Sabbath Rest and Three Feasts
Sabbath keeping was as essential to the worship of God. Therefore, before giving the children of Israel instructions about the three annual feasts for which every man in Israel was required to gather at God’s altar, Moses was inspired by God the Holy Spirit to expand and elaborate upon the fourth commandment. — “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).
The Old Testament describes three major feasts that became part of the Jewish annual calendar, each having its own unique theological significance for the community (2 Chr. 8:13).
2 Chronicles 8:13 (ESV)
13 as the duty of each day required, offering according to the commandment of Moses for the Sabbaths, the new moons, and the three annual feasts—the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths.
These three major feasts include the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Pesach/Passover), the Feast of Weeks (Shavout/Pentecost), and the Feast of Booths (Sukkoth).
So we have in this section the importance of the Sabbath and three major feasts of Israel…
1. Every Seventh Year, the Land Shall Rest (23:10-11)
10 “For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.
Every seventh year he required the children of Israel to let the land rest. They were not allowed to plant their crops, or even to gather the fruits and vegetables that the fields, and vineyards, and gardens, and orchards brought forth on their own.
What God desired here was to give the land rest, give the poor people a way to gather food from the crops that would grow on their own and faithful obedient trust in God for the needs of the farmer.
Smart farmers with multiple fields could rotate their fields so that they would allow one field to lay in rest while the others were sown and harvested normally.
What happened should a farmer refuse? Babylonian Captivity- 70 years.
Israel refused to obey God for nearly 500 years. They refused to listen and for 490 years Israel farmed all her land every year…
2 Chronicles 36:20–21 (ESV)
20 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.
God’s promise to judge His disobedient people…
Jeremiah 25:11–12 (ESV)
11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.
Once they entered Canaan, they disobeyed God’s Sabbath law.
Leviticus 25:1–7 (ESV)
25 The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. 3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. 6 The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, 7 and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.
God was counting and for every seventh year they did not let the land rest, they would spend a year in Babylon. They refused to listen to God for 490 years. 490 divided by 7 equals 70.
Why would they not listen??
2. Every Seventh Day You, Your Animals, and Your Servants Shall Rest (23:12)
12 “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.
The Sabbath was to be kept every week and every year (The Day of Atonement), as a constant reminder to Israel of that sweet rest which Adam lost in the Garden and of that blessed rest that could and would be recovered only in and by Christ. The Sabbath was entirely intended and only intended to typify salvation in Christ, the blessed rest of life, and faith, and reconciliation to God in him.
“No work” whatsoever was to be done on the Sabbath, because salvation is altogether a matter of grace, a work of grace alone, enjoyed by faith in Christ, without our works of any kind. No other festival in the Old Testament had such a strict an injunction put on it except the day of atonement.
Do you see the significance of that? The rest of faith is the same as the rest of complete, perfect atonement, and the rest of complete reconciliation to God. This is what was typified in the beginning, when the Lord God rested from all his works on the seventh day.
Is it so with your soul? Do you have such rest in Christ with God as if you had never sinned? Do you have no more conscience of sin? This is the rest Christ has won for all who trust him. Oh, come now to the Lord Jesus Christ and rest! Cease from all work and labor, and rest and be refreshed in him.
Matthew 11:28–30 (ESV)
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
3. Three Feasts in God’s Honor (23:13-19)
A. Feast of Unleavened Bread (23:13-15)
13 “Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.
14 “Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. 15 You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty-handed.
The feast of unleavened bread, though distinct from the Passover in commonly looked upon as a continuation of the Passover feast. On the Passover night the children of Israel ate the Lamb with their coats on their backs, their shoes on their feet, and their staffs in their hands, ready to go out of Egypt. The Passover sacrifice was the cause of deliverance. The feast of unleavened bread represents the effects of redemption.
Exodus 12:39 (ESV)
39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.
The sacrifice of the paschal lamb (Christ — His Shed Blood!) is the effectual cause of pardon.
The sweet fellowship of faith, represented in the feast of unleavened bread, is the effect, the sure and certain result of Christ’s death as our Substitute.
This feast was a constant reminder of God’s great work of grace in bringing Israel out of Egypt by his mighty power and stretched out arm, because of the blood that was shed for them (Exodus 12-14). But it was more than that. The Passover and this feast of unleavened bread that followed it were, together, a picture of and a constant reminder of God’s promise to send a Redeemer, even Christ our Passover, who is sacrificed for us.
1 Corinthians 5:7 (ESV)
7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
Three things were prominent in the first Passover — (1.) A Lamb — (2.) Blood! — (3.) Deliverance! It was pre-eminently “the Lord’s Passover!” It was called “the Lord’s Passover” because the whole of the work was his.
· He ordained it.
· He provided the lamb.
· He accepted the lamb.
· He passed over the people.
· He brought them out of Egypt and across the Red Sea.
· He was praised for it (Exodus 15).
· “Salvation is of the Lord!”
The feast of unleavened bread pictures faith in Christ.
John 6:53–59 (ESV)
53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
B. Feast of the Harvest (23:16a)
16 You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field.
This great harvest feast speaks of ingathering of God’s elect by Christ.
The risen Christ gave us a delightful picture and foretaste of the ingathering of his elect in
Acts 2:40–41 (ESV)
40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
The great Harvest of God’s people has been predicted back in Isaiah…
Isaiah 43:5–7 (ESV)
5 Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
6 I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
C. The Feast of Ingathering (23:16b)
You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor.
This feast, also called the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths. In the fall of the year after the great harvest, Israel would camp out in tents or quickly fashioned booths commemorating their wilderness wanderings and thanking God for caring for them as they celebrated deliverance from Egypt and a full harvest.
Israel was reminded that they dwelt in booths in the wilderness and God dwelt with them in the cloudy and fiery pillar. But it spoke of more than that. It spoke of that time when God came here and tabernacled in human flesh that he might at last bring God and man together in eternal glory and perfect fellowship, with sin and every evil consequence of it expiated, put away, purged, gone and forgotten forever!
17 Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord God.
18 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my feast remain until the morning.
19 “The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God.
“You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.