Party On, Moses! (Leviticus 23)

#9 in the 66 in 52 series. Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL. James Jackson, Lead Pastor. February 26, 2023.

If you’ve been keeping up with the reading plan, this week you finished Leviticus! that means you’ve made it up one of the big hills on this marathon! That’s great news!

And now we are in Numbers. And I know that over these past couple of days, you’ve been thinking that this isn’t much better. Unless you are an accountant or a Sunday School Director, an entire book about counting people doesn’t sound all that exciting.

However, I think you will be surprised. Once you get past the censuses in the first few chapters and the last few chapters, the stuff in the middle is pretty great.

And remember that every word of the Bible matters. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

So even in Leviticus and Numbers, we are reading words that were breathed out by God, and that are profitable. And my prayer is that you are going to see this in Leviticus 23.

So, In chapter 23 of Leviticus we have the festivals of the year. Look at verses 1-2 with me:

23 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.

What follows is a description of one weekly observance and seven annual feasts that were to be observed by the Jews. And these were not low-key, somber events. They were parties!

God is saying to the children of Israel, “Once a week, and seven times a year, you’re going to celebrate the relationship you have with Me. It’s going to be a party. And you are going to have these celebrations every week, every year, in every generation, whereever there’s a community of Jews, until the end of time.

And so the title of the sermon this morning is “Party On, Moses.” Let’s pray, and we will dive in.


The first feast Isn’t an annual feast. It’s a weekly observance. Look at verse 3:

“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.

When you look at this verse, what is the word that jumps out at you? Rest.

Even today Jews in Israel take this day of rest seriously. It truly is a celebration. Families dress up a little nicer. Parents will often buy little gifts or toys for their kids on their way home from work on Friday. Most men buy flowers for their wives every Friday for the Sabbath. And if you happen to live in a tourist town, wealthy families will often have shabbat dinner at one of the swanky hotels where Gentiles do the cooking. [Tiberias story]

The Sabbath was a gift, not an obligation. God gave us the seventh day and said, “Thou shalt chill.”

But at some point, religious leaders decided they needed to clarify what was and wasn’t considered work on the sabbath. They compiled a list of 39 activities that were prohibited from doing on the sabbath, such as bearing a burden, because that was considered work.  

But that wasn’t enough. They decided they needed to clarify what it meant to “bear a burden.” Let me give you just one example:

  • Is it forbidden to wear artificial teeth on the Sabbath? (Who knew they even had false teeth in the second century BC?)  So, could you put them in on the Sabbath? No, because that would be work. So what if you put them in before the Sabbath? Then you wouldn’t be working but you’re still bearing their weight on the Sabbath. On the other hand, you need your teeth to eat, and if you don’t eat, you’re neglecting your body’s need for food, and that breaks another commandment.

So, here’s where they landed:  As long as they were simple false teeth, then yes. But if it was a gold tooth, then no, because that would be vanity. So, no grillz on the Sabbath. [click]

The Talmud is a commentary on the Torah. In the Talmud, there are twenty-four chapters full of this stuff!

Can you see how keeping the Sabbath was hard work? And that’s why Jesus said “The Sabbath was made for man. Man wasn’t made for the Sabbath.” So if you get fixated on what you can and can’t do on the Sabbath, you’ve stopped making Jesus Lord, and instead made the Sabbath the Lord over you.  

By the way, Sunday is not the Sabbath day. It is the first day of the week. Some Christians believe you are breaking the Sabbath if you go to church on Sunday instead of Saturday. But I want you to notice something. Every time you read about the Sabbath in Scripture, the emphasis is NOT on going to synagogue. The emphasis is on resting.

Does that mean you shouldn’t go to church? Of course not. We are meant to come together for corporate worship. Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” Just don’t think that as long as you get that one or two hours of church in, you can ignore God’s command to rest.

Don’t misunderstand me: I believe 100% that God is to be worshiped on Sunday. And Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, every single day of the week, multiple times a day. But I also believe 100% that God has wired us for a day of rest.

