Saturday, February 08, 2014

Leviticus 22-23 Public holidays for which people?

From Leviticus 22-23

Lev 22.1-9 Law; Priests, Reminder they are not to serve unless they are clean
Lev 22.10-17 Law; Priests, Lay people and priests children
Lev 22.18-30 Law; Worship, Requirements for acceptable offerings
Lev 22.31-33 Law; Summary statement
Lev 23.1-44 Law; Festivals and Holidays,
Introduction (23.1-2)
The Sabbath (23.3)
The Passover (23.4-8)
The Feast of Firstfruits (23.9-14)
The Feast of Weeks (23.15-22)
The Feast of Trumpets (23.23-25)
The Day of Atonement (23.26-32)
The Feast of Booths (23.33-43)
Passage and Comments
I thought it might be interesting to comment of a feast we Gentile Christians don't really know much about.

[39] “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. [40] And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. [41] You shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. [42] You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, [43] that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 23:39-43)

Obviously Israel was instructed to observe this feast as a celebration to the LORD in remembrance to their times they spent in tents (booths). The chronology is important here. Leviticus is located before Numbers, but does this recount the time when they were wondering through the wilderness? This occurs in Numbers. Not necessarily but worth keeping in mind.

Story of Israel
Imagine being a foreigner in first century Jerusalem at this time when they observed this tradition. For a whole week every Jew leaves their house and lives in a tent. I suggest in practice they only did this for a short time every day. But it would have been a very public event which differentiated faithful Jews from Gentiles.

Story of Jesus
We can take two perspectives on this celebration. Firstly is was a celebration and a holiday to the LORD. Australians take public holidays seriously. So did the Jews take their religious holidays seriously. As a religious festival, this marked a time of religious celebration and a break from their daily work.

On the other hand when Gentiles came to believe Jesus was the Christ and received him as LORD. The Jews thought it necessary that they also observe these seasonal feasts and holidays and so worship God in the same way and be recognised as the righteous in the same way the Jews were. Paul argues against this in Galatians saying;

[14] But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” [15] We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; [16] yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Gal 2:14-16)


[9] But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? [10] You observe days and months and seasons and years! (Gal 4:9-10)
Paul’s understanding of ‘works of law’ includes these kinds of festivals which the Jews believed were both an ethical requirement of the law and a means of identifying the righteous. These religious holiday’s served their purpose. And their purpose was a good one. But they no longer define God's ethical standard by which God’s people are shown to be distinct from those who are in rebellion against him.