“Love Celebrates” – Deuteronomy 16:1-17

October 15th,  2017

Dt. 16:1-17

“Love Celebrates”

Aux Text: Col 2:16-17

Call to Worship: Psa 81

Service Orientation: Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.  God wants us to do all we can to fully recognize God’s bountiful provision so we will truly worship and celebrate.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels.  Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. — Isaiah 46:8-9

 

Background Information:

  • With respect to style and structure, Dt 16:1-17 appears more legislative than any previous text. Although this text lacks formal imperatives, verb forms with imperatival force anchor every independent clause.  Nevertheless, motive and modifying clauses continue as Moses seeks to inspire the Israelites with the joy of feasting in the presence of Yahweh.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 386)
  • Whatever our disposition toward these memorial events, Dt 16:1-17 presents Christians with an extraordinarily rich resource for developing a biblical theology of worship. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 398)
  • From this point of view Moses discusses the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, assuming the laws previously given concerning these festivals (Ex 12, Lv 23, and Nm 28 and 29) as already known, and simply repeating those points which related to the sacrificial meals held at these festivals. (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 374)
  • (v. 2) The Passover involved eating. The verb “sacrifice” (v. 2) refers to the ritual slaughter of an animal, which for Israel usually meant a meal eaten by worshipers in the presence of Yahweh.  Moses’ expansion of the fare to include cattle anticipates Israel’s transition from a nomadic people dependent on sheep and goats to a settled agricultural economy, in which cattle play an important role (cf. Dt 32:13-14).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 387)
  • (v. 6) In the Second Temple period, the lamb was killed in the temple courtyard, after which the meat was taken home to be roasted and eaten. When Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples, they would have slaughtered their lamb at the temple and then found an “upper room” in the city where they could prepare the meat and eat the meal together (Mk 14:12-16; Mt 26:17-19; Lk 22:7-13).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 510)

(v. 7) “To your tents” (v. 7) as a Hebrew idiom for going to one’s dwelling (whether temporary or permanent) continued in use for many years after Israel had settled in towns and no longer used tents (2 Kgs 8:21; 13:5; 14:12; the NIV renders each occurrence as “home[s]”).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 109)

  • (v. 9) By the 2nd cent. A.D. the Feast of Weeks in Judaism had come to celebrate the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. Weinfeld, however, thinks the covenantal roots of the Feast may be more ancient.  In any case, Israel’s arrival at Sinai as reported in Ex 19:1-2 was later calculated to be fifty days after the Exodus (on Ex 19:1, 16 dates it to the 6th day of the third month).  Pentecost thus became the “birthday of the Torah.”  This historicizing tendency went in a different direction in nascent Christianity, where Pentecost came to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, making it the “birthday of the church” (Acts 2).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 514)

(v. 10) The Feast of Weeks is also called the Feast of Harvest (Ex 23:16) and the Day of Firstfruits (Nm 28:26).  This important feast in Israel’s history was later called Pentecost because Jews observed it on the fiftieth day following the sabbath that began Passover.  Although the OT connects Weeks only with the spring grain harvest, Judaism later celebrated on Pentecost the Lord’s giving of his law to Israel on Mt. Sinai.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 147)

  • (v. 10) The Feast of Weeks was also known as the “Feast of Harvest” (Ex 23:16) and the “day of firstfruits” (Nm 28:26). Later it was given the title “Pentecost” based on the translation of “fifty days” (Lv 23:16) in the Septuagint.  The Feast of Weeks was a celebration of God’s gracious provision of the harvest.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 203)
  • (v. 10) The accounts of the Feast of Weeks are elsewhere given in Ex 23:16 (where it is called the Feast of Harvest ); 34:22; Lv 23:15-20; and Nm 28:26-31, where it is “the day of firstfruits” as well as the Feast of Weeks. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 110)
  • (v. 10) The Festival of Weeks seems to have suffered from even more serious neglect. Except for the Chronicler’s reference to this festival as one of the three annual mandatory pilgrimages that Solomon observed in conjunction with the building of the temple (2 Chr 8:13), the OT is completely silent on this observance.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 395)
  • (v. 10) Among ancient Israel’s major religious festivals, the Festival of Weeks exhibits several distinctive features. (1) It is never assigned a precise date on the religious calendar (v. 9; cf. Lv 23:15-16).  (2) Though our text links the festival with Israel’s experience in Egypt (v. 12), the festival is never associated with specific events in their history.  Instead, it has the appearance of an agricultural festival.  (3) References to the festival are rare in the OT.  In keeping with its harvest associations, it is referred variously as “the Festival of the Harvest” (Ex 23:16), or “the Day of Firstfruits” (Nm 28:26a).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 389)
  • (v. 10) Assuming familiarity with the rituals, as in the treatment of the Festival of Weeks above, this text focuses entirely on the theological and communal significance of the festival. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 391)
  • (v. 13) The present text sets the time of the Festival of Booths more generally: “after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress.”  This phrase confirms that the festival occurs not when crops are harvested but when the agricultural products have been processed and stored.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 392)
  • (v. 13) The Feast of Tabernacles was also called the Feast of Ingathering (Ex 23:16) and the Feast of Booths (Lv 23:42).

