Feasting with God

Feasting with God is is an exposition and explanation of the Feasts of Israel in Leviticus 23 viewed in the light of their ultimate fulfillment in Christ. It was written a while ago. Feedback from readers on these chapters has been encouraging.

Copyright © Timothy J Cross. These excerpts are from a pre-published work. For permission to cite, please contact the author.



The Weekly Sabbath

The Feast of the Passover

The Feast of the First fruits

The Feast of Pentecost

The Feast of Trumpets

The Day of Atonement

The Feast of Tabernacles





You shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest; and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD …on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it (Leviticus 23:10,11).


We have clear New Testament precedent for considering the Old Testament Feast of the First Fruits ‘Christologically’, in relation to Christ’s resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15:20 Paul makes the triumphant declaration: But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  Let us then consider the Feast of the First Fruits in the light of the whole Bible:-


One of seven Old Testament feasts


The Feast of the First Fruits is another feast detailed for us in Leviticus 23. It was one of the seven feasts of the Lord. The feast took place in the Spring, on the day after the Sabbath following the Feast of the Passover – equivalent to our Easter Sunday following on from Good Friday. Leviticus 23:9 ff. reads:-

And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to the people of Israel, When you come into the land which I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest; and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, hat you may find acceptance; on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.


The wonder of the Word


So what a remarkable foreshadowing of Christ and His resurrection we have here! The sheaf of the first fruits was to be waved before the Lord on the day after the Sabbath – the first day of the week. It is an historical Fact that Christ, ‘the First Fruits’ was raised from the dead on the first day of the week – our Sunday/the Lord’s Day. The eternal God knew the end from the beginning, and so He gave us this picture of Christ some 1300 years BC. Such minute details are evidence that the Bible is the very Word of God written. In the Feast of the Passover we see Christ as the Lamb of God, dying to redeem His people. In the Feast of the First Fruits, three days later, we see Christ’s victorious conquest over the grave on the first day of the week.

The Feast of the First Fruits was s spring harvest festival. Before they harvested the grain, one sheaf of barley was to be waved before the Lord. The sheaf was representative. It was a token of the complete harvest to come – a guarantee of the larger harvest to follow. The whole harvest was still in the field, but as the first sheaf was waved and symbolically dedicated to the Lord, they knew that the whole harvest would be surely gathered in, in due time.


The Risen Redeemer


In the Lord Jesus Christ we have the final fulfilment of the Feast of the First Fruits. Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20). Just as Christ’s death was for others – it was substitutionary – likewise, His resurrection was representative too. A harvest of His people will surely follow. As God raised His Son from the grave, so likewise will He raise His people to new life in Christ. To quote Paul a little further: But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a Man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order. Christ the first fruits, then at His coming, those who belong to Him (1 Corinthians 15:20 ff.).

So Christ’s resurrection is the ultimate reality which lies behind the Old Testament Feast of the First Fruits. Christ’s resurrection itself was a ‘First Fruits.’ Those who are united to Him by saving faith will surely follow! There are at least three blessed facets to this glorious truth:-


1. Christ gives us new, ‘resurrection’ life now. We do not have to wait until we die to receive eternal life. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:1 ff. And you He made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked … God …made us alive together with Christ … and raised us up with Him.


2. As Christ rose from the grave and ascended to be with the Father, His people do the same, spiritually, when they die. In John 20:17 the risen Christ explained: ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.  In John 14 He had previously promised: ‘In My Father’s house are many rooms; …I go to prepare a place for you… I will come again and take you to Myself that where I am you may be also’ (John 14:2 ff.)


3. Best of all, as Christ was raised, physically and bodily as the ‘First Fruits’, so likewise, the Bible promises glorious resurrection bodies to all who belong to Jesus -bodies free from pain, sickness and sin. What is true of us spiritually now, will be true of us physically on a coming day. We are to inhabit redeemed bodies on a redeemed earth, when Christ comes again in glory to make all things new. Paul expands on this in some detail in 1 Corinthians 15, a chapter which is justly known as ‘The Resurrection Chapter’, taken up as it is with Christ’s resurrection and ours. In Philippians 3:20 too, Paul also reminds us of our ultimate redemption in Christ. The ultimate Christian hope is the resurrection of the body not the immortality of the soul. The idea of a bodiless existence is foreign to the Bible, growing as it did in Jewish soil. And so Paul can state in Philippians 3:20 that the Lord Jesus Christ…will change our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power which enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.


The best is yet to be


If we belong to Christ then the best is yet to be. Our future resurrection is guaranteed. Why? Think of the Old Testament Feast of the First Fruits and its greater significance. Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.


Christ is risen, Christ the first-fruits

Of the holy harvest field

Which with all its full abundance

At His second coming yield

Then the golden ears of harvest

Will their heads before Him wave

Ripened by His glorious sunshine

From the furrows of the grave.




Six days shall work be done; but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no work; it is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings (Leviticus 23:3).


