Bible Study Tools / Holidays And Holy Days

Practicing What We Preach

by David Palmer
A subscriber to the Good News magazine sent a letter to the United Church of God Home Office acknowledging that the Church preaches the doctrine of keeping the feasts of God, but asked, “While you teach them, do you actually keep them?”
Are these feasts of the Lord still relevant today? And if so, why do we keep them? Are they just “religious trappings,” or are we instructed to observe them for a specific reason? There is a scripture in the Old Testament book of Leviticus that admonished the nation of Israel to observe the feasts of God. “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, concerning the Feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts” (Leviticus 23:2). The entire chapter then gives instructions from God as to the observation of these special feasts, and when we look closely at the festivals outlined, we learn a number of lessons.

One of those lessons is particularly important in answering the question as to why we continue to observe them today. While many of Canada’s mainstream churches simply neglect or ignore these festivals, the United Church of God continues to observe all of the Feast days, including the Feast of Pentecost. But why?

Three specific words are used each time God reminds us that the feasts, His feasts, are to be observed. So let’s take a close look at God’s instructions. “These are the Feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their seasons” (Leviticus 23:4). The word “holy” in this verse refers to “a sacred place” or “thing. ” The Hebrew is quodesh, from the prime root meaning “to observe as ceremonially or morally clean. ”

Convocation refers to “a calling out, as in a public meeting. ” In other words, a holy convocation is a God-commanded sacred assembly of God’s people. But the word convocation means much more than that. It also means “a rehearsal. ” The Hebrew is miqra and is taken from the prime root of the word qara.

Why is that important? Because in a word it means the feast days involve “rehearsal. ” Each week on the Sabbath, and each year as we observe God’s annual feast days we are rehearsing the plan of Salvation.

These feasts of the Lord, including the Feast of Pentecost, are a blueprint of God’s plan for His entire creation, and as we continue to rehearse God’s way, God’s plan, we are in effect, “practicing what we preach. ” We are rehearsing for the Kingdom of God!
It’s interesting to note that the first scripture that uses the phrase holy convocation is found in Exodus 12:16. It refers to the keeping of the seven-day Feast, the Days of Unleavened Bread. The last use of the phrase holy convocation is found in Numbers 29:12, referring to the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus made it clear that He came to do the will of His Father (John 5:30; John 12:49-50).

When we understand that Christ is the central character of God’s plan, we recognize that the Messiah observed and kept all of God’s commands, including the feast days. The apostles also observed them, even after Christ’s death and resurrection. The apostle Paul wrote that the Old Testament scriptures were given for our learning (Romans 15:4). The word “learning” refers to both knowledge and function, the concept of not just acquiring information, but acting on it as well.

So whether we are looking at Old Testament scripture, or bringing Jesus into the picture, we still have the commandment to keep the feasts. And each is a portion of the overall rehearsal program that God laid out, so that we might be better equipped as kings and priests in His kingdom.

God tells us to keep these holy convocations, these rehearsals of His plan of salvation in their season. We are to observe, to rehearse, to practice and to continue to do so year in and year out. Each holy day is designated by God for us to step back from our busy world for a brief period of time, and once again rehearse His marvelous plan of salvation.

One day all this rehearsal will be over.  Jesus Christ will be here and it will be time to implement all those things we learned at rehearsal. That’s why a holy convocation, a commanded assembly of God’s people, is to be proclaimed, observed and rehearsed. We have the command to “preach the gospel,” and to preach the gospel requires that we practice what we preach which includes rehearsing many elements that the Pentecost pictures.
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