Just as the seventh day was considered holy to the Lord, so was the seventh month.  Following the hot, dry summer, Israelites harvested grapes, date figs, and olives, and looked for the autumn rains that could begin as early as October and as late as December.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 148-9)

  • (v. 13) Jn 7:2 contains the only reference to the Festival of Booths in the NT, but this is sufficient to demonstrate that this festival was still observed in the days of Jesus. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 396)
  • (v. 13) Deuteronomy gives no date for this festival, stating only that it shall be celebrated after the ingathering “from your threshing floor and from your winepress.” Elsewhere (Lv 23:39; 1 Kgs 8:2; Ezek 45:25) the feast is assigned a date beginning on the 15th of the 7th month (Tishri=September/October), which is roughly four months after the wheat harvest ends on Pentecost (the 6th of Sivan–May/June).  The Feast of Booths is called the Feast of Ingathering in Ex 23:16; 34:22, but the more common name in the OT, particularly in later texts, is the Feast of Booths (Dt 31:10; Lv 23:34; Zech 14:16, 18-19; Ezra 3:4; 2 Chr 8:13).  Nm 29:12-39 prescribes a large number of offerings–obligatory and freewill–for days of the feast, which here and in Lv 23:39-43 are eight instead of seven (see v. 15).  A holy convocation is to be held on the first and last days, at which time no work may be done.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 515)
  • (v. 14) Of the three annual pilgrimages, the Festival of Booths (NIV “Tabernacles”) receives the least attention. While Ex 23:16b and 34:22b identify it as “the Festival of Ingathering,” the present designation, “Festival of Booths,” derives from Lv 23:34.  Although Ex 23:16 ties this festival to the end of the agricultural cycle, technically it is not a harvest festival.  The term “ingathering” does not refer to the harvest of agricultural products, but to the collection of processed grain and unfermented grape juice and their storage for winter in granaries and vats.  Rejoicing over the blessing of harvest and the safe processing of the foodstuffs, the Festival of Booths is the happiest of all the festivals.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 391)
  • (v. 16) The idiom “to appear in the presence of Yahweh” (pers. trans.) is royal court language, denoting entering his court and paying homage before him. Whereas Ex 23:14-17 and 34:23-24 identified the location of the festival generally as “before the LORD,” for the sixth time this chapter specifies the destination as “the place [the LORD your God] will choose.”  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 393)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What does God through Moses promise to accomplish by having His people observe these feasts?

 

Answer: The feasts were established by God to commemorate God’s provision and protection for His people.  The feasts were to serve as a regular reminder of just how blessed they are and that they were blessed to be a blessing, and that they should live as blessed people.

 

In Deuteronomy 16, Moses instructs God’s people to make the Lord the center of their celebrations, the focus of their public life, and the sole possessor of their hearts.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 200)

 

Never forget just how very happy you are.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Feast

 

Why does God want us to celebrate?:

I-  God’s feasts are to be a time to remember.  (Dt 16:1, 3, 12, 16)

 

Never forget to remember!

 

My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things:  that I am a great sinner and that Jesus is a great Savior.  —John Newton  (John Piper, Brothers, We are NOT Professionals, 264-5)

 

“Israel does not remember festivals but observes them in order to remember.”  —Brevard Childs  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 504)

 

The richness of Israel’s faith was that it could take the natural and culturally universal celebration of the bounty of nature, as expressed through seasonal feasts and rituals, and tie them to their own redemptive history.  Their feasts thus retained their character as cyclical markers of the agricultural year, while avoiding the excesses of the fertility cults.  Yahweh was to be worshiped as the saving God of their history and also as the providing God of their land, the giver of all fertility, the Lord of every harvest.  It is regrettable that Christian harvest festivals largely ignore this powerful combination of the redemptive-historical with the creation-providential traditions of our biblical faith.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 201)

 

  1. The Passover (Dt 16:1-8; see also: Ex 12-14; 23:14-17; 34:18-25; Lev 23:5-8; Nm 9:1-14; 28:16-25)

 

The Passover feast recalled their last meal in Egypt and all that was associated with it (cf. Ex 12).  Unleavened bread was clearly not eaten with any pleasure, since it was called “the bread of affliction” (or “bread of suffering”).  It too linked up with the Exodus (cf. Ex 12:8); and no doubt it was also a reminder of Israel’s wilderness wanderings, when bread containing yeast would have been an unobtainable luxury.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 98)

 

God speaks to the Israelites and He says, . . .“I am about to unleash the most inexorable, irresistible, unstoppable force in the Universe:  The Destroyer.  It is going to go through the greatest military and political power that the world has ever seen, Egypt; it is going to go right through it like a knife through hot butter.  And there is only one thing that you can do, there is only one way you can face this ultimate force on the universe . . . a lamb.  A lamb!?  I’m going to be protected from the ultimate force of the universe by fluffy and muffy?  The weakest, meekest, mildest kind of creature possible, and God says , “Yes the only way you are going to be able to face this ultimate force of the Universe is I want you to kill a lamb, eat it with your family and put the blood on the doorpost.”

