Moses' fourth speech, Part 16
Dec 10, 2012
In Deuteronomy 16, Moses finishes his speech by giving us an outline of the three feast days that God required them to keep. These festivals represent the three main stages of development in our relationship with Christ as we progress from spiritual birth to spiritual maturity.
Passover represents justification by faith in the blood of the lamb. Pentecost represents sanctification, the time when we learn obedience by hearing His voice and being led by the Spirit, so that the law can be written on our hearts. Tabernacles represents the fulness of the Spirit as we come into full maturity, where we are in full agreement with the mind of Christ and the divine plan that He has for the earth.
Moses begins with the command to observe Passover, saying,
1 Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 And you shall sacrifice the Passover to the Lord your God from the flock and the herd, in the place where the Lord chooses to establish His name.
As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ was the true “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and who fulfilled the role of the Passover lamb at the appointed time in history. Moses called it a “sacrifice,” and so we understand that to keep Passover, one must consider Christ to be the Sacrifice for sin. There are many who recognize Jesus Christ only as a great teacher or prophet, who came to educate people in the truth. Such people have not kept Passover in the lawful manner, and hence, they are not justified by genuine faith.
Virtually everyone on earth has faith in something. Faith is a universal attribute. But faith must be rooted in truth to be valid. In fact, the Hebrew word for truth is emeth. Its root (verb) is aman.
Emeth is also translated “faithful” and “faithfully” in Nehemiah 7:2. When Habakkuk 2:4 says, “the just shall live by faith,” the word translated faith is amunah, whose root is aman. Hence, truth and faith are linked by a common Hebrew root.
This tells us that faith must be rooted in truth to give it validity in the sight of God. If we place our faith in the horses of Egypt, for example, rather than in the power of God to deliver us in battle, then our faith is misplaced, and it is not biblical faith. We may sing or proclaim “I believe” from sunup to sundown, but it is not necessarily faith that God recognizes as valid. Justifying faith is rooted in truth, and hence, true observance of Passover is only possible if it is rooted in the belief that Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb that was sacrificed for the sin of the world.
Likewise, the word amen is used many times. It means “so be it,” but in the New Testament it is rendered “verily, truly.” Thus, while emeth is truth, amen is truly, for these are just two forms of the same root word. In Revelation 3:14 Christ is called “The Amen.” He was the Amen because He did only what He saw His Father do, and He said only what He heard His Father say. Everything He did was an amen and a double witness on earth of that which was being said or done in heaven.
We too are called to be God’s witnesses on earth. When we are justified by faith through the feast of Passover, we begin our journey out of Egypt to the Promised Land. Pentecost teaches us obedience. But Tabernacles is for those who are in agreement with God. Those who experience Tabernacles are an amen people.
The amen people know the truth of Passover and have also renewed their minds—their thinking—through Pentecost. In other words, they have faith and have proven their faith by being faithful in their works. When they mature enough to move from obedience to agreement, then they are an amen people.
At the end of Deuteronomy 16:2 Moses tells Israel that they must keep Passover “in the place where the Lord chooses to establish His name.” He repeats this in regard to Pentecost (vs. 11) and in regard to Tabernacles (vs. 15). This is the only lawful place where one can keep any of these feasts.
Where is this located? In the days of Joshua it was at Shiloh (Joshua 18:1). A few centuries later, because of the sin of Eli and his sons who defiled that place, the ark left Shiloh (Psalm 78:60) and eventually was placed in Jerusalem (Psalm 78:68).
Yet later, Jeremiah 7:12-15 says that Jerusalem too was defiled by lawlessness. So God removed His name from that place in the same manner that He had left Shiloh earlier. The glory of God departed in Ezekiel 11:23 as far as the Mount of Olives, where it remained until Jesus’ ascension from that spot (Acts 1:12), taking the glory of God back to heaven. Ten days later that glory returned to earth on the day of Pentecost. It did not return to the temple in Jerusalem, but to the disciples in the upper room.
These were the people of the New Jerusalem who began to form a new temple made of living stones (1 Peter 2:5). We read in Revelation 2:4 that “His name shall be upon their foreheads.” Therefore, the only lawful place today where one may observe any feast of the Lord is in one’s “forehead,” the place where God has chosen to place His name.
There are many today who go to Jerusalem to keep the feasts, thinking that the name of God is yet written there. But God moved away from Jerusalem in the days of Ezekiel and completed His move when Jesus ascended to heaven. To keep the feasts in Jerusalem is the equivalent to a man in Jeremiah’s day observing the feasts in Shiloh after God had moved to Jerusalem. Such an action would have been a violation of the law.
