The Feasts of the Lord

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts” (Leviticus 23:1-2).

The Sabbath The Person of Christ
“Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings” (Lev. 23:3). God’s perfect rest in Him. “Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7). “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand” (John 3:35).

Remarks. God finds His perfect rest in Christ in regard to the fulfilment of His whole will and purpose. So that immediately upon the incoming of sin He could announce without fear of contradiction that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. And at the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ the whole firmament was filled with angelic praise because He to whom God looked had come to do His will.

Christ is also the true Sabbath of rest for men. After the six days of labour of the Old Testament dispensations — without law and with law, under patriarchs, priests, princes and prophets — the best that man could produce was only “filthy rags.” They could obtain neither righteousness nor rest by their labours. Christ came to bring to an end man’s futile endeavours, and to say, “Come unto Me . . . and I will give you rest,” and “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” The greatness of His person is the guarantee of the perfection of His work.

The Passover and Unleavened Bread The Work of Christ and Our Answer to it
“In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein” (Lev. 23:5-8). “Redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:19). “Even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us; Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleaven bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:7-8).

Remarks. The Passover sets forth the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus in which all our sin was met in judgment according to God’s eternal justice and holiness and for His glory, and by it we are not only redeemed but sanctified. The keeping of the feast of Unleavened Bread is the practical answer in us to the work of Christ for us. We gladly refuse the evil for which He had to suffer on our behalf, and walk in practical sanctification before God, Christ the Holy One being our food. No servile work had to be done during the feast. The life of sanctification to God is not a life of legality or a weary round of galling duties or useless ceremonies; but the love of Christ constrains us, and we serve the Lord with gladness and singleness of heart. It is wilfulness that brings in the misery; obedience means blessing and joy.

The First fruits The Resurrection of Christ
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 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 first fruits 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. 23:9-11). “Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen” (Luke 24:1-6). “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20).

Remarks. Notice the expression, “the morrow after the Sabbath.” That blessed “morrow” is called in the New Testament “the first day of the week,” it is the Lord’s day. How the heart thrills at the thought of it. It was the greatest day since the dawn of creation, yea, the greatest day that God ever made. For on it there rose up above all the disaster that sin had brought in the Man of God’s pleasure, supremely victorious. What a moment that must have been to God! The power of Satan was annulled, death was robbed of its awful sting, the grave was vanquished, the might and triumph of God were fully disclosed, His new creation came into blessed visibility. Christ was the first begotten from the dead, the centre and the sun of a new world founded in resurrection, to be held in Him and by Him beyond the reach of overthrow for ever. And every believer is of that glorious risen Man; each one derives from Him and belongs to God’s new creation.

Further, the sheaf of first fruits was the pledge of the harvest, and as the first sheaf is, so shall the harvest be. What a thought for us, “Christ the first fruits afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming.” His resurrection is the pattern of ours, but not only so, we shall be like Him.

“He’ll give these bodies vile
A fashion like His own.”

“Our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven: from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). “It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

“Conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29).

The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) The Assembly of God brought into being by the coming of the Holy Ghost
“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 baken with leaven; they are the first fruits unto the Lord. And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the Lord. Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest” (Lev. 23:15-20). “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:1-2). “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:3-4).

Remarks. The two wave loaves set forth the assembly of God, presented to Him in all the efficacy of Christ’s work and the acceptability of His person. The two may speak of Jew and Gentile brought together in one offering to God, if so, these twain are made one in Christ. The assembly is “one bread and one body” (1 Cor. 10:17). Baken with leaven indicate that evil exists in those who compose the assembly, for leaven is typical of evil. Their sins are forgiven; that which they were in the flesh has met its judgment before God in the cross of Christ; they have a new life in Christ, and the Holy Spirit dwells in them, but all this does not remove or improve the flesh within them. But the loaves were baken, and the action of the fire arrests the working of the leaven, and fire speaks of God’s judgment, so we learn that “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). As we accept God’s judgment as to the evil root within us, and walk in the sense of it by the Spirit’s power, and see the grace of God towards us in this the flesh is kept in abeyance and sin does not have dominion over us.

A sin offering was offered with the loaves, teaching that we could not be before God at all apart from the fact that Christ was made sin for us. And ten animals were offered also for a sweet savour unto the Lord. They were seven lambs — The lamb typified the meekness and submission of the Lord. “He is led as a lamb to the slaughter,” and seven stands for perfection: HIS PERFECT SUBMISSION TO GOD. And one young bullock — the bullock speaks of strength of purpose in service, and one of singleness of eye and heart: HIS WHOLE-HEARTED AND SINGLE-EYED PURPOSE IN SERVICE TO GOD. And two rams — the ram speaks of consecration, for two rams were sacrificed at the consecration of the priests, we take this to represent THE COMPLETE CONSECRATION OF THE LORD JESUS TO THE WILL OF GOD. In all this that Christ is and which is so acceptable to God we appear.

