Leviticus 23 lists God’s festivals. Verses 1 and 2 say, “Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the Israelites, and say to them, “The festivals of Yahweh that you shall proclaim are holy assemblies; these are my appointed times.”‘” (LEB) Then, the festivals are named and described. At the top of the list is the seventh day Sabbath.
The church we attend is very good about describing the seventh day Sabbath as a gift from God, like He’s saying, “You’ve worked all week. Now, rest. Let’s just pause and spend time together, you and I. Put down all those daily tasks and worries you normally do. Come, sit, be with Me.”
I love that, and I love our church for thinking like that. It has taught me a lot, and I’m appreciative. So, I’ve been thinking about what they have been saying. And, I’ve been thinking about how it is said in the Bible.
The weekly Sabbath is among all of the other commands God gave us through Moses. The weekly Sabbath is listed among the 9 festivals. If the weekly Sabbath is God’s gift to us, what are the other 8?
The weekly Sabbath can also be seen as our gift to Him. Yes, our focus should be on Him all week, but that seventh day is special. How?
So, the other 8 festivals, perhaps, can be seen as His gift to us as well as our gift to Him.
What is our gift to Him in all 9 of the festivals? Spending that appointed time in devotion to our relationship with Him. Our eyes, our ears, our hands, our tongues, our minds, our brains, our spirits, and our time are all gifts from Him. We get to utilize those gifts to give back to the One Who created them.
We have studied the concept of weekly Sabbath. We think we know why He beckons us to keep it. Have we thought about why He beckons us to keep the other 8? We think we know His heart behind the weekly Sabbath. Do we know His heart behind the other 8?
We’ve gotten ourselves to the point we are starting to say, “We get to keep the Sabbath.”
With the other 8, why do the debate words “do” or “do not” followed by, “have to,” come into the picture?
We’ve kept Saturday as the Sabbath for decades, but we are fairly new to the concept of mindfully keeping the other Biblical festivals (Genesis 1:14; Leviticus 23), making God’s other appointed times as our recognized holidays. In the past couple years, we’ve been doing so privately. See the blog post about that.
For the first time, this year we planned an event for the body of believers to attend. We did so for Pentecost/Shavuot, which is a festival Sabbath. So, Saturday was our weekly Sabbath, and Sunday was one of the seven festival Sabbaths. We thought we’d share with you what that event was like.
Our chosen “theme” for this year was the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, including Who He is (with an emphasis on the fact He is a Person of our Triune God).
Below, we’ll share the “script” we used. All the attendees were to follow a path as the mixed multitude being freed from Egypt, going through the “wilderness,” and arriving at Mt. Sinai. We’ll also note within the script the “stations” of learning and what was located at each one. It was a park setting, so our starting position, stations, and “Mt Sinai” were a garbage bin, parking lot, trees, picnic bench, hill (Mt. Sinai), and ending at an outdoor amphitheatre. Our pastor and a church elder took turns reading and taking inspiration from the script (words in bold) as we were stopped at each location. Instructions and tips in brackets. Our comments to you, the blog reader, in parenthesis.
As people arrived, they mingled together at a quick snack bar filled with finger foods that might have been found in the Promised Land (dates, figs, fruits, bread, nuts, pomegranate juice).
Then, we made our way to the start (“Egypt”).
[PRAYER: Ask for God’s teaching. Thank Him for His Word and for Holy Spirit.]
[START: Garbage bins (representing starting out in Egypt; spiritually, in bondage to sin/garbage).]
[ON DISPLAY: Two loaves of homemade, leavened bread.]
(Yes, we know that they carried no leavening nor leavened bread on the journey. These were props for the start when talking about the two loaves for wave offering. Then, while the group was walking through “the Red Sea,” a festival facilitator quietly moved them to be on display at “Mt. Sinai” when the group arrived.)
Elder/Pastor: This festival is a Sabbath called Feast of Weeks or SHAH-VOO-OAT. In history on this day, we entered into a covenant relationship with God at Mt. Sinai. Also, in Biblical history on this day, PENTECOST occurred. (Talking points below.)
Jesus died as the Lamb of God on the day and hour when the lamb in the Temple was to be slain on Passover.
Jesus rose from the grave on the Festival of Firstfruits.
40 days after Firstfruits, Jesus ascended to Heaven.
The 50th day after Firstfruits is the Feast of Weeks.
In Jesus’ day, on the Feast of Weeks, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus’ disciples at what we now call, “Pentecost.”
“Pentecost” means 50. You “count omer” for 49 days, starting the day of Firstfruits. Then, on the 50th day is Feast of Weeks or Pentecost.
50 represents jubilee, freedom.
As we somewhat re-enact the journey of the mixed multitude fleeing from Egypt into the wilderness, we will have 6 stations where we will learn more about the Holy Spirit and one about the Mt. Sinai experience, 7 stations in all — one for each Sabbath during the 49 days.
(Each sign had the station’s name, a unique “flame” made with colored office paper, and the number associated with the station so the leaders knew what text in their 3-ring binder corresponded.)
“‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day of your bringing the wave offering’s sheaf—there shall be seven full weeks. Until the day after the seventh Sabbath you shall count fifty days; then you shall present a new grain offering for Yahweh. You shall bring from your dwellings for a wave offering two loaves of bread made with two-tenths of an ephah of finely milled flour; they must be baked with leaven—the firstfruits belonging to Yahweh.”
Acts 2:1-11 (ESV): When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”
[POINT OUT TWO LOAVES OF BREAD]
We know that, for the Feast of Weeks, there’s a wave offering of two loaves of leavened bread. (The elder pointed out that Bible doesn’t tell us what the two loaves represent but that some scholars say one loaf represents the Jews, and the other loaf represents the Gentiles. Some say the Old and New Testaments. Some say they are the two tablets given at Mt. Sinai, the first loaf representing the Law regarding our relationship with God and the second representing the Law regarding relationship with our fellow man.)
In Acts 10:44-48, it talks about another day when the Holy Spirit descended upon people: “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.”
[Pass out bags to the attendees.]
(Each adult got a gold mesh bag packed by a couple ladies in our church. See photos above; Contents: a small journal on a ribbon (some had a black cover with white writing; made by one of these sweet ladies), pen, baggie of Skittles.)
(Each kid got one of the filled gold bags in a 9×12″ colored canvas bag, along with 2 coloring pages (Moses receiving the tablets on Mt. Sinai and the apostles with tongues of flame over their heads), an extra pen, and a 10-pack of crayons.)
NOW, FOR OUR JOURNEY. In your bag, you’ll find a pen and a mini-journal for the trip. If there’s a word or thought that stands out to you, write it down or even draw on the circles, either while at the station or later when you think back on our journey. Kids, in your bag, you have a pen, crayons and pages to color. If you want, you can write or draw on the back of the coloring pages.
Bring your bags, for you might discover things to put in them.
God freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. They chose to trust God, following Him into the wilderness.
Exodus 13:20-22 ESV—And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.
Exodus 14:19-22 ESV — And the angel of God who was going before the camp of Israel set out and went behind them. And the column of cloud set out ahead of them, and it stood still behind them, so that it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel. And it was a dark cloud, but it gave light to the night, so thatneither approached the other all night. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and Yahweh moved the sea with a strong east wind all night, and he made the sea become dry ground, and the waters were divided. And the Israelites entered the middle of the sea on the dry land. The waters were a wall for them on their right and on their left.
[HAND COLUMN OF CLOUD TO VOLUNTEER TO CARRY.]
(Column of cloud made by a brilliant fellow in our church. White balloons tied to a long, sturdy stick. A teen volunteered to represent the Column of Cloud, carrying this along in front of us.)
[RED SEA KIDS TAKE THEIR STATIONS AND PREPARE TO “PART.”] (We had two blue foam boards. Each kid stood with his foam board close to the other, then they parted to let the people file between them, following the Column of Cloud. The multitude, thus, transitioned from the parking lot to the grassy, tree-filled “wilderness.”)
(Station 1) Water (sign tacked to a tree; bowl of “water droplets” at base of tree)
In the Old Testament, we learned that, in the wilderness, God gave the Israelites food and water — manna to eat and water from a rock. In the New Testament, we know Jesus started His ministry by being baptized in water. John was the baptist.
John 1 ESV — “19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” 24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
John 4:4-14 (NIV) — “Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. 4 Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 ESV — “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”
1 Corinthians 12:12-13 ESV — “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
[GIVE AWAY BREAKABLE GLASS “DROPLETS” (Blue-tissue wrapped) TO KIDS.]
(We ended up having enough for some of the adults, too. They were made using 1″ glass craft gems. The flat side is coated with colored nail polish (clear with glitter first, then swirl lines of light blue then darker blue, then coat fully with darkest blue, then finish with a layer of clear coat.) Photo below shows an unpainted and a painted gem, each looking down through the clear, rounded top.)
(Station 2) Dove
(Sign tacked to another tree; festival helper quietly carrying paper bag.)
John 1:14-18 ESV — “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him. John 1:29-34 talks about that moment: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
In Matthew 13-17 ESV, we read that God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit of God were all present during this baptism John is talking about: “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
The Israelites were led through the wilderness for 40 years.
[GIVE AWAY PAPER DOVES TO ALL.]
(Several industrious ladies in our church made origami doves. It was quite a flock! A paper grocery sack full of paper doves was given to a kid for distribution to all journeyers.)
(Station 3) Attributes of the Spirit (sign tacked to a tree; white-painted 1″ wooden craft coins sprinkled in grass around tree)
If you want, we can email you the scriptures where these concepts and others can be found in the Bible. Meanwhile, listen to these Biblical statements about the Holy Spirit.
He was there in the beginning, where the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. (Genesis 1)
Derived from “The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit” by R.A. Torrey:
“Statements, which in the Old Testament distinctly name the Lord or Jehovah as their subject are applied to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, i.e. Isaiah 6:8-10 refers to Jehovah while in Acts 28:25-27 Paul quotes Isaiah and applies the passage to the Holy Spirit. Then also read John 12:39-41 where the same passage is ascribed to Christ.
“So in different parts of Scripture, we have the same passage referring to Jehovah, the Holy Spirit, and to Jesus. In Isaiah 6:3, the angels cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy. Each Holy refers to one of the Godhead. ‘And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.’…A further suggestion of this tri-personality of Jehovah of Hosts is found in the eighth verse of the chapter where the Lord is represented as saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’”] [Exodus 16:7 where the murmuring is against Jehovah. But, in Hebrews 3:7-9, this reference is referred to and we read, ‘Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith,…When your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years.’
“This leaves it beyond question that the Holy Spirit occupies the position of Jehovah (or Deity) in the New Testament.”
“The name of the Holy Spirit is coupled with that of God in a way it would be impossible for a reverent and thoughtful mind to couple the name of any finite being with that of the Deity.” [1 Cor. 12:4-6: “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”][Tell kids to search in the grass for the 1″ white coins.] Each coin has on it one of the many titles the Holy Spirit holds.
(As the kids found the coins, they graciously gave them to the teens and adults who then read them aloud to the group. Each coin contained a title for Him on one side and the supporting Bible reference on the other.)(We didn’t get a photo of the coins, but here’s one of the tree.)
(Station 4) Fruits of the Spirit and Gifts of the Spirit (tacked to deciduous tree: station sign; paper heart with “faith, hope, love”; Fruits of the Spirit ribbon, paper leaflet listing the Gifts of the Spirit )(hanging from branches of nearby evergreen, at kid height, cardboard cut-outs for each Fruit of the Spirit)
Galatians 5:LEB — 13-15“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” 22-26 — “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Against such things there is no law.Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh together with its feelings and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
[Tell kids to go find the Fruits of the Spirit on the evergreen and they can check if they have them all by looking at the ribbon list on the deciduous tree.]
(The clever kids counted the number of fruits listed, then counted the number of cardboard cut-outs they’d found. ((chuckle)) Again, they, then, graciously passed the cardboard cut-outs to individual adults at random.)
GIFTS 1 Corinthians 12ESV — 1-13 “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:27-31 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?But earnestly desire the higher gifts.And I will show you a still more excellent way.
1 Corinthians 13ESV — “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
[GIVE ONE HEART TO EACH PERSON.] (One talented lady in our church made origami hearts. She and the kids passed those out to everyone. They were white so that they could be colored or written on, if desired.)(The pastor and his wife also got glass heart ornaments filled with sweet-n-sour Nerds (colorful candy bits).)
(Station 5) Wind/Breath and Still, Small Voice
(station sign tacked to a tree; Voice rock set at base of tree; bamboo wind chimes hanging from a branch and gently tapping notes; 10 sparkly silver and iridescent pinwheels stuck in dirt of a nearby flower bed)
With His Voice, God spoke creation into existence. Genesis 1 again, 1-3 LEB: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth — Now the earth was formless and empty, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light.”
John 3:1-8 LEB — “Now there was a man of the Pharisees whose name was Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to him at night and said to him [Jesus], ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one is able to perform these signs that you are performing unless God were with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly I say to you, unless someone is born from above, he is not able to see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is an old man? He is not able to enter into his mother’s womb for the second time and be born, can he?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly I say to you, unless someone is born of water and spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘It is necessary for you to be born from above.’ The wind blows wherever it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’”
Jesus rose from the grave on Firstfruits. The counting of the omer (the 49-day count) starts on the first day of the week (Sunday) after Firstfruits. Let’s read about something that happened on this first day of the count. John 20:19–23 LEB — “Now when it was evening on that day—the first day of the week—and the doors had been shut where the disciples were because of fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ And when he had said this, he showed his hands and his side to them. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”
Acts 2:1-4 LEB — “And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in the same place. And suddenly a sound like a violent rushing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. And divided tongues like fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability to speak out.”
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 LEB — “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all these thingsare from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as if God were imploring you through us. We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made the one who did not know sin to be sin on our behalf, in order that we could become the righteousness of God in him.”
Back in 1 Kings 19, when Elijah was afraid for his life and went one day’s journey into the wilderness and said to God, “It is enough now, Yahweh; take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” (verse 4), God didn’t deal with him harshly. God took care of him.
1 Kings 19:5-8 ESV — “He lay down and fell asleep under a certain broom tree, and suddenly this angel was touching him and said to him, “Get up, eat!” He looked, and behold, a bread cake on hot coals was near his head and a jar of water, so he ate and drank. Then he did it again and lay down. The angel of Yahweh appeared a second time and touched him and said, “Get up, eat, for the journey is greater than you.” So he got up, ate, drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights up to Horeb, the mountain of God.” So, he’s on Horeb, the mountain of God, which is another name for Mt. Sinai. This is where God spoke through the burning bush to Moses. This is where the Law, the Covenant, was given to the people. So, Elijah finds a cave on this mountain.
