Feasts to Jehovah
“Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year”.—Ex. 23:14.
1. What feasts were the Israelites commanded to celebrate, and to what did they point?
JEHOVAH commanded Moses to instruct the Israelites to keep three feasts unto the Lord each year. The first feast was at the beginning of the year, in the month Nisan, and was called the feast of unleavened bread, which followed the passover. The second was the feast of weeks, later called Pentecost (meaning “fiftieth day”). The third and last was the feast of tabernacles or ingathering. These feasts were associated with the harvest, and the events connected with them pointed to the vindication of the name of Jehovah.
2, 3. Who fixed the time and place for these feasts to be held, and did the people receive blessing in observing these feasts? Why?
2 Jehovah fixed the time and place where these feasts were to be held; also just how they were to be conducted. Although they were called “feasts unto the Lord”, the people derived much benefit from the observance of them. “Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty: Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee.”—Deut. 16:16, 17.
3 It pleased Jehovah to have the people assemble on these occasions, that they might keep their minds on the Lord, and not become so involved in their personal affairs that they would forget or neglect their duties to the Lord. At these gatherings the people would talk about the goodness of the Lord, and the many blessings they were enjoying. In this way their minds would be kept in the right channels, and all would receive a great blessing.
4. Where and when was the feast of the passover and unleavened bread instituted, and what benefit did the Israelites derive from the blood of the slain lamb?
4 The first passover was related to the plagues Jehovah sent on the Egyptians because Pharaoh refused to obey the command of Jehovah to permit the Israelites to go and serve their God. Nine plagues had already afflicted the Egyptians; still Pharaoh refused to release the people. One more plague would crush haughty Pharaoh and he would yield. The tenth plague would mean the death of all the firstborn of man and beast in the land of Egypt. That the Israelites might not suffer with the Egyptians, when the angel of death would pass through the land, they were to take a lamb into their homes on a certain date and kill it, and sprinkle its blood on their doorposts. The destroying angel would see the blood and would pass over that home without molesting anyone in it. Not one Israelite was disturbed by the angel of death that night, but there was a death in every home of the Egyptians from Pharaoh down to the slave. That was a real passover for the Israelites.
5. What was the purpose of memorializing the passover feast?
5 The Lord instructed the Israelites to memorialize this event, saying, “This day shall be unto you for a memorial; . . . ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.” “Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee. . . . Thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt. Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.” (Ex. 12:14; 13:7, 8, 10) From year to year, on the exact date, the children of Israel observed this feast of the passover and unleavened bread. As they did so they thought back to the time the nation was delivered from Egyptian bondage and slavery and the Law covenant was made with them over the slain passover lamb.
6. What advantages came to Israel under the Law covenant?
6 This covenant made the children of Israel the name people of Jehovah, that is, a people for his name. The Lord said to them: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: . . . and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” (Ex. 19:5, 6) “And what one nation in the earth is like thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem to be his own people, to make thee a name of greatness and terribleness, by driving out nations from before thy people, whom thou hast redeemed out of Egypt? For thy people Israel didst thou make thine own people for ever; and thou, LORD, becamest their God.”—1 Chron. 17:21, 22.
7. Of what was the Law covenant a shadow? and what was the substance?
7 The passover feast was a shadow of things to come, and pointed forward to Jesus the real “Lamb of God” that would take away the sins of the world and deliver all men of good-will from the bondage of sin and death, and also validate the new covenant. This is something the passover lamb could not do, it being only a shadow. Jesus was the substance of that shadow. (Col. 2:17) The night of Nisan 14, A.D. 33, Jesus together with his disciples, who were Israelites, met in an upper room in Jerusalem to observe the passover. This was the last passover that Jehovah would recognize, and Jesus said: “I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15) After the supper was over, Jesus instituted something new and different to follow in the future. He instituted the memorial of his death, and of the members of his body the church. Then he pointed out that his blood, represented by the wine in the cup, would validate the new covenant. That same day, Nisan 14, Jehovah nailed that old covenant arrangement to the torture stake on which Jesus died.—Col. 2:14.
8. Where did the high priest offer the sheaf of barley? and would Jehovah recognize this offering on Nisan 16, A.D. 33?
8 On the first day after the sabbath following the passover, the high priest took a sheaf or handful of the firstfruits of the barley harvest and offered it before the Lord. Did the high priest in the city of Jerusalem make the required offering on the 16th of Nisan in the year 33 (A.D.)? If he did, he did not know that the substance of that shadow, which he was observing, was then present. Where would the high priest offer this sheaf of the firstfruits of the barley harvest? Jehovah arranged just where this service was to be performed: “Unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: and thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand.”—Deut. 12:5, 6.
9. What did the high priest see when he entered the temple to make his required offering on the 16th of Nisan, A.D. 33, and what did this mean?
