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.
Three Elements of Biblical Feasts
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.
I want us to look at three Hebrew words used for these special days that each convey an idea we need to grasp. The first is mo’ed, which means a season or an appointed time. Just as the Creator made the sun, moon, and stars for time and seasons in Genesis 1, He also selected dates on the calendar when His people got to set time apart with Him away from the ordinary business of life. Feasts are appointments set ahead of time to meet with God, which is a principle we can and should keep embracing today. The second concept I want us to understand is mikrah, which is a convocation, a sacred assembly, or rehearsal of God’s past, present, and future acts. Each Old Testament feast is designed to remember something the Lord did or to foreshadow an aspect of the ministry of Jesus. Remember, the entire Old Testament was just setting the stage for the Savior, and Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies while He was on earth, many of which tie into the feast calendar.
Third is the word chag, which is a festive celebration. Chag sets the tone for how we think about meeting with God; these appointments with God are to be festive, happy occasions. They were full of eating and drinking and dancing and singing—they were parties! God had His people meet with Him to celebrate what He had or was going to do with parties full of celebrating and remembering. I believe this tells us something important about the attitude God has about these meetings and reinforces what I said earlier: we don’t observe these principles because we have to but because we get to. Not only did God design His celebrations to be happy occasions, but He also built in principles of great rewards for those who celebrated joyfully and voluntarily.
What does this tell us about our God? And what does it imply about how we should continue to observe the principles He founded these feasts on? I believe that it tells us that we are completely wrong if our perception of God is that He is a cosmic killjoy, sitting up in heaven and just itching to catch us messing up. These feasts seasons weren’t opportunities for His people to act more self-righteous and stiff; they were chances to celebrate and enjoy God’s blessings and honor Him for His goodness in their lives.
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!