“Three times a year, you are to observe a festival for me.”
From verse 14 of Exodus chapter 23, the Lord begins to set up His religious calendar by outlining three specific festivals the Israelites are to observe.
Out of the seven feasts the Lord will eventually establish, these three are unique because they require the Israelites to journey to a specific place to celebrate them.
While residing in the wilderness that special place would be the Wilderness Tabernacle.
However, once settled in the land of Canaan, the Israelites will be instructed to journey from wherever they are to Jerusalem (where the temple will be built) to observe these three feasts.
Now just as the Sabbath has a dual physical AND spiritual purpose to it, so do these festivals.
We will see the tremendous spiritual and prophetic significance of these festivals fleshed out for us later in the Book of Leviticus.
However, the instructions being given here focus on a more practical objective, that of establishing a unique national identity for Israel.
Every ancient culture had their own feasts and days they held in honor to their pagan gods.
In response, the Lord was going to set Israel apart from all other nations of the world by establishing His own God-ordained feasts.
As these three festivals are to be held in accordance with the agricultural yearly cycle, the first festival to be introduced is a Spring festival.
Here’s a quick snapshot of the three pilgrimage feasts:
The Festival of Matzah (flatbread)
This is the spring festival that is sometimes called “Passover”.
However, this is NOT really correct because “Passover” is actually a separate one-day feast.
This festival commemorates God’s deliverance of His people from slavery in Egypt.
The Feast of Weeks
This feast in Hebrew is called SHAVUOT.
However, in Christian circles it goes by the name Pentecost.
This festival takes place exactly 50 days after the Feast of Matzah and its purpose is to celebrate the 2nd harvest of the year.
The Feast of the Ingathering
This festival also goes by the name “Feast of Tabernacles” and in Hebrew is called SUCCOTH.
This is the Fall feast and as the name suggests it represents the final ingathering, the last of the harvest taken in before the start of winter.
Now another phrase used in BOTH the Old and New Testaments to refer to these God-ordained “feasts” is “appointed times”.
Technically speaking, this is a VERY correct translation and accurately captures the essence of what a God-ordained feast is all about.
A God-ordained feast is LITERALLY about keeping God’s appointed times.
It is adhering to the Lord’s calendar as He has established it in the heavens.
This point actually brings me to one of the biggest mistakes pastors, preachers and teachers make when teaching God’s Word.
I mean this is absolutely huge.
The biggest mistake is this:
NOT BEING CAREFUL TO NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEN’S APPOINTED TIMES AND GOD’S APPOINTED TIMES!
Failure to understand this difference has caused tremendous confusion in Bible interpretation and teaching.
Disregarding this key difference has caused some pastors, preachers and teachers to MISTAKENLY declare that the Apostle Paul declared the end of God’s Biblical Feasts or appointed times when what he was actually doing was warning us against the observance of men’s appointed times.
He NEVER taught that God’s appointed times had been done away with.
He would be a false prophet if he did.
When it seems like Paul is implying that God’s appointed feasts have been done away with, understand that he is really telling his audience that some of the rituals and procedures that the Rabbis had created for some of the festivals were really not from God, but merely men’s fleshly teachings and traditions.
The New Testament does NOT invalidate the Holy Days.
Yeshua Himself participated in ALL the Biblical Feasts.
In fact, most of the major recorded events of His ministry occurred on one or another of these holy days.
Yeshua was crucified during Passover.
He was resurrected from the dead on First Fruits.
He sent us the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Weeks.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
Therefore do not let anyone judge you
by what you eat or drink,
or with regard to a religious festival,
a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
These are a shadow of the things that were to come;
the reality, however, is found in Messiah.
Do not let anyone who delights in false humility
and the worship of angels disqualify you.
Such a person also goes into great detail
about what they have seen;
they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.
They have lost connection with the head,
from whom the whole body,
supported and held together
by its ligaments and sinews,
grows as God causes it to grow.
Since you died with Messiah
to the elemental spiritual forces of this world,
why, as though you still belonged to the world,
do you submit to its rules:
“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?
These rules, which have to do with things
that are all destined to perish with use,
are based on merely human commands and teachings.