LOOKING AT THE
by Rich Murphy
God has established the Jewish festivals not only as a reminder to the nation of Israel of what He had done, but also to show what He was going to do. Literally, the Jewish festivals are God’s appointment times with man, showing fourth prophetically His plan for the ages.
You can divide the Jewish festivals into two distinct groups. The spring festivals showed the first coming of Christ, while the fall festivals showed the second coming. We are right now between these two groups of festivals, historically speaking, having had the first coming, and waiting now for Jesus to return.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the festivals from a historic viewpoint. Primarily, the historic context of why God established these festivals is to commemorate His bringing forth the nation of Israel out of Egypt.
THE SPRING FESTIVALS
As I’ve already mentioned, the spring festivals show the first coming of Christ. The prophetic implications of these festivals were fulfilled in the first five books of the New Testament.
The first and most important of the spring festivals is the Passover. The theme of Passover is deliverance. It commemorates God delivering the nation of Israel from the hands of the Egyptians.
The name Passover comes from the tenth plague that God smote the Egyptians with in order to free the Israelites. This plague was the killing of all the firstborn of Egypt. God told Moses to have the Israelites celebrate the Passover, by faith, believing that God would free them. They took some of the blood of the Passover lamb, and put it upon the door posts and lintels, so the death angel would know to “pass over” their house.
Passover has always pointed to the Messiah. Much of what is done in the Passover celebration is symbolic of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. A few of these are:
Throughout the week following the Passover, the only grain product that is eaten is unleavened bread. This symbolizes the manna that the Israelites ate when they traveled through the wilderness.
Starting at the Passover, the Omer is a period of waiting and counting. Fifty days is counted off before the next major festival, symbolizing the time the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. During this time, only simple foods are eaten. Jewish people would deny themselves sweets, special foods, and sometimes even meat.
When Jesus was baptized, He went into the wilderness for a period of 40 days. During that time, He didn’t eat anything, denying Himself, and spending time in prayer. When He returned from that time, He was ready to start His earthly ministry.
During the Omer, the first harvest, of barley, would take place. The first of the barley harvest was dedicated to God, and brought before Him. The Jewish people recognized that it was God who brought the increase, and it all belonged to Him. By giving the first part, they were recognizing God as the provider.
Jesus was the first fruit, as the “firstborn of many brethren” (Romans 8:29). He is seated in heaven as the Son of God, but also as the promise of the rest of the Body of Christ to come.
At the end of the Omer came Pentecost. This is the last of the spring festivals. By this time, all the different harvests were in. It was a time of thanksgiving to God for his provision. This was the time that God gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. So, it celebrates God providing a way for His people to come to Him.
In New Testament times, we know Pentecost as the time of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. In Acts chapter two, the Holy Spirit came and filled the 120 people in the upper room. Their transformation was so complete, that 3,000 people were added to the church.
We currently are in the time between the spring festivals, and the fall festivals. The first coming is complete, and we are sneaking up on the time of the second coming. Although we don’t know the day or hour, we do know that the day is approaching, as it has since the first coming of Jesus.
THE FALL FESTIVALS
The fall festivals point the way to the second coming of Christ. They coincide with events involving the church that happen in the book of Revelations.
TRUMPETS (ROSH HASHANAH)
This is the first of the fall festivals, and also the Jewish New Year for the religious calendar. There is a separate religious calendar from the civil calendar. From a historic context, the festival of trumpets commemorates creation. God started the first day of creation, in Genesis 1 on this date. It is also the beginning of the ten days of repentance in preparation for the Day of Atonement.
This festival starts with the blowing of the ram’s horn trumpet, hence the name. Since it is a preparation of repentance, the activities center around looking at our sins. It is customary to go down to the sea, filling one’s pockets with rocks along the way. Once there, the rocks are thrown as far as possible into the sea, identifying one area of sin with each rock. As they are thrown, it is a cleansing, representing God removing the sins to the bottom of the sea.
ATONEMENT (YOM KIPPUR)
Yom Kippur is the only solemn festival of the year. All the others are joyous occasions, with eating, singing, and dancing before the Lord.
This one day is set aside as a solemn time before the Lord. All the nation of Israel would fast together, coming before Him, to atone for their sin. This is the one day of the year when the High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies, bringing the blood to place on the mercy seat. The temple of God, and all the worship items in it, are consecrated afresh to the Lord.
There are several offerings brought before the Lord this day. The term “scapegoat” comes from one of them. This goat is brought before the leaders of the nation, and they lay their hands on it, praying. Symbolically, the sins of the nation are placed on this scapegoat. Then it is set free, into the wilderness, taking the sins of the people with it.
The last major festival that God established is the feast of Tabernacles. This seven day festival commemorates God’s provision while the nation of Israel wandered in the wilderness. In addition, the people express thanksgiving to God for His continued provision in their lives. Our holiday of Thanksgiving traces its roots to this festival.
Tabernacles takes its name from the tabernacles, or tents that the nation of Israel lived in while traveling in the wilderness. During this festival, the people will live in, or at least take their meals in temporary shelters, commemorating that time.
The family will start building their sukkah (tabernacle) immediately after Yom Kippur. Many will make them will be quite elaborate, decorated with fruit and other colorful ornaments. However, it must be a flimsy, temporary structure, that the whole family can sit in. One wall must be open, perhaps covered by a cloth, to act as a door. In addition, the roof must be of overlapping branches, with gaps to see the stars.
As we sit in the sukkah, we are reminded that we are only temporary travelers in this world. Our home is elsewhere, and we are only here in a wilderness, being prepared for a much greater home.
Overview of Jewish Festivals Table
Calendar of Jewish Festivals
More on the Festivals
Copyright © 1998 by Richard A. Murphy, Maranatha Life All rights reserved.