These two posts are based on several articles I have found, written by Jewish people themselves (credited at the bottom of this page), as these Messianic believers have a uniquely deep understanding of their own traditions. Their joy and fulfilment in recognising Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah, revealed in centuries of cherished observance, is wonderful to see and hear, and I hope you are as blessed as I have been, discovering this heritage for myself.
The first time I came across Jewish festivals and feasts was when Jewish believers came to our church and taught us about them; I remember having several Passover Seders, where we were taken through the traditional Seder and we got to experience the joy of seeing how each detail, each cup of sweet wine or taste of bitter herbs or crunch of matzah pointed beyond Exodus to the ultimate redemption we can have through the death of the Lamb of God. Other special memories are of the same Jewish friends teaching us about Sukkot, joyfully constructing a Sukkah and waving the Etrog and the Lulav, and of Hanukkah celebrations, spinning the dreidel, singing fun songs, cooking latkes, and lighting the beautiful Hanukkiah menorah each night for 8 nights.
Just because they were instituted under the Law, that doesn’t mean that the Jewish feasts have been abolished for believers in Yeshua; He kept the feasts and festivals perfectly as an observant Jewish rabbi, and in fact, the prophecies of the Millennial reign to come speak of all the nations of the world keeping the feast of Sukkot, and the world leaders coming up to Jerusalem to pay homage to Yeshua Jesus, who is the true King over all kings and rulers of the world. The feasts are a memorial and a beautiful picture of God and His faithfulness and His plan for mankind. Read on to discover more!
The first thing to talk about is the word for feast used in Hebrew. The word for “feast” is moed (מועד). This word is based on a very important root word yad, יעד. In general, we say that moed means “appointed time”, or set feast. But there is more to it. There is certainly a sense of destiny associated with the word, but the word is also used to talk about time: everlasting, like “Everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6). It also means “until”. There’s another associated meaning in the word עד: it is the Hebrew word for “witness”. In court a witness gives testimony to what they have seen and heard, telling something to the people listening about something they themselves have not experienced. The witness testifies and points to something that isn’t present, but has to be explained. So all together, the word for feast, moed, means a fixed appointed time of destiny which testifies and points to something that goes both backwards in time and forwards through eternity.
The first moed appointed in the Bible is the Shabbat. In Ezekiel 20:12 God says that the Shabbat is a sign between Him and His people, a holy day which serves as a reminder that He has set us aside to be a holy people. The pause each week reminds us that it’s God who created the world and the seven day week, and Jesus says that the Shabbat was created for our benefit. The rest from work helps us relate in a more healthy way to God, our families, our environment and ourselves. Hebrews chapter 4 also explains that it is a witness to the rest that Jesus would bring through His work on the cross. Now He has finished His work and is seated at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 10:12). Thanks to Yeshua, we can enter perfect rest with God through Him. Shabbat testifies to what Jesus did when He paid for our sin, and also what we have to look forward to when He returns in glory.
Another interesting thing about the Shabbat is that God made seven days in the week; six of work and one of rest. He could have chosen any number, but He chose seven. Many of the times and seasons mentioned in Genesis 1 are obvious to both humans and animals alike – nature knows the difference between night and day, spring, summer, fall and winter; even months going by as the moon waxes and wanes and the incredible ways that everything is interconnected in creation. But the days of the week? Only human beings know which day of the week it is – no animal knows whether it’s Shabbat or not! The six day working week and Shabbat was created by God for us. The whole world more or less keeps to this pattern, this seven days of completion, and this is also significant, as we shall see. It also points to the ages of history – 6,000 years of the (mis)rule of mankind plus 1,000 years of the reign of Messiah as a Shabbat millennium for the earth and all believers, yet to come, but very soon – only about 7 years away as you are reading this.
The Spring Feasts
The first set of feasts come in the Spring, and they are all related to one another:
In Exodus 12, God instructs the Israelites to start the calendar in the first month, which is now known as Nisan in the Spring.
‘Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household…Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight…Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy youwhen I strike the land of Egypt.”‘Exodus 12:1-3, 5-6, 13
When we think of the events of the Passover and the Exodus from Egypt, it’s hard to think of a more perfect picture for what was to come in Jesus! An innocent lamb without flaws was sacrificed in place of the firstborn, and the blood smeared on wood vertically and horizontally so that people who believed would be saved from death. Hammering the point home, Jesus was tested and found innocent, then He was beaten and betrayed, before his sacrifice for us on the wooden cross at exactly the same time Passover lambs were being checked and slaughtered. The picture is crystal clear.
