Sixty years ago, I began observing the biblical festivals of God as a young boy. It started with my mother. After several years of study and seeking, she found that the Bible set forth the observance of the weekly seventh-day Sabbath and annual feasts of the Lord, leading her into deeper understanding of God than what she had as part of a major Protestant denomination.
As my mother learned about the feasts and started to keep them, she taught them to me. No other family members observed these festivals. No one else in our small Midwest community kept them either. We were alone in what we did.
Today we are not alone. Today there is a growing interest in the feast days of the Bible. This is not the first time for such growing interest. Religious history tells us that when people through the ages began to read the Bible in their own languages, they began to read about the biblical Sabbath and God’s other feasts. This led to more people keeping these festivals.
A lot of people are now taking a closer look at what these days are about. Perhaps many of these people will take the step of actually observing them. They certainly should. These are God’s own festivals. And one day the whole world will celebrate them!
Foundational yet often forsaken
As a pastor and teacher for nearly 50 years, I have taught the observance and meaning of these days all over the world. They reveal deep insight into the mind of God and His plan for humanity.
The words of Leviticus 23:1-2 set the foundation: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts”’” (emphasis added). Accepting the feast days as belonging to God gives not only the right foundation but the basis for understanding every other reference to these festivals throughout the Bible.
God wanted the ancient Israelites to be swept clean of all the pagan teaching they might have absorbed in Egypt and for them to worship in ways acceptable to Him. He defined the holy times in which they were to come and worship Him as part of His revealed truth. Observing these days as instructed would have set and kept the nation on the right course. Sadly, the Israelites often strayed.
Observing God’s festivals is part of His requirement to worship Him “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). These days were taught and observed by the early apostles and Church. When they are observed with God’s work through Christ at the center, they give enlarged meaning and understanding.
The feasts of the Lord fell out of favor with growing numbers among the early Church as pagan influences introduced other festivals and ideas about worship. Over time, the birthday of the sun god, Sol Invictus, on Dec. 25 was adopted as the birthday of Jesus, and Easter took the place of the biblical feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread. The biblical festivals came to be viewed as unnecessary and were scorned as “Jewish” practices unbefitting Christians.
The familiar pattern in the tragic story of ancient Israel repeated itself. Idolatry crept into worship, and the feast days were forgotten until a righteous leader would rediscover and proclaim the truths from the law. Josiah’s reforms in the seventh century B.C. are a classic example.
Renewed interest today
Which brings us back to the present. Observers of the religious landscape clearly see the decline in traditional religion, the return of pagan ideas and a restlessness for authentic religion.
As noted earlier, there is a growing interest in these biblical feasts. Last year saw the publication of a book with an intriguing title—The Rose Guide to the Feasts, Festivals and Fasts of the Bible. This book surveys the festivals of God in their biblical and cultural setting and what they meant in biblical times. It shows how groups today, such as the Messianic movement, observe the days with a focus on the work of Christ being portrayed through them.
This is not the only book by authors who see great value in the feasts of God. In recent years many Bible scholars and teachers have studied the feasts to find additional meaning. This has led others to dig deeper into what these days mean. Our Beyond Today office regularly receives requests from religious teachers asking us to send multiple copies of our study guides for use in their classes. In their studies they come across the festivals, questions are asked and discussions form around the topic. We are always glad to fill these requests free of charge as part of our ministry.
One of our United Church of God elders, John Miller, has found a growing interest in the feasts of God among his community in northeastern Ohio. More than 35 years ago he left a conservative church community to keep God’s Sabbath and Holy Days. Meeting some resistance, he and his wife stepped out in faith to obey God. Today he’s encountered others who want to know more and have also stepped out in faith to keep these days.
He calls it a new frontier, stating: “The landscape regarding the Sabbath and the feasts of the Lord has changed dramatically over the past five to 10 years. Large numbers of people have become interested in the meaning and significance of these Holy Days and have begun integrating them into their lives. This is a journey on a spiritual frontier in pursuit of ‘what is truth.’”
He adds: “The people who have discovered the Sabbath and the Holy Days realize the world is headed in the wrong direction. They realize established institutions, both secular and religious, have not been forthright or acted in the interests of the people they are supposed to serve. Instead, their pursuit of self-interest has led to corruption and deception.
“Somehow the ancient text of the Bible becomes their go-to book in search of meaning, and they quickly realize that much of what they thought was in the holy book is not there but is rooted in traditions of men or, worse, pagan practices. This discovery causes many to embark on a journey of discovery in search of truth, often accompanied by a deep sense of disillusionment with the established order of things.”
When people read the Bible with an open heart and mind, they come to see that the feasts and Sabbaths of the Lord have great purpose and meaning for them!
A decision must be made
This echoes what my mother, and many others, concluded those many years ago—embracing the life-changing conviction that God’s teachings must be obeyed. We must do as Jesus taught, which is to “live . . . by every word of God” (Luke 4:4). It is to put aside the things that are contrary to that and cling to what is true, following Christ.
That path of discipleship, as Scripture shows, often begins with returning to God and worshiping Him on the days He appointed—not on what people substituted as right in their own eyes. My mother walked away from Christmas, Easter and Sunday to worship God on His Sabbath and to keep all His feast days.
After conducting a diligent search of the Scriptures in this regard, a decision must be made. Will you step out in faith and obey God’s teaching? Or will you put it aside as merely an interesting study? When King Josiah heard from the Scriptures that a feast should be kept, he took action:
“Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded . . . ‘Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us’” (2 Kings 22:11-13).
What Josiah heard from God’s law was that the festivals were to be observed. So he made plans for the nation to keep the Passover then after many years of neglect.
Scripture teaches that every great revival within Israel took place in the context of observing the feasts of the Lord. The greatest revival is yet ahead after Christ returns, when the whole world will observe God’s festivals, such as the Feast of Tabernacles (see Zechariah 14:16-19).
But if God is already opening your eyes to His truth, your responsibility to live by His revealed teaching is now. As the apostle Paul said regarding one of God’s festivals, “Therefore let us keep the feast . . .” (1 Corinthians 5:8).
Is your life in need of a spiritual revival? It may be time for you to start keeping God’s feasts!