Living in God’s Holy Presence: Celebrate His holiness with feasts (Lev. 23-25)

Publié le 28 mars 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon by Aurelien Duperchy, apprentice pastor

A few weeks ago, I celebrated my birthday and a brother sent me this message: “What’s a Birthday ?: it’s praising God for how far you’ve come and resting assured in him for how far you’ll go! God bless you !”

Today we are going to talk about the theme of celebrating God in feasts and how our life can be a holy celebration to God.

Chapters 23 to 27 are part of the laws of the sanctuary as are chapters 1 to 7. I invite you to read all of chapters 23 to 25 at home, but today we are going to cover chapters 23 and 25 by focusing on Chapter 23.

To celebrate God is at the same time:

– to remember what God has done in my life and in the lives of his people, to protect me from sin and

– to have faith in what he will do later as it encourages me to persevere.

Each one of the feasts is about what God has done and what he is doing for us but also what he will do next. There is this dimension of both the past and the future that God calls us to celebrate in the present moment.

I remember how God provided for me in difficult times when I gave my life to Christ, I experienced hardship that was almost unbearable and later God really blessed me to bear fruit.

God gave us memory. Even if sin and the fall cause us to remember bad experiences, by nature memory is a good thing and God gave it to us to remember Him.

To celebrate God is not to deprive ourselves of all good things, to force ourselves to recite mechanical prayers, in fact it’s quite the contrary! But our hearts tend to overdo it and take us away from God’s presence. Let us be balanced and respond to the holy summons that God gives us through his celebrations. It is important to keep this in mind throughout this service. The verses we are about to study speak of the resurrection, the Pentecost and even the return of Jesus!

Chapter 23

Leviticus 23 outlines the seven main feasts of Israelite worship created to celebrate God. Of course, being now in Jesus, some of these feasts are outdated, but celebrating God is still relevant today. And even more so because today, the Gospel is spread throughout most of the world. And the
whole world loves to have celebrations.

In this chapter, there is the Sabbath and seven annual feasts. The number seven symbolizes perfection and wholeness and we will see how these feasts point to total perfection!

These were the seven main feasts of the people of Israël’s worship. You may have wondered why the feast of Purim is not mentioned, as it is quite well known. This is because that feast was created at the time of Esther, almost nine centuries after Leviticus.

Verse 2 says « the feasts you proclaim will be holy assemblies.  » God sets appointments for his people to celebrate together. This text from Leviticus drives home the point about the holiness of God that must be lived by us who are his people. And that we must live them together, at the appointment set by God!

The character of the feasts was to gather the whole people as one moral and spiritual entity and to celebrate God together. So that no one could say « my faith is different from yours ». This chapter teaches us that the feasts are important to maintain the unity of God’s people and we will
see together why.

The fact that the feasts are to be celebrated on specific dates implies that the people of God should celebrate God in all circumstances. Whether we are going through a difficult or an easy time, we have the opportunity to celebrate God, to remember his work and to have faith in the future.

It is a grace that God gives to be able to celebrate him in spite of our sins.

Verse 3 : Sabbath
The Sabbath is what rest is, according to God. God created everything in six days and he rested on the seventh day. God did not rest in the sense that
he was tired, he did not need to rest from any aches or pains. On the seventh day, God contemplated his work, he rejoiced in what he had done, he found it good.

God’s rest is contemplation. Taking a time apart to contemplate God, I assure you, will give you more rest and spiritual peace than spending a long night of sleep. To rest, to contemplate God and his work, is also to rejoice even in our work that God has allowed us to do, he gave us hands to celebrate Him.

We need to take time when we do nothing to remember that God has done everything for us. The way our life is set up now, we are overloaded with work and activities, it doesn’t give us much incentive to rest compared to before, but we need to stand against the tide by taking the time to celebrate God.

For us, the first celebration is Sunday. Beware, I am not saying that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath, I don’t believe it is, but it is nevertheless our weekly celebration that brings together the followers of Jesus as the people of Israël did on the Sabbath. In other countries, Christians have services on other days. Basically, we have services on Sunday because Jesus rose from
the dead on a Sunday and we are part of a country with a Christian culture, which is why we don’t work on Sunday (basically).

