1. THE LAMB OF GOD SYMBOLIZED
a. In the plan God gave to the Hebrews, what had to be done every day in order to atone for sin? Exodus 29:38–41.
“The daily service consisted of the morning and evening burnt offering, the offering of sweet incense on the golden altar, and the special offerings for individual sins. . . .
“Every morning and evening a lamb of a year old was burned upon the altar, with its appropriate meat offering, thus symbolizing the daily consecration of the nation to Jehovah, and their constant dependence upon the atoning blood of Christ. God expressly directed that every offering presented for the service of the sanctuary should be ‘without blemish.’ Exodus 12:5. The priests were to examine all animals brought as a sacrifice, and were to reject every one in which a defect was discovered. Only an offering ‘without blemish’ could be a symbol of His perfect purity who was to offer Himself as ‘a lamb without blemish and without spot.’ 1 Peter 1:19.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 352, 353.
“The great lesson embodied in the sacrifice of every bleeding victim, impressed in every ceremony . . . was that through the blood of Christ alone is forgiveness of sins.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 7, p. 913.
2. HOLY UNTO THE LORD
a. How is God’s seventh-day Sabbath distinct from the annual convocations that would symbolize His plan for deliverance from sin? Leviticus 23:1–3, 37, 38; Colossians 2:16, 17; Exodus 20:8–11.
b. What miraculous experience distinguished the Hebrews from ancient Egypt, a rebellious nation that had defiantly rejected God? Exodus 12:3–13.
“Here was a work required of the children of Israel, which they must perform on their part, to prove them, and to show their faith by their works in the great deliverance God had been bringing about for them. In order to escape the great judgment of God which he was to bring upon the Egyptians, the token of blood must be seen upon their houses. And they were required to separate themselves and their children from the Egyptians, and gather them into their own houses; for if any of the Israelites were found in the houses of the Egyptians, they would fall by the hand of the destroying angel. . . . When the destroying angel went forth in the night to slay the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast, he passed over their houses, and not one of the Hebrews that had the token of blood upon their doorposts was slain.”—The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, p. 200.
c. How was this event to be memorialized? Exodus 12:14; Leviticus 23:5.
“On the fourteenth day of the month, at even, the Passover was celebrated, its solemn, impressive ceremonies commemorating the deliverance from bondage in Egypt, and pointing forward to the sacrifice that should deliver from the bondage of sin.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 539.
d. What followed the Passover? Exodus 12:15–20; Leviticus 23:6–8.
3. PROVIDER OF HARVEST—AND HOPE
a. What offering to the Lord acknowledged Him to be the divine Provider of every morsel of food? Exodus 23:19 (first part); Leviticus 23:9–14.
“On the second day of the feast, the first fruits of the year’s harvest were presented before God. Barley was the earliest grain in Palestine, and at the opening of the feast it was beginning to ripen. A sheaf of this grain was waved by the priest before the altar of God, as an acknowledgment that all was His. Not until this ceremony had been performed was the harvest to be gathered.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 539.
b. What commemoration occurred on the fiftieth day? Leviticus 23:15–22.
“Fifty days from the offering of first fruits, came the Pentecost, called also the feast of harvest and the feast of weeks. As an expression of gratitude for the grain prepared as food, two loaves baked with leaven were presented before God. The Pentecost occupied but one day, which was devoted to religious service.”—Ibid., p. 540.
c. Which feast, preceded by the solemn introductory feast of trumpets, brought hope to the people that their sins would be remembered no more? Leviticus 23:23–32.
“Only once a year could the high priest enter into the most holy place, after the most careful and solemn preparation. No mortal eye but that of the high priest could look upon the sacred grandeur of that apartment, because it was the especial dwelling place of God’s visible glory. The high priest always entered it with trembling, while the people waited his return with solemn silence. Their earnest desires were to God for His blessing. If he remained an unusual time in the most holy, the people were often terrified, fearing that because of their sins or some sin of the priest, the glory of the Lord had slain him. But when the sound of the tinkling of the bells upon his garments was heard, they were greatly relieved. He then came forth and blessed the people.”—The Story of Redemption, pp. 155, 156.
4. THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES
a. What happened during the final feast of the Jewish year, and why was this a joyous occasion? Leviticus 23:33–36, 39–43.
“The Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated to commemorate the time when the Hebrews dwelt in tents during their sojourn in the wilderness. While this great festival lasted, the people were required to leave their houses and live in booths made of green branches of pine or myrtle. These leafy structures were sometimes erected on the tops of the houses, and in the streets, but oftener outside the walls of the city, in the valleys and along the hillsides. Scattered about in every direction, these green camps presented a very picturesque appearance.
“The feast lasted one week, and during all that time the temple was a festal scene of great rejoicing. There was the pomp of the sacrificial ceremonies; and the sound of music, mingled with hosannas, made the place jubilant. At the first dawn of day, the priests sounded a long, shrill blast upon their silver trumpets; and the answering trumpets, and the glad shouts of the people from their booths, echoing over hill and valley, welcomed the festal day. Then the priest dipped from the flowing waters of the Kedron a flagon of water, and, lifting it on high, while the trumpets were sounding, he ascended the broad steps of the temple, keeping time with the music with slow and measured tread, chanting meanwhile: ‘Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem!’
“He bore the flagon to the altar which occupied a central position in the temple court. Here were two silver basins, with a priest standing at each one. The flagon of water was poured into one basin, and a flagon of wine into the other; and the contents of both flowed into a pipe which communicated with the Kedron, and was conducted to the Dead Sea. This display of the consecrated water represented the fountain that flowed from the rock to refresh the Hebrews in the wilderness. Then the jubilant strains rang forth:—
“ ‘The Lord Jehovah is my strength and song;’ ‘therefore with joy shall we draw water out of the wells of salvation!’ All the vast assembly joined in triumphant chorus with musical instruments and deep-toned trumpets, while competent choristers conducted the grand harmonious concert of praise.
“The festivities were carried on with an unparalleled splendor. At night the temple and its court blazed so with artificial light that the whole city was illuminated. The music, the waving of palm-branches, the glad hosannas, the great concourse of people, over which the light streamed from the hanging lamps, the dazzling array of the priests, and the majesty of the ceremonies, all combined to make a scene that deeply impressed all beholders.”—The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, pp. 343-345.
5. SYMBOLIC OF SALVATION
a. In considering the feasts of ancient Israel, what should we realize? Romans 15:4; John 1:29.
“It is impossible to enumerate the advantages the Lord prepared for the world in making the Jewish nation the repository of His rich treasures of knowledge. They were the subjects of His special favor. As a people who knew and worshiped the true God, they were to communicate the principles of His kingdom. They were instructed by the Lord. He withheld from them nothing favorable to the formation of characters which would make them fit representatives of His kingdom. Their feasts, the Passover, the Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles, and the ceremonies attending these gatherings, were to proclaim the truths that God had entrusted to His people. At these gatherings the people were to show gladness and joy, expressing their thanksgiving for their privileges and the gracious treatment of their Lord. Thus they were to show to a world that knew not God that the Lord does not forsake those who trust in Him. With joyful voices they were to sing, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God’ (Psalm 43:5). . . .
“The history of the children of Israel is written for our admonition and instruction upon whom the ends of the world are come. Those who would stand firm in the faith in these last days, and finally gain an entrance into the heavenly Canaan, must listen to the words of warning spoken by Jesus Christ to the Israelites. These lessons were given to the church in the wilderness to be studied and heeded by God’s people throughout their generations forever.”—The Upward Look, p. 232.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Why did a lamb need to be offered up every morning and evening?
2. What protected the children of Israel on the night of the Passover?
3. Which ceremony was designed to acknowledge the Lord of the harvest?
4. Why was the day of atonement so important?
5. What was the general purpose of the feast days?