Taste and See: Introduction to the Biblical Feasts
I thought that I was drowning the day that I was baptized. My dear friend and mentor Kathy baptized me in the Jordan River in Israel, and she took very literally the baptism into the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”—pressing my head beneath the freezing cold water three times. I came up laughing and gasping for air but definitely baptized. It was funny and sweet (and a tiny bit alarming at the time), but it was also holy and reverent and right. I tell you this story for two reasons:
- To remind us that the church is familiar with the idea of acting out spiritual truths in the physical realm. This is not a new idea to us. We see it in baptism, which pictures both our death to sin and also our new life in Christ: “buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in newness of life.” We see it in communion, which pictures Jesus’ body broken for us, His blood shed for us and His invitation to approach Him, covered as we are by the sacrifice He made.
- To remind us that something need not be “perfect” to be holy and good. I attend a church that regularly baptizes believers. I’ve yet to witness anyone else undergo the triple-dunk. I’ve also never wondered if my baptism counted. As we seek to celebrate the feasts, there are a lot of questions and some ambiguity. We are going to approach the Lord respectfully and reverently, but we are not going to worry about doing it perfectly. We may not celebrate the feasts exactly the way that the ancient people did or even the way that another group of believers does, but we are going to do our best, and we are going to ask Him to reveal Himself and His ways as we do.
I have put off studying and celebrating the feasts for far too long, paralyzed by a fear of imperfection. But we can’t live paralyzed by fear of failure forever or we will find we are not living at all.
I come to you as the woman who was triple-dunked in the Jordan and came up laughing! I am going to explore these feasts as faithfully as I know how. But I know it will not be perfect. I’m asking for your grace as we figure this out together.
We don’t come to the table of God seeking to earn God’s acceptance. We come to the table because we are graciously invited and dearly loved by a perfect God who has already done all that was necessary to welcome us into His presence.
We come to the table to worship the Lord. We come to the table to enjoy Him. We come to the table to taste and see that He is good.
To begin our time in this series, please read Psalm 34:1-10. I’m so honored to come to this table with you.
As a matter of practicality, the first thing we need to sort out is the calendar. The feasts are appointed on certain days in certain seasons on the Jewish calendar, and at first glance, the whole thing is a little confusing.
The Jewish calendar is a based on the moon while our calendar (the Gregorian Calendar—yep, just found out that our calendar has a name) is based on the sun. The Jewish year is 354 days with an extra month added every few years to keep the dates in the proper seasons. Our years are 365 days with a 366th day added every four years for the same reason. Since our years are structured differently, the dates of the feasts change on the Gregorian calendar, but they are always the same on the Jewish calendar.
Additionally, while our days begin at midnight, Jewish days begin at sundown. That means that if Passover is celebrated on April 11, it actually begins at sundown on April 10.
There are some differing opinions about exactly what date the feasts should be celebrated on our calendar. They differ only by a day or two, but it tripped me up for awhile. After reading and trying to remain consistent to the traditional dates, I’ve put together a calendar with the dates that we are going to celebrate the feasts. If you’ve subscribed and are receiving this blog in your email, you’ll receive another email with the calendar attached. If you haven’t subscribed but would like the calendar, let me know by signing up here, and I’ll be happy to send one your way!
The Feasts of the Lord
The seven major biblical feasts, or the “feasts of the Lord” as they are sometimes called, are laid out in Leviticus 23. The Lord gave the feasts to the Israelites after He had led them out of Egypt and was preparing to lead them into the Promised Land.
As we look in more detail at each of the feasts, we will see that the feasts have three primary areas of significance.
- Agricultural: coincide with the agricultural seasons of the ancient Israelites.
- Historical: provided a way for the Hebrew people to worship and approach the Lord.
- Redemptive: depict the entire plan of God for the redemption of His people—Israel and the world.
While these feasts were initially given to the people of Israel, we are invited to celebrate them as believers in Christ because we are invited to the same table of God.
When God called Abraham and established His covenant with him to set apart a people for Himself, God always had in mind the redemption of the whole world. In Genesis 12:3, as God began to introduce Abraham to the covenant, He said, “in you, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” Through Abraham’s line, the nation of Israel was established, and from Israel came the Messiah, our Savior Jesus Christ. Through Christ, all the nations of the world are blessed (Galatians 3:7-8).
Today, believers from all backgrounds are invited to feast at the table of God.
Jesus and the Feasts
During Jesus’ first coming, He not only celebrated the feasts, He also fulfilled the spring feasts on the day that the feast was observed. He carried out the very truths that the feasts pointed to. For example, Jesus’ “Last Supper” with His disciples was the Passover meal. The Passover promises God’s forgiveness of sin and the rescue from death, and on the day of Passover, Jesus carried His cross up a Judean hill and carried God's promise to fulfillment. He similarly fulfilled the other three spring feasts during His time on earth. When He returns, He will fulfill the fall feasts, bringing to completion the redemption and restoration of His people and His world.
This is the part that really excites me and that we are going to look at in much more detail as we study each feast! I can't wait for us to see these pictures of all that Christ has done and will do for us.
The feasts, established to turn the people toward the faithfulness of God, still point His people to Christ. They are pictures that allow us to see and know our Lord more completely. The feasts, like baptism and communion, are physical representations of spiritual truths.
The first feast of the spring is Passover, which we’ll celebrate on April 10. (So save the date and consider hosting your own Passover with a small group of friends or family!) We’ll start exploring the history of it tomorrow! I promise we're going to walk through it in a way that will make hosting your own Passover meal possible. If I can do it, so can you.
I’m praying that these feasts would not become ritual to us but that they would be celebrations that turn our faces to the face of God. I’m praying that every glimpse of His goodness will cause us to love Him more.
These are the primary resources that I’m using. I definitely recommend them if you’re looking for more information about the feasts and Jesus’ fulfillment of them.
- Celebrating Jesus in the Biblical Feasts by Richard Booker. (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., 2016.)
- A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays by Robin Sampson and Linda Pierce. (Shelbyville, TN: Heart of Wisdom Publishing, 2009.)
- The Feasts of the Lord by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1997.)
- Messianic Calendar: September 2016-December 2017 produced by Lion & Lamb Ministries. (Norman, OK: Lion & Lamb Ministries, 2016.)