God’s Appointments

manna“He wakens me morning by morning.” Isa. 50:4.

Have you ever been “stood up” for an important date or appointment? I mean, something you had been looking forward to with excited anticipation, and perhaps prepared for by getting yourself and everything ready for that special moment in time when your expectations would be met? What were your emotions when you realized that the long-awaited event was simply not going to happen? Feelings of disappointment, rejection, abandonment, anger, grieving – all these and perhaps other reactions are common when we miss an appointment with someone important to us.

I once heard the story of a little girl whose father and mother were recently divorced. She had been the apple of her father’s eye, and looked forward to seeing him come home from work each evening. After the divorce, these times of love and enjoyment had to be less frequent, and gradually became sporadic. She described how much she anticipated those events. Her mother would dress her in a pretty dress with bows in her hair and socks to match, and she would station herself at the garden gate to wait for daddy to appear.

Gradually the times became more frequent when daddy didn’t come at all – just didn’t show up, didn’t call, didn’t explain his absence. After a while, she concluded that daddy really didn’t care for her any more.

Perhaps you can identify in some way with this little story, because we all have been disappointed sometime in our lives. This sinful world is a place where pain is inevitable, and we have to cope with many unpleasant experiences. But did you ever consider how many times God has had to suffer right along with us? He has deep feelings and emotions, too, and many of them are not unlike our own. His are perfect, of course, but He has created us in His image, and so we can know that He identifies with us in all our suffering.

One of the areas that God has let us know about His feelings, is in His appointments with us. There are many throughout Scripture, and I would like to examine some of these in our journey today.

The first appears in Genesis 3:8, 9. Apparently, God periodically met with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden at the cool of the day, and there the happy pair visited with their Creator and enjoyed face to face communion with Him. But after their sin, they no longer welcomed Him into their home. At His approach they fled, and hid behind the foliage of the garden, hoping to escape a confrontation with Him, and be forced to acknowledge their guilt and disobedience.

But God knew of their whereabouts, and He knew of their sin. So in His compassion, He called out to them, “Adam, where are you?” In this question we can hear Him saying, “I am here to meet our appointment as usual. I want to be with you. Don’t you want to be with me? Have you forgotten me?”

The story of the fall of Adam and Eve is the story of all mankind since then. It is a bittersweet story, as love stories often are. It is the story of a God who is more faithful to us than we are to Him. Fortunately, God does not give up on us, but continues to provide opportunities for us to meet with Him and enjoy His fellowship.
A major evidence of God’s continuing faithfulness is found in His dealings with His people, Israel.

First, He provided for them His weekly Sabbaths, which were not only reminders of His Creatorship (Ex. 31;16, 17), but also a sign to them that HE would make them holy (Eze. 20:12). Isn’t that good news? The very power that created the world in the beginning, will create new hearts in us right now. As David says after his sin with Bathsheba:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Ps. 51:10-12.

I certainly have learned in the almost 70 years of my life, that I cannot create any good thing in myself or others. There is no inherent holiness in me; but when I spend that special time with God that He asks of me, it gives Him time and opportunity to heal my sinful heart and fill me with His spirit of love.

That’s why being with Him produces rest. It is HE who produces the good works that He is looking for in me. As I rest in His presence and commune with Him, my selfishness melts away, and is consumed in the fire of His love. I am so glad He has provided one whole day when we can concentrate on our love for Him, and our love for one another, aren’t you?

After mentioning the obligation of the weekly Sabbath in Leviticus 23:3, seven annual ceremonial sabbaths are then outlined, by which He could teach them more about Himself and His ways. This list is also found in Numbers 28 and 29. They are: The first and last days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover), which includes the Feast of Firstfruits, or Harvest; The Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost; The Feast of Trumpets; the Day of Atonement; and the first and last days of the Feast of Tabernacles. These ceremonial sabbaths might fall upon any day of the week, and sometimes coincided with the weekly Sabbath, when they would be called, “high days.”

Why did God require the nation of Israel to observe these seven ceremonial sabbaths each year? Well, as we study into them, we see that they were either reminders of something special that had already happened between Him and His people, or, they were predictive of something special that was yet to come.

