I can remember seeing the so-called “Jewish” holidays on the calendar from the time I could read. But coming from my Christian upbringing, I didn’t understand what they were all about.
Plus, I grew up in the South, and there just weren’t very many Jews in Dry Hollow where I lived! My uncle DID marry a beautiful woman with Jewish ancestry, and I can remember being fascinated with that part of her lineage.
But I was taught through my church, thank God, that the Jews were God’s original chosen people and that Israel and the Jews were still very special.
Before you knew it, I was a young college woman who had spread her wings and left her tiny Southern town (for a somewhat bigger Southern town!). And on that college campus, I began to meet some Jewish people. One of my suitemates was Elise, a Jewish gymnast from New Jersey whose family had come from Poland.
She introduced me to one of her New Jersey Jewish pals, a soccer player named Howard who lived on the second floor of our high-rise dorm–just above us. Since first floor was an incomplete floor, we were thrown together with the second floor folks for parties, fellowship activities, beach trips, etc. Almost immediately, I was smitten with Howard and his humble personality and long, dark ringlets cascading to his shoulders.
He was a sophomore, and I, a lowly freshman, so I didn’t think he’d look twice at me. But soon he did, and suddenly we were dating. Although we broke up (peacefully) before the next school year began, I never had anything but fond feelings for Howard. He was ever kind, witty, cheerful and down-to-earth. He’s one of the few people on the planet about whom I can’t think of a bad thing to say. (He, Elise and I have recently been wonderfully reunited through Facebook!)
I can remember sitting around talking to him and Elise and thinking all the while, “These are Jews–God’s chosen people. Their lineage goes back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!” The fascination was intense, but I never really said much to them about it–maybe afraid of embarrassing them or something.
The years cascaded by, and I lost touch with Elise and Howard, although I carried fond memories of them with me. And suddenly, seemingly out of the blue, in the fall of 1999, it became imperative in my spirit man that I study the Jewish holidays. My ex-husband felt it, too; he’d say, “Leslie, what is Yom Kippur?” And my frustration grew as I couldn’t really answer that intelligently.
So I embarked on a journey that has taken me wonderful places! I began to study what I came to know as the “Feasts of the Lord.” In the spring of 2000, I ended up at the local synagogue (well, sort of local–about 30 miles away in Greensboro!), taking Judaism classes. I twisted the arm of my best friend Vicki to come with me (didn’t take much persuasion–she’s a very spiritual woman!).
Each Tuesday night, we headed to Temple Emanuel for Judaism 101, followed by Beginner Hebrew. Such anointed nights! I would sit hungrily in the Judaism class, soaking up the teachings about the holidays, seeing our Messiah concealed in each one. Then I’d hurry over to my beloved professor Andrew (we called him “A-DAM” (pronounced “a-DOM”) who would teach us to speak Hebrew through the “Read Hebrew America” program. He was so witty that I thought he should go on stage as a comedian!
He asked us what our names meant so that he could pick out a corresponding Hebrew name for us. I told him that Leslie meant “from the meadow,” so he chose the name “Sharona” (as in the roses of Sharon that bloom in the meadow) for me. When he’d call on me to read aloud, he would often burst into song with “My Sharona.”
Hebrew came easily for me. I would practice and practice each lesson at home, but it seemed I had a natural bent toward and accent for the language.
I never divulged that I was a Christian–not because I was embarrassed but because I didn’t want them to think I was there to proselytize. I wasn’t. I wanted to learn my Messiah’s culture and history from HIS people. But one night when it was time to read the Shema (Shema Yisrael! Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad–see picture for interpretation), I was so excited that I volunteered immediately when Andrew asked for a reader. My hand was up like Arnold Horshack’s!
Andrew said, somewhat frustratedly, “Is there ANYONE other than Sharona who will EVER volunteer to read aloud?” When everyone stared blankly at him, he cried out to his fellow Jews, “PEOPLE! The Christian chicks are blowing us away!”
I froze. How did he know I was a Christian? Was that a problem? Should I quit the class? I ended calling Andrew at his home and offering to drop out, assuring him that my motives were pure–simply to learn. He was magnanimous–told me it was no problem that I was in the class, that he was thrilled American Christians were wanting to build bridges of understanding between themselves and different cultures. I finished out the class in total comfort and peace.
