What are the LORD's appointed times in Leviticus 23?

In Leviticus 23:2 God declared to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and tell them: These are my appointed times, the times of the LORD that you will proclaim as sacred assemblies" (CSB). In other English translations, the "appointed times" and "times of the LORD" are translated as "appointed feasts" or "appointed festivals." These translations share the English word "appointed" because the original Hebrew word is mo'ed, meaning a date and time to meet set by agreement, in other words, an appointment. Thus, the list of explanations that followed God's pronouncement of "appointed times" was a list of agreed upon times the LORD wanted to meet with His people in a special way.

God declared seven different meeting times, each with its own meaning and purpose in order to help the people know and understand Him better. Those appointed times included: weekly Sabbath, the annual Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread, the annual Feast of Firstfruits, the annual Feast of Weeks (Shavuot/Pentecost), the annual Feast of Trumpets (Rosh HaShanah), the annual Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the annual Feast of Booths (Sukkot/Tabernacles).

Sabbath was to be observed every seventh day as a day of complete rest from work. It was meant to be a reminder that God created the universe and everything in it (Exodus 20:11; 31:17). Thus, everything in our lives belongs to God including our time and our ability to provide for ourselves. A weekly Sabbath kept the people reliant upon God to provide for their needs and gave them the opportunity to meet with Him often (Exodus 31:13; Deuteronomy 5:15). Jesus declared Himself Lord over the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8) and the writer of Hebrews described a complete rest for followers of Jesus in Hebrews 4:9–11. The following six feasts were to be celebrated only once a year, but also foreshadow the work God was to accomplish through Jesus.

Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were to remind the Israelites how God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 1—15). On the night of their escape (Exodus 12), the blood of a sacrificed lamb protected everyone inside the house marked by its blood as God passed over that house (Exodus 12:23). Those who did not follow God's command and whose houses were not marked suffered the death of their firstborn, including the livestock (Exodus 12:29). The Egyptian pharaoh and the people urgently sent the Israelites out of their land, and the unleavened bread traveled with the Israelites as they quickly fled into the wilderness (Exodus 12:30–34). This festival highlighted God's ability to provide salvation for His people. Jesus died on the cross during Passover, so His death coincides with the meaning and significance of this holiday as well. He is our Passover Lamb.

The Feast of Firstfruits was an opportunity for the Israelites to bring an offering of their early harvest of barley before the LORD. Recognizing God's provision of an early harvest helped people have faith in God's ability to provide further harvests later in the year. This holiday coincides with Jesus' resurrection as Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:20–23.

The Feast of Weeks was to be celebrated a week's-worth of weeks (fifty days) after the Feast of Firstfruits for the purpose of the Israelites bringing their offering of the first of the wheat harvest, again thanking God for His on-going provision. This holiday is when God chose to pour out the gift of the Holy Spirit on the first believers (Acts 2:1–4). It is also why Paul sees the Holy Spirit as "the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it" (Ephesians 1:14) just like the early wheat harvest was a guarantee of God's future provision of further harvests.

The Feast of Trumpets was a time to regather the people and for them to rededicate themselves to the LORD after a long summer season of agricultural work. It was seen as a spiritual new year as the people were called to repentance with the blasts of trumpeting ram's horns. It may be tied to Jesus' return to earth when He will descend "with the sound of the trumpet of God" (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

The Day of Atonement was to be observed ten days later as the way for Israel's sins, both personal and collective, to be carried away and for their standing before God to be made right. The self-reflection and repentance started during the Feast of Trumpets was brought to completion on the Day of Atonement, just as someday followers of Jesus will be fully sanctified and in God's presence (Hebrews 10:14–18).

Finally, the Feast of Booths was to bring thanksgiving offerings of the fall harvest to God and to remember how God dwelt among them providing for their needs as the Israelites wandered in the desert living in tents (or booths) for forty years. This holiday points to the time when God, having instituted a new heaven and a new earth, "will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God" (Revelation 21:3).

Every year, these feasts would be observed for thousands of generations to learn by experience who the God of Israel is, what He has done, and what He will be faithful to do in the future. God set up these appointments to meet with His people regularly in order to deepen their knowledge of Him and to increase their faith in Him. What a gracious and loving God!

Related Truth:

What are the different Jewish festivals in the Bible?

How is the meaning of each of the Jewish feasts fulfilled in Jesus?

The Feast of Weeks — What is it?

The day of Pentecost — What is it?

The Feast of Trumpets — What is it?

What is the significance of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)?

The Feast of Tabernacles — What is it?

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