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3rd Compass -> Group News and Articles -> The Lord's Holidays and Sabbaths

The Lord's Holidays and Sabbaths (Teaching) 5/29/2015 2:32 PM
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Minister Ty Alexander
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There is much confusion in the church on what holidays the Lord wants us to celebrate today. Some people don't think God wants us to honor the Sabbath or any Old Testament holidays because of Scripture like Colossians 2:16-17 and Galatians 4:8-10. That Scripture talks about holidays but also seems to say they should not be observed.

However, we cannot jump to conclusions about what a few verses may seem to say. We need to rightly divide or correctly handle God's Words (2 Timothy 2:15) and view things in their complete and correct context to understand what God is really saying. Remember, too, that translation of God's original Words can make correct interpretation difficult.

First, we know that honoring the weekly Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments. These are eternal commandments (Psalm 119:152,160) that God wants all of mankind to obey. They were never cancelled when Jesus came, because He did not abolish the law (Matthew 5:17), and we can still see the effects of the Ten Commandments and God's other laws on people all over the world today.

Second, Hebrews 4:1-11 reminds us to keep the Sabbath (see Weekly Sabbath below for detail). So if God is telling us to continue honoring His holidays and Sabbaths, then why does the church think God does not want them to be observed?

Part of the problem is in misinterpretation of Scripture and jumping to the wrong conclusions about it. Let's look at Galatians 4:8-10. There, Apostle Paul is talking about holidays, saying, "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God - or rather are known by God - how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing specials days and months and seasons and years!"

Paul is obviously shaming the Galatians for observing holidays. He could have been talking about the pagan holidays and traditions they were supposed to turn away from, since he talks about the Galatians being slaves to idols (things that are not gods; Galatians 4:8) and that they were going back to old, miserable principles (Galatians 8:9), which were their pagan worship and traditions. He also could have been talking about rigidly keeping to God's holidays and Sabbaths like the Jews. Either mentality is not good.

Paul also talks about being slaves to the Law of Moses afterwards in Galatians 4:21-31, and notes how we are no longer subject to that heavy yoke. Instead, we are to live by the freedom in Christ to not have to obey the Law of Moses (Galatians 5:1), but that does not mean God took away His holidays and Sabbaths or that He does not want us to keep any of the Old Testament ways.

Paul is reminding us that we are not to be legalistic or absolutely strict about observing the holidays and Sabbaths when we live in Christ, because if anyone claims to belong to God through the Law of Moses, then he is obligated to obey the whole law as all Jews are required to do even today (Galatians 5:3). The Law of Moses still being in effect gives further proof that Jesus did not abolish law. He came to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17) and to teach about how God's laws changed under Him.

Paul's reminder about not being legalistic in observing holidays and the Law of Moses is what Colossians 2:16-17 talks about. Paul says, "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that are to come."

Paul is noting that we are not to let anyone judge our behavior in regard to God's holidays and regulations about eating and drinking. He is not saying Sabbaths and God's holidays are no longer to be honored. The church often jumps to conclusions about what God means in verses like this to mean He does not want us to keep the Sabbath or other holidays. But to correctly handle His Word, we are to keep the context correct and only see that we are not to be judged by how we observe holidays and Sabbaths or whether we observe them or not.

They are a "shadow of things to come", like the tabernacle of Moses was a shadow of heaven's sanctuary (Hebrews 8:5). They would later be replaced by better and different things. Who knows how we are to live and honor God's holidays and Sabbaths in the next life?

For now, we need to keep the whole of God's Word in view. It shows in Scripture that feasts, like Tabernacles, are still to be observed even after Christ's second coming (Zechariah 14:16-19) and His guidance today reminds us to honor Sabbaths and certain festivals. We should also remember we are one family under Christ adopted into the heritage of the Jews (Ephesians 2:11-22,3:6; Galatians 3:26-29; 1 Peter 2:9-10), so we should know and observe Old Testament holidays and Sabbaths.

