Book review of Meeting Jesus at the Feast: Israel’s Festivals and the Gospel by John Sittema
Old Testament typology has many pitfalls awaiting the intrepid student:
- Assuming that coincidental analogy = divinely ordained typology.
- Assuming that every detail of a type is typological.
- Assuming that the Old Testament believer had the benefit of New Testament light.
- Assuming that the Old Testament believer had no Gospel light.
- Assuming that only explicitly identified types are types.
- Assuming that everything is a type.
- Assuming that the Old Testament believer was saved by the types apart from what they pointed to.
What a minefield! No wonder so few venture in there. And no wonder so few come back out in one piece.
The good news is that in Meeting Jesus at the Feast we have a new and reliable guidebook to the typology of the Old Testament festivals (although the principles and practices of interpretation you will discover in it can be applied to many more Old Testament types).
John Sittema, the Senior Pastor of Christ Church (PCA) in Jacksonville, Florida, covers nine Old Testament feasts in nine chapters of about 15 readable pages each. A sampling of the titles should give you a flavor of what he is serving up:
- Rehearsing the Rest: The Sabbaths
- Behold the Lamb: The Passover
- Cleaning House: The Feast of Unleavened Bread
- Awake the Dawn: The Feast of Firstfruits
- On Earth, as it is in Heaven: The Year of Jubilee
John skilfully mines the Old Testament text and brings these festivals alive on the page – you can see them, smell them, and even taste them – giving wonderful insight into what the original festival-goers understood about what they were doing. He then quickly traces how they developed through the Old Testament and inter-testamental period before introducing us to how the feasts were observed at the time of Christ. You’ll be amazed at how a background knowledge of these feasts opens up new vistas on the life of Christ and the New Testament text. It’s stunning how all the major events in Christ’s ministry revolved around these feasts. As John writes: “You cannot really comprehend what it means that Jesus is the Messiah without knowing something about the feasts.”
But John doesn’t leave us back in 1st century Judaism. He weaves a number of moving stories from his own life into the text, demonstrating how these ancient feasts can still feed the hungry 21st century soul. Lots of edible theology and plenty appetizing application.
The material in this book would form the basis for a fascinating sermon series, or a group Bible study (questions are provided at the end of each chapter). But for myself the book was simply a nourishing and refreshing experience for my own soul. It brought Jesus to me and me to Jesus. As a bonus, I learned a bit more about typology, enough to steer me safely round a few more of the mineholes that put off so many from discovering the beautiful Gospel treasure God has hidden in His older testament.