“Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.” God modeled the seventh day of rest during creation. The Sabbath is not just for rest but also a day of holy convocation, meaning a day to gather together as a congregation to worship the Lord, pray, and hear teaching by the Levites from God’s word. In addition to the weekly sabbath, there will be a Sabbath Year – “Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord.” The Lord says there shall be a sabbath year after seven cycles of seven years (forty-nine years) called the Year of Jubilee. In this year, all slaves are to be released, debts forgiven, possessions returned, and rest from work for the people and the land. This is a beautiful picture of the rest to come in Jesus.
Tim Keller explains this final rest through Jesus Christ in his book Hidden Christmas – “Finally we learn from the genealogies that Jesus is the ultimate rest. At the end of the genealogy, Matthew makes much of the numbers of generations. In Matthew 1:17 he says there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen generations from David to the exile in Babylon, and fourteen generations from the exile to Christ. So there have been “six sevens” of generations, and that makes Jesus the beginning of the seventh seven… The seventh seven, the Sabbath of Sabbaths, was a foretaste of the final rest that all will have when God renews the earth (Romans 8:18-23, Hebrews 4:1-11).” How amazing is that?! We have an orderly God who is working His perfect plan for our ultimate rest! Under the New Covenant with Christ, everyday will be a day of rest for Christians. We can rest knowing that our salvation is secure through the completed work of the Lord by His Son Jesus Christ.
God also gives instructions for seven annual feasts which the children of Israel are to celebrate in remembrance of His goodness, faithfulness, and provisions He provided and continues to provide for His people:
- The Passover – To be celebrated on the fourteenth day of the first month in remembrance of God’s delivery of His people from Egypt and how the wrath of God passed over those under the blood of the lamb.
- The Feast of Unleavened Bread – To be celebrated along with the Passover starting with the fifteenth day of the first month and lasting seven days. They are to eat unleavened bread, (bread without yeast), as a testimony of how the Lord quickly brought them out of Egypt and an illustration of how God desires his people to be pure, as yeast is symbolic for sin in the Bible (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).
- The Feast of Firstfruits – A day celebrating the harvest once the Israelites enter the promised land. It is a day to show gratitude to the Lord for the harvest once a year on the day after the Sabbath that ended the Passover and began the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
- The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) – A celebration at the end of the grain harvest, fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits, giving thanks to the Lord for the harvest. While giving the instructions for the Feast of Weeks, the Lord reminds the Israelites to leave the corners of their fields for the strangers and the poor to harvest. We will see later in the story, in the Judges Era, that this provision for the strangers and the poor is how a Moabite widow, Ruth, is going to meet Boaz and become a relative of Jesus Christ.
- The Feast of Trumpets – The first day of the seventh month is to be a day of rest and memorial blowing of trumpets to gather the people for a holy convocation.
- The Day of Atonement – On the tenth day of the seventh month, offerings are made to atone for the sins of the people.
- The Feast of Tabernacles – On the fifteenth day of the seventh month and for seven days the Israelites are to rest, worship, and offer sacrifices to the Lord. This feast is to be a rejoicing celebration of God’s provisions. Per Jewish tradition, the priest took water from the Pool of Siloam and brought it back to the altar and poured the water in a basin while the people sang Psalms 113-118. The people camp together in booths for seven days in remembrance of the wilderness living. On the last day of this feast, when Jesus arrives on the scene, He is going to shout to the crowds, “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” (John 7:37-38).
Each of these feasts points to the arrival of Jesus. He is the coming Lamb of God who will be slaughtered on the Passover and buried during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus will rise from the dead during the celebration of the Firstfruits, becoming the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20). Fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven, on the day of Pentecost, Jesus will pour the Holy Spirit upon His people, which seals our salvation and restores us to the Lord. And one day Jesus Christ will return again. One day the trumpets will sound, pouring out God’s wrath upon the world. However, anyone under the final atoning Lamb, the blood of Christ, will experience eternal rest which is foreshadowed in the Feast of Tabernacles.
Tomorrow the Israelites receive the blessings for obedience and the punishments for disobedience. Keep reading. (Leviticus 23:1-25:23)