Throughout the Bible we can see where God used different celebrations to teach wonderful truths about Him and His love for us. Today, people celebrate many things, for many reasons.
Celebration: the observing of a feast, day, or special season; the honoring or recognizing of an event by religious ceremonies, festivities; the act of celebrating; performance of a solemn ceremony.
Festivals and holidays from the Bible, for the most part, were very happy and joyous occasions. They were full of family, food and festivities. There are many truths to be discovered through participating in these festivals and / or learning about them. God gave the Biblical feasts and through them Christians can be blessed. We can learn more about Jesus and His great love for us through these celebrations. “Holy Convocations” is a Hebrew term meaning rehearsal. The Israelites were called together to celebrate (rehearse) different events (feasts) annually. These feasts and festivals were observed with thanksgiving and worship.
I. Tu B’Shvat
Tu B’ Shvat is the Jewish New Year for trees, for the purpose of calculating the age of the tree for tithing. It is usually in January or February. One custom associated with this celebration is to consume those fruits which grow in the land of Israel. Before any food is eaten a blessing is said.
When we look at a tree in the winter it looks like nothing is happening inside it, but that is far from the truth. Trees (as well as us) have suffered through cold, dark days and nights. The sap is beginning to rise deep in the heart of trees. New life is starting to emerge. Many things are going on where the eyes cannot see. What looks dead and frozen over will blossom out with buds before long. All looks bleak, cold and lifeless, but there is a promise of rejuvenation.
Tu B’ Shvat is the point at which the trees stop being nourished by the waters of the previous year, and begin to be nourished by the new years waters. Like the trees on Tu B’ Shvat, last years water supply is not enough. We too need fresh rain (fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit / fresh moves of the Holy Spirit). Tu B’ Shvat has more to do with the tree’s fruit rather than the tree itself. Just like a fruit tree our lives should produce. As we look back over the past year, how was our fruit bearing? Did we bear fruit?
There will be (or have been) times in our lives when everything looks bleak and there seems to be no sign of life (growth). During these times we must remember that many things are going on where the eyes can not see.
Purim is a festival (holiday) from the book of Esther that celebrates God’s protection for His people. Through Purim, we can see that God is in control. This celebration is usually in February or March. The celebration of Purim was instituted when God lead the enemies of His people to their own destruction.
Esther 9:22 NKJV
“As the days which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor.”
Purim has evolved into a holiday about rejoicing. God will turn our sorrow to rejoicing. God always gives His people “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”
Isaiah 61:3 NKJV
“To console those who mourn in Zion, to give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
God’s promise to preserve His children cannot be overcome. God is in control even when it seems like He is concealed.
Passover reminded the Hebrews of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. God had passed through Egypt, and the oldest child of every household had died – except those who had obeyed God by putting blood from a spotless lamb on the doorposts.
Exodus 12:13 NKJV
“Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”
As a result, the Hebrews were released from their bondage. They were freed. To help the people remember what He had done, and to point them to the Messiah, God instituted the Passover celebration.
Exodus 12:14 NKJV
“So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.”
Passover is a shadow of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, on the cross. Jesus Christ was crucified during an annual observance of the Passover in Jerusalem.
John 1:29 NKJV
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’ ”
The blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sin and releases us from the punishment of sin.
Romans 6:23 NKJV
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Just as the blood on the doorposts freed the Hebrews from the death angel, so the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ has set us free from the bondage of sin and Satan. We receive all the same benefits through the body and the blood of Jesus Christ as the Hebrews received through the Passover Lamb.
IV. The Feast of Unleavened Bread
The Feast of Unleavened Bread is a feast celebrating the release from bondage in Egypt. The Hebrews had left Egypt in a hurry. They could not wait for the leaven to work in the dough. For their final meal as slaves, they had eaten ‘unleavened’.
Leviticus 23:6-8 NKJV
“And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.”
During the Feast of Unleavened Bread all leaven bread is removed from the home and is replaced by unleavened bread. In the Bible ‘leaven’ represents sin and corruption. This day fell on the day after Jesus’ crucifixion, making it a high Sabbath day.
