Holidays can be Holy Days
What are your favorite memories of Christmas? How did you dress for Easter when you were a child? What was your family tradition for Thanksgiving? Ever wonder where the idea for holidays came from? Well, Leviticus 23 gives us a great picture of their origins. “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, these are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.”
There were three main feasts given and other related celebrations tied to the main three. After a reminder to celebrate the Sabbath weekly (hint, hint for us too), the first key feast was the Passover (Vs. 4-8). Passover gathered the people together to remember the amazing rescue God had provided for Israel from the Egyptians. It is also a precursor to the ultimate rescue God provided for His people at the cross of Christ. Connected to that feast was the weeklong feast of Unleavened Bread. This feast was a reminder of the quick escape of the people and also God’s command to quit using yeast for that period of time, which was a symbol of putting aside all sin.
The next main feast was the First Fruits Festival (Vs. 9-14) and the Feast of Weeks followed it (Vs. 15-22). In a highly agrarian society, these feasts were especially powerful in remembering that God alone provides us with all we need to live. It was a way of publically bearing witness to our dependence of God. My daughter was in the play “Oklahoma” recently and the cast sings, “We know we belong to the land and the land we belong to is grand.” I get that picture in my mind when I read this passage in Leviticus. The people knew they depended on what the land provided and they made the statement clear through these two festivals. They recognized God was the one who provided the land.
Thirdly, the feasts of trumpet anticipated Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement (Vs. 23-33). This was the day the high priest entered the most holy place with the prescribed blood, to cover both his own sins and the sins of the people. Again, this points to the grace of God where we find mercy.
All of these feasts call out to the church. Whether you call them “holy days” or “holidays” we must take days to step back from our crazy, fast pace to create space in our lives to celebrate God’s provisions, to lay our sins at the Cross of Jesus and start anew based on the rescue of God for our own souls.
Tips for Reading- (Interpretation tip #21)
Note: This section is help for Bible Reading in general. It will be building throughout the year under the topics of Observation (what the Scripture says), Interpretation (what it means) and Application (what it means to your life). Feel free to look back over last week to get the whole picture.
While I was reading, The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg, I was reminded that an important part of interpretation is meditation, or inviting the Holy Spirit to help you interpret what’s going on in the text and in your heart.
Don’t be afraid of the word “meditation.” I’m not getting New Age on you. Meditation is a process saints have used for millenniums. As you read the passage for the day, highlight what jumps out to you. At the end of your reading take a few minutes and focus on one of the phrases you have highlighted.
An example of this could be stopping and meditating on Leviticus 23:3, “six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all you dwelling places.”
You could try to meditate on what it means to celebrate a day of the week. If you thought about the Sabbath, it could lead you to change your weekly schedule. It could slow you down for one day and cause you to be more of thankful, rather than thinking of all you must do. You could remember how you have been delivered and be thankful. You could think of your struggles and confess them to God. Mainly, this would help you renew your relationship with God and be resolved by His grace, in order to resist enslavement of the past.
All these ideas come from meditating on Scripture and letting the Spirit interpret what you read. Give it a try and see if it helps bridge the gap between the ancient world and your heart. Grace and Peace.
Notes from David’s Journal
Within this passage, the chapter with the most spiritual meaning to me is chapter 25: the year of the Jubilee. Every 50 years, all slaves were set free and debts cancelled. God was making sure that no people ever became a permanent slave people. He was also making sure that no person ever became a permanent slave because of financial debt. Bottom line: God wanted all His children free, free from another’s oppression and free from the financial indebtedness that causes life to be filled with worry and fear, not freedom.
In the New Testament, we hear Jesus saying, in His first message ever, that He came to fulfill the year of the Jubilee. Wow! Think about that one for a while. Jesus came to set us free! We are free from the bondages and ravages of sin. We are free to live without another imposing bondage on us. We are free to live as God intended us to live as His children, not as slaves.
Galatians 5:1 says that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free! We are no longer to be under the yoke, or bondage, of sin and slavery. The Law no longer defines our relationship with God. It is grace and grace alone. We are God’s children, birthed by His grace and mercy. Our works don’t define God’s love any more!
For Christians then, every year is the year of the Jubilee! We are free. What Good News!