Why Keep The
Feasts of Israel?
by Dr. Carol Cohen
Did you know that GOD -- CREATOR OF TIME-- AND THE FEASTS OF ISRAEL Has A Plan For People’s Use of TIME?
INTRODUCTION The Feasts of Israel were never meant simply to be special times togather for a great meal. The Hebrew word translated “feast” in English actually means “convocation.” In fact, some of the 7 feasts of the Bible are days of fasting, with no meals at all. So the Feasts of Israel are supposed to be HOLY GATHERINGS.
In this regard, the Feasts of Israel are:
God is the Creator of Time, Seasons, and the Calendar
God set up TIME when He began making “days” as He birthed the heavens and the earth (Gen.1:.3) He also created the WEEK early on and set apart one of the 7 days of each WEEK as a holy day unto Him (to spend with Him) ( Gen.2:3, Is.58:13-14 ). (Think what life would be like if the days ran on endlessly with no pattern to them, no cycles or regularity, nothing distinct about the months and the days of the week. Sounds like endless drudgery and chaos. How would you talk about the future and make appointments?)
The Bible records that God also set up the YEAR. No surprise in that because the Bible says that He is the One who sets times and seasons. But why? He has an interest in TIME! And He has an interest in what He has planned for His creation, and when it is to occur; as well, how we humans use the TIMES and days He has given us while we live on planet earth (to the point that the Bible says “Redeem the time.”) What would it be like if God has not built regularity into time, and made cycles and seasons? If time had no pattern to it? Would life be chaotic? Endless drudgery? Could we plan ahead? Make appointments?)
God is interested in how we use time and in the manner in which we relate to Him IN TIME.
Think about TIME for a moment. Since God made time and He made humans, wouldn’t it follow that He would be interested in how we use time, and how much of it we spend with Him. As well, how regularly we spend time with Him.
That sounds like how my dear mother, before she passed away, used to await my phone call each Sunday. It was something that she could look forward to and depend on when I was away… BECAUSE SHE REALLY LOVED ME, wanted to hear my voice, and stay in close relationship..
Or it’s like a teenager waiting by the phone, longing for that special person to call. Why would GOD care whether we spend time with Him or not? He is that kind of God: parental like Mom and Dad, and full of longing like a young romantic.
Obviously He would not want us to take one big 2-year stretch totally focused on Him, and them forget Him for the next 10 years. That would really hurt!
Could it be then that He created the seasons and the weeks and months and years with their regularity SO THAT WE WOULD ESTABLISH REGULAR PATTERNS IN OUR USE Of TIME FOR MEETING WITH HIM!!
Just ponder that idea for a moment before we move onto the next topic. It IS plausible.
Setting Up His Calendar: God set up a calendar to show how He wants TIME used
God told the people of Israel to start counting time from the Day of the Passover, which was marked by their coming out of Egypt. That Day was to be the beginning of TIME --the first DAY, Month, and year—for them as HIS PEOPLE.
The first day of TIME for Israel as His people was marked by great miracles that He did to make a nation out of the mixed bag of people that had joined themselves together with the Hebrew slaves while they were still in Egypt. I call them a mixed bag (a) because the Bible calls them that (“ a mixed multitude”), and (b) because it must have been a pretty motley crew who would want to align with the lowest ranks of Egyptian society, meaning Hebrew slaves whom Pharaoh esteemed so lowly that he thought nothing of telling them to kill their first-born sons.
God says in the Bible that He set this group of people He called "Israel" apart to be a nation for His own special purposes. 1) He would personally deal with them and keep them at the center of His attention, and 2) they would eventually make Him known and honored throughout the whole world!
So this people of Israel had their own calendar created for them by God for marking off TIME within creation –days which God made and continues to make – for special purposes that God designed for the people Israel.
AND THE FEAST DAYS WERE THE PARAMOUNT FEATURES OF THE CALENDAR – THE MOST HOLY AND SACRED PART. WHY? BECAUSE THEY WERE THE SPECIAL DAYS SET APART FOR MEETING WITH GOD!
God’s purposes for TIME
Note here that God has special purposes for the people of Israel, and HE ALSO HAS SPECIAL PURPOSES FOR THE DAYS ! He made the days, and continues to make them, upholding them by the Word of His power…and has special purposes He has determined for particular days, months, years, etc.
Focus on that idea for a moment. It is profound once you GET IT. And when you do “get it,” you will start to want to know what GOD created the coming days for. You will start to want to know what He intends for:
Each individual day,
For Feast days
For Particular years
And you will want to discover YOUR role in His days and in TIME…AS HE INTENDS IT…for each of these periods of time is fashioned with purposes by ALMIGHTY GOD HIMSELF!
