So far we have looked at the first three feasts of God's calendar. From scriptural evidence they have been fulfilled in the spiritual sense, as a type of the New Testament fulfillment in Christ. All three have taken place in the springtime. The final three feasts in God's calendar will take place in the fall. But right smack in the middle of the calendar, in verse 22, there is a break in the subject matter. Almost like a hiatus or interruption in the calendar of events.
"…When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 23:22)
The Old Testament book of Ruth tells of the importance of these crops left behind for the poor and alien. It is a touching story with great meaning for us in the New Testament age, but that is another study.
Summer is a time in the Jewish calendar of little or no activity on the surface. Why would God plan for such an extended time in His calendar with no apparent feast or activity? Well, verse 22 gives us the answer if we look closely and with an eye towards the prophetic. Between the fulfilled feasts of verses 4-21 and the unfulfilled feasts of verses 23-44 there is a gap that lasts three months. Most of Israel's feasts are agricultural in nature. During the summer months the fields are white unto harvest. As they reap the harvest during this time, the Israelites are commanded not to keep all the fruits for themselves, and are admonished to share them with the poor and alien.
God's provision was not to the Jews only, but His blessings were to be shared with those less fortunate. Of the blessing they received as a gift from God, the first fruits were to be offered back to God. Secondly they themselves were to enjoy them and lastly they were to share them with those who did not have these blessings. We are now living in the summer of God's eternal calendar. We have received the blessings of the field (salvation). Firstly we offer our service to the Lord (our firstfruits). Secondly we are to enjoy the blessings and rewards ourselves (our Christian life). And lastly, we are to share them (witnessing) with those who are less fortunate (lost). The summer harvest is the time between mans failure and the coming kingdom of glory.
As I said before, it seems to be a season of inactivity as far as the feasts go. The work however, during this time is the busiest. It is when we bring the fruits of the field into the storage bins. The time when God will see His harvest, planted at Calvery, reaped and shared with all mankind. We are those workers of the field, and the lost are the harvest of His planting. Jesus said "the fields are ripe for harvest, but the workers are few". This was what he was talking about, this season we are to be working in His field and bringing the lost to the body of Christ. In Leviticus the summer lasts three months and the work is accomplished. We do not know how long God's summer will last for us to harvest the field. It may end tomorrow and so we must feel a sense of urgency in bringing in the crops.
Feasts yet to come?
The Feast of Trumpets
We are now living in verse 22 of Leviticus 23. It is the summer of God's great calendar. Many a nation, tongue and alien have gleaned off of the harvest of Pentecost. But this is symbolic of the first fruits of the harvest. God has yet to thrust His sickle into the Harvest that is white and ready. Many believe that right before the end times there will be a revival the likes of which no man has yet seen. It will be a time when God will bring in the harvest Himself.
The Lord said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites; 'On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the Lord by fire' " (Leviticus 23:23-25)
The most solemn days of Israel's sacred calendar are celebrated in the month of Tishri, the seventh month (sabbatical) of the year. These are the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement. In modern Judaism these are called the "days of awe". The month of Tishri usually falls in late September and early October. We are faced with a surprising fact. The scriptures call for a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts, but instead the modern Jewish calendar celebrates New Year's Day or Rosh Hashanah on that day. This is not just a question of which day is New Year's day, but it is evidence that the ancient Israelites kept two calendars. The civil calendar, which began Nisan, and the religious calendar which began in Tishri. It seems that since the writing of the Pentateuch the Jews have formed a system that, while adapting some of the scripture to its tenets, also differs from them.
The Jews believed that the world was created on the first day of Tishri, thus the New Year celebration on that day. They also believed that it would be on this day that God would judge the world. The Jewish Encyclopedia describes the scene…. God seated on His throne to judge the world, He opens the book of Records, it is read, every man's signature being found therein. The great trumpet is sounded; a still, small voice is heard; the angels shudder, saying, "this is the Day of Judgment" for His very ministers are not pure before God. As a shepherd mustereth his flock, causing them to pass under his rod, so does God cause every living soul to pass before Him, to fix the limit of every creatures life and to foreordain it's destiny. On New Year's day the decree is written; on the Day of Atonement it is sealed who shall live and who are to die, etc. but penitence, prayer and charity may avert the evil decree.