So let’s make sure we are taking Sabbath seriously. We need to acknowledge that God ordained that we rest from our work. But there is more to remembering the Sabbath than going to church, and there’s more to worshiping God than which day you do it on.

So if you are taking notes on your listening guide, the keyword for Sabbath is REST

The next feast is Passover.

Now, even though there’s only one verse about Passover in Leviticus 23, it’s actually one of the most important dates on the Hebrew calendar. it’s so important that it has already been covered in detail twice, which is why it only gets one verse here.  

Every year, every Jewish household remembers the story of how the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt. They tell their children about how God instructed his people to paint the blood of a lamb on the doorframes of their houses, and how that night, the destroying angel of the Lord went throughout Egypt and killed the firstborn in every house where He did not see the blood of the lamb.  So ever since, on the 14th day of the first month, Jewish families hold a highly symbolic meal called the Seder. Seder is a Hebrew word that means order, and so the head of a Jewish household leads his family through the seder, using a book called the Haggadah.

During the meal, the youngest child asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”  Four questions follow. By answering the questions, the Father tells the story of Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt.

Passover was an annual reminder of Israel’s salvation history. And once again, notice how the observance isn’t about going to synagogue and listening to a rabbi. It’s about parents teaching their children.

What happens to a faith when parents don’t teach their children? It dies. This is why Passover is the only one of these seven festivals that we still have a remnant of in Christianity. Our communion services are all about reenacting and remembering what Jesus did for us.

Parents, I can’t emphasize this enough. Tell your children and grandchildren your salvation story. Write it down. Tell it often. It is not for the church to teach your children about faith.

The Keyword is REMEMBER.

The third feast often gets lost, because people assume it is just part of Passover. It is the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

If you remember the story of the Exodus, the Jews didn’t have time for bread to rise when they were driven out of Egypt, All they had before God sent manna was unleavened bread.

So for seven days after Passover, Jews eat unleavened bread. To prepare for this, religious Jews spend the week before Passover making sure there is not a single crumb of anything with yeast in their home.

They vacuum the house. They turn over every cushion. They search for crumbs in every pocket, beard, and belly button.

They scrub down the refrigerator, stove, and microwave. They scour the sink and countertops. They may even buy all new clothes to wear that week, and use a different set of dishes just for that week.

Ladies, I know what you are thinking: this sure doesn’t sound like a celebration to me! So let me explain what this was about.

Throughout the Bible, leaven (yeast) represents sin. Paul used this metaphor with the Church in Corinth:

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:6-8)

If you’re not a Christian yet, I don’t want you to hear this and think, man, I’ve got to really get my act together before I give my life to Jesus. I’ve gotta scrub and scour and quit drinking beer (because beer has yeast) and change my wardrobe before I can be a Christian.

But please understand that these were all the things the Jews did to make themselves acceptable to God. If God has been calling you to give your life to Him, then you don’t have to get cleaned up to take a bath. Jesus is going to clean every fish He catches!

It isn’t until AFTER you invite Him into your life that Jesus starts cleaning house. That’s what Christians call sanctification. He’s going to remove all of the sinful desires in your life and replace them with the fruit of the spirit. If it wore you out to hear all the things they did to get ready for the Feast of Unleavened bread, then understand that in Christianity, all you have to do is give Jesus the broom. Let him remove the sin. Let him change those desires. You don’t have to scrub and scour and sweep. You just have to give Him the broom.

So the keyword for the Feast of Unleavened Bread is REMOVE

The next feast is the Feast of Firstfruits.

10 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, 

At the beginning of the harvest, everyone brought a portion of the first grain they harvested to present to the Lord. It was an expression of faith that more was to follow. We’re dedicating this first part to God, But also, we’re doing this with full confidence that there’s going to be a plentiful harvest.

Israel society was based on agriculture. If God didn’t provide the rain for the crops to grow, the people would starve. And Firstfruits reminded them of the promise that God made to Noah back in Genesis 8:22

22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

It was a joyful celebration when they were able to return the firstfruit of the harvest back to God. Every year they were learning to trust Him that He would continue to provide. So there was singing, and dancing, and clapping, and shouting.

