We are entering into God’s Holiest Season of the Year: Atonement.
Principles & Practice
From The God of Timing by Paula White Cain
Your life is about discovery and learning, and your assignment is uncovering the secrets of the greatest mystery in the universe—our great God and Creator. Your guidebook on this great journey of discovery is the Bible, and in it are all the clues you need to discover the plan for your life that God has intended from the foundation of the world. But your destiny doesn’t end with discovering the secrets of God’s plan for your life: you must then use what you learn to let Him change your life forever. James urges us to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).
You may never have thought about it like this, but God has an MO. If you have ever watched a detective show or a mystery, you know that investigators study those they are pursuing to learn how they operate—their “method of operation.” A good detective gets into the head of the person he or she is passionately pursuing.
God has an MO—a divine pattern, order, and arrangement of things that He has followed from the beginning—and His principles have never changed. The order or arrangement of the Kingdom of God—God’s method of operation—is in all things, and it’s our job to study Him and learn His way of doing things so that we may reflect His Kingdom in our lives.
It is not enough to just learn about God, His methods, and His ways; we must let them change us from the inside out.
This journey of discovery and change is like when you first meet the person you want to marry. In this sweet time of falling in love, you learn all about the other person—all of the mannerisms, behaviors, and principles of their personality. Uncovering each aspect of what makes this individual unique and extraordinary is a big part of the process of falling in love. You learn all the little things, because you’re completely captivated and can’t help but study this person whose life is meshing with yours.
Learning about this person knits you together, changes you. You become more like them. Not only do you find out how they think and find yourself finishing their sentences, how they act begins to impact how you behave, as well, and you find yourself taking on their mannerisms, reactions, and behaviors.
Learning about God through studying His principles is like that—learning and discovering the traits and mannerisms of our Love. We don’t do it out of obligation, as though we were under the Law; we do it as a heartfelt response to the love affair with God that sweeps us up into salvation. And as we become enmeshed with our Bridegroom, He changes us from within, and we take on His thoughts, ways, and mannerisms.
Now, imagine this for a moment. What good does it do to learn all about the person you love if you do not apply what you learn? Perhaps your future spouse enjoys lilies instead of roses. How does it show what you’ve learned if you never buy her lilies? Or maybe your love enjoys a slow cooked roast. What good does knowing he likes this meal do if you never cook it for dinner?
Christianity, I say in my book Don’t Miss Your Moment, is not just about knowing—it’s about being and doing. It is not enough to study God’s patterns and principles through the Old Testament feasts—our divine appointments— we must use what we learn in our lives as a result of the love He has placed in our hearts.
The feasts we read about in the Old Testament were God’s way of letting His people get to know Him. They were His way of showing them His mannerisms, thoughts, principles, and methods. By participating in the feasts, they grew to know Him more intimately.
We are going to be uncovering God’s ways and thoughts as we look at the feasts He gave His people, but we will all face the same challenge the Israelites did: will we let what we learn change who we are?
Isaiah 55:9 says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (NKJV). But His ways and thoughts are not unknowable—we can learn them. This learning is the process of getting to know our Love. But simply knowing His ways isn’t enough. We must do His ways as well!
We connect with God through His Word, through prayer, through worship, and in spending time with Him. As we do so, we begin to learn how He does things. His way of doing things rules and reigns in His Kingdom; we must let them rule and reign in our lives.
The word “kingdom” is made up of two words you already know—“king” and “dominion.” Within a king’s dominion things are done his way. God’s Kingdom is no different; it operates on His principles and follows His divinely established patterns. When we make His ways first, our lives become aligned with His plans and promises for us. Jeremiah 29:11 is a very famous and often-quoted verse: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (NIV). But we rarely consider the context in which this statement was made. The Jewish people were in exile, having disobeyed God for so long that He eventually let them be conquered and led away into captivity. They were there in captivity because they hadn’t let God’s ways become their ways.
In the midst of their captivity, however, God is telling them to trust Him and to return to His ways. God had had enough of Israel rejecting His principles and commands, and before they would experience His freedom, they had to walk through their captivity and begin putting Him and His ways first (and only). On the other side of their captivity was a promise: ultimately they would experience His prosperous, hopeful future—if they would repent and return to His ways.
We who know Jesus have the Holy Spirit within us to teach us His ways and His Word is full of His principles and methods. He revealed Himself to Israel and instituted feasts and celebrations to teach His people about Him and help them remember what He’d done for them. Together, we will look at how God’s Kingdom operates by learning about the significance of some of these biblical feasts and celebrations. And as we learn this background, we must always remember this: all of God’s covenant promises and privileges are released and received by activating the Word of God in our lives. Isaiah 1:19 tells us, “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.”
The feasts are not just about behaviors and commemorative celebrations; they are about the principles of Heaven and a reflection of the ways of God’s Kingdom. The yoke of Jesus is not a burden—the traditions and religions of men are. We embrace the biblical feasts to draw closer to God by spending time with Him.
Why We Have Feasts
It all points to the Cross…
God created divine appointments with His people throughout the Old Testament. It’s important to understand that the Israel did not have the constant indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit like New Testament Christians do. Instead, they had to meet with God at specific times, in specific places, in specific ways.
These ways were the biblical feasts. God gave specific instructions regarding these holy days and how to observe them and honor Him. These biblical feasts were opportunities for deeper communion and blessings where God could interact with His children more intimately. They were special occasions or God’s own “holy days”—His holidays built around the cycles of worshiping Him.
