Let them feast!

Leviticus-Sermon-ArtThere is an old hymn titled, “Come and Dine” that goes:

Jesus has a table spread
Where the saints of God are fed,
He invites His chosen people, “Come and dine”;
With His manna He doth feed
And supplies our every need:
Oh, ’tis sweet to sup with Jesus all the time!

Refrain:
“Come and dine,” the Master calleth, “Come and dine”;
You may feast at Jesus’ table all the time;
He Who fed the multitude, turned the water into wine,
To the hungry calleth now, “Come and dine.”

This hymn was written in the early 1900’s by Charles Widmeyer his reading of John 21:12, where Jesus feeds the disciples fish on the seashore after his resurrection. He saw a similarity between the tired, hungry disciples and people of his day both spiritually and physically hungry, and wanted people to know that coming to Jesus was a spiritual feast that would fill us up.

Come and Dine my favorite song as a kid. I liked it because it talked about a great big feast with Jesus! As a kid, I always thought “What could be cooler than eating a lot of food with Jesus?!?” and let’s be honest I love food.

Another reason I liked the because it was one of the few “fast” songs our church would sing. It was upbeat and really moved compared to the rest of the stuff they made us sing.

The idea of feasting and feast days is a lot bigger than many realize. Many see Leviticus as just a bunch of boring rules…drudgery…legalism…But here near the end in Leviticus 23, we see this list of 7 feasts. And while they have their own sets of rules and stuff guidelines…These are meant as times of celebration and joy for the people of God.

See, God wants to remind us that He is a God who celebrates!

We Serve a God who Parties!

In the movie, The Legend of Rickey Bobby, Cal says, “I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo T-Shirt because it says I want to be formal, but I’m here to party.”

Through the centuries, the Church has not often pictured Jesus as liking to party. In some faith traditions they purposely remain drab and colorless…staunch and sober in their approach to Jesus…But when we look at God and Jesus through the lens of Scripture we see they like to feast and party.

Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding celebration in the city of Cana. He turned water into wine. I remember some wonderful backflips of interpretation from people trying to explain how Jesus didn’t really make real wine…just grape juice.

But we see this picture of Jesus and his disciple celebrating the wedding of this couple…enjoying themselves. Having a good time. Partying because this is something joyous worth celebrating!

In fact, Jesus spends a lot of time at parties…so much so the Pharisees accused him of wrong doing. Jesus responds in Luke 7:34,

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’

Jesus spent so much time at the dinner parties of “those kinds of people” the Pharisees accused him of all kinds of things.

Feasting and celebrating should be major themes in how we understand God…because they serve as a great image for God’s abundance and provision and what it will be like to be in His presence when Jesus returns.

But God starts all the way back here in Leviticus 23 with a list of 7 feasts divided into Spring and Fall feasts.

Spring Feasts:
Passover
Unleavened Bread
First Fruits

There is a short break then:
Pentecost

Fall Feasts:
Feast of Trumpets
Atonement
Feast of Tabernacles

These Feasts were arranged to symbolize the acts of God on behalf of his people…It is a replaying of God’s grand scheme, and you and I get to celebrate and should be celebrating because we are invited into this Grand Vision

Let’s walk through these feasts…

We celebrate because God frees us!
The Passover was the feast to celebrate God freeing the Hebrews from their slavery in Egypt. By painting their doorposts with the blood of a Lamb the first born sons of each Hebrew household was spared.

Connected to this idea of freedom from sin was The Day of Atonement. It is the high and holy day of the Jewish faith and called for this strange connection of feasting and confession. God provides for our forgiveness through our confession

For you and I, we celebrate because the blood of the Lamb of God gives us freedom from our bondage to sin. You and I should be celebrating like crazy because our sins can be forgiven and we can have a relationship with God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!

What a reason to celebrate. The sin that we often worry about so much in the Christian faith has been taken care of…maybe if we spent more time celebrating God’s victory over our sin we wouldn’t need to spend so much time worrying about how wrong we are.

And the connection between feasting and confession on the Day of Atonement…just think of how we avoid confession like the plague…and yet here is God saying that our confession is a reason to celebrate…a reason to feast…because through our confession, God is able to open the floodgates of forgiveness and healing for our lives!

We celebrate because God sets us apart!

The Feast of Unleavened Bread…doesn’t sound like a great feast, but this one was combined with the Passover…but it was a carbohydrate coma of a feast that reminded people of the imagery of yeast. Yeast was a symbol of sin and how just a small amount works its way through the entire bread. But this was also a celebration because God had called the Hebrews out of the world…called them to be different…and set them apart to serve Him.

We can connect this to the feast of Pentecost…It celebrated the giving of the Law on Sinai. People, for the first time in history, had a glimpse of what God expected of them. They didn’t have to guess anymore…because God told them.

