All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Festivals of Thanksgiving
Based on Exodus 23

God saves Israel from Egyptian bondage and provides His covenant to free the Hebrews from their bondage to sin. However, He knows that human thankfulness is absolutely necessary for maintaining a relationship with Him, so He establishes three yearly festivals that Israel must observe (Exodus 23:14–17). They’re linked with both their seasonal agricultural harvests and the great events of their redemption history.

Feast of Unleavened Bread

The first is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It begins with the celebration of Passover, commemorating the salvation of the firstborn through the slaying of the Passover lamb. That, in turn, points forward to the sacrifice of the coming Messiah.

This feast occurs in the first month of their calendar (our March or April), at the time of spring lambing, and requires the eating of unleavened bread for seven days.

There are two meanings to the unleavened bread. First, it commemorates their hasty exodus from Egypt, and second, the leaven must not be used in the bread because it is also a symbol of sin.

Barley is the earliest grain to ripen, and since this is the time to harvest it, a sheaf of barley is to be waved before the Lord in thankfulness for the harvest.

Feast of Harvest

The second festival is the Feast of Harvest, also called the Feast of Weeks.It occurs seven weeks after the Passover (in our May or June), at the time of the wheat and spelt grain harvests.

This feast only lasts one day, and in gratitude to God for the harvest, two barley loaves are to be baked with leaven and presented before Him (Leviticus 23:17).

Feast of Ingathering

The third festival is the Feast of Ingathering, also called the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths.

This is an eight-day festival that comes in our October or November, after the fall harvest of olives and grapes. The people are to make booths of tree branches and live in them during the festival, commemorating the time of dwelling in tents during the wilderness sojourn.

A holy convocation occurs at the beginning and end of the festival. The great day of judgment called the Day of Atonement has just passed, and they have received assurance that their sins are forgiven and that God accepts them.

This festival is a time for great gladness and thanksgiving, acknowledging God’s provision for their physical needs, and His assurance of their salvation.

God Provides

All males are required to go to the sanctuary (and later to the temple) for all three festivals. Usually the women and children also go along.

While they travel they must leave their homes and land unprotected from thieves and invaders, trusting in God for protection.

These festivals are designed to help fulfill their social needs, but they also strengthen their relationship with God by reminding them of how He redeemed them from bondage, how He provides for their salvation, and how He sustains them with a bountiful harvest.

No wonder the Israelites burst forth in great thanksgiving to God!

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