When we are asked by leaders in our congregations to do something or to believe something in regards to Scripture, we should always be like the Bereans and test everything against Scripture itself (Acts 17:11)... the whole of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If a person feels "led by the spirit" to speak, behave, or believe a certain way, they should test that spirit (1 John 4:1) and see whether what that spirit is telling them to do is in agreement or disagreement with Scripture.
Let us take a journey together through Scripture and see what it says about the Messiah as He is pictured in the moedim.... a "walk in the Word" so to speak. As we take this walk, may we say, believe, and do what is right, be merciful in our speech and actions, and walk humbly with the Lord (Micah 6:8).
Scriptural quotations are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted. Bolded text or other emphases in the Scriptural references are the author's.
We also recommend the general article about the Scriptural holy days (the moedim).
Shabbat (the weekly Sabbath) is first referenced in Genesis 2:
Then G-d blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which G-d had created and made.
It is given as a commandment in Exodus 16:23 prior to the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.
Messiah is pictured here in at least three ways:
- He is the Word and the Creator that ceased on the seventh day (John 1:1-3)
- He is Lord of the Shabbat (Matthew 12:8)
- In Him we find our Shabbat rest (Hebrews 4:9)
We cease from trying to merit salvation on our own terms and rest in the promise that He has purchased us for G-d with His own blood (Revelation 5:9).
Rosh chodesh (the new moon festival at the beginning of every Scriptural month) is a picture of renewal. This moed is first referenced in Numbers 10:
Also in the day of your gladness and in your appointed feasts, and on the first days of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be as a reminder of you before your G-d. I am the LORD your G-d.
The moon starts as a small sliver of light, waxes full, and then wanes to nothing only to begin anew. So, also, we see Isra'el born from the children of Avraham, waxing full over 14 generations to King David, waning 14 generations to the deportation to Babylon, and waxing once again to fullness in Messiah (Matthew 1:17). The renewal we see is not the full moon pictured by the 14 generates from the "new moon" to the Messiah but in the new beginnings He purchased for us. We who once dwelt in darkness and were "strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without G-d in the world" (Ephesians 2:12)... we now have a new beginning in Him. We are "new creatures"... the old things have passed away and new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Aside from the weekly Shabbat and the monthly new moon moedim, the rest of the moedim given in Scripture can be grouped into those that occur in the spring-time and those that occur in the fall.
Let's examine the spring festivals next...
Pesach (also known as Passover) is the annual memorial of the event that occurred when G-d "passed over" the homes of the Isra'elites when they were in bondage in Egypt. G-d spared the first born of the Isra'elites because they had faith in G-d's promises and placed the blood of lambs on their doorposts. The very first Pesach is found in Exodus 12 and actually refers to the lamb that was sacrificed and whose blood marked the doors.
'Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste--it is the LORD'S Passover.
The annual remembrance of that supernatural event is commanded in Leviticus 23:4-5. This event occurs on the full moon (the 14th day) of the month of Nisan, the first month of the religious calendar for Isra'el. It marks the event that resulted in the freedom of the Isra'elites from their bondage in Egypt. For believers it marks the date of Messiah's sacrifice that resulted in the freedom of believers from their bondage to sin (Romans 8:2).
Scripture tells believers that Messiah Yeshua is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7), that He is a "lamb unblemished and spotless" (1 Peter 1:19), and that He is the "Lamb of G-d" (John 1:29, 36). What picture do we get of Messiah as the Pesach Lamb? To see that picture clearly we should ask the question "What was the purpose of the Pesach lamb in the Exodus?"
Unlike several other sacrifices given in Scripture, the Pesach lamb was not offered for sin or uncleanness. It was never intended to atone for sin. Instead its blood served to mark the homes of those who believed in G-d (Exodus 12:7) so that they would be saved from G-d's judgment upon those who were not His people. This provides a picture of the blood of Messiah serving to mark the lives of those who trust in G-d for salvation from His judgment upon their sin and for His redemption (1 Peter 1:17-10).
Messiah is our once-for-all-eternity Passover sacrifice. The commandment in Scripture to observe the memorial of the first Pesach is called a chukat olam, an "eternal command" (Exodus 12:14). Although Messiah is not physically present with us at this time we can participate in the annual memorial of His work and celebrate that which He has already done while eagerly looking forward to His return.
Chag HaMatzot is a transliteration of the Hebrew for "The Festival of Unleavened Bread". This moed immediately follows the day of Pesach and is commanded in Scripture in Exodus 13:
"For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders.
The annual celebration of the original moed is given in Leviticus 23:6-8. It is an annual remembrance of being set free from bondage in Egypt and the "bread of affliction" that was eaten in haste. For believers it takes on the additional remembrance of being set free from bondage to sin.
When most Americans think of "bread" we think of the white fluffy loaves of Wonder Bread that made up the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that we had as children (or maybe even as adults!). The "fluffiness" of the bread is caused by yeast which is also called "leaven". Leaven causes the bread to rise and become puffed up. To the writers of Scripture leaven represents sin. The Master also had this understanding as He used the expression in his teaching of the disciples:
"How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
Was Yeshua providing a first-century equivalent of an FDA warning regarding baking products?
What was He saying then? We find the answer in the very next verse.
Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Luke 12:1 provides an additional detail identifying the "leaven of the Pharisees" as the sin of "hypocrisy".
Leaven pictures sin and in Exodus 13 we find G-d commanding His chosen people to be without leaven immediately after He "passes over" them. It was a commandment to be without sin. Messiah is our unleavened bread because He is without sin. He even gave us that explicit picture in the Last Supper:
While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body."
