The Worship of a Redeemed People
Samuel Lesson #153
November 6, 2018
“Father, it is such a wonderful privilege to come together as a body of believers in this Church Age with all the remarkable assets that You have given us and the uniqueness that we have in the body of Christ in our identification with Him.
“That we are seated with Him in the heavenlies; that is our position. Coming to understand the significance of that in this life is just tremendous.
“How exciting it is to learn about You and to worship You and to talk about all the wonderful things that You have done in our lives and to share our thanksgiving and our joy and our walk with You.
“Father, we pray tonight for our nation. We continue to pray for our president. We pray for those in leadership. We pray as the results come in on this election night, whichever way they go, that we may remember that You are our hope. You are our foundation. You are our solid rock.
“And though it is important to elect good leaders and to have good leaders in a nation, ultimately the direction and the oversight of history is from You.
“But Father, we do pray that You would be gracious and merciful to us and that this night there would not be an election that would further the plans of the enemy and those hostile to Christianity and those hostile to establishment principles of Scripture. That we might be able to hold forth against those forces who seek to destroy the freedom of this nation.
“Father, we pray for us as we focus on You and Your Word tonight that we might be strengthened and encouraged as we think about all that You have provided for us. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Tonight, we are going to continue in our study of worship, which has taken a lot longer than I anticipated. I started doing a lot of study in an area that I have not studied that deeply or from this perspective before and it has taken longer. I’ve been doing a tremendous amount of research, reading, and studying along the way and I think you have benefited from that.
This is an area that takes all of us to another level of appreciation in terms of our own personal walk with the Lord, our own personal relationship with Him. It should be driving us to think more about our own personal spiritual life and our own personal communion or fellowship with God.
The patterns that we’re studying in the Old Testament are not lost once Jesus comes. They are fulfilled in Christ and they continue. Some of the details change—we are not under the Law anymore. We are not going to a central sanctuary, a central temple. A number of other things are not true for today, but the underlying principles that are reflected here are certainly part of what we are studying.
Tonight, what we are going to look at is the worship of a redeemed people. As I pointed out in the previous couple of lessons, as we get into Exodus there’s an expansion of what worship is, as God calls His people to a higher level of relationship commitment to Him.
In Exodus 19 I talked about the visual imagery there. As God shows up in the dark clouds, there is lightning, thunder, and earthquakes.
The Law is given and the people make a statement of their commitment to obey Him. That’s described in Exodus 19 and again in Exodus 23.
These events are designed to bring them to the point where they are entering into and accepting the covenant with God that forms the foundation of their walk with Him. Worship is going to be grounded in the tabernacle and then the temple.
At the very center of this is a reminder to them from God―I’m quoting from the New Testament because there it is applied to us— but this is stated several times in the Pentateuch.
1 Peter1:15–16 God says “be holy for I am holy.” Peter brings that quote into the New Testament which means it’s just as significant for us as it was for Israel in the Old Testament.
As he introduces the quote Peter says, “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”
This is something that is a real challenge to modern twentieth and twenty-first century Christians. We live in a world that became secularized in the nineteenth century when a distinction developed between what is secular and what is religious.
We have all been impacted by that false dichotomy. What we see as we look at worship in Israel is that the totality of our lives is to be that of worship.
It is really easy for some people to think, “Well, with the way you talk about this it kind of sounds legalistic.”
No, it doesn’t it. Legalism is doing this because we think we’re better than everybody else. That is arrogance and part of the legalism manifested by the Pharisees and Sadducees. It is arrogance to think that by living life in a certain way, with a spiritual focus, we are somehow a better Christian than everybody else.
It doesn’t get us any more blessing, it doesn’t make us better than anybody else. But it is walking in obedience to the Lord and living a distinct life.
If we go back in the history of Christianity and look at what was going on in the early church, in the Middle Ages up through the end of the eighteenth century into the early nineteenth century, people in Western civilization were a lot like the Israelites of the Old Testament.
Their lives were ordered by the church, by their relationship with God. They structured their lives that way. They did not have all the distractions that we have today.
In terms of family life, if you were a faithful believer, in the home there would be prayers at the table by the father with all the family around. There would be the reading of Scripture together. There would be a focus on spiritual things, a special preparation on Sunday, and distractions would be set aside.
Some of the ideas that entered into that focus come out of legalism. They developed some wrongheaded ideas as they were applying, in an illegitimate way, the feasts of Israel and the spiritual life of Israel to the church.
