The Pursuit of Holiness (Leviticus) - Lesson 12

By Glen Pemberton

Lev 23,25

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The student will identify the major holy days and seasons in ancient Israel.
  2. The student will discern two basic purposes (principles) for these holy days and seasons: Rest and worship.
  3. The student will review the New Testament teaching on holy days from Romans 14 and Galatians 4.
  4. The student will discuss the relevance of the principles of rest and worship for contemporary Christian life.


  1. A Bible for each Student.
  2. A chalk board or marker board.
  3. Copies of Student Handout #12 ("The Holy Days and Seasons")


Leviticus 23 and 25 set out basic instructions for holy days,seasons, and years in ancient Israel. This lesson identifies and briefly describes these special times: The Sabbath, the three annual festivals (Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Booths), the Sabbath Year, and the Year of Jubilee.The core of the lesson focuses on two recurring demands in these texts. First, the holy days, seasons, and years demanded rest or a cessation of work. God's people were challenged to trust God, not themselves for their well being. Second, each of the holy days and seasons included one or more "holy convocations." God's people were challenged to worship God and reorient their lives toward God on a regular basis. The NewTestament condemns anyone who tries to make such holy days obligatory for salvation (Gal 4), but does allow those who wish to observe such days to do so (Rom 14). Regardless, the principles of rest and worship underlying the holy days of ancient Israel are as relevant today as 3,000 years ago.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class


  1. Welcome visitors and make any necessary announcements.
  2. Spend time taking prayer requests and leading the class in prayer.

Learning Experiences

  1. Review and set the stage for today's study.
    1. Today, we continue our study of the Holiness Code found inLev 17-26.
    2. In our previous studies on these chapters we have focused on two topics:
      1. Holiness in sexual conduct.
        1. Q. Can anyone recall the three sexual relationships prohibited by Leviticus? A. Marriage(and sex) to a close relative, homosexuality, and bestiality.
      2. Holiness in social conduct; or, how to be a holy neighbor.
        1. Q What were some of the general principles of a holy neighbor? A. Do not steal, cheat, lie, pervert justice, or slander others. Q. What basic principle underlies all of these? A. Love your neighbor as yourself.
        2. Q. Who were some of the groups that holy neighbors have special concern for? A. The poor, the alien (foreigner), the disabled, and the elderly.
    3. Our study today turns in a different direction.Note to the Teacher: Several texts outside Leviticus provide instructions for holy days and festivals in Israel (e.g., Exod 23:10-19; 34:18-26; Num 28-29; Deut 16). This lesson does not attempt a summary of these texts. Rather, the focus of this lesson is on what Leviticus has to say about these holy seasons and the rationale that Leviticus provides for them.
  2. Summary of the Lord's festivals, holy days and holy years from Lev 23 and 25.Note to the Teacher: Move through this summary as quickly as possible. Key features of these festivals will be discussed in the next section.
    1. Weekly: Sabbath (23:3) WKSH
      1. Time: Weekly, each 7th day of the week (Saturday).
      2. Description: A weekly day of rest and worship.
    2. Annual: Three major festivals (with various special days associated with them).
      1. The Day of Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread(23:4-8) WKSH
        1. Time: The Passover took place on the 14th day of the 1st month of the year (March-April). The feast ofUnleavened bread began the next day and lasted for one week.
        2. Description: Passover and the Feast ofUnleavened bread reenacted the salvation of theIsraelites from Egypt and their hasty departure.
      2. The Day of First Fruits and the Feast of Weeks (also known as Harvest or Pentecost; 23:9-22 - only one daylong) WKSH
        1. Time: The Day of First Fruits took place on the day after the Sabbath just before the barley and flax harvest began. Consequently, the date varied.(Apparently, in the year Jesus died, the day of first fruits coincided with the Sunday of the Feast ofUnleavened Bread [cf. I Cor 15:23].) The Feast ofWeeks was a one day festival that took place 7weeks after the offering of the first fruit, again,beginning on Sunday [Lev 23:16; May-June; called "Pentecost" in the NT]).
        2. Description: The Day of First Fruits inaugurated(began or dedicated) the harvest. The Feast of Weeks celebrated the conclusion of the harvest.
      3. The Day of Trumpets (23:23-25), the Day of Atonement(23:26-32) and the Feast of Booths (23:33-44). WKSH
        1. Time: Trumpets were blown on the 1st day of the7th month to mark the end of summer and the beginning of a special holy season. The Day ofAtonement took place on the 14th day of the 7th month (September-October). The Feast of Booths began the next day and lasted for one week.
        2. Description: The Day of Atonement was the annual cleansing of the tabernacle. The Feast ofBooths reenacted Israel's time in the wilderness.
    3. Less Frequent
      1. Sabbath Year (25:1-7) WKSH
        1. Time: Once every seventh year (hence our word"sabbatical").
        2. Description: A year-long rest for the land, no sowing or harvest of cultivated lands.
      2. Year of Jubilee (Year of Release) WKSH
        1. Time: Once every fifty years.
        2. Description: This special Sabbath Year was to be a time of release or liberty. Lands purchased during the previous 49 years returned to their original family ownership. Israelites who had sold themselves as servants were set free. Debts were remitted.


  1. Two New Testament texts especially address the issue ofHoly Days.
    1. Galatians 4:10
      1. The Galatian Christians are struggling with certain teachers who claim that Gentiles (Non-Jews) must obey the Law of Moses in order to be saved.
      2. Paul challenges this false teaching.
      3. Read Gal 4:10-11. Q. What have the Galatian Christians begun to do? A. Keep all the special holy days and seasons. Q. Why? A. Apparently because they believed they had to do so in obedience to the law.
      4. Paul corrects them. Gentile Christians are under no obligation to keep the special holy days or festivals as apart of their obedience to the Lord.
    2. Romans 14:5-6
      1. The Roman church may have been a bit different from that in Galatia. This church probably included both Jews and Gentiles.
      2. Notice how Paul deals with the issue of Holy Days with them: Read Rom 14:5-6.
        1. Q. What is Paul's counsel? A. If a person chooses to celebrate a special holy day ? that is fine (they should be convinced in their own mind), but they must not obligate others to do so.
        2. Here, again, there is no obligation to observe these special days and seasons ? but an option for those who desire to do so.
      3. Q. How, then, do we correlate Paul's statement in Galatians 4 to that in Romans 14? A. There is no obligation to keep the holy days. Those who teach such an obligation are wrong and in grave danger. But,Christians who desire to observe these (or other) special days may do so ? providing they do not attempt to obligate others.
    3. Special Note to the Teacher: Another good text, if time allows, is Matthew 12:1-8. By the time of the first century,many had turned the gift of the Sabbath into a legalistic nightmare devoid of its original purposes. Jesus sets this straight in this short story.
    4. Q. Given the NT teaching on Holy Days, what do you think are some of the important principles that we should learn from the Holy Days and Seasons in ancient Israel? A. Allow time for discussion. Emphasize one or more of the following points.
      1. Like Israel, we need to learn how to rest. We need to learn to stop depending on ourselves and trust in God. One important way we can do this is by taking a day off of work to rest and be with our families. (WKSH ? We need to learn to stop working and rest)
      2. Like Israel, we need regular times of worship (holy convocation). We need times to refocus our lives upon God and simple to worship God. (WKSH - We need regular times of worship and celebration)

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