Exodus 23:14-19 Three Old Testament Festivals

Preached on Sunday 10th October 2010

Click here to download the Bible study in PDF format.

READ Exodus 23:14-19

Ex 23:14 “Three times a year you are to celebrate the festival to me.”

1. Why did Moses challenge Pharaoh to let the Hebrew’s go? See Ex 5:1

Ex 23:14 is a grand fulfilment of the Exodus:  God came to rescue his people from slavery that they might be free to worship the LORD.

2. How is the same true for us? See 1Peter 2:9

Part of our calling as Christians is to declare his praises together, which is what we do week by week.  God desires our worship for his glory and for our good.

The Israelites had three main festivals:

The Feast of Unleavened Bread (v15)

The Feast of Harvest (v16a)

The Feast of Ingathering (v16b).

The feasts were pilgrimages when the people came up to Jerusalem to worship.  There were other festivals in the year as well, such as the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Trumpets, but these were the main ones.  As Christians we don’t keep these festivals in the Old Testament way any more, but they are rich in meaning and have a lot to teach us; each one points to Christ.

Feast of Unleavened Bread (and Passover)

READ Ex 23:15

This was the first feast, in the month of Abib, in spring time, our Easter time, and it was always connected with Passover.  (There’s a lot more detail about these feasts in other Books of Moses.)  Passover came first and then the feast of Unleavened Bread followed immediately afterwards and for seven days they celebrated by eating bread without yeast.

The Passover was the night back in Egypt when they put blood of a sacrificed lamb on their doorsteps and the angel of death passed over them.  When Pharaoh finally let them go they had to leave in such a hurry they didn’t even have time to let their bread rise (Ex12:11).   The feast of Unleavened Bread was a liberation celebration, a salvation celebration.  They looked back at God’s mighty saving work in history, just as we look back at Christ’s saving work on the cross at Easter.

3. God’s people had to run to get away from Egypt.  What must we run away from?  See 1Cor 6:1810:141Tim 6:10-112Tim 2:22

Yeast in the Bible is usually connected with growing evil and the spread of sin.  Yeast grows and spreads, and this is what sin does in our lives unless we deal with it.  Whenever the Israelites celebrated this feast, they swept all the yeast out of their homes.  This symbolised holiness.  When we come to Christ we are to make a clean sweep, and getting rid of the old life of sin and this is how we celebrate this feast.

READ 1Cor 5:7-8

Passover gives us a picture of salvation as the Lamb of God (Jesus) who died for our sins. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, which came immediately afterwards, gives us a picture of what it means to be sanctified and made whole in Christ.

4. Is there anything you need to sweep out of your life?  Discuss Col 3:4-10

Feast of Harvest (Firstfruits, Weeks)

READ Ex 23:16a

This feast came later in the early summer.  When the first of the harvest was ready, they would take a sheaf of wheat and wave it before the LORD.  It was a way of acknowledging that the whole harvest came from Him.  It was a firstfruit, which meant the rest of the harvest would follow.  Then they counted off seven weeks and on the 50th day the people would bring an offering to God.  The main offering was bread, but this time it was leavened bread, which represented the fullness of the harvest; there were animal sacrifices also.  It was a joyful celebration and a day of rest.  It was a day of public worship, praising God as their Provider and thanking him for their daily bread.

This festival is referred to in 1 Corinthians.

READ 1Cor 15:20

This passage is all about resurrection; the Feast of Harvest teaches us about the resurrection.   Christ is the first sheaf waved before the LORD; Christ is the firstfruits of the spiritual harvest.

READ 1Cor 15:22-23

The Feast of Harvest gives us a picture of the first and the final resurrection.

In the NT the feast is called Pentecost, which we read about in Acts 2, fifty days after Passover.  Jews from all over the world had made their annual pilgrimage for the Feast of Harvest. That year something special had happened at the Passover – Jesus the Lamb of God was sacrificed for the sins of the world.  So something special had to happen at Pentecost as well.  God fulfilled the promise Jesus had made and poured out his Spirit on the church, and spiritually, raised them up to new life.

READ Acts 2:1-13

People from all over the world heard the good news in their own language and many repented and trusted in Christ for their salvation – which all took place at the Feast of Harvest.

Jesus spoke often about his saving work in terms of a harvest of souls.

For example, see Matthew 9:36-38

He wasn’t talking about farming; he was talking about the spiritual harvest of souls.  At Pentecost, what God had sowed in Jesus Christ, he started to reap from the nations, people from every tribe and tongue; a spiritual harvest.  We are part of this spiritual harvest and the harvest is still being reaped.

5. Do you think people are open to the Lord?  Share stories.  Pray you would become bolder in sharing your faith.

Feast of Ingathering (Tabernacles)

READ Exodus 23:16b

This was the third major festival, which came seven months after Passover, autumn time.  It took place at the end of the final harvest when all the harvest had been gathered in.  It lasted a full week, and the Israelites lived in makeshift booths made of leaves and branches.  It was also called the feast of Booths.

The Feast of Ingathering looked back in history to God’s saving work and reminded the people that during their time in the wilderness they lived in tents.  As they lived in booths for a week they re-enacted the “Exodus experience”; this helped to pass on it to the next generation.  They would be reminded that the God who saved his people through the wilderness would continue to save them and guide them on their way.

6. What do we do, or can we do, to help pass the “resurrection experience” on to the next generation?

The Feast of Tabernacles became a grand celebration, so by the time of Christ it was just called “the Feast.”  On the 8th and final day of the Feast, a grand procession drew water from the Pool of Siloam and poured it out at the Temple.

READ about this in John’s gospel, in John 7:37-39

Jesus was identifying himself as the water of life, and the fulfilment of the Festival. This is Jesus, who laid aside the glories of heaven and lived among us in a human tent.

READ John 1:14

Christ, whose glory shines out of his earthly tent, promises to satisfy our deepest spiritual desires and needs.

7. Do you have a spiritual thirst to seek the Lord and experience the living water?  Discuss your spiritual experiences of God.  Pray (for each other if you are in a group) that God would release the living waters in you.



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