Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Festivals of God - Pt. 1 Passover

Now we will jump ahead to the some of the laws that God gave Moses. In particular, we will start with the festivals that he commanded that the Israelites observe. It might be helpful just as a refresher to read Exodus 12:1-30 as to the origin of the Passover. Then the commands regarding the spring and fall feasts can be found in Ex. 23:14-19, Ex. 34:22-23; Lev. 23; Num. 28:16 - 29:40; and Deut. 16.

There are a number of feasts that God gave Israel to celebrate. He did this as a symbolic way of helping them to remember the promises of a redeemer to come and what that redeemer would do. They all would or will be fulfilled in the most literal sense.

The first festival of the religious new year is Passover (Pesach), followed immediately by the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Hag hamatzah) the Feast of Firstfruits. Fifty days after Passover is the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot, or as we know it, Pentecost. These are all spring festivals and have all been fulfilled in the First Coming of Christ.

There are several feasts and holy days in the fall. The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh haShanah) or New Year, The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles (Sukkot). All of these are yet to be fulfilled in the Second Coming of Christ.

The festivals have dual purpose in that some are commemorative of an event in Israel’s history, but all have a fulfillment in the two comings of Christ. Many have ties to agriculture, some have elaborate temple rituals, while some are home ceremonies.

The festivals are celebrated in the spring and the fall which ties to the two agricultural seasons in Israel. The spring festivals deal with the ingathering of the grain harvest, while the fall festivals deal with grain, grapes and other crops. There are two seasons of rain in Israel, the spring or former rains as they are called in Scripture, and the fall or latter rains. This corresponds to the two comings of the Messiah as mentioned in Hosea 6:3 ‘Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come to us as the rain, as the latter and former rains unto the earth.” This tells us that the spring festivals foretell his first coming with their significance and symbolism, while the fall festivals foretell of his second coming with their significance and symbolism.

While this is an end times study, and the spring festivals are about his first coming, which has been fulfilled, it is relevant to show how they were fulfilled, so that it may be understood how the fall festivals will be fulfilled by his second coming.


Exodus 12

The first thing to note is that God creates another calendar and adds another new year‘s day. The civil (or original calendar) new year’s day is in the fall (Rosh HaShanah) around Sept/Oct. This new calendar is the religious calendar by which the festivals are timed.

Passover was to start being celebrated on the 14th day of the first month of the new religious calendar. Before that on the 10th, each household was to take a one-year old male lamb from the sheep or the goats. It was to be without spot or blemish. They would keep him until the 14th (roughly 3 ½ days) during which time he would be inspected to be sure he was perfect. Oddly enough we always assume it was sheep, however a goat was an acceptable sacrifice as well. The days in the household would probably create an attachment to the animal, which would make the family feel bad when it had to be slain. Then everyone was to kill their animal “in the evening” of the 14th. When it says “in the evening” it doesn’t mean at 6:00 as we would refer to the evening. This is where knowing the history and customs of the time is crucial. They would count the evening as late afternoon or dusk. This would be the end of the 14th day, as their day started at 6:00 p.m., not midnight as it does for us. Thus they would kill the animal mid to late afternoon, before 6:00 so that it was still the 14th, roast it for a few hours until it was cooked, and eat the meal sometime that night, which would be the beginning of the 15th day, and the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The blood from killing it would be put on the lintels and doorposts of the houses that night. They were not to break any bones of the animal, roast it whole over a fire, not boil it, and there was to be nothing left over in the morning. The leftovers were to be burned. It would be sometime in the early morning hours when the people would leave Egypt (there were told to be ready and not go to bed) after the angel of death had passed through at midnight.

The people were to eat unleavened bread for the next week from the 15th to the 21st. This week would be the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The 15th and 21st were both to be holy days or Sabbaths (days of rest - not Saturdays). While the Lord decreed they were to eat unleavened bread, they really had no choice that first Passover, as they had no time to leaven it anyhow.

