December 4, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year: You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt; none shall appear before Me empty); and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field. Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God.”—Exodus 23:14–17 (NKJV)
When we think about the Law given by God to the people of Israel, we tend to exclusively associate it with doom and gloom. After all, with so many prohibitions and punishments for disobedience, it can really color our thinking. But in this portion of the Law, we see something that goes against this grain, which is God’s command for His people to celebrate!
In establishing the structure and rhythms of their new society, the Lord writes in three mandatory celebrations where His people were to celebrate. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was to celebrate God’s delivering them from their bondage in Egypt, the Feast of Harvest celebrated the fact that God had been faithful to bless their land so they had something to harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering (also known as the Feast of Tabernacles) was to celebrate God’s faithfulness towards them during their wilderness wanderings. At an appointed time each year, they were to stop life as usual and celebrate these feasts, each of which pointed to the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness to them.
Why would God weave these commands to celebrate into His Law? It was for the purpose of keeping His people strong in their understanding of Him. Firsthand witnesses of the exodus would eventually pass away, as would those who would see the Lord’s miraculous provision in the wilderness. New generations would arise needing to know these foundational truths of God’s provision and protection over them. These annual feasts were a way to preserve all of this and perpetuate it on into the future. Regular celebration was essential for God’s people because it anchored them in Him.
The same dynamic applies to us today. While the Christian Church is not under the same obligation to celebrate these specific feasts, God always gives us a reason to celebrate Him. He’s worthy of our worship, for who He is and what He’s done for us—particularly what He did for us on the cross by demonstrating His infinite love for us by bearing the punishment and pain of our sin.
When we stop life as usual for the sake of celebrating who the Lord is and what He’s done, it connects us with Him. It keeps us strong in our love for Him and reignites our fire for Him. This is never more evident than when we celebrate the one feast that Jesus did for us to observe, partaking of the bread and cup that represents His broken body and His shed blood which secured our eternal forgiveness (Matthew 26:26–28). It’s a somber celebration that combines the gravity of Christ’s crucifixion and the exultation of our salvation.
Regardless of what we might be dealing with today, the Lord has given us a reason to celebrate Him and regularly celebrating Him anchors us in Him.
Pause: Why did God command the children of Israel to keep these three feasts of celebration?
Practice: What place should celebration occupy in the life of the Christian? Spend time this week celebrating the faithfulness of God with someone!
Pray: Lord, may my life be an ongoing celebration of who You are and what You’ve done for me, especially when it comes to the cross. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.