“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.”[Leviticus 23:22]
Autumn has always been my favorite season. Summers in the south can be brutal and unrelenting. It’s not unusual for us to have oppressive heat well into October, so when the cooler temperatures finally began to arrive recently, I gladly grabbed a jacket and embraced the fresh fall air with enthusiasm.
My point is that the long, hot days of summer can wear you down and make you lazy, but the reality is that the summer provides the best opportunity to work, be active and productive. Long days mean more daylight hours to get the job done. A summer wasted is a terrible thing. Seems like I remember the Lord Yeshua having something to say about that.
“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”[John 9:4-5]
As I have been studying the seven appointed Feasts of the LORD, I have rediscovered the rich theological and prophetic implications of God’s reckoning of time. God never wastes a season, especially the summer season, and that is precisely where we are on His prophetic timeline.
The LORD’s appointed “moedim” are divided up into four spring and three fall feasts. We already have seen how the Lord Yeshua has fulfilled the spring feasts in His first advent, as the Lamb of God and firstfruits of the resurrection. We will soon see how Christ fulfills the autumn feasts at His second coming.
But what is God doing in between the spring and fall — between the first and second coming of Christ?
How should we understand this long, hard “summer season” that has lasted nearly 2,000 years since the Lord’s first coming? How much longer will the Lord tarry during this summer season and for what primary purpose?
I believe the answer is found in one of the great mysteries of God’s redemptive plan — the fullness of the Gentiles.
The Good News of Gleaning the Fields
Leviticus 23:22 is the pivotal verse in this important chapter. The instructions in this verse can be easily overlooked, but make no mistake, these instructions are tucked neatly between the description of the spring and fall feasts on purpose.
The LORD commanded the Israelites to intentionally leave the edges of their fields untouched each harvest to provide gleanings for the poor and the sojourner (i.e. Gentiles). These gleanings would provide essential sustenance for those who had not inherited land or who were outside the commonwealth of Israel.
Beyond the practical purpose of showing God’s love and concern for the poor and the stranger, the gleanings of the harvest symbolized a much greater spiritual principle — the LORD’s redemptive plan has always included provision for the Gentiles. Israel was strategically placed in the midst of the pagan nations in order to be a light to the Gentiles and a blessing to all the families of the earth (Acts 13:47).
There is perhaps no greater Old Testament picture of this promise than in the story of Ruth and Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer. As Ruth, a poor Moabite widow, was allowed to pick the gleanings from the fields of Boaz, the God or Israel was showing her grace and preparing her to become the Gentile bride of her Jewish kinsman-redeemer. What a typological picture of a predominately Gentile church becoming the bride of Israel’s Redeemer! Wow!
My point is that the summer gleanings in the fields of Israel represent the spiritual summer season in God’s mysterious work of redemption, as He has extended the good news of His grace to the Gentiles for the last 2,000 years!
The spring feasts are fulfilled. The fall feasts will be fulfilled at the appointed time, but at this moment and in this season, God is making provision for the nations to receive salvation through Jesus Christ and become heirs along with Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in!
“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”[Ephesians 3:6]
Salvation is to the Jew First
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”[Romans 1:16]
To say that the nation and people of Israel have a unique place in relationship to Almighty God may be the understatement of all time. As the LORD chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and called them into covenant relationship with Himself, He was beginning the process of creating a new nation – a people for His own possession and purpose.
So it goes without saying that the people and nation of Israel — known today as the Jews — have a special place in God’s sight, as the apple of God’s eye. Perhaps the Apostle Paul says it best when he writes, “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” [Romans 3:1-2].
Every single book written in our Bible (with the exception perhaps of Luke and Acts) was inspired through the Holy Spirit and penned by a Jewish author. The word of God has been written and preserved by the Jewish people. It both was to and through the Jews that salvation has come to the world through Yeshua the Messiah.