9-14 RSV — “And there he came to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.’ And he said, ‘Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.’”
Then, God sent Elijah out to anoint a king over Syria, a king over Israel, and Elisha as a prophet in his place.
We need to have moments of rest to drink of His Living Water He gives us and eat from the Bread of Life, His Word.
[Time of silence, listening to the wind in the pinwheels perhaps. :)]
[HAVE KIDS EACH TAKE A SPARKLY PINWHEEL.]
(Station 6) Oil (picnic bench with clay oil lamp filled with olive oil; bell jar over the lamp, since it was a windy day)
[Designated adult helper lights lamp and places jar over it.]
Oil as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit’s presence and action is clear in the anointing of prophets, priests, and kings.
Isaiah 61:1-3 LEB — “The Spirit of the Lord Yahweh is upon me,because Yahweh has anointed me, he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release to the captivesand liberation to those who are bound, to proclaimthe year of Yahweh’s favor, and our God’s day of vengeance, to comfort all those in mourning,to give for those in mourning in Zion, to give them a head wrap instead of ashes,the oil of joy instead of mourning,a garment of praise instead of a faint spirit. And they will be called oaks of righteousness,the planting of Yahweh, to show his glory.”
Acts 10:34-38 LEB — “So Peter opened his mouth and said, “In truth I understand that God is not one who shows partiality, but in every nation the one who fears him and who does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the message that he sent to the sons of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ—this one is Lord of all—you know the thing that happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism that John proclaimed: Jesus of Nazareth—how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with him.”
Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins, Matthew 25:1-10 LEB: “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. “The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.”
(Station 7) Mt. Sinai (tacked to a tree at the top of the hill above the amphitheatre: station sign; sign with question, “Which commandment is most important?” and Mark 12:29-31)
[Present: Commandment Tablet(s), 2 loaves displayed on a tray, big white hearts to give to kids]
Redemption was found at the Cross through Jesus. Revelation was given at Mt. Sinai through the Word of God, via Jesus breathing on the disciples and their receiving the Holy Spirit, and via the Holy Spirit descending on those in the Upper Room. We were taken out of Egypt, redeemed from sin. But, without the revelation and help from His Spirit, we would regress back into the slavery of sin.
God wanted to break the slave mentality of His chosen people. He took them out of Egypt, then He began taking Egypt out of Israel. God gave us the gift of His Word and the gift of His Spirit so that we can transform and be spiritually free.
Ezekiel 11:19-20 ESV — “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”
Ezekiel 36-26 ESV — “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
Jeremiah 31:33 ESV — “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
[Each kid gets a large, unique paper heart.]
[Tell them to pick up an Exodus 20 hand-out sheet as they make their way to sit on the amphitheatre terraces.]
(One of our talented singer/musicians was seated in front of us, guitar and portable speakers ready for use.) [Once people are seated, tell them to take out baggies of Skittles.]
(A neat thing happened here. Some of the folks had eaten most of their Skittles. Others hadn’t. Since we each needed 10 Skittles, those who hadn’t eaten many or any shared with those who didn’t have 10. <3)
(The Elder read aloud each of the 10 Commandments that had been rephrased as promises by Jill Morikone on a 3ABN Sabbath School Panel episode. After each promise was read, the elder shouted, “God is good!” Singer shouted, “God is good?” The attendees shouted, “God is good!” Singer quietly confirmed, “God is good.” We each ate a Skittle. Another promise would be read, then the process repeated.)
From Jill Morikone: “We see God’s promises in the Ten Commandments… The word in Hebrew isn’t ‘commandments’ at all. It’s simply the ‘words of God,’ or you could say the ‘sayings of God.’ When you look at the Ten Commandments, or the ten words, the ten sayings, we tend to look at it in language of ‘do’ and ‘don’t,’ ‘thou shalt,’ ‘thou shalt not.’ But, if you look, it’s actually written in the second-person, singular imperfect. You may say, ‘What in the world does that mean?!’ The imperfect verb form notes action or state that is still in progress. So, it’s not something that’s completed nor something that’s already done in the past. It’s something that is still in progress. The same verb tense, the same wording, is used in Judges 6:23, ‘And the Lord said unto him, “Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.” Now when you hear that, Pastor Johnny, I wouldn’t think, ‘Now that’s a commandment, “Don’t die.”‘ What do I think? ‘That’s a promise.’ You’re not going to die. The same thing in Psalm 91, verse 5, this same verb tense, ‘Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;’ so when we read that, we don’t think a command: ‘Don’t be afraid.’ It’s a promise; you don’t have to be afraid. So, I took the liberty to rewrite the Ten Commandments, this is Jill’s version — Ten Promises:
You will desire only Me, nobody and nothing else.
You will have no need for other gods or other support systems because I will give you everything that you need.
You will reverence and respect Me — My Name and My Character — and will do everything you can to guard our relationship.
You will delight in spending time with Me on our special day, the seventh-day Sabbath; no interruptions, no distractions, just quality time with Me.
You will love those who have given you life and respect the family that I gave to you.
You will respect others’ lives and hold them sacred as you would your own.
You will delight in and love the spouse that I gave to you.
You will have enough with what I have given to you and will have no need to take from somebody else.
You will speak truthfully and well of your neighbors and associates.
You will be content with what I have given you and will rejoice in My gifts for your life.
“That is the promise of grace that God gives to His people.”
(Then, our singer taught us a new song, Kadosh, and we all sang it.)
Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh
(Holy, Holy, Holy)
Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh
(Holy, Holy, Holy)
Adonai Elohim Tz’va’ot
(O Lord, Our God, Lord of Hosts)
Adonai Elohim Tz’va’ot
(O Lord, Our God, Lord of Hosts)
Holy, Holy, Holy.
Holy, Holy, Holy.
O Lord, Our God, Lord of Hosts.
O Lord, Our God, Lord of Hosts.
Asher hayah V’hoveh v’yavo
Who was and Who is and Who is to come.
Asher hayah V’hoveh v’yavo
Who was and Who is and Who is to come.
To us, observing God’s Festivals seemed more applicable to a Christian’s life than observing man’s holidays. For years, we’d already been keeping one of these appointed times — seventh-day Sabbath. Therefore, it seemed natural to include the other appointed times He asked us to remember and observe. So, we incorporated His appointed times into our worshipful remembrances throughout the year.
Do we sacrifice animals? No. Jesus is the Lamb of God who died once for all, as is mentioned in Hebrews 10 and other passages.
Our first year of observing the festivals (2019), we jumped in just before Unleavened Bread. So, being new at this, we did a lot of research about what leavening is, what’s allowed in the house and what is not, what we needed to do with what is leavened, etc. Feeling satisfied we’d done what we could to remove all leavened products from our property, we observed the 1st and 7th day Sabbaths and we didn’t have leavened bread for a week. On the eighth day, we probably bought bread. (chuckle) (wink)
Hubby did a bunch of research on the “Jewish calendar” and what the Bible says about watching for the new moon to determine the start of each new month. It talks about gathering together to visit and see if the moon can be glimpsed, so we began having “new moon gatherings” at our house in order to enjoy one another and visit about God.
We didn’t do much for Firstfruits, as I recall. Just read about it, and I remember I did a study on the differences between barley and wheat. I’ll try to remember to post that here sometime.
Weeks/Pentecost 2019 — We observed the associated Sabbath, and I thought about the Holy Spirit and what I’d learned in several books I’d read in previous years about His being a Person.