The following is a list of holidays we should observe and guidelines for them. Just keep in mind the guidelines are suggestions. We should not fall back onto the legalism required of the Jews or worry over getting things absolutely right, but simply try to honor God's holidays as our hearts move us. We are not given a spirit of slavery that leads to fear when we are saved in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:15; Luke 1:68-75), so use these guidelines as just that and don't worry about getting things wrong or that you must observe them. Just try to keep the right focuses for the theme of each and do not over emphasize man-made traditions with them.
  • Weekly Sabbath or Shabbat/Sabbat (Hebrew) - The Sabbath is the seventh day, which begins at sundown on Friday (the end of the sixth day) and ends on Saturday at sundown. Some people suggest that since the modern days of the week were not mentioned in the Bible, we can pick whatever day we wish as our Sabbath, however, I was guided that we are not to do this. We are to consider the weekly Sabbath day as Saturday, which begins at sundown on Friday evening. In areas where there is no true sundown for long lengths of time, such as in the arctic, a reasonable time for the day's end should be chosen, like 7pm.

    The weekly Sabbath rest is commanded throughout the Old Testament (Exodus 20:8-11,31:13-17,34:21,35:1-2; Leviticus 19:3,30,23:3,26:2; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Jeremiah 17:22; Ezekiel 20:20,44:24) and specifically in the Ten Commandments, which are never-ending laws for all of mankind (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Psalm 119:152,160). The Sabbath is also reminded of us in Hebrews 4:1-11, where the Apostle Paul talks about continuing to enter God's rest "today" (Hebrews 4:7-9). Those who are obedient to God will enter His rest, which is spoken of literally as the Sabbath (Hebrews 4:4,9-11) and metaphorically as entering the Promised Land and God's Kingdom through Christ, because Hebrews 3-4 talks about the People rebelling against God to take the Promised Land, which brought His anger on them for 40 years. This is analogous to today's good news of Christ and being saved into the "rest" from needing to strictly observe the Law of Moses (Hebrews 4:2). Paul reminds us, "Do not harden your hearts" today (Hebrews 4:7), but continue to be faithfully obedient to God's commands, like honoring the Sabbath (Hebrews 4:8-11).

    The Sabbath is meant to be a day of rest and holy assembly, so worshiping and gathering for the Lord is suggested (Leviticus 23:3, Luke 6:6). Jews traditionally went to the temple on the Sabbath to worship and learn.

    Try not to do your usual work on Sabbaths, like your normal wage earningjobs or major household chores. We should schedule things to work around the Sabbath, but we should not be overly concerned about working or doing other strenuous activities on the Sabbath either. Shopping or buying things on the Sabbath is also fine. However, if you have a business that requires a physical presence, it should be closed during the Sabbath so you and your employees get rest (Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:14).

    Still, the Sabbath is just a shadow of things to come (Colossians 2:17), so don't worry over trying to observe it perfectly. In deciding if you should do something on the Sabbath, remember, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:12, Luke 6:9-10) and Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5), so we need to follow what His Spirit tells us to do in the moment and not worry if it seems to violate the Sabbath.

    God does not want us to become legalistic about observing the Sabbath. It was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). God wants us to rest regularly, even every evening when we ought not to work (John 9:4). Regular rest is for our spiritual and bodily health as well as for our families' well-being so that we may spend time together. Remember God, too, rested from His work.
  • New Moons - New Moons are still relevant (Numbers 10:10,28:11-14; 1 Chronicles 23:3-31; 2 Chronicles 8:12-13). The months on Jewish calendars continue to begin on new moons and most holidays depend on this lunar calendar. However, we do not need to be strict about celebrating New Moons or other holidays (Colossians 2:16-17). Meeting and worship, a trumpet blowing, and feasts are appropriate for New Moons (Numbers 10:10,28:11-14; Psalm 81:3-4; Isaiah 66:23; Ezekiel 45:17,46:3), though a simple recognition may be done just with prayer to acknowledge the New Moon and bless the coming month.
  • Purim - This holiday celebrates how God saved the Jews from a royal decree to annihilate them when they were exiled in Babylon. God reversed their sorrow and turned it into rejoicing.

    Traditionally, two days of feasting are commanded (Esther 9:21-22,27,31), accompanied by fasting, songs of lament, and gifts of food to each other and other gifts to the poor (Esther 9:19,22,31). It would be appropriate to fast the day before the feasting, such as from sundown the eve of Purim until the feast begins the next day. Singing songs of lament should be done during the fasting, like this lament for today's church2.
  • Passover/Feast Of Unleavened Bread or Pesach/Pesah/Pesakh (Hebrew) - This is a seven day festival or feast that includes two days of assembly. The two assembly days are considered Sabbath Days of rest (one at the start of Passover and one at the end) when we should gather for the Lord (Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:7-8; Numbers 28:18,25; Deuteronomy 16:8).

