The Feasts of the Lord: Going Through the Motions
Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of First Fruits, Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles – lots of Feasts, each with different instructions for observing them. Sometimes when we’re just starting out observing the Feasts, or approach a new season of Feasts, we can easily think of all the instructions and do’s and don’ts, and forget the richness of each Feast. It can feel – and in fact become – like we’re just going through the motions.
I can imagine that’s how the Hebrews must have felt when they heard the instructions for the first time as well. Exodus 12 is 50 verses full of instructions for Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the instructions are not exactly intuitive or logical. What were they to make of killing a lamb and smearing its blood on their door frames? Had that ever saved them from death before? Was this a common practice? And what’s so bad about leavened bread? What does that have to do with saving their firstborns?
The scene reminds me of the movie, “Karate Kid.” In Part 1 Daniel asks Mr. Miyagi to teach him Karate. Mr. Miyagi puts him to work painting his fence, waxing his car and sanding his walkways. (Watch the clips.) Daniel couldn’t understand what these tasks had to do with Karate. He just wanted to learn to defend himself. The Hebrews may have felt this same way. “We just want to leave Egypt and get out from under this slavery. What does a lamb dinner with dry crackers have to do with it?” To them, it might have been just like painting the fence, waxing the car or sanding the walkways.
But look at verse 50: “The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.” Remember they had just seen Egypt ravished by a river of blood, frogs, lice, insects, pestilence, boils, a hailstorm, locusts and thick darkness. I think they’d do just about anything the Lord told Moses at this point. They didn’t understand the significance of Yehovah’s instructions. They were just going through the motions, trusting Yehovah to keep his end of the bargain – saving their firstborns.
Going Through the Motions Acknowledges Yehovah’s Lordship
Here, the Israelites teach us our first lesson about the feasts. Just plain keeping Yehovah’s instructions is a valid reason for going through the motions of the feasts – whether we understand them or not.
Remember, this Yehovah of the Israelites, the God who brought the ten plagues on Egypt is our God; the Israelites are our people, their story is our story. He did these things not just for them, but for us! What if we were in their situation today, would we not do anything the Lord commanded us?
Don’t let the lapse in time diminish the urgency and significance of the Exodus for us today. It’s not just what Yehovah did for them back then; it’s what He has done for us today. Don’t let the idea of an “Old Testament” rob you of your history. This is our history, our people, our story. Don’t miss out on the commemoration that Yehovah’s victory deserves! This is our God, our deliverance, and our victory.
Instructions for these feasts are the instructions for an abundant life with our Creator. Has Yehovah changed? Have the instructions changed? Has the significance of his saving blood changed? No, no and no. His blood over our lives is still the way we are saved from death today. He’s still defending us from our enemy and bringing us out of bondage. His plan of victory is still unfolding. We are in their situation today. If we ignore these, are we not disregarding his Lordship?
The Feasts Mean More Today Than Ever Before
Today we have the benefit of watching Yehovah’s plan play out over centuries. We understand the spiritual significance of the Feasts. They represent everything our faith is based on – the Lamb’s saving blood at Passover, his sinless/leaven-less life as our Unleavened Bread, his resurrection as the first fruit, the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the second coming of Yeshua at the trumpet call, tabernacling with him during the millennium, the opening of the Lamb’s book of life on the Day of Atonement and the marriage supper of the Lamb on the Eighth Day.
Living in this timeframe after Yeshua’s birth, death, resurrection and ascension, we get the bigger picture that the original instructions point to. This makes the Feasts extremely relevant and exciting for us. Not only do we get to remember the Exodus, but we also remember Yeshua’s first coming during the Spring Feasts, and we get to focus on his second coming during the Fall Feasts.
Yet, there are all of these instructions. It’s easy to think, “Do we really have to do all of that? God knows our heart. If I just worship Yeshua and put my faith in his righteousness, love God and love my neighbor, doesn’t that cover it?” Or, maybe secretly we believe, “The instructions were for the Israelites, because they didn’t understand everything we do now.”
Does your updated spiritual understanding keep you from going through the motions? Some might say going through the motions discredits our spiritual understanding — it would mean you don’t think Yeshua’s sacrifice was enough. Yet it’s precisely this spiritual understanding that fills these Feasts with meaning.
Now that we understand the spiritual significance of them, our role is to seek the Holy Spirit in how to marry the two – going through the physical motions while grasping the spiritual implications. This is how we go deeper into the Father’s heart, seeing our current relationship with him through his eyes.
The Motions Are Our Foundation
Think back about the movie. It wasn’t about the fence or the car or the walkways. It was about learning those motions in order to be ready for the true goal. Once Daniel understood the goal of them, could he stop making the motions? No, these are the foundational practices that build his muscle, that put him in a position to stand against his enemy and to be ready for his future. That’s what the instructions of the Feasts do for us. You can bet Daniel continued perfecting those exact motions as long as he practiced karate.