Amidst the ‘rough and tumble’ and ‘stresses and strains’ of this world, God’s people may take heart from the fact that rest, relief and renewal are never far away. This is so, because God’s people are never more than six days away from a true holiday. God has given His people a merciful provision. Once a week He has appointed a special day for the blessing of their bodies and souls.

The Scripture term for this weekly holiday – a truly ‘holy day’ – is the Sabbath. The Hebrew verb ‘Shabbat’ means ‘to rest’ or ‘to cease’.  On the weekly Sabbath day, God’s people have both the duty and delight to cease from their necessary secular activities and devoted themselves more fully to sacred and spiritual ones. The Sabbath day is a day of rest for the body and renewal for the soul. It is a day when our minds turn from earthly matters to heavenly matters – from the temporary things of time to the permanent things of eternity; from work to worship; from out obligations to men to our obligations towards God our Maker. The Sabbath then is a truly holy day. It is different and separate from the other days of the week. It is and it is to be a weekly special day of celebration, characterised by devotion to and delight in God, and hence dominated by the acts of both public and private devotion. On the Sabbath day God’s people are and are to be occupied and preoccupied with prayer, worship, and thanksgiving – engrossed and absorbed with God Himself, the One Who has made this day so unique and holy.


An Eternal Principle


The Ten Commandments given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai encapsulate and codify principles which are eternal. Her are the Maker’s instructions for the good of His people. The fourth commandment given to Moses is Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8). The command here to ‘Remember’ suggests that Sabbath obligation was already in operation before this commandment was given. And this is what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that the Sabbath actually originated at the dawn of time itself. Genesis 1 describes how God created the world in six days, and then Genesis 2:2,3 concludes And on the seventh day God finished His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all the work which He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all His work which He had done in creation.

                The Sabbath then is a creation ordinance. Its origins are divine as its obligations are divine. God the Father rested on the Sabbath Day having completed His work of creation. And God the Son rested on the Sabbath day too, having completed His work of redemption. Having procured the salvation of His people on Calvary’s cross with the triumphant cry of ‘It is finished!’ (John 19:30) the Lord Jesus was laid to rest in a rich man’s tomb. He spent the whole of the Sabbath day resting in this tomb – then on the first day of the week, He rose victoriously from the dead, having conquered death, the king of terrors and terror of kings.


Behold Your God


The weekly Sabbath day then is a weekly reminder that there is more to human life than merely eating, drinking, working and family life. There is a God with Whom we have to do! The Sabbath focuses our attention on God, our Maker and Redeemer, hence You shall keep My Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God (Leviticus 19:3).

i. The Sabbath puts our life in perspective by directing us to God our Maker. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it (Exodus 20:11).

ii. The Sabbath pus a song of praise and gladness in our hearts by directing us to God our Redeemer – He is the One Who sets His people free from desperate and damnable oppression. You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day (Deuteronomy 5:15).

According to the Shorter Catechism, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever’. We realise our chief end then when we know that intimate fellowship with our Maker for which we were designed and for which we secretly crave. The Sabbath then is God’s gracious gift to us, for it is a means of grace whereby we may draw near to Him, and so realise the end for which we were made, and experience the true fulfilment unobtainable and unattainable from the things of this world. It is this which makes the Sabbath obligation such a joyful one – a delight as well as a duty; a celebration as well as an obligation. Hence the Scriptural injunction to call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honourable … and to  …take delight in the LORD (Isaiah 58:13,14). The Lord’s Day is only a special and joyful day because it is inextricably bound up with the Lord God Himself. This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118: 24):-


O day of rest and gladness

O day of joy and light

O balm of care and sadness

Most beautiful most bright!

On thee the high and lowly

Through ages joined in tune

Sing: Holy, holy, holy

To the great God Triune.


Sabbath in a Jewish Home


To spend a Sabbath in an orthodox Jewish home is to observe customs which have remained largely unchanged over the centuries. We might consider that the day begins either at midnight or at dawn. But the Jewish Sabbath actually begins at sunset on Friday. This custom of beginning the day in the evening stems from Genesis 1 – And there was evening and there was morning, one day (Genesis 1:5).

Before the Sabbath actually arrives however, the table is set with two special loaves known as ‘Hallah.’ there represent the double portion of manna which God provided for His people in the wilderness at the time of Moses. The manna – bread from heaven – was God’s daily provision for His people. But God provided no manna on the Sabbath, so as to prevent His people from working. Did this mean that they all went hungry on the Sabbath day? No, for God undertook for them. See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath, therefore on the sixth day He gives you bread for two days (Exodus 16:29) – bread which the LORD ensured did not go mouldy overnight.