Now, let me ask you this: when you give your tithe, do you do it at the beginning of the month or at the end of the month? If you use online giving, do you set it up as a recurring payment, or do you do it each month, and wait to see whether you’re going to have enough?

Hear me on this: what you give is between you and God. I’ll never know, and I don’t want to know how much you give. But I will say that how you give is an expression of how you trust God.

And how do you feel as you are writing that check or sealing that envelope? Are you grinning or are you grimacing? Is it duty or delight? Sometimes we look at the guys taking up the offering like pallbearers. You watch them take the offering plate up the aisle and its like you are saying goodbye to your best friend! Listen, returning to the Lord the first portion of what He has blessed you with should fill us with joy and gratitude. We have been shown time and time again that if we are faithful with the first, God will be faithful with the rest.

The keyword for this one is RETURN.

Four down, four to go. Still with me? Then let’s talk about the Feast of Weeks. Our keyword for this feast is REWARD, and we are going to see the three REWARDS this feast is associated with.

Verse 15-16 says,

15 “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord.

Another word for fifty is “Pentecost” so the Feast of Weeks is also called Pentecost.

The feast of firstfruits kicked off the harvest season. Pentecost concluded it.

It recognized that God had provided the harvest once again this year. That’s the first reward of Pentecost.

Second reward: according to Jewish tradition, Moses received the Law from God on Mount Sinai on this exact day of the year even before the feast was celebrated. So for the Jews, Pentecost was a reminder of  God’s Promises. Even today, orthodox Jews don’t sleep for the twenty-four hours of Pentecost. They stay awake reading Torah, discussing Torah, praying over the Torah, memorizing Torah.

Now, Christians associate Pentecost with a third REWARD. According to Acts 2, It was on the day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit came and indwelt the disciples, and they preached the gospel in all languages to the people that were gathered for the feast, and three thousand people were saved that day, and the church was born. So the third reward is God’s presence. When the fire fell at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the hearts of believers. And He still does!

So let’s review: REST, REMEMBER, REMOVE, REWARD, and now, RETURN.

All right! We are in the homestretch! We’ve covered the four spring feasts of the year. Now let’s look at the three fall feasts.

Leviticus 23:23 introduces us to the Feast of Trumpets. And kind of like the Feast of Unleavened Bread after Passover, the Feast of trumpets can get lost in the shadow of the Day of Atonement. Here’s what verse 24 says:

 24 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. 

That’s it. That’s the whole feast. On the first day of the seventh month, blow a trumpet and take a day off from work. Why?

Because according to verses 26-28, ten days after this trumpet is blown is the Day of Atonement, the most solemn, the most holy day on the entire Jewish calendar. Cody did a great job teaching on the day of atonement last week, so we aren’t going to spend a lot of time on it this week. But I would encourage you all to go back and listen to last week’s teaching.

But back to the feast of trumpets. The keyword is READY.

What are trumpets or bugles used for? If you served in the military, the bugle call is what woke you up in the morning. In ancient days before radios and walkie talkies, a trumpet blast would signal to the troops that it was time to move. Different blasts signaled different things. But those who knew what each trumpet meant knew they had to be READY to respond.

That’s what the feast of trumpets was for. The Jews were to spend the next ten days getting ready for the Day of Atonement.

The ten days from the Feast of Trumpets to the Day of Atonement are known in Hebrew as Yamim Nora’im. It means “days of awe.” For the next ten days, focus on God’s awesomeness. Get ready by holy contemplation. Get ready for the day when your sins will be atoned for because of the sacrifice that will be made on your behalf.

Once again, let’s look at this as Christians. What does the New Testament say we should always be ready for? [The return of Christ]. How will the return of Christ be announced? [with a trumpet]

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.  (1 Thess. 4:16)

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor. 15:51-52)

One more thing: In our Wednesday night Bible study, we’ve been talking about the letters to the seven churches that begin the book of revelation. We studied the letter to the church at Smyrna last week, and there is a line in that letter that says,

10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 

One of the guys in that study came up afterwards and said, “What’s up with the “ten days” part? I’ve never noticed that before. I told him I didn’t know, but I would try to find out. And man, here it is: There were ten days of awe in preparation for the Day of Atonement. And Revelation teaches us that there will be days of awe and tribulation before that last trumpet sounds.

