By M. Rosen
Almighty God gave the Children of Israel specific appointed times, or feasts, to commemorate after their exodus from Egypt. Shrouded in mystery and awe, they often evoke a sense of wonder in the heart of the Jewish person, as they are in essence the lifeline of the Jew to his or her tradition. Yet, these appointed times are actually about more than maintaining tradition. Upon careful study, one will find they are key foundational aspects of God’s kingdom, and if we are to know Him more deeply, we must understand the significance of His appointed times.
The first step in our journey to understanding the wonder of His feasts is to look at the meaning of the word feast in Hebrew. In Leviticus 23:1-2, the Lᴏʀᴅ gives Moses specific instructions regarding the appointed times, or feasts:
And the Lᴏʀᴅ spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say
to them: ‘The feasts of the Lᴏʀᴅ, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations,
these are My feasts.
While the original Hebrew word mo’adim (מועדים) has been translated as “feasts” in these verses, it is actually not quite an accurate translation. The actual meaning of mo’adim is “deadline”. So, in reality, “appointed times” is a better translation than “feasts”. But this raises some interesting questions about the nature of these holy gatherings: For what purpose are they established? What is the significance of their connection with time? What do they tell us about God and the nature of His kingdom?
The Lᴏʀᴅ’s appointed times are first and foremost holy, and they are to be observed in community (hence the word “convocation” in the above scripture). The Children of Israel were commanded to take these appointed times very seriously, and to observe them throughout their generations. We know from scripture that these appointed times are connected to the Hebrew calendar, and are grouped in two main categories: spring and fall. The spring mo’adim (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, & Shavuot) take place over a period of seven weeks. The fall mo’adim (also commonly referred to as the High Holy Days in Jewish communities) are: Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Succot (Feast of Tabernacles or Booths). These feasts all occur in the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which is the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar.
The number seven is a very significant number in God’s economy, as it signifies holiness, completion, wholeness, and divine perfection. It is no accident or coincidence that the Lᴏʀᴅ deemed these appointed times in reference to the number seven. In fact, nothing in His kingdom is accidental, but instead is very precise and with purpose! His precise nature is revealed throughout scripture, but it is in the ordering of His appointed times for Israel that we see this most clearly of all.
For what purpose, other than to reveal something about His character, did the Lᴏʀᴅ ordain the mo’adim? There is strong evidence both historically and scripturally that the mo’adim are signposts of where we are on God’s timeline for establishing His eternal kingdom, specifically related to Messiah. In fact, Rav Sha’ul (Paul) wrote in his letter to the Colossians that the appointed times are, “…a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Messiah.” (Colossians 2:17). The feasts are in their nature prophetic, and each awaits a spiritual and literal fulfillment.
The spring feasts were fulfilled both spiritually and literally at Messiah Yeshua’s first coming. His death was the fulfillment of the unblemished Passover lamb being sacrificed, whose blood covered the people from death (in this case, not a physical, but eternal death). His sinless body being offered up fulfilled the Feast of Unleavened Bread, as the absence of leaven represents absence of sin. His resurrection occurred on the actual day of First Fruits, fulfilling this prophetic appointed time. Rav Shaul writes to the Corinthians, “But now Messiah is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20) The final appointed time of Shavuot was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples and to the gentiles in the Book of Acts, exactly 50 days after Yeshua’s death. This was also the spiritual fulfillment of the giving of the Torah, which Jewish tradition says occurred on Shavuot (see Jeremiah 31:31-33).
If the Lᴏʀᴅ fulfilled a portion of His appointed times through Messiah Yeshua’s first coming, then it would seem that we can look forward to the remaining feasts being fulfilled in His second coming. There are many, many theories within the Body of Messiah about how exactly the fall feasts will be fulfilled through Messiah’s return. It is a rich topic that we will explore together in the upcoming weeks.
As a final thought, it is important to understand that these appointed times do not belong exclusively to the Jewish people; they are the Lᴏʀᴅ’s, and He has entrusted them to Israel in order to remember what has already been accomplished while foreshadowing what is yet to come. He chose Israel as a vessel to make Himself known amongst the nations. While these feasts are part of Israel’s heritage and identity, they are not exclusively hers. Those who wish to partake in the celebration of the Lᴏʀᴅ’s feasts are certainly welcomed to, but it is a matter of personal conviction, as Rav Sha’ul asserts that there should be no judgment of others concerning the feasts (Colossians 2:16-17). For those Jews and Gentiles alike who know and love Messiah Yeshua, celebrating these feasts is a special reminder of God’s awesome redemptive work through His Son, and gives us a deeper understanding of the inheritance awaiting us.
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