Times to Remember
Introduction: My memories of childhood are fleeting. I’m not sure why. I want to remember certain things. Now, Junior High I’d like to forget J But other times are fun to remember. Snow days keeping me home from school, little league uniforms and the smell of freshly oiled gloves and the outfield grass for spring, charcoal BBQ grills and the sparks drifting toward the crowd from a dazzling firework show for summer, and the cider mill and plain donuts for fall.
Times to remember are usually pegged upon events that recur through the years. Those events can lend to solidarity within a family or community, a sense of loyalty, faithfulness, and devotion. It’s not all that different from what we read tonight in Exodus 23…
· All male Israelites (23.17) made pilgrimages three times a year for the annual feasts mentioned in our text. Of course, women and children would normally accompany the men.
· Maintaining these feast times would have provided for national and spiritual unity in Israel.
· These feasts find their foundation while the children of Israel were still in Egypt.
1Afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’ ”
9And Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds we will go, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.”
· God mandates that Israel have three feasts three different times during the year. The word times in v. 14 is also the Hebrew word for foot or leg. This is interesting because a pilgrimage is something that is done on foot. All Israelites would eventually travel up to Jerusalem for these feasts.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
· “You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, at the time of the appointed month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt; none shall appear before Me empty)…” (23.15)
o This Feast occurred during the first month of the Hebrew year. The Gregorian Equivalent would run from mid March to mid April. So, the Feast occurred in the spring.
o The Feast of Unleavened Bread is connected with the Passover Feast. Each spring, Israelites offered up a lamb for sacrifice to remember the night God redeemed them from Egypt. Remember, the death angel passed over them.
o Passover was immediately followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This also pointed to the redemption of Israel from Egypt. Recall that when Israel escaped that night, they moved quickly. There was not enough time for the bread to rise. Not having leaven reminded them of God’s great deliverance.
o Christians do not celebrate these feasts because they have been fulfilled in Christ. Christ is our Passover. However, when we remember the death of our Savior on Good Friday or His resurrection on Easter Sunday, we remember our own deliverance, our own redemption from sin.
The Feast of Harvest (Firstfruits, Weeks, Pentecost)
· “…and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field…” (23.16a)
o As the name suggests, this second feast took place when the field were ripe for harvest. God commanded that Israel reap its harvest, bring the first abundant sheaf of grain to the priest, and he would wave it before the Lord on the behalf of the people (Lev 23.10-11).
o It is a beautiful acknowledgement of the Lord’s abundant blessing. Leviticus 23.11 also tells us that it occurred the day after Sabbath. Israel would then count off seven weeks or 49 days. On the 50th day they brought an offering to God. The counting off of seven weeks gives us an alternative name for the Feast of Harvest: The Feast of Weeks. The 50th day provides the third alternative: Pentecost.
o As you might imagine, this feast was one of thanksgiving for God’s abundant provision.
The Feast of Ingathering (Booths, Tabernacles)
· “…and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field” (23.16b).
o This feast occurred after harvesting was complete and all was safely gathered in (hence, Ingathering).
o This feast lasted one week (Lev 23.41). Israel during this time lived in tents (tabernacles) or makeshift booths made of leaves and branches (a lean-to).
o This feast also remembered God’s deliverance from Egypt. Staying in these lean-tos helped Israel remember their escape to the Red Sea and beyond – their stay in the wilderness.
o Successive generations learned through this object lesson. They became assured that God is mighty to save.
o The feast provided an outlet for rejoicing in the work accomplished through the faithfulness of God (Deut 16.14-15).
o Every man was to give at this feast as he was able (Deut 16.17). This is defined as according to the blessing of the LORD given them.
All three feasts testified to the goodness of God toward Israel.
1. The Feast of Unleavened Bread / Passover – a time of reflection; looking back in wonder at the God who delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh.
2. The Feasts of Harvest and Ingathering – both times of rejoicing over what God provided for Israel in sustaining them and bringing them to the Promised Land.
The feasts kept teaching each successive generation in Israel that all needed to depend fully upon Him. They continue to do that today even though they are not practiced by believers. They are not practiced because they have been fulfilled. As teaching tools, the job is finished. How do we learn from these feasts as we read about them in our Old Testaments?
1. The Feast of Unleavened Bread / Passover
Removing yeast from the bread pictures holiness. Yeast symbolized sin in the Bible. As believers, we place our full trust in Christ thereby purging “out the old leaven …for indeed Christ, our Passover was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5.7-8).
Once we are saved, we continue on building a life of sincerity and truth. This is our sanctification – the process of holiness in our lives.
2. The Feast of Harvest (Firstfruits)
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15.20). How would the disciples understand this reference? Within the context of Judaism, they clearly would think of the Feast of Firstfruits.
Remember, it was just one sheaf of grain waved by the priest before God, but it contained a promise of more to come throughout those early summer months. While Christ was the first to rise from the dead, His resurrection points to our own! We are the more to come!
