Should Christians today be observing the feast days that were commanded in the Old Testament?
It is indeed true that, as recorded in Leviticus 23, the Lord commanded that certain feast days and holy convocations should be kept. There were seven in all. Three of them were the great festivals of the year—the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
The two words used to denote “feasts” and “holy convocations” differ considerably in their meaning. Hag, which belongs especially to the three feasts named, means “a joyous occasion, a festival, a feast.” Mo‘ed has reference to appointed times, stated observances, holy convocations, or solemn meetings. An example of Mo‘ed would be the Day of Atonement, which was not a feast or festival in any sense of the word, but a holy convocation.
Do the commands of Leviticus 23 still apply to us today? No, they do not, because their fulfillments were met in an event in the past.
Although each of the feast days had its meaning, they related only to the ceremonial services of the sanctuary. The feast days were not kept before the time of Moses, yet animal sacrifices were offered before Moses’ time. This tells us something very important: The feast days were introduced for the purpose of helping corporate Israel focus on the work of redemption, which had its center in the Lamb of God.
These services went on for hundreds and hundreds of years. Each time the children of Israel kept these days, it was to prepare them for the plan of redemption made possible by Jesus. During this period of time, the feast days were an integral part of Israel’s life. They looked with a great deal of affection on the celebration of these feast days. Many considered them much as we in the United States view our holidays of Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. Rather than teaching the people the lessons that they needed to prepare them for Jesus, the feast days came to be observed by many from a traditional point of view, much as we see the fun rather than the meaning in the observance of our holidays now.
Colossians 2:16 gives us some good insight as to how we should relate to these days: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath [days].”
Paul made it very clear to the new Christians, upon whom judaizing teachers were attempting to impose the yoke of the ceremonial law, that these things—all the offerings and the observances of feast days (which were called sabbath days)—should not come under anyone’s criticism for nonobservance, because they were shadows of Christ to come. All these had been nailed to the cross and were no longer of moral obligation. With the cross of Christ came the passing away of the commands to keep these days.
It is the record, however, that the pressure to keep the ceremonial laws continued to be used to stir up strife and contention. The devil will use certain tactics to sidetrack God’s people. If one tactic works well, he will use it again to his best advantage. This is true concerning the feast days. It stirred up the early church and worked to separate brethren, so he brings this same idea around again. It is working to separate brethren today instead of binding them together, as God would want to have happen. We need to rise above these elementary arguments, unite on the truth, and spread that to the ends of the earth, not those factors that separate.
Pastor Mike Baugher is Associate Speaker for Steps to Life Ministry. If you have a question you would like Pastor Mike to answer, e-mail it to: email@example.com, or mail it to: LandMarks, P. O. Box 782828, Wichita, KS 67278.