Over a decade has passed since that time, but my love for the Jewish people and Israel has never diminished but in fact grown by leaps and bounds. I’ve sat at the feet of a fabulous Hebrew scholar/Christian preacher, Dr. Karl Coke of Charlotte, NC, off and on for several years now. And in 2003, I began to teach about the Feasts of the Lord myself–to my fellow church members.
God has since opened doors for me to teach these things to people of varying denominations–not just at my own church. And the doors are opening more rapidly now; I’ve already been asked to do a teaching series on the Feasts at another local church.
As a Gentile, I didn’t grow up with these feasts and may have some of my facts wrong–something that I would bitterly regret and would ask that some kind Jewish (or Gentile) person correct me on. I would not be offended. (And please remember that I am a Christian who sees the Messiah in each Feast; I mean no disrespect for the Jews by teaching from a Christian perspective.)
Here is a YouTube video of a teaching I did at my local library last Thursday night, March 29, in preparation for Passover which is today, April 6. I will post a handout that accompanies the video teaching in case you want to follow along. I hope you can take time to watch it and experience the symbolism in the memorable Feast of Passover!
FEASTS OF THE LORD
What are the feasts of the Lord?
–The 7 Biblically commanded feasts in Lev. 23
–They are not Jewish feasts (Lev. 23:4)
Why should we study them?
–OT: Jesus CONCEALED NT: Jesus REVEALED
–They teach us about the PAST
–we learn Jewish history
–we see Jesus symbolically concealed in them
–helps us understand our Messiah
–types and shadows (Col. 2:16-17, Heb. 8:5)
–They teach us about the PRESENT
–show us present-day truths
–give us knowledge of salvation and how to live in Christ
–They teach us about the FUTURE
–Col. 2:17 again
–revelations of the endtime are hidden in the feasts
–they are called “mikra”: rehearsal, recital (our rehearsal of our future)
–But they’re for the Jews, aren’t they?
–Israel OBSERVED them, Jesus FULFILLED them, we must APPLY them to our lives
Are we under commandment to observe them?
–No, according to Paul in Col. 2:16 (remember his circumcision argument earlier also)
–However, since we are now grafted into the commonwealth of Israel (Eph. 2:12-13), we can certainly celebrate them and be blessed (double portion)
–Much historical evidence that early Christians, even Gentiles, celebrated feasts
–in 339 A.D., it became a criminal offense to convert to Judaism
–thus, Gentiles celebrating feasts = ostracism
–decades later, Synod of Laodicea ruled against Christians feasting with Jews
Is the order of them significant?
–Yes, they are called “moedim”: set times, appointed times
–Their order is the exact order of our lives in Christ
–Passover: we acknowledge that Jesus died for our sins and accept Him
–Unleavened Bread: we get rid of sin through repentance and baptism
–Firstfruits: we are raised with Him to offer ourselves
–Weeks (Pentecost): we receive the Holy Spirit
–Trumpets: Jesus comes back to get us
–Day of Atonement: we are judged
–Tabernacles: we enter our millenial rest, eventually Heaven
–There are seven feasts for a reason (rest)
–The first four have been fulfilled by Jesus; the last three remain to be fulfilled
When is Pesach?
Nissan (Abib) 14 (on the 14th day of the first Jewish month)
–usually near our Easter but not always
Jews also call it “Hag ha-Aviv”–holiday of spring
–symbolized release from winter (bondage) into spring (freedom–Promised Land)
God’s mercy was shown even in the dates of Passover
–if a man couldn’t keep it, due to being defiled or away, he had another chance! (Num. 9:1-14)
–to be done the 14th day of the next month (called “Pesach Katan”)
What is Pesach?
In Hebrew, it means “to skip or leap over” (Angel of Death skipped over Israelites)
–also “to pass or hover over, for protection” (God hovered over them to shield them)
Jews see it as their “mikrah” (rehearsal) of their final redemption when Messiah comes
Specific instructions on how to celebrate are found in a few places
–Lev. 23:4-5, 7; Num. 28:16-23; Deut. 16:1-7; Ezek. 45:21
Historic celebrations of it can be found in several places
–Era of Moses: freedom from Egypt (Ex. 12:1-14, 42-50)
–again, the 2nd year after leaving Egypt (Num. 9:1-14)
–Era of Joshua: entering the Promised Land (Josh. 5:10-12)
–Era of Hezekiah: cleansing of the Temple (II Chron. 30:1-20)
–Era of Josiah: cleansing of the Temple (II Kings 23:21-23; II Chron. 35:1-27)
–Era of Nehemiah: rebuilding of Jerusalem (Ezra 6:19-21)
–Era of Jesus’ childhood: his 12th year (Luke 2:41)
–Era of Jesus’ adulthood: his 33rd year (Matt. 26:2, 17 – 27:45; Mark 14:1 – 15:25; Luke 22:1 – 23:33; John 2:13-23, 6:4, 11:55 – 19:42)
–Era of Paul: New Testament church (I Cor. 5:7-8; Heb. 11:28)
How is Jesus revealed in Pesach?