Trumpets 2019 — I’d gotten hubby a shofar as well as a pocket trumpet, and he had begun blowing the shofar whenever one of us spotted the new moon. So, by the time this came around, he could blow the trumpet. We observed the associated Sabbath.
At this point, hubby was doing most of the research on the festivals. So, I was just kind of going along. I was excited about observing them, but I was busy enough with other things that I just went with what he was researching and telling me of what he learned.
Day of Atonement 2019 — I know we observed the associated Sabbath, but I don’t recall whether or not we fasted because I wasn’t writing in my “spiritual journal” at the time. I had the journal. I just wasn’t writing in it.
Tabernacles 2019 — I do remember this one. We observed the 1st day Sabbath, and we slept outside. Personally, I was excited about the latter. When I was in college, I’d sometimes drag my mattress outside and watch the stars until I fell asleep. It was a special privilege of having the freedom of being on my own. So, I was looking forward to sleeping under the stars again. Then, it got really windy, really cold, and really wet. We slept on the roofed part of the deck, but the wind drove the cold and rain sideways under the roof and right at us. It was an especially memorable time. (grin)
Then, there was the Eighth Day directly after Tabernacles. In our research, we didn’t know what we were “supposed” to do for it other than observing it as a Sabbath. So, we did that.
2020 — So, go back to Leviticus 23. We’d already been observing the 7th Day Sabbaths, as commanded, so next on the list is Passover. Well, there’s this COVID thing that makes this year rather interesting. Hubby had been doing research about the timeline surrounding Jesus’ last several days, death, and resurrection. He’d printed out that research, and it was stretched out on the table. It was nice to look at that chart as the times of the Festivals were going by.
Unleavened Bread 2020 — We banished the leavened bread from the house, and I learned how to make unleavened bread that wasn’t all that bad. Observed the associated Sabbaths, of course.
Firstfruits 2020 — By this time, hubby was still doing a lot of research and writing a book about the festivals and Biblical prophecies. I was doing some research on subjects mostly unrelated to what he was reading.
Weeks/Pentecost 2020 — We observed the Sabbath, of course. I don’t remember much beyond that. It has been kind of a blur where the days are blending into one another. What year is this again?
Trumpets 2020 — Hubby’s improving on the trumpet. He blasted it well at the start of the associated Sabbath, just like he has been on Friday evenings at sundown. I do wonder what our neighbors think. (chuckle) Maybe they think we’re Jewish. Maybe they think we’re looney. In all seriousness, by this time, I was starting to really dig these festivals. Remembering Him like this had started to become special times for me, and we had started calling it “God’s calendar” instead of the “Jewish calendar.”
Day of Atonement 2020 — I remember it this year. We observed it as a Sabbath, and we fasted.
Well, not long after, I was miserable with kidney stones. As I laid there on the bathroom tile, staring up through the skylight, I remembered that I should always be thankful in all circumstances.
So, I thanked God for the blue sky that turns into beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I thanked Him for trees, since I could see the tip of a tree that towers over the house. I thanked Him that a tree hadn’t yet fallen on the house. I thanked Him for a roof over our heads, food and clean water, friends who have become family, family members that are friends, etc.
WARNING: Doing some research after the troublesome time had passed (grin), I learned that if you are prone to getting kidney stones ((reluctantly raises hand)), you shouldn’t fast from food, even if you do drink a lot of water. Hmmmm. I’m told there are all sorts of ways to fast rather than quitting all food cold turkey (heh!), so I decided I’d need to do some research on how I could still fast correctly without tormenting my body quite as much as I had this year. (grin)
Tabernacles 2020 — “Yay!” I thought, “We get to sleep outside and gawk at the stars!” We put out mattresses under us this year. That was smart. Last year, we’d learned that hip bones, knees, elbows, etc. all dig through the sleeping bag, a couple layers of blankets, and into the wooden deck quite noticeably by morning!
This was almost the last festival of the year, so I really wanted to “make it count.” I wanted to observe the Sabbath. I wanted the shofar to be blown. I wanted to sleep outside every night. I was so excited to be under the stars again and do some praying that I didn’t sleep much that first night. I learned some things. The next night, I slept more, but I still learned some things.
One of those things I learned was that the booths were temporary and made flimsy enough to be able to see the night sky. I wondered why. But, then, I slept in the same spot on the deck every night, and I was waking up at the same wee hour just as the moon appeared in my line-of-sight over the roofline. Observing it from night-to-night in relation to the roofline, I was amazed at how much change there was to the moon’s trajectory, appearance, and timing over the course of only a few days.
“God’s calendar moves fairly quickly,” I thought.
As I stayed awake until the first bird chirped, I checked the time on my phone. Yup, about the same time every morning. “God’s clock is pretty nifty, too. I bet if one was out in the wilderness every night and every day like the Hebrews were, you’d really get into the rhythm of His creation. You’d be able to know the seasons, the time on the clock, when festivals are supposed to be observed…all that by just observing God’s creation and being still.”
Not long after that revelation, the forecast was moisture and cold. It was left up to me what we’d do. We both knew it was going to be physically miserable out there, much like 2019 Tabernacles was. But, I’d been blessed by His lessons so much on previous nights. I prayed and wrestled with the decision.
“Do we have to sleep outside every night of Tabernacles? If we lived in a place where it was freezing and there was snow, would we? What was the weather for the Hebrews back in the wilderness? Shivering from the damp and cold probably isn’t healthy for us, and much of the commands from God are His way of trying to keep us healthy. If we open the curtains and put the mattresses right next to the windows, we’ll still be able to see the stars and moon if it clears up. Yet, we are supposed to sleep outside. God will take care of us. That’s the point of this, right?”
So, we put the mattresses out.
In the amount of time it took to gather our pillows and sleeping bags, the mattresses got quite wet and cold. Ugh. That decided it.
We brought the mattresses in, dried them off as best we could, and got set up beside the living room windows.
Indeed, I was blessed with the sight of the moon and the planet that had been accompanying it every night so far. I couldn’t compare it to the roofline, but I’d already observed on previous nights that the planet and moon were moving away from each other. I could see that such was even more the case on this wee hour of the morning. Interesting that I’d awakened at the same time I had on nights we’d been outside.
Would I still be able to hear the first chirp? Nope. But, the choir of birds later was loud enough to penetrate the walls.
The next night was kind of misty and cool, but nothing like the previous night. It was left up to me. To me, it wasn’t a “have to” sort of thing, but I wanted to sleep outside again because, as I told hubby, “I don’t want to miss the blessing of a lesson God might have for me.” I’d still learned some things the previous night, but sleeping more directly in His Creation made me feel like I was more in His house, seeing the calendar on His wall and watching His clock. I wanted to get to have that experience some more. I wanted to get to spend more intimate time with Him, learning at His feet. And, once again, I learned some things.
Before I was really ready for Tabernacles to end, the Eighth Day arrived. We kept it as a Sabbath, but I knew life would be returning to normal. Our normal bed. Man’s calendar on the wall, telling us when to do what. Man’s clock on the wall, ticking out times for meetings and meals.
And, it was over. The festivals were behind us for another year. I was disappointed this year.
“That was such a sweet time with You,” I whispered to Him. “I wish it wasn’t over.”
I told hubby of my disappointment, too. That’s when he reminded me that I was forgetting how Leviticus 23 starts.
“Oh yeah! We still have a weekly one between the Eighth Day and Passover! Seventh-Day Sabbaths! We get to have that every week!”