9 On Nisan 16, A.D. 33, the high priest would go into the temple at Jerusalem (for there Jehovah was pleased to put his name) and proceed to offer the required sheaf or handful of the firstfruits of the barley harvest. When he entered the holy place to make his offering he saw the veil that hung between the holy and most holy place was rent in twain. What did this mean? The priest did not know. There he stood with his offering to be made to the Lord. Would the Lord have respect to this offering as in the past? No! That high priest stood there in his priestly robes, but with a guilty conscience. A short time before he was clamoring for the death of the Son of God, whose resurrection he was trying to picture in offering the sheaf of barley. God would no more recognize such offerings, because this picture was now fulfilled in the resurrection of his beloved Son Christ Jesus, who was the firstfruits of them that slept. (1 Cor. 15:20) While the high priest was fumbling around in much confusion, and with a sense of guilt, the followers of the Master were thrilled. Why thrilled? The Lord was raised from the dead very early that morning. He appeared to several of his followers that day. The news spread rapidly and there was great joy among the disciples. Excitement was running high. They were all very happy, because their impaled Lord and Master was alive and that for evermore. He had gone beyond the veil of flesh.
FEAST OF WEEKS OR PENTECOST
10, 11. How was the date of the feast of Pentecost determined? What occurred on that day in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy?
10 Counting from the day the high priest offered the firstfruits of the barley harvest, fifty days would bring the Israelites to the date of the next feast, known as the feast of weeks or Pentecost. On that day the high priest offered two wave loaves before the Lord. These loaves were made of the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and were baked with leaven. Events on that notable day open up the meaning of the offering of these two loaves before the Lord. The record is found at Acts chapter 2, where we read: ‘And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were filled with the holy spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, of every nation under heaven. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not these men that speak Galileans?’
11 Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and said to them: ‘This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit, and they shall prophesy.’ And with many other words did he testify and exhort. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
12. When did Peter use the first key to the Kingdom, and what event proved that the key was used at that time?
12 In this speech Peter convinced a multitude of Jews that Jesus was indeed the Christ. That three thousand were baptized proves that these disciples devoted themselves to the Lord, and thus received the spirit and the heavenly calling, and were therefore in line for a place in the Kingdom with Christ Jesus the Lord. Here, then, Peter used the first key, of knowledge, to open the heavenly way to the faithful Jews. Peter had another key to use in opening the Kingdom way to the Gentiles. When would he use it, and show the meaning of the picture made by the priest’s offering two wave loaves before the Lord on the day of Pentecost?—Matt. 16:19.
13, 14. When did Peter use the second key to the kingdom of heaven and what events prove that it was used at the home of Cornelius?
13 Some time later Peter was called to the home of Cornelius in Caesarea. At that time Peter was at the home of Simon the tanner in Joppa. While waiting for dinner to be served Peter had a vision, and saw heaven open, and a certain vessel descending to him as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth, wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts and creeping things and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to Peter saying, ‘Arise, kill and eat.’ Peter replied, ‘I have never eaten anything unclean.’ Then the voice spoke to him saying, ‘What God hath cleansed call not thou common.’ While Peter was wondering what this vision meant men from the home of Cornelius called at the home of Simon and asked for Peter. They told him that Cornelius, a just and godly man, of good report among the Jews, had been visited by an angel. The angel told him to send for Peter, and to hear his words.—Acts 10.
14 Peter, with several Jews, went with the men to the home of Cornelius. After entering the home of Cornelius, Peter said it was not lawful for Jews to enter the homes of Gentiles, but he was sure that the Lord had to do with his being called there. Then he preached the Word to the gathered family and friends of Cornelius. While Peter was conducting this most remarkable home Bible study the holy spirit came upon these Gentile believers as it did on the Jews at Pentecost. Peter now understood the meaning of the vision he had at the home of Simon the tanner in Joppa. He called for those upon whom the spirit came to be baptized. Here Peter used the second and last key to open the heavenly calling to the Gentiles. This was a continuance of the outpouring of the spirit that was witnessed at Pentecost when the heavenly calling was opened to the Jews.
15. Would Jehovah recognize the offering of the two wave loaves after Peter used the second key to the Kingdom?
15 No doubt the Jewish high priest was still offering the two wave loaves before the Lord, not knowing that the shadow was past and the substance was at hand. So the Lord God did not accept them any more. We remember that the wave loaves were made of the firstfruits of the wheat harvest and were baked with leaven, showing that the called ones from Jews and Gentiles were not righteous in themselves, and required the righteousness of Christ to make them acceptable to Jehovah. They were a “kind of firstfruits of his creatures” by adoption as sons of God, but Jesus was primarily the firstfruits.—Jas. 1:18.