They had been influenced for centuries by Replacement Theology and they missed the target a little bit when it came to this. They were trying to imitate Israel too closely.
The point of application in looking at this is that God should be much more so the center of our lives than He is, especially when you look at a modern secular home and family.
God is distinct, unique. His thoughts are not our thoughts; His ways are not our ways. His ways are so much higher than ours we can’t even imagine it. He is totally distinct in all of His attributes and we are to live in a way that distinguishes us from others. Not in an arrogant way, thinking that we are somehow better, but focusing more on the mission that God has for us.
As God called Israel out of slavery in Egypt through the Passover, they went down to Mount Sinai. It was a three-month trek and when they got down there, God revealed Himself to them.
In that process He revealed to them that the centrality of their worship would be through the tabernacle. This was sort of God’s mobile home that took Him through the desert during those forty years. It wasn’t until they got into the land that it became somewhat permanent at Shiloh for over three hundred years.
We then studied in Samuel about how the ark traveled around and then came back. Finally, David brought the ark into Jerusalem, which is what started us on this study.
I pointed out last time that the visual image of the tabernacle is what we should think about. This graphic is a picture of the individual believer.
Think about the twelve tribes, that’s who we are as a person. Think about the surrounding area, that’s our body. And at the center of our being, in our soul, is the dwelling of God the Holy Spirit.
He has made us a temple for the dwelling of Christ. The term dwelling is the Hebrew word shakan. In Hebrew the tabernacle is called the mishkan, the dwelling place of God.
The temple is a picture for us of the spiritual life in the Church Age.
Exodus 19:5–6. God was doing something distinctive with Israel. After the event of the Tower of Babel He called out Abraham to be the father of a new people through whom He would work to reach all of the nations.
He brought that to a certain point and after over four hundred years He called them out with the challenge that they would be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
We have to understand a little bit about what it means to be a priest. A priest was a go-between between man and God. A priest represented the people to God, and a prophet represented God to the people.
Within this kingdom of priests, Israel was to be a priestly nation that would be responsible for representing the rest of humanity before God.
They were caretakers of the Scriptures. They were the custodians of the Word of God as revealed to them through the prophets in the Old Testament. They were responsible for teaching the other nations.
Just as the priestly tribe, the Levites, were to represent the nation to God and be responsible for teaching and communicating God’s Word, the Scriptures, to the Israelites.
They were the ones who would watch over and take care of the Scriptures. They would keep them stored and preserved within the tabernacle and later within the temple.
I want to cover four things tonight. We’re going to have a short comment about the priests and that analogy because we are all believer priests. There are certain analogies or parallels between the priests of the Old Testament and what we are supposed to be doing.
Not everything carries over. There were all kinds of qualifications and characteristics that don’t apply to every believer-priest in the Church Age. That was what God was doing distinctively for Israel at that time.
Last time we looked at the tabernacle. We looked at the furniture in the tabernacle. Tonight, we are going to look at how all of that entered into their worship in terms of the festivals.
There are three periods in their calendar of these festivals. We will look at the three spring feasts, the one summer feast, Pentecost, and then the three fall feasts. They have a set calendar and that is important to understand.
One of the problems in the early church was that they were trying to imitate Israel. There was the introduction of priests into the early church. We still see this in certain denominations. Roman Catholics as well as Episcopalians refer to their leaders as priests. We don’t have a priesthood anymore other than the priesthood of every believer.
They also brought over the idea of the calendar and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but they were utilizing it too closely with what was going on with Israel.
What was good about bringing over a calendar was that they understood that the purpose of the calendar in relation to Israel’s feasts in the Old Testament was pedagogical.
It was designed to remind people of the history they had with God, what God had done for them in the past. It was used to teach the next generation about Who God is, what He had done for Israel and what He was going to do.
It looked at the past history and it looked toward the future. It reminds us of the proverbial statement that a nation or a people that forgets their past, or that has no history, destroys their future.
That’s exactly what we see happening in Western civilization today. We see a group of people, a civilization that is rewriting their history according to political correctness. They are making up their own past to fit their modern values instead of understanding history objectively.
As a result, we are being cut off from our past and this election is indicative of that. Too many people want to flee the Constitution. They look at the Constitution as some kind of straitjacket that a bunch of old white men made up back in the 18th century.
There is no understanding whatsoever of what was involved in it and they want to get rid of it and just go their own way. If that happens our past and future will be destroyed.
We look at these feasts and the culmination is in the fall feasts, which will focus on Yom Kippur.
