So for six years, you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, but the seventh year, you shall let a rest in life follow, that the poor of your people may eat, and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard and with your olive orchard, Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant, woman and the alien may be refreshed. Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips. Three times in the year, you shall keep a feast to me, You shall keep the feast of unleavened bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. Non shall appear before me empty-handed. You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field, you shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field, the fruit of your labor three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord God.
You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened or let the fat of my feast remain until the morning, the best of the first fruits of your ground, you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
Pastor Trey: That is a passage in Exodus Chapter 23. You can turn there with me in your Bibles, Exodus chapter 23, and that was verses 10 through 19. So Genesis, Exodus, if you start from the beginning of your Bible, it’s the second book. And then you’re looking for chapter 23. We are continuing a series. We’ve been working our way through the Exodus story. We started this in January, took a little break this summer, and we have been jumping back into it last week with some of the laws, and I know that some of those things were complicated and hard to understand, and frankly, even some of today will be that way, and the reason is simple, these are things written for people that understood them clearly 3400 years ago, but they’re foreign to us, many of these ideas, so I’m gonna try to introduce these ideas to you, but then I want to show you the purpose behind them here, starting in Exodus chapter 23. But I think we have to answer a question before we get there, so you’ve got your finger in Exodus 23, I’d like you to also turn with me later on in the Bible to a book called Colossians, this would be after AcrsAfter Romans 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. So the question that comes up oftentimes is, what does the traditions and the holidays of a people group 3400 years ago have to do with us today in America? That is a really good question, and you would also ask a question connected to that, What do the traditions of a people under the law or the old covenant had to do with people today in the church, in the New Covenant. So read, and we’re in Colossians Chapter 2, this is a question that Paul dealt with a lot, and he says in Verse 16, he’s in a whole line of arguments here… Before I actually read that, I’ll just mention there’s a group of people in Colossians that think it’s really important that we also keep all of the Old Testament law and add to that the New Testament church and the functions of the church thereof. So they were insisting on circumcision, they were insisting on following Sabbaths, and Feast Days, And they were insisting on these things, and Paul is gonna actually… Kinda go against that, even though he himself is a Jew.
He’ll say in Verse 16, Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, that would be whether or not you eat certain forbidden foods, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or sabbath, these are all connected to the festivals that are listed in our passage in Exodus 23, These are a shadow of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ, and then he’s gonna go on, he’s gonna make an argument regarding specifically the dietary laws, and then Verse 23, read that these have indeed… And in appearance of wisdom, in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. It may look good and spiritual and religious for you to observe those Old Testament festivals, but he says, how much value are they… What does he say? How much value? Verse 23, I give you permission to talk in church, it’s okay. None, none value. That’s right, they are of no value. And that’s really important for us to understand, because Paul says these festivals are of no value, so Why then am I preaching a sermon on them? It’s important question, why are we reading and why am I teaching on Exodus at all? If all of these laws are no value anymore, what they’ve been done away with it.
So this is a question we have to struggle with because like I talked about last week, many times when we approach the word of God, we jump right to the New Testament, we ignore the Old Testament, ’cause we don’t know what to do with it. Feast of Ingathering and the harvest and Passover and unleavened bread, and lasts about whether or not you’re allowed to boil a baby goat and it’s meat in its mother’s milk, that was the last verse that was read… Right, and you’re like, I don’t like…. I’m tracking with you sometimes, but there are other times when I read stuff and I’m like, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Why do we read this? In church, the reason is because we believe what Timothy chapter 3, verse 16 says, All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for us. So we’re gonna read it and try to find the profit behind it, so that’s something that we just have to address right from the beginning, these festivals were not just obligations for the Israelites on the calendar, we have to get behind the specifics to see what spiritual lessons they’re lifting up, ’cause they’re the same lessons that you and I need to learn today.