The two loaves are spoken of as loaves of the first fruits, connecting them with the sheaf of first fruits which speaks of Christ alone; but as is the heavenly (Christ), so also are they that are heavenly (His assembly).

The Harvest The Resurrection of the Dead Saints and the Rapture of the Living
“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” (Lev. 23:22). “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).

Remarks. The harvest was not a feast, but it is deeply interesting and instructive to see how and where it is introduced in this chapter. Naturally we should have thought that its place should have been next to the feast of first fruits, for in the natural order the harvest would follow immediately after the cutting of the first sheaf of it. But for God to get His harvest out of the world it was necessary first that His work of grace should go on in the world, and so the feast of weeks comes in between the first fruits and the harvest. That work of grace has been going on now for nearly two thousand years, and the harvest must surely be almost ripe for the gathering; the assembly is nearing its completion. What joy will characterize that harvest home when dead and living saints shall respond to the shout of the Lord and rise to meet Him in the air.

But the chief point brought out in connection with the harvest is that clean riddance had not to be made of the fields, the gleanings and the corners of the fields had to be left for “the poor and the stranger.” This teaches us that when the church is taken out of the world it will not be the end of God’s mercy and grace towards it. The poor and the stranger, setting forth Israel and the nations, will be thought of. Israel, now cut off from the land of promise, without king, country, or heritage, and the nations, sunk in the darkness of heathendom, utter strangers to the revelation of God’s grace, are both to be brought into blessing. Their blessings — all the fruit of God’s sovereign mercy — are described for us in the glowing prophecies of Isaiah and the triumph songs of David, and the reading of them makes the heart rejoice, so great are they. But great as they are and altogether worthy of the King who will give them, and great as will be His glory in connection with them, they are but the gleanings of the harvest and the corners of the field when compared with the blessings that are ours in Christ and the glory that God will get “in the church through Christ Jesus throughout all ages world without end.”

The harvest brings us to the end of this present period of God’s grace. What follows has God’s ways with Israel specially in view, their restoration to the land of promise and blessings in the millennium age.

The Blowing of Trumpets The gathering of Israel into the Promised Land
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord” (Lev. 23:23-25). “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps. And when they shall blow with them, all the assembly shall assemble themselves to thee at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation” (Num. 10:1-3). “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly” (Joel 2:15). “All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye . . . In that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the mount Zion . . . And 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” (Isa. 18:3, 7; 27:13). “And 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. 24:31).

Remarks. This feast does not foreshadow the coming of the Lord to rapture the heavenly saints, but the regathering of Israel into the land of promise. And the trumpets here spoken of must not be confounded with the resurrection trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52, or the “trump of God” in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. Some are making this mistake and propounding wild theories as to the coming of the Lord in consequence.

The feast was for a memorial. The silver trumpets that were blown proclaimed the fact that the people were Jehovah’s people and that He had a right to call them to His sanctuary when He would, and, moreover, that He delighted to have them thus near to Himself. It brought this fact to their memories. But it also foreshadowed the time when He will remember His covenant with Abraham, and will say to Israel now cut off and not His people, “Thou art My people,” and He will summons them to the land to fulfil the promises made to their fathers.

It was thought by many that the ZIONIST movement which had as its chief policy the repeopling of Palestine with Jews was the beginning of God’s summons to these people, and, as coming events cast their shadows before them, it may be that this remarkable movement was an indication of the near approach of the fulfilment of the promises to Israel. It must be noted, however, that this movement makes no reference to God whatever. He is left out of it entirely, and for the time being the war has brought it to a standstill.

Isaiah 18:3 seems to indicate that when the summons really does come it will be a much more public matter than the Zionist movement is, for the inhabitants of the world are commanded to see. This would appear as though the whole world would be interested in the question, that it will be a matter of INTERNATIONAL POLITICS. It is now very probable that one of the settlements at the close of the present war will give Palestine to the Jews.

