Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Times and reasons to celebrate

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Deuteronomy 16:9-12


TO CHEW ON: "You shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger, and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide." Deuteronomy 16:11.

Moses reminded the Israelites of three yearly feasts in Deuteronomy 16:
  • the Feast of Passover.
  • the Feast of Pentecost (here called Feast of Weeks, i.e. seven weeks = 7 x 7 = 49 days + the next [feast] day = 50 days).
  • the Feast of Tabernacles.

As described here, the Feast of Pentecost was an annual harvest festival. It was also called Feast of Harvest - Exodus 23:16, the Day of Firstfruits - Numbers 28:26, and Pentecost in Leviticus 23:16. (Pentecost is based on the Greek translation of fifty days.)

Viewed as a whole, God instituted these feasts to help the Israelites remember their history with Him. Through them they recalled their time of slavery in Egypt, God's miraculous deliverance, their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness in tents, and the fact that God was the source of their blessing.

It's a good thing for us too, to regularly remind ourselves of these things and rejoice, like people did in the Old Testament. Matthew Henry says:

"Never should a believer forget his low estate of guilt and misery, his deliverance, and the price it cost the Redeemer; that gratitude and joy in the Lord may be mingled with sorrow for sin, and patience under the tribulations in his way to the kingdom of heaven. They must rejoice in their receivings from God, and in their returns of service and sacrifice to him; our duty must be our delight, as well as our enjoyment. If those who were under the law must rejoice before God, much more we that are under the grace of the gospel; which makes it our duty to rejoice evermore, to rejoice in the Lord always" - Matthew Henry, Commentary on Deuteronomy 16.
We can celebrate:
  • Our unique story of freedom from 'slavery' and our salvation, whether it occurred when we were youngsters or later.
  • How God has blessed us in the meantime with family, a home, the family of God.
  • How God has seen us through wilderness experiences (death of loved ones, times of sickness like cancer or depression, financial straits, unemployment...).
  • How God continues to provide for us through the produce of our own gardens, or the salary from our workplace, or our pensions if we are retired.
PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the Israelite example of regular, repeating celebrations that helped them review their history with You. Help me to remember in a similar way, and weave an attitude of rejoicing and thanksgiving into the fabric of my life. Amen.

MORE: Help others rejoice
"When we rejoice in God ourselves, we should do what we can to assist others also to rejoice in him, by comforting the mourners, and supplying those who are in want. All who make God their joy, may rejoice in hope, for He is faithful that has promised" — Matthew Henry, Commentary on Deuteronomy 16.


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