Thursday, September 2, 2010

Leviticus 22, 23, 24 Feasts of the Lord

blowing the shofar (by Alphonse Lévy)Image via Wikipedia
Over the years, as I was planning to go on vacation or planning to attend an event such as a party, friends would typically say things like "Have a good one" or "Enjoy yourself".  Now, in relation to Leviticus 23, these good wishes seem pallid by comparison.

In Leviticus 23, God mandated that Israel have set times to celebrate as they bask in their relationship with God, King of the Universe, Creator of the Universe, Sovereign over All. Up until this point, Israel heard injunctions relating to unholy behaviour and consequences of sin. And now, God wanted them to recognize who they were in relation to Him.  Families always celebrate achievements and milestones together.

In Leviticus 23, God told the sons of Jacob, to celebrate and memorialize God's hand in Israel's history. Yes, Israel was told to do no work - but when is having a rollicking, good time ever about work? When the Sabbath was observed on the seventh day,  Israel honored and remembered God's act of Creation.   The Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread celebrated God's redeeming hand as He brought Israel out of Egypt.  Nestled between Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Feast of Firstfruits, when the first sheaf of the harvest was cut and presented to the Lord, was perceived as God's pledge for a full harvest later.  Occurring fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot  originally celebrated the wheat harvest and later the giving of the Law to Moses.

Israel reveled and partied during the spring Feasts as they rejoiced in God's provision and trusted in His future provision.  It was a time of national prayer when everyone praised God and glorified His Holy Name - God's promises for the future were so real that Israel thanked God for them beforehand.  As a nation, Israel convened to glorify God and to grow in their assurance of God's deliverance.

However, the autumn feasts, occurring in the seventh month, a sabbath month,  Tishri, were more solemn in nature. God ordained that, in the sabbath month,  Israel would first engage in extensive self-examination and penitence. And later in Tishri, Israel enjoyed the most festive of all feasts, Sukkot.

After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, The Feast of Trumpets, memorialized on the first day of the seventh month, became Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year. Ten days later, Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, was the one day ancient Israel fasted while atonement was made for the nation.  After the atonement, when Israel was reconciled to God, it was time for the Feast of Booths in which God tells Israel to "rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days," Leviticus 23: 40.  After heartfelt penitence, they were told to party.

In Leviticus 23, God instituted festivals which allowed Israel to use  their senses as well as emotions to relate to God.   I think of this as God telling us, yet again, that He created us and that He knows how to engender a knowledge of Him is a world that defies and denies Him relentlessly.
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