Traditions like these shape and form the way we look at the world. Show me a person who exercises every day, and I will show you a person who shaped by it, right…
Show me a person who reads their bible every day, and I will show you a person who shaped by it, right? Show me a person who celebrates Christmas and another who doesn’t celebrate Christmas at all, and we can easily see the difference behind almost their entire year, how they prioritize the time off they’ll take from work, how much money they saved to buy presents for Christmas. When they listen to Christmas music or if they don’t listen to it at all, they’re shaped by the… Are shaped by the traditions that we have, our habits and our traditions for us by themselves, these traditions would have no positive effect, and we see that, we see that although the people of Israel did follow these, it did not lead them to positive value, ’cause traditions by themselves are worthless, however, traditions in the hands of a person who loves Jesus Christ can be very helpful, and I’m gonna talk about the ways that they’re helpful today. They can have a very positive effect.
In Fact, Paul’s response right after Colossians 2, he gets done with that, he’s gonna say, if we then have been risen with Christ… Seek the things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. In other words, if we use those traditions, if we use the weekly gathering here today in our church service to focus on Jesus, it can have a positive effect. You know what doesn’t have a positive effect. Just coming to church, right? Just going to a church every week, doesn’t just change you, there has to be something of substance in the church service that lifts your eyes to Jesus Christ, your traditions and your schedule and your habits affect you, these festivals of the Old Testament show import and truths about our life and about our world. So I wanna read the festival portion of these again, and this is in Verse 14, I wanna focus on all of these are connected. And I’ll try to connect some of the dots, actually, I’m gonna connect some of the dots for you first, I think I should point out a few things, first of all, he talks about six years, and in the seventh year, ye shall let it rest.
That’s verses 10 and 11. Do you see that? And he goes straight from that to verse 12, where he talks about six days you rest, or six days you work in the seventh day you want rest. Do you think there’s any connection there… Do you think there’s any connection in his mind there… Okay, just note that connection, note that the Sabbath, your weekly schedule, or the Israelis week, the schedule of work six days, and the seventh day rest is connected to working the land for six years with a seventh year rest. Just note -that it’s important. Okay, another thing, he connects all of those things to Verse 13, a devotion to God, make no mention of the names of other gods…. that word for make no mention is like giving on or two, look, don’t pay respect to the things that other people worship, they might worship the God of wealth, they might worship the God of prosperity, they might worship the God of comfort, they might worship all these other gods. You do not honor them, you honor the Lord and him alone. Then he goes in Verse 14 to verse… Let’s see, 16, well, verse 17, He gives the name of three festivals, three of the seven festivals that the Israelites would keep throughout their year. Okay, we’re only gonna talk about those three here in a moment, but then you read verse 18, and you read stuff about the blood of the sacrifice with 11, and you’re like, Huh, I don’t understand that.
And then you read the best of the first fruits giving that I can’t… I understand that, but what’s he driving at? And then this last weird command about boiling the young goat in its mother’s milk… That’s really odd, right? It’s an odd thing to bring up all three of those probably relate in some way to the three festivals in order, so the first festival is the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, that relates to Verse 18, not offering the blood of the sacrifice with anything leavened. The Feast of the Harvest, in Verse 16, that’s connected to the first fruits of the ground that you’re supposed to bring the Lord’s house, and then the Feast of the In-gathering, apparently is connected with boiling the young and the mother’s milk, the best we know that… That was a practice common by the other cultic religions around the Israelites, and he’s essentially saying, Look, don’t be like them, you’re gonna have to be a little different in your practices. Don’t be like them. That’s the best we know. Other than that, it’s a little unclear that command is an odd one and a difficult one to understand.
So that’s kind of the… Just quick survey of this, let’s talk about the five important truths that these festivals bring out to help us understand how we ought to live even here today.
