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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What’s On Your Calendar?

Celebrating birthdays reminds each person of their entry into family. Annual events such as Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving remind families of past events that impact their present well-being and connect families to the greater community of celebrants. 

The Lord requires Israel to set aside days on their annual calendar to commemorate His relationship with them as individuals, families, and community. These annual events are intended to remind them of His activity on their behalf in the past and to establish their personal and communal identity. 
The Sabbath (Leviticus 23:4), celebrated weekly, was to be a day of blessing, of rest, to remind Israel of creation, God’s goodness, provision, and their redemption from Egyptian slavery (verse 43). 
Certain feasts or celebrations were to be held at a specific location in Canaan and attended by all the males in Israel. (Jerusalem became that central location during the Kingdom Era):
The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:5-14). This celebration begins on the first month of the year with the Passover and a sacred assembly where no work is to be done or unleavened bread eaten and followed by another seven days where no unleavened bread is to be eaten. These feasts commemorate Israel’s departure from Egypt.
The Feast of Harvest/Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-22). Seven weeks after the Passover begins the season of harvest where people present the first fruits of the harvest to the Lord along with a sacrifice. This feast acknowledges God’s provision. 
The Day of Atonement and The Feast of Ingathering/Tabernacles (Leviticus 26-32). On the tenth day of the seventh month of the year Israel must hold a sacred assembly for the annual atonement of sin, the Day of Atonement. Five days later begins the Feast of Tabernacles which lasts for a week. The people are to build temporary “booths” and live in them for that week to commemorate the wilderness wonderings and the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. 
Why does the Lord instruct Israel to establish these feasts/celebrations as annual events on their calendar?
  • People are prone to forget the past.
  • Celebrations give parents opportunities to teach their children about the Lord and their heritage. 
  • Celebrations bind the hearts of individuals to the greater community and build national identity.
  • Celebrations acknowledge God’s goodness and provision and man’s gratitude to God.

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"The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies." (Leviticus 23:1-2)
Today's reading deals with regulations for the food of the priests and the order of feasts for the people. The feasts detail times of celebration for God's people, because God loves celebrations of His goodness. As the feasts are considered, one detail becomes obvious. God's directions for His people and their feasts demand faith.

In 23:9-10, "The LORD said to Moses, 'Speak to the Israelites and say to them, "When you enter the land I am going to give you and reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest".'" Do you hear the faith involved in these words? The God of heaven plans for His people 1) to enter the Land, and 2) to reap the harvest. The idea is never "if," but "when".

Sadly, the generation who heard these words did not enter the Land and did not reap the harvest. Their spies walked its valleys, saw its cities, and even brought out its fruit; yet because they did not believe God, they did not enter into the Land. Faith is always the key.

The real question with God is never "if"; when He speaks, His word is sure and His promises are true. His promises and plans are stated as if they've already come to pass; they simply await the appropriation of His people. When His children embrace His promises, confess them as so, and act as if what God has said is more true than their circumstances indicate, then He moves Heaven and Earth to keep His promises and show His power. He never doubted that they would have the land--He had created and prepared it for them. All His promises were offered--and accepted--in faith.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Leviticus 22:1-23:44
  • Why does God require the same thing from the priests that He requires from the people?
  • What does the wave offering represent?
  • Why are annual celebrations so important to God? Important to the people?
Turning truth into prayer:
Praise to God reminds us that all that we have comes from Him. Praise is reflective and anticipatory. Thank Him for specific provisions He has made for you in the past and for His gracious provision in the future.