By NELLY FAVIS VILLAFUERTE
I have always been fascinated with the feasts and festivals celebrated by the Jewish people. These feasts which are part of their rich history are sometimes called “Feasts of Jehovah” or “Feasts of the Lord.” Why are they so called as such? Because it is God Himself who ordained these feasts and who designated the specific times of the year when these feasts should be celebrated. The opening verse of the Book of Leviticus in the Old
Testament says: “The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.” (Leviticus 23:1-2)
Most of the days appointed as feasts by God are times of great joy and rejoicing. The times and seasons when these feasts were observed were times when the Jewish people predominantly engaged in agricultural pursuits were not busy in their work. These “holy times” as the feasts were also known have permeated not only the religious but also the social and physical aspects of their lives as well.
The Book of Leviticus, particularly Chapter 23, mentions of the feasts of the Lord. Today, many are saying that these feasts no longer have any special relevance or abiding value in our modern-day living. This is not necessarily so. For one, the spiritual realities then prevailing are still with us today. While the Jewish feasts may now be done away with, the spiritual principles which focus on the relationship between God and men are still existing. For the simple reason that our Lord God does not change. Hebrews 13:8 says simply and clearly: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Also, while the Book of Leviticus provides a body of laws applicable to the lives of the Israelites then – like those dealing on property rights, marriage, and other matters that govern the civil relationship among the people, these can still guide our law-makers in the promulgation of laws. Lastly, the language in the Book of Leviticus is very rich in “symbols” and “types.” A “symbol” is an object that represents something else, while a ‘type’ is an object that prefigures or foretells the coming of a greater truth. Today, as in the past, some symbolic events have been regarded to be more sacred and symbolic than what was meant to be. Some religious groups nowadays have done more than this. They have gone as far as to declare that some symbols are really types. This thinking in turn leads to a lot of confusion and controversy.
If we, for example, examine the relationship between God and the Israelites during the Old Testament days, we will see that there were places which were symbolic of God’s presence. Some examples are Mt. Sinai, the Temple, and the Tabernacle. These places were held sacred and symbolic of God’s presence. But to say that God’s presence is limited only to these places leads to absurd conclusions. Because it is saying that God’s presence is restricted to certain places only and confined also as to time. This thinking clashes with the biblical teaching that God is omnipresent?
There are two Hebrew words that are identified with the English word “feast.” One is the Hebrew word “chag,” the plural form of which is “chaggim,” Another Hebrew word is “mo’ed” which in its plural form is “m’adim,” meaning the appointed time or season. The Hebrew ending “im” is a common Hebrew suffix denoting the plural, as, for example, seraphim and cherubim. Many may also be wondering where the word “Leviticus” got its name. It comes from the Greek word “Levitikos” or “that which pertains to the Levites”. Levites were Israel’s priests.
In the past, I attended the class of Dr. Bob Seyda on Old Testament Feasts and their New Testament Meaning – at the then Asian Christian Center Ministry in Makati. Dr. Seyda’s profound knowledge on the subject has tremendously enriched my insights on the subject. I have yet to meet a Bible scholar who can match Dr. Seyda’s incisive treatment of various Biblical subjects. His preaching is rich with experiences relating to Old Testament events, customs, and practices.
Next week. I will be discussing the major Jewish Feasts like the Feast of Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of First Fruits, Feast of Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Feast of Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles.
This column continues to give out copies of the Holy Bible for free to those who cannot afford to buy their own copies. If interested, please send your letter-request to Ms. Nelly Favis Villafuerte, 5233 Fahrenheit St., Palanan, Makati City. Kindly mention if it is the Tagalog, English, Cebuano, or Ilocano Bible that is preferred.
Be joyful and forgiving!
(Comments may be sent to Ms. Villafuerte’s email: [email protected])