Leviticus 23 Commentary: Israel’s seven Festivals.
Chapter 23 lists the following sacred assemblies
1. The Sabbath.
2. The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread.
3. The Festival of First fruits or First Harvest.
4. The Festival of Weeks or Festival of Harvest.
5. The Festival of Trumpets
6. The Day of Atonement
7. The Festival of Tabernacles Festival of shelters or booths
First on the list of sacred assemblies is the Sabbath. It predates the fall of man in Genesis chapter 3. The LORD talks about Sabbath immediately after creation. It is actually part of creation. Sabbath at creation depicts rest in God’s holy presence. It speaks of heavenly tranquility in the garden of rest and perfection.
After the fall (Genesis 3), Sabbath is a missing piece. It is a rest that man longs for. A man in hard labor, wrought on self by sin, is seen searching for that missing rest. With the law, we see the LORD making an attempt to restore the perfection of heavenly existence in Sabbath rest. So Sabbath as a sacred assembly comes up first. The frequency of Sabbath speaks of God’s love for man – A father who wants his son to show up more often.
The Passover is next. Its observance is a celebration of the famous exodus. One special day, a specially selected lamb was killed. Its blood, splashed against door posts, saved Jacob from the angel of death on that night. At day-break the following day the LORD led Israel out of Egypt – it was a special Sabbath. It was a Passover day. It became the first day of the Jewish calendar – a starting point. Several centuries would pass before another lamb would be slaughtered on Friday. We call it good Friday. The blood that we splash on ourselves saves us from our sins. It’s another start. It’s another Sabbath – the real Sabbath. These things are not different at all! They all point to Jesus – the same.
The festival of ‘unleavened bread’ runs in parallel with the Passover meal. Or may be seen to start immediately after the Passover. The offering of the first fruits was both a celebration of the LORD’S provisions as well as a show of gratitude. It was important for Israel to be reminded of the provider God. The feast of weeks and other feasts are listed. A few notes on these feasts are: (1) that Israel is to observe them for endless generations, (2) Israel is to conduct extra rituals in addition to usual tabernacle rituals on these festival days (3) They served as memorial events.
Remembering the mighty acts of grace in the lives of God’s people is important. Symbols were set up and a command to observe them continuously, year after year (for endless generations) was put in place. It’s for us. During a time when people celebrated festivals to honor demons, these festivals served as reminders of God’s constant watch over Israel.
As you journey through Leviticus 23, and read of the command to perpetuate these activities, your mind is drawn to the life and ministry of the LORD Jesus Christ. The triumphant entry with people waving branches may remind you of one of these events. The garden of Gethsemane experience may remind you of another garden of pre-sin existence. Yet you still cannot take your mind off another festival as you think of the disciples taking shelter under open skies while their LORD wrestled in prayer.
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