Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”-Exodus 5:1
Today I’d like to introduce a new Hebrew word that we’re going to encounter quite frequently as we move further into the Torah.
That word is CHAGAG or חָגַג in Hebrew letters.
It means to “keep a pilgrim feast”.
The key point is that this word specifically refers to those festivals that require believers to make a journey to a place God designates, a place which will of course later be the temple.
We are going to soon be introduced to seven Biblical festivals that God will ordain for Israel.
And out of those seven, three will be CHAGAG or pilgrimages to the Temple.
They are Passover, Shavuot (or Pentecost for the uninitiated), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).
So in verse 1 of Exodus 5, when Moses and Aaron approach Pharaoh and tell him that Yahweh demands that Israel be freed for a 3-day journey, CHAGAG is the word being used.
Predictably, Pharaoh scoffs at this suggestion.
To Pharaoh, it was amusing that he would even consider granting such a request.
Because in his mind, the Israelites were his possession.
“The Hebrews don’t belong to this god I’ve never even heard of called YAHWEH.“
“They belong to me!” is what was going through his mind.
Now there’s an incredibly important spiritual takeaway I want you to catch here.
Notice that the first symbolic act of freedom that God pressed upon the Israelites was that they celebrate a festival for Him.
While the modern church has a tendency to pooh-pooh God’s ordained festivals in the OT as being unimportant or “just for the Jews”, I feel the importance of honoring God by celebrating His ordained festivals is brought to the forefront here.
Personally, I’ve always found it fascinating that Christianity in general has not celebrated these festivals because they point so clearly to our Messiah.
Another takeaway I get from today’s passage is that it should be considered a privilege to have the opportunity to celebrate God’s Holy Festivals.
Here in the Book of Exodus, the Israelites were in bondage to a foreign master with zero freedom to express themselves to their God.
When we celebrate God’s ordained Holy Festivals, it is the ultimate expression of our freedom given to us by YHVH.