Leviticus 23:1-22 ~ 20170226 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
02/26 Leviticus 23:1-22; Holy Time - the Spring Feasts; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170226_leviticus-23_1-22.mp3
We are in the second section of Leviticus, the section that deals with the holiness of God's forgiven people. We see in chapters 17-27 that for those who have been forgiven by God by means of sacrifice, for those who are now in a relationship with God, all of life becomes holy. Chapters 21 and 22 addressed holy people, instructions for those God set apart to be his priests. Here in chapter 23, God addresses holy time; there are days and seasons that God has set apart to communicate truth, to remind us to look back on his past faithfulness, to point us forward to the promise of his future grace, to make space in our schedules to reflect, to focus our attention on him.
All the way back in Genesis 1, at creation, God said:
The word for 'seasons' [mow`ed], shows up 6 times in Leviticus 23, translated here as 'appointed feasts'. This word is used many times in Leviticus to refer to the tent of meeting. It refers to an appointment, an assembly, a place of meeting. In Leviticus 23 it is pointing to an appointed meeting time. We also find the phrase 'holy convocations' [miqra' qodesh] 11 times in this chapter; a convocation is a summons or a calling out, a public meeting, reading or rehearsal. 5 times we see the word translated 'a day of solemn rest'. 10 times the phrase 'you shall do no work'.
This chapter deals with holy time, time set apart to the LORD, time to cease from the routine, time to rest and reflect, time to gather, to assemble together to remember together.
This chapter breaks into two main sections; 1-22, and 23-44; each major section concluding with the phrase "I am YHWH your God." It further breaks down into five sections, beginning in verses 1, 9, 23, 26, and 33; each beginning with the declaration "the LORD spoke to Moses, saying..." The first section is a reminder of the weekly Sabbath, and gives instructions on the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. The second section addresses the presentation of the Firstfruits during the feast of Unleavened Bread, and the presentation of firstfruits seven weeks or 50 days later. The second half of the chapter deals with the feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths. The first major section, verses 1-22, deal with the Spring Festivals; the second major section deals with the Fall Festivals.
There are seven holy convocations in addition to the weekly Sabbath; four of these are specified as days of solemn rest.
Three of these, The Feast of Unleavened bread, The Feast of Weeks or Harvest, and the Feast of Booths or Ingathering were to be pilgrim festivals.
At these three, every male was to come up to the temple.
This is a reminder of the fourth commandment, that as God created all things in six days and then rested to enjoy what he had made, so we are to labor for six days and rest for one. At the beginning of a chapter addressing annual holy days of rest and worship, there is a reminder of the weekly cycle of work and rest. The other feasts are founded on this basic cycle of work and rest. Many of the feasts take on the characteristics of a weekly Sabbath, even if they do not fall on a Saturday. The Sabbath is a solemn day of rest, a holy convocation, a Sabbath to the LORD. Every moment of time is a gift. Some time is to be set aside to enjoy sweet fellowship with our Creator. These sacred times of rest are to be Godward rest, Sabbaths to the LORD. They are to be pervasive. In all your dwelling places, wherever you are, there is to be time set aside for devotion to the LORD.
Passover and Unleavened Bread
This is a very brief summary of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The origin of these celebrations comes from Exodus 12-13, where God took his people out of slavery in Egypt. A Passover lamb was sacrificed in place of the firstborn son in each home, and the blood was applied to the door to protect those inside from the destroyer. Exodus 12:2 states that at the Exodus, the Lord changed this month, the month of Abib (or Nisan) to be the first month of the year for them. This was the birth of the nation of Israel. "Out of Egypt I called my son" (Hos.11:1; Mt.2:15).
Notice, at twilight on the 14th day the Passover was celebrated. On the following day, the 15th, began the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The leaven was removed on the first day of the Feast, on the day after the Passover was sacrificed. No leaven was to be used for the duration of the feast. The first day and the seventh day of the feast were to be holy convocations.
There is some debate as to exactly when the firstfruits was presented. Most likely, it was on the day after the Sabbath during the feast of Unleavened Bread. So if Passover fell on Friday, then the Sabbath, Saturday, would be the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. On Sunday, the day after the Sabbath, the Firstfruits would be presented. This would be the first barley harvest, in March or April. Nothing of the new harvest was to be eaten until this presentation of the Firstfruits was made to the LORD. This was a very tangible reminder that everything belonged to the LORD, and every good thing came from him. The Firstfruits was the first portion of the new spring harvest, a promise of more of the harvest to come.