First, we look at the priests. The key passage is in Leviticus 8 and you can read through that at some other time, but I just want to summarize this. I want to remind you that the rituals in the Mosaic Law, the rituals related to the tabernacle and later the temple, were all designed as training aids.
They’re not talking about what I call the “real” spiritual life versus the “ritual” life.
Take confession as an example. If you are David out with the sheep and you sin, you just confess your sin. God will forgive you at that point as we’ll see with a couple of verses in a minute. That’s your real spiritual life. You maintain your ongoing communion and fellowship with God.
This may be in January and the next time you go to Jerusalem to the temple would probably be Passover at the end of March or in April.
You then would have to complete the process ritually. You would bring a lamb for a sacrifice, put your hand on its head and confess your sin to God. That process is completed by the ritual. It doesn’t mean you were not forgiven initially; you are forgiven, but it’s a package deal.
To be able to worship the next time in the tabernacle/temple, even though you were truly and really forgiven at the time you confessed the sin, in order to worship ritually in the tabernacle/temple, you have to have ritual forgiveness.
There was real forgiveness and ritual forgiveness. The ritual forgiveness is depicted through these images of sacrifice, placing your hand on the head of the animal in order to communicate in a more vivid, dramatic way what is happening invisibly in the spiritual realm.
We just can’t imagine how dramatic that would be. You come to worship God at Passover and you have to bring a sin offering, or a purification offering.
You bring this lamb that you’ve watched to make sure it’s without spot or blemish, you’ve taken care of it from birth. This lamb that hasn’t done anything, but because you gossiped or slandered, or committed some other sin, now you have to kill this innocent lamb.
What a vivid picture of what will happen at the Cross. That’s what it is designed to be.
When we think about it that way what we see with the priests is that they too are a physical picture designed to teach through ritual a spiritual reality. The priests didn’t have a lot of qualifications. They did not have spiritual qualifications. You won’t read anywhere that a priest had to be a believer.
In fact, there were many priests who had no clue what was going on in the Pentateuch. They were either false priests or they were just ignorant priests, which happened a lot during the period of the judges.
They could be a priest because they were physically qualified, because they were descendants of Levi. They were thus related to Moses and Aaron. Only the high priest had to be a descendant of Aaron, but they are only physically related to Levi, so that would qualify them to be a priest.
But that’s not the only qualification. The priest had to be qualified in terms of his physical condition. He could not be disfigured.
If he was a leper, or had a clubfoot, or he was crippled in some way, that is reflective of being in a sinful world, in a corrupt world, in a fallen world. It’s not that he’s committed a sin and therefore he can’t be a priest, but he is a visual representation, through his disfigurement, of the impact of sin on the world. Therefore, that would disqualify him.
The blind, the lame, the deformed, those with a broken foot or broken hand would not be allowed to serve as a priest.
If they had touched a corpse, they would not be qualified. That’s not a sin. They were allowed to touch a corpse if it was a close family member, mother, father, sister, brother, but not someone else.
They also could not cut their hair or beards a certain way because that was how the pagan priests wore their hair and trimmed their beards, so that was prohibited.
They couldn’t wear clothes or robes like pagan priests. They were to be set apart, distinct. They wore distinctive robes, had a distinctive haircut, and a distinctive cut of the beard that was not like anyone else.
There were also restrictions on marriage. They couldn’t marry a woman who had been a prostitute, who was ritually defiled, or who was divorced.
As a result of that, they were distinct from others. The pagan priests would often marry the cultic prostitutes.
God is drawing a distinction between the lifestyle of the priest in the temple or tabernacle, and the lifestyle of pagan priests.
In Leviticus 8 there are several passages that talk about being holy.
In Leviticus 21:8 we have the statement, “Therefore you shall consecrate him [the priest], for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I the LORD, who sanctify you, am holy.”
The emphasis here is on the presentation and offering of the bread which is eaten. That represents communion or fellowship with God.
The peace offering, as I talked about last time, was a meal. You would sit down, eat the meal and talk, and give thanks to God. You would reflect upon what God had provided for you. It was a time of praise when you were enjoying that communion, that fellowship, with God.
Symbolically the priest is supposed to be distinct because he is the one who is pulling together this dinner party with God. He has to be distinct and ritually undefiled in his conduct.
The priest was to be consecrated. Initially we might think of this as something akin to ordination. Ordination is not something that is talked about in the Scripture, but it is built off of a scriptural pattern and ideal. Leviticus 8 describes the consecration service.