Even in difficult times, we are called to celebrate God. The best way to decompress and rest is to take refuge in God’s rest, to admire who he is, what he does. God has honored himself, he always honors himself because he is the only one who deserves to be worshiped. God is not selfish in honoring himself, it shows in his intra-trinitarian relationship that he is
sufficient to worship himself, Jesus, God the Son expresses the worship and the thought of the Father which is spread by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was laid in the tomb on the Sabbath evening, He is our feast, we can rest fully in Him. Today, our Sabbath is in Jesus, we no longer need to take a day off, Saturday, to do nothing as the Jews still do. Of course, it is essential to take days of rest because if we don’t take the time to rest, one day our body, once pushed to the limit, will develop health problems, and will force us to rest. God has mandated us to work and multiply the land he has given us but he has also mandated us to rest.

God sees a greater rest than a weekly rest, this is what the beginning of chapter 25 teaches us. Chap 25:v 5 year of rest for the land, it is essential to let the land rest in order to have quality food. I don’t know if many of you plant fruits and vegetables. In agriculture, the renewal of the soil is essential, it must be allowed to rest without being treated. The fact of letting the soil rest avoids an abusive exploitation, something we don’t know anymore in our industrialized society even if we don’t hear about
it. The soil regenerates itself, by the action of God. It does not regenerate itself through our own efforts.

This encourages us to celebrate God, who created all things and who holds the whole world in his powerful hand! And that is restful, for the earth and for us. God’s sovereignty is our source of festivity and rest. God did not just see a one day a week Sabbath for the people, by commanding to take a year’s Sabbath every six years, he shows that he also plans a greater Sabbath for us! A one-year Sabbath after six years. And even beyond that with the Jubilee.

Jubilee means: A public solemnity celebrated in the past by the Israelites.
The jubilee was a public celebration made formerly by the Israelites, it took place every fifty years, often thus once in a lifetime if it was possible! Maximum twice if you had a long life and if you were born at the right time.
The Sabbath of the Jubilee went beyond 7 years because at the end of 49 years, a Sabbath year to finalize the fiftieth year and a year of rest in addition. The fiftieth year refers to Pentecost, which we will see next. And there is a Sabbath even greater than the seven years, Jesus Christ who is the Sabbath!

The total Sabbath surpasses us even today, we will also enjoy an absolute Sabbath after the end of time, after the millennium! The Sabbath therefore serves us to hope in God for the future.

Verse 5 Easter
It comes from the Hebrew « Pessa’h » which means « to pass over » and not « to eat chocolate”. This holiday comes from Moses in Exodus 11 and 12, Moses was negotiating with the Pharaoh of Egypt so that the people would come out of slavery and worship God in the desert. Pharaoh hardened his heart and God sent a tenth and final plague, which would kill all the firstborn in Egypt, both babies and animals.

To avoid this plague, the Israelites had to sacrifice a lamb without blemish and use its blood to put it on their houses doors, so the judgment would pass over (Passover) the houses on which there was the blood of the lamb.

Originally, therefore, it celebrates this event where God protected the first-born Israelites. It took place the day before the feast of unleavened bread, which began the next day and lasted for a week. This feast serves as a reminder of what God did to protect his people. And it serves as a
foreshadowing for later, that Jesus would be the sacrificial lamb and his blood would save his people.

John 1:29 says: Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. We must not confuse « Passover » which was the feast of the Israelites and « Easter » which is the feast of the New Testament, of the resurrected Jesus because Jesus was resurrected on the day of the Passover. The feast that we are going to celebrate next Sunday still has a future perspective today, even though Jesus is already resurrected.

This feast is still a hope for us today, that the Lamb of God will return in glory and destroy all the evil of the earth. The word « lamb » appears seven times in the last two chapters of Revelation, which is a very special text,
it speaks of the new creation, the completion of the new heavens and the new earth without any more evil. Revelation chapters 21-22 use the word « lamb » seven times, certainly to say that the world will be perfectly and totally in the presence of the Lamb of God.

Verse 6 to 8 Feast of Unleavened Bread
This Feast is the day after the Passover. It celebrates the exit from Egypt.
Sourdough is a mixture of flour and water used to make bread. Today it is rather the yeast which is used for the bread. Yeast is an image of sin and a little yeast makes the whole dough rise, if we let a sin make its place in our life, it will destroy the rest of our life. Not eating yeast for seven days symbolizes rejecting sin in a total way in order to be made perfect. Yeast is used to make bread dough rise, without it, the bread does not rise. In the same way, it symbolizes sin, a sin, even a small one according to our considerations makes the sin in our life rise, increase.

1 Corinthians 5:7 Get rid of the old ‘yeast’ by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.

Verses 9 to 14 Offering of the Firstfruits
This is the feast of the first barley harvest, to remind us that God provides for us. A feast that will be for later, when the people will have entered the promised land, so it is not yet relevant at the time Moses writes these words. That’s how confident he was that God’s Word would be
fulfilled!