“In Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order (according to the laws of harvest): Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor 15.22-23). The Feast of Ingathering is a beautiful picture of our resurrection yet to come because He is risen!
The Feast of Firstfruits or Harvest was deemed Pentecost in the New Testament. This word comes from the Greek word for 50 – remember that the feast culminated on this 50th day. 50 days after Pentecost, the disciples gathered to wait for the Promise in the early chapters of Acts. It was on this day that the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2.4).
Peter preached so that people who had made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost would understand the gospel in their own language. People came from many different nations. God-fearing people came and received the glorious message of repentance from dead works and full trust in Christ. Then, these people turned the world upside-down. [Insert Gospel with transition: What message did they hear in their own tongue?]
OT believers would not have understood the full impact of this feast. For them, it was a time to thank God for a wonderful harvest and express their dependence upon Him. NT believers understand how Christ ultimately fulfills this figure. We see it in rich NT passages pertaining to the idea of the harvest.
Jesus told a parable to His disciples beginning in Matthew 13.24. He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares [weeds] among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came sand said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather the tares and bind them in bundles and burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
Later Jesus explained this parable:
“He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Jesus worked the field of this world. Those who receive Him are the wheat which shines forth as the sun in the kingdom of the Father. The weeds are the sons of disobedience, the rejecters, who face the eternal wrath of God in the Lake of Fire.
That’s why Jesus communicated the need to work the fields with urgency…
Don’t think you have time! “Do not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest? Behold I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest” (John 4.35-36).
3. The Feast of Ingathering
This feast reached a highpoint on the final day. People gathered at the Pool of Siloam in the day of Christ. They gathered water and poured it out at the temple. Jesus overcome with the picture of this feast stood and said in a loud voice…
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 4.37-38).
Jesus is the water of life, the final and full fulfillment of this feast. He would send His Spirit to confirm this.
A great number of sacrifices were offered during this feast. The blood flowed to demonstrate the great treachery of sin. The blood from the animal sacrifices also pointed to Christ whose shed blood would provide a final and full sacrifice for the deep, dark sin in each of us.
Conclusion: These three feasts are all fulfilled in the Person and work of Christ. The Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover foreshadow our deliverance from sin when we first trusted Christ and our continual growth as He brings us to Heaven. The Feast of Firstfruits offers the hope of our resurrection because Jesus is risen. The Feast of Ingathering points up the fact that Jesus is the water of life and the only acceptable sacrifice for sin.
Christians don’t take part in official pilgrimages like these anymore. Yet, we all are on journey. It is good while we travel to our home in Heaven, to take time to remember – to have times to remember. We do this as a church when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper and remember the death of our Savior til He comes.
The OT teaches us more about our salvation and its value than we often care to admit. We have emphasized throughout our studies in Exodus that a good, thorough understanding of the OT leads to a richer, deeper, and more meaningful understanding of the NT. These three feasts point to Jesus just as sure as everything in the whole of Scripture points to Him. He is the final and full satisfying atonement for Sin. Yet, He expects that by the mercies of God, that each of us here this evening present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable to our God. This is our reasonable service in the light of what He has done and revealed to us.
At the end of our text, we read of stipulations regarding sacrifices made:
· The blood of God’s sacrifice was not offered with leavened bread. The blood sacrifices could not be mingled with what was considered a corrupting agent. As living sacrifices, we ought to be mindful of the blood of Christ and its redemptive value. We also ought to be extremely passionate about purging our lives of sin.
· The fat of God’s sacrifice could not be held over to the next morning. The fatty portions of an animal sacrifice were often attached to the stomach and intestines of the animal. They were reserved for God’s portion and could not be saved or put aside because they contained the essence of life in that animal. The fat also provided for the choicest cuts of meat from the sacrifice. As living sacrifices, we cannot hold back. We give Christ our all – the choicest abilities, the choicest amounts of time and treasure, the choicest, prime of each our lives!
· The first of the firstfruits of the land was to be brought into the house of the LORD. This speaks of both thanksgiving and what is yet to come. As living sacrifices, we must remember that all we give in this life is a pittance compared to the life yet to come. The rewards of our inheritance are assured by the Holy Spirit’s ministry in us. He is the guarantee of what is to come! We belong to Jesus and our secure in Him!
· A young goat was not to be boiled in its mother’s milk. Young sacrifices were often boiled in their mother’s milk by the Canaanites as they worship their false gods. God did not want the sacrificial system to resemble these abominable practices. But it also reminds one of the tenderness of God. There is something utterly abhorrent about using that which is supposed to bring life actually bring death. As living sacrifices, we must bear life and light not death and darkness. Conformity to the course of the world often makes a child of light resemble a child of darkness. Purity, sanctity, and the idea of being wholly separated to our God from the sinful practices in this world is in view here.