When the Sabbath actually arrives in a Jewish home, two candles are lit. There is a distinct atmosphere as family and friends gather around the table, and the ancient Hebrew prayer is uttered: ‘Blessed are You, Lord our God, king of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to light the light of Sabbath.’ A glass of wine is then poured, and the head of the household, having pronounced another blessing, takes a sip from it and passes the cup around so that each may do the same. In the Bible, wine is used as a symbol of cheer – wine to gladden the heart of man (Psalm 104:15). I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD (Psalm 116:13). The greeting of ‘Shabbat Shalom’ – ‘A Sabbath of Peace’ is then given all round. An evening service at the synagogue is attended, and a hearty family meal is eaten.

Another synagogue service is attended on the following morning. The service is characterised by simplicity – prayer (that is praise, thanksgiving and supplication), the singing of Psalms and the reading of and commenting on Scripture. The Sabbath afternoon is taken up – at least for males – with more detailed instruction in  the Law – the Torah, the Five Books of Moses – and then, at sundown, the Sabbath day ends for another week. Back in the home a special, plaited ‘Havdalah’ candle is now lit. The word ‘Havdalah’ is derived from the word ‘division.’ Once the Havdalah candle is lit, the head of the household offers a final prayer to the God of Israel, praising Him for the ‘divisions’ He has made: At creation He separated light from darkness. In His mercy He chose Israel from all the nations of the world. And in His goodness He separated the Sabbath day from all the other days of the week. Touchingly also, a little box of fragrant spices is wafted and passed around. Perhaps this is with a view that something of the ‘fragrance’ of the special day now gone may just permeate the rest of the workaday days of the week. Forty minutes after sundown on Saturday however, the ‘Queen’, that is the Sabbath day is viewed to have departed for another week.


The Christian Sabbath


Christians however keep the first day of the week as their weekly Sabbath, and not the seventh day. Acts 20:7 gives us a snapshot of the early church’s life, and a pattern which has been followed ever since, when it records On the first day of the week, when we gathered together to break bread, Paul talked to them … Considering that the first converts to the Christian Faith were all Jews, and that Christianity grew out of Judaism like a flower grows out of a bulb, the question is begged: What accounts for the change of the Sabbath day from the seventh to the first? Who would dare tamper with a divine ordinance which originated at the dawn of time? Surely, something tumultuous must have occurred to change the Sabbath day … And something tumultuous did occur to change the Sabbath day from the seventh day of the week to the first. Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week.


The Resurrection of Christ


It was very early on the first day of the week they (that is, two Mary’s) went to the tomb when the sun had risen (Mark 16:2). And at the tomb they received the joyful news ‘Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, Who was crucified. He has risen, He is not here; see the place where they laid Him …’ (Mark 16:6). And so it is Christ’s resurrection which accounts for the change of the Sabbath day from the seventh day to the first day of the week.

The resurrection of Christ has been termed as ‘the most attested fact of history.’ The evidence for Christ’s resurrection is cumulative. There is the stubborn evidence that i. Christ’s tomb was empty and ii. The risen Christ was seen by many. Part of the cumulative evidence for Christ’s resurrection however is the change of the hallowed Sabbath day from the seventh to the first. It was on the first day of the week that the early Christians gathered together to worship their common, risen, victorious Lord and Saviour. And it is on the first day of the week that Christians still gather together to worship their incomparable Lord. Truly, there is no day like the Christian Sabbath. Well is it termed ‘The Lord’s Day’ in Christian circles. Every Sunday is a weekly reminder that the One Who was crucified on ‘Good Friday’ conquered the grave three days later on ‘Easter Sunday’:-


Blest morning, whose first dawning rays

Beheld the Son of God

Arise triumphant from the grave

And leave His dark abode!


Wrapt in the silence of the tomb

The great Redeemer lay

Till the revolving skies had brought

The third, the appointed day.


Hell and the grave combined their forms

To hold our Lord in vain

Sudden the Conqueror arose

And burst their feeble chain


To Thy great Name, almighty Lord

We sacred honours pay

And loud hosannas shall proclaim

The triumphs of the day.


A Sabbath well spent brings a week of content …


So Christians have the joy, privilege and responsibility of keeping the first day of the week as the Sabbath Day. It is our weekly ‘holy day’ – a day of joy and celebration, and a day when we focus on the unsearchable  riches of Christ which this world can neither give nor take away. The Christian Sabbath is a day of rest and worship, and a day of fellowship with God and fellowship with His people. It is a day of ‘Feasting with God’ – a true foretaste of heaven itself. God’s people are enjoined to keep this day at all costs, for to allow the secular world to impinge on our Sabbath is to put the welfare of our souls in jeopardy. God’s people are to keep the Sabbath holy. And when they keep the Sabbath, paradoxically, they find that the Sabbath keeps them! Truly, there is no day like the Lord’s Day. Let us allow the Westminster Confession of Faith to have the final say on the matter:-


As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, He hath particularly appointed on day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto Him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.


This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe a holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but are also taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy. (Chapter XXI, VII and VIII).


Copyright © Timothy J Cross. These excerpts are from a pre-published work. For permission to cite, please contact the author.