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Biblical Holydays

(For today or not?)

 

          Holidays can be a very special time of the year.  I remember growing up celebrating Christmas and Easter with great joy.  The family bonding and family memories are ingrained in me forever, and I will always cherish them.  Considering this, I understand how hard it would be to even consider replacing current holidays with God's Holydays, but doing so does not mean these memories will be gone.  The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that God gave us Holydays that we are to practice and should still practice today.  In fact, God also commanded us to stop practicing pagan holidays such as Christmas and Easter.  Please read the article with an open mind and remember, God's Holydays can be just as special, if not more, than any other holiday that man has created.  This article will be divided into two parts; Why we should practice God's Holydays, and Why we should not practice current holidays, but first some background regarding God's Holydays and where the current holidays most people practice came from.

           There are many misconceptions regarding the Holydays of the scripture.  Most think that feast days such as Passover, Feast of Weeks, and Tabernacles are Jewish holidays, but this is not entirely true.  We need to remember who the Jews are.  The Hebrew word for Jew is yehûdı̂y which means "a descendant of Jehudah that is, Judah" (Strong's Concordance H3064).  The Greek word for Jew is Ioudaios which means "belonging to Jehudah, or Judah" (Strong's Concordance G2453).  A Jew is simply a descendant of Judah and only one tribe out of twelve tribes of Israel.  With this understanding a more accurate description would be that the feasts of the scripture are Israelite feasts, but even this is not entirely true.  The scripture declares numerous times that these are "the feasts of the LORD" (Lev. 23:2, Lev. 23:44, 2 Chr. 2:4, Ezr. 3:5, etc.).  The Holydays of the scripture are God's Holydays, not the Jews or any man's Holydays.  They belong to the LORD.  In fact, many Gentiles of the scripture practiced God's Holydays with God's blessing.  In Deuteronomy 16:13-14, God declares that even the "stranger" should practice His feast of Tabernacles.  God also declares that His Law is for Israel and "the stranger that sojourneth among [them]" (Ex. 12:49, Lev. 24:22, Num. 15:16;29, Deut. 31:12, John 12:20).  These feasts were for Israelite and Gentile alike and were practiced by Israel for much of history, until something changed.

           In Daniel 7:25, a prophecy is written regarding God's time keeping system.  The fourth beast of Daniel's vision had 10 horns (kings - Dan 7:24).  One of these kings will "change times and laws."  The question to ask is, who is this fourth beast and when did he "change times and laws?"  The Bible defines these beasts as kingdoms (Dan. 7:23) and history clearly identifies these kingdoms as; Babylon, Medo Persia, Greece, and finally Rome.  This fourth kingdom called Rome will "change times and laws," in fact, they already have.  Rome, and it's religion (Roman Catholic Church), have already changed God's times and laws.  Constantine did so in 325 AD at the Council of Nicaea.  Here are a few examples of how Rome has changed God's "times and laws."

  1. God's calendar starts in spring with the greening of the first crops, which is why the first month is called Abib ('âbı̂yb - to be tender green, that is a young ear of grain - Strong's Concordance H24).  In 325 AD at the Council of Nicaea, Rome changed God's calendar to the Julian calendar, which is the precursor to our current Gregorian calendar.  Now our calendar starts on January first.

  2. Changing to the Julian calendar removed Holydays such as Passover, Feast of Weeks and Tabernacles and instituted holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and New Years.

  3. Rome has also subverted God's Law the Ten Commandments (what we currently call the Common Law) in place of the current Roman Civil Law, which we simply call the Civil Law today.

  4. Rome changed the start of the day as well.  Today we start our days at midnight, but God clearly starts His days at the evening (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31).

  5. Rome changed God's Sabbath from the seventh day of Saturday to the first day of Sunday (Council of Laodicea, A.D. 336).

