- The Sabbath: Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Exodus 23:12; 34:21; 35:2; Amos 8:5; Jeremiah 17:21-22; Leviticus 19:3, 30; 23:3; 26:2; Numbers 15:32-36; 28:9-10; Exodus 16:22-26; 35:1-3; 31:12-17.
- The Passover: Exodus 12:1-14, 25-27, 43-48; 34:25; Deuteronomy 16:1-8.
- Unleavened bread: Exodus 12:1-20, 43-50; 13:3-10; 23:14-15; 34:18; Leviticus 23:4-8; Deuteronomy 16:3-4, 8; Joshua 5:10; 2 Chronicles 30:5-9; 35:6; Numbers 9:1-14; 28:16-25. Excommunication for refusal to celebrate, Numbers 9:13.
- Feast of Weeks, First Fruits: Exodus 23:14-16; 34:22; Leviticus 23:15-21; Numbers 28:26-31; Deuteronomy 16:9-12.
- Feast of Tabernacles, or Ingathering: Exodus 23:16; 34:22; Leviticus 23:33-36, 39-43; Deuteronomy 16:13-17; Ezra 3:4; 1 Kings 8:2; 2 Chronicles 5:3; Numbers 29:12-38.\Sabbatical Year: Exodus 23:10-12; Deuteronomy 15:1-2; Leviticus 25:1-5, 20-22; Jeremiah 34:12-16.
- New Moon: Numbers 28:11-15; Ezekiel 46:3.
- Atonement: Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16:1-22, 26-32; 25:9; Numbers 29:7-11.
- Trumpets: Leviticus 23:23-25; Numbers 29:1-6; 10:10.
- Year of Jubilee: Leviticus 25:8-16, 23-34, 39-42, 47-52, 54.
- Males must worship thrice yearly on the three major feasts: Exodus 23:17; 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16.
Two notable facts must be commented on here: these are the religious observances commanded by God of the covenant people. However, first, it must be noted that while failure to observe the Passover requires the excommunication of the man who has no valid excuse for his failure (Num. 9:13), we have on the whole an attitude of forbearance. Second, the religious days in the calendar are seen as feasts and as privileged participations, not as penalties. The man who observes God's feasts and holy days is neither restricted nor penalized thereby but privileged and blessed. The perspective thus is not of a penalizing inclusion but a privileged participation. This is far from the attitude of one mother I once heard tell her children, "I had to suffer through Sunday school and church, and you are going to do it too, for your own good!"
Thus, non-participation is its own penalty on the whole. The excommunication for refusal to celebrate the Passover simply confirms the folly of the man who cuts himself off from the atonement and chooses his own way of life and deliverance.
Those who reject God and the means of grace are fools. Their future is to be outside of God and His Kingdom. The word for hell (Gehenna, or Hinnom) refers to the city dump, a place of junk and trash, of decay and worms, and of fires to consume the piles of waste. Anyone who chooses the garbage dump over God is someone to separate ourselves from.
The Sabbath means rest. It means the confidence that our future is not in our hands but God's, that He is the absolute Lord and determiner. Luther rightfully trusted in the words of the psalmist rather than his own limited foreknowledge when he declared, "I shall not die, but live, and declare the words of the LORD" (Ps. 118:17). To rest in the Lord means to take hands off our lives and to commit them to God's providence and care. To live without resting in the Lord is to make hell our residence and troubles our unending companion.
To rest from our labors, as God rested from His (Gen. 2:2), does not mean inactivity necessarily, but sitting back in the knowledge of a glorious accomplishment, God's Kingdom work.
Quite rightly, the Sabbath has been a day of song and of singing because it is a day of triumph. It is a foretaste of the fulness of victory and peace. Those who turn the Sabbath rest into a time of solemn misery desecrate the Sabbath.
The Passover means deliverance. The Hebrew Sabbath commemorates Israel's deliverance; the Christian Sabbath celebrates the Christian's victory in and through Christ over the power of sin and death. "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Cor. 5:7).
The feasts of Unleavened Bread, of Weeks, and of Tabernacles, have been absorbed into other days of the Christian calendar, but their spirit lives in true thanksgiving and worship.
The sabbatical year again was a privilege. It marked a time of prolonged rest, and of release from debt. It meant no long term debts, no more than for six years. When and where observed by Christians, it meant debt-free living as the normal way of life, and a year-long rest for man and for the earth. Man is the loser for embracing long-term debt, and he is the loser for refusing true rest. According to Isaiah 57:20-21,
20. But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
21. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
Men talk of wanting peace, but they hate it because it brings them face to face with their emptiness. To be in conflict gives them a sense of empty purpose and a way of evading God.
The new moon was another religious occasion. The celebration of time is a religious event. For fallen, unregenerate man, the passage of time means aging, decay, and death. For the man of God, it means that God's purposes have been advanced, because all things are in His sovereign power. We are to view time, therefore, not simply in personal terms but rather as God's advancement of His victory. If we make ourselves a part of His purpose, we are then a part of His triumph.
The atonement, is, of course, central to our faith because it accomplishes our restoration into God's calling and Kingdom. The atonement tells us that God's justice requires restitution. Where there is no restitution, there is no justice. The legal systems of Christendom for centuries rested on the doctrine of the atonement; as they depart from it, they falter and fail.
The feast of trumpets was observed on the first day of the seventh month. In Exodus 19:16-19, the voice of God on Sinai was preceded by a great blast of trumpets that terrified the people. The trumpet sound was thus an "image" of the voice of God (Rev. 1:10; 4:1). The trumpet is a herald of power and of war and of the presence of majesty.
This is why the year of Jubilee was proclaimed by trumpets (Lev. 25:9). The Jubilee year was a time of restoration. Faithfulness to the sabbatical years made a society free of long-term debt and free from a boom-and-bust cycle. It provided for the restoration of the soil's fertility by rest, and it maintained the stability and continuity of rural society. The Jubilee year was basic to the pattern of life required by God. Important as it was and is, no law allowed man to enforce it. God, Himself, punishes the lawless societies.
Men had to take the leadership in worship, and their visits to the sanctuary thrice annually set forth the responsibility of men towards God. Since the Enlightenment in particular, worship has been left too often to women and children.
What we see is that in these laws, given much space in the books of law, only one is enforceable by man. The surrender of enforcement in many areas by man to God is mandatory. His laws must be enforced according to His requirements. For church or state to assume the power of enforcement in these areas is to claim to be as God. To attempt to punish men where God's law gives no permission to do so is to play God, something not taken lightly by the Almighty. When and where is it written that God added church or state to the Trinity and gave them independent powers to enforce His laws where not required to do so by Him?
The Lord God can run the world very well without man's unasked for help. Men are too prone to disobey God by neglecting His requirements and then trying to play God in areas where God gives them no jurisdiction.
The transgression of jurisdiction is sometimes more serious than the transgression of a particular law because it transfers to man, or to the church or state, powers rightly and exclusively the prerogative of God. In Matthew 21:31, our Lord said to the religious and civil leaders of His day, "Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the Kingdom of God before you." There is no reason to believe that He has since changed His mind about hypocrisy, Phariseeism, and claims to illegitimate powers.