So also is it today. The only place where Passover can be kept lawfully is in one’s forehead. The blood of the Lamb of God was to be put on the lintel of the house (Exodus 12:7), but we are to apply the blood of Jesus to our foreheads—that is, our minds, which are the lintels of our “house.”
Likewise, to keep Pentecost one must receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which, in Acts 2, was seen visibly on the foreheads of the disciples in the upper room. In that day, Pentecost was not fulfilled in the temple, though the high priest was offering two loaves of bread as the law had prescribed for as long as His name was in Jerusalem’s temple. Instead, it was fulfilled in the foreheads of the disciples at a new location.
Finally, the feast of Tabernacles must also be kept in this new location. Dwelling in booths or tents may be a good teaching tool or an object lesson, but the feast itself can only be observed in one’s forehead—the place where He has chosen to place His name. If one goes to any location, including Jerusalem, believing that this is the lawful place that God requires to keep a feast properly, his faith is in vain, for it is not based upon truth. Moses says clearly in verse 5,
5 You are not allowed to sacrifice the Passover in any of your towns which the Lord your God is giving you.
Those who violate this law are in need of instruction in truth as a sure foundation for their faith, so that they may become an amen people who are in agreement with God. Moses continues with his instructions regarding Passover in Deuteronomy 16,
3 You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), in order that you may remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. 4 For seven days no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory, and none of the flesh which you sacrifice on the evening of the first day shall remain overnight until morning.
The people were supposed to remove all leaven from their houses on the preparation day for Passover (Abib 14). The first day of Passover began at evening and extended for seven days. For this reason the wave-sheaf offering of barley would always occur during the time of unleavened bread. The sheaf was to be waved on the first Sunday after Passover (Leviticus 23:15), and this was fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection and presentation to the Father as the living Son of God.
Leaven signifies corruption, or sin. The Hebrew word is sehore, “fermentation.” For this reason, all leaven was banned from any sacrifice (Leviticus 2:11). In fact, the only time leaven was put into a sacrifice was the Pentecostal offering (Leviticus 23:17), which was to denote the fact that Pentecostals were imperfect and still corruptible.
Nonetheless, at Passover, leaven was banned in order to establish first that Jesus Christ, the Passover Lamb, was unblemished and without sin. Those having genuine faith, rooted in truth, are imputed righteous, as Paul explains in Romans 4. By faith they are allowed to be considered sinless, for God calls what is not as though it were (Romans 4:17).
Because Passover could fall on any day of the week, the time of unleavened bread had to extend a full week in order that the wave-sheaf offering would always fall within this time frame. This law is found in Leviticus 23:11, saying, “on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.”
The Pharisees and Sadducees had different interpretations of this verse. The Pharisees said that this “Sabbath” in question was the day of Passover itself, because every feast day was considered to be a Sabbath, regardless of the day of the week on which it fell. In their view, the sheaf was always to be waved on Abib 16, a fixed day of the month. But the Sadducees insisted that this “Sabbath” referred to the day of the week, making the wave-sheaf offering occur always on a Sunday. It might be waved as early as Abib 16, but also as late as Abib 22.
In the New Testament the Sadducees were in control of the temple, and thus the feasts were observed in the way that they prescribed. Christ’s resurrection, however, did not resolve this controversy, because in that year (33 A.D.) the preparation day for Passover fell on a Friday, Passover was on Saturday, and the sheaf was thus waved on Sunday, the day after Passover. Therefore, in that year both factions were satisfied.
Many books have been written to refute this, of course, attempting to establish various doctrinal views. However, Ignatius of Antioch, a long-time disciple of John, tells us clearly in his letter to the Trallians,
“On the day of the preparation, then, at the third hour, He received the sentence from Pilate, the father permitting that to happen; at the sixth hour He was crucified; at the ninth hour He gave up the ghost; and before sunset He was buried. During the Sabbath, He continued under the earth in the tomb in which Joseph of Arimathea had laid him. At the dawning of the Lord’s Day He arose from the dead. . . The day of the preparation, then, comprised the passion; the Sabbath embraces the burial; the Lord’s Day contains the resurrection.”
Ignatius was reputed to be the child that Jesus encountered in Matthew 18:2 as the example of becoming like little children. He was born about 30 A.D. and was a life-long believer and follower of John. Though Ignatius was old when he wrote his letter (above), it is unlikely that he would have testified incorrectly in this matter.
This is the sixteenth part of a series titled "Moses' Fourth Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones