“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts” (Leviticus 23:1, NKJV).[i]
These are the eight feasts and celebrations of the Lord, and His holy convocations declared in Leviticus. They belong to Him and point to His first and second advents. Interestingly, the first holy assembly referenced is the Sabbath. The remaining seven festivals are seasonally divided into spring and fall. These include the Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Firstfruits (Resurrection Sunday), Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), Feast of Trumpets (Jewish Civil New Year), Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles.
We have previously discussed what each of these holy convocations represents and how they are fulfilled in Christ. In this teaching, we will discuss how these pertain to the church and not exclusively to Israel. And we will investigate how the Lord intends for us all to honor Him in celebrating these festivals.
Paul said, “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:1-2). These oracles include God’s instructions for how to celebrate His feasts. Therefore, while Israel was entrusted with the feasts of the Lord,[ii] they were not exclusively for them.
Yeshua spoke regarding the Sabbath. He said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). He did not say the Sabbath was made for Israel. He declared it was made for all humanity. And, because He is Lord of all, which includes the Sabbath,[iii] for us who are in Christ, the Sabbath specifically belongs to us—both Jew and Gentile—as a promise of our eternal rest in Him. As it is written, “For us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:6).
As to the Passover, Paul instructed the Gentiles: “Therefore let us [Corinthians] keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8). While the observance of the Passover initially had restrictions for Gentiles, it was not prohibited for them to partake in it.
The Lord said, “And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you” (Exodus 12:48-49).
The Lord made provision for Gentiles to join themselves to the House of Israel and become one, even, equal with them—one born of the land and a native Israelite. And now, the circumcision required of the Gentiles is that of the heart, not the flesh.
In the Old Testament, the Lord spoke through His prophets to the Gentiles specifically regarding the Sabbath and the Feast of Tabernacles:
“Blessed is the man who does this, And the son of man who lays hold on it; Who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And keeps his hand from doing any evil. Do not let the son of the foreigner Who has joined himself to the Lord Speak, saying, The Lord has utterly separated me from His people [Israel]…” (Isiah 56:2-3).
“Also the sons of the foreigner Who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, And to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants—Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And holds fast My covenant—Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:6-7).
“For as the new heavens and the new earth Which I will make shall remain before Me, says the Lord, So shall your descendants and your name remain. And it shall come to pass That from one New Moon to another, And from one Sabbath to another, All flesh shall come to worship before Me, says the Lord” (Isiah 66:22-23).
“And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain” (Zechariah 14:16-17).
And, let’s not forget that the Sabbath was sanctified, set apart, and declared holy to the Lord at the time of creation. “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:3). “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy… For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:8-11).
It is by far the longest of the ten commandments spoken to the children of Israel and was given as an eternal ordinance, as it is written, “It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever” (Leviticus 16:31).
King Solomon honored the Sabbath as an eternal ordinance when he dedicated the first Temple. “Behold, I am building a temple for the name of the Lord my God, to dedicate it to Him, to burn before Him sweet incense, for the continual showbread, for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths, on the New Moons, and on the set feasts of the Lord our God. This is an ordinance forever to Israel” (2 Chronicles 2:4).
Sadly, the Temple of Solomon was destroyed and Israel taken into Babylonian captivity for seventy years, the time of exile correlating with the number of Sabbatical years that were not observed according to the Law, and, “to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years” (2 Chronicles 36:21). Later, the Roman empire would destroy the second Temple and exile the Jewish people to every nation and corner of the earth.[iv]
However, Yeshua spoke of a time of restoration before His return. “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things” (Matthew 17:11). He was not speaking of the restoration of earthly governmental, political, or economic systems. No, He was specifically referring to the restoration of Israel, the Kingdom of God. The Lord has declared, “Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul” (Jeremiah 32:41).
God is consumed with the restoration of His people, and we, the church, are the ones He has commissioned to restore His heritage. As such, the church should be equally consumed with God’s heart for the restoration of Israel. In our labor to do so, we are called “the repairers of the breach.” Part of this breach is the restoration of the Lord's eternal ordinance of the Sabbath and His holy convocations, not just to Israel, but to all the nations of the earth:
“Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In. If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the Lord honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words, Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isiah 58:12-14).
The Lord spoke through His prophets of old about this time of restoration, “for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:17). In the latter days, before the return of Christ, it is written:
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the Lord’s house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-3).
Once again, the Lord is speaking to the Gentiles. All the nations shall come up to Jerusalem to learn of God’s Law. This includes how to honor the Sabbath and the feasts of the Lord. And we, the Jewish people, who were entrusted with the oracles of God, are specifically called to teach the Gentiles how to walk in His ways. “In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23).
None of this implies in any way that the Gentiles are to become Jewish. On the contrary. The Lord is making His Temple a house of prayer for all nations. The church will sing to the Lord a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made [d]us kings[e] and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).
There is unmerited fear within the church that by somehow observing the Sabbath and God’s festivals, that we are bringing God’s people back under the burden and bondage of the Mosaic Law. Far from it. The Sabbath is a gift for God’s people. It is not only a day of rest. It is a deposit of the Holy Spirit and token of our future eternal rest in Yeshua.
God has created the world to flow in seasons, from new moon to new moon. And His holy convocations give us a pattern that continually brings us back to a place of both remembrance of what the Lord has done for us, and the anticipation of all the amazing things He is yet to bring forth. “As it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
As we wait on His imminent return, we are called to immerse and delight ourselves in His presence, not dishonoring the Sabbath and the Lord's holy convocations by using these days of rest as opportunities to catch up on errands, play golf, or become immersed in selfish leisurely activities.
No. The Lord said we shall honor Him, not doing our ways, finding our pleasure, or speaking our own words. These holy days of rest are sanctified and set apart so that we might delight in Him, praying, worshiping, singing, dancing, studying His word, and bringing the family of God together for a joyful celebration of food and eternal friendships. Therefore, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).