All had to do with events that had been or would be significant in God’s plan for the salvation of His people from the beginning of time until the culmination of history when Jesus comes back to take us home. And God instructed the people to keep these important appointments because of the spiritual lessons to be kept fresh in their minds.

Briefly, here are the stated reasons for these six important yearly celebrations, as recorded in Leviticus 23:

1. Passover, or Feast of Unleavened Bread - A perpetual memorial of God’s miraculous deliverance from Egypt. See Ex. 12:13, 14, and 13:8-10. It also prefigured Christ’s death on the cross, delivering us from the “Egypt” of our sins. And finally, it points forward to the ultimate deliverance of God’s people when Jesus comes.

2. The Feast of Firstfruits, or Harvest - A time when the Israelites presented the first part of the harvest of their fields in gratefulness for the blessing of God. It was a reminder of the end of their wandering in the wilderness, and the beginning of their reaping the bounties of the land God had promised to them. It also looked forward to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead as the firstfruits of all who have died, and a promise that those who sleep in Jesus He will awaken at His coming.

3. Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost - Fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks was observed, on “the day after the seventh Sabbath” (Lev. 23:15, 16). In the Bible, the number seven is very important, for it signifies completion or perfection. This no doubt reflects the fact that there are seven spirits and seven eyes of God (Rev. 4:5 & 5:6), representing the all-knowing perfection of the Holy Spirit.

This feast looked forward to the day of Pentecost, when Christ’s disciples and followers would receive the outpouring of His Spirit in order to equip them for the work He had called them to do (Acts 1:8). They prepared for that outpouring by spending ten days in prayer (v. 14), confessing their sins, shortcomings, and differences, and cleansing their hearts before God. On the day of Pentecost, “the day after the Sabbath,” the promised blessing came, thus fulfilling the yearly ritual of centuries of looking forward to that day, when the reality of the power of the Spirit-filled life came upon the waiting disciples.

These three feasts, coming in the spring of the year, complete the cluster of feast days that pointed forward to the death and resurrection of Christ, and the outpouring of His Spirit upon His followers. Thus type met antitype, and the major meaning of these feasts was accomplished.

Isn’t it interesting to see how exactly God keeps His appointments? Centuries may go by, but the unerring celestial clock knows no haste nor delay. Even though Satan had succeeded in obscuring the meaning of these predictive events, God was right on time. Jesus’ message was, “The time has come…. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15.

But what about the cluster of the last three feast days of the Jewish calendar? These are also found in Leviticus 23. They are:

4. The Feast of Trumpets - On the first day of the seventh month, trumpets were blown to announce the approach of the Day of Atonement. It is interesting to observe that ten days were given to the people to prepare for the annual day of judgment. Those who refused to participate were cast out of the camp.

It reminds us of the ten days of preparation that was allotted to the disciples to prepare for the outpouring of the early rain of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. In a similar way, the ten days of preparation during the Feast of Trumpets were to prepare the hearts of the people for the outpouring of the latter rain, or finishing work of the Holy Spirit.

5. The Day of Atonement - Isn’t “atonement” a wonderful word for the day of judgment? Some people are so afraid of the word “judgment” that they miss the whole meaning of what Jesus wants to do for us during the time of the Investigative Judgment. Atonement is not against us, it is for us. Practically speaking, it is Satan and his work in our lives that is being judged.

Of course, we have to participate in this judgment, because we are the ones who have been damaged and hurt and deceived by Satan since our conception. Because of our ignorance, we have often cooperated with him without even realizing the cause and effect in our lives and the lives of others.

So on the Day of Atonement, the people were required to stop all ordinary activities and concentrate on the work of examining their lives to see if there was yet any agreement between themselves and the evil one. (See Matt. 15:13.) The ceremonies took up the whole day. Everyone fasted. Everyone examined his heart carefully. Meanwhile, the High Priest - (representing Jesus’ future ministry in the heavenly Sanctuary) - cleansed the earthly Sanctuary with the blood of animal sacrifices.

