the subject of feasts or feasting seasons is upon our minds, specifically as it
is found in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus. Since the overall thought of feasting
is before us, we will try to speak of things in an overview approach rather than
specifically focus on a verse or series of verses. As the Lord gives the law,
ordinances, judgments, rites, ceremonies, and specifications for garments,
furniture, the tabernacle, etc, it would be very easy for the congregation to
get burdened down under the minutiae of detail coupled with the enlightenment of
their sinfulness. As the sacrifices were offered, they thought of their sins. As
the precepts were read, they thought and their conscience brought into focus all
their shortcomings. As they constructed the fine points of garments, furniture,
etc, they did so with the fear and trembling of it being precisely as the Lord
instructed. Finally, they saw the glory of the LORD as He descended in the cloud
or fiery pillar. All these things brought fear and trepidation to the
congregation, so much so, that even Moses at times feared and trembled at the
quaking. (Hebrews 12:18-21) In the midst of all these things, we still see the
mercy and hand of God upon them, and one of the places is in Leviticus 23 as He
institutes the feasts that Israel was to hold. Indeed, they must be performed a
certain way, but still the feasts gave them a season of rest and repose to
contemplate the glory of God and enjoy each others' fellowship and company.
The first feast that came forth was the LORD'S passover in the fourteenth day of the first month. (verse 5) The second feast immediately followed on the fifteenth day of that same month: unleavened bread (which lasted for seven days). (verses 6-8) After that came the firstfruits that were to be waved before the LORD in a wave offering, and this was to be done after they came into the land of promise and brought in their harvest. (verses 9-14) After this wave offering was complete, they would number seven sabbaths (50 days) before another sacrifice was made as a day of holy convocation, which is commonly referred to as Pentecost. (verses 15-21) Then, on the first day of the seventh month came the blowing of the trumpets, with another holy day of convocation to rest. (verses 23-25) This was followed by the atonement that occurred on the tenth day of that same month, when they were to proceed with all that the Lord had previously instructed them in the 16th chapter of this same book. (verses 26-32) Immediately following, came the feast of tabernacles, which began the day after atonement and lasted seven days. (verses 33-44)
After looking at these seven feasts: passover, unleavened bread, firstfruits/
Now, let us consider the sequence of these things. Just on the surface, we see that they are bunched together at times and have large gaps in others. When the passover was complete, they went straight into the feast of unleavened bread. When the trumpets were through, shortly thereafter came the atonement, immediately followed by the feast of tabernacles. So, it is clear that sometimes when feasting was in season, that is about all they did for a while. Sometimes, they went a long time between feasting seasons. Some occurred in the first month, and there might not be another until the crop came in for the firstfruits, and then there might not be another until the seventh month. So, the old expression "feast or famine" may have some Biblical merit when studying the 23rd chapter of Leviticus.
What has always been interesting to me about the Old Baptists during my lifetime is that we have our own religious calendar (ever try explaining to someone outside the church about a 5th Sunday meeting?) and our own "meeting seasons." Sometimes in the fall of the year, there is one meeting after another with more than we have the time or opportunity to attend. My late father said one time, "I believe if you looked hard enough, you could find a meeting to go to somewhere every weekend in a row between summertime and late November." Sometimes a minister, his family, and the other saints that travel to these various meetings can begin to wear down from the meetings and think we need some rest (although the meetings are providing much spiritual rest to our souls). The children of Israel in the first and seventh months may have feasted so much that they felt like they needed to get out and labour some more in natural endeavours.
Yet, what happens to us in the winter of the year when meetings are scarce and non-existent? We begin to think, "Isn't there a meeting somewhere that I could go to?" As the children of Israel entered the time of year when feasting was not in season, they probably desired to have a time of rest to sit and enjoy the fellowship of their LORD and each other. Then, when the feast comes, they begin to reflect, take in, and enjoy. In a few months, spring meeting season will begin, and we can reflect, take in, and enjoy.
Notice also that these feasts served another basic purpose at times. When they ate unleavened bread for seven straight days, one might think that a long feast where people gorged themselves for no particular reason. But, notice what followed on its heels was the firstfruits that also encompassed not eating for a long period of time. (verse 14) While they ate considerably during that feast, it prepared them for the time of fasting that was to shortly occur thereafter. When we feast in God's house during meeting season, many times it prepares us for fasting that will occur when back in the world. The Lord told the Pharisees that His disciples could not fast while the bridegroom was there, but when He was away, they would fast. (Matthew 9:15) While we understand the point of that lesson to be natural fasting, we sometimes through work or other natural duties and necessities are pulled away for periods of time to not be able to sit in quiet fellowship or walk with God. During these times, we are in a fast from things that our soul longs for. What if we enter a period of being cast down about things? We are again in a fast from things that our soul longs for. What is a good remedy during these times? Pull back into focus what we enjoyed during our feast. Remember and recall to mind the things that we heard and felt while the Bridegroom was visiting us by His Spirit.
Finally, notice again that these feasts were over and above what they had in weekly sabbaths. While the Sunday service is not a sabbath like they had in the Old Testament, we do see at least some parallels between them (although I would be hesitant to call it a "Sunday Sabbath" even though others have). The parallel is simply this: there was a day of rest and focus upon God. Today, our Sunday service is a time of spiritual rest with focus upon God. But, one thing I am assured of (by experience if nothing else), these added feasts that we have in special meetings are drippings of mercy from the hand of God for us here. He pours out blessing upon blessing, service after service, and when the meeting closes, it is with a heavy heart that we must part. Indeed, we cannot have special meetings perpetually no more than they could feast forever, but consider the blessing they had then and we have now. Something over and above what we have week after week. I would be loathe to preach the attending of special meetings as a commandment (like these feasts were a commandment)
Therefore, if feasting is in season, may we feast with Him and enjoy His presence. If feasting is not in season, may we labour faithfully and honourably in our respective fields still chewing on the goodness He has provided us in days' past, and may we look forward to the next time that we have together in such a fashion. One final thought is this: we know not what service will be our last here. We know not what tomorrow may bring, but I have always hoped that the last service I am ever in would be the best one that I was ever in. If we approach every service with that mindset, how much the prayer, effort, preparation, and sowing with the expectation of reaping will there be! Therefore, may we look forward in anticipation to each feast (whether weekly or special) with the knowledge that it could be the last and hopefully the best.