Of the three types of laws, we have looked at Deuteronomy 14, which addresses universal laws, and discussed how most of the rest of Deuteronomy 12–26 consists of application laws. The third main category of laws is Sanctuary laws, which God makes clear were never meant to be kept forever, but were pointing forward to the Messiah. However, we are also not prohibited from keeping them, and the sanctuary does not go away but points forward to the heavenly sanctuary, where we will live for eternity. We will keep the Sabbath feasts forever, and the other feasts are also significant again in a literal sense in heaven. It is important to look closely at the biblical text to understand in which category each law is found.
Another aspect of the feasts that is still relevant for us is the gathering together in celebration at the place the Lord will choose for worship. Although we may not keep these celebrations, it is important to find times to celebrate together outside of the weekly Sabbath celebrations. Too often, the Lord’s Supper is very solemn and somber, when the Bible describes it as celebratory and a feast. If we could recapture that, it would help us to remember that God desires for us to rejoice together with Him and each other.
Unfortunately, Israel also forgot these all-important times of celebration, and only sporadically observed the feasts. And yet, when they did, amazing things happened—people repented, and reformations began. When Hezekiah rededicated the temple after Ahaz had desecrated it, he called for a Passover celebration, but most of the people laughed at the messengers and did not come. However, those who did come celebrated an extra week because they had so much joy and thanks to God. It had not been celebrated since Solomon’s time (2 Chron. 30). When Josiah found the book of Deuteronomy (2 Kings 23) and read it, he tore his clothes and saw the need for repentance (2 Chron. 34). He called for a Passover, this time involving all of Israel and Judah, and all the priests and Levites. The author of 2 Chronicles notes that it had not been celebrated like that since the time of the Judges. It is no wonder that the people had forgotten God and worshiped other gods.
When the people returned from the exile, Ezra read to them from Deuteronomy and helped them to understand God’s word in their hearts. The people wept and repented of what they had done to bring the exile on themselves (Neh. 8). But Ezra called them to instead rejoice and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, which they did with great joy, and this had not been done since the time of Joshua. Celebrations are key in holding us together as a people, but most of all in connection with God who also loves to rejoice and celebrate and wants our hearts.