And that is the Passover.  (Tim Keller; The Story of the Lamb– sermon)

 

In every home in Egypt–of Jews and Egyptians alike–someone would die under the wrath of justice.  The only way for your family to escape was to put your faith in God’s sacrificial provision; namely, you had to slay a lamb and put the blood on the doors as a sign of your faith in God.  In every home that night there would be either a dead child or a dead lamb.  When justice came down, either it fell on your family or you took shelter under the substitute, under the blood of the lamb.  If you did accept this shelter, then death passed over you and you were saved; that’s why it was called Passover.  You were saved only on the basis of faith in a substitutionary sacrifice.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 163-4)

 

In Ex 12:10, 29-31, the text suggests that Israel stayed awake through the night as a recognition of how Yahweh had kept watch over them in the crisis.  In time, Jesus was to transform elements of the Passover into the Lord’s Supper, a recognition of the redemption that he would bring about through his death (cp. Lk 22:1, 7, 13, 15-20).  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 203)

 

They were to eat “no leavened bread” (v. 3) for the following reasons:  The leavening process was considered to be impure and therefore not suitable for the festive occasion.  It commemorated the “haste” of their flight from Egypt, for unlike leavened bread, it could be made quickly.  As a “bread of affliction” it also symbolized the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 203)

 

  1. Firstfruits/Pentecost (Dt 16:9-12; see also: Ex 23:16-19; 34:22-66; Lv 2:12-14; 23:17-20; Nm 28:26-31; Dt 18:4; 26:1-10)

 

The feast was designated the “day of first fruits” (Nm 28:26; see also Ex 23:16; 34:22; Lv 23:17), because it marked the beginning of the time in which the people were to bring voluntarily their offerings of firstfruits, a season that concluded with the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths).  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible: Vol. Four, 692)

 

The Festival of Weeks is a memorial celebration (v. 12a).  Breaking rank with other accounts, Moses links the observance of this festival with Israel’s experience in Egypt.  By associating what was otherwise an agricultural festival with Egypt, he highlights the conviction that everything Israel has is to be received as a gift.  Like his provision of salvation, Yahweh’s provision of harvest calls for free and spontaneous expressions of gratitude.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 390-1)

 

Pentecost came to be recognized as the time God gave Moses the Law.  Now in the NT era, it came to be known as the time God gave his people the Spirit.

 

The identification of Pentecost with “firstfruits” likely has a real significance here, since the three thousand who came to faith in Christ this day were the “firstfruits” of many thousands who would follow.  (Bruce B. Barton, D.Min., Life Application Bible Commentary: Acts, p. 21)

 

  1. Booths/Tabernacles (Dt 16:13-15; see also: Ex 23:16; Lv 23:33-44; Nm 29:12-39; Neh 8:14; Isa 30:29; Ezek 45:25; Zech 14:16-21)

 

The Feast of Booths is known by a lot of names (Feast of Tabernalces, The Ingathering, and The Feast).   It is the only festival in which God commands them to joyfully celebrate.

 

The booths were a reminder that there is a transient nature to life.  When God blesses us, it is too easy to become comfortable, to feel in control of our surroundings, and so to forget our dependence upon God.  Therefore the command to dwell in temporary booths was a permanent injunction for the people to wrench themselves out of that comfortable setting and remember that transient nature of their lives.  (David Brickner, Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles, 52)

 

Living in booths served as a reminder of God’s protection during the forty years of wandering in the desert (Lv 23:42).  The temporary booths symbolized the human need to depend upon God for His provision of food, water, and shelter.  This applies to our spiritual life as well, for without the life-giving provisions of divine grace our spiritual life would be a scorching desert.  (Samuele Bacchiocchi, God’s Festivals in Scripture and History, 212-3)

 

The second name given to the Feast of Tabernacles is simply ha-Hag, or the Feast. . . .The Feast of Tabernacles outshone the other feasts of Israel.  It was the Feast of the Year.  (David Brickner, Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles, 28)

 

Joy, which was to mark the celebration of the Feast of Weeks, was also to characterize this festival (v. 15).  The people were to rejoice in God’s provision, but also (as Lv 23:42-43 indicates) they were to rejoice in their deliverance from Egypt.  The week of living in booths was to commemorate the journey through the desert after the nation had come out of Egypt.  The events of John 7 occurred during this feast.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 205)

 

So important was Sukkot in King Solomon’s day that we see him using the Feast to dedicate the Temple (2 Chr 7).  Other Bible passages that refer to Tabernacles as ha-Hag, the Feast, include Nm 29:12; Neh 8:14; Isa 30:29; and Ezek 45:25.  (David Brickner, Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles, 28)  Mostly likely because of the celebratory nature of The Feast, and also because of its pointing to God’s faithfulness in  both provision and presence.

 

Zechariah (ch. 14) uses the backdrop of the Feast of Booths to point to God’s faithfulness to bring God’s people into the Ultimate Promised Land with ultimate peace and prosperity among all nations of the earth.

 

The Feast of Tabernacles or ha-Hag, was naturally the best attended of all the major festivals.  Passover and Pentecost took place in the spring, when the people were fully occupied in their fields.  Only the very devout or the very wealthy would part from their farms and go up in obedience to the Lord to take part in Pesach (Passover) or Shavuot (Pentecost).  But the Feast of tabernacles came at the end of the agricultural year.  It was fall; the final harvest had been gathered.  The work was done.  The winter was approaching; the people could settle down and rest.

