December 15, 2017
By Skip Heitzig
When I was eighteen years old, I remember seeing a Christian band play at a rally at my secular high school. What really grabbed my attention was that they were playing my kind of music, but they were singing about Jesus and doing it with such joy.Later on when I joined a church, I also decided to join the worship team. From the beginning, I just loved the idea of using joyful, celebratory music to speak about the Lord.
Celebration is the whole theme of Leviticus 23, which describes Israel's yearly festivals. Festival is where we get the word festive, and there's definitely an element of joy and festivity in this chapter. Leviticus 23:1-2 says, "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: "The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts"'"—or holy get-togethers.
Let's look quickly at these seven feasts. The first was a weekly feast: the Sabbath, which speaks of rest (see v. 3). Then there was the Passover (see vv. 4-5), which speaks of redemption, commemorating when the children of Israel were delivered by God from Egyptian bondage. The third holy get-together was celebrated right around the same time: the Feast of Unleavened Bread (see vv. 6-8). This festival commemorates when the children of Israel left Egypt in a rush and didn't have time to let their dough rise.
The next feast was the Feast of Firstfruits (see vv. 9-14), where the Israelites would take the firstfruits of the barley harvest and wave it before the Lord, showing their faith that there would be an abundant and a plentiful harvest. After that was the Feast of Pentecost, or Weeks (see vv. 15-22)—a festival of recognition that God did indeed provide an abundant and plentiful harvest.
Verse 23 introduces the Feast of Trumpets (see vv. 23-25), which reminded the Israelites to prepare for the very solemn Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement (see vv. 26-32) was the day when the people's sins were covered and atoned for—a time of repentance and fasting rather than feasting.
But after that was one final celebration: the Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths (see vv. 33-43). This was a festival of relocation: the Israelites had been provided for and protected for forty years as they relocated from Egypt to Canaan, so they celebrated this—and still do—bycamping out in little lean-tos or booths.
But what I really want you to hone in on is verse 40: "And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God" (my emphasis). Did you notice it's worded like a command? It was as if God was saying, "When you come before Me on these special days, I want you to rejoice. You're celebrating Me."
Here's the deal: we all go through hardships, heartaches, and problems. But those are exactly the times when we ought to say, "Lord, no matter what I'm going through, no matter how I feel, You are worth celebrating."
Where's the joy in worship these days? Bars have a thing called happy hour, but I think church should be happy hour. Our happy God should be worshiped by a happy people. More than ever during this season, this festival of Advent, let's make it a point to come before the Lord and celebrate Him with joy.
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