Beginning of the End


Annual Feasts of Rejoicing

This chapter is based on Leviticus 23.

The people of Israel were surrounded by fierce, warlike tribes, eager to seize their lands, yet three times every year all the people who could make the journey were directed to leave their homes and travel to the place of assembly near the center of the land. What was to keep their enemies from sweeping down on those unprotected homes to destroy them with fire and sword? What was to prevent an invasion that would bring Israel into captivity? BOE 270.1

God had promised to be the protector of His people. “I will cast out the nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times in the year.” (Exodus 34:24). BOE 270.2

The first of these festivals, the Passover, occurred in Abib, the first month of the Jewish year, corresponding to the last of March and the beginning of April. The cold of winter was past, the later rains had ended, and all nature rejoiced in the freshness and beauty of springtime. The grass was green on the hills and valleys, and wild flowers brightened the fields everywhere. The moon, almost full, made the evening delightful. BOE 270.3

Throughout the land, groups of pilgrims were making their way toward Jerusalem. The shepherds, the herdsmen, fishers from the Sea of Galilee, farmers from their fields, and sons of the prophets from the sacred schools—all turned their steps toward the place where God’s presence was revealed. Many went on foot. The caravans often became very large before reaching the Holy City. BOE 270.4

Nature’s gladness awakened joy in the hearts of Israel. The people chanted the grand Hebrew psalms, exalting the glory and majesty of Jehovah. At the sound of the signal trumpet, with the music of cymbals, the chorus of thanksgiving arose, swelled by hundreds of voices: BOE 270.5

I was glad when they said unto me,
“Let us go into the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122:1
BOE 270.6

As they saw around them hills where the heathen had long kindled heir altar fires, the children of Israel sang: BOE 270.7

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1, 2
BOE 271.1

Cresting the hills and coming in view of the Holy City, they looked with reverent awe on the throngs of worshipers making their way to the temple. As they heard the trumpets of the Levites announcing the sacred service, they caught the inspiration of the hour, and sang: BOE 271.2

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised
In the city of our God,
In His holy mountain.
Beautiful in elevation,
The joy of the whole earth,
Is Mount Zion on the sides of the north,
The city of the great King.
Psalm 48:1, 2
Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I will go through them,
And I will praise the Lord. Psalm 118:19
BOE 271.3

All the homes in Jerusalem were thrown open to the pilgrims, and rooms were provided free. But this was not enough, and tents were pitched in every available space in the city and on the surrounding hills. BOE 271.4

On the fourteenth day of the month, at evening, the Passover was celebrated. Its solemn, impressive ceremonies commemorated deliverance from slavery in Egypt and pointed forward to the sacrifice that would deliver from the slavery of sin. When the Savior gave His life on Calvary, the significance of the Passover ended, and the service of the Lord’s Supper was begun as a memorial of the same event that the Passover had symbolized in advance. BOE 271.5