Are there specific times humans can meet with God in special ways? For ancient Israel, the answer was yes. In this episode, join Tim and Jon as they explore the final movement of Leviticus, talk about the Sabbaths and festivals ancient Israelites celebrated every year, and discuss the significance of rituals and liturgies that allow us to see our time as a significant part of God’s story.
The tabernacle represents an actual piece of real estate that belongs to Yahweh, and in that space, he takes up residence, fills it with his presence, and we can go there and meet with him. In the same way, there are set times that are appointed to meet with Yahweh. Yahweh fills that time in a unique way, and we can find God there in that time in a special way … The Sabbath practice that Yahweh invited Israel into as a whole people is now being turned into a guideline, and it’s going to become a guideline not just for a weekly rest and cessation from our work but for a seven-times-over network of annual rhythms by which they rest and do no work. And each one of these is called a mo’ed, a time for meeting with Yahweh.
In part one (00:00-11:49), Tim and Jon review the approach we’ve had to studying the laws within the Leviticus scroll. Namely, the most effective way to interpret the levitical laws is not to cherry-pick certain ones and copy-and-paste them into our modern world, but to look at the system of laws as an ancient and unified whole from which we can derive wisdom for how to live in any era.
In this final movement of Leviticus, we’re tracing the theme of Sabbath through Leviticus 23-27 and exploring the laws that governed Israel’s feasting and rest days. What we do with our time tells a story about where our loyalties lie—a timeless principle that was true for ancient Israel and for us today.
In part two (11:49-40:12), Tim and Jon dive into Leviticus 23:1-24:9, three literary units about marking sacred time.
Leviticus 23:2 Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, “Yahweh’s appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations—my appointed times are these.”
What follows is a list of seven appointed times that Israel celebrates every year. The Hebrew word for “appointed time” is mo’ed, which appears for the first time in the seven-day creation story (Gen. 1:14) and literally means “a time or place for a meeting.”
Sabbaths were considered mo’edim (meeting times), and so were the festivals of Passover, Shavuot, Feast of Weeks/Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles/Booths (Sukkot), Feast of Firstfruits, and the Feast of Trumpets. Each mo’ed occurs in some multiple of seven (i.e. the seventh day of the week, seven-times-seven weeks, first day of the seventh month, tenth day of the seventh month, and the 15th-21st of the seventh month).
These appointed feasts and festivals were unique times Israel would meet with God, and they ordered their lives in special ways. For instance, Israel’s calendar started at Passover. After being enslaved for hundreds of years, their day of deliverance became the day their calendars reset—and the day their lives reset too. It was like a day of new creation, when their identities and lives fundamentally changed. The Feast of Weeks remembers Israel’s journey through the wilderness to the promised land. All the mo’edim in succession retell Israel’s foundation story every single year, reminding the people where they’ve been and training them to anticipate Yahweh’s ultimate fulfillment of his promises.
All of the Jewish holidays and festivals combine to form an ongoing disruption to the people’s lives, and this is part of the point. None of us were born into a “neutral” calendar—our calendars are structured by values and a story. How we structure our time forms our values and how we see the world.
In part three (40:12-01:00:19), Tim and Jon move on to Leviticus 24, which contains instructions for maintaining the seven-headed menorah lamp.
The narrator uses language reminiscent of Genesis 1 to describe the menorah, connecting it to the heavenly lights of the creation story. Here, in the tabernacle, the menorah shines 24/7 on a table holding twelve loaves of bread. The priest would put incense on the bread every Sabbath day. The bread not only signifies Israel’s offering to Yahweh but also mirrors the greater reality the tabernacle accomplishes in the midst of Israel—Yahweh’s light shining on the 12 tribes of Israel.
It might seem strange to us, but this section is like a liturgical play. Liturgies can be empty, and they don’t ensure faithfulness. However, when we forget liturgies altogether, we miss out on a powerful opportunity for our minds to be formed by the story of God in which we participate.
Show produced by Cooper Peltz. Edited by Dan Gummel, Tyler Bailey, and Frank Garza. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder. Podcast annotations for the BibleProject app by MacKenzie Buxman.
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