The disappointment about the festivals being “done” melted away. I still get an appointment to spend quality time with God every week! What’s more, the Bible is still right here! I get to read that whenever I want…at least until it is maybe taken away someday. One thing that will never be taken away, though….I still get to talk to God anytime I want!
And, suddenly, I realized that the festivals had become something really meaningful for me. As the year had progressed, they became more and more special to me. I was more drawn to reading the Bible. I craved more time with Him. When I read about God’s people being led through the wilderness or sinning as a group, I no longer pointed and said, “He led THEM,” or “THEY sinned.” It became, “He led US out of Egypt,” and “WE sinned against Him by turning to other gods.”
That relationship I’d had with Him when I was a kid…that intimacy I’d spent much of my adulthood trying to regain… I grew back to that. And, maturity and experience makes me thankful and not take it for granted, bringing a promising richness I hope to grasp and treasure with all my heart, mind and soul. I enjoyed a deep, refreshing, renewed taste of Him, and I wanted more! I picked up my spiritual journal and started writing in it. I began researching about the festivals for myself.
And, as I thought about that, I finally understood what hubby was talking about when he called the festivals “God’s Plan of Salvation.” I hadn’t comprehended before what they had to do with salvation. Perhaps all the rest of the church understood this, but I really didn’t….not until now.
The festivals show the progression of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt (bondage to sin), a covenant relationship recognized at Mt. Sinai, and the entrance into the land promised to them.
The 2020 festivals represented my progression into more intimacy with Him…more stillness and listening at His feet.
I started studying the Tabernacle for myself this time, instead of relying on what others told me….others who’d studied it for far longer and far deeper than I ever had. They’d drawn out maps of it and made models. They knew this stuff, so I thought, “Why should I bother going back to read about it myself?”
But, the festivals have so much to do with the Tabernacle that I wanted to read about it myself.
And, that’s when I saw it. As I was gazing at an artist’s depiction of the tents around the Tabernacle in the wilderness, I thought about their observing the festivals.
Passover — In Egypt, they had spread the lamb’s blood on the doorposts and huddled within their dwellings. I remembered paintings of the families inside their protected homes while death visited other families. I looked at the tent dwellings in the artist’s rendition. “What was Passover like in tents in the wilderness?” I wondered.
Unleavened Bread — I thought about trying to remove every scrap of leavened bread from our house. I looked at the painting and pictured their removing every scrap from their tents.
Firstfruits — I thought about the Israelites going out to their fields to mark the plants that broke through the soil first so that they knew which ones were God’s when it came time to harvest. Yes, they went to the Temple to give offerings and sacrifices, but these are all things they were doing in their homes and their own fields, too.
Pentecost/Weeks — I looked at the lampstand depicted in the Holy Place. I thought about those who conquer having their names written on white rocks. I thought about God’s names. The Holy Spirit entered the disciples, and they were aflame with Him. The Holy Spirit is a Person; I knew that from my reading. But, why is “the” in front of “Holy Spirit” so often like that?
I whispered to God, “You, Abba, have a name….several. Jesus, You have a name….several. What is the Holy Spirit’s name so I can stop using ‘the?’”
Hey, I decided, I think I’ll just try to stop using “the.”
And, look, my focus is now in the Holy Place on the painting.
Trumpets — It’s an announcement. Of what? God’s voice is sometimes said to sound like a trumpet. An announcement that He’s coming? Why do we need to know? We need to prepare, for the Day of Atonement is coming up.
Day of Atonement — “‘Day of Forgiveness’ is what hubby’s been calling it. Hmmm. I was looking at the veil between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. This veil was rent. Jesus’ body was torn up, and He died. But, He arose. Because of what our High Priest (Jesus) did for us, we may now enter in.
I’d just read Exodus 33 and was struck by the knowledge in verse 9. “As Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and remain at the entrance, and the LORD would speak with Moses.”
I thought about how the Temple is filled with smoke on the Day of Atonement.
I thought about how only the High Priest goes into the smoke-filled Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement.
Tabernacles — In my mind, as I gazed at the painting, I pictured now being in the Most Holy Place, reverently learning at His feet, sheltered in His Home, listening to the tick of His clock on the same wall where His calendar hangs. His Home. My Home because He calls me His own.
Do I HAVE to watch for the new moon? We forgot to one month recently, and I was disappointed. Yet, I didn’t feel like I’d committed a crime. I just felt like I’d missed out on a special time with Him.
Do I HAVE to keep the 7th Day Sabbath? It is a commandment, but it’s something we get to observe every week. And, that’s special, and I can make every day between now and the next festival special because I get to be with Holy Spirit anytime anywhere.
Do I HAVE to observe the other appointed times? Is it a commandment? Reading in Leviticus, it seems pretty important to Him. Observing them isn’t one of the traditional Ten Commandments, no. But, the festivals have become special to me. I really don’t care if it is a “HAVE TO.” I’m now looking forward to Passover, and I can now understand why maybe the Jewish people inserted things like Hanukkah and other religious holidays. More times honoring God.
And, something kind of struck me about the verses like Hosea 6:6 (CEV) — “I’d rather for you to be faithful and to know me than to offer sacrifices.”
Doesn’t that sound like the cry of a parent just wanting to hear from His kid?
Parents and aunts and uncles of teens know what this is about. The teen will understand the desire for communication once they are old enough with kids of their own. Meanwhile, kids still have a lot of “HAVE TO’s” with which to contend.
Did we HAVE to do sacrifices?
Do we HAVE to keep the Ten Commandments?
Do we HAVE to observe the festivals?
Sometimes, we need to do the “HAVE TO’s” until they become “GET TO’s,” and it is then that we have entered into intimacy with Him in the Holy of Holies….in the Promised Land.
Then, on the ultimate Eighth Day, I’m thinking there will be one whale of a celebration that we are finally all home with the Bridegroom!
Thank you, hubby, for researching this stuff. Thank you for quietly writing about something really important and reaching out to serve in excellent ways….in a way that transformed my 2020 and built up my spiritual life. Together, what we are doing leads to “more” in our lives, allowing us to live more abundantly. I’m ever so grateful for that fact and for Him.
If you would like to make comments on specific sections of this document you can do so in a shared Google Doc.
What starts the prophecy of Daniel 9:25?
Daniel 9:25 LEB And you must know and you must understand that from the time of the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem until an anointed one—a leader—will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be restored and will be built with streets and a moat, but in a time of oppression.
Many books have been written in response to this question. Entire denominations have been established based on the answer to this question. Millions of people have had their faith in God strengthened based on the idea that this is a prophecy predicting Jesus.
Thousands of churches teach that the answer to this question is BC 457. Any challenge to this date is met with a full range of reactions from incredulity to hostility.
Some variation of this graphic is seen by everyone who studies Daniel 9.
There are two key events which never change, regardless of who is presenting the topic. One is the year BC 457, and the other is Jesus dying in the middle of the 70th week..
The question is whether the BC 457 date is correct. This paper explores when the instruction was given and by whom.
Who was the last high priest in Solomon’s temple when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the first temple?
Credit – William Struse for his genealogy work
Seraiah was arrested and killed when Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. (2 Kings 25:18-21)
Seraiah had at least two sons. One was named Jehozadak, who was taken to Babylon as a captive. His other son was Ezra, who wrote the book of Ezra. Ezra was the son of the last high priest of Solomon’s temple. Ezra listed his ancestry in Ezra 7 and we can compare that to the genealogy given in 1 Chronicles 6.
