The Holidays of Israel

There was a couple of Pandas who were unable to bear children of their own, so they made the decision to adopt. They had everything planned out. First, they would build a new room onto their house, then they would adopt a son. When he was old enough, he would help his parents to run their carpentry business. Then, as the business grew and they could afford it, they would adopt another. This pattern would continue until they had adopted seven children. As the years went by, the family had first adopted a porcupine, a skunk, a rat and a vulture. They loved their chiildren very much, and once a month for four months, they would throw a party to celebrate the day they had adopted each one. Then they would throw three more. The porcupine, the oldest of the children, was confused. "Father," he asked. "Why do you have seven adoption parties when there are only four of us children?"

"Because we love all of our children." said the father. "Even the ones we don't know yet. They will be here someday. When we celebrate your adoption, we look to the past. When we celebrate their adoption, we look to the future."

As the years passed, the family adopted an owl, a snake and a raccoon. Each addition to the family was all the more sweet because it had been anticipated for so long.

In the United States, we have three holy days. All three of them look backwards at historical events. Thanksgiving is a time of thanking God for His providence. Easter observes the death and resurection of Christ. Christmas recalls the birth of Christ. And while these are all wonderful, (Especially Christmas- I LURVE Christmas!) This particular series is looking at things which point forward to Jesus.

In Leviticus, God prescribes seven holy days for Israel. The fascinating thing about each one of these is that they not only have significance in the past and the present, but in the future as well. Let's take a look at them.

The holy days of Israel come in two bunches. The first three come during the spring, in the month of Nisan. The fourth comes fifty days after that, and the last three come in the fall, in the month of Tishri. Because Israel has two harvest seasons, all of these are harvest festivals.

The first of the spring holy days is the Passover (Pesach) on Nisan 14. This is one of the most exciting days of the Israelite year. It comemmorates the day before the exodus, when the final of the ten plagues came to Egypt. God took the life of every firstborn in Egypt. Human, animal, Egyptian, foreigner, prince or slave, it made no difference. The Israelites were given very specific instructions on how to endure this plague-

Exodus 12:3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.
5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.
6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.
7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.
12 "On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn--both men and animals--and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD.
13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
When God saw the blood of the lamb who had been slain covering the uprights and crossbeam of the doorway, He would pass over that house and the firstborn in that house would live. The future fulfillment of this observance seems obvious. It pointed forward to the sacrifice of Christ and was fulfilled by His death upon the cross. It was Jesus himself who made the connection between pasover and His own death at the last supper. Today, we Christians continue to celebrate the passover in a very different fashion. We take wine as a symbol of Jesus' blood and bread as a symbol of His body. These elements, which we call communion, or eucharist, or the Lord's Table, remind us of Jesus' sacrifice, which acts as a shield for us, saving us from God's wrath.

The feast of Unleavened bread, or Hag HaMatzot, comes immediately afterward, on the 15th. Historically, this looks back to the first day of the exodus. Unleavened bread was the prefered food of travel, since travelers could not take the time to let yeast rise. Thus, as the Israelites left egypt, they were eating unleavened bread. But There is much more to it than that. Leavening, or Yeast as it is more commonly known, is a traditional symbol of sin. (1 Cor 5:6-8) During this celebration, there was not even to be any yeast anywhere in the house. (Exodus 12:19) There couldn't even be any in the house within a week of the holidays. Some Israelite families have made a bit of a game out of this. They'll hide jars of yeast in the house and have the children scour the house, looking for these jars of yeast. This is a most appropriate game, for it symbolizes the way we should search our souls to see if there is any hidden sin, in order to purge it.

The feast of unleavened bread was fulfilled when Jesus was burried. In his suffering, He took our sins upon Himself, and in his burrial, He bore them away. As Christians, we observe this as part of our communion. Not only do we do this by consuming a wafer of unleavened bread, but also by searching our hearts and confessing our sins before we partake of communion. (I don't know if all of you do this, but it's definitely something we should)

Firstfruits (Yom HaBikkurim) comes on Nisan 16. This was a true harvest festival, for it celebrates the beginning of the harvest. This day, the very first part of the harvest was taken into the temple. This one isn't really tied into a specific event in history, it is similar to our Thanksgiving, the harvest festival in which we give thanks for God's continued provision. We do look back at what God has done for us, giving us our daily bread and bringing us through each year. But this holy day has a wondrous fulfillment, for it points to the ressurection of Jesus.