When the day was over, the people felt clean, forgiven, joyful, sealed. Nothing remained of their sins - no fear, no guilt, no condemnation. Yes, they had been forgiven during the year, but now not even the record of their sins remained. (See Isa. 26:13, 14.) They had participated in the cleansing of their hearts through repentance, and now they were prepared for the joyful celebration of the final feast day of the year.

6. The Feast of Tabernacles - A joyful celebration for seven days, living in booths they constructed from nature. “On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days…. All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt.” Lev. 23:40-43.

But the greatest fulfillment will happen when all of God’s redeemed travel to our home in heaven, our final home, and rejoice forever in the finished work of His atonement for us!

So what can we learn from these Jewish feast days that will encourage us in our own present walk with God? Perhaps the first lesson we can learn is that God is timely. When He says He is going to do something, He does it. He stays true to His part of the equation. He keeps His appointments with us, whether we are there or not. If we miss the appointment, we are the ones who suffer.

Fortunately, though, He is an understanding and patient Friend who seeks us out when we are hiding behind the trees, or have been slack in our part of the bargain. He knows our frame, and He gives us many chances to “catch up.”
Peter says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Pet. 3:9.

Paul says, “If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.” 2 Tim. 2:13.

But I, for one, do not want to keep God waiting, do you? He has so many blessings to give us, if we will just be there to meet Him when He calls. Just think of how patient and understanding God was with Elijah when he ran from the threats of Jezebel. He let him sleep, He fed Him, He spoke to Him at the end of His journey in a still, small voice, not in fire and wind and thunder. He didn’t want to frighten or discourage His weary servant. But He DID ask him why he was there in that distant place away from his work for the Lord. (See 1 Kings 19:1-18.)

Have any of us been running from the Lord and His appointed times for us personally? There is a Hebrew word which describes the concept of God’s appointed times, called “moed.” It means, “appointed time.” The first time it is used is in Genesis 18:14, when God appeared to Abraham and Sarah, and said, “I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”

Can you imagine what would have happened if Sarah and Abraham had missed that appointment?

The word, “moed,” is also often used in relationship to the appointed feast days. Especially significant is the Passover, commemorating the keeping of God’s promise to Abraham (Gen. 15:13, 14) to bring his children out of Egypt:

“Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt. Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night…. You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time (moed) year after year.” Ex. 12:41, 42; 13:10.

See how careful God was to keep His appointment with Abraham’s descendants, even after hundreds of years? Doesn’t that give us courage to know that He will keep His promises to us, too, even if the waiting seems long?

Another “moed” is the one found in Daniel 8:19. This refers to “the appointed time of the end,” and corresponds with the cleansing of the heavenly Sanctuary (v.4) in fulfillment of the Day of Atonement ceremonies in the earthly Sanctuary. Thousands of years ago, Daniel was inspired to predict that in the time of the end, “Knowledge will be increased, and many will run to and fro.” Dan. 12:4. Certainly we can see the fulfillment of this prophecy in our day!

But there is another important part of the prophecy which is found in verses 9 and 10. The significance of these words can hardly be overestimated:

“Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but the wise will understand.”

Just think of it! During the appointed time of the end when Jesus is cleansing the heavenly sanctuary, we have a “date” with Him! He’s looking for us. He wants each of us to be there for this special appointment. That is why He made a point of telling us in Daniel 8:13-19 when this date would begin.

Jesus, looking down to this time in history and seeing the condition of His people and the world just before His second coming, spoke about it in Matthew, chapters 24 and 25. He said that only the Father knew the day and hour of Jesus’ return. But He warned that because of this uncertainty, the love of many would wax cold, some would become abusive to each other, and some would be spiritually asleep.

He then illustrated His point by telling the parable of the ten virgins. All slept, but the wise took extra oil in their lamps, and thus were ready to keep their appointment with the Bridegroom when He came. Could it be possible that the extra oil, (representing the Holy Spirit), might be the latter rain? The early rain has been operational in the body of Christ since Pentecost. But the latter rain falls near the close of the harvest.

