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Appointed Times Of The L-RD OR Passover: Why Should I Care?!?

Posted by on Jan 24, 2015 in Biblical Holidays, Torah & Life |
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[Please note, this post introduces ideas pulled from a few sections of scripture, the evidence for which is not complete. Those sections should be apparent to the reader. These sections of scripture and the ideas we are pulling from them aren’t meant to be taken dogmatically. Rather, they are pulled to get us thinking about something in a way that we might not have done before.

In Jewish thought, strict black and white lines of demarcation are not the norm. Instead, there is the idea of constantly looking for additional meaning which may have been previously missed. That is the spirit in which this post is presented.]

Genesis 1:14-19

Why did G-d create the sun, moon & stars? We’re told in Genesis 1:14 that He created them, first and foremost, to indicate signs and seasons.

The order in which the L-RD gives us the functions of the “greater and lesser lights” is important. He lists the most important, primary uses first and the secondary utilities last.

What’s particularly interesting about this is that, at this point, HaShem has not informed us about what these signs and seasons might be.

Since the primary purpose for which HaShem created the heavenly hosts was to be markers for signs and seasons, it is our obligation as His worshiping servants to search out exactly to what those signs point because they are of utmost importance to Him. We’ll revisit this idea in a minute.

In Genesis chapter 4 we have the recounting of the history of Cain & Abel.

In verse 3 the Hebrew literally says “at the end of days” both Cain & Abel brought sacrifices to the L-RD.

“At the end of days” indicates a specific, predetermined time.

Let me ask you, how did they know when the “end of days” was?

Could it be that HaShem had told them how to read the signs He put in the heavens? Could it also be that G-d had communicated to them about the specific times He had set aside to meet with them for specific, special purposes? Maybe this time of the “end of days” was one of the seasons mentioned in Genesis 1:14. I don’t think this is too far-fetched, but let’s put that thought on hold for a while. We’ll revisit it later in this post.

Let’s move on to Exodus 12. We’re interested in Exodus 12:1-4 and Exodus 12:14-15.

Here it seems HaShem introduces, for the first time in the written scriptures, the idea of Passover, or “Pesach” in Hebrew. However, one of the primary elements of the greater festival of Passover, and centric to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, is referred to here in a casual way. G-d assumes that ‘unleavened bread’ is already something familiar to Moses and the Israelites.

In these verses in Exodus 12, HaShem specifically details every single aspect of how to observe Passover. Every aspect, that is, except for the matzoh – the unleavened bread. This is a significant detail we should not simply gloss over. Why?

We should remember that faithfully, and properly, observing Passover in Egypt was the difference between life & death for the Israelites. If the L-RD failed to describe the proper preparation of such an important element, it could potentially mean the deaths of many Israelites. If unleavened bread wasn’t a food already familiar to the Israelites, G-d would have described its preparation in detail, just as He did for the other elements.

In fact, some biblical scholars have decided the way G-d speaks about the unleavened bread indicates familiarity with it on the part of Moses and the Israelites. I agree with them.

To find out why, let’s turn now to Genesis 17:23-26.

The phrase “that very day” is significant. It indicates significance of immediacy. The particular phrase is telling us to pay attention to the time frame in which all these things happened.

Earlier in Genesis 17, the scripture describes an encounter Abram has with HaShem. It is during this encounter that HaShem both changes Abram’s name to Abraham and instructs him to circumcise himself, his son, Ishmael, and every male in his household.

In verse 23 and 26 we’re told Abraham carries out G-d’s instruction “that very day”. And Chapter 18 is a direct continuation of the events of chapter 17. That’s not necessarily to say it happened in the hours following the day Abraham circumcised himself and his household, but from the wording in the text we could certainly infer these events all happened immediately one after the other.

Chapter 18 starts with the word “And”. It also refers to Abraham as “him” without clarifying who “him” is referring to. Again, the continuation is significant. In fact, it looks like the events of Genesis 17:1-18:24 happened over the course of perhaps 2-3 days at the most.

Let’s take a step back & summarize what’s happening in these verses.

HaShem appears to Abram, changes his name to Abraham and instructs him concerning circumcision. “That very day” Abraham circumcises himself and his household “and the L-RD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre”.

Abraham invites the L-RD and His angels to sit down while Abraham brings them “a morsel of bread”. He then turns to Sarah and tells her to make cakes.

