As we enter the fall season it is once again time to prepare for the fall “Appointed Times” that God set for His people. Why is this important when they have not been observed by believers since the time of the Early Church? I believe the most important reason is that God said that these are “My appointed times”, times He set aside for His people to reset their focus on Him:
“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.” (Lev 23:1-2)
The Hebrew word translated as “feasts” in most of our Bibles is “moed”, which actually means an “appointed place, time or meeting”. The foundation of our faith goes back to the instructions God gave His people at Mt Sinai and actually even before that. If God saw a need to give instructions to His people to set aside their normal routines to come together and worship Him, should we not at least be willing to take the time to study and find out what the purpose and meaning of these times are? God doesn’t give His people busywork, just to give them something to do, but has a specific purpose and reason for each instruction, whether we always understand what it is or not. God knew that we would tend to become busy with the activities of daily life and forget Him, so He gave numerous instructions for things that would remind us we are His people, to reveal Himself and His plan for us and our world.
If we look at the spring “appointed times” we will see how this works. In these events we can see how God used them to illustrate what He was going to do. When the time came that God was going to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt the Israelites were instructed to place the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their house so that the death angel would “passover” them and their firstborn would not die. In faith and obedience they did so, trusting that God would do as He said, and in effect they passed from death and were given new life. Jesus died on Passover to pay the penalty of our sin and as we, in faith, apply the “blood of the Lamb” to our lives we too pass from the sentence of death and are given new life.
The “Feast of Unleavened Bread” is closely tied with Passover showing us that the Israelites had been redeemed from slavery in Egypt and now they were to leave their Egyptian ways behind and walk with Him. Egypt is often used in Scripture as a symbol for sin and so in effect they were being told to leave their sinful ways behind and by faith walk according to the instructions God was giving them. Are we not also told that when we accept Jesus as our Savior we are redeemed from slavery to sin and the flesh and are to leave our sinful ways behind and in faith walk according to God’s instructions?
In the midst of Passover comes the “Feast of Firstfruits” and occurs when the first crop of the year, barley, had ripened and was ready for harvest. But before they harvested their fields of barley they were to bring an “omer”, which is about 2 quarts, as a firstfuit offering to the Lord. This feast pointed to the resurrection of Jesus from the grave and the fact that we too one day will be resurrected:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (1Co 15:20, 22-23)
From there we count up the seven weeks plus one day to Pentecost. It was on this day that God came down on Mt Sinai and spoke to the Israelites giving them the 10 Commandments, the foundation of all the instructions He was going to give them. They were never intended to provide salvation to anyone but to provide a clear standard, a reference for living, for without a standard anything goes. Sin, the breaking of this standard, was now clearly defined and so could be dealt with. But God knew that no one would ever be able on their own to live up to this standard so God provided the Israelites with the sacrificial system. Through the sacrifices, a person who by faith believed that God would fulfill what He said He would do through their obedience, offered their sacrifice and was made right before God and drew near to Him. Many years later, after Jesus resurrection and ascension, on the day of Pentecost God sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in all those who by faith believed God’s Word and accepted Jesus as their Savior, to empower and enable them to live according to His instructions enabling them to draw near to Him.
The upcoming fall “Appointed Times” have not yet been fulfilled but point to still upcoming events that have been prophesied in Scripture. But, they also point us to things in this present day that should wake us up and we need to act upon, which is where I would like to focus my attention, for what we do in the here and now will determine our future.