**The Gospel is paralleled in Exodus 12:1-14!
v. 2: “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.”
–Pesach celebrated in spring–newness of life outside of Egypt (bondage)
–Jesus as our Passover: new beginning; newness of life outside of the world
—“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away;
behold, all things are become new.” II Cor. 5:17
v. 3: “. . .In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb. . .”
–the lamb was set aside for 4 days (killed on the 14th)
—“For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past” Psalm 90:4
—“. . .one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” II Peter 3:8
–from Adam to Jesus, 4000 years (4 days)
–“But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world. . .” I Peter 1:19-20
–Jesus entered Jerusalem on Abib 10; was there 4 days before death
–family fond of lamb (tied to doorpost): truly a sacrifice
–pre-existent Jesus as God in OT
v. 3: “. . .they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house. . .”
–OT salvation for whole family
–Noah’s whole house saved (Gen. 7:1)
–Joshua’s whole house made a decision (Josh. 24:15)
–NT salvation was often the whole house
–Lydia’s whole household was baptized (Acts 16:15)
–Paul’s jailer and his whole house was saved (Acts 16:31)
–Crispus believed on the Lord with all his house (Acts 18:8)
v. 4: “And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.”
–NT command to witness and spread the Gospel: salvation is for everyone!
v 5: “Your lamb shall be without blemish. . .”
–Jesus was our “lamb without blemish” (I Peter 1:19)
–OT lamb had to be inspected (customarily, 7 times)
–Jesus was inspected 7 times
–#1: Pilate: “I find no fault in him.” (John 19:4)
–#2: Herod: “I. . .have found no fault in this man. . .” (Luke 23:14)
–#3: Annas: sent Him to son-in-law Caiaphas (John 18:24)
–#4: Caiaphas: “sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none.” (Mark 14:55)
–#5: Judas: “. . .I have betrayed innocent blood.” (Matt. 27:4)
–#6: Centurion: “Truly this man was the Son of God.” (Matt. 27:54)
–#7: Thief (cross): “. . .this man hath done nothing. . .” (Luke 23:41)
v. 5: “Your lamb shall be. . .a male. . .”
–Jesus was often referred to as “one man”
—“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Rom. 5:19)
v. 5: “Your lamb shall be. . .of the first year. . .”
–scholars say this was a firstborn lamb
–Biblical principle that firstborns belong to God
–Jesus was “the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29)
–many OT types of Messiah were really second-born who became firstborn!
–Cain replaced by Abel, Ishmael by Isaac, Esau by Jacob
–even in NT, firstborn man Adam replaced by second man Jesus
–our first birth is our flesh birth
–must have second birth (born again) to become firstborn!
v. 5: “. . .ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats. . .”
–sheep always represented Israel, goats–Gentiles (us)
–foreshadowing salvation for all!
v. 6: “And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it. . .”
–the Jews took responsibility for Jesus’ death
—“Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.” (Matt. 27:25)
v. 6: “And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day. . and. . .shall kill it in the evening.”
–Pesach lamb killed in the afternoon of the 14th day
–Jesus was crucified at 9 a.m. but died at 3 p.m.
–“in the evening” literally means “between 2 evenings”
–at noon on the 14th, darkness covered the land for 3 hours
–when the light came again at 3 p.m., then Jesus died (Mark 15:33-37)
–He literally was slain “between 2 evenings”
v. 7: “And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.”
–we must apply His blood to our lives to be forgiven
—“. . .without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22)
—“. . .by his own blood he entered in. . .having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Heb. 9:12)
–Jesus shed blood from 5 places (5 = grace)
–head (thorns), hands (nails), feet (nails), back (whip), side (spear)
–lamb’s blood was on door: Jesus was the Lamb AND the Door
—“I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” (John 10:9)
–this application of blood forms the Hebrew letter “chai” (“life”)
v. 8: “And they shall eat the flesh in that night. . .”