And so for the next ten days between Rosh Hashanah and the Day of Atonement there are many good deeds and many prayers, but no assurance of forgiveness. From this brief description it can be observed that the modern celebration of Rosh Hashanah is a mixture of biblical truth and paganism. Picked up no doubt from the times they spent in Babylon and the influence of their pagan religions. Babylon had a similar belief that their gods would meet in a large room called the "room of fate". Marduk, the chief god would preside over the meeting. The minutes of the meeting were kept by Nabu, who was not only the god of wisdom but the messenger of the gods. He recorded all of man's deeds on the "tablets of fate". It was on these tablets that judgment was inscribed at the New Year. There are other similarities, but you get the idea.
Little is known of the feast of trumpets during temple times. Alfred Edersheim records that trumpets of rams horns would be blown all day long from morning till evening. This was the time to celebrate the New Year according to the rabbinical teachings, but Leviticus clearly shows this day to be something else. According to the scriptural reference this can not be the New Year because it is the seventh month. It was clearly meant to be a celebration of bringing in the entire harvest to the storehouses. But what prophetic message does this hold for the Christian age? Our answer comes in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 where we read "Listen, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep (die), but we will be changed-in a flash, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed".
Thus the next event in God's calendar is the feast of trumpets. It is the return of our Lord. We lovingly anticipate Him! But Israel still awaits her Day of Atonement, her national repentance, and her turning to God. Students of prophecy will recognize that Leviticus 23 anticipates our Lords return with trumpets and the rising of the dead in Christ and those who live in Christ being changed. As we have seen so far, the springtime feasts have been fulfilled as they were recorded and in the same order they were written. I do not think it too much of a stretch to believe that the remaining three feasts of the fall will occur in the same order they were written, starting with the feast of trumpets. Our great expectation is to hear the trumpet that will sound as the dead are raised incorruptible. Then will come the day of atonement, which some believe will take place during the great tribulation, and after that the feast of Tabernacles.
The Day of Atonement
THE Lord said to Moses, "the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the Lord by fire. Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement when atonement is made for you before the Lord your God. Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day. You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. It is a Sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your Sabbath" (Leviticus 23:26-32)
What can one say about the Day of Atonement in such a limited time and study? An entire book can be and has been written on this subject. It is the most Solemn of the feasts in the Jewish calendar. We have on occasion studied and even participated in the Passover feast and its symbolism for Christians. The Day of Atonement is so rich with types and shadows of Christ that we must study and pray to better understand and appreciate its richness.
Golden bells were sewn into or on the hem of the High Priest's garment. They were tinkling golden bells. Some have tried to deduct that this was to copy the heathen religions of the east that used bells to awaken their gods. But only a God who was awake could hear such small bells, so that obviously holds no weight. God commanded the Israelites in Exodus 28:33-35 to: "make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet with gold bells in between them…." So this was a direct command from God, not a copy of the Heathens. When the people heard the sound of the bells they knew they had a living High Priest. We can appreciate the importance of having a living High Priest more easily by observing the somewhat involved ritual of the Day of Atonement as described by Alfred Edersheim.
Seven days before the Day of Atonement the High Priest left his own house in Jerusalem, and took up his abode in his chambers in the temple. A substitute was appointed for him, in case he should become Levitically unfit for his duties. Rabbinical punctiliousness went so far as to have him twice sprinkled with the ashes of the red heifer-on the 3rd and 7th days of his week of separation, in case he had unwittingly to himself, been defiled by touching a dead body. During the whole of that week he had to practice the various priestly rites, such as sprinkling the blood, burning the incense, lighting the lamp, offering the daily sacrifices, etc. for, as already stated, every part of the day's services devolved on the High Priest, and he must not make any mistakes. Some of the elders of the Sanhedrin were appointed to see to it, that the High Priest fully understood, and knew the meaning of the service; otherwise they were to instruct him in it. On the Day of Atonement the various sacrifices were brought before him, that there might be nothing strange about the services of the morrow. Finally, they bound him by a solemn oath not to change anything in the rites of the day.
