The Festivals Deuteronomy 16
Deuteronomy 16:1-7 NLTse (1) “In honor of the LORD your God, celebrate the Passover each year in the early spring, in the month of Abib, for that was the month in which the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night. (2) Your Passover sacrifice may be from either the flock or the herd, and it must be sacrificed to the LORD your God at the designated place of worship–the place he chooses for his name to be honored. (3) Eat it with bread made without yeast. For seven days the bread you eat must be made without yeast, as when you escaped from Egypt in such a hurry. Eat this bread–the bread of suffering–so that as long as you live you will remember the day you departed from Egypt. (4) Let no yeast be found in any house throughout your land for those seven days. And when you sacrifice the Passover lamb on the evening of the first day, do not let any of the meat remain until the next morning. (5) “You may not sacrifice the Passover in just any of the towns that the LORD your God is giving you. (6) You must offer it only at the designated place of worship–the place the LORD your God chooses for his name to be honored. Sacrifice it there in the evening as the sun goes down on the anniversary of your exodus from Egypt. (7) Roast the lamb and eat it in the place the LORD your God chooses. Then you may go back to your tents the next morning.
Based on the previous chapter, we could see how Moses was leading into the Passover. That is one of the rules of context that tells us one chapter always leads into the next. This shows us how God wants to communicate with us, with stories. Not one little line out of a story mixed with a lot of personal opinions, but a series of stories God designed to teach one lesson after another.
Look at the words Moses used to introduce this part of the story we know as Deuteronomy chapter 16. “In honor of the LORD your God.” What does that tell you about this part of the message? Moses told Israel how to honor God. In previous chapters, we looked at how to love God. Now we learn how to honor God.
God calls a celebration a way to honor Him. What do you think about that? But with God, that celebration came with a set of instructions. God set the date. Back in Exodus, God made made the day they left Egypt the first month of the year. That’s how important this festival is.
We really have to get ourselves into the scene, or shall I say scenes to understand the physical aspects of the Passover before we can understand the spiritual implications. Once we see the Passover through the eyes of the first people it was given to, we can see how the Passover was meant to be remembered in our days.
Based on what Moses recorded, it is not difficult to see, the Passover was intended to be a reminder for Israel. “For seven days the bread you eat must be made without yeast, as when you escaped from Egypt in such a hurry. Eat this bread–the bread of suffering–so that as long as you live you will remember the day you departed from Egypt.”
Those people lived through that suffering in Egypt. They saw their friends, relatives, and family beaten and worked to death. They were forced to observe and participate in dozens of pagan rituals week after week. They were brainwashed and controlled their entire lives.
Then Moses came, and they witnessed a series of the greatest miracles this world ever endured. That had to stick in their minds no matter how young they were. Then came the big one. Before God unleashed the last plague, He gave Moses a set of instructions Israel had to follow to save their firstborn sons.
That set of instructions had an order to it. They had to chose a perfect lamb or goat, then establish a relationship with it.
“From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you. Announce to the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household. If a family is too small to eat a whole animal, let them share with another family in the neighborhood. Divide the animal according to the size of each family and how much they can eat. The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects. “Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight. They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal. That same night they must roast the meat over a fire and eat it along with bitter salad greens and bread made without yeast. Do not eat any of the meat raw or boiled in water. The whole animal–including the head, legs, and internal organs–must be roasted over a fire. Do not leave any of it until the next morning. Burn whatever is not eaten before morning. “These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the LORD’s Passover. (Exodus 12:2-11 NLTse).
From the tenth to the fourteenth day, each family was to take special care of the animal they were going to sacrifice. That animal was set aside, kept close to the home, cared for, fed, and watered apart from the other animals in the herd. This was a time to establish a special relationship with the lamb that would save a member of their family and all the other firstborn in their herds.
Moses called the Passover a celebration in honor of the LORD. And Moses made it clear, the animals were only to be sacrificed in the place God designated. When we look ahead to the Gospels, we can see the connection. But what about the fact, the doorposts of thousands of homes would not be covered by blood from the sacrificial lamb? See how the Passover was moved from a physical ceremony to a spiritual one?