Five things, first of all, these festivals and the weekly, the weekly Devotion where you give one day to God, these things show us surrender. They show us surrender, they show us how giving the first proportion or a portion of what you have almost represents how you’re giving your all to God. Do you understand that? Okay, so here’s what you need to know about you and your life. You are not your own. You are not your own. Every breath you take is a gift from God, every skill and ability you have naturally or learned is a gift from God, every strength ounce of strength that you have in your body, even the hairs on your head, however many or however few are gifts from God. All of your life is a gift from God, if He gives you one more moment, if you let you be alive for the rest of the sermon, it’s gods, and that includes not only the moments, not only the life, but it also includes your money, every dollar and cent you have, yes, is a gift from God, and you might have worked for it, but guess who gave you the ability to work for it, the opportunity to work for it. You see, everything is a gift from God’s hand, and for us to act like, Well, this is my stuff, and I guess I’ll share a portion with God is just the wrong understanding, we have an idea built into our mind naturally, mine, right? Mine!…
How many of you have had kids who say mine, no, not mine, and yell and grab and pull in everything from everyone else and they hoard… They’re not playing with something, but they also don’t want anyone else to play with it, right, they have this idea that they are justified to have everything they have, there’s not a sense of thankfulness, there’s not a sense of appreciation or gratitude for the things that have been given, it’s natural and it’s innate for every single one of us from the time we are young to the time we are old, to think that we are our own, and we are not. The habit of giving one day a week to God and saying, I won’t work, I won’t do the things I wanna do, I won’t work for wealth, I won’t even make my slave serve me because they also got the day off.
I won’t do any of that. Was a habit to make them remember every single week, yes, this day is the Lords, but ultimately, every day is the Lord. Bringing the gifts on the Feast of the harvest, bringing their first fruits to God was a way of them saying, Yes, this first fruits for you and I’m gonna use the rest to eat, but really, all of this is God’s… These things are habits in our life, look, it’s the same today, you come here every week, hopefully to go to church, that should remind you that your entire week is God’s, not just Sunday, Sunday reminds you that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday are all Gods too, so I need to consecrate my life to live for him as well today, and tomorrow, and the next day, God doesn’t just get the margins of your life, he doesn’t just get the leftovers of your life. Well, if I’ve got time today, I guess I’ll go to church. If I’ve got energy today, I guess I’ll read my Bible, if I’m feeling motivated, I guess I’ll try to put off that sin, that’s not how it works. God commands us to love Him with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our might, with all everything we all are, He’s commanded us to love Him.
And how many of you do that? How many of you live in such a way where God owns everything?
Really be honest with yourself here, see, this does two things, it causes us to be like, Yes, God, everything is yours, but it also causes a sense, a healthy sense in us of, man, I do not live that way like I should… I have not given God my all, I have not loved him with all my heart. I’ve held back stuff for me, and sometimes it’s good stuff, sometimes it’s evil stuff, but it’s all been my stuff. It’s not been for God. See, the habit, this rhythm of life reminds us, yes, these are Gods. These things are God’s and not mine. So that’s number one, it reminds us of surrender and the importance of it, number two, and this brings us to our second point is really healthy, how many times do we actually do it? Not often. Not like we should. So guess what? We need help. We need deliverance. We need Jesus. And that brings us to point number two. ’cause guess what each one of these festivals points to. Jesus, Jesus
Unleavened bread. The Feast of Unloved Bread. We dealt with this earlier in the year, this was like forever ago, for your sermon memory, I know, but really… This year, we looked at the Passover and the unleavened bread. Remember how that happened? Exodus is this amazing story where God is giving Pharaoh an opportunity to repent, giving Pharaoh and opportunity repent, giving Pharaoh an opportunity put. And then after he gives them so many opportunities, God says, Fine, your heart is gonna be hardened now, ’cause God only gives you so many chances, and then God is gonna bring judgement on the nation of Egypt with the tenth and the final plague. That judgment will be brutal, but that judgment will pass over, that’s the name, all those who have this blood on the door post of their house… You’re like blood on the door post of their house. It’s an odd thing, right?
The old gospel song, When I see the Blood. You guys know that? And you know that him and I see the blood, I will pass, I will pass over you. Who is that talking about? So what did the Israelites… What were they supposed to do when they observed this Passover? Right.