The Passover lamb foreshadowed the Messiah in a number of ways. The lamb was chosen to die, as was the Messiah before the foundation of the world. It was watched for about 3 ½ days to make sure it was perfect. The Messiah had 3 ½ years of public ministry when everyone was watching him, and it was seen that he was without sin. The lamb was roasted over a fire. Fire speaks of God’s judgment. The Messiah would stand in man’s place to be judged. Not a bone of the lamb was to be broken. Not a bone of the Messiah was to be broken.

How the entire elaborate ritual surrounding the Passover meal originated is not told in Scripture, but is it interesting in that, in the way the seder is now conducted, symbolism throughout the meal holds meanings of which even the Jews don’t understand and are completely unaware, so God must have had a hand in the development of the meal ritual.

The ritual starts days in advance with the thorough spring cleaning of the house to remove any bit of leaven that might be around. Pots and pans have to be scoured and boiled to remove any vestige of leaven. Baking and cooking are done. Only after all leaven has been removed, can the matzo or unleavened bread be brought into the house. Leaven is symbolic of sin. Getting rid of all leaven symbolizes the child of God being cleansed by Christ’s blood. The table for a Passover seder (meal) is set with four wine goblets at each place setting. There is also a larger cup set at an empty place at the table which is reserved for Elijah (who is supposed to come and announce the Day of the Lord)

Today the seder is slightly different than it was in Christ’s day, because of the destruction of the temple. In Christ’s day, the foods served at the meal consisted of the roasted lamb, the bitter herbs, the unleavened bread, and other ceremonial foods. These consisted of salt water in which to dip the bitter herbs and the charoseth - a sweet mixture of apples and nuts. It was into this mixture that they dipped the bitter herbs and unleavened bread. There was no dessert at that time, for the lamb was the last solid food that was to be eaten. There were also four cups of red wine mixed with warm water to be drunk at specific times during the meal. They have the following meanings: The first cup is the cup of sanctification. The second cup is the cup of praise. The third is the cup of redemption, blessing, or Elijah, and the fourth is the cup of acceptance.

In general, the seder meal followed this order. At the beginning of the seder, the host or head of the household would recite the kiddush (ritual blessing) over the first cup of wine. This was followed by the ceremonial washing of hands by the host only. This set him apart as the most important person at the table. Then a servant brought in a portable table of food and the first dipping of food took place. This was the raw vegetable, usually lettuce, which was considered a bitter herb. The host dipped it into the salt water and passed it around to all at the table. After this, the food was removed from the table and the host poured the second glass of wine, which was not drunk at this time. The food was removed before eating to raise curiosity, which was reflected in the youngest boy asking some ritual questions such as “Why is this night different from all other nights?“ and some other questions so that the story of the Passover from Abraham to the giving of the law could be related. Then the food was brought back and the host would explain the symbolism of the food. Then they would sing Psalm 113 and 114 and drink the second cup of wine. They all then washed their hands as an act of respect for the unleavened bread. The host would break the bread and say two blessings over it. The first was a prayer of thanksgiving to Him who brings forth the bread, and the second was thanking for the commandment to eat it. The host gave a piece bread dipped in bitter herbs and charoseth to each person. Then the Paschal lamb was eaten. The hands would be washed again. After this the host poured the third cup of wine and they all recited the after dinner blessings. This cup has three names, the cup of blessing as it follows the dinner blessings, the cup of redemption as it would be the cup that represents Christ blood shed for our redemption, and the cup of Elijah as Elijah heralds the coming of the Messiah and one of the after dinner prayers is a prayer for the coming of Elijah. At this point a child was sent to the door to see if Elijah is coming. Then they chanted another blessing for the wine and drank the third cup. After that they recited Psalms 115-118 (in Psalm 118 we find one of the Messianic prophecies. Vs. 21-23.) and drank the fourth cup of wine. The seder ended with a closing song or hymn.

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