‘Get rid of the old hametz [leaven], so you may be a new batch, just as you are unleavened – for Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.”1 Corinthians 5:7
Then the people, after being redeemed by blood, passed through water and went on a long, hard journey before they finally arrived in the Promised Land. Similarly, after receiving salvation through the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world, we go through the waters of baptism and walk with God through hardships until we finally arrive in the place prepared for us, in His presence.
After the night of Passover itself, we enter the Feast of Unleavened Bread which lasts for seven days. This is a picture of our lives as believers here on earth, choosing to turn our back on sin, with leaven (hametz) being symbolic of sin. The unleavened bread also points to Jesus – matzah bread is striped and pierced, just as He was, and with no trace of leaven, which represents sin and pride. There is SO much more in Passover that points clearly and beautifully to Jesus, and of course, the Last Supper was a Passover Seder given new and deeper meaning by Jesus as He led the celebration. Perhaps I shall do a post specifically about Yeshua in the Passover, but this is a good summary for now.
The 14th of Nisan, the night of the Passover, falls on different days of the week each year as it is a lunar festival and the Hebrew calendar is based on lunar months, but we are told that the Feast of Firstfruits must always be celebrated on the first SUNDAY (called Yom Rishon ‘First Day’ in Hebrew) after Passover (Leviticus 23:15). This feast is unique in that it fixes the day of the week – of course it points to resurrection Sunday, as a prophetic witness to the day when Jesus gained victory over death. It is also unusual because although there are other sacrifices mentioned, there is no sin offering required for the festival of Firstfruits. Jesus was the firstfruits to rise again from the dead, never to die again, but He will not be the last! Now that we are almost at the end of the age, this harvest of which He was the firstfruits has almost been fulfilled – we were the generation that did not see death but rather joined Him in the Rapture, and now have glorious, new resurrection bodies like His. We have been changed, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52), and you, too, can be changed and receive both eternal life now and a new body one day soon if you put your trust in Jesus.
Then from that Sunday of Firstfruits, God commands that His people should count seven weeks, known as the Omer, to the Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot in Hebrew, which means ‘weeks’ (Leviticus 23:16). This festival is also known as Pentecost, with pente meaning 50, because it’s 50 days since Firstfruits. Pentecost is the time when God poured out His Holy Spirit on the early believers, giving them His power to live a new life in the Messiah and take the gospel all over the world. Shavuot testifies to the gathering and inclusion of the Gentiles into the New Covenant. It is also the traditional date for the beginning of the Old Covenant – the giving of the Law at Sinai – which is seen as the betrothal of God to His covenant people Israel, with the Law as the marriage contract. The beautiful book of Ruth, all about love and redemption, takes place at Shavuot.
These Spring feasts are all connected and dependent on each other, and the basis and foundation is the blood of the Lamb. All the other Spring Feasts depend on when the night of Passover falls. Unleavened bread follows the Passover seder, and Firstfruits falls on whichever Sunday comes next… and Shavuot is counted seven weeks from then. But it all hinges on that night of blood on the doorframes. Eating the unleavened bread of a repentant lifestyle is no use without the salvation of blood (Hebrews 9:22). The Passover and the redemption of blood must come first, and is followed by the equipping of the Spirit to help us walk out our new lives in Him.
So, all these Spring Feasts have been fulfilled in many ways by the first coming of Jesus as the meek, humble Lamb of God, specifically to fulfil perfectly the requirements of that first covenant of the Law, and then to shed His blood to seal a new betrothal in the New Covenant – which, by the way, was always the plan even under the Old Covenant, just as the Jewish people will always be God’s people:
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”Jeremiah 31:31-33
Yeshua, whose Name means Salvation, came to reach out to His own Jewish people, and then through them to draw in the Gentiles who would believe on Him, and now, nearly 2,000 years later, we are coming to the end of the ‘times of the Gentiles’ (Luke 21:24), and His return is imminent. The autumn feasts that I will cover in Part 2 all point to these end times events, and you’ve already witnessed one of them in the Rapture – there is much yet to come!
Sources: https://www.oneforisrael.org/holidays/the-biblical-feasts-of-israel-all-point-to-jesus/ ; https://ruthsroad.org/ruths-road-life-together/ ; https://www.chosenpeople.org.uk/passoverourstory/ ; https://www.compellingtruth.org/Jewish-Feasts.html