So I have to ask you, are you ready?

Number 6 is the Day of Atonement. And because Cody did such a good job with this last week, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this one. I would encourage you to go to our YouTube channel and listen to it, or read the detailed description of it in Leviticus 16. But our keyword for this one is REDEEMED.  This was the day the priest sacrificed one goat as a sin offering, and sent the other goat into the wilderness, representing God removing our sins from us.

Here’s what you need to notice in Leviticus 23: All of the other feasts give instructions for what the people are supposed to do. Get rid of all the leaven in your house. Eat only unleavened bread. Present the first of your harvest. Sacrifice a goat and two lambs at Pentecost.

But what do you do on the Day of Atonement? Nothing. Listen to what the emphasis is on the Day of Atonement:

  • 28 And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement,
  • 30 And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people.
  • 31 You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.
  • 32 It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest,

Over and over on the Day of Atonement, God commands the people to do no work. All the sacrifices that are made, according to Leviticus 16, are made by the priests. The people do nothing.

What do we contribute to our redemption? Only the sin that makes it necessary. Jesus, our great high priest, our Passover, has been sacrificed for us, says Paul. Therefore, let us keep the feast.

Feast of Booths (Lev. 23:33-44; Zech. 14:16)

Keyword: ROOM

One more, and then we will wrap up: It’s the Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles.

This one is my favorite feast of them all. The Feast of Booths happened five days after the Day of Atonement.

Let’s look at the verses together: [Read v. 40-42]

Now, let me point out something to you: This was a week-long party!

  • Verse 40: You shall rejoice for seven days!
  • Verse 41: You shall celebrate for seven days!

This blew me away this week: this is the first time in the entire Bible that the words “rejoice” and “celebrate” are used!

And here was the part that, if you were a kid, you must have thought it was the coolest time of the year: According to verse 42, you were to live in booths for seven days.

What other religion has a God that says, “Thou shalt party for seven days?” Where are all you campers? What other religion says, “Thou shalt camp?”

You really need a visual for this. Check out his video from the Israeli Board of Tourism:


Did you catch it? This is the only one of the Feasts that the Gentiles are welcomed to! They come from all over the world. And it’s probably a great time for VRBO, because all the homeowners in Jerusalem are living in booths out in the backyard!

And I love the rules for the booth—there’s a limit to how high it can be, because they learned their lesson from the Tower of Babel—but there’s no limit to how wide it can be.

At the most joyous celebration of the year, there is room for everyone.

The Feast of Booths is an annual reminder for the Jews that no so long ago, they were homeless. For forty years they lived in tents and temporary shelters on their way to the Promised Land.

Friends, don’t we need some reminders that this world is not our home? We ourselves are living outside the promised land. But one day, God is going to take us home to the New Jerusalem.

And until we get there, we want to make our booths as wide as possible, so there will be room for as many people as possible. And for the stranger, the alien, and the prodigal, making room in our booth can teach  them that God has made room for them in His eternal home. In the New Jerusalem, there will be room for people from every tribe, tongue and nation.

And what a day of rejoicing that will be! Let me close by asking you the most important question you will ever be asked. Have you made room for him? If you are a Christian, do you take time to remember the sacrifice He made for you? Are you allowing Him to remove those things in your life that may be displeasing to Him? What are they?

Are you a good steward of what he has given to you, returning a portion of His blessings with your time, talents, and treasure.

Are you experiencing the rewards of the Christian life: God’s provision, God’s promises, and God’s presence?

If you aren’t a Christian, I beg you—get ready for that last trumpet. Repent of your sins, and trust Him to forgive you. Understand that you can do nothing to earn your redemption. Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed for you because of the Father’s great love for you.

And when He rose from the grave, He ascended to heaven to begin to prepare a place for you. He is building your sukkot even to this day. He is making room for you.

Please, make room for Him.  



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