John 19:31 NKJV
“Therefore, because it was the preparation day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for the Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.”
The Feast of Unleavened Bread was a shadow of the sinless nature of Jesus. This feast also points to Jesus as being the Bread of Life.
John 6:32 NKJV
“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give to you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.”
John 6:48-51 NKJV
“I am the Bread of Life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
Jesus was in the tomb all of this day. The feast of Unleavened Bread came immediately after Passover, so the two were celebrated together. Much like a kernel of wheat planted and waiting to burst forth as the ‘Bread of Life’ Jesus allowed His body to be broken for us on the cross.
1 Corinthians 11:24 NKJV
“And when He had given thanks He broke it and said, ‘Take eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
Jesus is our ‘Living Bread’. The Lord refreshes our spirit and gives us strength for our daily journey through this life, just as the unleavened bread gave the Israelites strength during their journey. This feast represents putting away the sin in your life, and replacing it with the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood.
VI. Feast of the First Fruits
The Feast of the First Fruits was delayed until the people of Israel took possession of their promised land. Once they began taking its harvest, they were to begin observing a feast of First Fruits. This was the day of the first sheaf waving, the first of the barley harvest. The first fruits were presented to the Lord along with a burnt meal offering.
Leviticus 23:10-11 NKJV
“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: when you come into the land which I give you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.”
The first fruits offering represented the whole harvest yet in the field. Jesus is in the presence of God the Father in heaven as the First Fruits, while the “church” is still in the field waiting for the harvest. The Feast of the First Fruits pointed to the resurrection of Jesus as the First Fruits of the righteous.
2 Timothy 2:8 NKJV
“Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel.”
Jesus was resurrected on the Feast of First Fruits. In 1 Corinthians 15:20, Paul refers to Jesus as the “First Fruits from the dead.”
1 Corinthians 15:20 NJKV
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
Jesus arose from the dead and He imparts life to anyone (and everyone) who believes in Him through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus described Himself as the grain of wheat that fell into the ground and died, that it might spring to life and bring much fruit.
John 12:23-24 KJV
“And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour is come, that the Son of Man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”
In the year of Jesus’ crucifixion, First Fruits fell on the first day of the week (Sunday) and it was the third day of Passover. On the evening of First Fruits (Sunday evening), Jesus appeared to the disciples as the “First Born Among Many Brethren.” When Jesus appeared to the disciples they confessed Him as Lord and believed that God raised Him from the dead. They were among the first to be “saved” under the new covenant.
Romans 10:9 KJV
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
The Feast of the First Fruits is a joyous celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and marks the birth of the church.
VII. The Feast of Weeks
The Feast of Weeks or Shavuot is also know as the Feast of Pentecost. Pentecost is a Greek word for fifty. Sometimes this feast is also called the Feast of the Harvest. It is held on the first day of the week, fifty days after the Sabbath that preceded the Feast of the First Fruits.
Pentecost occurs fifty days after the day of First Fruits – fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus. In Biblical times all men were required to travel to Jerusalem for this feast.
“And you shall count for yourselves from the day after Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwelling two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord. Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.”
The Feast of Weeks celebrated the wheat harvest. The people would bring two loaves of leavened bread to give as an offering. The two loaves of bread are a picture of the Jews and Gentiles in the early church. The grain for the offering was not fresh flour composed of individual particles, but grain that had been transformed into new, unified whole-baked loaves. The offering symbolizes the special unity of the church as a body knit together by the Holy Spirit. The use of leaven in the baking reminds us that the church is not perfect. After the destruction of the temple, the Jewish people were not able to celebrate this feast by taking the two loaves of bread to the temple. Since that time they celebrate God giving the Ten Commandments to Moses. Fifty days after the Hebrews deliverance from Egypt (the crossing of the Red Sea), God desired to fill His people with His Spirit. However, because of the people‘s fear, He could not.