The Zionist movement to which we have referred gives evidence of the awakening of the national spirit amongst these people so long “scattered and peeled,” and this is binding them together irrespective of the countries of their adoption. Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezek. 37) is the great and vivid picture of them. For centuries they have been like those bones, without unity, articulation, or hopes; without priest, prophet, country, or king, and, alas, without the true knowledge of God. Their condition has answered to Ezekiel’s terse description, “Lo, they were very dry.” But they are now beginning to stir, “a noise and a shaking” is being heard and seen, soon to result in the bones coming together “bone to his bone.” And when God sets His hand to the work of gathering them again into their long forsaken land they will be as Ezekiel describes them “And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: BUT THERE WAS NO BREATH IN THEM. That is, they will be in the land as a nation but void of faith in, or life towards God. They will probably be there boasting in their position as the result of their own wisdom and wealth. Their leaders will be shrewd men, such as have come to the fore in all the civilized nations of the world of late, especially in matters financial. In their worldly wisdom, and regardless of God, these leaders will make a covenant with Antichrist, and the head of the revived Roman empire (Isa. 28:14-15; Dan. 9:27), but their wisdom will prove to be their folly and undoing, for it will bring them into the very sorrows that they hope to escape by such a treaty. Not of such as these will God build up that beloved nation, for He resisteth the proud, and will choose then, as He does now, that which is foolish, weak, and base to confound the wise and the mighty. This is clearly stated in Zephaniah 3:12 “I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people and THEY SHALL TRUST IN THE NAME OF THE LORD.” This godly remnant will go through Jacob’s sorrow with the rest of the rebellious nation, but their light and witness for God in the midst of it will grow as the tribulation increases. We gather this from the fact that the trumpet was blown at the NEW MOON. The new moon teaching us that a feeble faithful remnant will begin to catch the light of the soon-to-rise Sun of Righteousness, this hope will sustain them through the tribulation through which they will pass (Num. 10:3; Ps. 81:3). Matthew 24 describes this period. But the way into blessing is brought before us in the Feast of Atonement.

Matthew 24:31 refers to the gathering of the ten tribes. It is the Jews who are first gathered into the land and who go through the great tribulation; these are the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin who rejected and crucified the Lord.

The Feast of Atonement The Repentance of Israel and the Cleansing of their Sins
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the Lord your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath” (Lev. 23:26-32). “And 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. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And 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; the family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; all the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 12:10-14; 13:1).

Remarks. No account is given to us here of the sacrifices for sin to be offered on the day of Atonement, or of the blood being carried into the holiest as in Leviticus 16. The prominent thing is THE REPENTANCE OF THE PEOPLE. When this comes to pass they will learn that the one perfect and all-availing sacrifice has been offered for them, for they will look upon Him whom they pierced. To this repentance Peter called the people in the early chapters of Acts, but they would not hear. But on the day of which this feast speaks they will hear the word and behold their Messiah, whom they despised and rejected when He was wounded for their transgressions and bruised for their iniquities; then will they mourn and repent.

Notice how solemnly emphasized are two things, “YE SHALL AFFLICT YOUR SOULS,” and “YE SHALL DO NO MANNER OF WORK.” They set forth God’s way of blessing for His people then, and His way of blessing for sinners now — (1) A sense of their sinful condition, which means repentance. (2) Their absolute dependence upon the work of another for the removal of their sins. This one is Jesus, who by one offering has so glorified God that He can say, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:17).

While no mention of the sin offering is made, as we have already pointed out, it is interesting that an offering made by fire unto the Lord has its place, teaching us that while the nation mourns before God the sacrifice of Christ in its burnt-offering character stands for them, and is accepted for them to make an atonement for their souls, and while God thus accepts them a sense of His grace will fill their souls and keep them from despair. This is beautifully expressed in the words, “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem THE SPIRIT OF GRACE AND SUPPLICATIONS. In the sense of His goodness they will lie in supplication at the feet of Jehovah, like the woman who wept at the feet of Jesus in Luke 7.

Then will come home to them the truth of Hebrews 2:16-17. And they will be filled with wonder and worship because of the measureless grace that made Him pass by angels and take on Him the seed of Abraham, that He might be as one of them, though needing no sacrifice Himself, to be to them a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God to make propitiation for their sins — the sins of the people. “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:16-17).

Moreover, as Aaron came out to bless the people after having carried the blood into the Holiest so will He appear unto them, apart from the question of sin for their salvation, Hebrews 9:28, and the final part of Ezekiel’s vision will be fulfilled. God’s Spirit shall be poured out upon them and they shall live, a nation born in a day, “an exceeding great army.” This brings us to the last of the seven feasts.

The Feast of Tabernacles Millennial Blessing
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the Lord. On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein . . . Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye shall gather in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the Lord seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord” (Lev. 23:33-36, 39-44). “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall” (Mal. 4:2). “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain . . . In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 14:16, 17, 20, 21). “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem” (Isa. 52).

Remarks. — The fulfilment of this feast will be Israel’s entrance into the rest that God prepared for them of old, but into which none could lead them but their true Prophet, Priest, and King. Then every word of promise and prophecy will be made good to them, not on the ground of the old covenant but on the ground of the new, when His law shall be written in their hearts, and they shall know Him who never forgot them through all their wanderings, who carried them in His heart and graved them upon His hands. With that people gathered at last under the healing wings of their Lord and King, and all the nations of the earth blessed in association with them under the Lord as universal monarch, wars shall cease, the curse be removed, creation rejoice, and the sabbath of the Lord be ushered in.