God’s appointments with humankind gain meaning over time – not obsolescence

JeffA number of theologians have wondered publicly if the festivals of the LORD are relevant for today or are just historical or intellectual curiosities. Many dismiss Sukkot as either a harvest festival only applicable in the Land of Israel or only relevant with a standing temple. Let’s explore what the Bible says about the past, present and future layers of meaning in these annual appointments and how they teach us about the Messiah and ourselves.

We will look at the different layers of the festivals. The holy festivals do not stand alone. The past, present and future are all apart of the messages of all the feasts.

We will focus on the annual feasts but the Shabbat sets the stage for the feasts. The theme of seven shows up a lot in all the appointed times.

The appointed times of God are multidimensional presentations and memorials of what God is doing. He has the appointed times, prophets and the Messiah to teach us what He is doing. They are waymarkers for where we were, are and will be. They are waymarkers in the history of God’s people and how He is going to recreate the world.

In a sense, they are like a wedding anniversary, on which the couple remembers all the experiences layered on top of one another since the cutting of that first wedding cake.


The Shabbat first shows up in Genesis 2. We see that God “blessed” the seventh day and “sanctified” it, made it “holy” (Gen. 2:2–3). That word for bless is בָּרַךְ barakh (Strong’s lexicon No. H1288), the root meaning of which is to bend the knee, or kneel. It is to pay honor to something. In a sense, God honored and respected the Shabbat, because it memorialized the completion of Creation, it was a memorial of God as Creator.

God “sanctified” Shabbat, made it “holy.” Holy isn’t perfection. The Hebrew word קָדַשׁ qadash (H6942) simply means to set apart for a specific task. We cannot be holy or perfect in ourselves, because we don’t have that power. But God grants holiness and righteousness to those He sets aside.

Just as God “rested” — really, stopped — creating, God calls us to do the same, step back from our tasks and work. In Hebrew, שַׁבָּת Shabbat (H7676) means to stop, cease.

The second mention of the Shabbat is in Ex. 16:22-30. We see the Shabbat in the context of the  manna, the “daily bread.” There’s a huge gap in history between the first and second mentions of the Shabbat. But the layered lesson is that God provides what we need, and we can depend on God.

Some people will try to throw out the canard that we can’t know if the day we call the seventh day now is the same it was then. Yet in Exodus 2–3 when Moses met the LORD at the burning bush, Moshe was given a specific version of God’s name to prove to the people of Israel that he was actually speaking on God’s behalf. If the children of Israel were able to recall this more obscure name for God, which is rarely pronounced, they certainly could have recalled God’s seventh day, which is practiced every week with all our senses. 

Another mention of the Shabbat as being a sign throughout all the generations is Ex. 31:13-17. Some believe that each subsequent revisit of the Shabbat is a replacement of the prior but I’d submit to you that they are additional purposes of the Shabbat, not replacements of prior revelations. 

In the restatement of the 10 Commandments of Exodus 20 for the next generation of Israel, which would enter the Land, there’s different wording for the Fourth Commandment about the seventh-day Shabbat (Deut. 5:12-15). Is the Shabbat now a replacement for the Passover about remembering the time of slavery in Egypt. Is God confused? Or is God simply adding another layer to the Shabbat — freedom from slavery and overwork?

Yeshua added another layer to the Shabbat: 

“‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.'” (Mark 2:27-28)

The religious leaders had added many, many rules to try to protect the Shabbat. We read in the Prophets how many people forgot how to keep the Sabbath and weren’t really keeping it at all. The reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah started that trend towards the idea that man was made to keep the Sabbath but Yeshua came to restore the true meaning of the Sabbath as a memorial of God’s desire to have a relationship with us. 

In saying that His “yoke” was a light burden, Yeshua quoted Jeremiah (Matt. 11:28-30). Yeshua healed someone on a Shabbat (John 5). Yeshua said the Shabbat is supposed to release burdens and suffering, not place them upon people (Matt. 12:9-14).  

The author of Hebrews wrote about Yeshua and Shabbat, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (Heb. 4:14). Some say that Yeshua Himself embodies the Shabbat. Therefore, we don’t have to keep it anymore, but I’d submit to you that Yeshua, as the one who freed us from slavery to sin, gave us the ultimate rest. This is another layer of the Shabbat, not a replacement for the previous lessons of the Shabbat. We have rest in Yeshua because our war with God is over thanks to Yeshua. God calls us heirs and fellow citizens of His kingdom. This is a fantastic message. We were once far off, as enemies of God, but now with the Shabbat, our personal war with God is over and we reap the benefits of the peace treaty now. 

The apostle Paul call us Ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, planted here on Earth. The message we have for them is that God is not a blind watchmaker or absentee landlord. He has provided the plea bargain, the generous plea bargain and peace treaty to restore the connection between God and ourselves. 

Mirror images in the spring and fall

The spring and the fall appointments of the LORD are bookends of each other (Leviticus 23) in timing and meaning. In the first month, a countdown starts from the New Moon to the 10th day, on which the Passover lamb is selected and guarded until mid-afternoon (“between the evenings”) on the 14th day, and Pesakh (Passover) runs over into the 15th day for the start of the seven days of Matsot (Unleavened Bread). In the seventh month, Yom Teruah on the first day is followed by Yom haKippurim on the 10th day, seven days of Sukkot starting on the 15th day and Shmini Atzeret on the day after.

The pattern suggests a thematic alignment between:

  • New Moon of the first month and Yom Teruah.
  • Pesakh Lamb Selection Day and Yom haKippurim.
  • Matsot and Sukkot.
  • Pesakh and Shmini Atseret.