Where was Jesus sacrificed? In Jerusalem, during the Passover when hundreds of thousands of people gathered for the Passover. Did you notice, God didn’t have to do any advertising. He made things happen. People without knowing exactly what they were doing were following God’s plan. When we see things like that happen, we know God was and is in control.
Moses mentioned that bread of suffering. Why did Jesus have to suffer? What set up that suffering? Jesus was killed because of what He taught and preached. Those religious leaders didn’t agree with Jesus, so they killed Him. What does bread represent?
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.” Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:32-40 NLTse).
Now we can see the relationship between the bread of life and suffering. They are the same bread. Truth is suffering because it is always at odds against what is taught in this world.
“My people bend their tongues like bows to shoot out lies. They refuse to stand up for the truth. They only go from bad to worse. They do not know me,” says the LORD. “Beware of your neighbor! Don’t even trust your brother! For brother takes advantage of brother, and friend slanders friend. They all fool and defraud each other; no one tells the truth. With practiced tongues they tell lies; they wear themselves out with all their sinning. They pile lie upon lie and utterly refuse to acknowledge me,” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:3-6 NLTse).
Did you notice God called them, “My people.” Those weren’t strangers, or people with no hope of knowing what was happening. Those were people who should have known who Jesus was, and helped to support His ministry. That is the bread Jesus represented. How true is that today?
Just as Moses kept telling people to look back, we have to follow that same principle. We have to look back to see all the little miracles and plagues God is lining up details today to make us realize, the real Promised Land is not far away.
Bread Without Yeast
Deuteronomy 16:8 NLTse For the next six days you may not eat any bread made with yeast. On the seventh day proclaim another holy day in honor of the LORD your God, and no work may be done on that day.
Now that we understand the reason for a relationship with the sacrificial lamb, and we know the spiritual meaning of bread without yeast, we can put the two together and see exactly how the two symbols are related. We have to develop a relationship with Jesus, the sacrificial lamb as well as a relationship with the bread He offers, His word. Is a relationship with one any good without the other? I guess that is for you to decide.
Festival of Harvest
Deuteronomy 16:9-12 NLTse (9) “Count off seven weeks from when you first begin to cut the grain at the time of harvest. (10) Then celebrate the Festival of Harvest to honor the LORD your God. Bring him a voluntary offering in proportion to the blessings you have received from him. (11) This is a time to celebrate before the LORD your God at the designated place of worship he will choose for his name to be honored. Celebrate with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites from your towns, and the foreigners, orphans, and widows who live among you. (12) Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, so be careful to obey all these decrees.
In the previous chapter Moses reminded Israel to care for the Levites by providing a portion of the harvest so they had something to eat in addition to the meat from offerings God shared with them. That showed the program God had in place where people cooperated with God for the welfare of the Levites and priests. Then Moses added foreigners, orphans, and widows to that list.
We can see how God’s concern is much greater than what most people expect or think about. And how God wanted Israel to not only see, but duplicate that concern. God called that type of concern a celebration. What was the actual celebration? Was it helping people, or understanding God’s personality, or both?
Festival of Shelters
Deuteronomy 16:13-15 NLTse (13) “You must observe the Festival of Shelters for seven days at the end of the harvest season, after the grain has been threshed and the grapes have been pressed. (14) This festival will be a happy time of celebrating with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows from your towns. (15) For seven days you must celebrate this festival to honor the LORD your God at the place he chooses, for it is he who blesses you with bountiful harvests and gives you success in all your work. This festival will be a time of great joy for all.
If we’re paying attention, we can see the spiritual message in the order of the festivals. First is the sacrifice, and protection provided by the blood. That is the beginning of that release from slavery. That is followed by learning about the symbols. What they mean, and where they lead to.
The Festival of Harvest is practicing what needs to be done when your released from slavery. There is a direct connection to the Passover, leaving spiritual Egypt, and helping people. It sends us to a lesson on sanctification. If sanctification doesn’t include the skills, gifts, and abilities to help other people, what does it include?
After leaving bondage, receiving blessings from that blood, understanding the symbols, and putting those lessons into action, God introduced the Festival of Shelters, which shows this world is temporary. All those houses, land, and crops in the physical promised land were temporary.