–they were commanded not only to apply the blood but to eat the lamb
–Jesus said, “Whoso eateth my flesh. . .hath eternal life.” (John 6:54)
v. 8: “And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread. . .”
—“I am the living bread. . .if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever.” (John 6:51)
–Jesus: our unleavened bread (leaven = sin)
–we, too, must let go of sin (leaven) when we are saved
v. 8: “. . .and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.”
–suffering and death: we must die to self when we are saved
v. 9: “Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.”
–we must take ALL of Christ and His word, nothing watered down
–”purtenance” means innards, entrails (every part)
v. 10: “And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.”
–again, the emphasis is on eating ALL of the lamb (Him)
–if something was left, evidently we didn’t share enough
–remember the parable of the talents! (Matt. 25:25)
v. 11: “And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’s passover.”
–had to eat quickly to get out of Egypt
–when we receive Messiah, we are to leave the world ASAP!
–He had let judgment “pass over” them and now could only continue to “hover over” them if they left Egypt
v. 12: “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.”
–judgment is for Egypt, not for God’s people
–each of the 10 plagues corresponded to one of their gods
–”I am the I AM” (don’t mess with me!)
v. 13: “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.”
–blood represented a covenant relationship; God couldn’t break His word
–but you also had to do YOUR part–apply the blood to your house (life)
—“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Rom. 3:25)
–“propitiation”: substitute (Jesus was your Passover lamb killed for you)
–“forbearance”: He was kind and patient enough to forgive us (pass over us)
v. 14: “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.”
–by law, the Jews had to keep the feast literally
–by grace, we have to keep the feast spiritually (apply the blood, eat the Lamb, leave Egypt)
What are the blessings of Pesach?
Obviously, life (through the blood of the lamb)
Healing and prosperity
—“He brought them forth also with silver and gold; and there was not one feeble person among their tribes.” (Psalm 105:37)
–these blessings came from partaking of the Passover
–we have a right to these things, too, through Jesus
—“And the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.” (II Chron. 30:20)–at Passover
–blood of the Lamb breaks the curse of sin, sickness and poverty
How is Pesach celebrated?
**The Jewish customs are not necessarily Biblical ordinances
Spring cleaning: the week before
–Passover always involved cleaning things up
–Josiah put evil out of the land before they held Passover
–Hezekiah’s people cast their pagan altars into a brook at Passover
–Jesus cleansed the Temple just before Passover
–Jewish priests wouldn’t go into the Hall of Judgment when Jesus was being tried (couldn’t be defiled before Passover)
“Erev Pesach”–night before Pesach when final housecleaning is done
–search for “hametz” (leaven): led by dad (traditionally with candle)
–leaven found must be burned
–some use palm branch from Sukkot (final fall feast) to light fire
“Fast of the Firstborn”–the day before Pesach, from sunup to sundown; a fast for firstborn Jews to commemorate their being spared
–some fast in honor of Esther’s fast (originally Abib 13)
“Seder” (“order”)–Passover meal eaten at sundown on Abib 15
–certain foods served in a certain order
–“karpas” (green vegetables, like parsley, symbolizing spring and rebirth, dipped in salt water to represent their tears)
–“haroset” (chopped apples, nuts, wine & spices: the mortar of Egyptian brickmaking)
–“maror” (bitter herbs like romaine or horseradish to represent slavery)
–“beitzah” (hardboiled egg scorched on stove burner to symbolize the Jews who have been burned but never beaten)
–“zeroa” (roasted lamb bone)
–certain customs kept
–recline on left side when eating (sign of freedom in ancient world), except when eating foods that symbolize slavery
–keep a large, ornate goblet filled with wine for Elijah who will come before Messiah
–head of family wears “kittel”–white robe similar to priest’s garment (he is the priest of the family who does the sacrifice)
–children ask 4 questions about Passover so that traditions and the story of the exodus may be passed down
–4 cups of wine are blessed and served
Biblically speaking, new ordinances were added after the original
–Many burnt offerings to be made (Num. 28:16-23)
–included a goat for a sin offering (Jesus as our scapegoat)
–Specific place designated for offerings once there was a tabernacle plan (Deut. 16:1-7)
–had to be offered “in the place which the Lord shall choose to put His name”
–no longer could Jews kill the lamb within their OWN gates (we can do nothing of ourselves once we have Jesus)