In this way, the festival reflects the principle of Sabbath.  (David Brickner, Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles, 29)

 

The psalmist confidently declared, “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock” (Ps 27:5).  The Feast of Tabernacles was an annual reminder to the people that God is the Great Shepherd who has chosen to “tabernacle among them,” to protect and bless them wherever they wander and wherever the vagaries of life carried them.  What a rich comfort for God’s people in good times and in bad.  (David Brickner, Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles, 36-7)

 

The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, was observed just before Tabernacles, on the tenth day of the seventh month (Lv 23:26).  From the solemn reminder of their sin and the awesome price of their forgiveness, Israelites moved to the joyous recollection of the Lord’s great care for them during their stay in the wilderness.  During Tabernacles “all native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt” (Lv 23:42, 43).  As people thanked God for the completion of the summer harvest and for providing for them in a natural way, they could also thank God for preserving them through the wilderness in a supernatural way.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 149)

 

There is, however, more significance for Christians than you might see at first glance.  Carried forward in the symbolism inherent in the Feast of Tabernacles are two biblical themes of vital importance to the Church.

The first is God’s provision, and the second is God’s presence.  As we explore this holy festival, expect to see the Lord’s presence and provision over and over.  (David Brickner, Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles, 17)

 

By deliberately giving up living in a solid construction for a week, the Jews were taught to place the ultimate trust in God’s protection.  (Samuele Bacchiocchi, God’s Festivals in Scripture and History, 229)

 

II-  God’s feasts are to be a time to rejoice.  (Dt 16:1, 10-11, 13-15)

 

Gratitude:  The memory of the heart.

 

Three times in the description of the Feast of Weeks and of Booths there is reference to joy in the way they celebrate (16:11, 14, 15).  The third time they are asked (or commanded) to be “altogether joyful” (16:15c).  There is a stress on the completeness of the joy here.  And this joy is “because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands” (16:15b).  Those who are conscious of God’s grace being the key to their lives will be joyful people.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 429)

 

The spiritual reason for the command to rejoice is the fact that the feast commemorated how providentially the Lord had led the people through the wilderness into the Promised Land.  Furthermore, the repentance of the Feast of Trumpets and the cleansing of the Day of Atonement leads to the extraordinary outburst of joy of the Feast of Booths.  Forgiveness and reconciliation with God always leads to joy.  (Samuele Bacchiocchi, God’s Festivals in Scripture and History, 215)

 

If your family, friends, and neighbors don’t see you having satisfaction, joy and fulfilment in your worship and your relationship with your God; then they have the right to come to at least one or more of three conclusions:  1)- Either your God is a fake and the God you say you serve is not real, or 2)- You are a fake and your faith is not real, or  3)- There is no joy in a relationship with your God.  So if you want to enjoy life and find satisfaction, joy and fulfilment in your life . . . you need to look elsewhere. — Pastor Keith

 

Dt 16:13-15 (NKVJ): “…because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice.”  A better way to translate that last phrase might be, “You shall have nothing but joy.”

Rejoicing is a major theme for Tabernacles.  It is not commanded for the observance of Passover.  It’s mentioned once in connection with the observance of Pentecost.  But see how many times it is actually mentioned in these few verses?  Even those who otherwise might not have cause for rejoicing–widows and orphans and slaves–were commanded to rejoice at this time.  (David Brickner, Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles, 31)

 

People with such joy would be looking for opportunities to express that joy.  We would look for ways to celebrate our joy over God’s goodness, especially in our family life.  Festivals become one of these.  In a festival we enjoy by rejoicing in worship especially through music and song, by being together as a community, and by enjoying special meals.  We must try to bring this into the annual calendars of our families.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 430)

 

Israelites were commanded to rejoice!  Just as they were commanded to love, showing that such love was more than a spontaneous emotion, so this fact that joy was commanded indicates that it was more than emotional froth.  Praise, thanksgiving, rejoicing–these things were at the core of Israel’s faith and religious life, and, as part of a covenant faith, were matters of choice and will and commitment, as the determination to rejoice even in the midst of lament in the Psalms and elsewhere (e.g., Hab 3:17-19) shows.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 201)

 

We must work hard at keeping our musical and other performances at Christmas, Easter, and such festivals as extremely joyful times.  May our children remember festivals as times of enjoyment.  May they know that when they want to enjoy being in community they don’t have to join sinful people, they can do it with Christians.  This is a very important aspect of the Christian upbringing of children.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 431)

 

Sadly, our festivals and such special events in church are often marred by conflicts over the way the things are done.  Some get angry that their children were overlooked for the most important parts.  Some get angry that their opinions about how the program should have been run were not taken seriously.  So in some Christian communities these special days are not celebrations but occasions for conflict.  One of the main reasons for this is that many do not know the joy of the Lord in the church today.  They are angry with life.  A joyful Christian would overlook small errors if that would help the people remain joyful.  This is not a big deal.  The big deal is for the church to honor God by rejoicing in him at the event that celebrates his goodness.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 431)