Here’s one place where only reading the text in English is a huge drawback. In the English, this event seems pretty inconsequential. In the Hebrew, however, we see something completely different.

The Hebrew for “cakes” here is “uga” (‘oog ah). “Uga” was flat, round bread – thin wafers.

In this passage we should also note that Abraham is in a hurry and mentions nothing to Sarah about waiting for the bread to rise. This is because “uga” was a type of unleavened bread.

Keep this in mind as we move a little further in the text and take a look at what goes on with Lot, possibly on the same day, in chapter 19.

In verse 3 it literally says Lot “made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate”.

We should notice this feast actually took place later in the evening. Notice that the topic of conversation in the first 2 verses center around where the angels would spend the night. The day’s activities in the market were over and people were settling into their homes for the night.

So, at this point, we see how G-d appeared to Abram (17:1), Abraham circumcised himself & his whole household and served flat, unleavened bread to HaShem. It’s also interesting that Abraham served a calf, “tender and good” to the L-RD as part of their meal. We won’t take the time to expound on what this means here, but suffice to say that this was a very special and important thing to do.

Down in Sodom, seemingly that very evening, Lot feeds the angels a feast, specifically with unleavened bread. After which meal, the men of the city, who are attempting to act violently towards the angels, are struck with blindness while Lot & his family are hurriedly delivered from destruction by being rushed from the city in the night.

Does any of this seem like it might fit just as well into another story?

Does it sound like another story where, on a certain night a certain group of people ate a feast including a year old animal and unleavened bread, who were then swiftly and miraculously delivered through supernatural signs & wonders, leaving on the heals of a wake of death and destruction in the middle of the night?

Is any of this ringing a bell? Seems like we might have just read part of a story that seems a lot like one that happened in Egypt.

Hmm… oh, yeah… the Passover! Exodus 12. It’s all coming back to you now, isn’t it? Isn’t it interesting that we started looking at one of the only other stories in scripture that talks about unleavened bread and have now stumbled upon the fact that this story closely mimics the Passover story we all know & love.

I’d like to draw your attention back to the part where Abraham circumcised everyone the day before Sodom bit the dust. I believe the timing of G-d telling Abram to do that at this particular time carries weight.

It just so happens that Passover is the only, I repeat, the ONLY appointed time/feast of the L-RD (moedim [moe eh ‘deem]) that requires its male participants be circumcised as a prerequisite for taking part in the festal sacrifice. (See Exodus 12:43-48)

Now let’s take this thing full circle. Turn back to Genesis 1:14.

Remember what the most important, primary purpose of the sun, moon & stars / heavenly bodies / “lights in the expanse of the heavens” is? They are to act as signs & “for seasons”.

Funny thing about the Hebrew word for “seasons” there in verse 14. This is one of only three (3) times that Hebrew word is ever translated as “seasons”. I’m trying to find a good reason why because almost everywhere else in scripture it’s translated differently using one of a couple of phrases.

The word translated “seasons” in verse 14 is the Hebrew word “moedim”. I hope that sounds familiar because almost everywhere else it’s translated as “appointed times”. As in the “appointed times of the L-RD” in Leviticus 23.

It’s the same phrase G-d uses with Abraham in Genesis 18 when He’s talking about Sarah having a child.

It’s also interesting to note that the Jewish sages place the timing of the incident of Cain & Abel bringing their sacrifices to G-d at Nisan 14 on the Hebrew calendar. We won’t look at why right now and we won’t put too much emphasis on it, but you should know that Nisan 14 is the first day of Passover.

Conclusion

What does all this mean? Why should we care? And how does it apply to our lives today? To find out, let’s ask ourselves a few questions, shall we?

Our first question centers around the “moedim” (appointed times) of the L-RD: Are what most Christians call the “feasts of Israel” really Israel’s feasts, or are they the L-RD’s? Let’s take a look at Leviticus 23:1 to find out.

G-d Himself calls them “the appointed feasts (moedim) of the L-RD”. He then emphasizes this by stating “they are My appointed feasts (moedim)” [emphasis mine].

Just a few verses later in Leviticus 23:4 the second moed (appointed time, singular) G-d outlines is Pesach (Passover). And, again, G-d makes sure we understand these are His moedim, not Israel’s. So, the answer to “who’s feasts are they, anyway” is fairly obvious.

Second question: To whom do the moedim (appointed times) of Genesis 1:14 apply (which are described in Leviticus 23)?

