Simplicity Series #42

The Sabbath Reveals the Redemptive Plan of God


The Seven Feasts of Israel

Not only did God give to Israel the seventh-day Sabbath, He also gave to them seven Sabbath-feasts. The seven feasts of Israel were designed around the idea of the Sabbath:

“Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation … These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times.” Leviticus 23:3–4

With these words, God begins to instruct Moses on the seven feasts to be held annually. They are an extension of the Sabbath day, and in each of them a special Sabbath was to be observed.

The truly astounding thing is that in the seven feasts, God lays out His redemptive plan for not only Israel, but also for all mankind. My first trip to Israel in 1982 was with Zola Levitt. The following summary of the feasts is adapted from his own explanation of the feasts from a Jewish believer’s perspective, based on his early training in the synagogue and later conversion to faith in Jesus Christ (The Seven Feasts of Israel, Zola Levitt).

Passover, Leviticus 23:4–5

This feast, held in early spring, began the festival year in Israel. This Passover feast celebrated the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12). This occurred on the first full moon of spring, which would be preceded by the early budding of the almond trees. Even those who could not read would see the almond bloom and know that the next full moon would be Passover.

This feast spoke of Redemption, and was both a commemoration and anticipation of the sacrifice of the lamb … without blemish” (Exod. 12:4–5). It was this that John the Baptist referred to in John 1:29 and 36. In the perfect plan of God, the Lord Jesus was sacrificed on Passover (Mark 14:12; John 13:1).

At the meal in the Upper Room, Jesus transformed the Passover—which looked back to the Exodus—into the Lord’s Supper, focused on the finished work of Christ on the cross. He gave meaning to what had been celebrated for over 1,400 years, when He said, “Take, eat; this is My body … this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:26–28).

Just as the death angel passed over every house with the blood of the lamb on its door (Exod. 12:13), even so those who trust in Christ—who are under the blood of the Lamb—will be passed over from judgment because they possess eternal life (John 3:36; 5:24; 1 John 5:12–13).

Unleavened Bread, Leviticus 23:6–8

This feast began the very next night. For seven days, only unleavened bread was to be eaten (Lev. 23:6). This feast had a Sabbath, a “holy convocation,” on the first and seventh days (Lev. 23:7–8). Thus, there were two Sabbaths in one week!

Since leaven is often used as a symbol of sin, the emphasis was on sanctification or purification of life. Paul used the feast of unleavened bread to appeal to the carnal Corinthians to purify their lives:

“Therefore purge out the old leaven … for indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast … with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” 1 Corinthians 5:7–8

Jesus Christ Himself, the “bread of life” (John 6:35) is the perfect picture of the unleavened bread. Zola Levitt comments on the Jewish unleavened bread:

“Anyone who has seen the Jewish Matzoh sees that it is striped (“By His stripes we are healed”), pierced (“They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced”), and of course, pure, without any leaven.”

He further explains that in the Jewish ceremony, three pieces of bread were used to illustrate the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The middle piece of bread—the Son in the Trinity—was hidden away, and then brought forth again. How astounding that Jesus Christ was buried on the feast of Unleavened Bread! Just at sundown of the Passover, the feast of Unleavened Bread began (the Jewish day runs from sundown to sundown). The “grain of wheat” had to go into the ground and die, that it might bring forth much fruit (John 12:24).

Since it normally took up to three days for one to die from crucifixion, Pilate was amazed that Jesus died so quickly (Mark 15:42–44). However, in the perfect plan of God, Jesus released His spirit because His work was finished (Matt. 27:50; John 10:18; 19:30). It was necessary for Him to die quickly, that He might be buried at the beginning of the feast of Unleavened Bread. As Zola puts it, “The answer to why He died in six hours is that’s all the time He could spare. Our Lord never omitted a feast.”

Firstfruits, Leviticus 23:9–14

Amazingly, the third of the spring feasts was held on Sunday. The Jews were instructed to bring a sheaf of grain from the harvest to the priest:

“He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath, the priest shall wave it.” Leviticus 23:11

The feast of Unleavened Bread lasted for seven days. One of those days would, therefore, be a Sunday, and it was specified that on that day the Firstfruits were to be waved, “to be accepted on your behalf.”

The feast of Firstfruits not only anticipated the resurrection of Jesus Christ on our behalf, but also the resurrection of all who believe in Him. As Paul says:

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruitsof those who have fallen asleep … For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order; Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” 1 Corinthians 15:20–22

Not only does the feast of Firstfruits anticipate the resurrection of believers, but also the Rapture of the Church. Jesus Christ Himself is the first resurrection from the dead. The second wave will be the Church:

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus … And the dead in Christ will rise first.” 1 Thessalonians4 :14, 16

Pentecost, Leviticus 23:15–22

This feast was to begin at a very specific time. They were to count:

“… from the day after the Sabbath [Sunday] … seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath [Sunday]; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord.” Leviticus 23:15–16

Pentecost was to begin on Sunday! On this day a very special offering was to be made:

“You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord.” Leviticus 23:17

Note the contrast between the Passover and Unleavened Bread feasts, to these two identical loaves, which were baked with leaven. They represent another “firstfruit” to God, but this one is not perfectly pure (i.e., without leaven, a picture of sin).

These loaves represent the Church—made up of both Jew and Gentile, who are now made one in Christ (Rom. 1:16; Eph. 2:11–18). This was the very miracle that occurred on the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2. Further, consider that it was sinful Peter, who denied his Lord three times, who was used on the day of Pentecost to bring three thousand souls into the kingdom of God (Acts 2:14–41).

Another interesting instruction was given regarding the feast of Pentecost:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 23:22

Consider how amazing this provision is, not only because it showed concern and compassion for the poor, but also because it was the very provision the disciples used, and for which the Pharisees attacked Jesus (Matt. 12:1–2). Our Lord came into this world an outcast Savior, “like a stranger in the land, and like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night” (Jer. 14:8). Yet His labor was not in vain, and because of His self-emptying and condescension (Phil. 2:5–11), a great harvest was begun on the very Sunday of Pentecost, that continues to this day.

We can see that the first four feasts of Israel were fulfilled exactly on time and in a precise way of fulfilling prophecy. For the sake of keeping these posts brief, we will look at the final feasts in the next offering.


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