A mistake would be costly. It could mean the life of the High Priest, but it could also mean that there would be no atonement for that year. We should realize three very important facets of the ritual. First, it was only on the Day of Atonement that the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, and on that day he entered the Holy of Holies four times. Secondly, on these occasions he did not wear the "golden vestment" with the "gold bells". Whenever he entered the Holy of Holies he wore white linen garments. Finally, "only while officiating in the distinctly expiatory services of the day did the High Priest wear the linen garments" in all the others he was arrayed in his "golden vestments". This necessitated a frequent change of dress, and before each one he bathed his whole body. The rituals of the day were detailed and numerous. They began with the regular morning services, which on this day were led by the High Priest. He had not slept the night before and he arrived at the temple in his ordinary garb. The following service is described by a Jewish scholar as follows:
First the high priest is conducted to the bathhouse. The high priest bathes himself five times on this day; in addition, he washes his hands and feet ten times. These bathings and washings are performed in a special room in the temple, near the court of the priests. The first bath, however, the one in the morning, takes place outside of the innermost court, beyond the water tower. Each time he bathes a curtain of byssus (costly linen) is spread between him and the people. He doffs his ordinary raiment, bathes, dons the golden vestments, washes his hands and feet in a golden basin, and starts the daily sacrifice. He performs it in his golden robes, and the congregation stands enthralled at the sight. From their point of view, the high priest is a glowing spectacle, with his golden diadem, the precious gems on his breast, and the golden bells which hang on the hem of his purple robe and which tinkle with every movement that he makes. He then goes into the anteroom in order to burn incense on the golden altar, and to put the lamps on the menorah in order. This ends the regular daily service; now comes the special Yom Kippur service, for which the high priest dons garments of white linen. He is led to the bathhouse near the court of the priests. He washes his hands and feet, divests himself of his ceremonial golden robes, bathes himself, puts on the garments of white linen, and again washes his hands and feet. Each time he changed his raiment, the high priest was separated from the people by a linen cloth. They could not see him, but they could hear the golden bells… when he enters the Holy place" (Exodus 28:35)
Our Great High Priest
Each time the listeners heard the music of the golden bells, their hearts were gladdened by three wonderful truths: (1) they had a living high priest (2) the high priest was successful in making intercession for them (3) their sacrifices had been accepted.
A detailed study of the Day of Atonement would yield a rich harvest, as we would learn more of our ever-living high priest. For instance, when the high priest entered the court of the temple clothed in fine white linen, and laid his hands upon the head of the young bull, he had to confess his own sins first. The letter to the Hebrews contrasts our High Priest Jesus with the high priest of Israel. Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. Now there were many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need-One that is Holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exhaulted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priest, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people (Hebrews 7:22-27)
The priest confession was made in the area between the porch of the temple and the altar. There two goats were presented before the people; their heads faced the sanctuary and their backs to the people. They were both of the same age and size and were of equal value. In an urn beside the two goats were two gold tablets. On one was written "for Jehovah" and the other "for Azazel" (the scapegoat). The high priest would mix them up and thrust in his hand and remove the tablets, and laid one on the head of each goat. The choice having been made, the priest now ties a tongue shaped scarlet cloth to the horn of each goat. The goat that was to be sent forth, the one to azazel, was now turned around to face the people, waiting as it were for them to place their sins upon him. Can a more clear view of the Christ be shown as He was set before the people by Pilate, as He was about to be led forth carrying the sins of the people. As if to add to the significance of the right, tradition has it that as soon as the sacrifice had been fully accepted the scarlet cloth would turn white on the scapegoats head to symbolize the gracious promise in Isaiah 1:18. Tradition also adds that this miracle did not take place for the forty years before the destruction of the temple. Is this a coincidence that the miracle stopped at just the time the Christ was killed and never occurred again till the destruction of the temple?
