God’s timing is perfect, and He accomplishes His purposes according to His timeline not ours. Many struggle to find meaning for today in the book of Leviticus and would readily confess they find it hard going. When we look at the feasts and see how they fit into God’s prophetic calendar and their further fulfilment, the study of Leviticus takes on a whole new meaning. It is no longer onerous but a joyful journey of discovery pointing to God’s plans and purposes.
Three times annually all the males were required to appear before the Lord to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) and the Feast of Tabernacles (Exodus 34:24; Deuteronomy 16:16). The Feast of Firstfruits was a harvest festival and the Feast of Shavuot the commencement of the wheat harvest[i] so you could therefore describe Shavuot as akin to a ‘spring harvest’. Each of these feasts were ways of expressing thanksgiving and Shavuot was a time of rejoicing and a rest from work as people came to bring their offerings to the Lord. Unusually in this offering, leaven was permitted since if the two loaves represent Jewish and Gentile believers, it symbolises all believers being saved by grace.[ii]
There are some fascinating Jewish traditions concerning Shavuot which some may not know about and others take for granted. Firstly, it is suggested that David was both born and died at Shavuot plus Rabbinic tradition affirms that Moses was given the law from God at Mount Sinai and thus Shavuot has become a celebration of Torah[iii] hence why some study all night remembering the giving of the law at Sinai.
The book of Ruth is usually read. Naomi and Ruth came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest (Ruth 1:22) and gleaned until the end of barley harvest and wheat harvest (Ruth 2:23). Ruth was the great grandmother of David (Ruth 4:21-22). Ruth was a Gentile and the ancient tradition of two loaves of bread (Leviticus 23:17) some believe represents the giving of the two tablets and others to the Jewish and Gentile aspect considering that Ruth was a Moabitess and she said ‘Your people shall be my people and your God, my God (Ruth 1:17).’
Shavuot occurred exactly fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits. The contemporary Rabbinic equivalent of Shavuot is the ‘counting of the omer’, following the instruction in Leviticus 23:16 to count off fifty days and on the fiftieth day to present the grain offering.[iv] It was therefore seven sabbaths from the day after the Sabbath. In Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came, this was exactly fifty days after Yeshua (Jesus), rose from the grave and occurred precisely on the same date in the Jewish calendar. This is known as Pentecost from ‘Pente’ which means fifty in Latin.
Amazingly on the same day, (fifty days after the Ten Commandments were given), Aaron built a golden calf and about three thousand men fell that day (Exodus 32:28). On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:41, about three thousand souls were added to them. At the Tower of Babel God confused their language and scattered the people, but at Pentecost everyone present heard them speak in his own language and they were brought together.
There was fire on Mount Sinai when Moses received the law and there were tongues of fire that rested on those who received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Peter recognised that Joel’s prophecy was being fulfilled.
‘But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Shall be saved.’ (Acts 2:16-21; c.f. Joel 2:28-32)
On the day of Pentecost, Peter brings the important connection with David. He prophesied about the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah who would not see corruption “For you will not leave My soul in Hades, nor will you allow Your Holy One to see corruption (Acts 2:26; c.f. Psalm 16:10).
Peter continues with another of David’s prophecies concerning His greater Son.
“For David did not descend into the heavens, but he says himself:
‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make your enemies Your footstool (Acts 2:34-35).” ‘
Subsequently they were cut to the heart asking Peter and the apostles what to do and he told them to repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
We have already mentioned Ruth the Moabitess who had tremendous godly character and who insisted on staying with Naomi and becoming as one of her people, going wherever she went even wanting to die and be buried where she was buried. But most importantly of all, her God would be Ruth’s God also.
Ruth is a wonderful picture of Gentiles coming to trust in the Jewish Messiah. Boaz as the kinsman redeemer is a type (forerunner) of Messiah. This has always been God’s plan. Isaiah 60 speaks of the Gentiles blessing Zion. Zechariah 8:22-23 tells us of many Gentiles wanting to go to Jerusalem with Jewish people recognising God is with them. Psalm 117 might be the shortest Psalm and chapter in the Bible, yet it encourages all people to praise the Lord.
So how is this fulfilled? Ephesians 2:11-23 explains that the Gentiles were at one time aliens to the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise having no hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:11). But the blood of Yeshua the Messiah when He made atonement for our sin brings us near. Yeshua is our peace. He is the peacemaker. No one else can bring genuine peace and peace that endures. He has broken down the wall of partition and created ‘one new man’ from the two thus making peace (Ephesians 2:15). Through Him we have access to the Father by the Holy Spirit which was given at Pentecost.
All the feasts have prophetic significance, an exact timeframe and relate to Messiah. The spring feasts coincide precisely with the death and resurrection of Messiah. Yeshua was crucified at Pesach and rose on Firstfruits. He is our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) and has become our firstfruits (1 Corinthians 15:21-23). Shavuot is the last of the spring feasts. Jesus fulfilled the law and he brings ‘grace’ meaning ‘free unmerited favour’.
There is a gap between the spring feasts and the autumn feasts, and this is the time that we are currently residing in. This is the dispensation of grace. This is not to say that somehow only now God is gracious in His character; God has always been gracious since that is part of His character. Yeshua has brought salvation though His atonement and a believer in Yeshua is saved by grace through faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us (Ephesians 2:8; Galatians 2:20).
Jesus is coming again. The revelation of His return, rule, and reign, relates to the autumn feasts. Amongst other things, the feast of trumpets reminds us that when an alarm is sounded, we should be urgently prepared and ready for His coming (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 5:16). And so I humbly and soberly implore you. Are you trusting in Jesus as your Messiah? Have you had your sins forgiven? Will you be ready when he comes?
The Day of Atonement is considered the most holy day of the Jewish calendar. Have you realised that atonement has been made through Messiah? Zechariah 12:10-14 describes how the house of David will look on Messiah whom they have pierced (John 19:37; Revelation 1:7) and there will be a great mourning. In fact the whole land will mourn and every family by themselves and wives by themselves. It will be like the mourning for Josiah (Zech. 12:11).
More Jewish people are coming to faith in Yeshua the Messiah in Israel and across the whole world. Romans 11:26 tells us that ‘all Israel will be saved’ meaning that there will be a great gathering of Jewish souls finding Messiah. Romans 11 explains God’s purposes in salvation for Jewish people and Gentiles. Zechariah 14:16-21 tells us that all nations will keep Tabernacles. At that time during the Messianic reign of 1000 years there will be peace on earth as Messiah reigns from Jerusalem.
[i] Bryan W. Sheldon The Messiah and the Feasts of Israel (Gospel Folio Press; 2007, Port Colbourne), p131
[ii] Ibid, p132
[iii] Peter Sammons Israel’s Holy Moedim and their prophetic significance today (Glory to Glory Publications; 2017, Cambridge), p92
[iv] Ibid, 92