Principles & Practice
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 Holiest Day of the Year
The Day of Atonement: Repentance
What’s the holiest day of the year? For the Children of Israel, there was no question: it was the Day of Atonement. Passover was the day of our personal atonement, the day the Sacrificial Lamb of God died in our place. We have been rescued from death because a perfect substitute sacrifice, Jesus Christ, was found. We are like Isaac, freed from the altar of death. As you applied and received the precious blood of Jesus over the doorpost of your heart, you come to salvation in the New Covenant. Now, let’s look at the original purposes of God’s most holy day on the Hebrew calendar.
We’ve been talking about God’s appointments with His people and the principles He wanted to share with them through each, and we are entering what’s called the Fall Feast Season. Though we have covered some feasts that are truly meaningful, for the Children of Israel no time was holier than the Day of Atonement. But He didn’t simply toss His people straight into this holy day; He put it in the midst of a feast season. He set up Atonement with the Feast of Trumpets, a feast designed to help them remember where they’d been and to repent, and then He followed it up with what the Children of Israel just referred to as “the Feast” (or the Feast of Tabernacles). Atonement, a day of prayer, righteousness, and faith, would result in the supernatural cleansing of the people. This holiest of days would cleanse or cover the people of their sins. Pretty important, right? Yes—but the promises only started there.
Traditionally, Christians do not have a single day of the year—let alone ten days—where we focus on repentance. I have heard some people say that it’s hard to be under the law, but I think that this is an example that our walk under grace calls us to a higher standard than under the law! Christians do not repent one time a year; we are called to repent daily, regularly. We can repent at any time in prayer because we have a living relationship with God.
With this understanding that God’s people had one time a year of corporate repentance, read how Jesus taught His disciples to pray:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors and do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV)
This word, “debts,” means our sins. So this is the template that Jesus taught us to use when praying, and it includes repentance in the same breath as asking for provision and protection from the devil. We don’t have to wait for a feast season; we can examine our lives on a daily basis, repent, and allow God to correct our course as needed.
The next time you pray—the very next time!—look at your life. How do you treat others? What condition is the condition of your heart? How is your attitude? Is God your priority? Do you have unforgiveness in your heart? If you realize you have something against someone, don’t go any further; do what you can to make it right. Forgive and release them. Don’t let the enemy get an advantage over you.
Modern Christians lack a proper understanding of what it means to “fear the Lord.” The Children of Israel understood. The Feast of Trumpets was designed to set them up for Atonement with awe and reverence, and I strongly encourage you to take some time to study what it means to have the fear of the Lord. Yes, it is the beginning of wisdom, but it is the reverential awe that we as sinners saved by grace should have for a God equally full of righteousness and mercy.
In our freedom, sometimes I think we lose the opportunity to be reminded to clean our spiritual house occasionally. The Feast of Trumpets provided Israel an opportunity to make things right, and their hearts and with one another. It was customary to seek reconciliation with people that you may have wronged during the year, and they had ten days of introspection to help them prepare for the Day of Atonement.
I would like to suggest that we as Christians also have an opportunity for this type of introspection, repentance, and even restitution in relationships: Communion.
Paul tells us we are to examine ourselves before taking communion so that we do not partake of the Lord’s Supper unworthily. Paul gives the Corinthian church instructions on how they are to take the Lords Supper. After giving detailed instructions on how to take Communion, he explains how they are to examine themselves.
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason, many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. (1 Corinthians 11:28-31 NKJV).
Remember, the point of learning about these feasts is not so that we hold ourselves responsible for following Hebrew practices exactly. It’s to understand the principles behind them and their application to us as New Testament believers. A period of repentance was essential to God for His people then…and it is now.
Every time you pray and every time you take Communion, be reminded of the Feast of Trumpets and the reverential awe that God’s people were to cultivate in their hearts. Take it as an opportunity to examine yourself, as Paul directs, so that instead of eating and drinking judgment or damnation to yourself, you can instead do some spiritual housecleaning and eat and drink blessing.
This sets us up for Atonement, the next step in the process God designed—and trust me, it only gets better from here!