The high priest then sacrificed the bull for himself and his household and the blood was caught in a bowl and given to a priest to stir so it would not coagulate. The high priest then went to the altar of burnt offering, filled a censer of burning coals, scattered frankincense on them, and entered the holy of Holies. Filled with fear and awe he placed the censer of incense on the "foundation stone". He then returned to the holy place and prayed along with all the people. He then took the blood of the young bull and returned to the holy of Holies, and sprinkled it toward the place where the mercy seat had been. (In the first temple, the ark of the3 covenant was covered by the mercy seat, which was overshadowed by the cloud of glory, the Shikinah. However, in Herod's temple there was neither ark nor cloud of glory-all was empty) when he emerged from the holy of Holies, he placed the bowl with the blood of the bull in front of the veil.
The high priest then sacrificed the goat marked "for Jehovah". Once more he entered the holy of Holies and by a series of sprinklings, ceremonially cleansed the sanctuary, the veil and the holy place from the defilement of priests and worshipers. All this time the scapegoat stood and faced the congregation of people. The high priest would then lay his hands on the scapegoat and instead of confessing for he and his household he added and the people of the house of Israel. He then said to the people, "before the Lord ye shall be clean". Priests then led the scapegoat outside the temple area, through the temple gate and finally outside the city walls. It was led to a cliff and forced over where it died at the jagged bottom. Once the high priest heard that the scapegoat had died "without the city", he again bathed and changed his garments. Once more the eager listeners heard the joyful sound of the golden bells. We have heard the bells and rejoice as we share this wonderful truth with our brethren, "as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12)
It's Shortcomings for Israel
When Christ came as High Priest of the good things that are already here. He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the most Holy place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:11-14)
We have already seen how carefully the high priest of Israel, who could only serve for one year, performed his duties. It is both significant and ironic that the more correctly the letter of the law was observed on the day of Atonement, the more eloquently it testified that it was weak and useless (for the Law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God" (Hebrews 7:18-19)
For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? (Hebrews 10:1-2) Even the Tabernacle, which was minutely described by Moses, was only a copy of the "true Tabernacle" set up by the Lord, not by man (Hebrews 8:2) Levitical sacrifices were sacrifices of animals which could not remove sin (Hebrews 10:1-4)
Hebrews is the best record we have for how imperfect the old system really was. Hebrews 7:24-27 talks about how much more superior Jesus was as our High Priest. They were all a shadow of the good things to come Heb 10:1. The old covenant shut man out of the holy of Holies (Hebrews 9:3). The way into the presence of God was not yet opened (Hebrews 9:8)
Everything about the old ways and the old covenant were but a shadow, a type of better things to come in Christ. As we read the manuscripts of how the service was performed and the different things involved, we see Christ in every aspect of it all. The scapegoat placed before the people, as Christ was. The scarlet cloth put on the two to be sacrificed as the scarlet robe placed on Christ after His scourging. The shedding of blood, the offering of incense (prayers), the putting on of new garments after the sacrifice (Christ's glorified body) and on and on. But all it did for Israel was put off the penalty for one year; it never forgave their sins. Even the high priest was first to offer for himself and then the people, Christ was sinless and took all our iniquities upon Himself.
It is sad that they did not then nor do they today recognize how inadequate their ritual is. If we can believe that the miracle of the scarlet cloth turning to white as true, could they not see that it stopped when they killed Jesus. Even today Yom Kippur is nothing more that a day of reflection for the modern Jew. There are no sacrifices, no temple, no High Priest and no forgiveness. It is just a constant reminder of just how hopeless the situation really is.
Next Month: the future day of Atonement and the feast of Tabernacles