Exodus 19:1-11 NKJV
“In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai. For they had departed from Rephidim, had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness. So Israel camped there before the mountain. And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.’ So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the Lord commanded him. Then all the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do.’ So Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever.’ So Moses told the words of the people to the Lord. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let then wash their clothes. And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.”
Moses was instructed to call the people together. They were to prepare themselves for when God would come to speak to them.
Exodus 19:14-19 NKJV
“So when Moses went down from the mountain to the people and sanctified the people, and they washed their clothes. And he said to the people, ‘Be ready for the third day; do not come near your wives.’ Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.”
The people assembled as they were instructed to do. God began to speak, giving them the Ten Commandments. As the people heard God they became afraid of Him. They asked Moses to speak to God for them.
Exodus 20:18-21 NKJV
“Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, ‘You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.’ And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that is fear may be before you, so that you may not sin’ So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.”
Because the people were afraid they did not receive everything that God had for them. God was not able to write His law on their hearts. They only knew the law in their heads, and because of this they were disobedient. On the day that God gave the Ten Commandments three thousand people were destroyed because of sin (disobedience).
Pentecost is not only a time to remember the first giving of the law written on tablets of stone, but it is also a time to remember when, on the same day many years later, the giving of the Holy Spirit, when the law of God was written in the heart of the believers.
Jeremiah 31:33 NKJV
“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Before Jesus’ ascension, He told His disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit. Jesus commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise.
Acts 1:4 NKJV
“And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father…”
Fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in believers. It was during the Feast of Weeks that the Holy Spirit was given to believers.
Acts 2:1-4 NKJV
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house were they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Thousands of Jews had journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit occurred on the very day that the Jews were offering the two wave loaves to God, representing their reliance on Him. During this time the followers of Jesus were in an upper room waiting and praying. The Holy Spirit filled the upper room where the early believers were waiting. They began to worship God in foreign languages that were spoken and understood by the Jews that had come to Jerusalem for the feast. The Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and empowered them to witness. On this day three thousand souls were saved.
As a believer we should not be afraid to receive all that God has for us. God gives His Spirit to every believer that asks to be filled. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, God writes on your heart and in your mind. The Holy Spirit will help you be a better “you”. Being filled with the Holy Spirit will give you the power to live a victorious Christian life. Every believer should desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It is a gift sent to each and every believer by Jesus Christ.
All that you, as a Christian, have to do to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to:
1. Believe that the Holy Spirit is a gift from God to You.
2. Ask God for the gift (Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit).
3.Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
VIII. Feast of the Trumpets
The Feast of Trumpets is the first of the three fall feasts. Each of these feasts are prophetic as well as historical. Prophetically, the Feast of the Trumpets points to when Jesus will return for His Bride (His Church). Jesus’ return will be sounded by a trumpet.
1 Corinthians 15:52 NKJV
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
1 Thessalonians 4:16 NKJV
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.”
A trumpet announces impending judgment. During the Feast of the Trumpets the people prepared for the Day of Atonement. A ram’s horn (Shofar) is blown in remembrance of the ram that God provided for Abraham. Throughout the Bible horns were used to communicate with or alert the people. During this time we should remember that God is our provider. Just like He provided a substitute for Isaac, He provided a substitute for us also. God sent a ram to take Isaac’s place, and He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take our place.
IX. Day of Atonement
The Day of Atonement is also called Yom Kippur. Kippur means to cover, or to cancel. Atonement is the reconciliation of God with sinful man. During this time the people were to recognize their true spiritual condition, humble themselves, acknowledge their need for God and their total dependence on Him. The Day of Atonement is a time of repentance, both individually and as a group.
Many people observe this day by spending all night in services praying, reading the Bible and repenting. In the day they read the book of Jonah, which is a book about judgment, repentance and forgiveness. The book of Jonah shows us that we can not run away from God. It also shows us that God is a God that is full of compassion and forgiveness. During the night the people read the book of Psalms. The duties of the high priest is recounted on the Day of Atonement. Historically, the high priest would take off his royal robes, take a bath, and put on a plain white robe for his duties on the Day of Atonement.
