-This important chapter covers the LORD’s appointed times for festivals and holidays in the Jewish community. He speaks again through Moses to the sons of Israel these “holy convocations” designed to help them remember their past and look forward to the fulfillment of His magnificent promises through the Messiah. He starts with the weekly observance of Shabbat. This day of complete rest in all their dwellings was designed to help the people reflect and repose with the congregation and their families.
-Next, the LORD presents, again (Exodus 12:11-51), Passover as an appointed festival beginning at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month (Leviticus 23:5). This was accompanied by the Feast of Unleavened Bread on the following day (Leviticus 23:6-8). This observance lasted seven days with no laborious work and no leaven to be eaten in their bread. They were instructed to present an offering by fire to the LORD and then have a holy convocation on the first and last days. Passover reminded the people of God’s deliverance, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread reminded the people that they were leaving the old life of sin behind and entering a new reality with the LORD. It was during this time period thousands of years later when Jesus Christ offered His life on the cross for the redemption of all mankind, which makes this particular holiday ultra-important in many senses (Matthew 26:2, 17, Mark 14:1, 12, Luke 22:1, 7-8, John 13:1).
-The festival of First Fruits is then prescribed by God to Moses for the people of Israel (Leviticus 23:9-14). As they enter the Promised Land they were commanded to reap the harvest that the LORD will give them and bring in the sheaf (omer- newly cut ears of grain) of the first fruits to present them thankfully before the LORD for His acceptance. These were to be given to the priest for a wave offering on the day after the Sabbath. On that day the priest would then offer a male lamb, one year old and without defect, for a burnt offering to the LORD. A grain offering is also instituted of two-tenths of an ephah (approximately a bushel in our English measurement system) of fine flour mixed with oil presented as a soothing aroma by fire unto God. Along with that, a drink offering was to be offered consisting of approximately a forth of a gallon of wine. The people were not allowed to eat any of the new bread nor roasted grain until they had first honored the LORD with His provision. It was to be a perpetual statute throughout their generations in all their dwelling places as a reminder of the goodness of God to endow.
-Further, after seven complete Sabbaths, 50 days to the day after the seventh Sabbath, a new grain offering was to be presented to the LORD (Leviticus 23:15-22). This was the celebration of Pentecost (50), or otherwise known as Weeks. This one day event marked the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest as summer was ensuing. It once again represented the joy and thanksgiving of God’s bountiful harvest provision. This coincides exactly with when the Holy Spirit came upon the earth in the New Covenant fulfillment of promise to indwell believers after Christ’s ascension (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-47). The instructions for this feast included the bringing in of two loaves of bread for a wave offering baked with leaven this time as the “first fruits” to present to the LORD. Along with the bread, seven lambs a year old without defect, a bull from the herd, and two rams were to be given as burnt offerings to the Sovereign God. With their grain offering and drink offering they were to present a soothing aroma by fire unto the LORD. Additionally, a male goat was required to be offered as a sin payment and two lambs, both a year old, were to be sacrificed as a peace offering. The priest would wave them with the bread of the first fruits with two lambs before the LORD; “they are to be holy to the LORD for the priest (Leviticus 23:20).” On the very same day a proclamation was to be made to have another “holy convocation.” No laborious work was to be done, and this feast was also to be “a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations (Leviticus 23:21).” A final provision for the needy and the alien was given because they were expected to be courteous and generous since the kind and giving LORD was their God.
-In verse 23 the text picks up with the fall feasts, which starts with the Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:23-25). This one day event at the beginning of the seventh month, or the civil Jewish New Year, was instituted to express joy and thanksgiving once again to their Maker and Sustainer. This is a time of rest for the citizens and another “holy convocation” marked with the sounding of trumpets across the land. An offering by fire to the LORD was the only other requirement here beside the break from laborious work. Many scholars have noted that this ties in with the return of Messiah in the last days because of all the trumpet themes associated with this event (Joel 2:1, Zechariah 9:14-17, Matthew 24:31, I Thessalonians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Revelation 8:13).
-The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is once again delineated with the stress on humbling their souls before the LORD (Leviticus 23:26-32). No work at all was to be done during this most solemn occasion that was for the cleansing of the people and the restoring of fellowship with their God.
-Finally, and aren’t you glad at this point J, the Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles) is covered in this seven day event representing God’s protection and guidance through the wilderness journey with a commitment to further faith in the future (Leviticus 23:33-43). Another “holy convocation” began the ceremony on the fifteenth of the seventh month with no laborious work mandated. Offerings by fire were required each day with a culmination assembly, sacrifice, and rest on the eighth day. They were required to live in booths, or basically shanty huts, to remind them of their wilderness journey on the way to the Promised Land. It was to be a time of celebration using beautiful foliage of the trees as they rejoiced before the LORD their God as a perpetual statute throughout their generations.
-*Application* Recognizing the hermeneutic principle of typology will help us draw some correlations from these commands to the Christian life. The Passover represents our coming to Christ out of darkness and slavery into a new life of freedom and light. The blood applied means that we have redemption (Ephesians 1:7). Unleavened bread represents a new holiness that has been accomplished through Jesus’ righteousness given graciously to us that cleanses and restores a right relationship with the Father (Philippians 1:11). The first fruits reminds us that God expects are best in the areas of priorities and using our gifts, talents, and abilities for His supreme glory. We are new creations in Christ as well being His first fruits (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Pentecost represents our Spirit-filled life in Christ as we yield to His power working through us to accomplish His Kingdom on this earth. The trumpets remind us of the coming storm in this world and our ultimate victory being on the side of God. His second coming is fundamental to our hope. The Day of Atonement delivers us with confidence in the Day of Judgment (1 John 4:14-19, Revelation 20:11-15). And finally, the Feast of Booths (or Weeks) helps us see the provision of God all throughout our Christian journey with the faith for completion in eschaton (Philippians 1:6, Hebrews 12:1-2).
Verses to Memorize: Leviticus 23:3, 5-6, 10, 16, 24, 27, 44