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Three Times a Year
Here, some of God’s seven annual festivals are listed and reviewed. The sacrifices that God later added to accompany these feasts are no longer in effect. The festivals themselves, however, are still to be observed. Following the Passover, God commanded that the Israelites were not to eat leavened bread for seven days, but were to instead eat unleavened bread during that time (verses 3, 8). No leaven was t o be seen among them in all their territory for those seven days (verse 4)—the Days of Unleavened Bread. Seven weeks later, the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, was to be kept (verse 9). Next would be the Feast of Trumpets followed by the Day of Atonement, but neither are mentioned here—nor is the Last Great Day. However, the Feast of Tabernacles is specifically reviewed (verses 13-15). This does not mean that Trumpets, Atonement and the Last Great Day are no longer holy. Rather, God is listing here only the three seasons of His annual festivals, as can be seen in verse 16. The first season, early spring, includes Passover and Unleavened Bread; the next season, late spring approaching summer, refers to Pentecost, and the third season, late summer and fall, includes Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles and the Last Great Day (these feasts are all to be kept within a period of less than a month).
As part of the instructions for keeping His festivals, God also commanded that we come before Him with an offering during each of the three festival seasons (verse 16). Generally, the Israelites made three trips in order to worship together in the three festival seasons. Many of the offerings were produce or animals, so it may have been practical for families to turn over their offerings as soon as they arrived at the place of worship. However, since offerings today are usually in the form of money (checks, cash, etc.), and since God does command that we are not to “appear before Him” empty-handed, the Church of God in modern times has instituted a tradition of taking up offerings on each Holy Day, the days on which God specifically commands us to appear before Him in assembly for worship services. Why did God specify only the males? It was assumed that each family was headed by a man, and the man presented the family’s offering. Even today, there is often just one offering from each family—though many parents encourage their children to each give a small amount in order to teach them the habit of giving to God. Finally, it should be mentioned that God does not set any amount for us to give except that it be “according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you” (verse 17). Of course, this cannot mean that we are to put a “price tag” on all that God has given us and try to pay Him that—for we could never in a million lifetimes pay that much. Rather, it must refer to the clause in the first part of the same verse, that we are to give as we are able—or, more to the point, as God has enabled us.