In last week’s combined Torah portion, Parasha Acharei-Kedoshim, we discussed what it means to live a holy life.
This week’s Parasha continues with the theme of holiness, specifying that the Cohanim (priests) must adhere to a higher standard of sanctity since they ministered to the Lord on behalf of the people.
“Because they present the food offerings to the Lord, the food of their God, they are to be holy.” (Leviticus 21:6)
God prohibited the priests from following several customs of the heathen nations, including shaving their heads, shaving off the corners of their beards, cutting their flesh, and marrying prostitutes or divorced women.
Furthermore, a Cohen (priest) who was deformed, blemished, or defiled could not go into the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem.
Yeshua (Jesus) conformed to this exacting standard of holiness. As our High Priest, He was without sin.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
Yeshua is coming back for a people who strive to be holy as He is holy, so let us prepare for His coming, living lives that are worthy of Him.
“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14–16)
God’s Appointed Times: The Callings of Holiness
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the Lord [Moed YHVH], which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.’” (Leviticus 23:1–2)
God not only sanctifies people and places, but also time.
People, place, and time are a three-strand cord held together by the One who sanctifies and makes each of us holy.
In the second part of Parasha Emor, God lists the annual Callings of Holiness, in which He appoints certain days as celebrations or memorials of Him.
These celebrations are called Moed YHVH.
Indeed, the Hebrew word moed means appointed time, place or meeting. It is often translated as festival or feast.
YHVH is the sacred name of the Lord. It is often transliterated as Jehovah or Yahweh, but Jewish people avoid saying the Lord’s actual name because they believe it is too holy to speak.
Therefore, many English Bibles substitute the name YHVH with the LORD. This is why Moed YHVH is translated feasts of the Lord in Leviticus 23:2.
Similarly, when Jewish people read the Torah and come to the name YHVH, they will say Adonai (Lord) or HaShem (the Name) in an effort to prevent using the name of the Lord in vain.
Are the Feasts of the Lord Relevant to Believers Today?
People often refer to God’s appointed times as the “Jewish holidays” or the “Feasts of Israel.”
Many non-Jewish Believers don’t observe them, fearing that they will appear “too Jewish” or that they have “come under the Torah (law).”
But God calls them HIS feasts—HIS appointed times.
If they belong to God, then they are also the privilege of the people of God, both Jew and non-Jew.
If these appointed times were only for Israel, then we might also be tempted to think that the Messiah and even the Bible itself were only for Israel.
The following are seven appointed times of God or feasts of the Lord:
1) Shabbat: The Foundation
The first “appointed day” is Shabbat (the 7th day). All the other feasts build upon this foundation.
The Hebrew word Shabbat comes from the root S-B-T, which means to cease, to end or to rest. That is what we are to do. For one day a week, creative activity is to come to a halt.
Shabbat symbolizes our “works” being finished.
It’s an eternal sign that God created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh. It is also a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt (Genesis 2:2; Exodus 31:15–17; 16:23).
Although we have come to expect a five-day work week, in the ancient world, the concept of having a day off was radical.
“For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11)
2) Pesach (Passover): Festival of Deliverance
“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.” (Exodus 12:14)
The second appointed day is Passover (Pesach), followed by seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Chag haMatzot).
The Hebrew root of Pesach (P-S-CH) means to pass over, to exempt or to spare, since the angel of death “passed over” the Israelites in Egypt when he saw the sign of the blood on their homes in Egypt.
Today we also recognize that the blood of the Lamb of God, who is Yeshua, symbolically covers the doorposts and lintels of our lives in order that the coming wrath of God will “pass over” us.
One day, the judgment of God will come upon the earth. At that time, God will once again “pass over” His people in Jerusalem and rescue them.
“Like birds hovering overhead, the LORD Almighty will shield Jerusalem; He will shield it and deliver it, He will ‘pass over’ it and will rescue it.” (Isaiah 31:5)
The coming seven plagues described in Revelation 16 are reminiscent of the plagues that God poured out upon Egypt in order to liberate the Israelites.
But no matter what happens in the last days, we are to be confident, knowing that God is our refuge and strength, and our perpetual help. Even if the mountains fall into the sea, we should not succumb to fear (Psalm 46).
3) Counting the Omer: Yeshua’s Resurrection Is a Sign of Things to Come
“From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord.” (Leviticus 23:15–16)
The second day of Passover (the Feast of Unleavened Bread) begins the barley harvest, a time of reaping the produce that had been sown over the winter.