Jesus Christ is our High Priest. Jesus took off His royal robes to come to this earth. He took a bath (was baptized) and put on a plain white robe (burial clothes). In Biblical times, on the Day of Atonement the high priest would make atonement for himself and his family, the holy of holies, the tabernacle, the alter, and the people. On this day the high priest would wear eight different garments and make forty-three trips between the court and sanctuary. This was the only day he was allowed to go into the holy of holies (most holy place).
We no longer need to have the priest go into the holy of holies with a sacrifice for us. Through Jesus Christ we have access to God. It would do each of us well to recognize our true spiritual condition, humble ourselves, acknowledge our need for God and put our total dependence on Him.
2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV
“If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land”
If, as a believer, we will humble ourselves before God (confess our sins), pray and seek God’s face (draw close to God, become intimate with Him) and turn from our wicked ways (repent) then He will forgive us, draw close to us and heal us (us, our family, our church, our city, our county, our state, our nation, our world) physically and spiritually.
X. Feast of the Tabernacles
The Feast of Tabernacles is a memorial of times past when God led the Israelites through the wilderness to the promised land. The people build a tabernacle (sukka) in which to live for seven days. The people will celebrate the holiday in their sukka. The inside is decorated with fruits and colorful hand-made crafts made by the children in the household. The roof is made out of branches. The tree branches are laid upon the top in such a way that they will be able to see the stars through the branches on the roof. It is a time to look ahead at when Jesus will tabernacle with us.
Revelation 21:1-4 NKJV
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there were no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will deal with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
One day all the nations of the world will go to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
Zechariah 14:16 NKJV
“And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”
When people are not experiencing the presence of God like they think that they should, they often refer to it as being in the “wilderness“. However, it was in the wilderness that God was seen in powerful ways. It is during these times (wilderness experiences) that we must acknowledge that we are totally dependent on God’s provision for our needs. It was on the eighth day of Sukkot that Jesus declared Himself to be Living Water.
John 7:37-39 NKJV
“On the last day of the great feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
During this holiday three types of trees and the produce of “goodly trees” are waved before the Lord. These trees and produce are referred to as “Four Species”. These “Four Species” points to four types of people: 1. Estrog The estrog has a lemon fragrance and taste. It represents someone who possesses spiritual knowledge and follows it up with his actions. This person professes to be born again, and his life reflects it. He is not only a hearer of the Word , but a doer also. 2.Palm Tree The palm tree has taste but no fragrance. It represents a man who possesses spiritual knowledge but does not show it by his actions. This person professes to be born again, but his actions do not show it. This person is a hearer of the Word, but not a doer of the Word. 3. Myrtle Tree The myrtle tree has fragrance, but no taste. It represents the man that does good things but has no knowledge of God in his life. This person is not born again, but he is a “good” person. 4. Willow Tree The willow tree has no fragrance or taste. It represents a person who has no knowledge of God and displays no goodliness in his life. This person is not born again, and his life shows it.
During this time of the year each one of us should evaluate our life and ask ourselves, “Which type am I?”
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a annual festival celebrated for eight successive days to honor the restoration of divine (true / holy) worship in the temple after it had been defiled by heathens in 162/163 BC. The restoration occurred in 165 BC. The Jewish people had returned to Israel from Babylonia, and had rebuilt the temple. During this time they were subject to those over them. After the death of Alexander the Great, his kingdom was divided. Judea was caught in the middle of a battle for power. They ended up under the authority of the Seleucid Dynasty, and were subject to Greek kings who reigned from Syria.
Antiochus IV was Judea’s new king. He worshiped false gods (Greek gods), however, he did allow the Jewish people to worship the only true God (YHWH). During the years of Greek power, many Jews started to embrace the Greek culture and its pagan way of life. These Jews help Antiochus abolish every trace of Jewish religion. After a period of time, Antiochus forbid the Jewish people from keeping their traditions, their holy days and their Sabbaths. The people were forbidden to study God’s Word. If any sacred book was found, it was destroyed, along with whoever had it. The temple was invaded and desecrated. Antiochus went into the temple to take the holy treasures out. He also sacrificed a pig on the altar. After that a pig was sacrificed on the alter every day and the Jewish people were forced to bow before the pig or be killed. Antiochus also, had altars to false gods built in every city.