“They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”[Romans 9:4-5]
This is why we should have expected the early New Testament church to consist exclusively of Jewish believers! The Feast of Pentecost was the fulfillment of the firstfruits of the spiritual harvest of God’s people.
But God’s plan of salvation did not stop there. Many of the Jewish believers in Yeshua were too short sighted when considering the overall redemptive work of God. Many of the Jews had forgotten God’s promise to bless all nations of the earth through their Messiah.
After Pentecost was fulfilled through the sending of the Holy Spirit and the salvation of 3,000 Jews from the diaspora, the last days had arrived. Summer had started. But few could comprehend just how long this summer season of God’s patience and grace would last.
A Partial Hardening upon Israel
“Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”[Romans 11:25]
Although salvation most certainly came to the Jews first, as a believing Jewish remnant embraced Yeshua as Messiah, the overwhelming majority of the Jewish nation and its leaders rejected their own Messiah and persecuted the early church. Unfortunately, many Gentiles in the church later perverted this reality to develop anti-Semitic, replacement theology that led to atrocious persecution of the Jewish people by “Christians” in the name of Jesus Christ.
This terrible anti-Semitic blight in church history must be acknowledged and condemned, especially considering that the same anti-Semitic spirit is alive and well within Christendom today. Despite the fact that the God’s redemptive work has predominately targeted the Gentile nations for the past 2,000 years, we cannot forget that His promises to redeem and restore the people and nation of Israel still stand today!
The Apostles were clear that the leaders of national Israel were responsible for willingly rejecting Yeshua the Messiah and in that regard were guilty before God for their rebellion. Consider these verses accusing the Jews of rejecting Christ.
“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”[John 1:11]
“This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”[Acts 2:23]
“The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him[Acts 3:13]
“The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.”[Acts 5:30]
Beyond the initial rejection of Jesus by His own people, the Apostles were relentlessly attacked, persecuted and opposed by the Jewish leaders of their day. The Apostle Paul especially suffered many attacks by the Jews and although forever burdened for his kinsmen in the flesh, he was called to be an Apostle to the Gentiles.
But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and they blasphemously contradicted what Paul was saying. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “It was necessary to speak the word of God to you first. But since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.”[Acts 13:45-46]
As Paul writes to the believers in Rome, however, he clarifies that this hardening and jealousy of the Jewish people toward Gentile believers is only temporary in nature. In other words, even though the majority of Jewish people historically have rejected their own Messiah, the LORD has not completely rejected His people the Jews. He has always preserved a believing remnant of the Jewish people to this day.
“I ask then, did God reject His people? Certainly not! … In the same way, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.[Romans 11:1,5]
The Fullness of the Gentiles and the Future Salvation of Israel
So why such a long “summer” between the first and second coming of the Lord Jesus? In short the answer is simple — Grace. As Peter reminds us, the only reason the Lord tarries is because He is demonstrating patience and mercy to the world in order to allow for as many as possible to be saved before the day of judgment arrives.
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief …”[2 Peter 3:8-10]
This age of grace, this summer season of God’s mercy, is allowing the fullness of the Gentiles to come into the Kingdom. The LORD promised Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him and his offspring (Jesus), which is precisely why Jesus commanded His disciples to go to ends of the earth and make disciples of all nations.
But there is coming a day, much sooner than later, when the fullness of the Gentiles will come to a close, the summer days of grace will end, the great tribulation will begin, God will return special attention to the Jews, and the Day of the LORD will come.
I would like to leave you with some Scriptures that demonstrate how all of this will transpire at the end of the age.
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.“[Luke 21:20-24]
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.”[Revelation 11:1-2]
Alas! That day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it.[Jeremiah 30:7]
““Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem will also be against Judah. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it … And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.[Zechariah 12:2-3, 9-10]
And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,[Romans 11:26-27]
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob;
and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
Summer is almost over. The fulfillment of the fall feasts of the LORD are ever so near. Stay tuned as I will examine the fall feasts next time.