God Spelled It Out In A Book
This idea of humans using time and God-given days, weeks, months, years, and feast days properly was so important to God that He gave clear directives to people about it. He described how He expected people to relate to Him through calender TIME in a book (The Bible!) How to use time His way is actually a central feature of His written record of communication with people.
A lot of people find the writings in Scripture about days, seasons, years, etc., that are found in Exodus, Lev., Numbers and Dt., the ultimate bore. The writing seems to go on and on about such unimportant stuff. Unimportant to whom? To you, but not to God…He was telling people His highest priority for them: Meeting with HIM! Setting aside special time to meet with Him. Getting ready for the meetings with Him. Doing what was needed so that the relationship with Him would stay in tact and be awesomely lovely, pleasant and full of blessing . So that He, their loving, beloved and most awesome God, would be pleased with them and readily accessible to them.
But who cared about that or even cares about God's view of calenders and days and time today? Few people want to bother with God in their use of time and days and seasons and years. So a lot of time falls through our hands like sand.
So the calendar He set up for co-coordinating OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM THAT WAS MEANT TO BE THE CENTERPIECE OF OUR USE OF TME ON EARTH moves out of position from being the core feature of our days, weeks, months, and years, to being a sideline that we fit into our lives once in a while.
We try to rule TIME instead of letting Him the rightful Ruler do it – We fit Him into our calendar when it is convenient to us instead of keeping the appointments with HIM that HE sets.
Failure To Use TIME His Way
So the created one (us!) takes over the rulership of time, and we call on Him over and over again to bail us out of the jams we get into FOR FAILURE TO USE TIME HIS WAY.
This may all sound ridiculously obvious and simple to you; but it may also hit you as a profound revelation of just how far off base we have come in our use of time, and of how little weight we give to HIS desire to build a relationship with us in the framework of time.
To make this concrete, take a moment to consider your boss or employer at work. Do you consider their desires in your use of time relative to when you go to work, what days you work, what and when you do at work, when and how often you have to report to them? Of course. If you didn’t you would be fired.
Consider also a close relationship with your spouse. Do you consider them in your use of free time? Of course you do or you wouldn’t be close.
Does OUR LORD and OUR King get anywhere near that kind of consideration from us regarding our use of time and days? I doubt it, even though He made TIME and days and calender and years for this very purpose!
The Politics of Calendars
Major empires of history have made their own calendars: the Chinese, Aztecs, Babylonians, and Romans, to name a few.
Nowadays western civilization uses the Gregorian calendar. It was decreed by the Pope who ruled the Catholic Church during the 1500s and was based on earlier calendars devised by the Catholic church that ensured that the date of Easter would occur after the vernal equinox and before the birthdate of Rome according to pagan custom .
The Gregorian calendar sets the first day of the year in January (mid-winter instead of God’s choice, springtime); it made the year 365 days long (instead of slightly less in God’s calendar for Israel), and put the sun -and earth’s orbit around it- at the center of the calendar (instead of the moon, whose phases determine the months of God’s calendar). Putting the sun in a position of primacy was no coincidence, as the calendar used by Pope Gregaory was initially drawn up by sun worshippers
Why would Pope Gregory have set up a different calendar from that of the Bible?
The tradition of the Catholic Church for centuries was that anything Jewish should be done away with. As well the Jews and their religious gathering places were deemed accursed. According to many church fathers, to plunder and destroy them would be doing God a favor.
The Bible also says that the spirit of anti-Christ likes to change times and seasons set up by God. Why? THE CALENDER THAT GOD SET UP WAS ALL ABOUT TIMES HE SPECIFICALLY SETS APART FOR MEETING WITH. HIM AS THE MOST HIGH GOD! The calendar gives His special days of invitation for people to meet with Him for special purposes that HE has determined are necessary and appropriate for humans, and vital for maintaining good relationship with Hum.
So why would any world leader want to do away with God’s calendar? Pretty obvious. To detract from Him, distract people’s attention away from the true God, get people focused on other things, build up their own power and the false gods and demons that buttress their dominion. Draw people’s attention away...
The Original Jewish Calendar vs. Hillel's Calender
The original Hebrew calendar has also been changed. According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, the modern Jewish calendar dates from the Rabbinal movement. That was a power struggle for authority and spiritual leadership over Israel by 2 major competing factions, the Levites vs. the non-Levites (reminiscent of The rebellion of Korah vs. the Aaronite priesthood in Nu.16. But in this case Aaron and sons and their Levitical assemblage lost!)
The upshot of the powerplay is that the winning group called the "rabbis" removed the Levitical priesthood from spiritual leadership over Israel and replaced it with themselves! The new spiritual leaders became "rabbis" and not "priests" because the word for priest is Hebrew is "Cohen," and that is not just a title but a family name that people of this descent carry through the generations.
