Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year: 15 You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt; none shall appear before Me empty); 16 and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field. "Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord GOD …EXODUS 23:14-17).
God commanded us to serve Him with joy and gladness of heart for the abundance of all things. As I begin to see the word of God in its entirety and to serve God based on it's Jewish roots, I begin to feel the depth of the richness and the sweetness and completeness of God. We are to serve God the way He directed us to serve Him, to follow His ordinances and statutes.
He instituted divine appointments in which He calls all the believers in the Body of Christ, both Jews and Gentiles to have a divine appointments with Him, as quoted above. These appointments also include Sabbath celebrations which is celebrating and feasting with the Lord His appointed day of rest, the day He rested, sanctified and set apart. The Lord's divinely appointed times of meeting with Him are seven, but they are categorized into three.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts. 'Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings (Leviticus 23).
In this chapter, these feasts also include:
The Passover and Unleavened Bread
The Feast first fruits
The feast of weeks
The feast of Trumpets
The feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)
Some of these feasts are celebrated during the Spring, while some are celebrated during the Fall season.
I believe that the Gentile believers have been celebrating one of these feasts on yearly basis, which is the feast of the Ingathering. On this feast, they have the feast of Harvest which is called Harvest Thanksgiving, they present (probably) their first-fruit offerings to God or just harvest thanksgiving offerings (and not firstfruits). This harvest thanksgiving offerings are to God towards the end of the year and joyfully sing, celebrate and dance before the Lord with all their might.
I experienced no small joy when I visited Nigeria towards the end of year of 2011, and visited two different Churches that celebrated their Harvest thanksgiving. People gave to God generously and danced before Him with all their might, with uncontrollable joy and gladness of heart. And later, they enjoyed quality meal in His presence. This attitude of dancing and rejoicing and feasting before the Lord is the pattern of the early Church as they served God on daily basis…feasting, dancing, rejoicing, and enjoying the presence of God on daily basis including meals in their house gatherings. While we celebrate the feast of ingathering however, we believed the rest of the feasts are Old Testament. Why? God commanded us to celebrate all the feasts, because they are God's pattern of life for all His children to present themselves to Him on those appointed days of the feasts. But why do we chose some and leave some? We shall find out later.
The Gentile believers do not see most of the Old Testament commands as applied to us today, but that they are under the Old Testament law. The truth of it all is that the "New Testament" believers: the Apostles including our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, lived by Torah, celebrated all the Lord's feasts and encouraged the celebration to continue, for the feasts will continue into Millennium when the Lord Jesus shall reign on Earth. No jot of the word of God is abolished or will be abolished. I want you to understand that the only thing that is abolished in the Old Testament is the ceremonial laws of animal sacrifices and Temple rituals. These were fulfilled in Christ as He became that Passover Lamb who was sacrificed on the cross once and for all, and because His Blood cleanses our sins from inside our hearts (which the blood of those animal sacrifices could not do) He now dwells inside of us through His Holy Spirit, and the Lord God wrote the same commandments, (the same commandments we thought were abolished) His ordinances, inside our hearts:
"This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10).
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3).
The Holy Spirit thus empowers us from within to walk by faith and walk out our salvation by His power -still living out the word, the laws of God, written on the tablets of our hearts. As we look unto the Lord Jesus as our righteousness, and accept His gift of righteousness, we continue to live and walk by the Holy Spirit who teaches and leads us through the word (the laws of God) written within us. As a matter of fact, the Lord Jesus said that the totality of all the laws and the prophets are these two: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself (Mathew 22: 37, 39). By love, the rest of the commandments are taken care of because if you love the Lord your God as He commanded, and also love your neighbor as yourself, you will not lie, steal, murder and do all those things forbidden by the law. The word of God (His teachings and ordinances) is forever settled in Heaven and continues unto eternity. While the law reveals our sin nature, we accept the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. He is able to deliver us from that sin nature, and by the love of God which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to live by the Spirit, walking in the paths of righteousness which are in accordance to the laws of God.
The teaching of how the Old Testament applies to us today is a whole book, but I want my readers who said that they are New Testament believers to understand that the (moral) laws of God were never abolished except those ceremonial laws which were fulfilled in Christ. Besides, both Christ and His Apostles contended with the "traditions of the elders, the Pharisees and the Sadducees who made lists of "do nots, and touch nots"…that were not the laws the Lord gave. To them the Lord Jesus asked:
Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? (Mathew 15:3)
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not;…(Colossians 2: 20-21)
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Colossians 2:8)
Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them who believe and know the truth (1 Timothy 4:3)
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day…Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence (Colossians 2: 16,23).
