In this series of posts we are seeking to discover God’s heart for the holidays. He truly does care about holidays! So we have been looking at three feasts he commanded the people of Israel to observe every year, with the goal of learning his heart so that we Christians might be able to apply his heart to the holidays we celebrate. In this post, we look at two more feasts mentioned in Deuteronomy 16 that God wants Israel to celebrate. What we’re going to discover is that these are not connected to remembering events of the past, like we saw in part 2 with Passover, but more so connected to God’s provision in harvest.
The next feast is described in Deuteronomy 16:9-12, the Feast of Weeks, also called Pentecost. As verse 9 says, the Feast of Weeks, took place seven weeks after the beginning of the grain harvest. Pentecost is the Greek word for “50 days,” which is just about 7 weeks. Its purpose is clearly stated in verse 10: the Feast of Weeks is a time to thank God for the blessings he gave them, and they rejoiced by giving a freewill offering to God, in proportion to the blessings he poured out on them in the harvest.
The next holiday is also connected to harvest. Look at 16:13-17, where he talks about the Feast of Tabernacles. Verse 13 tells us that this feast was to take place seven days after they gathered the produce from their threshing floor and wine-press. Then they were to be joyful! Furthermore, through this celebration, they receive the promise of 16:15, of God’s blessing, and that their joy would be complete. It gives the image of a people who have been hard at work harvesting and now the work is over, and they can party, thankful to God!
Now that we have surveyed all three feasts described in Deuteronomy 16, let’s survey the important themes woven through all three. I’ll talk about the first theme in this post, and the next two themes in the rest of the series.
First, we saw the theme of regular remembering. I talked about it already in part 2 of this series, that God has a heart for the holidays, a heart for the people of Israel to remember his faithfulness in their lives. The system of feasts created for Israel a regular yearly rhythm of focusing on the Lord. Multiple times every year, the pilgrimages and feasts helped the people remember who they were. And who were they?
We studied this recently when we saw in chapter14:1-2 that God declares Israel his Children, his treasured possession. In each of these three feasts, they remember and re-enact their identity through the story of how God saved them out of slavery and how he continues to provide for them in the harvest.
We Christians can do the same! Why? Because God has saved us too, through Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection, through the coming of the Holy Spirit, and through the life of the church. That is why the ancient Christians also created a series of feasts which tell Jesus’ story. Did you know we Christians have feasts too? I want to be clear, our feasts are not a part of the New Covenant like Israel’s feasts were commanded by God in the Old Covenant. In other words, you won’t find these Christian feasts commanded by God in the New Testament. But because God is a God whose heart beats for his people to regularly remember and celebrate his provision, we Christians are right to make a practice of regular remembrance as well.
That’s why the ancient Christians created these feasts and holidays or holy days as well. What are they? Check back in tomorrow for part 4 and we’ll take a look.