Well, let’s think about this.

Since Genesis 1:14 is right in the middle of creation, I think maybe a more appropriate question might be “To whom do the moedim of Genesis 1:14 not apply?”

While I think this should be a self-explanatory, rhetorical question, let’s look at who in the Bible might have celebrated them.

I know I haven’t built a case for it here, but, as I mentioned earlier, several Jewish sages believe that when Cain & Abel offered their sacrifices to the L-RD “at the end of days”, it was actually Nisan 14 – the eve of Passover. If this is true, it’s very easy to see why Abel’s offering of a lamb was accepted while Cain’s offering of produce was not.

Assuming the sages are correct, something else to think about is this: when Cain & Abel offered their sacrifices before the L-RD there were no Jews to be found. It was hundreds & hundreds of years before the Israelites would come on the scene. I believe this could be a hint that at all of mankind should be observing Passover. Within the criteria set forth by HaShem, of course.

Moving forward quite a few years to Genesis 17-19, we see both Abraham & Lot possibly celebrating Passover.

Both these instances (Cain & Abel and Abraham & Lot) occur hundreds or thousands of years before the events of Exodus 12 and before the nation of Israel even existed.

There were no Jews in Genesis 4. Depending on your viewpoint, there weren’t really any in Genesis 17-19, either, though Abraham is the father of the Jewish people. But even if we count Abraham as being “Jewish”, the same case cannot be made for Lot. Though he was related to Abraham, he wasn’t Abraham’s descendant.

When we take into consideration:

A) the moedim are introduced in the middle of the creation account in Genesis 1:14,
B) we see evidence of other, non-Jewish people celebrating at least one moed (appointed time),
C) HaShem goes to great lengths to separate His appointed times from being strictly Jewish, and
D) the specific appointed time we see non-Jews participating in is the second moed described by G-d,

it becomes apparent that the appointed times of the L-RD in Leviticus 23 should apply universally to mankind – at least from G-d’s perspective.

There does, though, seem to be one HUGE difference between the moedim as they relate to the Jewish people versus the rest of us.

G-d doesn’t mince words when talking about the nation of Israel being HIS PEOPLE. He makes it abundantly clear they are specifically required to celebrate all His feasts and uphold all His commandments. And even though they are required to do these things, G-d still promises a blessing for observing some commands and feasts.

Gentiles don’t seem to be under the same obligation.

The Gentiles seem to have incentive to observe certain commands or moedim, but are not under the same obligation as the Jews. Isaiah 56 is a great example of this kind of incentive.

However, I would say that, even if G-d’s moedim aren’t “required” for Gentiles, as G-d fearers, we should be especially eager to take part in them. Not for our own benefit necessarily, but because they are important to G-d.

If I only did things that were important to me and refused to do anything that was important to my wife (that I didn’t directly benefit from) how good of a relationship would you suppose we’d have? Not very.

Part of having a relationship with someone is doing things that person likes simply because they like it. Our own enjoyment isn’t the point – theirs is.

G-d has specifically and specially set aside certain dates and times to meet with us for certain purposes. Why would we waste such opportunities? We shouldn’t.

I’ll leave you with one final thought about the L-RD’s appointed times.

In Genesis 2:1-3 it says G-d finished His work on the seventh day and rested from His work. The next sentence is so often overlooked in Christianity, but I think it deserves special attention.

Verse 3 says, “So G-d blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it G-d rested from all His work that He had done in creation”.

Not only did G-d specially bless the seventh day, but he also set it apart as special and unique. He made it to be treated differently than the six other days of the week. That’s exactly what making it “holy” means – set apart.

In Isaiah 66:23 it says: “From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the L-RD.”

In Zechariah 14:16-17 it says: “Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the L-RD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the L-RD of hosts, there will be no rain on them.”

From these verses, it seems to me, that at least Shabbat & Sukkot (Feat of Booths) are not just for Israel to observe, but apply to “all flesh”.

I believe G-d made the sabbath day part of creation for a reason, just as he put the sun, moon and star in the sky for a reason. It’s one of His moedim. He’s specifically set it aside in order to make time to meet with us, as He outlines in Leviticus 23:1-3.

This year, why not make an effort to learn about G-d appointed times and make time in our schedules to meet with the Creator of the universe, just as He’s made time to be with us?

Cheers!
-Mark


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