    During Passover Week we are supposed to get rid of bread yeast and abstain from eating anything made with bread yeast starting at sundown on the second day of Passover (Leviticus 23:6; Exodus 12:15-20,13:6, 23:15, 34:18; Numbers 28:17; Deuteronomy 16:3,8; Ezekiel 45:21), but this is not an absolute necessity. Also, the yeast used to make wine and other alcohol is different from bread yeast, so alcohol was not traditionally banned on Passover8. Though we don't have to be strict about avoiding bread yeast, eating unleavened bread, like matzo/matza/matzah, for seven days during Passover is a good thing to remind us of the affliction the Jews went through to leave Egypt during the original Passover. It is called the "bread of affliction" for that reason (Deuteronomy 16:3).

    Passover is also related to Pascha (Easter - see below) since Pascha is Greek for Passover, so it is appropriate to remember Christ's resurrection on the Sunday following the first Passover feast. The Lord was resurrected on the first Sunday after the Lord's Supper, which was a Passover Feast (Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12, Luke 22:7), so during the first feast of Passover it is appropriate to celebrate the Lord's Supper and make communion through the breaking of bread and drinking of grape juice or wine to remember the Lord as our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). Remember, too, communion is a holy affair, so propriety and reverence are important when you take communion during a meal (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).

  • Pascha (Easter) - Pascha is Greek for Passover, which comes from the Hebrew word for Passover (Pesach/Pesah/Pesakh). Most non-Westernized denominations have used the word, Pascha, to denote the holiday celebrating Christ's resurrection. It is a remembrance of God's Gift of Grace and Jesus' triumphant resurrection.

    God has given guidance that we should call this holiday Pascha and not Easter. The word "Easter" is a misnomer and is not appropriate to use in the celebration of Jesus' resurrection. It comes from spring festivals that worship pagan gods and have an ugly history3,4,5. God wants His People to be educated on these matters and to stop mixing up man-made beliefs and traditions with what is truly from God, so we need to get away from the use of the word "Easter", egg hunts, and other commercialized Easter symbols.

    Pascha is not supposed to be a celebration of spring, though Christ's resurrection is a symbolic renewal like spring, God has given guidance that modern Easter celebrations have bad focuses, like egg hunts and focusing on spring, candy and fun more than Christ. The symbolism of eggs and egg hunts is also interesting because bird eggs represent useless/fruitless pursuits in guidance, so hunting for Easter eggs also represents pursuing fruitless man-made activities.

    Pascha means Passover and refers to Jesus being our Passover sacrifice, so it is appropriate to remember this on the Sunday following the first Passover feast as well.
  • Feast Of Trumpets/Shouting/Sounding or Yom Teruah (Hebrew) (also called Rosh Hashana) - This holiday is widely known as Rosh Hashana, meaning "Head of the Year" and celebrated as a Jewish New Year on the first day of the seventh Jewish month of Tishrei, but a New Year is not the Biblical definition of the holiday in Leviticus 23:23-25 and Numbers 29:1 where it is defined by the Hebrew word, "teruah", meaning to make a loud noise or shout, like to signal joy or a war cry, typically with a trumpet or shofar. The term "Rosh Hashana" is not mentioned in the Bible, but is believed to come from pagan influences when the Jews were exiled in Babylon and incorporated foreign culture into Judaism, such as the Babylonian New Year, which often occurred at the same time as Yom Teruah9.

    The true Jewish New Year is the first day of the first Jewish month of Aviv/Nisan (Exodus 12:2). Passover commemorates that anniversary of leaving Egypt (Deuteronomy 16:6), 14 days after the New Year begins. A celebration is not commanded on the actual Jewish New Year's Day or Eve, but God did say to keep a vigil on the night when the first Passover occurred because God did so to bring His People out of Egypt (Exodus 12:42).

    For Yom Teruah, a holy gathering should be made (Leviticus 23:24-25 ;Numbers 29:1) along with a Sabbath rest and sounding of trumpets and/or shouting for God's People, Jew and Christian alike. I like to make a set of three long trumpet blasts followed by shouts of "Hurrah Israel! Hurrah New Jerusalem!"
  • Day Of Atonement or Yom Kippur (Hebrew) - From Leviticus 16:1-34,23:26-32 and Numbers 29:7-11. It is a day to remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. It is a Sabbath rest beginning at sundown on Yom Kippur Eve that should include reflection on our sins and asking God's forgiveness for them (noting specific sins when asking forgiveness is best).

