The Festivals: God's Cycle of Blessing
by Robert Heidler
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The church has lost some things. There are some blessings, some treasures that God had given to the church that He had wanted us to have that He knew we needed to benefit from, but over the years we have lost. We are living in a time of restoration.
The feasts of the Lord are part of what is being restored by God. When I grew up I didn’t know anything about the feasts of the Lord. Everywhere I go now, people are talking about the feasts. A lot of people try to celebrate the feasts by reproducing some type of legalistic ritual and they never experience what God intended.
To put the feasts in perspective I want to talk about them in the context of how God tends to work in our lives. So I want to talk about the cycles of God — God’s key to increase and blessing.
Cycles of Destruction
You can have something in your life that brings you to defeat over and over again. We see that with the people of Israel on the 9th of Av. When Israel sinned against God at Kadesh Barnea and refused to go into the land, that took place on the 9th of Av. And so God put them into the wilderness for 40 years. Then He brought the next generation in, but they never really repented of the sin. And the result of that is every year on the 9th of Av, in the spiritual realm, there is a window of destruction that opens for the Jewish people. On the 9th of Av 587 B.C., Babylon destroyed the Temple of Solomon. On the 9th of Av A.D. 70, the Romans destroyed the second Temple. There are examples over and over again in history of terrible things happening to the Jewish people on that date.
Israel refused to enter God’s promise and they never repented of it. You can tell they never repented, because when God sent the promised Messiah, they did the same thing. They refused to enter into the promise. And when you don’t repent of a sin in the past, you tend to repeat the same sin and a door of destruction opens. So every year it’s like satan lies in wait and gets his forces ready because he knows on the 9th of Av a door will open for a curse to come.
There a certain people who, during a certain month of the year, tend to get in a mess. It’s something that just comes around in your life over and over again.
There’s a cycle of unbelief that a lot of Christians are caught in. Jesus said if you’ll believe, you’ll receive. But if you don’t believe, you won’t receive. Unbelief blocks God’s blessing, but a lack of blessing confirms people in their unbelief.
What holds us in an old cycle? One thing is a sense of security. No matter how miserable you are in that old cycle, it is very familiar. Even if you don’t like it, you prefer it to change. A definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
We need to learn new ways of thinking, new ways of talking, new ways of relating. To break out of an old cycle we need to ask, “Lord, how do You want me to change?” There are cycles in the universe that bring destruction and some of you are caught in that cycle. God wants to get you out of that.
Cycles of Blessing
God begins by imparting revelation. He’ll give you a little bit of truth and say, “Do this. Change your life here.” As you respond to that, and enter into that word, you enter into a cycle of blessing that lifts you up to a higher level every time you go around the cycle. As long as you walk in that revelation, you will stay in that cycle of blessing and move into greater and greater increase.
Let’s look at a few cycles of blessing. We see a cycle of victory at Jericho. God told Joshua to circle the city seven times. As they circled the city, it didn’t seem like anything happened. But after they did it seven times and the trumpet blew, the power was released to give them victory.
We see in nature a cycle of sowing and reaping. You begin with planting the seed. Then you need to weed to keep out all of those things that would come into your garden. You have to water and tend and finally you come to the place of harvest and out of your harvest you have something else to plant. As you go through that cycle, God releases an anointing for multiplication because every time you go around that cycle, there’s increase. You always harvest more than you planted.
The Festivals of the Lord
These feasts of God are also called God’s appointed times. They are not just rituals. They are not just holidays. But they are times that are set by God where He wants to meet with us to accomplish some specific things in our life every year. So literally, they are appointments with God. God said every year on this day, I want to meet with you because there are some ways I want to bless you. He says meet with Me three times every year.
What we need to see is if we celebrate these feasts, not as a religious ritual, not as just a traditional observance, but if we celebrate these as times to meet with God, and really give Him access into our lives, what we will find is that we are caught in a new cycle. This cycle allows us to continually draw closer to God and sets us free from the enemy’s oppression. How many of you have some oppression from the enemy you would like to be broken off of your life? God has a way.
Our problem is, growing up in America, we know all about our traditional holidays. We know about the 4th of July. Nobody has to teach us that on July 4th you’re supposed to have a picnic and watch fireworks. That’s just a part of our lives. No one has to tell us that we are supposed to eat turkey and watch football on Thanksgiving. We don’t need lessons on how to celebrate Christmas.
But we don’t understand the feasts of the Lord. We don’t know what they are. Most of us don’t know when they are. And we have no idea how to celebrate them in a way that will allow us to enter into the purposes of God.