The first one, coming up on October 3rd this year, is the “Feast of Trumpets”, “The Day of Judgment” and it also goes by several other names but I believe these two illustrate two important aspects of it. The Scriptures do not give much explanation about the Feast of Trumpets other than in Leviticus 23:24 where we are told it is to be “a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets”. This of course should bring to mind the blast of the trumpet at Mt Sinai when God came down and spoke the 10 Commandments to the Israelites. Is this Appointed Time God’s way of reminding us that He has given us instructions, His standard, for how we are to live and we need to make our choice to follow or not follow those instructions? But God leaves the choice up to us. Throughout Scripture we see God clearly showing the result of our decision. Through Moses it was, choose life or choose death, choose blessing or choose curses. In the Prophets we read time and time again how God pled with Israel to confess their sins, repent and return to Him so He can bring blessing and not judgment on them. In the New Testament the message also is to confess your sins, repent and turn to Him to inherit His promised blessings. This day should remind us that the day is coming for each one of us when we will have to stand before the Judge and give account for the choice we made. So, if we do nothing else, I believe that this day should give us pause and cause us to stop and consider our choice. If we have not yet made the choice to follow God’s instructions than we need to carefully consider the consequences that God has clearly stated will result from this decision. If we have already chosen to follow God and walk in His ways then let’s use this day to seek Him and ask Him to help us repent of those things in our lives that have come between us and Him as we prepare for the next Appointed Time.
I don’t believe that it is by accident or coincidence that the ten days leading up to the next “Appointed Time”, the “Day of Atonement”, are traditionally called the Ten Days of Awe. Awe in the sense of respect or fear of God who is the Righteous Judge and who has said that He will judge all people and reward the righteous and punish the wicked. Our recognition of that fact should lead us to spend these days in searching our hearts as we began to do on the Feast of Trumpets and repent of any sin or other thing that God might show us so that we are right with Him on the Day of Atonement.
The Day of Atonement was the only day of the year that the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies. There he sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on the “Mercy Seat” of the Ark of the Covenant, seeking God’s mercy for the forgiveness of his own sins and the sins of the people. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus who offered up Himself on our behalf is our High priest and that:
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:25)
True repentance requires three things, blood, confession and repentance. The Scripture says:
…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Heb 9:22)
Jesus shed His blood to pay the penalty for our sins:
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. (Eph 1:7)
But we must acknowledge our sins and shortcomings and confess them if we are receive God’s forgiveness. But a simple confession is not enough. We can admit that we have sinned and done wrong but that does not mean we are sorry for what we have done or that we don’t intend to do it again, so repentance is required. Repentance, teshuvah in Hebrew, means to turn around or to turn away from. It is only after we acknowledge our sin and determine to turn away from that sin that God willingly forgives us and puts us back in right standing with Him.
So while our sins, as believers, have already been atoned for through the blood of Jesus, the Day of Atonement reminds us that we are still living in these fleshly bodies and prone to sin and in need of the continual cleansing by the blood of Jesus. However, one day Jesus will return and we will experience the fullness of His atoning work when our transformation into His image is complete. But until then we should use this time period to seek God’s help in revealing those things in our lives that hinder us in our walk with Him.
The last of the fall “Appointed Times” is the Feast of Tabernacles. While it reminds us of the years that Israel spent dwelling in tents as they wandered through the wilderness, it also reminds us that God dwelt in their midst in a very real sense. For His presence could be seen in the “pillar of fire” at night and the “pillar of cloud” in the day as it stood over the Tabernacle or as it led them through the wilderness. Following the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement it represents our restored relationship with God. As believers, it should remind us that God dwells in our hearts and we experience His presence through His Holy Spirit, which He has given us. But it should also cause us to look forward to that day when Jesus will return and dwell in the midst of His people during the millennial kingdom.
In this very brief explanation I have just barely touched the surface of the meanings and pictures that can be found in “God’s Appointed Times”. But we can see how God has already used the spring appointed times to reveal His plan, how these fall appointed times can help us to focus on our daily relationship with God and we can anticipate that He will also reveal His future plans through them. But it will require time and effort on our part to study these out so we can see the patterns and pictures throughout the Scriptures that reveal His plan and prepare ourselves. With the situation in our world today I think it is even more important that we become familiar with and understand God’s appointed times. It is very possible that the time of God’s fulfillment of these fall appointed times is at hand and we should be doing everything possible to prepare for that possibility. But even if that time is still a long way off yet we must be very careful not to fall asleep and become complacent:
For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (1Th 5:2-6)
God loves us so much that He has given us these times and many other means to remind us to draw near to Him. Just as through the prophets He pled with Israel to repent and turn to Him so too does He plead with us to repent and turn to Him. It is time that we wake up and begin to utilize these times to prepare our lives for the days ahead.