Aaron and his sons were taken by Moses and first they were washed from head to toe, picturing the total cleansing that occurs at salvation when we are completely washed, and we are positionally cleansed of our sins.
Following this there was never another ritual where they would be completely washed. If there was sin it was taken care of by washing the hands or washing the feet when they went to the laver.
The cleansing after salvation is depicted in the New Testament in John 13:10 where Jesus is washing the feet of the disciples. Some people think that the whole idea there is one of being a servant. That is true only in a broad general way.
Specifically, it is teaching about confession and forgiveness, which is central to being able to love one another, which is where the passage goes in John 13:34–35.
Jesus is washing Peter’s feet. In his arrogance Peter says “No, no, no. You aren’t going to wash my feet.”
In John 13:10, “Jesus said to him [Peter], ‘He who is bathed [completely washed, representing positional cleansing] needs only to wash his feet [indicating confession, experiential cleansing] but is completely clean;’ ”
Referring to the other eleven, setting up the Seder meal, He says, “and you all are clean [positionally], but not all of you [all but Judas].”
He says “you all” referring to the other 11. You all are clean. That is, positionally, meaning they’re all believers. They are positionally clean except for one —Judas Iscariot.
As He started to wash Peter’s feet Peter says, “You can’t do that, Lord, I’m not going to let You.”
And the Lord said, “Well Peter, if you don’t let Me do this, you won’t have any inheritance when I come into the kingdom. You won’t have a role in the kingdom.”
Peter responds gregariously, “Well Lord, wash me all over.”
So, the Lord said, “I don’t need to do that either because if you’re already clean you don’t need to be washed again, as you are all already clean.”
This is a clear statement. The two Greek verbs that are used, LOUO for complete washing and NIPTO for partial washing, are used in the passages in Exodus and Leviticus for the complete washing versus the partial washing of the hands for the priest. This is a picture of the importance of regular cleansing from sin in the Old Testament in order to enjoy communion with God.
Following the complete washing of Aaron Moses would then dress him in his tunic, robe, breastplate, urim, Thummim, and the turban.
These were beautiful robes with an incredible mix of colors—rich reds, blues, purples, and gold. They symbolized the glory and the beauty of the Lord and were aesthetically extravagant.
This wasn’t for every worship center in every little village, and later every synagogue. But this was for the temple. This was for the dwelling place of God.
The priest had to be properly dressed or equipped to carry out his ministry. Just as the believer-priest today has to be properly equipped for the service of ministry.
This is what Paul is getting at in Ephesians 4:10–12. God gave the gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher in order to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. They are believer-priests and have to be properly equipped.
Other passages in the New Testament such as Romans 13:14 talk about being clothed with Christ, picking up on that same imagery from the clothing of the priest. We are to put on good deeds in Colossians 3:12.
We are clothed with the righteous acts of the saints in Revelation 19:7–8. This is the proper dress of the Church Age believer.
After Moses dressed Aaron the high priest, he went in and anointed all of the furniture with oil. Lastly, he came out and anointed Aaron with oil and then they moved to his sons. The anointing with oil represented the power of God, that they had the authority to represent God and to serve Him in the tabernacle.
When we get to the New Testament, and we talk in 1 John 2:20 about being anointed by the Spirit, this indicates that every believer has the authority and the responsibility to serve God and to carry out His plan in their life.
It indicates we are set apart as believer-priests and we have the authority to serve in that capacity. That means to witness to unbelievers and to encourage believers in their spiritual growth. All of this indicated that Aaron and his sons were set apart for the service of God.
Moses went to Aaron’s sons and dressed them and following this there was a purification offering sometimes called a sin offering.
First, they killed a bull and put their hands on the head of the bull for identification that this bull is now going to bear their sin. After they slaughtered the bull, they put his blood on the horns of the altar and splashed it against the base of the altar.
The fat and the entrails would then be burned on the altar. A bull without fat indicated that he hasn’t prospered, didn’t have enough food.
A fat bull indicates God has given him a lot of food. He’s been richly blessed and that which symbolizes the blessing is his fat. The fat doesn’t go to the worshiper, it’s burned up for God as a tribute to God’s blessing in the past.
This sacrifice sets them apart for the service of God, just as believers today are set apart to the service of God by the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.
The offering of the bull was followed by the offering of a ram. After that a second ram was sacrificed as a fellowship with God offering, concluding this series of offerings.
