In chapter fifteen, we were reminded of the laws regarding the Sabbath year. Now, as we begin chapter sixteen, Moses is bringing to our remembrance some of the laws regarding the holy days of the year.
Once again, Moses is abbreviating the complete law given previously. For a more thorough study of the seven feasts, you will want to make reference of Exodus 12, Leviticus 23, and Numbers 28.
Now, some will no doubt be thinking, "Ugh! Why would I want to study some archaic Jewish feast days anyway? How boring!" Actually, they are one of the most fascinating studies in Scripture to undertake! You see, the seven feasts given by the Lord were not only historical remembrances of past events, but prophetic practices of a future promise - each feast pointed to a work of Jesus Christ, and each was celebrated on the very day that they would be fulfilled!
This is why, throughout Scripture, these feasts are called "convocations." That word in Hebrew is "Mik-RAW," which can mean either "assembly" or "rehearsal." When the Jews assembled together to observe these feasts' historical significance, they were actually rehearsing for something to come in the future, promises given by God's prophetic utterance!
Passover - the first feast on the calendar - was during the month of Ah-BEEB. Some people get confused on this point, pointing out that Passover is in the month of NEE-sahn. Both are true. You see, the first month of the Jewish calendar was called Ah-BEEB until the Babylonian Captivity. The Babylonians called that month "Nissanu," and so the name changed.
The Lord introduced the Passover in Exodus 12. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt, and Moses was confronting Pharaoh for their release. Every time Pharaoh refused, God sent a plague upon the land.
- The water of the Nile was turned to blood.
- Frogs covered the land.
- Gnats swarmed everywhere.
- Insects infested everything.
- Pestilence killed the Egyptians' livestock.
- Boils broke out upon them.
- Hail and fire rained down.
- Locusts ate everything.
- Darkness covered the land.
In spite of all these things, Pharaoh hardened his heart. One plague was left: The Lord said,
Ex. 11:4-5 ..."About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die..."
But the Israelites were given instruction as to how to protect themselves from this judgment: They were to kill a lamb and put its blood on the doorposts and lintel of their house. God said,
Ex. 12:13 "The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt."
And so every year afterwards, on that day, they would observe the Passover in remembrance of that event. But what they didn't realize is that they were also rehearsing - pointing forward to another day when another Lamb would be killed to save them from another judgment. That lamb was Jesus...
John 1:29 ..."the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
Jesus died to save us from the judgment of God. That's why Paul said...
1Cor. 5:7 ...Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.
Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb, the fulfillment of the Passover rehearsal.
There are many details of - and requirements for - Passover given in the law, and every one of them points to Jesus. Although we do not have the time tonight to look at them all, we should most certainly look at the ones listed in the verses before us.
1) From the flock (v.2) - The Lamb was to come from the local flock, not imported from some foreign source or unknown country. It is interesting that although Jesus could have just descended from heaven as a man, or could have arrived from mysterious origins, instead we have been given all the details of his earthly birth, birthplace, and birth family. Truly this Lamb of God is from the flock - He was from among them.
2) In the place the Lord chooses, no other towns (v. 2, 5-7) - Another requirement of the Passover sacrifice is that it could only be killed "in the place where the Lord chooses to establish His name." As the Bible history progresses, we see that this place is the city of Jerusalem. The Passover Lamb could only be killed in Jerusalem, not in any other town of Israel. Jesus, as you know, was killed in Jerusalem, crucified on that Passover. There were even times He avoided going to Jerusalem, saying,
John 7:8 ..."I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come."
Jesus knew that He, the Lamb of God, could not be killed in any other town of Israel.
3) At sunset (v.6) - Third detail: the lamb was to be killed at sunset. This seems like a detail which God missed, because remember, at sunset on the 14th, Jesus was having the Last Supper with the disciples. It was not until the next afternoon that He hung upon the cross and died. But God was still in control. The requirement of the Lamb dying at sunset, or twilight, was spoken with two Hebrew words: "bo SHEH-mesh" which literally means "at the going of the sun." Although the time of Jesus' being put to death was not at sunset, it was in fact at the going of the sun. Remember that Luke wrote,
Luke 23:44-45 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured...
The sun was gone, and darkness covered the land from noon until 3:00. God intervened supernaturally to make every Passover detail fit.
4) None of the flesh shall remain overnight (v.4) - The flesh of the sacrificed lamb was not to remain overnight. We know that as evening was approaching,
John 19:31 Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
The Jews hated Jesus so much, that had they known what they were asking, they would have changed their minds. You see, if Jesus' body had been left to hang on the cross until morning, His sacrifice would have been invalidated. Fortunately,
John 19:38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body.
These four details merely scratch the surface of the amazing precision with which Jesus fulfills the Passover.
Also found in these first eight verses of Deuteronomy 16 is the feast of Unleavened Bread. This began right when Passover ended. Historically, it reminded the Jews of their flight from Egypt. Looking forward, it was a rehearsal teaching them about the body of Jesus Christ lying dead in the tomb.
The first day of Unleavened bread was a holy day, and no work could be done on it (Ex. 12:16). That's why the Jews called the second half of Passover "the Preparation Day," because they had to get ready for not being able to work. Luke tells us that when Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus,
Luke 23:53-56 ...he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
Jesus' body was laid in the tomb right as the feast of Unleavened Bread began.
The details of the feast of Unleavened Bread given here are sparse, but two things stand out about the bread: 1) It is unleavened; and 2) It is called the bread of affliction (v.3).
1) Unleavened - In the Bible, leaven is always a symbol for sin. To be without leaven is to represent sinlessness. Jesus was unleavened - He was sinless. The Bible says that He...
2Cor. 5:21 ...knew no sin...
Heb. 4:15 ...without sin.
1Pet. 2:22 ...COMMITTED NO SIN...
1John 3:5 ...in Him there is no sin.
Unleavened bread also has a peculiar appearance - much like the MAT-zo we have at communion. It is scarred and striped by the fire, just as Jesus was scarred and striped by the fire of God's judgment on all sin. It is pierced through with holes, just like Jesus was punctured by the nails and the spear. And it was also broken, like Jesus' body was broken for us.
Unleavened bread clearly speaks of Jesus' sinless body.
2) The bread of affliction - This is a very descriptive way to refer to Jesus' body. For the reason Jesus' body was scarred, striped, pierced, and broken was for the purpose of affliction. Isaiah prophesied,
Is. 53:4-7 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.
Jesus' body can be perfectly described as the bread of affliction.
In a somewhat roundabout way, Moses also mentions the Feast of Firstfruits here. This feast was celebrated on the day after the Sabbath that followed Passover and Unleavened Bread - in other words, Sunday (Lev. 23:15).
Historically, it was to remind the people of when God brought them into a new life - into the Promised Land. They were to offer up the first fruits of the harvest in remembrance, but also in rehearsal for the day when God would bring His people into another new life, into another Promised Land - being born again into salvation because of Christ's resurrection from the dead.
And so Paul would write that the first fruits offered to God was Jesus Himself:
1Cor. 15:20 ...now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
Jesus, by His resurrection, is the first fruits from among the dead. When did He rise from the dead? The day after the Sabbath following Passover - Sunday morning!
The next feast would take place after they counted seven weeks from the feast of FirstFruits.
We will examine the rest of the feasts next week as we continue our study through Deuteronomy.