1 Corinthians 15:20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
The fourth holy day is the feast of weeks, called Shavuot, or as we like to call it, Pentecost. It takes place exactly seven sabaths and one day after Pasover. Modern rabbis don't always put in the last day, as it makes Pentecost fall on Sunday. Pentecost is not associated with any event in the past, save the fact that it follows the spring harvest. This is actually very significant. We'll see why in a moment. The ritual for this day is a very odd one indeed. Two loaves of leavened bread were waved before the Lord. This is the ONLY time leavening is allowed in a sacrifice. Then the book of Ruth is read. Ruth, for those of you who may not know, was a gentile who accepted into the household of Israel. Ruth was the grandmother of King David.

Pentecost points forward to the beginning of the church age, when it was no longer necessary to practice the jewish laws to be saved. The bread made with yeast signifies that Christians would not be bound by the law, but would be under God's Grace. The story of Ruth demonstrates that salvation is given not only to the jew, but to gentiles as well. The specific timing of Pentecost is significant because the first three holy days depicted events which occurred in rapid succession. They also represented the history of Israel. Pentecost represents the day that the old covenant, which centered on Israel, came to an end and was replaced by the church age. This does not mean that God is through with Israel. Far from it. Rather, He has included us, the gentiles in His family. The fulfillment of Pentecost was when the Holy Spirit came to Earth to live with His people for good.

The last three holy days come in the fall, in the month of Tishri. These all point to historical events which have yet to occur.

The first day of the fall holy days is Yom HaTeruah (Trumpets) which comes on the first day of Tishri. On this day, several trumpets were blown, followed by one great trumpet blast. This signalled the beginning of the "days of awe" This time was a great deal like our Christmas season in that it was a time for repenting of evil, making amends and seeking peace. It's a time for kindness, for goodness, and for charity.

The fulfillment of this holy day is coming soon. It will come when the trumpet sounds to call God's children home. It is an event which we refer to as the rapture. All who have accepted Christ, whether dead or living, will assemble together with Jesus in the air and return to Heaven as a completed family.

It also serves as a warning. Time is growing short. It is time to get right with God before it is too late.

The second of the fall holy days is the day of atonement- Yom Kipur. This falls on Tishri 10. It is a special day set aside for the atonement for the sins which the people of Israel had committed in ignorance. It does not commemorate a past event, but it does definitely point forward to a future one.

On Yom Kipur, the high priest fist cleansed himself and offered sacrifice for himself, making himself ceremonially clean and "sinless". On this day alone, the priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies and approach the ark of the covenant. He sprinkled blood on the ark as an offering to cover the sins of the people, symbolically reconciling them with God.

Jesus, our high priest, shed his own blood to cover our sins. when he did so, the veil which closed off the Holy of Holies was torn in two, showing that the way between God and man had been opened once and for all. No longer need the believer be afraid to approach God's presence, either over the ark or on His throne in Heaven.

The fulfillment of Yom Kipur will come at the end of the great tribulation, when Jesus returns to Earth to rule in person as emperor and God, dwelling in the presence of His chosen people.

The final of the seven holidays, Sukkot, is a week-long celebration which begins on Tishri 15. We call this the feast of Booths. During this week, the celebrants live in little booths or tabernacles, usually constructed of grass or straw. They are often decorated with the fruits of the fall harvest. Historically, this reminds us of the time Israel lived in tents and booths and God stayed among them in His own tabernacle. It's significance in the present is to celebrate the harvest, but also to remind us of the temporary nature of this life and this world. The fulfillment of this day is the day that the final harvest of souls is gathered in, when the final war between good and evil is over, and the world is recreated anew.

Thus, the seven prescribed holy days for Israel are prophetic symbols not just of the birth of Christ, but of His life, His greatest accomplishments, and His impact on the world and on history, including the gift of the Holy Spirit. so what can we take away from this?

These indicators of future (and once future) history are a wonderful promise. They tell us that Jesus did not remain a baby in a manger. He lived His life, died for our sins, and returned to Glory where He now intercedes with the Father on our behalf.

My challenge for the unsaved is to understand that in history, we are between Pentecost trumpets. There is little time left. Get right with God and accept Christ as your savior before it's too late.

To my fellow Christians, I urge you also to condiser where we are in history, not because we are in need of salvation, but because we have a special blessing here- being able to thank Jesus for His work in the past, knowing that we have been included in His plan of salvation, and looking forward to the wonders which He has in store for us yet.

I would also urge you during this coming season to take to heart the practice which the Israelites observe at trumpets and we observe at Christmastime- and encourage you to be a little kinder, a little nobler, a little more forgiving, a little more loving and charitable and good. In short, Be a little more like the Lord Jesus. You'll be glad you did.

Pastor Oren Otter
November 5, 2005