Now they are in a position to enjoy that communion, that fellowship with God. That’s always the end result. I want you to think about this. You ought to go back and read Leviticus 8 as it describes the process. This took a long time. They have to bring the bull to the right location. They slit the bull’s throat. Then they have to eviscerate the bull, they have to split him open.
They have to remove all of the entrails and cut out all of the fatty portions. They have to wash all of that out and then they put him on the altar. They then put the fat on the altar and all of that gets burned up as a burnt offering. All of this took a lot of time. If you’ve ever been hunting, you know that it takes may be an hour just to skin out a deer.
This is what they’re doing. It took a lot of time and we read through it very quickly. What you need to do is stop and pause and think about this.
We have all these different sacrifices that are talked about, and we don’t have to do that today. All of that focuses on Christ. But we’re in such a hurry we just want to skip through it.
We don’t stop and think about what each of these sacrifices taught. They are teaching us and reminding us about what Christ did on the Cross because He’s the fulfillment of each of those different sacrificial offerings.
What this teaches us is that we too are set apart to the Lord by sacrifice. Just as this ritual set Aaron and his sons apart to serve as priests and set other priests apart to serve God as priests, so we have been set apart.
We need to take that time to pause and think about the sacrifices because it enriches our personal understanding of who we are in Christ and what our position is.
That’s necessary to fulfill the concept in Romans 12:1–2, that we are “to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
LEITOURGOS is the Greek word used there, where we get our word liturgy. It’s our personal worship of God.
What we see conceptually is that the nation came to Sinai, where they are going to be set apart by God. Initially we see a hostile environment. God is in a cloud, there’s lightning, there’s thunder, there’s an earthquake.
God gives the covenant to Moses in Exodus 20–23. In Exodus 24 God calls Moses and the elders up on to the mountain.
The covenant is given, and the people are asked again, “Are you going to obey the covenant?” They say, “Yes we will.”
They worship God, and they see God. They see the pavement under the throne and there is blue sky. There’s no dark cloud, there’s no thunder, there’s no darkness, there’s no lightning—none of those things.
This is a picture of the positional sanctification of the believer. It’s analogous to our being put in Christ and identified with Christ.
At that time, they have the fellowship sacrifices. There’s no sin offering at that time. There is no purification offering because they are in relationship with God, in communion and fellowship with God.
And then what happens? Moses is still up on the mountain getting instructions and the people get bored after forty days. They call upon Aaron to build an idol, the golden calf.
They sinned horribly before God. After that God gives them instructions for the tabernacle because they have to learn that, “Look, we are still horrible corrupt sinners and we have to have something that will cleanse us so that we can be restored to our communion, our fellowship, with God.”
God gives those deeply flawed people this tabernacle, which is where He’s going to dwell for this constant reminder through ritual of how we are restored to fellowship with God. It is a picture of the removal of all the barriers between man and God that occur because of sin.
We look at that tabernacle as the dwelling place of God, a place that is characterized by light. We saw His light symbolized by the light of the menorah. The menorah is a picture of light and life. The bread is a picture of life and all the nourishment that God provides for life.
God provides all of the good things of life graciously and we are the beneficiaries of His blessing.
All that is fulfilled in Christ, He is the One Who is both the light of the world and He is the life, as He says on several occasions, “I am the life.”
He is the source of light and life for us. He is the One Who reveals God to us. Jesus as God is also set apart and distinct. He calls us to be set apart and distinct because, as Church Age believers, we are in Him.
He is divine and we serve Him. He is the One Who sets us apart through His sacrifice on the Cross.
What we see in all of this are these key features that are repeated again, and again, and expanded upon in relation to worship.
- There’s the proclamation of God’s Word.
- There is the element of sacrifice, a blood sacrifice, and the death of an animal because of our sin.
- There’s the emphasis on being positionally sanctified and set apart to God as well as experiential sanctification.
- There’s a provision through certain offerings for a restoration of fellowship and a deep communion with God.
- We see that there is an experiential cleansing so that we can fulfill our priestly role to serve God.
All of these elements are there, and we see them repeated again and again from dispensation to dispensation.
It’s not that when Jesus comes the sacrifices are stopped, but the underlying principles are being illustrated.
The principle is illustrated in Psalm 32:5 where we have David’s confession. He confesses in Psalm 51, that’s a penitential psalm.
In Psalm 32 he is giving a praise song because God forgave him. He reiterates why God forgave him and he says, “I acknowledged my sin to You.”