You and I get to celebrate because we, too, have been set apart for the work of God.

1 Peter 2:9 reminds us,
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

We are set apart, and then we are given the Holy Spirit to live and work in our lives.

When most Christians think of Pentecost they only think of the Book of Acts, but it is symbolically connected to the Old Testament Feast of Pentecost. God gave His laws to Moses on Mt. Sinai, but on the New Testament days of Pentecost, God gave his Holy Spirit to dwell in the lives of His people.

No longer are they expected to live by an external legalism, they are called to live out of the active, working, transforming presence of the Holy Spirit.

Jeremiah 31:33
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.

We get to celebrate because you and I are called to represent God here in this realm. We are set apart to serve our world as a Royal Priesthood…and we don’t do this under our own strength…the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us transforms us, leads us, guides us down the right path, speaks God’s words directly into our lives.

That is a reason to celebrate!

We celebrate because God provides.

Feast of Firstfruits was a celebration at the beginning of the spring when the first round of crop was ready. It was a celebration of God’s provision and His promise of more to come.

It is connected to the Feast of Tabernacles. This feast was a celebration of the Harvest. It was the most joyous feast observed. It has several elements. People lived in tents to remind them that God brought them through the tough time of the dessert, living in tents, and brought them to a time where He provided permanent housing for all of them.

We too have reason to celebrate…Just as they people of Israel celebrated the first fruits as God’s sign of provision and his promise to take care of us…so you and I get to celebrate God’s provision in our lives. Even when we are struggling…God makes himself known.

Some don’t take advantage of God’s provision because of pride or whatever else stands in the way…but we live in a country where no one should go hungry…there are thousands of food banks and pantries that give stuff away…we give stuff away…

We live in homes that, comparatively, are mansions for many people around the world…

God has given us so much. And when we are facing difficulty…we get to see Him work even more!

And all of this is a promise that as you and I face down the difficult times, God will bring us through it.

And ultimately, when we pass through this life, Jesus’ resurrection is a first fruit reminder that you and I get to share in the harvest of eternity. We live in this earthly tent of a body, but one day, when Jesus returns, we will be clothed in a resurrection body.

Which points us to a final reason to celebrate…

We celebrate because God will set things right!

The Feast of Trumpets was a celebration Day of the Lord and focused on two major themes: the deliverance of the righteous, the judgment of the wicked. The priest would sound the trumpets so the people would leave the work of the harvest and gather in to worship.

What great imagery for you and I. Twice Paul uses the imagery of the trumpet, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:51, to point us toward the return of Jesus Christ to our world to set it in order.

So often, Christian theology has talked about the “End Times” as us escaping from this world. That is absolutely not Biblical. The Bible constantly reminds us that Jesus is returning to set things in order, to judge the evil and deliver the righteous.

We have reason to celebrate because God promises to transform our world…to judge all those acts of evil that cause us to weep and shake our heads…the holocausts and ethnic cleansing…the bombings…the acts of terror…the beatings and rapes and murders…God is returning to set things right…and that is reason to celebrate.

Conclusion
If you and I aren’t careful it is easy to forget to celebrate. There are a few things that can get in our way…

Most of us in some form are pessimists. We talk of sin, evil, all the things that are wrong with our world…Our news programs terrify us so that we will watch. As humans it seems we are wired to see the bad more than we see the good.

If you do a good job on something and get 100 great reviews and 1 bad review…do you know which one is going to stick with you the longest?

And because of this we have to learn to celebrate…to celebrate all the great gifts and promises of God. That is why the Jews had a religious calendar and why the early church created a Christian calendar…because you and I need those times where we are reminded of the wonderful things we get to celebrate in our Faith.

The second thing, in America, we can struggle to really, really feast and celebrate because we have so much and live so fast.

I was watching Survivor this week. They have been on the island for close to a month with very little food. During one of the challenges this week Jeff Probst revealed that the winners got an afternoon in a candy store. To celebrate he gave each competitor a single M&M. It was funny watching them savor and hold on to that taste because it had been so long.

I got to thinking about how our excess and wealth as a people gets in the way of our ability to celebrate and really enjoy a feast.

Going out to eat used to be a special treat. It still is for some. But for many you eat out many times a week.

Like on Survivor a piece would be a luxury for many people in our world, but you and I have no problem bringing home the 1lb bag of M&M’s and finishing them off over a few days.

Because we have so much we forget what it is like to celebrate the small things, the beautiful things, the acts of kindness, the smiles of a friend, the power of a song, the beauty of a piece of art.

In order for us to celebrate we need to maybe give up some luxury and slow our lives down so we can enjoy what God has so graciously given us.

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