Going through the motions of the Feasts are tangible ways of reminding us of the intangible – things the Holy Spirit can continue using to align us closer and closer with the heart of Yehovah each year.
Consider baptism – a physical motion bringing a spiritual revelation. Rarely would a follower of Yeshua in any denomination skip their baptism because they already understand the spiritual meaning of new life. In fact, as a new believer matures in his relationship with Yeshua, his baptism takes on more and more meaning.
The same could be said for tithing, or even wearing a wedding ring – by themselves they don’t mean anything. Any other ring on any other finger is just a ring. It could have sentimental or monetary value, but our wedding ring means we are in a covenant. And tithing – we know that our individual amount is not physically expanding Yehovah’s kingdom. It’s a spiritual act, a token of our commitment to God and acknowledgement that all we have comes from Him. In all these things, it’s the meaning behind the action that keeps us doing them.
That’s how it is with the Feasts. Just because Yehovah has graciously shown us the spiritual meaning of them doesn’t mean we don’t need to do them anymore. Now that we understand the meaning of them, they are even more significant.
Going Through the Motions Leads to More
Ironically, once we commit to keeping the Feasts, it’s easy to make the mistake of only going through the motions. It’s easy to become more focused on the instructions than the spiritual revelation they provide.
We’re like children. At first we’re just doing these things because our Father told us to. Then after we’ve gone through the feasts a few times, it can become routine. We’re just doing it because that’s what we do. At that point, just as a teenager, it’s easy to fall away from them and think, “I’ve done it, I get it, I don’t need to keep doing it every time.” Then as an adult, once you’ve moved away and seen for yourself how the world works, you realize that your parents were right, and you return to what you were taught.
That’s how the Feasts are. You can’t see all the implications as well when you’re told to do them as when you choose to do them. It’s when you understand what the motions mean and keep pursuing them to glean more spiritual insight that the Feasts really get interesting. Now you’re hooked.
I remember fishing with my dad. It was great being outside, and spending time with him. But we’d have to get up in the dark and drive to some deserted area, looking for just the right place. We’d pack up our gear and probably hike in a little. There were all kinds of bait, lures or flies, there were lines to untangle, hooks that pricked my fingers. We had to put on certain gear to get in the water. It took a lot of work and planning to get there, a lot of gear to manage and a lot of instructions to follow.
When we’d finally get our gear sorted out and actually cast our line, sometimes we wouldn’t get any fish. We’d change bait, change locations, change our technique, often meaning untangling more lines, more pricking from the hooks, tying more tiny knots. But…once we caught a fish, we’d be hooked for the day. Suddenly, it didn’t matter what we had to do to get there, how much preparation it took or how many tries we’d made – we got a fish and we want more.
This is how it is with the Feasts. Going through the motions with commitment and intention brings fresh insight you’d never find any other way. And once you get that, you just want more.
Going Through The Motions Ensures We Are In On God’s Plan
We have the benefit of hindsight, but the Israelites couldn’t see what was ahead. They had no idea they were foreshadowing Yehovah’s plan of redemption for all mankind. But centuries of going through those motions helped them prepare for that future.
If all they had done was go through the motions following instructions for all those centuries, they still would have been where they needed to be when Yeshua fulfilled them. Consider that just by following the instructions with no other understanding, their faithful Jewish descendants…
… were in Jerusalem for Passover Week, which is when Yeshua was crucified, buried and resurrected. (Deut. 16:16 instructed them to be in Jerusalem for this week.)
… were in Jerusalem for Pentecost/The Feast of Weeks, which is when the Holy Spirit was poured out. (Also instructed in Deut. 16:16.) All those who were there received the Holy Spirit and became God’s messengers once they returned to their own countries.
They would’ve missed these events if they hadn’t been at least observing the dates and location.
The Israelites couldn’t see what was ahead, and neither can we. The Feasts are Yehovah’s appointed days for all time. These are dates that he’s chosen to fulfill his plan for mankind – a plan he’s not yet completed. These dates will still play a significant role in his timeline in the future.
The Spring Feasts are the exact days Yeshua fulfilled His mission for his first coming. That’s a lot to celebrate! The Fall Feasts are all about Yeshua’s second coming. I don’t want to miss out on any of those appointed days! We saw this same principle in “Karate Kid.” By going through the motions Mr. Miyagi taught him, Daniel was preparing for his future – unknowingly.
We can’t know how Yehovah will fulfill his plan, but when we follow his instructions, we can be confident that we will be prepared, in the right place, doing the right things in order to participate with him.
When the feasts arrive, if you’re just going through the motions, you’ll be where you need to be as Yehovah’s plan unfolds. But there’s so much more that’s available as we seek the Father’s heart on his appointed days. I encourage you to dig in every year and let the Holy Spirit fill you with fresh insight.