Not Just for the Jewish People
For the first time in my life, I began to study the feasts of the Lord. And I was amazed at what I found. I discovered that God had given us literally a detailed yearly calendar. He had a cycle that He wanted us to go through every year. I saw that the feasts were not just for the Jewish people. Zechariah promises blessings for Gentiles who will observe the feasts.
Jesus and the apostles followed the feasts. Key New Testament events took place in the context of the feasts. Jesus could have been crucified any time of the year, but it just happened to be on Passover. And He could have been raised from the dead any time, but it just happened to be on the Feast of Firstfruits — the firstfruits of a new creation. The Spirit could have fallen any day of the year, but it just happened to be on the Feast of Pentecost. What that told me is that God celebrates the feasts. God keeps His own timetable.
These feasts were very important to the early church for 300 years. I saw as I studied that God intended for these feasts to be a blessing for us.
God’s appointed times are eternal. They were not given just as temporary holidays until we got to the day where we could learn about the Easter Bunny. But the feasts of God are for all time. Leviticus 23 says “these are lasting ordinances for all generations.”
God’s appointed times are designed to create the rhythm of God in our lives. They get our lives in sync with the rhythm of God. They allow us to be at the right time at the right place so we don’t miss our windows of opportunity. God has windows of opportunity. And if you miss them, if you are not in synch with His timing, you can miss blessing after blessing. Sometimes those windows of opportunity are very narrow. Remember Israel at Kadesh Barnea? Do you realize they missed their window of opportunity by one day? God said, “Go into the land.” They rebelled and said, “No, we won’t!” Then they woke up the next morning and said, “Oh, we made a mistake.” They went back to God and said, “Okay, God, we’re ready to go in.” And God says, “You’ve missed your window of opportunity. The next window will open in 40 years.” So it’s important that we get in step with the Holy Spirit. It’s important that we stay in synch with His timing.
What are God’s appointed times? I don’t have time to go into these in detail. There are many books written about them. My book, Messianic Church Arising, has a whole section telling you how to celebrate them. They are described in much of the Bible. Exodus 23 sums them up this way: “Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to Me.” Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is Passover. Celebrate the Feast of Harvest, which is Pentecost. And celebrate the Feast of Ingathering, which is Tabernacles. He says, three times a year all the men are to appear before the sovereign Lord. He says I’m setting up some appointments for you.
If you like to study biblical numbers, it’s interesting that these all have something in common. The first of them is Passover that takes place in the first month, which is early spring, usually March or April on our calendar. The second of the three takes place in the third month and that’s Pentecost, which is late spring. In Hebrew it is Shavuot. The third is the feast of Tabernacles which takes place in the fall in September or October. The interesting thing about these three feasts is that they are all three-dimensional feasts. They are tri-fold.
Passover — Redemption and Cleansing
I want to give you just an overview of how these feasts operate, how they fit together and what is pictured in the feasts.
Passover pictures redemption and cleansing. You can sum up the Feast of Passover this way: I am redeemed by the blood of the Lamb out of the hand of the enemy. Passover is a feast of deliverance. I once heard Derek Prince say that the most powerful testimony you can make for deliverance is “I am redeemed by the blood of the Lamb out of the hand of the enemy.” That’s what Passover is all about. Every time you celebrate Passover, that is the declaration you are making. It’s also a time for removing impurity. Every year as you came into that time God said, “Search out your houses and look for leaven, look for anything impure, get it out of the house.”
Pentecost — Celebrating God's Provision
Tabernacles — Coming Into God's Glory
And so they built a tabernacle and the glory of God visibly came down and dwelt in their midst. That’s what we celebrate at Tabernacles: coming into His glory.
We see a process every year. God wants to make sure all our sins are covered by the blood, that we are thoroughly cleansed of impurity. That we have faith released to lay hold of the provision and the blessing of God and then we’re able to move into His presence to experience His glory. That’s a cycle God wants you to go through every year, because, no matter how you try to drift away from God, that will draw you back. As you look at this you see a picture of the Tabernacle of Moses. In the Tabernacle of Moses there are three courts. The outer court is all about redemption and cleansing. There is the blood of the lamb spilled out at the altar, but then there is the laver where you are cleansed of impurity.
Then you come into the Holy Place, which is a celebration of God’s provision. There is the table of shewbread as the sign of God’s gracious forgiveness that God loves us so much He even brings forth bread from the earth.
There’s the menorah that symbolizes the provision of the illumination of the Holy Spirit. And the altar of incense that pictures the provision of access to God in prayer. But then there’s a veil. On the other side of that veil is the Holy of Holies where the glory of God dwells. Do you see any similarities there?
