The Feasts of the Lord

Who doesn’t love a good feast? We might think of Christmas dinner, Thanksgiving, perhaps a wedding or a graduation feast with friends and family. Personally, the image from ‘The Grinch’ always drifts into mind, where ‘He, he himself…the Grinch…carved the roast-beast!’ Biblically though, feast is one of those words that doesn’t mean what we think it means.

In the Old Testament, God instituted 7 Feasts for his people Israel to observe annually. The Hebrew word didn’t mean bingeing on food and drink and making merry; it meant ‘appointed times’ – special days or weeks dedicated to God and proclaimed as ‘sacred assemblies’ (Lev 23:4). In other words, these were ‘holy days’ (which in modern English, gradually evolved into ‘holidays’ – thus, feasting! How easily the corruption sets in). We still see vestiges of this older meaning in church calendars when for example, we celebrate ‘the feast of St Stephen’. How disappointing for children who hear those words and head off to church with false anticipation; (I remember it well).

Seven was of course God’s holy number, and the seven OT Feasts of the Lord included Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Weeks (the Spring Feasts); Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles (the Autumn Feasts). Each of these had deep meaning and significance symbolising the relationship between God and his people, and were filled with sacred rituals and ceremonies – but they weren’t somber occasions – they were joyful celebrations of families gathered together, singing, giving thanks, celebrating God’s provision, and yes – sometimes feasting.

Three of these (Passover, Weeks – aka Pentecost, and Tabernacles) comprised the great ‘pilgrimage feasts’ in which every able-bodied Israelite would travel to Jerusalem to join the feast en-masse. Each Feast had special meaning. Today we’re most familiar with Passover; lambs were slaughtered to signify the blood of Redemption, recalling their freedom from slavery in Egypt. But even the first Passover was symbolic of a greater Redemption to come – in Christ. It was no coincidence that Jesus was crucified on Passover!

We don’t often pause to take this in, but all seven Feasts are fulfilled in Christ. Jesus died on Passover (redemption) was in the tomb during Unleavened Bread (sanctification), rose on Firstfruits (resurrection), and sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (origination & harvest)! Only rarely did these first three align on consecutive days – as in AD33. We await the fulfilment of the last three at his second coming…

Scroll to Top