  6. The Roman Catholic Church also changed God's Ten Commandments (see picture here).

          This might be hard to believe, but even the Catholic church does not argue the point, but rather embraces it.   Patrick Madrid, a conservative catholic scholar, stated "[The] calendar that we follow . . . is not only a calendar that was devised by the Catholic Church, but also it is a calendar that’s based upon the solar year, not the lunar year.  And the Jewish calendar that was observed in the time of Christ . . . follows a lunar calendar, which is several days short of the solar year" (retrieved from www.worldslastchance.com, Patrick Madrid, comments on “Open Line,” EWTN, Global Catholic Radio Network, January 5, 2006).  There are many, many quotes from the catholic church boasting of their ability to change God's laws and Holydays.  The point is that it is clear that they admit doing so and continue in that tradition.  This begs the question, if Rome changed God's "times and laws," should we follow in that same direction?   

 

 

Why we should practice God's Holydays:

 

           There are many reason's why we should practice God's Holydays.  The first is obvious, they are God's Holydays, and not our Holydays (Lev. 23:2, Lev. 23:44, 2 Chr. 2:4, Ezr. 3:5, etc.).  We need to remember that these Holydays were invented and designed by God Himself and He commanded us to practice them.  In fact, when God instituted His Holydays He said to practice them "forever" (Ex. 12:14-17, Ex. 12:24, Ex. 31:16-17, Lev. 16:29-31, Lev. 23:21, Lev. 23:31, Lev. 24:8, 2 Chron. 2:4, and many, many more).  The last time I checked, forever is not up yet.  Although God said to do them forever, many claim that God only intended them for the Jews, or Israelites.  However, as we have seen earlier, these Holydays were for Israelite and Gentile alike (Deut. 16:13-14, Ex. 12:49, Lev. 24:22, Num. 15:16;29, Deut. 31:12, John 12:20).  If we are to follow the God of Israel, we need to practice His Holydays.

          The second reason is that the Messiah Himself practiced God's Holydays and He is our "example" to follow after (1 Pet. 2:21).  We know that the Messiah practiced the Feast of Passover (Luke 2:41-42) and the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:6-10).  We can reasonably assume, though not expressly stated in the Gospels, that the Messiah also practiced the other feast days as well.  If He is to be our example to follow after, we should practice these feasts as well.  After all, the Apostles followed in the Messiah's example throughout the book of Acts.  Peter and the other Apostles kept the Feast of Weeks (Acts 2:1).  The Apostle Paul kept the Feast of Passover (Acts 18:21) and all the feasts (Acts 28:17).  In fact, the Apostle Paul instructed the Corinthian Church, a Gentile Church, to keep the feast of Passover (1 Cor. 5:8).  You will see, through careful study, that the New Testament in no way endorses abandoning God's feasts, but rather, it assumes we would follow them.  In fact, the early church practiced God's Holydays for centuries.  It wasn't until Constantine and the Council of Nicaea that this changed, and even then, it took a couple more centuries until holidays such as Christmas and Easter became mainstream in the church.

          The third reason is that God has a purpose for His Holydays.  They are designed for our instruction and learning.  As the Apostle Paul states, they are a, "shadow of things to come" (Col. 2:17, Heb. 8:5, Heb. 10:1).  These feasts proclaim the future of God's plan.  I have come across many people who love to study prophecy and end time events, but they have no interest in God's Holydays.  To study the scripture like this would be an error.  The scripture clearly teaches that these feasts foreshadow "things to come."  We need to start with the feasts, which provide a great outline of God's plan, then fill in the details with the rest of scripture.  If we study end time events without an understanding of God's Holydays we are destined for errors in our doctrines.  I contend that you cannot even properly understand what the Holydays teach without practicing them yourself.  The more you practice God's Holydays, the better the understanding you will have, which will lead to a greater understanding of God's ultimate plan.