Let me comment a little more on the above quotes even though it is not our main topic. From the last quotation, we see that Paul was concerned by the way they were celebrating their religious festivals. They "self-imposed" regulations which have appearance of wisdom (by their traditions), false humility and their harsh treatment of the body and so forth. Jesus said that they made heavy burdens and placed on the people, but they themselves could not even lift any part of such burdens. They made serving God burdensome by their traditions forcing voluntary false humility of washing of hands before meals, not because their hands are dirty, but by tradition. That tradition came from the priestly ceremonial washing of hands in the Temple before sacrifices, but the Pharisees made it a tradition for everyone. Jesus said to them that they wash outside the cup whereas the inside of the cup is dirty. He said to them that it is not what enters the mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out of the man (Mathew 15:11). They were hypocrites, worshiping God with their mouths while their hearts were far from God.
He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Mark 7: 6-7).
During this time, there were many school of thoughts. We know of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Scribes and different teachers of the law including Hillel. Jesus came to set the record straight, to teach the proper way to keep the laws of God; to serve Him in spirit and in truth (in faith). Each of these schools of thoughts however, had their own interpretation on how to keep the laws of God: How to keep Sabbaths that is not in accordance to divine laws. They even accused the disciples of Jesus who were picking grains to eat on the Sabbath day as breaking the Sabbath. The word of God permitted that a hungry person can glean/pick wheat on any field, even on the Sabbath day. It is not counted as work. They were just eating to satisfy their hunger as the law of God allowed, but the Pharisees added to the law which God commanded they were not to add or remove. It did not mean that Jesus was against the celebration of Sabbath, but it emphasized that Sabbath was meant for the good of man, not to destroy man.
They also accused Him of healing on the Sabbath even to the point that the person He healed picked up his mat and walked on the Sabbath. That was against the tradition of the elders, but not against the laws of God concerning Sabbath. Sabbath is for man, and not man for Sabbath. Sabbath keeping did not mean that you are not to take care of an urgent need that means life and death, such as abandoning one's sheep that fell into a pit. These various schools of thoughts which includes those extreme Pharisees were going about condemning people for not keeping the tradition of the elders which they added as the "laws of God", and finding occasions to stone people to death, but Jesus was teaching the people the right way to keep the law. His teachings were based on those laws and His grace, as the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world. The laws of God were not abolished, but were fulfilled in Christ. It is because of those tradition of the elders that Paul asked the believers not to let anyone deceive them by vain fables and philosophies…according to tradition of men; and also not to let anyone judge them with regards to New moon, Sabbath keepings and all that.
To actually understand the words of the epistles, we need to fully understand the moral and ceremonial laws of Old Testament. That will help us understand most of the words of Paul and other apostles. We also need to understand the circumstances whereby most of those epistles were written. For instance Paul asked the Galatians:
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain-if indeed it was in vain? (Galatians 3:1-3).
These people suffered many things both from the Romans and from those Jews that did not believe in the Messiah; yet they began to draw back to Judaism hoping that keeping those ceremonial laws would save them. If for instance, they observe holy days and feasts, get circumcised: those were never any requirement for salvation. We are no longer under such requirements (of ceremonial laws) for salvation because salvation is by faith in Christ Jesus, and we are justified by faith. We are however required to continue to walk out our salvation with fear and trembling by walking in the spirit to crucify the deeds of the flesh.
The Old Testament Torah, Psalms and Prophets were written for our instructions. Without them, we cannot understand the New Testament, and we don't have good root in our walk with the Lord. Without them, we will not understand the New Testament. All scriptures is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Timothy 3:16).
The New Testament were written from the Old Testament because, Torah was the very Bible the early Church used, and the Lord Jesus was brought up and lived by the Torah for thirty years before He started His ministry. Jesus was a Rabbi, but taught them with much authority, not like other Rabbis. John the Baptist was educated by the Torah and also was a Rabbi, and that's why when he saw Jesus, he introduced Him to them as "that" Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, no longer those ceremonial laws of offering lambs and goats for their sins. Jesus has become that sinless Lamb for sacrifice. Paul was a Rabbi. That was why he continued visiting one Jewish Synagogue after another and was being accepted to teach them, and also planned his trips around Jewish festivals. Jesus said that heaven and earth shall pass away, but not a single jot of God's word shall pass away, and He said that anyone who removes from the law and teaches men so will be called the least in the Kingdom of God. He kept all the feasts including Sabbaths, the apostles and the early Church did the same.