 

Verse 15 leaves no doubt concerning its (the Feast of Tabernacles) purpose:  to praise Yahweh for his blessing, for he has rewarded the efforts of human hands by granting an abundance of crops from the field.  Unlike 4:28; 27:15; and 31:29, the expression “work of [one’s] hands” refers to legitimate work engaged in to make a living.  Like 14:29 and 15:10, 18; the statement recognizes that Israel’s well-being depends on Yahweh’s favor, and that Yahweh fulfills his promise to bless those who love and serve him wholeheartedly.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 392)

 

III-  God’s feasts are to be a time to worship.  (Dt 16:17; see also: 2 Sm 24:24; Mal 1:6-2:9; 3:6-15)

 

Sacrifice is the essence of worship, so each person was to bring a gift in proportion to the way God had blessed.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 204)

 

Yahweh is to be the centerpiece of Israel’s national life.  The people are to enjoy him fully at his appointed festivals, pursue the justice that reflects his character, and worship him exclusively.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 202)

 

(v. 15b).  This short paragraph reaches a crescendo with the final charge to participate wholeheartedly in the celebration.  Above all else and above all other feats, when the Israelites come to worship Yahweh at the Festival of Booths, they are to be overflowing with joy and prepared to express that joy for an entire week.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 392-3)

 

IV-  God’s feasts are to be a time to realize you are blessed to be a blessing.  (Dt 16:11, 14, 17; see also: Lev 23:22; )

 

Among the offerings for Weeks were fresh loaves of bread made with yeast (the only time during the year this was done), as well as many other sacrifices.  Not long after the Feast of Weeks was the offering of the first fruits from the grain harvest, an act that expressed thanksgiving, trust, and devotion to the Lord.  Israelites could also show their gratitude to the lord by letting the poor and aliens in the land take the grain left by the harvesters along the edge of the field (Lv 23:22).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 147-8)

 

It must be noted that religious festivals the world over are associated with giving to the needy.  In many religions the motivation is the earning of merit through giving to the needy.  The distinctive feature of Biblical festivals is that we give out of gratitude to what God has given to us; in fact, even what we give are things that God has given us.  We give humbly, not like great benefactors. We give with a joyful heart of gratitude to the God who has helped us even though we did not deserve it.  Often in religious festivals when the rich give to the poor they give as superior people helping inferior people.  As Christians we identify with those we help by having them over to share a meal with us as our equals.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 428)

 

James has observed in the previous verse that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (1:17).  Therefore the new birth that God has given us (verse 18) is a gift.  The emphasis on ethical living throughout the book of James suggests that we, as the firstfruits of the final redemption, should be God’s agents for change in the world around us.  This challenges us as Christians to ask ourselves what we can be doing to extend Christ’s love to the world, not only by evangelism but by helping the poor, working with AIDS orphans, helping the environment, and so forth.  Regardless of one’s beliefs about eschatology, God intends for Christians–as the firstfruits of a greater redemption to come–to help bring in not just a harvest of “souls” but a harvest of righteousness in society.  (David Brickner, Rich Robinson, Christ in the Feast of Pentecost, 136)

 

The people’s giving and feasting was to be an obedient response to God’s giving and blessing.  But at the same time, God’s blessing would be God’s continued response to their obedience.  It is impossible to separate the two.  It is inadequate to speak of obedience being the condition of blessing, or to speak of unconditional blessing unrelated to responsive obedience.  There is a dynamic reciprocity between the two.  The cycle of nature is mirrored in the cycle of blessing and obedience.  Only in this way your joy will be complete (v. 15)–another Deuteronomic jewel that is given a fresh sparkle in a Johannine setting (Jn 16:24).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 201-2)

 

V-  God’s feasts are to be a time to look ahead.  (Ex 23:16-19; 34:22-26; Lv 2:12-14; 23:17-20; Nm 28:26; Dt 18:4; 26:1-10) )

 

The book of Revelation, in fact, ties together the images of greenery and fruitfulness with the consummation of our redemption in Christ.  For in the new heavens and new earth, we find the Tree of Life from the Garden of Eden!  The fruitfulness of the land of Israel and all the many firstfruits ceremonies not only picture God’s present goodness but point forward to the fruitfulness of the renewed heavens and earth!  Hallelujah!  (David Brickner, Rich Robinson, Christ in the Feast of Pentecost, 95)

 

It is also interesting to note that the Apostle John seems to incorporate themes from the Feast of Booths into his final depiction of heaven in Revelation 21-22.  It is speculated that he did this to show both the celebratory nature of heaven but also the reality of God’s ultimate provision and protection which are the main themes of the Feast of Booths.

