David C. Grabbe: The specific instruction in Deuteronomy 16:16 is that, during the three holy day seasons of the year, we should not appear before God "in vain" or "with futility. ...
John Ritenbaugh reminds us that we are approaching the end of a seven year cycle, the seventh year on the Hebrew calendar, a time of the year of release, when the Law was publicly and solemnly read. This event has always proved more solemn with a sense of urgency than the services of a regular Feast of Tabernacles. In the current grim background of the accelerating decadence of the western democratic democracies, we must remember that for God's called-out ones the responsibility for a life of faith is not the church, but rather on the individual. Because none of us are privy to the time of Christ's return, we must continually seek God's counsel rather than being distracted and mesmerized by the Zeitgeist around us. During the time of Noah, there was a lengthy witness from a preacher of righteousness before God's hammer of judgment (in the form of the flood) fell upon the world's populace. We must be continually aware and alert to our own spiritual condition, remembering that the times would be identical to Noah's, when people were absorbed into the spirit of the time, failing to heed God's warning. God's called-out ones must remain single-minded, fortifying their spiritual reserves with Bible study, prayer, and meditation, maintaining a vigilant, watchful eye out for the surreptitious lures of Satan's decadent socio-cultural milieu.
Richard Ritenbaugh, cuing in on Exodus 12:1-2, heralding the beginning of the sacred year in the springtime, when the foliage is sprouting and budding, points out that this season corresponds to one of the sacred appointed times of the year, the Days of Unleavened Bread. The Hebrew word used to mark these appointed times, regalim (or feet), connotes walking or a pilgrimage. The Hebrew year contained five paces, steps, or seasons, all corresponding to God's holy times. Patterns of five, grasped conveniently by the five digits of each hand, suggest grace or providence. Groupings of five arrange the seasons, the Torah (Pentateuch), the Megillot (Festival Scrolls), the Five Books of Psalms, and the summary Psalms. These recurring sets of five have common themes and patterns. The Song of Songs takes place in the springtime, awakening romance and love between the Shulamite and her Beloved, parallel to the romance between Christ and the Church. Genesis consists of a book of stories, accounts of the beginning of things, showing the consequences of wise and foolish choices. The Psalms in Book One of the Psalms deal with the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, uttered by David, but lived by Jesus Christ. The themes consist of trust in God, suffering, facing opposition, and persecution, the Messianic themes of redemption, salvation, and kingship, leadership, and rulership, distinctions between the righteous and the wicked, two separate paths with two separate ends, tests and trials leading to hope, growth, and fruit. Psalm 1 is an instructional psalm, delineating two distinctive paths with positive consequences (derived from meditating the things of God) and paths with negative consequences (as a result of rejecting God and His instructions). Jesus Christ is the personification of all that instruction. When God calls us out the world, He transplants us next to His stream of living water, enabling us to bear spiritual fruit and attain eternal life.
John Ritenbaugh shows that Deuteronomy 16:1-8 refers to Unleavened Bread rather than Passover (a scribal error, perhaps referring to the season). Ten clues clear up this misconception: 1) The month of Abib refers to Israel's leaving Egypt the day after the Passover. 2) The Egyptians would not have buried their dead in the middle of the night. 3) Exodus 12 and Numbers 9 indicate the Passover lamb was killed at ben ha arbayim (twilight) rather than ba erev (day's end). 4) Deuteronomy 16:2 commands that this offering could be bovine (Hebrew bakar). 5) The "passover" in verses 5-6 was not permitted to be sacrificed within their gates, contradicting the original command. 6) Verse 6 refers to the day Israel left Egypt. 7) Verse 6 uses bashal, a sacrifice boiled in water rather than roasted. 8) Verse 4 refers to Unleavened Bread and 9) the thank offering of the Night to Be Much Observed, and 10) Unleavened Bread lasts seven days, exclusive of Passover.
John Ritenbaugh observes that someone had recently taught that Passover, rather than the Night to be Much Observed, should be designated the first day of Unleavened Bread. Leviticus 23:5-6 designates two separate festivals: the Passover (on Abib/Nisan 14) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (on Abib/Nisan 15; see also Numbers 28:16-18). Deuteronomy 16:6 indicates that the Passover took place on the eve of Nisan 14 at ben ha arbayim (twilight). Numbers 33:3 clearly shows that the departure from Egypt took place on Nisan 15, the day after the Passover. Exodus 12:18 delineates that the eating of unleavened bread runs from the end of Nisan 14 (at ba erev - the end of the day) to the end of Nisan 21 (at ba erev). John 13:29; Matthew 26:5; John 19:31; 40-42 plainly prove that Christ, the disciples, the chief priests, the Jews, and Nicodemus did not consider the Passover a holy day, but a preparation day.
John Ritenbaugh reminds us that the doctrines entrusted to us through Herbert Armstrong's apostleship remain a major plank in the foundation of our faith. Adopting a revolutionary stance (Proverbs 24:21) for the sake of change, variety, or relieving boredom will systematically destroy the faith once delivered. Through the sanctification process, we incorporate Christ's righteousness by obedience, prayer, study, bearing fruit, sacrificing, serving, and yielding to God's Spirit, enabling us to develop character. In the current scattering, God is testing us to see whether we will hold fast, resisting heresies and false doctrines. Our vision must be kept alive and ever growing or our zeal, motivation, and unity will wane.
The late spring Feast of Pentecost shows the harvest of firstfruits, God's church. It is a continual reminder of our part in God's plan!
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that Josiah's temple Passover observance (II Chronicles 34) was supervised by the king so they wouldn't revert back to paganism. The only proof text of the 15th Passover advocates (Deuteronomy 16:1) has been edited or tampered with in order to reflect the practice following the Babylonian captivity of calling both Passover and Unleavened Bread "Passover." The context of Deuteronomy 16:1-3, referring to cattle sacrifices and unleavened bread suggest the real focus of these verses is on the Night to be Observed and the Days of Unleavened Bread rather than the Passover.
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