The spring feasts of the Lord are coming quickly this year. I love the springtime. This is such a wonderful time to see the earth waking back up from the long frost of winter. Spring also signals the coming of the High Holidays.
The four spring High Holidays are all wonderful celebrations. These are days that hold special meanings for us as Hebrews and as believers in Christ.
Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Shavuot
The first High Holiday that God commanded us to celebrate is Passover. We celebrate the Passover on Nisan 14 in the evening. Passover commemorates when the angel of death passed over our people in Egypt and spared our firstborn sons and cattle. We are to celebrate and remember this day by eating roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs.
Shemoth (Exodus) 12: 5 – 9:
“5 It shall be to you a lamb unblemished, a male of a year old: ye shall take it of the lambs and the kids. 6 And it shall be kept by you till the fourteenth of this month, and all the multitude of the congregation of the children of Israel shall kill it toward evening. 7 And they shall take of the blood, and shall put it on the two door-posts, and on the lintel, in the houses in which soever they shall eat them. 8 And they shall eat the flesh in this night roast with fire, and they shall eat unleavened bread with bitter herbs. 9 Ye shall not eat of it raw nor sodden in water, but only roast with fire, the head with the feet and the appurtenances.”
Shemoth (Exodus) 12: 13 – 14:
“13 And the blood shall be for a sign to you on the houses in which ye are, and I will see the blood, and will protect you, and there shall not be on you the plague of destruction, when I smite in the land of Egypt. 14 And this day shall be to you a memorial, and you shall keep it a feast to the Lord through all your generations; ye shall keep it a feast for a perpetual ordinance.”
Passover is also the day that Jesus ate the last supper meal with his disciples. During this meal, he was betrayed by Judas and was later killed on the cross.
Jesus is the blameless, spotless Passover lamb.
We take communion at Passover to remember the body of Jesus – the Unleavened Bread. We drink wine or grape juice to remember the blood of Jesus and his sacrifice for us on the cross.
Luke 22: 19 – 20:
“19 And he [Jesus] took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me”. 20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you”.”
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
The day after Passover starts the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The first and the seventh day of Unleavened Bread are Sabbath- rest days. These are rest days that are not on Shabbat but are treated as Sabbath no-work days occurring during the High Holidays. The feast of Unleavened Bread celebrates when we left Egypt, and it is celebrated on Nisan 15.
Leviticus 23: 6 – 7:
“6 And on the fifteenth day of this month is the feast of unleavened bread to the Lord; seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread. 7 And the first day shall be a holy convocation to you: ye shall do no servile work. 8 And ye shall offer whole-burnt-offerings to the Lord seven days; and the seventh day shall be a holy convocation to you: ye shall do no servile work.”
Shemoth (Exodus) 34:18: “And thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread, as I have charged thee, at the season in the month of new; for in the month of new thou camest out from Egypt.”
Before Passover starts we clean and remove all the leavening from our homes. We eat matzah or unleavened bread from Passover until the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread or Nisan 21.
Exodus 13: 3: “And Moses said to the people, Remember this day, in which ye came forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, for with a strong hand the Lord brought you forth thence; and leaven shall not be eaten.”
Leavening is a symbol of sin. We are reminded to be diligent at staying away from sin during this time and throughout our lives.
Leviticus 2: 11: “Ye shall not leaven any sacrifice which ye shall bring to the Lord; for any leaven, or any honey, ye shall not bring of it to offer a gift to the Lord. ”
1 Corinthians 5: 7 – 8:
“7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Luke 12: 1 – 3:
“1 In the meantime, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he [Jesus] began to say unto his disciples first of all, “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops”.”
The Feast of First Fruits
Usually, during Unleavened Bread another spring feast day occurs- the feast of First Fruits. This was a day to give to the Lord the first fruits of the barley harvest.
First Fruits is also the day that Jesus rose from the dead! It is the day to celebrate His resurrection!
Leviticus 23: 10 – 11:
“10 Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them, When ye shall enter into the land which I give you, reap the harvest of it, then shall ye bring a sheaf, the first-fruits of your harvest, to the priest; 11 and he shall lift up the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you. On the morrow of the first day the priest shall lift it up.”
The Feast of First Fruits occurs on Easter. Some people are a little uncomfortable about this, but don’t be! This is the day the Lord rose from the dead. While we are not doing the traditional pagan Easter celebrations, we are still celebrating the risen Savior! First Fruits doesn’t have celebration instructions and it is not a rest day, but my family and I like to have some sort of meal to celebrate this day.
The Feast of First Fruits also doesn’t have a set date, it is celebrated the day after the Sabbath. My family and I believe this means the weekly Sabbath day and not the day after the start of Unleavened Bread.