16. What was the purpose of the new covenant?
16 The new covenant was validated by the precious blood of Christ, and was made for the purpose of preparing a people for the name of Jehovah; it was now in operation. Under the Law covenant there was no mercy extended to those that despised its laws; the guilty one died without mercy under two or three witnesses. (Heb. 10:28) Those taken into the new covenant are shown mercy; for it is written: “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: . . . I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Heb. 8:10, 12) Under this merciful covenant Jehovah will bring forth a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. This honor had been offered to the Israelites at Horeb.—Ex. 19:6.
FEAST OF TABERNACLES
17. Can it be proved from the Scriptures that the feast of tabernacles pictured things to be done before Armageddon? If so, how?
17 In times past some students of the Bible thought that the feast of tabernacles pictured things to be done during the thousand-year reign of Christ, and therefore had no special message for those following in the footsteps of the Master at this time. The apostle Paul said ‘the things that happened to Israel were types and were for the admonition of those living at the end of the world’. Also ‘the law had a shadow of good things to come’. The feast of tabernacles was a feature of the law, and this picture is now due to be understood by those that are active witnesses for the Kingdom. Note further what the same apostle had to say about things that were written in times past: “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”—1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 10:1; Rom. 15:4.
18, 19. Why was the feast of tabernacles such a joyous occasion?
18 The feast of tabernacles was to begin five days after the day of atonement, in the seventh Jewish month. At that time the increase of the fields and vines had been gathered. It was the last feast of the year, and was a joyous occasion for all; they rejoiced greatly because of the goodness of the Lord in giving them plenty for the winter at hand. When this type is completely fulfilled there will be much happiness for all that had part in the final gathering of the Lord’s “other sheep”. (John 10:16) The gospel of the Kingdom will have been preached in all the world for a witness to all nations, as Jesus commanded, and then will come the wintertime of trouble for the old world of Satan. Now is the time to flee from doomed Christendom and find refuge in Jehovah’s organization. Flee now!
19 When the Israelites returned from Babylonian captivity, arrangements were made to keep the feast of tabernacles. Ezra, the priest, read the law to the gathered people. When they learned about the feast of tabernacles, and that they had not observed this feast while they were in captivity, they wept. Nehemiah and Ezra and the Levites that taught the people said to them: ‘This is a holy day unto the Lord your God; mourn not nor weep, but go your way and eat the fat, and drink the sweet; neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.’—Neh. 8:8-10.
20-23. In what way is the vindication of Jehovah’s name shown in the three feasts he commanded Israel to observe each year?
20 The three feasts Jehovah commanded Israel to observe each year are all connected with the vindication of his name. Satan raised the issue of the supremacy of Jehovah. This means that Satan thought he had a better method of dealing with creatures, spiritual and human, than Jehovah announced. Jehovah required absolute obedience to his laws, even if his creatures did not fully understand just why certain laws were enacted and enforced. All obedient ones would in due time receive that which was for their good. The principles of the divine government were brotherly love and cooperation. When God inquired of Cain where his brother was, Cain answered “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Satan had already filled his mind with his own spirit of self-interest and competition. This principle, Satan thought, would work better than the way of love. Get all you can, any way you can, and keep all you get, is the basic law of Satan.
21 This wicked one challenged Jehovah to put creatures on earth that would be obedient to Him if Satan was permitted to get at them. This was made manifest in the case of Job. Job was a man devoted to Jehovah. The enemy said Job’s faithfulness was not genuine, but was mercenary; that he served Jehovah because Jehovah prospered him, and hedged him in so that none could get at him to tempt or try him. Let me at him, said the wicked one, and he will curse you to your face. Satan was permitted to try Job, but failed to turn him away from Jehovah.
22 The passover feast of unleavened bread was held at the beginning of the year, and the feast of tabernacles was the last feast or at the end of the year. (Ex. 12:2; 23:16) Killing the passover lamb and offering the firstfruits of the barley harvest pictured the death and resurrection of Christ the Lord in vindication of Jehovah’s name and universal sovereignty. At the beginning of the Christian era, Christ the Lord was impaled on the 14th of the month Nisan (the day the passover lamb was killed) and was raised on the third day, or the 16th of Nisan, the day the high priest offered the firstfruits of the barley harvest. Fifty days later, at Pentecost, Christ Jesus began offering up to God the members of his body, who share with him in vindicating God. In this we see that this shadow continued until the substance came in Christ.—Col. 2:17.
23 The feast of tabernacles was the last feast of the year, and for that reason it was said to be observed at the end of the year. This feast well pictures the final ingathering of the Lord’s “other sheep”, showing that they will be gathered in support of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty before the wintertime of Armageddon begins. When Armageddon begins, it will be too late to do any gathering. Then some will say: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jer. 8:20) At Armageddon Satan will witness the destruction of his organization visible and invisible. Then he will be cast into the abyss and be sealed up there for one thousand years, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years be fulfilled.—Rev. 20:3.