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When God was giving the law, He told Moses that He had three feasts He wanted the people to celebrate with Him every year. These Feasts were each like a big party. They were very special times to worship God, give Him gifts, and thank Him for all the crops He had blessed them with that year. The feasts would be important for the people as they learned to follow God, but they would also be important for the future — God’s BIG Plan.
The first feast was Passover. Do you remember the night in Egypt when God passed over their homes because the lambs’ blood was around their doors? That was the first Passover and God wanted them to remember and celebrate that day every year. Every Passover they should sacrifice a perfect lamb to remember and thank God for how He had protected them.
They were also supposed to eat unleavened bread, bread without yeast, during this feast. Bread made with yeast is fluffy and has lots of little holes inside it. Bread with no yeast is just solid bread. God wanted this bread to remind His people to be solid, pure, and ready for Him. Yeast is a picture of sin. When we let sin sit in our hearts, it grows bigger and makes holes in our love for God. God said, “No yeast in your loaf of bread.” No sin.
The Passover feast would happen every year when the people harvested their first grain from their fields. The very beginning of the harvest would be right after the drenching spring rains came to make the plants grow big and ready to eat. God said, “At this feast bring Me one bundle of the grain from your first harvest. Don’t eat any yourself until you bring that bundle to Me.” So they would take one bundle, also called a sheaf, and give it to God to say thank you. This way they would give back to God one sheaf of the firstfruits of what He had given to them.
Do you think it took trust to give God the first of what they had grown? Imagine what that might feel like. Have you ever grown something in a garden? Can you imagine working really hard for many days to grow watermelons or strawberries or another yummy fruit? Then finally, when the very first fruit is ready to pick… instead of eating it yourself, you give it to a friend. This would be giving your FIRST fruit. You may not know for sure if another fruit would come, or if it would rot, or if an animal would come eat it. But you were going to give the first best thing you had, not just extra leftovers.
This is what God was asking His Children to do. It was a way for them to say, “God, You gave us the land and the seeds and made the fruit grow. It all came from You! Thank You, and we trust You for the rest of what grows!”
But even if you don’t have a garden, can you think of any other ways that you could give God your “first fruits”? I can. One thing I do is make sure He gets the first chunk of my time every day. Every morning when my eyes first blink, blink, blink open, and I take that deep, waking-up breath... the first thing I do is say, “I love You!” to Him. He gets the first of my time and attention and love every morning.
Giving to a friend can be a way to give to God, too. Like the first turn with a toy, or the first bite of your ice cream cone.
So at this passover party, they would sacrifice a perfect lamb, eat the bread without yeast, and give God one bundle from their first grain harvest. God told them, “Do this so you will remember for the rest of your lives the day you came out of Egypt.”
The second party was called Pentecost. Pentecost means “fiftieth day,” and this party was 50 days after the Passover party. At this feast they would offer to God not grain, but grain made into two whole loaves of bread. This was to celebrate the end of the good harvest God had given them.
They also were to bring other gifts from their harvest — some of their juice, oil, and animals. This feast was a chance to thank God for everything that He had made grow that year.
This Feast was also to remember, remember, remember the giving of the Covenant of Rules on Mt. Sinai.
The third, and last party of the year was The Feast of Tabernacles. Tabernacle just means a temporary shelter or hut or tent. This celebration was a big deal, and it lasted 7 days. It came right after the end of the harvests for that year, and just before the autumn rains would come again to soften the ground so that they could plow up the dirt and plant more seeds.
First, there was a day for blowing the trumpets, calling out to all the people. Then, there was the Day of Atonement. This was a day for people to come very humbly before God and ask Him to forgive and cover over the times they had sinned against Him.
Then, everyone, rich or poor, young or old, was supposed to come out of their own separate houses. God told them to cut branches — palm branches, leafy branches, willow branches — and build little shelters with these branches.
Everyone was to live in these shelters for seven days, gathered together outside, eating and sleeping in the little branch houses. I bet you think that sounds like fun? And God meant it to be! God told them, “Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days!”
That sounds like a great party to be ordered to have, doesn’t it? Come out of your own houses and stop thinking about your own little problems and just be with each other, love each other, and remember all God has done for you. Remember how He brought you out of Egypt and how you lived in shelters while you traveled.
Remember. Remember. Remember. And be happy! Be happy, be happy, be happy for SEVEN WHOLE DAYS. And that was an order from God! I like that order.
What’s really special about all these parties, is that they were preparing people for the future — our future — God’s Big Plan.
These three parties were just a gray shadow of the REAL PARTIES that would come later. Each of the three parties was going to become an even greater celebration about something bigger and better that would happen years later.
So be watching for the REAL parties! Some have already happened or are happening, but there is more partying to come!