It was a very, very dark period of time for the Jewish people. Heavy taxes were placed on the people and many innocent people were massacred. Anyone that was caught practicing the Jewish faith would be beaten with rods, or their bodies would be torn to pieces, or they would be crucified. Parents were not allowed to circumcise their sons. If they did, the mother and the baby were killed. The mother would be crucified and the baby would be hung around the mother’s neck while she was on the cross. Jewish overseers were appointed to persuade the people to obey the king (Antiochus). Many Jews complied with the king’s orders, some voluntarily and some out of fear.
It was common for the Jewish people, that had accepted and followed the Greek ways, to change their name. They gave up the faith of their forefathers. During this time the high priest, Joshua, changed his name to Jason. He was a very wicked and evil man. He demoralized his fellow Jews with pagan customs and licentious behavior. Jason was eventually replaced by another hellinized Jew. Jason gathered an army and led an attack on the holy city, trying to gain his position back. Many Jews were slaughtered. Antiochus viewed the disturbance (the attack) as a revolt. He sent his armies into Jerusalem, plundering and murdering thousands of Jews. Then even more altars to false gods and goddesses, and idols were erected. Antiochus’ soldiers forced the Jewish people to make offerings to these false gods, to eat forbidden foods, and to engage in immoral acts. Even in the darkest times, God has a remnant. There were some Jews that refused to follow the Greek practices, and they would not bow down to the false gods. They refused to disobey the Word of God. Judas Maccabee organized this remnant to fight against the Syrians. Under his leadership they regained control of the temple. The temple had to be purified before it could be used again to worship God, it had to be rededicated unto God. The altar had to be torn down and rebuilt. All new holy vessels had to be made. When everything was finished, they set the date for the temple to be rededicated. While cleaning the idols out of the temple only one small jar of oil was found. Thy poured all of the oil in the menorah, but it would only be enough to keep it burning for one day. When the date day came for the Jews to rededicate the temple to God, they put the bread of presence on the table, hung the curtains and lit the menorah. God performed a miracle. The oil lasted for eight days. The exact amount of time it took to press new oil.
Some Bible scholars believe that Jesus, the Light of the World, was conceived on the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah). When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, a angel visited Mary.
Luke 1:26-33 NKJV “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in the angel of the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
The angel told Mary that she had been chosen to carry the Son of God. Mary was also told how she would become pregnant.
Luke 1:34-35 NKJV “Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’ ”
The Bible does not specifically give the date of Jesus’ birth. We must use clues in the Bible to arrive at an approximate date. We must also remember that December 25th is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible. This date was picked out by man, not God, to celebrate the birth of Jesus. During Biblical times birthdays were only celebrated by pagans and people who worshipped false gods and idols. One clue that the Bible gives is that Jesus’ birth did not occur in the winter. There were sheep in the field at the time of Jesus’ birth. During this period of time the people did not leave sheep in the pasture in the winter.
Luke 2:8 NKJV
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.”
Starting at the twenty-fifth of Kislev (Hanukah / the Festival of Lights) and continue for eight days and counting through nine months (Mary’s pregnancy), you will arrive at the approximate time of Jesus’ birth (the Feast of Tabernacles). The Feast of Tabernacles is about God tabernacling (living) with us. When Jesus was born, He was referred to as Emmanuel, God with us. Nine months and eight days after the angel appeared to Mary, the angel appeared to the shepherds watching over the sheep for the temple.
Luke 2:8-11 NKJV
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David s Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Approximately two years after Jesus’ birth, the wisemen find Jesus at home with His parents. At this point, Jesus is no longer a baby, He is a small child.
Matthew 2:11 NKJV
“And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him. And when they opened their treasures, they presented gift to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
Matthew 2:16 NKJV
“Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry, and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all the districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.”