We also see this as a picture of church history. In Jesus’ ministry we have redemption and cleansing. Then in the early church we see the full provision of God in His power and His giftings. Then we went through the dark ages when the church lost many of the things God gave. But the prediction is that in the end-time church the glory will be restored. That’s where we’re going!
God’s yearly cycle, the cycle of the feasts, is designed to be a journey into the presence of God. It takes you from wherever you are, whatever kind of sin and mess you are in, step by step until you are dwelling in His glory every year. It’s really like taking a walk through the tabernacle. You start in the outer court and you end up every year in the Holy of Holies.
Living in the World is Like Standing on a Down Escalator
God’s appointed times put you on an escalator going up. And every year it draws you closer and closer into His presence. And if you really enter into them every year, you will end up higher than you were the year before.
Some of the other things the feasts do is they give us a fresh experience of deliverance. The book I wrote, Set Yourself Free, is really a self-deliverance manual, but a lot of deliverance ministries use it also. There are biblical principles that will break off demonic oppression in your life. When I began to study the biblical feasts, what I discovered was God had already given us the steps for deliverance. The key deliverance principles are all included in the feasts.
In my book, I recommend that people take a spiritual inventory of their life and confess any known sins. That alone sets people free from 80% of demonic oppression. That’s included in the cycle of feasts. Every year at the Day of Atonement that’s what you are supposed to do.
I also advise people to search their homes for impurities. Sometimes there are idols or things that are impure that have come into the home and it’s good to search and get them out because that takes away the foothold of the enemy in your life. But again, that’s part of Passover. Search your home. Get rid of impurity. What I saw as I studied the feasts was that the feasts are really designed by God to keep you free from the oppression of the enemy. Any way the enemy tries to get a foothold in your life over the course of a year, if you’re walking in that cycle of appointed times, God will set you free. God wants you free.
The Feasts Are Your Pathway to Revival
God gave you the appointed times because He wants to bring you into a place of revival. He wants to bring you into His presence every year. He wants you to experience His goodness, His blessing and His glory. He wants to fix whatever is wrong.
When we come to the feasts of the Lord, if satan can’t get you to ignore them, his other strategy is to try to get you to turn them into such legalistic rituals that they are of no benefit and they really turn off people around you. These are not legalistic rituals! You will not go to hell for not observing an appointed time. Under the New Covenant, we are free to celebrate a feast. And we are free not to celebrate a feast. So don’t get legalistic about it.
What we need to see is, if you don’t celebrate the feasts, you miss a blessing. But don’t get down on people who don’t celebrate them. Just let them see what is happening in your life.
I’ve never taught against traditional holidays. It’s not a sin to celebrate Jesus on December 25th. That’s a day the Lord has made and it’s always good to celebrate Jesus. But what I have found is that as people experience God’s festivals, if they enter into His appointed times and see what they accomplish, suddenly all those traditional festivals don’t seem very important.
The first year that we celebrated the festivals, person after person in our church came up to me and said, “This was wonderful! Why haven’t we done this before?” That’s the usual response from Christians who celebrate the feasts. They say, “Whoa! I never knew about this! Why didn’t somebody ever tell me?”
A Time to Experience the Goodness and Presence of God
God designed His appointed times to be times of joy and fellowship. Sometimes I see people celebrating the feasts who are so concerned about getting every detail right and it becomes a legalistic work and it’s almost like “Whew! Glad that’s over with.” No! It’s supposed to be a time of joy. We should be saying things like, “Wow! Tabernacles is next week. I can hardly wait!”
Most of the feasts were not celebrations intended to take place in a church auditorium. They were designed to be celebrated in the home to draw the family together. Fun times! Times to experience the goodness and the presence of God. The feasts are designed to bless you. And they are blessings that we have been cheated out of for far too long. But the good news is God wants to restore us to His appointed times.
I’m finding that all over the world God is giving His people a hunger to see those feasts restored. At the time our church first celebrated the feasts, I didn’t know of any other Christians who celebrated them. But over the last several years, everywhere I go, I see church after church that has begun to celebrate the feasts of the Lord. It’s not something any movement of people has produced, it’s just the Spirit of God creating a hunger in His people.
Last year my wife, Linda, went to China and was part of a meeting between Chinese house church leaders and Christian leaders from the West. The house church leaders have seen great revival and incredible things take place, but they have been pretty much cut off from the rest of the church. And so they came to this meeting with some questions and some issues on which they wanted clarification. The first thing the house church leaders asked was, “Tell us about the biblical feasts. How do we celebrate those?” That was the number one thing on their hearts because that is what the Holy Spirit is stirring in His church.
I want to encourage you to celebrate the feasts this year. Allow your life to come into line with God’s cycle of blessing so you can experience all of the joy and fulfillment God wants to give you.