Today’s Scripture Focus: Leviticus 23:1-3
Our scripture focus this week finds us once again in that section of Leviticus known as the “Holiness Code”. Chapters 17-20 dealt with holiness in daily life. 21-22 covered holiness standards for priests. Chapter 23 begins a section detailing holy time. Even the calendar God’s people used had to be holy! Israel followed a lunar calendar, meaning each month had 28 days. The new moon was day 1 and the full moon was day 15. Every seventh day was a Sabbath—a holy day when work was prohibited. There were also seven festival days each year, or a “Lord’s Week” of extra Sabbaths, each with their own agricultural, historical, and theological meaning.
The first cycle of holy days were the spring festivals of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits. Originally, Jewish months and days had no names (month names were added later). This was to distinguish them from the pagan calendar, in which months and days had names corresponding to gods. This is true of our calendar today. The spring festivals began each year in the “first month” on the full moon, about the time that barley was harvested. This corresponds with our March or April. It was during the spring festivals that Israel remembered their deliverance from Egypt. The primary sacrifice of these festivals were the burnt offering.
Next on the calendar came the summer festival—the feast of Weeks. From Passover, Israel was to count exactly seven weeks (hence the name). Then, on the 50th day after Passover, a feast was to be held corresponding with the wheat harvest. This falls in May or June on our calendar. Bread was to be baked with the first grain harvested each year and presented at the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) as an offering. The primary sacrifice of Weeks was the fellowship offering. While Passover corresponds with our Easter, Weeks corresponds with Pentecost Sunday (“pente” means “50”). Weeks celebrated the giving of the Law to Moses.
The third cycle of festivals were the fall feasts (and fasts), which fell during the grape and olive harvests. These began in the seventh month—the equivalent of our September or October. These feasts were Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles. The primary sacrifice of these festivals was the sin offering. While most festivals were days of feasting, the Day of Atonement was a day of fasting. Anyone who ate or worked on that day would be cut off from the people. The fall festivals commemorated God’s protection in the wilderness. Some teachers believe that in the same way the spring and summer feasts correspond with key events in salvation history, Christ’s second coming will fulfill the fall feasts.
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
Why are special days important? How do Sundays and holidays help us be better Christians now?
Is there anything in today’s scripture that especially speaks to you?
What questions would you like to ask about today’s scripture?