 

The evidence of the first fruits is a guarantee that the latter fruit will come (see: Ex 23:16-19; 34:22-26; Lv 2:12-14; 23:17-20; Nm 28:26; Dt 18:4; 26:1-10)

 

No wonder Peter said, “Let us build these tabernacles.”  It seemed he was seeing the glory of the kingdom of God established on the earth.  The only problem was that the transfiguration was but a preview of that kingdom.  Still, Peter’s response reflects something that God’s people should be reminded of today.  The messianic hope, the promise of the kingdom, was integrally linked to the Feast of Tabernacles.  In the minds of the Jewish people, each observance of this festival was a dress rehearsal for the soon-coming kingdom.  (David Brickner, Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles, 127)

 

Hope is stronger than memory.  Memory is strong.  Hope is stronger.  People live on hope, not on memory.  Take away a person’s memories, and they become anxious.  Take away a person’s hopes, and they become terrified.  (Kennon L. Callahan, Effective Church Leadership, 124)

 

Thus ends the book of the prophet Zechariah.  He is peering into the future, images of a great Tabernacle celebration echoing in his mind.  At that point the prophet captures a most important aspect of this great festival.  It is a festival of remembrance as well as one of hope.  It looks back to a time of wilderness wandering while at the same time gazing forward to the promise of a time when we wander no more.  It is a vehicle through which Israel was able to express the heights of spiritual renewal and revival.  It carries the future promise of God’s provision and of His presence, so it is no wonder that the Feast of Tabernacles became a central vehicle for the Messiah to announce His mission and proclaim His coming kingdom.  (David Brickner, Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles, 75)

 

There is a powerful tendency to become attached to one’s home and rooted in a particular culture or community.  Many people idolize their home, land, and culture.  Living in booths for a week taught the Jews that life is a pilgrimage to a better land.  We cannot afford to become overly attached to the material things of this world because ultimately this present world is not our permanent home.  Living in a booth served not only to reenact the journey from bondage to liberation, but also to foreshadow the journey from the present world to the world to come.  (Samuele Bacchiocchi, God’s Festivals in Scripture and History, 229)

 

Zechariah sees the ultimate fulfillment of the Feast of Booths on the day when “the Lord your God will come and all the holy ones with him” (Zech 14:5).  “On that day,” the prophet explains, “there shall be neither cold nor frost.  And there shall be continuous day…not day or night, for at evening time there shall be light” (Zech 14:6-7).  Here we have a clear allusion to the light ceremony of the Feast of Booths.  We shall see that during the feast four tall, golden candlesticks were set up in the Court of Women.  At the top of each candlestick, which could be reached only by ladders, were golden bowls holding oil with floating wicks that when lit would illuminate the whole temple area.  This made it possible for the worshipers to continue their celebration into the night.

In the prophetic vision, the unusual night illumination of the Feast of Booths finds its ultimate fulfillment in the new earth where “there shall be continuous day…for at evening time there shall be light” (Zech 14:7).  A clear description of this fulfillment is found in Revelation where we are told that “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rv 21:23).  In chapter 7 we shall see how the major themes of the Feast of Booths, namely, light, water, and booths, are extensively used in Revelation 21-22 to describe the conditions of the new earth.  (Samuele Bacchiocchi, God’s Festivals in Scripture and History, 221)

 

First fruit is used only metaphorically in the NT.  The way for some of these cases may have been prepared by Jeremiah who calls Israel the first fruit of God’s harvest (Jer 2:3; cf. Hos 9:10) despite the fact that the LXX rendering of the passage obscures the metaphor (cf. 1 Clem 29:3).  For Paul, believing Jews were the first fruits of the Jewish people (Rom 11:16; cf. Nm 15:20f.).  For James, Christians at the first fruits of God’s creatures (Jam 1:18), and in Rv 14:4; those who follow the Lamb are first fruits to God.  Christ is the first fruit of them that slept (1 Cor 15:20, 23; cf. 1 Clem 24:1); Epanentus is the first fruit in Asia (Rom 16:5) and the household of Stephanas, the first fruit in Achaia (1 Cor 16:15; cf. 1 Clem 42:4). (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol 2; 541)

 

Worship Point:  We worship best when we remember Who God is and what He has done.  We need the Sabbath and the Festivals so we don’t forget to remember. (Jn 4:21-24)

 

In true worship our focus is not on what we are doing for him but on what he has done for us.  For this reason true worship should be a joyful event, not a burden to be legalistically borne.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 398)

 

The God of Israel wanted the primary experience of His people in relation to Him to be nothing but joy.  Such a connection stood in stark contrast to the people of the surrounding nations, who related to their gods in servile fear.  What a concept–to be in the presence of the Creator of the universe and to find that this experience brings “nothing but joy”!

This concept flies in the face of most religious tradition today. How often is our worship characterized as nothing but joy?  We tend to see reverence and joy as mutually exclusive, when God wants them to go hand in hand.  That is what God wanted Israel to experience.  In fact, the Almighty found fault with the nation of Israel in Dt 28:47 because, “You did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly.”  In other words, it’s not just a lack of service, but the manner of service for which God faulted His people.  (David Brickner, Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles, 32)

 

Worship is basically adoration, and we adore only what delights us.  There is no such thing as sad adoration or unhappy praise.

We have a name for those who try to praise when they have no pleasure in the object.  We call them hypocrites.  (John Piper, Desiring God, 19)

 

In his book Mozart’s Brain and the Fighter Pilot, Richard Restak shares a profound truism:  learn more, see more.  He says, “The richer my knowledge of flora and fauna of the woods, the more I’ll be able to see.  Our perceptions take on richness and depth as a result of all the things that we learn.  What the eye sees is determined by what the brain has learned.