Could it be that the five wise virgins, by participating with Jesus during the appointed time of the Day of Atonement, permitted Him to show them the things in their lives that needed to be “purified, made spotless and refined,” and thus received the extra oil?” As Daniel says, only “the wise will understand” this mystery of the final cleansing of His people. (See also Mal. 3:1-3.)

But before I close, I want to share with you another significant use of the word, “moed.” It is found in Isa. 14:12-14. These Scriptures describe the terrible fall of Lucifer, son of the morning, from his exalted position in heaven:

“You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly (moed), on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

What does this mean to God’s people in general and to each of us in specific? Above all else, it means that Satan’s major goal is to do everything possible to thwart God’s appointed times with His people. Even Abraham succumbed to Satan’s temptation to call Sarah his sister after God told them that they would conceive a son “at the appointed time next year.” If it had not been for God’s intervention with Abimelech the king of Gerar, the promised seed would have never become a reality. (See Gen. 20:1-7.)

During the pagan centuries, Satan established his own ways and times and places for worship, leading the people to look to the gods of nature, such as the sun, moon, stars and seasons, as God had told them not to do. He captivated the people with heathen rituals and lustful orgies that fed their sensual desires, and often caused even God’s people to abandon the worship of Jehovah and follow the idolatrous worship practices of the heathen nations around them.

During the dark ages, Satan embellished his kingdom with additional pomp and ceremonies to establish respectability and control the minds of the masses. Again changing times and seasons (Dan. 7:25), he attempted to throw down God’s place of worship and His truth (Dan. 8:11- 13.) Fortunately, during the time of God’s pre-advent judgment these lies of the evil one are to be exposed, and Satan’s kingdom will finally be destroyed and handed over to God’s faithful people forever (Dan. 7:26, 27).

Meanwhile, in our modern age, Satan works through scintillating entertainment and constant busyness to crowd out our time with God. It takes persevering determination to meet our appointments with Him faithfully –- and to linger in His presence until the work He desires to accomplish in us is realized. But it is the only way we can become wise in the things of the Spirit, and have the victory over the flesh that we crave! As Paul says:

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what He sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Gal. 6:7-9.

I hope that none of you have become distracted or discouraged during this time of preparation for Jesus’ coming. The work of cleansing our hearts is not accomplished by our own efforts, but by spending adequate time fellowshiping with Jesus so He can reveal to us the things in our characters that are not like Him.

As we repent of these things and give them to Him, He forgives us and covers our unworthiness with His spotless robe of righteousness. The fig leaves of our own efforts will not be sufficient when He comes to claim His own. Only the beautiful garment that He provides for us will do.

I don’t know about each of you, but I’m finding that I need more and more time with Jesus to allow Him to work out the “bugs” and “viruses” in my life. I need plenty of time to study, to meditate and pray, so I get up in the early hours before dawn to have my daily appointed time with Him!

During those hours He becomes so precious to me as He gently reveals the things in my life that He desires to change into a reflection of His own attitudes, thoughts, feelings and behavior. He also shares with me what I need to know to minister effectively to others. What a joy and privilege it is to spend that morning time with Him! (See Isa. 50:4, 5.)

Of course, Satan will do everything he can to keep us from having our time with Jesus, but if we persevere, Satan will lose the battle. After all, didn’t Jesus say that the time of judgment is the time when Satan will be cast out of our lives? I want him gone, don’t you? We can be free, for Jesus said:

“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” John 12:31, 32.

As Paul says: “For me to live is Christ.” Phil. 1:21.

Let’s lift up Jesus higher and higher in our own lives, our families, and with our acquaintances, what do you say? And let’s not be missing those precious appointments that He makes with us. He is waiting to meet us there and wrap us up in the beautiful white robe of His love!

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” 2 Cor. 2:14.

“Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Eph. 5:25-27.

“The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah….This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Heb. 8:8-10.

“The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First He says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’ Then He adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’” Heb. 10:15-17.

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude…shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear…. Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” Rev. 19:6-9.

“’As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,’ declares the LORD, ‘so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,’ says the LORD.” Isa. 66:22, 23.

To all our friends who receive this paper, we hope you find it to be of value to all who are hoping for the soon coming of our Lord.