Weeks [Harvest, Pentecost]
The Feast of Weeks was calculated 7 weeks or 50 days after the Sunday of Firstfruits. This would fall on a Sunday in late May or early June, and coincide with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest. This is the only feast where leavened bread was permitted. Jewish tradition connects this feast to the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, 50 days after the Exodus from Egypt.
Pointing Back and Forward
These feasts would be annual reminders that God is the source of every good thing. This year, we are again dependent on God's provision for our needs. It is he that causes crops to grow. These feasts would also be memorials of God's past faithfulness. God decisively delivered his people out of bondage and into relationship with him. He faithfully provided bread from heaven throughout the wilderness wanderings, even in the midst of the disobedience and grumbling of the people. When Israel entered the promised land, they enjoyed the produce from a land they had not worked. Feasts are memorials of God's past and present faithfulness. But there is a future aspect to these feasts. They were pointers to something to come. Just as we have seen that the Levitical sacrificial system was a shadow of good things to come, pointing to Jesus, so the calendar of feasts was a shadow, drawing our attention to the fulfillment in Jesus.
When John saw Jesus approaching, he cried out
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5
Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb. Jesus was crucified on Passover. It is important to remember that the sacrifice was killed before the leaven was cleansed. Leaven is a symbol of sin.
We do not attempt to clean ourselves up in order to be rescued by Jesus. We begin to cleanse out the old leaven becaus Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. Sin has been put away by his crucifixion (Heb.9:26). "...the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Is.53:6). Jesus' body rested in the grave on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. But on the day after the Sabbath, on Sunday Morning, he was presented alive!
On the day the first of the barley harvest was presented to the Priests in the temple, Jesus presented himself alive. Over the next 40 days, he presented himself alive to many witnesses. After 40 days, he ascended to the right hand of his Father in heaven. And ten days later, 50 days after his resurrection,
On the feast of Weeks, when the Firstfruits of the wheat harvest were presented in the temple, the Lord poured out his Spirit on his followers, and the church was born. On the day commemorating the giving of the Law on Sinai, the Spirit was given to the believers gathered in Jerusalem, the fulfillment of the New Covenant promises.
We may wonder why the section from chapter 19 on regulations for harvesting is appended again here in Leviticus 23.
But it seems appropriate that in the context of the church, where Jew and Gentile are united in one body through the gospel, there would be some mention of blessings extended to the foreigners, the outsiders.
It is interesting to remember that Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, was the one feast where leavened bread was permitted. Leaven puffs up, picturing pride, and as such it was not permitted on the altar. In Matthew 13, Jesus told a series of parables describing what the kingdom would be like. He compared it to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his servants were sleeping an enemy sowed weeds among the wheat. Both were allowed to grow together until the harvest. He likened it to a mustard seed which grew abnormally large and provided a refuge for the evil birds of the air. Then he compared it to leaven that a woman hid in three measures of flour. He compared it to a field which was purchased in order to obtain the treasure hidden there. He compared it to a net which gathered fish of every kind, later to be sorted out, good from bad. Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven is a mixed bag. There would be the good, genuine wheat, good fish, a treasure; but there would be also bad, weeds, bad fish, room even for the agents of the evil one to be at home within its expanding branches. Jesus taught that these would be allowed to grow together, but they would be sorted out at the end of the age. Jesus is telling us tha the church is leavened. It is mixed. There is good together with the bad. There will be true believers, and there will be false professors. Among Jesus' own twelve, there was a Judas. It is not our job to sort them all out. Jesus is fully capable of doing that. It is our job to 'examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith' (2Cor.13:5); and to 'keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching' (1Tim.4:16). It is our job to 'strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord' (Heb.12:14). It is our job to live in such a way 'that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven' (Mt.5:16). It is even our job to 'purge the evil person from among you' (1Cor.5:12). It is our job to 'pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest' (Mt.9:38). And to trust the Lord that even some who smell a lot like bad fish would experience the transformational work of the Spirit and become new creations before the end. Among Jesus' disciples there was also a Peter, who was told 'get behind me Satan' (Mt.16:23); who denied Jesus 3 times, who went on tobe restored, and to 'feed my sheep' (Jn.21:17).
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org