Monday, February 24, 2014

Keeping feasts

Booth for the Feast of Tabernacles celebration
Feast of Tabernacles - still celebrated today
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 23:1-19

TO CHEW ON: "Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year."  Exodus 23:14

What did it mean to "keep a feast"? My Bible has a word meaning article about that.

[To keep a feast, chagag: To celebrate, keep a feast, be festive, dance, assemble for rejoicing. This verb occurs 15 times. It is translated as 'Dancing' in 1 Samuel 30:16 and 'kept a pilgrim feast' in Psalm 42:4. An important derivative is chag, 'feast,' especially referring to the seven feasts God gave Israel. … The OT abounds in feasts and celebrations ordained by God and resulting in human happiness" - Dick Mills, Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 106.]

The three feasts mentioned in our reading combined the natural, the historical, and the spiritual in celebration.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorated the Israelites coming out of Egypt and slavery. It was mainly of historical and spiritual significance.

The Feast of Harvest (also called the Feast of Weeks or the Day of Pentecost) was held in the third month (our May to June) 50 days after the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It commemorated the early harvest. (For us, of course, the Day of Pentecost also has significance as the day the Holy Spirit fell on the church - Acts 2:1).

The Feast of Ingathering (also called the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths) happened in the autumn of the year (our September to October) and commemorated the end of the harvest as well as their years of tent living in the wilderness, reminding them of how God had kept them through that time.

Notice how God's directive continues: "… keep a feast to Me …"

These feasts were to celebrate God—His goodness, faithfulness, generosity, grace—more than to entertain and please the people, though they did that too.

I think about our big celebrations—Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas—and how we tend to focus most of the attention on ourselves: the candy, the food, the presents, and the folk characters  that we've connected with these days (the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus). Yes, somewhere in there we give God a quick wave and prayer of thanks. But our celebrations are not primarily to "Me."

Perhaps we can change this, for ourselves and our families at least, so that our "feasts" focus first on God and then on our festivities with each other. Any practical ideas of how we could do this?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the balance between work and play that You mandate here. Thank You, too, for this model of regular remembering. Help me to give much space in my life to celebrating You. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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