Why Keep the 4th Commandment

By Hermanus W. Smeenk

Warning for the Churches of God

  After Israel had set out from Egypt, God spoke to Moses to tell the sons of Israel that they were to come before Him at the place where He would set His name three times during the year.  One of those times was the observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread as found in Exodus 23 vs. 15:

     You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt; none shall appear before Me empty);

     Also, God gave Moses and Aaron instructions in how to observe His several feasts.  Specifically, speaking of the duties of the priest and the people concerning the Feast of Unleavened Bread, God instructed them in Leviticus 23 vs. 9-14:

      And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: "When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.  He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.  And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the LORD.  Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the LORD, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin.  You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. [Emphasis added].

     In Exodus 15, God instructed Israel when to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread and in Leviticus 23, He tells Israel how to keep the Feast.

     “In the month of Abib” means the month of green ears, which has reference to the earliest crop of the year to be harvested – the barley crop.  Before the barley ears are fully ripened, but after they have firmed up, they can be picked and the kernels can be roasted and eaten.  It is in this condition that the first wave sheaf is cut, waved before the Lord, then the grains are beaten out of the ears, roasted and ground to fine flour.  This flour is then mixed with olive oil and offered along with the burnt offering by fire to the Lord.

     All this is done after sunset following the first Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The wave sheaf, the first cut of the first harvest, is compared to Christ after His resurrection who ascended into heaven to appear before the Father to be accepted as the first of the first fruits of the harvest of humanity.

     From the day that Israel crossed the Jordan river and searched out and found the barley in abib, cut a sheaf and waved it before the Lord until today, the Israelites have yearly searched for the barley in abib.  The finding of the barley in abib signaled the beginning of a new year and the observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread starting on the 15th day of Abib, the month named after the barley in abib.

     Notice that the barley in abib dictated the beginning of a new year according to Exodus 15 and Leviticus 23, not the calendar.  The ripening of the barley is according to God’s schedule, not according to man’s calendar!

     Yet, when I informed a number of ministers of the Churches of God and several other individuals that barley in abib had been found in Israel as of March 8, 2005, none deigned to either acknowledge the information I sent them or appeared to have made any changes in their schedules for observing Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Why?  One person was honest in his answer in that they followed the established convention determined by the calendar.  (Read:  traditions of men).  One of the individuals to whom I provided the information was of the opinion that he didn’t live in Israel by in the United States, so he should go by the barley crop grown in the United States. There are places here in the United States, he stated, where the barley crop ripens the year around, so which crop should he go by?  Therefore, he elected to go by the calendar (again, following the traditions of men!)

      I am writing this letter as a warning to the Churches of God ministers who were provided information about the finding of barley in “green ears” in Israel, but that appear to have refused to depart from their traditions.  The saying of Christ to the Pharisees of the day has come home to roost in the Churches of God…Matthew 15 vs. 6 – 9:

“...Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
      “These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
       And honor Me with their lips,
       But their heart is far from Me.
       And in vain they worship Me,
       Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."'

     In answer to the individual who claimed that he was to use the conditions in the United States instead of in Israel, there are three reasons why it is the barley crop in Israel that is the determining factor.

     First, God instructed the Israelites in Leviticus 23 vs. 10: "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: "When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.”

     The wave sheaf was to be cut in the land of Israel, the land God had promised to give to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  So God named a specific place as well as a specific time. 

Second, in Zecharia 14 vs.16-19 the prophet spoke thus:

     “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.  And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain.  If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.  This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”

     The Feast of Tabernacles is observed starting the 15th day of the 7th month of the year.  God threatens the nations to withhold the rain from them if they do not go up to Jerusalem to keep the feast.

     How are the nations to know when the 15th day of the 7th month occurs unless they are aware of the time schedule established from Jerusalem?  How is that time schedule established, by calendar?  No, by the barley harvest, the first month is identified by when the barley is in abib.

     Third, if the barley wave sheaf pictures the resurrected Christ ascending to the Father and there to be accepted of Him, then note that He ascended into heaven from the vicinity of Jerusalem.  The wave sheaf is waved by the priest in the place where God had put His name.  Therefore, the wave sheaf would not be waved from anywhere else and the sheaf has had to be cut from the barley crop in Israel.

     What happens when the Feast of Unleavened Bread is observed a month later in accordance with the calendar?  The barley crop languishes in the field because it may not be harvested before the first sheaf has been cut and waved before the Lord.  Would the priests wave a sheaf of rotten kernels before the Lord, and would He deign to accept such an offering?  I tell you, no! He would surely refuse it and consider it a great abomination.

     Why would the Churches of God ignore such a relevant piece of information?  Could it be motivated by economics? or maybe by the fear of embarrassment?  All the churches have already made arrangements with various hotels and civic organizations in diverse cities to observe the Feast of Tabernacles in late October (they observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread in late April, thereby moving all the other feast observances up by a month).  It seems to me that they don’t want to now scramble to tell all these organizations that the churches will now observe the Feast of Tabernacles a month earlier that previously arranged.  WHAT A CALAMITY!!  We’re already on the hook for October, we can’t change NOW!!!

     In trying to please men, they are foregoing obedience to God!!  Who cares what people might say.  Don’t you think that people would have more respect for an organization that admits to be in the wrong than for one that grovels at the feet of merchantmen?  They have the churches of God over a barrel…is this pleasing to God?  Where is their faith?  Don’t they know that God would take care of things if they diligently seek to obey His commandments and precepts?

     Yes, God did make provision for observing Passover in the second month under certain conditions, but He did not do that for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day.  All these feasts must  be observed at their appointed times as set by God -- not the calendar.

     Remember the words of God in Exodus 31 vs. 14:

    “ ‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people.’”

    The Churches of God, and anyone else who will not keep God’s Sabbaths at the appointed times are putting themselves in serious jeopardy!!



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