    On a Jubilee or Sabbath/Sabbatical Year, a trumpet is supposed to be sounded on the Day Of Atonement (Leviticus 25:9).

    Some people fast for Yom Kippur because some translations refer to "afflicting or denying" oneself in Numbers 29:7 from the Hebrew "anah". However, this word does not mean to fast from food, but is a general "to afflict, oppress, humble, or to be occupied with", which was used to mean "to deny or keep" oneself from working on a Sabbath (Leviticus 16:31). The Hebrew word for fasting from food, "tsum", is used elsewhere in the fasting context but not in conjunction with the Day Of Atonement, so we do not need to fast on Yom Kippur - instead we need to commit to a Sabbath rest.

    However, a holy gathering for Yom Kippur is commanded so we should gather for the Lord (Numbers 29:7).
  • Feast Of Tabernacles/Booths or Sukkot/Succot/Sukkos/Sukkah (Hebrew) and Last Great Day/Eighth Day or Shemini Atzeret (Hebrew) - This is an eight day remembrance with seven days of festival and feasting stated in Leviticus 23:33-43, Numbers 29:12-38 and Zechariah 14:16. The first and last days are Sabbath rests (Leviticus 23:35,36) and feasts are made on the first seven days.

    On the first day of Tabernacles we are supposed to take choice fruit from trees, palm fronds, and leafy branches from trees like poplars or willows to celebrate with the Lord during the seven days of the festival (Leviticus 23:40). I suggest getting or making one or more centerpieces or bouquets of fruit and foliage for your dinner table(s).

    We, especially "native-born" Israelites, are also supposed to live in "tabernacles/booths" or temporary shelters during the first seven days so that we can remember how God had His People live in tents when He brought them out of Egypt (Leviticus 23:42-43). Though we do not have to literally live in tents during this holiday anymore, we should certainly make efforts to remember the nomadic lives of the Jews during their many years wandering the desert.

    Modern Jews often build a sukkah for Tabernacles. It is a simple temporary shelter with a roof, like a gazebo or pop-up canopy, where the meals are eaten and sometimes for people to sleep under during Tabernacles.

    The last day of Tabernacles is called the Last Great Day or Shemini Atzeret (Hebrew). It is not a separate holiday from Tabernacles but is the capping off of Tabernacles. It is a day to remember the renewal and resurrection hope we have in God since the Hebrew "shemini" means eighth and the number eight means renewal and resurrection6. The first seven days of Tabernacles is a remembrance of the nomadic hardships the Jews lived through in the desert for decades because of their disobedience to God (Numbers 14:22-37), but the last day of Tabernacles symbolizes God's renewal after hardship, so we should celebrate and look forward to God's promised renewal and resurrection with expectation and hope, like the Jews experienced when they finally crossed into the Promised Land.

    Today this is analogous to our looking forward to renewal and resurrection with Jesus. He was also renewed and resurrected on the eighth day (Sunday is the eighth and first day of the week). His renewal promises many things we can look forward to with hope - Jesus' final return, our bodily resurrection with that return, and the unity of His People in His Kingdom's New Jerusalem (today's Promised Land we look forward to) and eventually the New Heaven and Earth when creation will be a perfected reality and when all sorrow and death will be taken away (Revelation 21:4). So even if we've been disobedient to the Lord, we can still be grateful for His mercy and look forward with Christ when we are sealed by His Promise of eternal salvation through the New Covenant. Let that be remembered on Shemini Atzeret as well.

    Along with Sabbath rests, holy gatherings were commanded for the first and last days of Tabernacles (Numbers 29:12,35; Leviticus 23:36).
  • Hanukkah/Chanukkah/Feast Of Dedication/Festival Of Lights - This eight-day holiday is listed for historical reference because all of God's People, whether Jew or Christian need to know what it is about. We are one in Christ and so share a common history and heritage (Ephesians 2:11-19, 3:6, 1 Peter 2:10, Romans 10:12-13, 12:5). However, it is not clear if God commands this holiday to be observed. I have not seen explicit guidance saying it should be observed and the only mention of it in the Bible is in John 10:22, which only shows that the Jews celebrated the holiday when Jesus was in Jerusalem.