Many years (around 1000 years) after the rededication of the temple, Jesus went to the temple to celebrate the Feast of Dedication.
John 10:22 NKJV
“Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.”
As Jesus stood in the temple looking at the lamp and at the oil in it, what was He thinking? The oil represented the first “pressing” of the olives. It was clean, pure and a golden color. Everything that happens in the spiritual happens in the natural first. Hanukkah is a time of tearing down old alters, rededication and miracles. It is a time of remembering that we have a light burning inside us – that the Holy Spirit is burning within us.
1 Corinthians 3:16 NKJV
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?“
1 Corinthians 6:19 NKJV
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God, and you are not your own? For you were bough”
Winter Holidays / Celebrations
Many people choose to celebrate Jesus’ birth in the winter. It is wonderful to remember that Jesus was born, but we must recognize that He did not stay a baby. He grew up, was obedient to the Father, lived a sinless life, died on a cross for our sins, rose again and is now in the presence of God the Father.
Thousands and thousands will gather and sing about Jesus’ birth, but will reject His authority. They adore Him as an infant, but ignore that He came to take their punishment for their sin. They reject the true meaning of the cross. The majority of the people in this world are happy to let Jesus be a baby in a manger, but not willing to acknowledge that He is the Son of God, the second person in the trinity.
John 3:16 NKJV
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Matthew 3:17 NKJV
“And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ ”
John 1:18 NKJV
“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bossom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
1 John 4:9-10 NKJV
“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
Matthew 17:5 NKJV
“While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Many people gladly embrace Jesus as a baby in a manger, but they fail to see Him as a returning King.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NKJV
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 NKJV
“But concerning the times and the seasons brethren, you have no need that I should write you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are the sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.”
Many love all the trappings of fleshly (soulish) holidays, but they do not respect or reverence Jesus as the Son of God. These people will put on a mask and play the part of being religious for all to see while lacking a relationship with God.
Mark 7:6-8 NKJV
“He answered and said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men – the washing of pictures and cups, and many other such things you do.”
Isaiah 29:13 NKJV
“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandments of men”
Jesus referred to those who were “religious” as whitewashed tombs.
Matthew 23:25-26 NKJV
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.”
God looks at (searches) the heart of man, and while many things are acceptable, they are not profitable for you. In other words, you can do a lot of things and it will not cost you your soul (salvation), but at the same time it will not help you spiritually or help you grow closer to God.
1 Corinthians 10:23 NKJV
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.”
Jesus observed the feasts, fasts, and festivals that God commanded.
Leviticus 23:1-2 NKJV
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.”
Biblical celebrations help us remember what God has done in the past and focus on God’s promise for the future. All of the feasts and festivals are a shadow of some aspect of Jesus Christ, our Messiah. The feasts contain beautiful pictures of Jesus, even though God instituted them hundreds of years before Jesus was born.
Leviticus 23:4 NKJV
These are the appointed times of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them.”
Jesus’ ministry was powerful because He only said and did what He saw the Father say and do.
John 5:19 NKJV
“Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.”
The early church was Jews who recognized Jesus as the Messiah. The church of Acts continued in the Feasts of the Lord. Not because they had to but because of what they represented and what they learned from them. They did as they had seen Jesus do. Can this be where they received their power?
Acts 5:15 NKJV
“So that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on the beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them.”
Acts 2:41 NKJV
“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”
Acts 3:6 NKJV
“Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
God has given us a wonderful picture of Jesus Christ through the Biblical feasts, festivals, fasts and holidays. Through them all believers can be blessed and experience a greater intimacy with God. We can draw closer to God and begin to see Him in a greater and more intimate way. For many people instead of using celebrations to draw closer to God, to love and worship (honoring, respecting and reverencing) Him, they do lip service. God desires for us to draw close to Him.
God is just as desperate for intimacy with you as you are to have intimacy with Him. Actually God is more desperate than you – He created you to have intimacy with Him. In the midst of the celebrations, where is your heart?
1 Samuel 16:7 NIV
“…The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Is Jesus at the center of YOUR celebrations?