When astronomers look into the night sky, they have a greater appreciation for the constellations and stars and planets.  They see more because they know more.  When musicians listen to a symphony, they have a greater appreciation for the chords and melodies and instrumentation.  They hear more because they know more.  When sommeliers sample a wine, they have a greater appreciation for the flavor, texture, and origin.  They taste more because they know more.

Simply put:  the more you know, the more you appreciate.

So what?  Well, how much you know may have more to do with how much you love God than you think.  Consider what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well:  “You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship.”  Another translation says, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know.”  The Samaritans were worshiping God out of a lack of knowledge.  And when you worship out of ignorance, worship is empty.  God doesn’t just want you to worship Him; He wants you to know why you worship Him.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 102-3)

 

Worshiping Yahweh involves not only regular periods of rejoicing, but a careful pursuit of the justice that is characteristic of Yahweh himself.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 204)

 

Gospel Application:  Jesus is the fulfillment of everything to which the feasts point.  (Lk 24:27, 44; Jn 5:39-40)

 

All human beings pass away.  Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose.  If love is to be a blessing, not a misery, it must be for the only beloved who will never pass away.  –C.S. Lewis

 

GAA:  Jesus and Passover

 

Just as Passover recalled God’s great rescue of his people from Egypt, the Lord’s Supper recalls our Savior’s greater rescue of his people from sin, Satan, and the grave.  Just as a lamb died at the first Passover and people were saved by the blood of the lamb, so Jesus is our lamb “who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29), and “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Eph 1:7).  Just as OT worshipers participated in the commemoration by eating the Passover lamb, so we have communion with the Savior and with fellow believers by eating and drinking his body and blood in the Sacrament.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 146)

 

On the Sunday before Passover this road was thronged with people.  For this day was a special day.  It was lamb selection day.  It was the day people came to choose a perfect lamb for the Passover that would soon follow and among the crowd, riding on a donkey that day, was a lamb.

Jesus’ descent into Jerusalem along the road here on the side of the Mount of Olives, was not simply coming as a triumphant king on a donkey.  But it had to do with Jesus showing up to go up to this city to die on a day that the lamb was picked.  It is almost as if God is saying to the world, “Here is my  lamb.   Will you chose Him?” . . . Jesus has made a very clear statement by the day he chose to come into Jerusalem.  He is saying, “Have you recognized who I am?”   (Ray VanderLaan, “That the World May Know”; Set 4, Faith Lesson 23; The Lamb of God)

 

Although the book of Hebrews declares that the ceremonial and festival calendar of ancient Israel is rendered obsolete through the sacrifice of Christ, remarkably the Passover is not actually abrogated.  Instead, it is radically transformed.  At his Last Supper, which was itself the Passover meal, Jesus declares himself the Passover Lamb, through whose death the judgment of God is averted and the redemption of his people is bought.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 396)

 

GAB:  Jesus and Firstfruits/Pentecost

 

Just as the firstfruits came before the rest of the crop, so Jesus rose as the first of a greater harvest to come.  And just as the firstfruits was a type of guarantee or down payment for the fuller harvest, so the resurrection of Jesus guarantees that we who have received Him will likewise be resurrected.  The same God who gives life to the natural creation will give life to His people as well.  (David Brickner, Rich Robinson, Christ in the Feast of Pentecost, 127)

 

What is the “inheritance” that Paul mentions (Eph 1:13-14)?  It is the fullness of redemption that God has promised us, our eternal relationship with God in a new resurrected body, and in a new heaven and new earth.  The Spirit is the “firstfruits” of an even deeper, fuller relationship with God that is to come.  Sometimes this is described as the “now but not yet” reality:  we have begun to experience our final destiny with God, but we have not yet experienced its fullness.  (David Brickner, Rich Robinson, Christ in the Feast of Pentecost, 131)

 

Pentecost marks the completion of Christ’s redemptive work.  Following His resurrection He ascended into heaven and presented Himself as the first fruits of a coming harvest.  On that occasion He took “into the Holy Place…his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” for His people (Heb 9:12).  In this sense Pentecost both consummates Easter and represents its fullness.  When the Father accepted this sacrifice “for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn 2:2) and exalted Him on high, the Father and the Son together sent forth the Spirit–the gift of the new covenant.  Pentecost thereby marks “a watershed in salvation history,” the beginning of a new age under a new covenant.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Vol. Three, 758)

 

While the NT never mentions the Festival of Weeks by this name, “Pentecost” is mentioned three times (Acts 2:1, 20:16; 1 Cor 16:8).  If this festival involved covenant ceremonies (including the reading of the Decalogue), as some suggest, then the significance of the events of Pentecost described in Acts 2 is heightened dramatically.  Believers in Jesus specifically have become the heirs of the covenant.  Indeed, the book of Acts traces the expansion of the boundaries of the covenant community with the recurrence of these “Pentecostal” phenomena to include Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17), Gentile proselytes in Judea (10:44-48; cf. 9:17), and people of Asia Minor, including Gentiles (19:1-6).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 396)

 

GAC:  Jesus and Booths/Tabernacles

 

Jesus uses the Feast of Booths to make some of his most bold Messianic promises as Jesus’ statements in John 6-10 come in the close proximity of the Feast of Booths.  It is interesting to note Jesus’ point to Himself, as the Great I AM, as the fulfillment of what happened in the wilderness wandering that the Feast of Booths commemorates.

