Biblical Feast Days: For Jews Only?

In this post I introduced a new series on the feast days of the Bible.

A good way to start an exploration of the feast days is to ask a few key questions:

Whose days are they, and to whom were they given?

How scripture answers these questions will affect how our study proceeds or if it even proceeds at all.  After all, if the feast days were meant for someone other than us (like the Jews only), there’s not much point in going any further.

So, without further ado, let’s jump in.

Whose Feasts Are They?

Leviticus 23 is the chapter where the instructions for the feast days are all listed together.  At the very beginning of this chapter the Lord says to Moses,

“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of YHVH (the LORD) that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.”

God says the feasts are “feasts of YHVH (the LORD).”  He says they are “my appointed feasts.”  He goes on to reiterate the phrase “feasts of YHVH (the LORD)” several other times in this chapter.

In God’s words, the feast days belong to Him.

To Whom Were the Feasts Given?

Again, Leviticus 23:1 says,

Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of YHVH (the LORD) that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.”

God gave the feast days to Israel.

Most Christians agree with these first two sections.  But the next section is where a major split in understanding occurs.

Who Exactly Was Israel?

This is a critical question for us to ask, because our understanding on this issue will affect our understanding of all of scripture. How we answer this question will determine how we interact with scripture and which parts we apply to ourselves.  Very simply, it will determine how we live our lives.

This issue is huge!

So let’s look carefully at who left Egypt and became the recipients of the feast day instructions listed in Leviticus 23.

  • All 12 tribes – not just the tribe of Judah, otherwise known as Jews (Numbers 1)
  • AND a mixed multitude of others who aligned themselves with the Israelites and left Egypt with them. (Exodus 12:38 and Numbers 11:4)

Not Just for Jews

So, the thought that the feasts belong to the Jews only is wrong on two counts.

First, Jews were just one of the twelve total tribes who received the feast day instructions.  One of my favorite teachers, Jim Staley, summarizes the issue well:

“For two thousand years we have all been taught that Israel is the Jewish people and the Jewish people are Israel. This misunderstanding has crippled our ability to truly glean from the scriptures all that was originally intended. The greatest prophecy of the bible concerns this very topic. Many have called this teaching the key to understanding the entire bible.”

Second, there was a mixed multitude present.  These were  foreigners who aligned themselves with Israel, forsaking their gods in order to follow the God of Israel.  These are people like Ruth, who would later say:

“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16)

A Closer Look at the Foreigners

In the eyes of God, once a foreigner joined the 12 tribes, they became as a native-born. Assurance is given to those who might have feared being separated from Israel in Isaiah 56:3:

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people.”

No, the Lord would not separate the foreigner who joined himself to the Lord by joining Israel.  To Him, they were one people.  To Him, the promises and the commandments that belonged to Israel also belonged to the strangers who joined themselves to Israel. There were not two separate standards, two separate promises.  Numbers 15:15 says:

For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the LORD.

Paul was really excited about strangers to God’s covenant – Gentiles – being grafted into the nation of Israel. In Ephesians 2:12-14 he says:

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

Why it’s so important to belong to Israel

Throughout all of scripture Israel is the group of people for whom salvation is provided and for whom membership in the kingdom is offered. I know this is probably a very foreign idea to most of those reading this, but please stick with me as I provide scriptural evidence that this is true.

  • Our Savior is the King of Israel. If He’s our King, the we must be part of the people of Israel. (John 1:49)
  • He was sent to shepherd God’s people, Israel. If we are God’s people, we must be part of the people of Israel.  (Matthew 2:6)
  • The Savior told the Canaanite woman that He was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. By her persistent demonstration of faith, she proved that she did indeed belong to the house of Israel.  Like Ruth and many others throughout scripture, the Canaanite woman had been grafted in even though she was not physically descended. If we believe the Savior came for us, then we must belong to Israel. (Matthew 15:21-28)
  • In the same way, we who were once alienated from the commonwealth of Israel are now brought near through faith in the blood of Christ. If we have been brought near by the blood of Christ, then we have been brought into the people of Israel. Now we are no longer strangers to the covenants of promise. (Ephesians 2:11-13)
  • One of the most anticipated covenants of promise was the “New Covenant,” which was only promised to Israelites. If we have the laws of God in our minds and hearts and count ourselves as the people of God, then we are the people of Israel. (Hebrews 8:10)
  • The 144,00 sealed as servants of God in the end days are only from the sons of Israel. If we have hope of being sealed if we remain until the very end, then we must be the people of Israel. (Revelation 7:4)
  • The New Jerusalem has 12 gates on which the names of the 12 tribes of the sons of Israel are inscribed. There is no “Gentile” or “Church” gate under which we can enter.  If we want to enter, we must be the people of Israel. (Revelation 21:12)
  • The future kingdom of God will consist of the 12 tribes of Israel. If we want to be in the kingdom, we must be the people of Israel. (Matthew 19:28)

Recap

The feast days belong to the Lord.  He passed them to His people, Israel.  The people of Israel have always included all 12 tribes (not just the tribe of Judah or the tribes of the southern kingdom, otherwise known as the Jews) as well as all any foreigner who chose to follow God. Followers of the Savior are grafted into Israel,which is vital because salvation and the inheritance of the kingdom only belong to the people of Israel.

Conclusion

If we belong to the Lord, then the feast days belong to us.

Further Study

I highly recommend the following video teaching for a profound and much more in-depth look into the topic of God’s people, Israel. There are treasures in this information.

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