The number seven is also like an oath. The Hebrew word for the number — שֶׁבַע, שִׁבְעָה shiva’ (H7651) — comes from שָׁבַע shava’ (H7650), which means to bind something, i.e., to take an oath. The entire seventh month of God’s calendar — His appointments of יוֹם תְּרוּעָה Yom Teruah (Day of the [Trumpet] Signal), יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים Yom haKippurim (Day of Coverings, i.e., Atonement), חַג הַסֻּכּוֹת Khag Sukkot (Festival of Booths or Tabernacles) and יּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי עֲצֶרֶת Shmini Atseret (Assembly of the Eight Day) — is about “binding up” rebellion against God and those who want to turn back to God. Through these memorials, God is showing the process of binding us to Himself.

Yom Teruah

On Yom Teruah, the New Moon of the seventh month, God calls for two silver trumpets to be blown (Lev. 23:23–25). The original meaning for the blowing of the two trumpets was to assemble Israel, particularly the leadership (Num. 10:1–10). A high point in Israel’s history on Yom Teruah, the people heaped up offerings for the dedication of the post-Babylonian rebuilt temple in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) (Ezra 3). Precious metals were set aside for that holy purpose. Are we building up our “temple” for God to dwell in? 

For the future layer of Yom Teruah, we see the vision of the seven trumpets in Revelation 8-11. There is a lot of nasty stuff that comes through but in the seventh trumpet, but through the message of the seventh trumpet — the last call — we learn that Messiah will come and reign forever. God will call “game over” on the terror of death and sin on Earth. 

Yom haKippur

At Yom haKippurim, God wants us to hear His heart. He is looking for us to have the same mind that is in Messiah. Going forward, we need to walk as He walked. We need to have the same concern for the world that Yeshua had. 

One layer of Yom Kippur is to “humble our souls” (Lev. 16:29). Prophet Yeshiyahu (Isaiah) focused on the memorials of Yom Teruah and Yom haKippurim, teaching that the point of both is to have a vision outside ourselves, to be concerned about the people in the world (Isa. 58:1–14).

In the apostolic letter to the Hebrews, Yeshua is presented as High Priest, but not a denigration of Aaron’s ministry. The “how much more” language in the letter is a common rabbinical teaching phrase to compare two things by showing how the second example is a much clearer example than the first one. Yeshua as our High Priest is not a replacement for the line of priests through Aaron — but an addition to and completion of the link between mankind and God.


During Sukkot, there are palm branches and shouts of “Hoshiana!” (Hosanna). Yet Yeshua’s triumphant entry into Yerushalayim at Passover time had more Sukkot imagery in it than Passover imagery. These are all pictures of Messiah’s mission in the past, present and future. All the appointed feasts are part of the same playbook. It’s a 3-D message. We have a lot to reflect upon during each of God’s appointments with mankind. 

Some of the other way-markers of Sukkot includes living in little temporary dwellings. Noah’s ark came to rest on the 17th day of the seven month, which is during Sukkot. It is the beginning of the deluge being over. 

The ground layer of Sukkot is the fall agricultural harvests: The 15th day of the seventh month is the day to bring in olives and grapes. Solomon’s prayer that Sukkot is not only a time of gathering crops but gathering the nations (1st Kings 8; 2nd Chronicles 5). Solomon’s prayed that the Temple would become a house of prayer and reconciliation after Israel strays.

Another layer for Sukkot comes from a seemingly obscure point in Israel’s history. During the beginning of the exile period, an Israelite assassinated a Babylonian governor in the middle of the seventh month (2nd Kings 25). Many people were putting their faith in Egypt to try to throw out Babylon. The prophets tried to warn them against trusting Egypt, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Who do we want to dwell in our midst, a “heavy” to protect us or the Protector and Creator of the universe?

On another Sukkot, King Hezekiah called for a tithe collection when the Assyrians were invading, they had what they needed and plenty left over, just as when the people were presenting gifts for the first tabernacle (2nd Chronicles 31). 

God asked for a Tabernacle because He wanted to dwell with the people and that comes over and over in Scripture. God will have to deal with those who absolutely don’t want to be a part of the kingdom of God. Even if someone rises from the dead, there are those who still wont’ believe. It’s incredibly said picture. There are many people who wont take the plea deal God offers and they will lose but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

God hasn’t set the bar too high. He just asks us to accept Yeshua and to keep listening to what He has to say and allow ourselves to be molded. We see this great picture of God wanting to dwell with mankind. 

Shmini Atseret

The day after the last day of Sukkot is Shimini Atseret. The Hebrew word for eight — שְׁמֹנֶה shemoneh/shemonah (H8083) — means “shiny” as if from applied oil, communicating “fatness” and “plenty.” What does God want us to know about reaching beyond completeness of God’s work, the “plenty”?

The apostle Peter talked about eight people — Noakh (Noah) and his family — being saved from the Flood (1st Pet. 3:18–20). Peter said the Flood was a small foretaste of the destruction that bring end to rebellion on Earth, and God’s select few will emerge from God’s protection into a new world.

There are other important Biblical symbols using eight, such as circumcision on the eighth day after birth. Priests were consecrated on the eighth day. We have a picture of the new heavens and the new earth in Isaiah 66 and Revelation 21–22. It’s an end of pain and suffering. There is no more night or darkness in the place God dwells on Earth.

Recorded on Shabbat, the day before the start of Sukkot 2013 in Occidental, Calif. Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy.

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