When however, many years later, Emperor Constantine was converted as a Christian, he had problems with Jewish roots of Christianity. He therefore outlawed these feasts and Sabbaths; changed the appointed day of worship to Sunday to honor the sun god, and persecuted the people for the observance of Jewish feasts and holidays. In their place, he introduced some pagan feasts,thus we have the feast of Ishter, the goddess of fertility which we call Easter and Good Friday celebration. Easter bunny and egg are symbols of sex, fertility and springing into new life.
Easter is steeped in the Mysteries of ancient Babylon - an evil and idolatrous system invented by and promoted by Satan - the father of lies! …(Ishtar - the Babylonian goddess - is the one for whom Easter is named. Ishtar is but another name for Semiramis - the wife of Nimrod. Semiramis and Nimrod instituted the building of the tower of Babel and are the co-founders of all the counterfeit religions that have ever existed…They not only instituted the building of the Tower of Babel, they also established themselves as god and goddess to be worshipped by the people of Babylon. They are the co-founders of all the counterfeit religions that have ever existed.
Nimrod was worshipped as the Sun God. He was worshipped in numerous cultures and countries under a variety of names: Samas, Attis, Uti, Merodach/Marduk, Ninus, Bel/Baal, Moloch, Tammuz - the list is virtually endless. The name Easter actually comes from Ishtar / Easter who was worshipped as the moon goddess, the goddess of spring and fertility, and the Queen of Heaven. She is known by so many other names in other countries and cultures that she is often referred to as the goddess of one thousand names. Millions of people are unknowingly worshipping and praying to this pagan goddess today. What is her present-day name?
The Babylonians celebrated the day of Ishtar / Easter as the return of the goddess of Spring - the re-birth or reincarnation of Nature and the goddess of Nature. Babylonian legend says that each year a huge egg would fall from heaven and would land in the area around the Euphrates River. In her yearly re-birth, Ishtar would break out of this egg and if any of those celebrating this occasion happened to find her egg, Ishtar would bestow a special blessing on that person. Does this explain the origin of our modern-day tradition of Easter eggs and baskets and Easter egg hunts? (http://mystery-babylon.org/easter.html)
The goddess Easter's earthly symbol was the rabbit, which was also known as a symbol of fertility. Since rabbits and hares give birth to large litters in the early spring, it's understandable that the rabbit is the symbol of fertility
Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/easter-bunny-eggs.html#ixzz3WIx4kAEF
The early Church actually met each first day of the week, based on the Bible Calendar, to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, to worship and rejoice in Him. They also met every day for their continual sharing of the word and breaking of bread and sharing of meals. But the emperor, picking the days in the Spring to mark the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was in connection to some pagan goddess springing into life, as described above.
The Christmas feasts was instituted to mark Christianity's equality with other religions. Emperor Constantine (the first Pope of Rome) did not chose the proper date of Jesus birth which fell on the feast of Trumpets, around September, but he chose December 25 because it was the beginning of the week of celebrations of the rites of Mithra, the sun god of Persia.
The eventual choice of December 25, made perhaps as early as 273, reflects a convergence of Origen's concern about pagan gods and the church's identification of God's son with the celestial sun. December 25 already hosted two other related festivals: natalis solis invicti (the Roman "birth of the unconquered sun"), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian "Sun of Righteousness" whose worship was popular with Roman soldiers. The winter solstice, another celebration of the sun, fell just a few days earlier. Seeing that pagans were already exalting deities with some parallels to the true deity, church leaders decided to commandeer the date and introduce a new festival (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/news/2000/dec08.html).
Since the Jewish feasts, which are the Lord's feasts make up Jewish calendar the Church fathers and those subsequent leaders thought that abolishing Jewish Calendar which is the bible Calendar would cause the Jews to forget the dates of their feasts, but they did not completely succeed, because the Jews continued to calculate and remember their days of feasts through their peculiar mathematical ways of calculating their calendars. There as much war especially against the feast of Passover since it is the feast that has to do with blood and redemption.
To be continued…
© Archbishop Gloria Grace