Opportunities to draw near to God, even today, are holy days. Though we are not under the law, the principles behind God’s feasts continue through today and provide us with a choice. We can seek to observe these principles out of a legalistic attitude— because we “have to”—or out of obedience and a heart attitude that says we “get to.” Reminding ourselves of God’s ways is for our benefit, not His. He seeks to bless us as we honor Him.
I think of it as being a little bit like Valentine’s Day or an anniversary. I have noticed that some people treat “holidays” like Valentine’s Day or anniversaries as a chore—something they have to do. We’ve all seen the humorous examples of men who feel coerced into spending money on their dates or who are fearful of forgetting an anniversary, but this is just an illustration of how easy it is for something that should be a celebration to become an obligation. We take opportunities such as Valentine’s Day or an anniversary to celebrate love, commitment, relationship, and being with the one we love. When we embrace these chances to come together, we have opportunities to build intimacy in a relationship and to express our love and commitment for one another.
I love getting together with my husband to celebrate special events together. Sometimes we go to a restaurant that is nicer than we would usually visit, consciously don’t talk about the ordinary things of everyday life, and often exchange well-thought-out gifts. We take special occasions as opportunities to express our love.
I hope you‘ve had the chance to experience a beautiful evening with your special someone. But now, instead of your spouse, imagine that this amazing date is with your Lord and Savior. Think of all the feelings of a special dinner date and understand that this is how God wants you to feel about appointments with Him.
This intimacy is why He instituted feasts, and it’s why we should observe the principles even today—because they’re opportunities to express love.
God designated seven feasts for the His people (see Leviticus 23), and these feasts were opportunities for greater intimacy with God. They were a chance to express their love for God and God to show His people reminders of His faithfulness and love.
The Seven Feasts:
God masterfully orchestrated the sequence and timing of His appointments with His people by designating seven feasts during three feast seasons: Passover, Pentecost, and Atonement (Tabernacles). They represented three major links between God and His covenant children.
1. The first was the Feast of Passover, which not only commemorated how the angel of death passed over the Hebrew homes in Egypt but also points to Christ as our Passover Lamb (see Exodus 11 and 12).
2. The second was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which points to Jesus as the Bread of Life (see John 6:35).
3. Next was the Feast of Firstfruits, which guides us directly to the Savior (see 1 Corinthians 15:2-23).
4. The fourth was the Feast of Pentecost. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to bear witness of the Savior during Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-4).
5. Fifth came the Feast of Trumpets, which reveals the soon coming Savior (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16).
6. Sixth was the Feast of Atonement, a guided understanding of how the Word became flesh (see Romans 5:8-15).
7. Seventh and last was the Feast of Tabernacles. This showed us the Creator’s plan to send His Son to renew fellowship with us and establish His authority, ownership, and rein (see John 1:14).
Each feast or divine appointment, especially Passover, demonstrates how everything in the Old Testament pointed to the cross and beyond. They illustrated supernatural truths, blessings, and principles for us today as surely as they pointed to the future and commemorated the past for the Israelites. They were all built on the foundation of God’s blood covenant with humanity.
The difference between the Hebrew people and Christians is that remission of sins was accomplished by shedding the blood of sacrificial animals during the Old Testament, but we are under a better covenant. Jesus’ blood was poured out for us, once and for all time, and because of His blood, there are significant benefits for you!
The feasts of Israel were living memorials to what God had done for His people. They were not only to remember these divine acts fondly, but God’s people were also to reenact and participate in them over and over again. This reenactment served as a way of bringing what God had done for their ancestors into their present lives, keeping His favor and blessings fresh on their minds and letting them impact their lives throughout the year. God had them relive the experience—the sights, sounds, the smells, and tastes—of the events that had shaped their Hebraic heritage.
However, God was not only trying to help His people remember what He’d done for them; He was trying to etch His principles and ways upon them.
Many Christians respond with something like this when I begin to teach on the biblical feasts: “I don’t celebrate these feasts because I’m not Jewish. Why do we need to know about this as believers?”
This might seem like a valid concern, but it simply shows that they do not understand the component of the Old Testament which functions as a shadow or pattern of the New Covenant we have under Christ. The writer of Hebrews says, “The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves” (Hebrews 10:1 NLT).
Paul writes, “So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new-moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality” (Colossians 2:16-17 NLT).
The Old Testament was a preview of what Christ would fulfill on earth. But Jesus Himself said that He did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18 NIV).
God established His principles to be kept forever. And while we as Christians may not observe the feasts as the Hebrews do, it is vital that we don’t abandon the principles of what is important to God, because nothing that God established and Jesus fulfilled will ever become worthless.
The point of studying the feasts is not to bind Christians to celebration, ceremonies and rituals of the law. Rather, it is to learn about our Love, Christ Jesus, from the principles God established for His people before the time of Christ. These principles were revealed hundreds of years before Jesus fulfilled the promises of Scripture. In Christ, we have an excellent relationship with God, better than we could ever have through observing feasts and celebrations. However, the feasts and celebrations give us insight into the mind and heart of God.
As you learn of God’s ways, it is my hope that you will implement these principles in your daily lives. Then, having learned about our Bridegroom and His ways, live as though His Kingdom were on earth. As our hearts say,
“May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 NLT).