After some very feeble posts by myself (sorry I've had no time recently!), Jacky brings things back to the boil. This is really great stuff - enjoy!
Read Exodus 23:10-32
The Israelite Calendar
We approach the three significant appointed times of the year according to the Israelite ecclesiastical calender:
(i) Feast of Unleavened Bread: also known as the ‘Passover‘ (Pesach) in the first month (15th to 21st day), the month Nisan/Abib (v.15); the Paschal Lamb killed on the 14th, and the Paschal feast from 15th to 21st
(ii) Feast of Harvest: 6th day of Siwan/Sivan, the third month of the ecclesiastical calender (this is also known as Shavuot/the Pentecost/Firstfruits of Wheat Harvest)
(iii) Feast of Ingathering: known as Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles (firstfruits of wine and oil) occuring from 15th to 21st of the month Tishri, the seventh ecclesiastical month
These are the three memorable days where all the males appear before God. Unsurprisingly, these three festivals mark important dates in Scripture: the year opens with the reminder of Jesus’ death on the cross; followed by the Pentecost in the middle of the year, reminding us of the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit given to all men (Acts 2) which also occured on the Shavuot. This being in the sixth month, on the sixth day, is the mark of man equipped and blessed by the Holy Spirit to spread the gospel, and also to be sanctified (as day six represents that of the creation of man and woman, just as the Spirit is given to all men and women. For six days shall man labour; and so for six days shall we labour with the Holy Spirit for God’s Holy Work of salvation. This is closely followed by the seventh month, symbolising a time of reaping of rewards, the firstfruits of wine and oil, and unlike the Feast of Weeks, this is similar to the Passover, a seven-day celebration.
Interestingly, following the Feast of Ingathering there is approximately 5 months before the next Passover… and this contributes to the seasonal cycle of Scripture – through death, comes life, and returns to death again, comes life again. This is no Buddhist samsaric realm – rather, this is an observation of our life on earth, a shadow of the great event of Christ being thrown into the pit, rising as a new creation and ascending as our present Intercessor before the Heavenly Father. Just as we are made from dust, we are given the firstfruits of new life by the Spirit; then we return to dust. But we will rise again, breaking away from all seasons in new creation, and will eternally live in the Feast of Tabernacles where there is eternal wine and oil of gladness, where there is the eternal Tabernacling of the Lamb with us in New Jerusalem.
Perhaps there is something more I’d like to note: Three times the male appears. Why?
The first festival relates to CHRIST, in memory of the death of the firstborn.
The second festival relates to the SPIRIT, in memory of the giving of the Spirit to all who stand in the Son.
The third festival… relates to the FATHER – whom we will no longer conceive as invisible, but visible when we are given new bodies:
Job 19:25-27 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. (26) And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, (27) whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!
And thus, the three periods of the year bear witness to the Triunity of the God in becoming, the cyclical nature of His outpouring love for us taking us from Christ, in the Spirit, to the Father from the victorious opening of the year to the even more glorious close of the greater hope in seeing the Father in our new creation bodies, in the new heaven and earth.
Conquest of Canaan in the Name of the Angel
From the great establishment of the yearly reminder of the Triune glory, we move on to vv.20-21 which speak of the divine archangel which Philo considered to be God the Father’s chief messenger, and no doubt, Jesus is the Father’s chief and foremost messenger. The Angel of the LORD, who has the name of GOD himself, has the power of pardoning one’s transgressions. The Father tells Moses to relay to the Israelites that this Angel must not be disobeyed (v.22).
Vv.23-24 then relate to the essence of Christian proclamation – v.24: “you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces”. Indeed, Christ, the Angel, is the one who brings the victory – God the Father is the one who blots them out (v.23), but WE are the ones who invoke the Angel’s Name to destroy the idols according to the victory won by the Redeemer. Such is the stuff of the Christian faith, when we are brought into the warm embrace of the Triune love! Glen has written another great post on faith here.
And that fight of faith, by the victory of the cross and by the power of the Spirit (explained by the festivals), shall result in the symbolic treasures of Canaan. The land will be enlarged, the people will no longer be barren… but v.33 ends on an important caution: “They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” Yet, the irony is the prophetic nature behind this statement – STRAIGHT after Moses speaks to the Father, Israel is already serving their self-made calf. Will the Israelites ever inherit such blessings, with their terrible track-record of being dissatisfied with the symbolic quail, manna and living water? It is so laughable that we, like the Israelites, would however always promise God – “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do” (chapter 24v.3).
Clearly, the answer is found in the victorious Angel. The answer is found in the annual reminder of the three-fold festivities. The answer is found in the perfect fulfillment of the law. What is the meaning of the law? It is to bear witness to the Christ Who can do these things. What is the meaning of the law? It is to bear witness to the Seed, the God-man, who is the Redeemer of the ancient Christians. What is the meaning of the law? To display how utterly fallen we are, and our utter incapability of fulfilling it by ourselves, except in the eternal Mediator alone. Through Him, we will see the Father, and inherit the blessings of New Jerusalem in true Canaan (v.23-32).