilled this prophesy by becoming the dwelling place of God’s glory and the place for our worship. Jesus then gave His glory to us: “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;” (Jo. 17:22). Today, the Holy Spirit dwells within us (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:22; Heb. 3:6; Rom. 13:14; 2 Tim. 1:14). Whenever two or more are gathered in His name, Jesus’ presence is there: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matt. 18:20). Thus, the appointed place or worship today is not a “place” but a “gathering”. It is any place where you congregate with two or more believers to pray in Jesus’ name. A believer must therefore not forsake the fellowship of other believers (Heb. 10:25). You are under no legal obligation to celebrate Passover, Pentecost, or the Feast of Tabernacles. God does not want worship brought out of obligation. Yet, if you wish to celebrate these days to honor Christ, do so on the appointed days with other believers.
Love for those around you should also flow from you transformation in Christ. As part of each person’s pilgrimage, the person was to give out of love for the poor: “17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.” (Dt. 16:17). Of all the gifts of the Spirit, love is the greatest: “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13). As an outgrowth of love, you should be motivated to give freely to those in need: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (Jam. 1:27). You should also give cheerfully, not out of obligation: “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7). Is your heart filled with love for those around you? Are you giving cheerfully to those in need?
The appointment of judges for those who lived far from Jerusalem. God’s Temple was also a place where people could bring their disputes for His leaders to resolve. Yet, because He did not want justice denied or delayed in between the three pilgrimages, He ordered that judges be appointed in each town to resolve disputes as needed: 18 “You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 19 You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. 20 Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Dt. 16:18-20). We too should be constantly concerned about potential injustice around us. God never meant for us to be isolated monks. Instead, your inward transformation in Christ should culminate with your outward transformation of the world around you: “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” (Prov. 31:9). “Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.” (Ps. 82:3). “[D]o justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Mic. 6:8). “[L]earn to do good, seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow.” (Is. 1:17). “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.” (Dt. 10:18). You are God’s “salt and light” (Matt. 5:13-16). Salt is an irritant to an open wound. If sin is around you and if your life has been transformed for God, you should be an irritant to sin. Have you lost your saltiness? Do non-believers know that you stand against the sins of the world? If you have lost your saltiness, what does Jesus think of what you have to offer? (Matt. 5:13).
Constantly remove the planks of sin from your eyes. Moses concludes with a call that might at first seem out of context with this chapter. He implored the Jews not to plant the “Asherah” poles in God’s Temple: 21 “You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the Lord your God, which you shall make for yourself. 22 You shall not set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the Lord your God hates.” (Dt. 16:21). This was the fourth time He gave this warning (See, Ex. 34:13; Dt. 7:5; 12:1-3). The “Asherah”, were wood poles related to the Canaanite worship of their fertility goddess Asherah, the consort of their god Ba'al. Later, King Manasseh adopted some of the local Canaanite religious practices by placing an Asherah pole in the Temple (2 Kgs. 21:7). Today, the temple where the Spirit resides is in your body (1 Cor. 6:19). The wood pole is the plank in your eye: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? . . You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.” (Matt. 7:3, 5). God cannot use you to transform the world if you are compromised by sin. Thus, you must avoid accommodating these idols of the flesh in your life. If you are in sin, repent. (1 Jo. 1:9). Then let the Holy Spirit renew your mind (Ro. 12:1-2). If you do repent and keep yourself unstained by the world, God can use you to transform it. By contrast, if you do not repent, God may hand you over to your vices and allow you to become addicted to them (Ro. 1:21-25). Are there any Asherah poles in your eyes?