Solomon’s temple was destroyed in 586 BC. It was in 586 that Seraiah was killed by Nebuchadnezzar.
Two of Seraiah’s sons were taken to Babylon. The reason we care is that this lets us know who wrote the book of Ezra, and it tells us under which Persian ruler it was written. The reason we care about these two things is that it tells us which dates we should use when we look at the prophecies given to Daniel by Gabriel in Daniel, chapter 9. The upcoming graphic helps us see who was in power in the various years that we are considering.
According to Jeremiah, the Jews were to be held captive in Babylon for 70 years. During this time, Jeremiah wrote a letter to the Jews in Babylon, telling them that God wanted them to cooperate with their captors because, as the captors prospeed, so would the captives. (Jeremiah 29:7)
During this captivity, a number of events happened that are very important — not only to the people who experienced them, but also to us today. Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Nebuchadnezzar all wrote parts of our Bible. Cyrus and Darius played very important roles in the history of God’s people. Our most important prophecies come from this time. It is what was written during this time that Jesus tells us to look to for a better relationship with Him.
Was Seraiah really the father of Ezra? Many Bible commentators will tell you that Ezra was not the son of Seraiah.
If Ezra was alive when the temple was destroyed in 586 BC and in BC 457, then he would have been at least 129 years old — or more likely 140 or 150 — in BC 457. Everyone agrees that humans didn’t live to be that old after the days of Moses.
This leaves many commentators with a problem. There is a desire by many for the events of Ezra 7 to happen in the year BC 457 so that the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 can be used as a prophecy foretelling Jesus. Others want to use 457 as a start date for the 2,300 evenings and mornings of Daniel 8:14. The year 457 as the year for the decree to build and restore is an extremely important foundation for many people.
So, there are two options.
The first option is that Ezra was the son of Seraiah. And, we’d need to read the events of Ezra 7 as having happened in the reign of Artaxerxes Darius in the year 515 BC. If we do this, Ezra would be at least 71 years old and more likely 81 or 91 when he reads the law in Jerusalem as described in Ezra 7.
The second option is that we would need to read that the events of Ezra 7 happened in the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus in the year BC 457. This would mean that Ezra did not accurately name his father.
For many commentators, making sure that the events of Ezra 7 happen in BC 457 causes them to decide that the genealogy of Ezra must be inaccurate.
It is not uncommon for genealogy lists in the Bible to skip generations. In Zechariah 1:1, we are told that Zechariah is the son of Berekiah who is the son of Iddo. In Ezra 5:1 and Ezra 6:14, we are told that Zechariah was the son of Iddo. Berekiah is not mentioned. If the only thing we had to go on was the genealogy of Ezra, we would not be able to state with certainty that the author of Ezra was alive in 586 when the 1st temple was destroyed.
For many commentators, BC 457 is more sacred than the accuracy of Ezra 7:1.
However, the genealogy of Seraiah is a minor challenge compared to the prophecy of Jeremiah 29:10.
While God’s chosen people were in exile in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter. He sent the letter from Jerusalem to Babylon, giving instructions from God about what the exiles were to do. Along with this, God told the exiles that they would be captives for 70 years.
The 70 years began when Nebuchadnezzar’s general destroyed the temple and took thousands prisoner in 586. The story can be found in 2 Kings 25.
When does the word to restore and build Jerusalem occur? There are four times when decrees are issued in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. These are highlighted with our numbers 1 through 4a. There is universal agreement that the temple was destroyed in BC 586 or 587. The difference is dependent on whether the new year began in the Fall or Spring. Here, we will use the most commonly used year for the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. We will also use the Spring as when the new year begins, as directed by God when the Hebrews left Egypt.
We will examine each of the decrees. Our goal is to identify the year in which the decree to restore and build Jerusalem occurs.
Nebuchadnezzar caused the destruction of Jerusalem. It is he who caused thousands of Jews to be killed and exiled. He also wrote some of our Bible. The captivity began in the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar.
During the 70 years of captivity, there was a succession of rulers of the Babylonian and Persian empires. After Nebuchadnezzar died, there were four more Babylonian rulers. Three of them are shown in our graphic. One is not shown, as his time was so short. The font for Amel Marduk and Nerigliassar is small because they do not play a role in the story.
Nabonidus is the father of Belshazzar. Nabonidus apparently didn’t enjoy being ruler and spent his time restoring temples in places far away from the palace. He is also the first known archeologist. Belshazzar was responsible for running the empire while his dad was away.
The dates we use come from a variety of sources; but they are based on the clay tablets that were found at the Assyrian and Persian ruins and from the histories written by the Greeks.
Cyrus issued the most famous decree, which we find referenced in Ezra 1. He issued this decree, allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem 23 years before God had told them they would be freed from captivity.
Cyrus issued his decree in BC 539. It was given during his first year of rule. The story can be found in Ezra 1.
Ezra 1:1-4 LEB “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to accomplish the word of Yahweh by the mouth of Jeremiah, Yahweh stirred the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia and he sent a message to all of his kingdom and also put the message in writing: 2) “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: Yahweh, the God of the heavens, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. And he himself has appointed me to build a house for him in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3) Whoever among you who is from all of his people, may his God be with him and may he go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and may he build the house of Yahweh, the God of Israel. He is the God who is in Jerusalem. 4) And let every survivor, from wherever he resides be assisted by the men of that place with silver and gold, with possessions and domestic animals, and with the freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.””
The decree by Cyrus is an attractive start date for the Daniel 9:25 prophecy. It is an interesting story. It has a date that we can use. But, most Bible students choose not to use this date (539) because it doesn’t get us to Jesus, and that is the end goal for many. It also does not match the prophecy of Jeremiah, which has the Jews captives for 70 years. When Cyrus issued the decree, the Jews had only been in captivity for 47 years. They had another 23 to go. We will return to the decree by Cyrus.
Another series of decrees were issued in the year BC 520, which was the second year of Darius’ rule. Ezra 6 gives us the story of the governor of the province Beyond the River, also called Trans Euphrates, and also called Eber-Nari. The governor sent a letter to the new ruler asking Darius if he wanted to continue to block the work on the new temple in Jerusalem, as the previous Artaxerxes had done. Darius responds with explicit instructions that, instead, the block would be removed and the decree by Cyrus would be upheld. He added funds to make sure it was done. Darius also included a threat to anyone who attempted to interfere with the temple being built.
We also learn, in verse 15 of chapter 6, that the temple is completed in year 6 of Darius, which is the year BC 516.
The temple was destroyed in 586
The 2nd temple was completed in the year 516
There were seventy (70) years between the destruction of the 1st temple and the completion of the 2nd temple.
Part of the reason that Darius confirmed the decree of Cyrus is that, when he took power, there were a lot of people challenging his rule. So, Darius emphasized that he had a common ancestor with Cyrus. He was appealing to the loyalties of those who followed Cyrus by confirming the decrees of Cyrus.
But, even more important than the confirmation by Darius that the decree of Cyrus should be honored is what we find in the book of Haggai. It is a short book with only two chapters; yet, in that book, we find God Himself issuing an instruction to build the temple in Jerusalem. God sends this message to those charged with building the temple in the same year that Darius confirms the decree of Cyrus.
Here, we quote all of the book of Haggai. We emphasize the sections that tell us when God gave this message and what the message was.
To summarize, we have decrees issued in two years so far.