    Hanukkah is not a Jewish Christmas. It celebrates a miracle of re-dedicating God's temple in Jerusalem after the Jews forcefully took it back from Greek-Syrian occupation in the 2nd Century BC. Hanukkah is Hebrew for "dedication" or "to dedicate". It refers to the dedication ceremony where the menorah or lampstand (Exodus 25:31-40; Numbers 8:1-4) was to be lit for eight days (the number eight means renewal and resurrection6). However, the Jews found they only had one day of oil for the lamps. They lit them anyways and found the lamps kept burning for the whole eight days.

    This miracle is like the feeding of thousands by Jesus with only a few fish and loaves of bread (Matthew 14:13-21,15:32-38; Mark 6:33-44,8:1-9; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14), however, when Jesus was in Jerusalem during Hanukkah, the New Testament does not say He celebrated it. It does say He told the Jews at that time that He was indeed equal with God and they tried to kill him for it (John 10:25-38).

    God may not require us to celebrate Hanukkah, but we should still remember what it means historically and how it relates to Christ's temple "re-dedication". Jesus destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and rebuilt/replaced it with His bodily resurrection (John 2:19-22), which also includes our rebirth through faith and confession in Him so that we are also temples of God where His Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 6:19, Romans 10:10, 1 John 4:15; Acts 2:38).

    That miracle of dedicating imperishable temples in every saved believer needs to be emphasized during Hanukkah, so that our Jewish brethren may be brought into God's Light and Grace through Christ.
  • Christmas - This holiday is important not because Jesus was born on December 25th, but because He was conceived in the womb on that date7. Rosh Hashana is actually when Jesus was born (see Trumpets/Yom Teruah/Rosh Hashana above). This mix-up explains why we see no Biblical evidence supporting Jesus' birth in winter. The New Testament says Mary and Joseph were traveling at that time for a census, which is unlikely that a census would be ordered to take place in the harsh conditions of winter (Luke 2:1-7). Shepherds were also in the fields with their flocks when Jesus was born (Luke 2:8). This is also unlikely in late December when flocks were normally sheltered in winter quarters.

    Another important thing to note is God has pointed out how man-made traditions and worldly focuses have corrupted Christmas and moved its focus away from Christ and onto worldly and commercialized versions of love and giving. Our focus for Christmas should be on the Gift and Grace of Christ coming to earth and not on giving gifts, decorating trees and property, gathering for family, or even "Christmas/holiday spirit" that leaves out God and Christ. We must keep our focus on Jesus and God's Grace when we celebrate Christmas.
  • Other holidays, like Palm Sunday, Lent, Saint Patrick's Day and other Saints' Days and religious holidays - I do not explicitly address other holidays because I've not seen explicit guidance on them. However, I must note that God has guided us on how people often mix up His holidays and things with their own traditions and ideas, which are often based on pagan beliefs or are completely man-made. God wants us to get away from these mixed up beliefs and practices. They have tainted God's holidays, like Christmas and Pascha/Easter with ungodly influences. This has happened with many holidays, such as St. Brigid's Day, where the deeds of real saints have been mixed up with pagan deities and festivals.

    I do not treat these days as God ordained holidays, but if they celebrate a real godly triumph, like Palm Sunday and St. Patrick's Day, I will recognize and remember the event and try to keep my focus on what God wants us to keep in the forefront, such as St. Patrick's Day should be remembered as God's Gift of Christ through the martyred saint to save Ireland and not a day to promote Irish nationalism or culture.

    People have also complicated God's holidays with their own traditions where God only wants us to keep things simple. So remember that even God's ordained holidays are only a shadow of things to come and we should not over complicate them or fret about observing them perfectly. Simply try to honor the spirit of each holiday and remember why God wants us to celebrate them.


1 "Passover and Covenant Protection". 1/19/2011. Marching From Behind The Veil. The Church South of Saint Paul -  3rd Compass.

2 "A Purim Song Of Lament For God's Bride". The Church South of Saint Paul -  3rd Compass.

3 "It is Pascha, not Easter!".

4 "Pagan Origins Of Easter".

5 "The Origin Of Easter".

6 "The Meaning Of Numbers". The Church South of Saint Paul -  3rd Compass.

7 "English Gematria".

8 "Why is it permitted to drink wine on Passover?".

9 "How Yom Teruah Became Rosh Hashana".

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