“Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt. . . . Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year. Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel. I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the Lord your God.”—Exodus 34:18, 22–24 (NIV)
Have you ever been to a festival? Perhaps it was a lantern festival like in the Disney movie Tangled, a cultural festival, or a food festival. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a festival is “a time of celebration marked by special observances.” Therefore, festivals are not merely parties or gatherings, but they have a purpose behind their celebration! Historically, festivals have often been associated with religious celebrations, and that is what we find in our Scripture passage for today.
In the Lord’s instruction to the Israelites in this chapter, He spends quite a bit of time instructing them on how to celebrate their specific festivals throughout the year. These festivals include the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Ingathering also known as the Feast of Booths, and the Feast of Weeks. Each of these festivals would commemorate a specific instance in Israelite history and point to the faithfulness and sovereignty of their God. Although we may not talk about or celebrate these festivals much as Christians who are not ethnically Jewish, we should not completely ignore or disregard them. If we truly believe that everything in the Word of God is inspired and breathed by the Creator Himself, then we must also recognize there are eternal principles and practical applications that can come from His Scripture. Consequently, let’s look at what each of these festivals have in common: remembrance, gratitude, and worship.
During each of these festivals, God instructs His people to celebrate by remembering His faithfulness in delivering them from slavery and providing for them in the wilderness. This is why they would often replicate the conditions of those times by living in booths or eating unleavened bread and making other sacrifices. In these acts of remembrance, they would grow a grateful heart and worship the Lord. It’s even considered a spiritual discipline to engage in regular celebration and to practice being grateful, which is why God spends so much time giving these instructions to His people!
Looking at each of these festivals, we can see that God’s faithful love is everlasting and should be celebrated not just spontaneously, but in an ordered way as well. Perhaps understanding and valuing these festivals will lead us to be more intentional with our calendar celebrations of God and all He has done for us. Instead of simply leaving celebration to the major Christian holidays, perhaps we can take a deeper look into our rich biblical history and remember our God for all He has done!
Pause: Have you taken time recently to remember God’s faithfulness in your own life and in the stories of Scripture? What can you reflect on to remind yourself of that?
Practice: Take time today to reflect on God’s faithfulness in your own life through big and little instances. Also, take some time to reflect on the purpose of these festivals in Jewish culture and how they can also be celebrated in our faith.
Pray: Father God, You are El Emunah, the faithful God. Thank You for who You are and all You have done throughout my life and the history of the world. I praise You today for Your commitment to Israel in the Old Testament and Your commitment to our salvation through their story. Thank You that I am a part of Your people because of Christ and His final sacrifice! May I never stop remembering these truths and Your character. I love you, Lord. Amen.