The idea of "be without sin" also fits with the teachings of the Master. To the man who had been ill for thirty-eight years who Messiah healed He said "stop sinning" (John 5:14). To the woman caught in adultery He said "stop sinning" (John 8:11). To the disciples the Master said "you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48) and be without sin.
Unleavened bread is called matzah in Hebrew. It is essentially a giant cracker (about 8-10" on a side). Matzah is pierced to ensure it is without any bubbles so it isn't puffed up. Any "puffiness" might indicate leavening which is a picture of the sin of "pride". Messiah, too, was pierced for our transgressions (in fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:5). Matzah can be seen as the "bread of life" that marked the new life G-d gave to the Isra'elites when they were set free. Messiah makes this point, too, when calls himself the "bread of life" in John 6:35.
Scripture refers to the moed of "Chag HaMatzot" as a chukat olam, an "eternal command" (Exodus 12:17). It is eternal because it pictures Messiah... the One Who is Eternal (Revelation 22:13) and is the Bread of Life.
Yom HaBikkurim is a transliteration of the Hebrew name of this moed. It is known as the "Day of First Fruits" or sometimes just "First Fruits". The commandment for this moed is given in Exodus 23:
Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labors from what you sow in the field;
The commandment is also found in Leviticus 23:10-20.
This "first fruit offering" pictures the resurrection of Messiah. 1 Corinthians 15:20 tells us that, by his resurrection from the dead, Messiah is the "first fruits" of those who are asleep.
Scripture also calls this a chukat olam, an "eternal command" (Leviticus 23:14) since it, too, is a picture of the Eternal One.
Shavuot is the Hebrew name for the Feast of Weeks (shavuot means "weeks"). It gets this name from the fact that G-d commands us to count seven weeks. It is also called Pentecost in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Pentecost means "count 50" in Greek since the commandment is to count seven weeks and then observe the moed. This moed is first given in Leviticus 23:
You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD.
This moed annually marks the giving of the covenant at Mt. Sinai as well as the giving of the Holy Spirit to the believers in Yerushalayim on the same date almost 1,500 years later. It pictures the fulfillment of the promise of the Spirit that Messiah gave to the talmidim in John 14:16, 26, John 15:26.
Believers in Messiah can consider all of these spring moedim as annual reminders of His life and work. Although Messiah is absent from us in the flesh we can remember Him through the times appointed by G-d for that very purpose.
After a long, dry period of summer we come to the fall moedim. These fall festivals include Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. These moedim picture the second coming of Messiah.
Yom Teruah (the Day of Trumpet Blasts) marks the beginning of the fall festivals. Scripture records G-d's commandment of this festival in Leviticus 23:
"Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.'"
This moed begins with the new moon of the seventh month (known in today's Hebrew calendar as Tishrei. The day is celebrated with the blowing of trumpets (ram's horns known as shofarim). In the same way Messiah's future return will be heralded with the sound of the great trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16).
Traditionally this day is also known as the "day of judgment" when G-d judges all of mankind. We can see in Scripture the future prophecy that Messiah will judge mankind upon His return (Matthew 25:31-46, Acts 17:31, Romans 2:14-16, 2 Timothy 4:1, 1 Corinthians 11:32, Revelation 16:5, 19:11). Revelation provides some details regarding Judgment Day:
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
An important aspect of this moed is that it has been traditionally referred to as the day of which "no man knows the hour or the day". This festival is the only one that is dependant upon the sighting of the new moon. In Messiah's day nobody knew the day or the hour that the moon would be sighted. That should give us a clue regarding the expression He used in Matthew 24:36 when He spoke of His return.
Yom Kippur means "Day of Atonement". This moed falls nine days after Yom Teruah on the tenth of the month. The commandment for this moed is given in Exodus 30:
"Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year; he shall make atonement on it with the blood of the sin offering of atonement once a year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD."
Atonement has two meanings: the first is "a covering" and the second is "reconciliation". When Messiah returns He will reconcile all the people of Isra'el (Jew and Gentile believers alike) with G-d. This reconciliation was destined from the beginning of time (Revelation 13:8 tells us that those whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will worship the beast).
Scripture refers to this moed as a chukat olam, an "eternal command". It is called an "eternal command" three times in the span of six verses (Leviticus 16:29, 31, 34). This moed must be of great significance if it is mentioned three times in quick succession like that. It has been suggested that this "day of atonement" is the culmination of the entire purpose of Creation: reconciliation with G-d.
Sukkot is the Hebrew word used to describe the temporary shelters that are erected during this moed. It is also known as the Feast of Tabernacles. The moed is commanded in Leviticus 23:
"Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths [Hebrew: sukkot] for seven days to the LORD.
Five days after Yom Kippur is when this moed begins. It serves as a reminder of the first redemption of G-d of his people Isra'el from the land of Egypt. It also serves as a picture of the future redemption of his people Isra'el (i.e. believers) and the period of time when He will dwell among us and reign and rule for a thousand years (see Revelation 20). It is also a picture of the future time when G-d will spread His tabernacle over us (Revelation 7:15).
This particular moed pictures the double blessing of both of Messiah's time with us on earth: it provides a picture of his birth when He tabernacled among us (John 1:14) and when we will tabernacle with Him once again (Revelation 21:3). Once again Scripture refers to this as a chukat olam, an "eternal command".
Believers in Messiah can consider all of these fall moedim as "dress rehearsals" for the actual events that we so longingly await... Messiah's return, the completed redemption, and our dwelling with him as He reigns and rules over all mankind.