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.
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!