Under the leadership of the rabbis and through the ensuing centuries, much of Biblical Judaism was changed. The new religion had to justify why the Scriptures which require a Levitival and Aaronic priesthood for Israel were no longer valid.
The New Spiritual Leaders of Israel Revamp The Religion & The Hebrew Calendar
When the rabbis swept the Levitical priesthood out of Judaism --and the Scriptures that require it--, they also authorized the removal a lot more of the Bible (0r Tenach) from the practice of Judasim, so that
1. Modernday Judaism would no longer be "Scriptural."
2. A discussion of the Bible (or Tenach) would no longer be central to determining how modern Judaism would be practiced.
3. The writings of noted rabbis would be focused upon and be held in higher esteem than the Scriptures.
4.The Scriptures (or Torah) would be revered, but the extra-biblical writings of the rabbis would become the meat of what is debated, discussed, and adhered to in determining the beliefs of modern Judaism and how it is practiced.
The New Hebrew Calendar Requires Experts
The new Hebrew calendar or "modern" calendar replaced God's original calendar, which was based on simple human observation of the skies, with one whose dates were determined by set rules which are both lunar and solar -- like the Chinese calendar.
It was a 4th-century A.D. rabbi, Hillel II, who first formulated the new Hebrew calendar. Then It was developed over many centuries and formally codified into Judaism by Rabbi Maimonides in 1178 A.D. Among other things, that calendar puts the beginning of the Hebrew year in the fall and also renames the first month of the year: --The first month is called "Aviv" in Ex. 12:2." They changed it to "Nissan," a Babylonian name.
Passover is also recalculated and numbered back from the fall and in keeping with the barley harvest (which would not have been happening when Israel left Egypt nor in the wilderness).
In contast, before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., Pesach (Passover) was calculated based on witnesses simply observing the phase of the moon.
It Used To Be SImple: Just Look At The Sky!
The upshot of this has been to bring about some confusion and debate in Jewish circles about how to accurately calculate the days, months, and years that God intends.
|Hebrew names of the months with their Babylonian analogs
||Nisan / Nissan
||called Aviv in the Tanakh
||called Ziv in the Tanakh
||called Eitanim in the Tanakh
||29 or 30 days
||also spelled Heshvan or Marcheshvan; called Bul in the Tanakh
||30 or 29 days
||also spelled Chislev
||Only in leap years
||Adar / Adar II
During leap years Adar I (or Adar Aleph — "first Adar") is considered to be the extra month, and has 30 days. Adar II (or Adar Bet — "second Adar") is the "real" Adar, and has 29 days as usual. For example, in a leap year, the holiday of Purim is in Adar II, not Adar I.
God set up His Calendar for Israel in Particular
Anyway, God set up a calendar for Israel. He set up how they should mark the times and seasons. In this calendar, HE SET ASIDE 70 DAYS A YEAR for His people to meet with Him in a special way.
People who claim to know God personally through their Messiah may feel they already commune with Him sufficiently.
But to have special opportunity to meet with Him together with others AND AT TIMES THAT HE HAS DETERMINED FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE WOULD SEEM WORTH SERIOUS CONSIDERATION AND A PRIVILEGE.
And for people who do not have personal communion with God, having the opportunity to meet with God during special appointed times that He has determined would be all the more important...
Meeting With God Meant You Had to Have a Temple in Jerusalem
In Bible times, faithful people would go to Jerusalem on the special days that God set aside for that purpose, and, as per God’s instructions, would meet with Him at His Temple.
No wonder the people of Israel longed to rebuild the Temple each time it was destroyed by their enemies. For that was where they could meet with God. There was no other place.
When the Temple was destroyed after Jesus was crucified in AD 70, there was no more place to be able to meet with God on the special days He set aside for meeting with Him,
Keeping the Feast as a Memorial to the Real Thing
So many people of Israel began to keep the Feasts AS A MEMORIAL. Especially as Jews were led out of Israel into the Diaspora all over the world, they were removed from God on 2 counts:
1) no Temple to go to in Jerusalem to meet with Hum,
2) no Israel to go to to even build a Temple that He would inhabit.
Nothing Left to do but Make Traditions
All that was left was to do religious acts on the Feast Days, KNOWING THAT THERE WAS NO REAL MEETING WITH God going on.
But keeping the traditions alive –and adding a lot more traditions so there was something to do on the Feast Days- at least gave the people and especially their religious leaders SOMETHING RELIGIOUS TO DO!!
So that became a large part of the practice of Judaism after the fall of the Temple. What else could Israel do? ...except for those who considered the Christian claim that Jesus was the Doorway to a spiritual House of God, which the people of Israel could enter --and where they could commune with God-- wherever in the world the Diaspora may have carried them.
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