If someone separated one of the Festivals from the others, they couldn’t possibly explain the spiritual meaning. They have to look at all of them as a whole. Otherwise they will miss the entire spiritual message.
God called living in a tent or temporary shelters a time to celebrate with your family. Why would God do that? When it is time to leave this world, we need to look at it as a happy time. Not a time to think of new ways to survive, or delay God’s plans and timing. “This festival will be a time of great joy for all.”
Once again, God pulled in sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows. God added a few people to the previous list. As the time to leave this world draws closer, we have to expand our horizons to reach out to more people. Few people will open their homes to a stranger, but God is telling us to open our temporary shelters to strangers, Levites, widows, and orphans. Living in smaller shelters tells us to get closer together.
Celebrate These Three Festivals
Deuteronomy 16:16-22 NLTse (16) “Each year every man in Israel must celebrate these three festivals: the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Harvest, and the Festival of Shelters. On each of these occasions, all men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he chooses, but they must not appear before the LORD without a gift for him. (17) All must give as they are able, according to the blessings given to them by the LORD your God. (18) “Appoint judges and officials for yourselves from each of your tribes in all the towns the LORD your God is giving you. They must judge the people fairly. (19) You must never twist justice or show partiality. Never accept a bribe, for bribes blind the eyes of the wise and corrupt the decisions of the godly. (20) Let true justice prevail, so you may live and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (21) “You must never set up a wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build for the LORD your God. (22) And never set up sacred pillars for worship, for the LORD your God hates them.
I like the way God pulled those festivals together Himself. And then He placed Himself in the center of all those festivals. When we look at the words Moses used, it should help us see another spiritual lesson, “all men must appear before the LORD your God.”
When were people from Israel first told to appear in front of God? At that mountain when He gave them the Ten Commandments. When they didn’t want to appear directly before God, He didn’t give up on them. They each had to appear before God to bring offerings and sacrifices. Now we see the connection between the festivals and sacrificial system. They were all designed to get people back in front of God.
What more do we need? How much more evidence does God need to show us? Getting in front of God is what all those ceremonies and festivals pointed to. How difficult is that to understand? That makes me wonder why Deuteronomy is one of those books people like to ignore. People ignore the sacrificial system. And people ignore the festivals. Why? There are more lessons in those stories than people could ever imagine. I know God is really shouting to get our attention. Are we listening?
Moses finished this chapter with a warning about crooked judges. God knew how judges as well as other leaders would effect how other people viewed and respected His laws. God knew after the older priests and Levites passed away, things would begin to break down. Details would be forgotten. People would think they found easier ways to explain details. God saw how leaders would drift away from the plain simple laws, and how God explained them, and lead people away with them.
When we look ahead at the series of stories following Moses’ books, we see how things changed, drifted back for a time, then fell away again. Until things got so bad, God had no choice but to send His Son to set an example, and get people back on the right path, and understand details the way they were recorded.
I see it everyday. People take out one little part of a story, then proceed to explain what they think it means. They ignore the original story by using one sentence to explain what they think is right. In most cases, those teachers miss the physical aspects of the story, and spiritual part of the lesson. This is what Malachi said about robbing God.
Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, How have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse: for you have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and test me now in this, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (Malachi 3:8-10 KJ2000).
I’ve heard hundreds of people use that as proof text to teach about tithing money. But was Malachi talking about money? Look at the previous sentence. Even from the days of your fathers you have gone away from my ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, How shall we return? (Malachi 3:7 KJ2000). God was talking about the laws people wandered away from. God was using tithes as a symbol pointing to His laws. David used the same symbolism. The law of your mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. (Psalms 119:72 KJ2000).
Look at how Malachi summed up the lesson he was teaching in that chapter. And they shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him. Then shall you return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serves God and him that serves him not. (Malachi 3:17-18 KJ2000).
God set up that symbolism for a reason. When we look at God’s law as a treasure, God looks at us as His treasure.
God didn’t want Israel to copy one little part of pagan religion. God knew how one little part would lead to another, and another.
Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O you of little faith, why reason you among yourselves, because you have brought no bread? Do you not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets you took up? How is it that you do not understand that I spoke not to you concerning bread, that you should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Matthew 16:6-12 KJ2000).