 

 

Why we should not practice current holidays:

 

          This part is simple.  We should avoid practicing current holidays because God said so.  God has His Holydays that we should practice.  It is an insult to Him when we choose not to.  The flip side to this is when we practice holidays that are not His instead.  This simply adds insult to injury, which is what God states clearly throughout the Old Testament.  The prophet Isaiah spoke of a rebellious people who did not follow the LORD (Is. 1:2-3).  How were they rebellious? God answers this question by saying, "Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them" (Is. 1:14).  Obviously, God would not say this regarding His own feasts.  Apparently, ancient Israel was practicing feasts that were not of God.  God then tells them to, "Wash [and] make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil" (Is. 1:16).  The feasts that Israel was practicing God called "evil," but what were these feasts that Israel was practicing?

          Fortunately, another prophet rose up later and answered this question.  The prophet Jeremiah clearly warns Israel about following pagan customs.  He states, "Learn not the way of the heathen" (Jer. 10:2).  He goes on to describe one of these customs, "For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.  They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not" (Jer. 10:3-4).  Though this passage is not specifically speaking to the Christmas Tree, but rather an idol (Jer. 10:14), it is forbidden in scripture to use any object, including God's creation, as an image (Ex. 20:4).  The Christmas Tree definitely fits this description.  None of God's Holydays require a graven image of any sort, but Christmas does.  Jeremiah also warns us regarding the practice of Easter.  Jeremiah writes, "As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee.  But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven" (Jer. 44:16-17).  The reference to the "queen of heaven" is clearly the Babylonian goddess Ishtar.  The Babylonians believed Ishtar was the holy virgin queen of heaven and the goddess of fertility.  The Babylonians made "cakes to worship her" and her sign, as the goddess of fertility, was the moon egg.  These eggs became known as "Ishtar Eggs."  The name Ishtar, which was originally pronounced Easter, is where the current holiday comes from.  The tradition to bake hot cross buns (cakes) and hide Easter/Ishtar eggs is of Babylonian origin, of which the God of heaven is greatly offended by.

          It might seem hard to believe that God would not want us to practice Christmas and Easter.  After all, these holidays seem harmless.  In fact, many today celebrate them as a tribute in honor of the Messiah.  We need to keep in mind, however, that these holidays have not always been celebrated in this light.  They originally came from pagan customs.  To put things in God's perspective, it would be like someone today saying, "I will celebrate Islam's Ramadan, but I will do it in Jesus name."  Most believers would be greatly offended by this, but this is exactly what the early church did with Christmas and Easter.  They took entirely pagan holidays, modified them in some ways, and called them God's holidays.  Just because we are centuries after the fact and Christmas and Easter are now mainstream holidays in the church, does not mean God now endorses them.

          The truth of the matter is this, America used to believe Christmas and Easter were pagan holidays.  In fact, it was illegal for Christmas to be celebrated and there was even a fine in place for doing so.  Here is a statute from Massachusetts which says, ". . . To the great dishonor of God and offense of others: It is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shilling as a fine to the county" (From the records of the General Court, Massachusetts Bay Colony, May 11, 1659).  In fact, Christmas was not even allowed to be celebrated until the 1800s.  Alabama was the first State to do so in 1836 and Louisiana and Arkansas followed in 1838.  Apparently, our founding fathers understood where Christmas came from.

 

          In conclusion, the God of heaven clearly seems to want us to practice His Holydays, and avoid our own holidays.  About five years ago I came to the conclusion that, why should I care which holidays/holydays I practice?  If God wants me to practice His, shouldn't I do so?  His feasts are great parties to be enjoyed and celebrated.  They can be as pleasant, if not more so, than any pagan holiday we can invent.  Instead of practicing Easter, why not practice the Passover?  Instead of practicing Christmas, why not practice the Feast of Tabernacles?  Instead of practicing New Years, why not practice the Feast of Weeks?  In doing so, we will still have a great feast and holiday/holyday to celebrate, but we also just might learn something about God's plan. 

 

By Steve Siefken
 

  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth

not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 KJV