That’s what it means to confess, not just to recite a list of sins. Some people just name what they did and run through a quick “grocery list” of sins. That’s not entering into what’s going on here.
Confession is “Lord, I did this, I did that, I did this other thing. I am admitting and acknowledging that I am a sinner and these are the sins I committed.” It’s personal. It’s not just reading off some grocery list.
“I acknowledged my sin to you, and my iniquity, I have not hidden.”
David doesn’t need to go into details listing what he did. He’s stating it generally. That’s the other problem, I hear people say, “All I need to do is say ‘Lord, I’m a sinner.’ ”
No, the principles in Scripture are that you confess your sins—your sins, not somebody else’s sins. Not some abstract grocery list of sins, but you confess what you did, you admit to it.
And this is what he said, “I will confess my transgressions …” You can just leave that blank and put in there whatever your sins are.
“I will confess my transgressions to the LORD [and the result is] and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
This is the background that we have for the role of the priest. The priest is a central figure in all of these feasts.
What happens in these feasts is that Israel is going to come together at these three key times of the year. They are going to come together in the spring at the spring feasts. There are three of them and they all occur within about a 10-day period.
Then there is the feast of Pentecost in the summer and that’s the second one.
The third one has to do with the fall feasts and that involves a little over three weeks that they would be away from their homes, away from their farms, away from their businesses in Jerusalem.
The purpose for these feasts is to teach them to keep their focus on the Lord, that God is the center of their lives and should be the center of everything.
When did they have these sacrifices? There’s a morning sacrifice and there’s an evening sacrifice in the tabernacle/temple, to sanctify each day. Each day comes from the Lord. And each day that we live belongs to the Lord. He has redeemed us and that’s why we are to redeem the time.
The feasts were to teach them to focus on the Lord day by day, and also week by week. The seventh day was a day of rest. That wasn’t a day to just go play ping-pong or watch sports all day, or just give in to all your little personal pleasures.
It was a time to enjoy God’s creation. The pattern of God’s creation that as a craftsman He designed the earth in six days and at the end He stops. He doesn’t go take a nap because He is tired. He rests to do what? To enjoy what He has done.
The pattern for us is that whatever happens on that seventh day, Shabbat, it wasn’t designed to be a day of catching up on your sleep or other things of that nature, just sitting around and being lazy. It was designed to enjoy God’s creation, to do something different from the work that you do, the labor that you do the other six days of the week; to expand your understanding through reading, through study, through conversation, through the worship of the Lord.
Every day belongs to the Lord, every week belongs to the Lord, every month belongs to the Lord. Every month there were new moon sacrifices; a reminder that every month belongs to the Lord.
The annual feasts or festivals were given to Israel to remind them that every season of the year, the entire year, belongs to the Lord. They were to order their lives on the basis of this calendar.
They didn’t think in terms of months and days like we do. That’s a result of the secularization of the calendar.
In the Enlightenment, people thought of the annual calendar in terms of the church calendar, because the church calendar, by the late Middle Ages was quite extensive.
There was Easter and Pentecost. In fact, some Catholic churches still have special services at Pentecost. There was John the Baptist day and many others, which I think goes too far.
But the point was that in Israel they would order their lives in relation to Passover, First Fruits, Pentecost, the Feast of the Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and so on. Their lives were ordered and structured by their relationship to God. They don’t think of it in terms of “Well that’s in December, that’s in February, or that’s in June.” It has to do with something significant in their spiritual life.
At the center of that were the three feast periods where they would go to Jerusalem three times a year and worship the Lord. At the center of that is going to be sacrifice and the death of an animal, a constant reminder of the need for cleansing from sin.
When they came to the tabernacle and later to the temple, they would see the glories of it. They would see colors, vibrant, rich colors like they didn’t see anywhere else.
That reminded them of the majesty of God, the glory of God. It would remind them of the sanctuary that they had lost in Eden, how they were separated from God—the imagery of the cherubs that we talked about.
They would be reminded that God was now dwelling once again among humanity—that He provided a way to be restored and come back into His presence.
In the Church Age we have the Holy Spirit Who indwells every believer and provides a dwelling place for the indwelling of Jesus Christ so that we individually become a temple.
When we come together corporately, according to Ephesians 3, we are being grown together as a temple to God. It’s not only an emphasis individually.
When there are a hundred sanctuaries scattered around during the week and you come together on Sunday morning, what do you think that makes this? It is significant. We need to let this shape our thinking.