Cyrus – BC 539 – Rebuild
Darius – BC 520 – Confirm the Cyrus decree
God – BC 520 – Inspires people to build His temple
Ezra 6:15 tells us the temple is completed in the 6th year of Darius.
It would seem that the decree to restore and build would be given before, not after, the temple is completed.
Next, we look at the decree that we find in Ezra 7. This is the basis for most evangelistic series and sermons on the topic of the Daniel 9 prophecy.
Darius ruled for 36 years. In the graphic, each year is marked with a white dot.
In year one of Darius’ rule, Daniel had his vision and interaction with Gabriel, which is our focal point.
Ezra chapter 7 does not include any instructions to build. Rather, the decree we find in chapter 7 is an emancipation act freeing all Jews from their captivity in Babylon.
The question is: when does this emancipation happen? Does it happen immediately after the 70 years of captivity, or after 129 years of captivity?
Ezra 7:8 tells us that the emancipation happens in “the seventh year of the king.”
Ezra 6:15 tells us that the temple was completed in the last month of the 6th year of king Darius.
Some suggest that there is a 58-year gap between Ezra 6 and Ezra 7.
I believe a more accurate way to read it is that, on the first day of the following month, Ezra set out for Jerusalem with everyone who wanted to leave. This would be day 1 of the first month after the temple had been completed.
The temple was destroyed in 586. It was rebuilt in 516, which was 70 years after the temple was destroyed. Less than a month later, Darius issued the decree we find in Ezra 7 which:
Frees all of the Jews at the end of the 70 years.
He makes a donation of silver and gold.
He allows a fundraising drive in Babylon. In Haggai 2:7 God says that He would shake the nations and cause the treasure of all nations to come to Jerusalem.
He allows the Jews to appoint their own judges so that they are no longer ruled by their enemies.
They are allowed to set up schools to teach people God’s law.
Which makes more sense to you? Should we read Ezra 7 to happen at the end of the 70 years of captivity, or should we place it 58 years later?
Jeremiah says that the Jews would be captive for 70 years. If we place Ezra 7 in the 7th year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, then they would have been captive 129 years, not 70.
Ezra 7 does not have a decree to restore and build Jerusalem. It is a decree to release the captives.
I believe that the 70 years of captivity ended with the completion of the temple in BC 516 and the travel in BC 515.
The return to Jerusalem was a second Exodus with everyone freed from Babylon. They would have had all of their belongings and wagons of silver and gold. Ezra 8 tells us they had about 50,000 pounds of silver and 8,000 pounds of gold. That treasure was guarded by God. There would have been a number of older people in the group. They would have moved slowly. Their travel took four months.
We have another decree to consider. This is the decree that we find in Nehemiah, chapter 2. It was year 20 of King Artaxerxes. The wall still had gaps. This is either 14 years after the temple was completed in 516, or it is 72 years later in 444.
Nehemiah had been the king’s cupbearer or wine taster –“Take a sip of that and tell me if it has been poisoned.”
The king must have liked him, as he gave Nehemiah “letters” which authorized him to take from the Governor of the province whatever he needed to repair the walls. Along with being given the authority to repair the walls, Nehemiah was made governor of Jerusalem for 12 years.
He returned to Jerusalem and, within 52 days, repaired the walls that had been in disrepair for a long time. Why did the walls still have gaps for years? Remember one of the arguments that was presented by the enemies of Jerusalem was that if the walls were repaired, it would be harder to force them to pay their taxes should they become rebellious like they had a history of doing.
However, the king trusted Nehemiah and allowed him to repair the walls. Nehemiah named the people who were involved in helping repair the walls. In the list of names, we find some who were released by Cyrus in BC 539. Since we are choosing to accept the idea that people in the era might have a hard time remembering who their father is, we look for other evidence to decide which Artaxerxes Nehemiah is referring to.
We know that Ezra and Nehemiah are contemporaries. When the wall was completed in the 20th year of the king, Ezra led a choir procession around the top of the wall in one direction, and Nehemiah led another choir procession around the wall in the other direction. (Nehemiah 12) The Ezra who led the procession of freed Jews in Ezra chapter 7 immediately upon the completion of the temple was still alive and leading the choir around the wall in the year BC 501. He would have been at least 85, and that assumes that he was taken from Jerusalem to Babylon while a fetus. If he was taken when he was 13, he would have been 98 as he led the choir around the wall.
Persia exacted tribute from the provinces of its empire. Egypt sent silver and grain. India sent timber and gold. The province of Beyond the River sent gold and timber. Scythia sent 100 eunuch boys each year. We are told that Daniel was managed by the master of the eunuchs. The empire pulled people from across the empire to fill its armies and to administer the empire. Ezra was known as a scribe. His job was to mark clay tablets with the affairs of the state.
This graphic considers how things would look if we decide that there was a 58-year gap between Ezra chapter 6 and chapter 7. The box in the bottom right reports how many years would elapse between various events, in BC 515 or BC 457.
Haddassah, aka Esther, became queen in the 7th year of one of the kings. Of the Bible scholars who believe her story is true (most don’t), most choose to put her story in the time of Xerxes, the son of Darius. I believe her story fits best with the timeline and events of the life of Darius. Whether you place her story here or 36 years later, we know that the reign of Darius was of major importance in the story of the Jews.
The idea that we should use BC 457 as the starting point was suggested by George Rawlinson. He translated the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus. He worked with his brother, Henry, and completed the translation in 1860. He wrote a number of histories and contributed to religious commentaries.
His brother, Henry, was an officer in the British East India Company army. The British government had army officers embedded in the company and provided protection for the company’s interests. The British government saw the company’s interests as national interests.
Henry Rawlinson transcribed the Persian portion of the Behistun inscription. He spent many years in Iran and was responsible for helping us learn how to translate the clay tablets..
His brother, George, translated the works of the Greek historian Herodotus. Herodotus is called the Father of History, as he was the first to have collected stories and arranged them in a narrative form. Herodotus was born in the Persian empire during the reign of Longimanus. Herodotus was Greek and wrote from the Greek perspective. He also reported that he didn’t always believe what he wrote but was just relaying things that he heard.
The Rawlinson brothers were major contributors to our understanding of the Persian empire. Their translations of Greek and Persian are very important and provide us with much of our secular understanding of the era.
As a part of George Rawlinson’s commentary on the family of the Achaemenids — which Darius, Xerxes, and Longimanus were are part of — he said that Herodotus mentioned Longimanus once but that there was every reason to believe that it was this Artaxerxes who sent Ezra and Nehemiah to Jerusalem. (History of Herodotus volume 4, page 217) George published this in 1860.
The idea was picked up twenty years later by Robert Anderson, who was a preacher. He suggested in his 1881 book, the Coming Prince, that we should use the year 457 as the starting date for the decree to restore and build Jerusalem. Credit William Struse for his research on the origin of the idea.
This supposition became popular with much of Christiantity because it allowed the seventy sevens of Daniel 9 to be used as a prophecy to foretell Jesus.
Artaxerxes Longimanus began his reign in 464 or 465. Rawlinson said 465. According to popular theology, the decree to restore and build Jerusalem started 59 years after the temple was actually finished and 44 years after the walls of the city were actually completed and dedicated. The popular theory (that uses BC 457) has the year of the decree to allow all of the Jews to return home, which then causes the Jews to have been captive for 129 years.
This is not logical. The only reason we use BC 457 is because we need this date to be correct, regardless of any evidence to the contrary. We do this so we can use Daniel 9 to foretell Jesus.