They were supposed to take a little lamb, one-year old, unblemished male, they were supposed to keep it in their house for several days, get used to it, love it, get attached to it a little bit, and then after a period of time, they were supposed to kill that lamb drain its blood, used that blood to paint the door posts of their house, then they were supposed to cook that lamb a certain way, they weren’t supposed to remove anything inside because they didn’t have time for it because God was promising that night… That night of judgment, final deliverance for the Israelites to get out, get out of Egypt and be set free, and so you’re supposed to cook it quickly over a file fire, you’re not supposed to boil it, right, you guys know boil like slow cooker and you’re slow cooking something right now, waiting for you when you get home. No, ’cause you guys all have pressure cookers and you cook things in like 20 minutes right
Now, but they weren’t supposed to slow cook, they weren’t supposed to just boil it over a long period of time… No, they’re supposed to cook over a fire as fast as you can, why? They need to be ready to go. And they were supposed to not have leavened bread, that’s why it’s called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. You know why, how long does it take to leave and bread a while, depending on the kind of yeast have… Right, no, you’re supposed to just cook it with oil, the flower and the salt, cook it together, and it’s supposed to be this little cracker, and you’re supposed to eat that and eat the lamb and be ready to go.
Because God was gonna provide deliverance for Israel that night. Now, what happens? You move forward, 1430 years is from that event happening, and Jesus is celebrating in the upper room with his disciples. He’s celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And he takes the bread, he breaks it, and he says, What? This is my body. He takes the cup. This drink -the wine that they would pass around. He says, This is my blood of the covenant. What’s He saying? He’s saying, Look, the ultimate deliverance that you need, I’m going to provide. So the Feast of Unleavened Bread points ahead to a time when a perfect lamb would die on the cross for sinful people in their place, for you and I, and the many ways in which we live for ourself, instead of God, he dies on the cross for us. To deliver us from our sins, to deliver us from the judgment of God that sweeps over and His condemnation, and to bring us into a right relationship with God, that’s just the first festival, guys. Every one of the festivals is like this… And look, we’re gonna go through the temple or the Tabernacle. In a few weeks, it’s gonna be awesome. Everything is Jesus. It points to Jesus in a thousand ways. The second festival is the Festival of the Harvest, the Festival of the First Fruits.
It symbolizes the harvest to come, but it also recognizes that God owns everything, in fact, what’s so fascinating is that Paul is gonna appropriate this saying, this first fruits to Jesus. He’s gonna say in 1 Corinthians 15, that Christ Himself is the first fruits of the harvest.
In other words, Jesus raises from the dead and His brought as an offering to God, very pleasing to God, His sacrifice, and then all of those who place their faith in Jesus than are the harvest to come… Beautiful, righ?. That’s the second one. The third one is the Feast of the In-gathering, this would happen later in the season, so when your first harvest, when things first start to bloom, you would bring that fruit in and then later on of the season, you’d have the Feast of the In-gathering, which would be at the end of the harvest and you bring some of that then that feast, the land and its fruit is a gift from God and therefore is not to be abused. Everything that God gives you, the land, God gives you the fruit, God gives you the rain, he gives you at all, so that you can have this fruitfulness, so bring not only the first fruits but the last fruits, this in gathering would later be known as, do you know? Pentacost, you know What happened at Pentecost after Jesus ascended to Heaven? The people are there meeting, and God sends His Holy Spirit on us so that we would be His harvest reapers, that we would be those who go out into the world and bring more in to the praise and glory of God. All of these things are about Jesus in His work of deliverance in our life. This is a beautiful reality.
So first, these gifts are about surrender, second, these gifts are about Jesus, third, fourth and fifth. These will go a lot faster. These gifts are about love.