1 Cor 15:20-21 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. God has provided for all our needs in Christ, through the resurrection of Jesus we have eternal Life!

v15 à 22 Festival of weeks
This feast was used to celebrate the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest. Today we know that as the harvest festival comes fifty days after the feast of the firstfruits that the harvest festival is the prefiguration of Pentecost, which literally means « fifty ».

Pentecost is the day when the disciples of Jesus were gathered in Jerusalem to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they spoke in different languages, they understood each other without speaking the same languages. It is the act of the creation of the church as one spiritual entity sealed by the Holy Spirit, in one body, the body of Christ.

Pentecost teaches us that this feast is historically linked with the Tower of Babel. In Genesis 11, the tower of Babel was built out of pride and was destroyed by God who scattered the people into different languages so that they could no longer understand each other.

In Acts Chapter 2 Pentecost was created by God, by the humility of the believers. He brought together people of different languages who could now understand each other. That is why Pentecost will become the antibabel after this text. By gathering all the believers into one body, one people so that everyone understood each other when they spoke in tongues.

Verses 23-25 the Feast of Trumpets – Gathering the people of God
This feast was the Israelite New Year, the New Year was in the seventh month and not the first month as we celebrate it today. The New Year is an occasion to bless God for a new year.

New Year’s Day, like all the others, brought together all the people, but this one puts even more emphasis on the unification of God’s people. The trumpets were used at that time to gather the people and also as part of the Israelite worship. This was the purpose of this festival and the Bible also speaks of it in an eschatological way (i.e. in the context of the end of time)
Matthew 24:31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

This is the prophecy of Jesus concerning His Return. Revelation, chapters 8, 9 and 11 also speaks to us of seven trumpets, and this is intrinsically linked to the Israelite worship framework found here in Leviticus. Revelation is composed of 404 verses, 278 of which are references to the Old Testament. One needs to understand the context and culture of the Old Testament to better understand Revelation, as well as the entire New Testament.
So yes, Leviticus implicitly speaks of the Return of Jesus and the reunification of the world Church in this feast!

Verses 26 to 32 The Day of Atonement
As we will see when chapter 16 is preached, this is Yom Kippur. The most important feast in the life of the Israelites, chapter 16 which describes this feast is the center of Leviticus and the climax of the Torah (which is the first five books of the Bible).

Verses 33-44 Feast of Tabernacles or tents
This is the only feast that gives you two days off work, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best feast! This feast is important because it reminds us that God led his people through the desert where the Israelites travelled for 40 years as we see in the previous book of Exodus.

God wants to give provision to his people by taking care of them and giving them more to show them his grace. This feast shows that God cares for his people and leads them with benevolence despite their sin. God chooses his chosen ones; he protects those he has chosen to bring them to freedom from the spiritual wilderness to replenish them. He has taken care of us and lead us to the point where He himself came in Jesus Christ to save us.

Each of these feasts point to the plan of our salvation in Christ! So let us celebrate the great salvation that Jesus offers us.

Conclusion

Let us stay in Christ who has done everything for us

Let us celebrate the New Year and even birthdays by glorifying God, rejoicing in his grace to live a new year, rather than by downing gallons and gallons of alcohol. Celebrating according to the Bible is celebrating God, so according to the Bible, celebrating is important!

Let’s celebrate God together!
Every feast we do, let’s do it to celebrate God, even if they are secular feasts like Christmas, we can take advantage of Christmas to celebrate God for having put around us people with whom to celebrate him, we can celebrate God by inviting people who have no friends. Our hearts, depraved by evil, tend to make empty celebrations, but God calls us to celebrate him, to contemplate him, to be filled with the Holy Spirit at all times and also during the celebrations.

Let’s do them in an attitude of unity
God gave the feasts, so let us live these feasts because he gives us the possibility to celebrate the glory of his grace! In perfection the totality of a perfect gratitude to God.

Let us celebrate his salvation
The feasts of the Lord in the Bible have a much greater spiritual purpose than celebrating together, it is to rejoice for eternity and together!
In Revelation 3:20, we are invited to the table of Jesus to enjoy his immense salvation with him. We must strive to make our whole life a celebration of God’s name

Questions:
What are the seven feasts? What was the purpose of each of them?
What keeps you from resting (Sabbath) in God? How can God’s holy and restful sovereignty help you do this?
Is the celebration periodic or daily?
With chapter 23 in mind, how should your life be dedicated to celebrating God?