All of us are prone to confirmation bias where everything we see is interpreted to confirm what we want. Be careful that this is not happening to us as we study.
A summary of the things we have shown:
Daniel was given the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 after the decree of Cyrus in BC 539 and before God’s word to build the temple.
In BC 520, God instructed His chosen people to build His temple. In BC 520, God also inspired Darius to confirm the decree of Cyrus. This was 19 years after the decree of Cyrus.
Four years later, in BC 516, the second temple was completed. The second temple was completed 70 years after the first temple was destroyed.
The decree of Ezra chapter 7 does not include any instructions to build. Instead, Ezra 7 is an emancipation proclamation. In less than 30 days after the temple was completed, all Jews were released from Babylon and allowed to return to Jerusalem. This was 70 years after they were exiled. This was when the prophet Jeremiah said they would be allowed to return.
There is no evidence that the Jews were held captive for 129 years, as they would have been if we place Ezra 7 in the era of Artaxerxes Longimanus.
The temple building was finished in BC 516. The wall was repaired in BC 501. A decree in BC 457 to restore and build something which had already been built and dedicated doesn’t make sense.
We have demonstrated from the Bible that the decree to restore and build the second temple happened in either BC 539 with a decree by Cyrus or in BC 520 with the Word of God to Haggai and with the confirmation by Darius of the Cyrus decree. We have no evidence that any decree to build something that was already built and dedicated happened in BC 457. In fact, we have Biblical evidence that no such decree would have been given in BC 457.
If we use the decree by Cyrus in 539 or the Word by God in 520, then the way we typically use the prophecy of Daniel 9:25 does not get us to the birth or ministry or death of Jesus. Yet, for many people, this is a must. Anything that fails to associate the Daniel 9:25 prophecy with Jesus must be wrong.
This causes us to ask, “Are we so determined as to what an answer must be that we are willing to believe something that cannot be? How many contortions are we willing to go through in order to get an answer we want?”
We have several options in dealing with the start date.
Decide that BC 457 is correct, regardless of any evidence otherwise.
Decide that the 70 sevens of Daniel 9 are not 490 years but some time unit other than years.
Decide that Daniel 9 is not a prophecy that takes us from the building of the 2nd temple to Jesus but, rather, that it has some other purpose.
Decide that it is too complicated — too difficult — to understand and that the only thing that matters is that we love our neighbor and let someone else worry about this faith-shaking problem.
Our understanding of what time period is associated with “the word to restore and build Jerusalem” should strengthen our faith and relationship with Jesus. Knowledge and understanding brings us closer to God.
Daniel 9:25 LEB And you must know and you must understand that from the time of the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem until an anointed one—a leader—will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be restored and will be built with streets and a moat, but in a time of oppression.
Deciding that something is true even when the evidence says otherwise doesn’t make us stronger.
When we decide that Daniel 9:25 must get us to Jesus regardless of what the text says, we ignore anything in the text that doesn’t support our desires.
Ask yourself, why must the Daniel 9:25 text go from a Persian ruler to Jesus? Why is that interpretation a requirement? Can we consider any other options? If the answer is that there is only one way to understand it, regardless of the evidence, then we are choosing to ignore the Bible and exalt our own theories.
When Jesus was on Earth, He tried to convey the idea that He was here for a reason that was very different than what most people could accept. Many Jews had an expectation of what their Messiah would do. When He didn’t match that expectation, many rejected their Savior. Are we doing something similar? Have we decided that we know what we want the answer to be and, in doing that, reject the correct answer?
God gives us the freedom to believe what we want to believe. He doesn’t force us to accept Him. He doesn’t force us to understand Him. The promise is that He will give understanding to those who study and follow His commandments.
I have tried very hard to make BC 457 the year of a decree to restore and build Jerusalem because I know that, for many, their faith in the Bible is dependent on the year BC 457 being the beginning of the prophecy in Daniel 9:25. So what do we need to do to cause BC 457 to be correct?
To make BC 457 correct, we need to do several things.
We need to decide that the Ezra who wrote chapter 7 and who says his father is Seraiah is not accurately telling us who his father is. Perhaps the lineage he gives only includes “important” people and his real father and grandfather didn’t merit mention. We have no reason to insert a couple of individuals into the lineage that Ezra gives other than we want BC 457 to be correct. However, there is evidence that generations do get skipped in lineage lists; so, perhaps we should not base our beliefs on Ezra’s ability to name his father accurately.
We need to decide that the Ezra who wrote the book is not the same Ezra who was a contemporary with Nehemiah. We could decide that the Ezra who wrote the book that bears his name is someone other than the Ezra that Nehemiah talks about in his book.
We could decide that both Ezra and Nehemiah are not contemporaries with Darius. Instead, we must read all references to Darius in their books as referencing a historical figure.
In Ezra 7, the Persian king gives a decree permitting all Jewish people to return to Judea. This happened in the 7th year of the king giving the decree. We want this to be BC 457 because our faith is dependent on this being the year. The temple was destroyed in BC 586. The Jews were taken captive in BC 586. Jeremiah says that they will be captives for 70 years. Yet, 586-457 is 129 years; whereas, 586-516 is 70 years. BC 516 is the 7th year of Darius’ rule. But, we don’t want to use Darius; we want to use Longimanus. We will need to figure out how to add some more years to Jeremiah’s 70-year prophecy. This issue seems insurmountable.
We could decide that the year numbers given for the destruction of Jerusalem and the years that the kings ruled are not correct. Perhaps our conversions from the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman dating systems are not correct. Perhaps Jerusalem wasn’t destroyed in BC 586. Perhaps Cyrus didn’t take control of Babylon in BC 539. Perhaps the temple wasn’t rebuilt in BC 516. Perhaps the freeing of all the Jews did not happen in BC 515. Perhaps the only date that is correct is BC 457. We will need to come up with a better reading of the cuneiform tablets and Greek histories on which historians base their numbers.
The Bible histories, dates, people, and stories all work and match the secular versions of history, if we accept Ezra and Nehemiah as living and acting during the reign of Darius. Trying to force Ezra to BC 457 creates some serious problems.
The most difficult change we would need to make in order to make BC 457 correct is the 70-year period of captivity. We would have to find a way for the 70-year prophecy of Jeremiah to actually be a 129 year prophecy. I can’t think of a way to do that.
What is Daniel 9:25 about, if the events regarding the building of the 2nd temple do not take us from a Persian ruler of our choice to Jesus?
Millions of people have believed in Jesus because an evangelist told them that BC 457 was an important date. At least one Protestant denomination has this date as their foundation. Doesn’t the fact that millions have believed in God make everything the preacher teaches to be true?
Does the teacher who has taught BC 457 as the starting point for the prophecies of Daniel 8:14 and Daniel 9:25, lose credibility when they learn the start is really BC 539 or BC 520? Will our pride allow us to correct what we have been telling people?
Can we tell people that BC 457 is not correct before we have a suitable replacement to explain what starts the 70 sevens? Isn’t it better to assure people that BC 457 is correct? We don’t want to shake anyone’s faith.
The alternative is to open our Bibles and study.
The next study looks at the prophecy given by Gabriel to Daniel without using BC 457 as the starting point.
If you read through this again, note the references to God’s festivals that we see. There are multiple. One of these includes God giving instructions to build His temple on the Feast of Shouts.
Prepared March 2021 by Steve Smith Orcas Island, WA ServantsVoice.com