The Moedim – Appointed Times of God
Many Christians are currently experiencing the season of Lent. I say “experiencing” because if one is properly observing this season, it is an experience. Lent is a time when Christians humble themselves, repent of their sinfulness, reflect on their lives and the life of Christ, prepare their hearts with prayer and fasting, and spend time in devotions.
As blessed as I think the season is, Lent is not found in the Bible. Lent certainly causes us to examine ourselves, remember what Jesus has done for us, and work on the spiritual disciplines that are so important to mature in our faith. Yet, God did not institute Lent. Whether someone decides to experience Lent is a personal preference, not a Biblical imperative.
On the other hand, there are festivals that God did institute in the Old Testament for His people. We read about them in Leviticus 23. These are called the “moedim.”
What are the Moedim?
Moedim (mo-a-DEEM) means “appointed times.” The singular of moedim is “moed.” Often, moedim is translated as “feasts” or “festivals.” While these moedim often are festivals and contain feasts, the best translation is “appointed times.” This understanding enables us to recognize that God has appointed something specific on a particular day.
Yet, it means so much more. These are appointed times for the people of God to remember their God and to meet with Him. God calls His people to come at a specified time and place to build their relationship with Him. By remembering Him at these moedim, the people are recognizing the relationship that God had covenanted with them. He is their God and they are His people.
The First Moed
Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord’s appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations—My appointed times are these: ‘For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the Lord in all your dwellings. – Leviticus 23:2-3
Unlike the rest of the moedim, the first moed is weekly. It is the weekly Sabbath. God called His people to rest on the seventh day of each week. Every Saturday, Israel was to do no work. The day was to be kept holy, set apart, from the rest of the week.
By the time of Jesus, the Pharisees were so concerned about keeping the Sabbath holy, they created an entire set of laws surrounding the Sabbath that defined what work and rest looked like. To this day, many Orthodox Jews keep the Sabbath holy by following many of those same laws.
These are the appointed times of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. – Leviticus 23:4-5
The second moed is the Passover. Details regarding the Passover are found in Exodus 12:1-13. On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight, the Passover is to be sacrificed. The Passover is the unblemished lamb that was set apart 4 days earlier. After living with them for a short time, the lamb was to be sacrificed and its blood was the sign that death would Passover those who had applied the blood of the lamb to the entryway of their homes. God gave this appointed time to His people for their remembrance of His redeeming them from their bondage and enabling them to move forward to the Promised Land. (If you missed it, re-read this paragraph substituting “Jesus” for “the Passover” and “the lamb,” as Paul tells us in (1 Corinthians 5:7)).
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work. But for seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work.’” – Leviticus 23:6-8
For this to make sense to us, we need to remember that the Jewish day begins at sunset. The lamb is sacrificed on the 14th at twilight, which is 3:00pm. The 15th begins at 6:00pm. So the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins the evening of the sacrifice, though it is the 15th and the Passover is the 14th. Hence, the Passover is actually eaten as the first meal of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
This feast is described in detail in Exodus 12:14-20, 23:15, Numbers 28:17-25, Deuteronomy 16:1-8. The idea of eating unleavened bread was to emphasize the immediacy of the salvation of the Lord. When God took the Israelites out of Egypt, He did so quickly; so quickly that the dough of their bread would not have time to rise. Therefore, the leaven was unnecessary. The bread that they made is the same as the Matzo we eat today. (Remember that leaven is a symbol for sin throughout the Bible).
The Feast of First Fruits
“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. – Leviticus 23:10
The Feast of First Fruits can be found in Leviticus 23:9-14. First fruits deal with giving back to God the first fruits of the harvest. It was an annual Thanksgiving for the Jewish people for the grain harvested in the springtime in the land of Canaan. They were to bring the sheaf of the first fruit of the harvest. This was the beginning of the harvest, which would continue for seven weeks. They could not eat of the harvest until they gave their first fruits. To do this was to trust in God, for in giving the first fruits, one was depending on God to continue to provide. This feast was to take place on the first day after the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. (Since Sabbath was the Seventh Day, First Fruits was always a Sunday).
