Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall


Deuteronomy 16:1
Israel’s three major feasts were Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Each had a threefold meaning: a past meaning in history, a present meaning in agriculture, a future meaning in God’s plan. In these three respects the three feasts stand in perfect chronological order. Passover represents what is first in history, agriculture, and God’s plan. Pentecost pictures what is second, Tabernacles what is third, in these categories.
Passover, fourteenth day of the first month (March/April), was followed by the week-long feast of unleavened bread. Jews originally called this first month Abib, but after the Babylonian exile changed it to Nisan, following the Babylonian calendar.

Deuteronomy 16:2
With regard to the past, Passover was a celebration of freedom. It reminded the people of the night God brought them out of bondage into liberty. It commemorated their national birthday.
With regard to the present, Passover marked the beginning of grain harvest. The crops were reaching maturity, and Israel celebrated by giving thanks to their Benefactor.
With regard to the future, Passover achieved its full meaning at Calvary. On Passover Day, Jesus died as our Lamb to purchase our deliverance from bondage.

Deuteronomy 16:3-8
The putting away of leaven pictured what must always characterize a redeemed people–the desire to put away sin.

Deuteronomy 16:9
Pentecost always fell on Sunday, seven weeks after the Passover celebration (Jews reckon this as fifty days; hence the name “Pentecost”). With regard to the past, Jewish tradition set this holiday as a celebration of the giving of the law at Sinai.
With regard to the present, Pentecost marked the completion of the grain harvests and the beginning of the fruit harvests. This was a busy time of year (May/June). Hence, God limited the feast to one day that men might return quickly to their fields.
With regard to the future, Pentecost reached its climax in Acts 2. On that day three thousand conversions marked the first large ingathering of a great spiritual harvest.
The coming of the Spirit in fullness gave new life to Sinai’s law. Only the help of the Spirit makes obedience possible.

Deuteronomy 16:10
At Pentecost the men were to give a freewill offering. God has many regulations by which we are to live, but occasionally He lifts His constraining hand. He sometimes gives us freedom to see what we will do when left to ourselves. Such times give us an opportunity to see ourselves as we really are.

Deuteronomy 16:11-12
Worship is incomplete apart from celebration. This joy is to express itself by sharing God’s bounty with others–an act which adds joy to joy. Benevolence was required here for one’s own special four, and God’s special four. A man’s special four are his son, daughter, manservant, and maidservant; God’s special four are the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.
Each man made sure his own family rejoiced and enjoyed merriment. He also had to see to it the less fortunate were well cared for. He was to give freely to those in need.
A selfish life is a non-biblical life. Where God gives liberally, He demands liberality. When God sows much, He expects to reap accordingly.

Deuteronomy 16:13
Tabernacles, the most joyous of the feasts, began on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. It marked the climax of the agricultural year. Its counterpart is our Thanksgiving Day.

Deuteronomy 16:14
With regard to the past, Tabernacles commemorated God’s faithfulness and goodness to Israel during the wilderness wandering. With regard to the present, it marked the end of the fruit harvests. Hence, agricultural work was finished for the year.
With regard to the future, Tabernacles points to the final home-bringing of God’s church. Someday all God’s grain will be gathered into the heavenly garner. For the believer, the best is always yet to come.

Deuteronomy 16:15
As we wait for Heaven, we celebrate the provision of God for us in earth’s wilderness. Even in this life, Christ offers us the possibility of satisfaction. Jesus used the Feast of Tabernacles as the setting for two of His most important statements:

A. John 7:37
Due to the miraculous supply of water from the rock in the wilderness, water was a major symbol of the Feast of Tabernacles. The Jews looked forward to the day when God would intervene and provide abundant supplies of water. They believed in the messianic era “a fountain shall come forth out of the house of the Lord” (Joel 3:18).
The Jews convinced themselves this stream would come gushing from the altar some year on the last day of Tabernacles. Each year on that day, white-robed priests marched in procession to the pool of Siloam. A gold quart pitcher was filled with water, carried back to the Temple, and emptied at the base of the altar.
At this dramatic moment a hush fell over the crowd. Everyone wondered if this would be the year the waters would flow. Everyone strained to see if the river would come gushing from beneath the altar.
In my imagination, I hear this moment of suspense shattered by a man shouting, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.” Jesus seemed to be saying, “You seek water to quench physical thirst; come to Me if you want your spiritual thirst quenched.” Jesus realized the Jews had made a common error–they were so busy gratifying the lower desires of life that the highest things were being neglected.

B. John 8:12
To commemorate the pillar of fire which guided the people in the wilderness, four huge golden candelabra, each seventy-five feet tall, were constructed for Tabernacles. These candelabra were lit in the court of the women each night of the Feast. This large court was always crowded when the priests came to light the lamps. Special bleachers were constructed to help viewers better see the lighting ceremony.
The blaze was so bright from these massive candelabra that light shone throughout Jerusalem. At some point in this Feast, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” He was claiming to be a new pillar of light to guide God’s people. The Temple lights flickered and died, but Jesus shines forever.
Jesus is the light in which we see the Father’s love and will. His light guides us on the path of life. All the sun is to the natural world, Christ is to the moral and spiritual. One sun lightens all the world–so does one Son. He is all we need.

Deuteronomy 16:16
God has put His stamp on the calendar. Time is His. Every day was to be a day of worship for the Hebrews. The smoke of sacrifice arose continually from the altar, signifying man’s constant need to pray and render unceasing praise to God. However, much of Hebrew formal worship had to be conducted by proxy. Distance often separated people from the nation’s worship center. Hence, God ordained certain times when people would leave their work, travel to the place of worship, and give themselves totally to sacred activities. It is still good to set aside such times.
Due to a legitimate fear of formalism, Baptists tend to disregard the recurring anniversaries of the Christian year, except for Christmas and Easter. However, our apathy with regard to the annual dates has been more than compensated for by our zeal for the weekly commemoration. Baptists have traditionally been strong advocates of observing and honoring the Lord’s Day. It provides a regular weekly time when men can put aside the things of this world and devote themselves totally to sacred activities.
The loss of times specified for spiritual nourishment is a distressing thing. History teaches, in any country, encroaching secularism wins one of its first victories in dispensing with a weekly holy day. Desecration and loss of Sunday as a holy day is one of the first battles lost by a weakening Christian community.