Leviticus 23: 15 – 16:
“15 And ye shall number to yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day on which ye shall offer the sheaf of the heave-offering, seven full weeks: 16 until the morrow after the last week ye shall number fifty days, and shall bring a new meat-offering to the Lord.”
On First Fruits, we start counting to our next and last Spring High Holiday… Shavuot!
Shavuot / Pentecost
The last spring feast day is the Feast of Shavuot or Pentecost. Shavuot is the celebration of the giving of the Law or the Torah to the Hebrews at Mount Sinai. The Torah is a gift given to us by God to be a guide for our lives. In the same way, the promised helper – the Holy Spirit- was given to us as a personal helper and guide after Jesus ascended into Heaven. The Holy Spirit helps us and guides us throughout our lives in wonderful ways.
Deuteronomy 5: 22 – 27:
“22 These words the Lord spoke to al the assembly of you in the mountain out of the midst of the fire – darkness, blackness, storm, a loud voice – and he added no more, and he wrote them on two tables of stone, and he gave them to me. 23 And it came to pass when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the fire, for the mountain burned with fire, that ye came to me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders: 24 and ye said, Behold, the Lord our God has shewn us his glory, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: this day we have seen that God shall speak to man, and he shall live.
25 And now let us not die, for this great fire will consume us, if we shall hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, and we shall die. 26 For what flesh which has heard the voice of the living God, speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we, and shall live? 27 Do thou draw near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say, and thou shalt speak to us all things whatsoever the Lord our God shall speak to thee, and we will hear, and do.”
Psalms 119: 34 – 35: “34 Instruct me, and I will search out thy law, and will keep it with my whole heart. 35 Guide me in the path of thy commandments; for I have delighted in it.”
Psalms 119: 92 – 93: “92 Were it not that thy law is my meditation, then I should have perished in mine affliction. 93 I will never forget thine ordinances; for with them thou hast quickened me.”
The word Pentecost is a Greek word and it means fifty. This name is fitting because Shavuot occurs on the fiftieth day after First Fruits.
Leviticus 23: 15 – 17:
“15 And ye shall number to yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day on which ye shall offer the sheaf of the heave-offering, seven full weeks: 16 until the morrow after the last week ye shall number fifty days, and shall bring a new meat-offering to the Lord. 17 Ye shall bring from your dwelling loaves, as a heave-offering, two loaves: they shall be of two tenth portions of fine flour, they shall be baked with leaven of the first-fruits to the Lord.”
On the day of First Fruits, we start to count the omer, counting seven sabbaths plus a day. Depending on how “the day after the sabbath” is interpreted, the day of Shavuot can be off a few days. Like I said before, we believe this phrase refers to the regular sabbath, so First Fruits is always on Easter and Shavuot is always seven weeks later on a Sunday.
Shavuot was the day that we presented our bread offerings before the Lord, thanking him for the successful barley harvest. In contrast to the previous holidays where unleavened bread was required, during Shavuot, leavened bread is required for the sacrifice.
Shavuot or Pentecost?
Pentecost and Shavuot are the same holidays. The name Shavuot usually refers to the Old Testament celebration and the name Pentecost refers to the New Testament celebration.
The New Testament celebration of Shavuot is the giving of the Holy Spirit to the disciples of Jesus. Jesus promised a helper to his disciples before he departed into Heaven. The helper – the Holy Spirit was given in the upper room during Shavuot. The disciples then were empowered by God to preach the gospel of Christ to everyone.
Acts 1: 7 – 9:
“7 And he[Jesus] said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.”
Acts 2: 1 – 4:
“1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as a fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Shavuot is a holiday where we thank the Lord for providing for our needs both physically and spiritually. Without the physical provision, we wouldn’t be able to live. Without the spiritual provision, we wouldn’t have the power to do the will of the Lord. This is a wonderful time of celebration and thanksgiving.
We see during the spring feasts, the old and new testaments blending together to tell a completed story.
At Passover in the Torah, we see the Hebrews being passed over by the angel of death because of the blood of the lamb. In the New Testament, we see that Jesus is the perfect Passover lamb, whose blood fully atones for our sins so that we can pass over from death into life.
During Unleavened Bread we came out of Egypt. It is during this time that Jesus rose from the dead, fully allowing us true freedom from our sins. First Fruits is a celebration of the first fruits of the barley harvest dedicated to God. Jesus is a firstfruits offering to the Lord of those who rose from the dead.
Finally, the promised helper – the Holy Spirit – was given to us during Shavuot. In the same way, the Torah is a helper and a guide to us, the holy spirit is a personal helper and a guide to us as we go through this life with Christ.
The High Holidays are a type and shadow for the things to come. The spring feast days are a way to connect with the Lord, and they are a wonderful time of celebration and joy. May your Spring High Holidays bring joy, and peace, and intimacy with God. Shalom!