The Feast of Weeks
‘You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the Lord. – Leviticus 23:15-16
Details regarding the Feast of Weeks can be found in Leviticus 23:15-22, Exodus 23:16, Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:9-12. This is called the Feast of Weeks because it takes place seven weeks (or a “week” of weeks) after the Feast of First Fruits. Seven weeks is 49 days, or 50 days If we include the Feast of First Fruits. Since First Fruits is always on a Sunday, the Feast of Weeks is always on a Sunday. Later, this feast would be called Pentecost, from the Greek term for 50. It represented the end of the Spring Harvest. Deuteronomy 16:16-17 commands Pentecost as one of the three feasts that must be celebrated at the place of the Lord’s choosing, i.e.: at the temple. God appointed this day for the people to remember how God provided them what they needed to live. (It was during Pentecost that the Holy Spirit was first given to the Church.)
The Prophetic Purpose of the Moedim, Appointed Times
What is interesting about the moedim is that God gave them not only as way for His people to come into relationship with Him, but also as a prophetic sign of the work of Messiah, the Christ, who is Jesus.
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. – Colossians 2:16-17
Paul teaches us in Colossians that the moedim are things that are a mere shadow of what is to come and that the substance of these moedim belongs to Christ. Jesus is the substance of the moedim. These appointed times are fulfilled and will be fulfilled by Jesus.
The Spring Moedim
The annual moedim mentioned above are those which take place in the Spring. The final three annual moedim take place in the fall. The Spring moedim have been fulfilled by Christ at His first coming.
Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. – 1 Corinthians 5:7
The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! – John 1:29
God explains in His word that Jesus, our Passover, has been sacrificed. He is the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. When Jesus died on the cross, he fulfilled the Passover by becoming the Perfect Lamb that entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, four days before the Passover, and was sacrificed to free us from the bondage of sin.
Feast of Unleavened Bread
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. – 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
The context of Jesus being our sacrificed Passover is that sin must be dealt with. Paul uses the concept of leaven to explain the effects of sin. A little sin infects everything it touches. This is why we must get rid of sin: so we can be cleansed of it and be made new. Yet, we are in fact cleansed of sin because we have received Jesus as Lord and believe God has raised him from the dead. Jesus has fulfilled the Feast of Unleavened Bread by removing our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Though our sins be like scarlet, He has made them white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).
Feast of First Fruits
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. – 1 Corinthians 15:20
Jesus fulfilled the Feast of First Fruits when he defeated the grave and rose from the dead. We will all die. But a day is coming that we will all be raised. Jesus has already done this. We await the day we will be resurrected with our new imperishable bodies. Jesus was the first to receive this when he was resurrected three days after he was crucified. First Fruits always occurred on the first day after the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus rose on the first day after the Sabbath day during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. – Acts 2:1-4
On the Feast of Weeks, the promised Holy Spirit (John 14:26) came down upon the apostles and filled them and empowered them. This is the fulfillment of the Feast of Weeks. The Feast of Weeks celebrated the end of the grain harvest. It was a remembrance of what God had given them. God gave us the Feast of Weeks to celebrate His giving to us that which would provide physical life and at Pentecost gave us that which would provide spiritual life.
The Future Fulfillments of the Fall Moedim
I have not spoken yet about the last three moedim, but we know that God will fulfill them in the same way He did the Spring moedim. How amazing is our God?! He has given us these appointed times to remember what He has done for His people in the past. He will use these same appointed times to fulfill His promises to His people in the future. While we cannot know the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36), we can know the season (1 Thessalonians 5:4) so that we will not be taken by surprise by that day.
How are we not taken by surprise? Because we know the Lord is near (Philippians 4:5) and therefore, we do not cease to meet together (Hebrews 10:25). It is by meeting together and being with the brethren that we ensure we will be ready when the Lord comes to take us to be with him where he is (John 14:2-5).