Look again with me at Verse 12, Six days, you shall do your work, but on the seventh day, you shall rest that your ox and your donkey may have rest in the Son of your servant woman and the alien may be refreshed. In Verse 11, seventh year shall let it rest and let it follow that the poor of your people may eat and that what they leave the beast of the field may eat. So earlier on in other passages of the scripture, this was presented as six days you labor, but the seventh is the Lord, that’s a data to worship God, but here it’s presented not just as an opportunity to worship God, but it’s an opportunity to love your neighbor, to love those around you and care for them, and the truth of the matter is, sometimes we think about religion as if it’s merely theological, and if you read enough of the Old Testament, you learn really quick, it’s not just theological is very charitable, it’s very… If you wanna put it like this humanitarian, it’s focused on caring for the needs of those around you. And here, what is the rule? Take the seventh day off.
I… So that your servants and your beasts aren’t overworked, right, that’s the reason that’s given, everybody takes a rest the seventh day. And then you’ve got six days, alright, then you’ve got six years of harvest in the seventh year, you were supposed to leave that field undone. Now, we don’t have… Some commentaries I read suggests that this would be staggered, that you might have like maybe 10 fields in each field, might have like a different year where you take off like a farmer would do today, he would do the same thing today with his harvest, and you know that part of the reason is because it allows the soil to kind of refresh itself if you let it take a year off, but part of the reason was you’re supposed to just let whatever was there grow, whatever it was already there grow, whether it was olives or whether it was grapes or anything else, and you weren’t supposed to touch it, no harvesting it, no selling what you harvest… This isn’t about you. No, you’re supposed to willingly give up your income to allow others in that community to be cared for, and those who are poor or the widows are the immigrants in that time would know, Okay, this field, this field, this field… They are fields that I’m allowed to go reap from to be able to provide so that I can eat because I don’t have land or I don’t have the ability to harvest for these things.
This will come up time and time again, and I just wanna point it out. The
Only reason why I wanted, but it doesn’t make much sense to me, but the only reason why I pointed out, because the Bible does in this passage, that part of their traditions were about love for neighbor. And I’ll just ask the question, Do your traditions that you follow show that you love those around you, you love particularly the needy around, you know we’ve done these Operation Christmas Child things for several years now, it’s an opportunity to get together, pile in a bunch of presents for boxes for kids around the world, a wonderful ministry. And many of you have taken part and have that be part of your family activity, you’ll buy things for these kids, put them in boxes, send them around the world, the kids who might need them, it might be really blessed by him. What a wonderful tradition to have. Is something you can continue to do though our church isn’t gonna do it, ’cause our church is focusing its resources on the birthday celebration kits, kids in our community, not around the world, who may not have enough… Their parents may not have enough to be able to give them birthday presents or cakes, and so we are putting these things together to give to the parents so that they can give it to their kids, and I heard just this last week from the person who organizes the Christmas presence for kid media families in the communities too, that she thinks this year is gonna be a really bad year as far as that goes, and if that comes up in some way, she reaches out again, she told me she was gonna reach out if there were needs, I will pass that on to you ’cause that could be a real opportunity for you to weave into your traditions, an opportunity to love someone else, to love someone in need. The last two are remembrance and hope. Remembrance and hope. That’s four and five. Remembrance and hope. Obviously, like I mentioned before, the Passover, the Feast of Young Love and Bread was about remembering their deliverance from Egypt.
It’s about remembering what God did for them, is not remembering what had God has given to them. It’s about these other festivals were about remembering the gifts of God, remembering who ultimately owns it all, and look, I’ve said this often, it’s not just about mental memory, because some of you guys have a steel trap, right. And if it was only about mental memory, I don’t think I would be a very good Christian ’cause… My wife will tell you I forget a lot of stuff. I forget dates, I forget things I’m supposed to get at the store, I forget to use coupons when I met the store, I forget all kinds of things, I’m not good at physical memory, but this is not just physical memory, this is more of a spiritual memory are you gonna hold on to these things, listen, you and I are forgetful people. And until you understand that, you will not understand the importance of church, you will not understand the importance of small groups in the middle of the week, you will not understand the importance of your daily devotional life of prayer and Bible study, you will not understand these things.