In Israel, once again, God was living among humanity, but this time He is setting them up as a kingdom of priests. They have a special worship and when they would gather together it was a time of great celebration.
We don’t know how many people lived in Jerusalem during the time of David or later on during the time of Hezekiah, probably several thousand. It wasn’t a huge number.
At the time of Jesus, in the first century, about a hundred and twenty thousand people lived in Jerusalem.
According to Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus the population of Jerusalem expanded to about two and a half to three million people at the time of Passover.
The rabbis had to artificially expand the boundaries of the city for the feast days so that those who were living outside the city limits of Jerusalem could eat the Passover meal in the city limits where the lamb was slaughtered.
That is an enormous number of people. What do you think happens when everybody has been working for three or four months on the farm, digging the rocks out of the ground, hoeing the weeds, carrying water, and harvesting the crops?
Now you hear what the psalmist says, that it’s with joy, let us go to the house of the Lord and celebrate with joy. You are going to celebrate with joy because you get three weeks off.
It’s going to be a two- or three-week vacation.
Depending on which part of the year it is and what you do, you’re going to be with your friends, you’re going to be with family and extended family you haven’t seen in maybe six months, since the since the last feast time.
Thanksgiving is in a couple of weeks. You’re going get with family and friends, sit down to a lot of food, five times more than everybody there could eat.
You’re going to talk and reminisce, enjoy being with each other, and it’s all about family time.
You’re going to have a great celebration, eat a lot, and have great fellowship. That’s what’s happening.
Passover goes on for about 10 or 12 days. If it’s in the in the fall it’s going to go on for three weeks. There’s going to be singing and rejoicing.
People are going to take time to go up into the temple area. The priests will be standing there teaching or reading Scripture.
There will be sacrifices. You’ve got all of the different sights and smells and sounds that are there.
The central focus is on worship and everyday there are going to be a number of sacrifices that are going to be taking place, reminding everyone of sin and God’s grace, and how He has provided a solution through His grace.
We need to expand our thoughts about this. I don’t know what you think about when you reflect on what this looks like. It was like coming to Houston at the time of rodeo for three weeks. There are all kinds of things going on. There are booths that are set up down at the stock show. People can go by and see different things and eat different things.
That’s what Passover was like. It was a festive as well as a serious atmosphere. When we bring this over into the Church Age we see similar things that are present.
In Ephesians 5:18, referring to worship Paul says, “Do not be drunk with wine, which is dissipation, but be filled by means of the Holy Spirt.”
What are the results of being filled with the Spirit? The first thing mentioned here is, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Singing and rejoicing in song about what God has done. We know what the songs were like—we have the songbook. We have 150 psalms giving us the level of’ theological content that was in the songs they sang.
Giving thanks is also crucial to what was going on in their worship.
This is the background that helps us understand what’s happening in these three spring feasts—Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits.
Passover pictures redemption. It is centered on the sacrifice of the lamb that is without spot or blemish. The application of the blood of that lamb historically, at the original Exodus, to the doorpost of the house indicated that that lamb has died as a substitute for the firstborn in that house.
That blood being applied is a recognition that the people in that house are trusting in God’s provision of a substitute so that the firstborn will not die. That is the first Passover.
As they look at that they are reminded of what happened. At that time, they roasted the lamb. They ate it standing up. They had unleavened bread because they didn’t have time for the dough to rise. God was going to release them from their slavery that night, and they would be able to leave. They didn’t have time for the dough to rise. They would eat and enjoy that fellowship. That’s part of the meal that was going on there.
There were bitter herbs that were later to remind them of the bitterness of their slavery. Passover focuses on the fact that there is redemption. Right before Passover they would clean all the leaven out of the house.
Passover ends at sunset, and that begins the first day of Unleavened Bread, so they would not be doing all this work on Passover day. The leaven would be cleaned out of the house ahead of time. The picture that comes across is that the person who is redeemed on Passover is now going to live a life free of sin.
That’s what’s pictured in the festival. This is the same distinction we see all the time in Scripture—redemption is separated from sanctification.
Redemption is the point of salvation when we trust in Christ. Sanctification is living out our spiritual lives because we have been redeemed.
God redeemed Israel in the Exodus event and they are to live as a redeemed people. That’s what the Law was all about, teaching a redeemed people how they were to live and how they were to worship God. When they would go to the festivals, they would go up at the time of Passover.
Remember what happens when Jesus goes into Jerusalem? It’s at the beginning of the week. There were crowds singing. They were singing hoshianu, talking about God deliver us, God save us, which comes from Psalm 118.