 

But when we look at His next statement, remember that it is on the heels of Hoshana Rabba.  Perhaps only a span of eight hours had passed.

It was nighttime.  The giant candelabras still stood in the Court of the Women illuminating the night sky all around Jerusalem.  Jesus used this dramatic backdrop to counter one of the statements made against Him–that the Messiah would not come from Galilee.  He made a second astounding claim:  “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (Jn 8:12 NASB).  (David Brickner, Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles, 100)

 

Whereas the light from those candelabra would come and go, Jesus claimed to be the Light of the World.  His invitation was, if you follow Me, you’ll never walk in darkness.  No need to wait another year to see the glorious light from the Tabernacles’ celebration.  Jesus invited people to come to Him, to step into the Light even as He spoke.

When Jesus claimed to be the Light, He wasn’t simply claiming to be an outstanding teacher.  He wasn’t merely offering to point out the correct way.  Remember, the illumination ceremony was a symbol of an ever-present God who, during the wilderness wanderings, graced the Israelites with His provision and presence through the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.  The Light stood for the Shekinah Glory of God.  Remember how the Shekinah glory filled Solomon’s Temple, and the desire the Jewish people had to see the Temple once again filled with light?

When Jesus stood in the Temple claiming to be the Light of the World, He was making a radical statement.  Those who say that Jesus never claimed to be God have not dealt with this statement.  To stand in the middle of the Temple in conjunction with the Feast of Tabernacles and say, “I am the Light” was like saying, “I am the Shekinah, I am the pillar of fire.”  It’s hard to imagine a more graphic claim to deity.  (David Brickner, Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles, 102-3)

 

Those who had eyes to see the spiritual destitution of the land at that time would not only be praying for rain and water, but for an outpouring of God’s Spirit.  They were living under Roman oppression.  There had been no true High Priest since the times of the Maccabees.  The Sadducees were controlling the Temple.  The nation was spiritually bankrupt.  Even the Holy of Holies was empty and dry.

Jesus chose this context, Hoshana Rabba–the last day and perhaps the most dramatic moment of the festival–to make a most dramatic statement about Himself.  He stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (Jn 7:37-38).  (David Brickner, Christ in the Feast of Tabernacles, 96-7)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Take time every day to remember Who God is and What He has done and the promises He has made.  But, especially take time during the Sabbath and Holydays.

 

Spiritual Challenge from April 25th, 2010 message:  I would like to challenge you to set up some sort of “memorial stone”, or “booths” in your life that will cause you to remember from time to time where you were and how God has faithfully, providentially and lovingly delivered you from your past.

 

There is a universal human tendency to use the yearly cycle for various celebrations.  Religion has been wise, both in capitalizing on this psychological requirement and in seizing upon time-honored pagan celebrations, converting them to nobler use; e.g., Christmas is a wonderful transformation under incarnate Grace of the pagan Saturnalia.  The religious calendar is further valuable for its periodic emphasis on one and then another particular religious affirmation.  Convictions otherwise too easily neglected are thus brought repeatedly before the mind, and their dramatizing vitalizes the practice of religion; e.g., from Advent to Trinity the Christian’s attention is centered on the life of Jesus, his incarnation, the basic teachings and events of his ministry, his atonement, his resurrection, his ascension.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 434)

 

Admittedly, apart from the Lord’s Supper, the NT never prescribes specific festivals and celebrations for God’s new covenant people.  However, this should not be interpreted to suggest we need not bother with commemorative rituals and events.  On the contrary, the church as a whole and individual congregations in particular would do well to establish memorial festivals that bind us to believers everywhere (Easter, Pentecost, Christmas, etc.) and to keep alive in our minds the reality of God’s work on our behalf.  But even as we celebrate the ecumenical festivals of the church year and the commemorative festivals of our local congregations, like the ancient Israelites we must beware of the danger of mere externalism.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 397)

 

So What?:  When we remember Who God is, what He has done and the promises He has made, we can find the wherewithal to face trials, sufferings, pain, loss and trouble.  (Jn 16:33; Rom 5:1-5; 8:18-25; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Pt 1:3-9)

 

Dead orthodoxy is being content with where we are in our relationship to God.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Revival, 68ff)

 

We can become so shallow and “content” with our addiction to things that we cease to look for anything deeper and more satisfying (Deuteronomy).   We no longer groan (Romans 8) looking forward to a heavenly kingdom and a heavenly world (Hebrews 11 and 1 or 2 Peter).  In fact, we can become so content with this world that we are dull and anaesthetized to all that God has for us.  We fail to be repentant because we are confident we have all that life can offer. — Pastor Keith

 

Charles Spurgeon said, “When we bless God for mercies we prolong them, and when we bless Him for miseries we usually end them.  Praise is the honey of life, which a devout heart sucks from every bloom of providence and grace.  We may as well be dead as be without praise; it is the crown of life.”  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 204) 

JESUS:

FEAST FULFILLMENT

 

 

 

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