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Scripture reading – Leviticus 23-24
Leviticus 23 – The Feast Days of Israel
The Sabbath (23:3)
Although not a festival, the LORD commanded Moses to remind the people of the fourth command: “3Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation [assembly for worship]; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings” (23:3; Exodus 20:8-11).
Seven Annual Feasts Days Were to be Observed (Leviticus 23:6-41)
The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (23:5-8)
The Passover (23:5) commemorated the LORD sparing the firstborn of Israel and delivering the nation from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12-13). It was observed with the sacrifice of a one-year-old lamb. The following day after the Passover, the people were to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread and remember Israel’s hasty departure from Egypt (Exodus 12:14-20). Its observance lasted seven days. Also, the first and last days of Unleavened Bread were counted as High Sabbaths, though those days may not necessarily have fallen on the weekly Sabbath (23:6-8).
The Offering of the First Fruits (23:9-14)
There was also the Offering of the First Fruits, known as the wave offering (23:9-14). A sheaf of wheat was brought to the priest, who waved the grain before the altar as a sign of praise and thanksgiving. Accompanying the wave offering was the Burnt Offering (23:12, the sacrifice of one male lamb, not more than one year old), the Meat(meal) Offering (23:13), and a Drink Offering (23:13). All were reminders of God’s bountiful provision.
Pentecost (meaning fifty), also known as the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Harvest (23:15-22; Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:9), was observed fifty days after the Passover (remember, the LORD commanded His disciples to remain in Jerusalem after His ascension, and the Holy Spirit descended upon them on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2).
For Pentecost, two loaves of wheat bread with leaven (23:17a) were offered as “firstfruits unto the LORD” (23:17). Also, there was a burnt offering that consisted of seven lambs, one young bull, and two rams “all “without blemish of the first year” (23:18). There was also a meat offering (an offering of grain), drink offering, and a sin offering of “one kid of the goats…and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offering” (23:19).
Reminding the people, “I am the LORD your God,” the people were commanded not to harvest the corners of their fields and “leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger” (non-Hebrews) to gather (23:22).
The Feast of the Trumpets was observed in the seventh month, on the first day of the month in the Hebrew calendar (23:23-25). Also known as the gathering, trumpets were sounded across the land. They summoned the congregation to gather for the Torah’s public reading and be reminded of God’s covenant with Israel (Isaiah 27:12-13). Of course, the significance of the sound of the trumpet is also recorded in the New Testament. According to Matthew 24:29-31, the trumpet will sound to gather the saints following the tribulation. In addition, the apostle Paul wrote that the sound of the trumpet would announce the coming of the LORD (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
The Day of Atonement was observed on the tenth day of the same month (23:26-32; Leviticus 16-17). (A prior devotion considered the Day of Atonement in detail, and I encourage you to refer to it for deeper study.)
The Feast of the Tabernacles (23:33-43)
The final feast on the Hebrew calendar was the Feast of Tabernacles (23:33-41). It was observed on “the fifteenth day of this seventh month” (23:34) and was the last day of harvest. Each family gathered “on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook” (23:40). The people then lived in booths they fashioned from the limbs for seven days (23:40). In doing so, the people commemorated Israel’s forty years of wandering in the wilderness when they lived in tents (23:43).
God’s Laws were Commandments, Not Suggestions. (24:1-23)
The people were instructed to prepare pure olive oil for the Menorah (the golden lampstand), located within the Tabernacle and outside the vail of the holy place (24:1-3; Exodus 25:31-39; 27:20-21). Aaron, the high priest, was to officiate the lighting of the lampstand, and it was to burn “from the evening unto the morning” (24:3). Then, having rehearsed the laws and guidelines for the lamps and the lighting of the Tabernacle (24:1-9), the Scriptures revealed a judicial crisis that arose in Israel and demanded the offender’s death (24:10-16).
The son of an Israelite woman, whose father was Egyptian, was witnessed cursing and blaspheming the name of the LORD. His sin was a violation of the third command and demanded the death of the offender (24:10-11; Exodus 20:17). Understanding the severity of the offense, Moses did not rush to judgment, but “put [the offender]in ward [under guard], that the mind of the Lord might be shewed them” (24:12).
Having heard the witnesses, Moses sought God’s will. He then demanded that the blasphemer be taken out of Israel’s encampment. Those who witnessed his sin laid hands on him as a testimony against him (24:14). The judgment was made that the blasphemer should be stoned to death (24:15-16), and “the children of Israel did as the Lord commanded Moses” (24:23).
The Law of Retribution (24:17-22)
The Scriptures revealed that though the LORD is merciful, He is just. Therefore, a murderer would be punished by death (24:17, 21b). A man who killed a beast that belonged to another was commanded to restore the same, “beast for beast” (24:18). Should a man injure or maim another, the law demanded he should be held responsible for recompensing the maimed or injured person for their loss: “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (24:19-20).
In a world where justice is often two-tiered and not equally applied, the LORD assured there was justice for all in Israel. Even the “stranger” (a non-Hebrew) was guaranteed there would be “one manner of law” (24:22).
Tragically, our world has little sense of justice, and our judicial systems have become demoralizing failures. As a result, criminals are pampered, and their victims are scarred, wounded, and frustrated with no hope of reprieve. Do you wonder why there is no justice or fairness in society? Look no further than Proverbs 29:2, where we read:
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”
Questions to consider:
1) What two things were to occur on the weekly Sabbath Day? (23:3)
2) Where were the people to live during the Feast of the Tabernacles? (23:40-42)
3) What was the penalty for cursing and blaspheming the name of the LORD? (24:23)
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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