They are singing this to God. It is a joyful time when God is going to deliver them. And so there’s all of this singing that’s going on.
This is reflected in some of the psalms like Psalm 42:4, “When I remember these things.” The psalmist is thinking back upon his times in Jerusalem during the feast days
Psalm 42:4, “When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude [this isn’t just a handful of people going to the Temple Mount, this is a multitude, thousands of people]; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.”
And Psalm 100:4, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, [that’s entering into the gates of the temple] and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” That means to give praise to Him.
There’s one section in the Psalms from Psalm 120 to Psalm 134, each of these Psalms begins with the statement, “A Song of Ascents.”
Do you know what that means? These were sung as the people were going to Jerusalem.
What you do when you go to Jerusalem? You go up to Jerusalem. They are ascending to Jerusalem. As the Lord is walking up the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, before the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, the people along the way would be singing these songs. They are going to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.
It’s a great feast time. They want to get there a little early because Jerusalem is going to go from one hundred thousand to two and a half to three million people. You better get there early to find a good place to put your tent and for the family to stay for the next ten or twelve days.
As you went to the temple to worship you would be singing these hymns. They would have learned them, memorized them from childhood, to be able to sing them from memory.
We have application of this to the Church Age in 1 Corinthians 5:7–8.
Remember what is going on in 1 Corinthians 5. Paul is castigating, rebuking, the people because of their casual attitude towards sin.
There’s a man in the church who is committing incest and they’re acting like it’s no big deal. We might have a little trouble with it—he was married to his stepmother. In our culture that is not bad. In that culture it even offended the pagans. And the pagan Corinthians were pretty immoral.
They’re just ignoring everybody’s sins and everybody’s having a great immoral time.
After he rebukes them in 1 Corinthians 5:1–6 Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Therefore purge out the leaven.” Leaven represents sin. In other words, there needs to be a cleansing of sin in your life. “… that you may be a new lump.”
They are already believers. This is not talking about some sort of moral reformation to be saved. This is talking about being cleansed of sin, confessing sin, and dealing with it, not just saying, “okay, I confessed my sins” and keep doing it.
“… that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.” That is referring to your position in Christ. Paul says it differently in Ephesians 5:8, “You are children of light [that is your position]; walk as children of light.”
In other words, you may be in the Smith family. Your father says, “You are a Smith, start living like you’re a Smith. Quit living like those kids down the street and live like you’re part of this family.”
That’s what Paul is talking about here. You have a new position in Christ, and you need to live consistent with that.
1 Corinthians 5:7, “… you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”
Jesus is the Passover Lamb. Then he says, “Therefore let us keep the feast.”
What feast is He talking about? He’s applying the imagery from the feast of unleavened bread to the post-salvation life of the believer. We are to live that life and it takes a long time to do this. You’re not going is wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to quit all my sins.” That doesn’t happen. It’s a process of our spiritual growth.
1 Corinthians 5:8, he says, “… let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, [not with the sins we are real comfortable with], nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
He is using that imagery from the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This is saying, “Clean up your life. Confess your sins, quit doing the sins that you’re doing.”
We are not going to quit it all at one time, but hopefully over time we are going to get better and better through God the Holy Spirit as we walk with Him.
That takes us through the spring feasts and next time will come back and look at the rest of the feasts.
The reason I’m doing this is to set us up for understanding what happens to the worship in Israel as we go through the rest of the Old Testament. We can cover that pretty rapidly. There are only two or three things I want to talk about and one of them is to focus on how worship gets corrupted.
It’s corrupted today and it gets corrupted periodically through history. It became corrupted several times in Israel. It was corrupted at the time of Christ.
We have to understand that there is worship that is valid and legitimate and worship that is not. That finally sets us up for understanding the unique worship of the Church Age believer.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things, to be reminded that You need to be at the center of every day, the center of every week, the center of every month, the center of every year.
“We have been bought with a price, Paul says, therefore we are not our own. We are not here to live out our desires, to live out our wishes, to live for our personal pleasure and enjoyment.
“We are here to serve You. That doesn’t mean we can’t have a fun time and enjoy the life that You’ve given us, but that that we have a purpose. We have a significance.
“We have a mission and that is to shine forth as lights in the midst of this wicked and perverse generation.
“Father, help us to understand this, to focus, to think more deeply, more seriously, more significantly, about the life that we should be living as believers, as members of your royal family. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”