May 3, 1998, posted June 19, 1998
I was reviewing my lessons for Sunday School, and I came across this verse in Exo. 23:14-19.
These can be called "laws of rejoicing." These laws are the basis of many laws throughout Scripture. I placed several in the bulletin, so I will only refer to the one --- Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, rejoice.
1) Three times a year all the males (v. 17) were commanded by the Lord to appear before him in the place appointed by the Lord. The males were probably above 20 years of age, and this did not exclude women and boys. The men had to be there, and the women were optional.
2) They were forbidden to appear before him empty, v. 15. They had to have something with them. What they brought was for a sacrifice to the Lord, to share with the teachers of God's word and for a personal feast.
3) Three feasts:
V. 15, Feast of unleaven bread.. This was a yearly reminder of the redemption of the Lord from Egyptian bondage. This feast celebrated redemption.
V. 16, Feast of harvest.. This was at the beginning of the fall harvest, and celebrated the fact that the Lord was going to bless one's labour.
Notice the words, which thou hast sown in the field. This feast celebrated faith; they sowed by faith, and they were now going to start reaping what they had sown by faith. This feast reminded them that the bounty of the harvest depended upon the Lord and his goodness to them. It did not depend upon their own hard work though they had to work hard.
This was Pentecost, 50 days after passover.
V. 16,and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field. This celebrated the goodness and the bounty of the Lord that they had experienced in the harvest.
4) V. 18, 19, even though these were feasts of rejoicing in the goodness of the Lord's redemption and blessing, the people were not free to do as they pleased. They still had certain restrictions placed upon their feasting.
V. 18, apparently is referring to the passover feast.
V. 19, the firstfruits refers back to v. 16, and the feast of harvest.
This offering was the first of the whole, and was separate from the tithe on the increase.
Though it was required of God's people, there was no minimum amount that had to be given to the Lord. The size of this offering was determined by the joyfulness and thanksgiving of the individual for the Lord's goodness to him.
Some time ago, we were asking for money to replace the front doors. A family gave over their normal tithe to purchase new doors, and others gave to have them finished. That kind of giving is what is spoken of here. They gave because they loved the Lord. If we love the Lord and are grateful for what he has done for us, we should joyfully give over and above what is required in the tithe. The amount of the gift is determined by how much we love him.
This offering was to be shared with the teachers of God's word.
Of course, this offering spoke of the coming of Christ, the Firstfruits of the dead, 1 Cor 15:20-28.
FIRST, Feast.. it is interesting that the Lord commands time of feasting, not fasting (latter in the NT, the Lord said, When ye fast, do not as...).
Fasting is a sign of sorrow and heaviness over sin.
Feasting is a sign of rejoicing.
Thus, God's people are to rejoice over the blessings of God in the midst of this life of labour, toil and trouble. God's people are not only commanded to rejoice but are able to rejoice in all things (and again I say, Rejoice) and in the midst of the turmoil of this world.
Isa 26:1-3, In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. 2 Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. 3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
We are told in Heb 12:22 that this strong city is the church, or the body of Christ. The joy and perfect peace of v. 3 is only available to those who have found the salvation of the Lord.
Rom 15:5 Now the God of patience and consolation
grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ
Jesus: 6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God,
even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Wherefore receive
ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.
8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision
for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:
9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it
is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles,
and sing unto thy name. 10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles,
with his people. 11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles;
and laud him, all ye people. 12 And again, Esaias saith, There
shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over
the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. 13 Now the God
of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye
may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Rom. 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Romans 5 goes on to explain salvation. Thus, the rejoicing of God's people is based in their redemption by the blood of the Lamb. We not only can but we are required by God to rejoice in our salvation.
Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
The world provides precious little to rejoice over, and if our minds are stayed upon the world and its problems, there can be no rejoicing.
Then what the world does provide for rejoicing over is quickly gone. We may rejoice over a new car or computer, but when the new wares off, the rejoicing is gone.
SECOND, all of these feasts stressed unity among God's people. Their unity was around their love for the Lord and their love for his word. These gatherings were big family gatherings. Their purpose was to promote and preserve brotherly love and family unity.
In the OT, the Lord required his people to get together in rejoicing in their God's goodness to them. Today, the Lord God encourages his people to get together and feast and rejoice in his goodness. They should make opportunities to get to get together and rejoice in the goodness of the Lord: Cookouts, fellowship dinners, picnics, &c. These are things that help build love and unity among God's people.
In Joshua chapter 22 (9ff), when Joshua released the 2 1/2 tribes to go back home, they built an alter with the stated purpose of keeping unity within the 12 tribes. However, God had already given the law which would bring about unity: three appearances a year in Jerusalem for a time of feasting and celebrating. But these men felt that they could improve upon what the Lord had given. Fallen man thinks he can improve upon God's word.
THIRD, it is surprising how many feast days the people were to set aside. The life of a child of God is to be one of feasting, rejoicing and enjoying life. Furthermore, there were no days set aside by the Lord for mourning over the difficulties of life. However, there would be days proclaimed by their leaders and even by the Lord as days of mourning over sin and wickedness.
These feast laws assume that God's people are living pleasing to the Lord. This kind of people have no cause for sorrow and mourning.
FOURTH, we should celebrate with feasting important events in our family's life: birthdays, anniversaries, salvation dates, or maybe even dates of getting a good job. Remembrances are important, or the Lord would not have commanded feasts of remembrances.
Every family should set aside a child's birthday for a very special day for the family. That child must know that he or she is important to the family.
FIFTH, these were not one day events as we have now. These feasts were extended events of at least a week. In fact, the feast of firstfruits was eight days long. Thus, the total number of days off just for these three feasts was at least 21 days a year.
When a people are free from covetousness and the desire to have more, bigger and better, they are able to live a life of freedom. God himself set aside a minimum of 21 vacation days a year, as well as a sabbath year.
SIXTH, God did not make man to work all the time; God did not intend for life to be a burden with no rest. Sin turns one's occupation into an endless burden with no rest.
Isa 57:19 I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him. 20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. 21 There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
God made no provision for retirement other than passing the family business on to the next generation, and the children providing for their parents when the parents are unable to work.
(DONNY MILES --- Emerald Acers. He is not retired, but is turning the business over to his children, who now run the business.)
God did make many provisions for rest, relaxation and rejoicing in the blessings which he provided for his faithful people. Families, both spiritual and physical, should enjoy one another, and they should make arrangements to do that.
SEVENTH, these three feasts continually reminded Israel that they were God's people: their God commanded them to appear personally before him!
Our God is the only living God. And he personally commands his people. His commands are for their well being.
The Lord promised to protect Israel's land from their enemies if they were obedient to Him throughout the year and then went to these feasts.
It is interesting that the enemies NEVER attacked Israel during their obedience to any of these feasts. In the 1500 years of Israel's history, only one time were they attacked during a feast. That was in 70 AD when Israel was judged for putting Christ to death.
Our God is a living God, the redeemer of his people.
Almost 2,000 years before Christ, and in the midst of unbelievable suffering and turmoil, Job said:
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me. (19:25-27.)
Because Job knew his redeemer lived, he could rejoice in turmoil and loss. Because he lives we can rejoice in the midst of the strife, turmoil and confusion around us.
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, rejoice.