You and I have a tendency, we default to forgetfulness, we might remember the facts, but we don’t live like it matters, that’s what we mean by remembering, and the last one is about hope, the last one is about hope. Deliverance, we remember the deliverance of God. The final one is about hope.
I think it’s really important that you understand what the Sabbath is about, and then the Sabbath year, and really many of these festivals are built on these same connected principles, it’s an entire spiders web that connects together in a beautiful tapestry, and each of these things points to an ultimate hope. Let me give you an example. Genesis Chapter 3, Adam and Eve sin. What happens? The ground gets cursed. What’s the curse? Thorns and thistles, hard work and labor. Fruitless labor, it’s gonna be really difficult to bring forth something, and you think about… Well, it’s not that difficult to grow stuff, although I still can’t grow tomatoes, I’ve been trying every year and I’m really struggling with it.
But… You think about the land that the Bible originated in, desert land. How hard they would have had to work to grow anything… You think about that for a second, you think about the curse of work in your own life, the labor in your own life, how often have you had frustrated dreams, how often have you wanted to do something great with your work and you haven’t been able to reach it, you haven’t been able to quite get there, or you try to do something and it doesn’t work, and you have this fruitless labor and you don’t quite feel like you can reach that level you wanted to reach, or… I’ll just none of that connects with you, how many of you just love Monday mornings? Yeah, I mean, that’s a whole thing, right? With the workforce, like…I hate Mondays, that kind of stuff. And why is that? Is because work is hard. That’s a part of the curse. And this was set up six days and then the seventh was set up as a drudge, you labor, you work for six days, you work yourself to the bone, and then the seventh day, there’s rest.
Why is that? And why do they repeat that? Week after week after week. Why is that?
The reason is simple, it creates in us a sense that there is a better time coming… There’s a better time coming. There coming a day when there will be no curse, when there will be no pain, when there will be no sickness, when there will be no sin, and there will be no judgment, there will be none of that, none of what makes this life better will be here. And God’s gonna make this Word Perfect and he’s gonna make all those who are on it perfect, and you and I will get to be with God face-to-face on that day. It’s gonna be amazing moment, see these rhythms of life and their traditions, they gave them something to look forward to, and much of the Bible is built on this principle of… You’re looking forward to the moment. And the beauty of the Gospel is that it’s already not yet things.
The Sabbath rest. Six days, you labor the Sabbath, you shall have his arrest for all the people in the land. What does Jesus say? Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened by your work, by your toil, by your sin, whatever it might be, come to me and I will give you what… Hebrews 3 and 4 say that Jesus is the Sabbath rest, and this is an already not yet thing where we taste some of that rest of the day. And those of you who know Jesus Christ, have placed your faith in His sacrifice for your sin. You know what I’m talking about. You know that there’s a piece, there’s a rest in your soul because of Jesus and what he’s done, and the wall is still going on, it’s still a cursed world we live in, it’s not right yet, but we have a piece of that rest today, and one day it will be fully here already. Not yet.
Already. Not yet. So these festivals, I know that they’re complicated and they’re 34 00-year-old festivals, and sometimes we have a hard time connecting them, but remember, they’re about surrender. They’re about Jesus. Forgetting now, what’s my third? They’re about love, they’re about remembering, and they’re about hope, that’s what these festivals are about, how can you implement those five things into the rhythms of your life? What do you need to do?
Do you need to prioritize church? Do you need to prioritize your Bible reading and prayer? You need to prioritize getting together with another Christian who’s gonna help and encourage you, do you need to set that in the rhythm and the tradition of your life, do you need to work into your rhythms and traditions ways that you love your neighbor and care for those around you, Are you surrendered to God? And how do your habits show that you are surrendered to God? So I encourage you, examine your life and see if there are ways that you can respond in obedience to Him. Let’s close with a word of prayer.