So this year I’ve decided to celebrate all of the holidays God commanded His people to remember in the Bible. In Leviticus 23, God gives His people seven holidays to celebrate each year, along with instructions for how to go about each of them. The fall season has Rosh HaShanah, Day of Atonement and Sukkot, and spring has Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Pentecost. I’m going to get my celebrate on all year long!
I decided to celebrate the biblical feasts for a couple of reasons. First of all, I’m an Old Testament major, so stuff like this is interesting to me. Secondly, these are holidays that God commanded for His people. The Jews didn’t make them up or randomly decide to celebrate a special event (pretty much every single holiday we Americans celebrate); they just followed what God had asked of them. Third, I have been a Christian my entire life, and I feel like I know the Bible pretty well; however, I knew next to nothing about these biblical holidays.
I’ve been blogging about each holiday as they’ve come about, and it’s been such a fascinating process. I’m learning so much about what the Bible has to say, why God wanted His people to remember in these specific ways, traditions the Jewish people have built around these holidays, and — most importantly — I’m clearly seeing God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in every single one of the celebrations.
The most recent holiday was Sukkot (or The Feast of Tabernacles). For seven days each year, God commanded His people to live in sukkahs (temporary shelters) so that they would remember what it was like to live in the wilderness those 40 years before they entered the Promised Land. So every fall, Jews all over the world build little huts and spend time in them for a week — eating, having friends over, sometimes even sleeping in them. It is a holiday in which people show hospitality to others and kindness to the poor. It is a joyful holiday; we remember that God has provided for all of our needs and will continue to do so.
A recent article in The Washington Post talked about what God teaches us through spending time in a temporary shelter for a week: It is a way to remember that no matter how things are going, God is the one who sustains us:
If one has been blessed — our profits outweigh our expenditures, our portfolio has grown and our wine cellars are full and satisfaction and trust fill our soul — it is at that moment that the Torah tells us to leave our home and dwell in a sukkah. The frail booth teaches us that neither wealth, good investments, IRAs or even real-estate are life’s safeguards. It is God who sustains us all, those in palaces and those in tents. Any glory or wealth we posses came to us from God, and will endure so long as it is God’s will.
And if our toil has not resulted in great blessing — our investments went south, we lost our job and nest-egg, our cellars are empty, and we face the approaching winter with mounting debt and bills, living off credit from month to month, forlorn and fearful for how we will survive — then as we enter the sukkah we find rest for our troubled soul. Divine providence is more reliable than worldly wealth which can vanish in an instant. The sukkah will renew our strength and courage, and teach and inspire us with joy and perseverance even in the face of affliction and hardship.
This has been a year in America where many of us feel like we are in the second category. Investments have been lost, jobs are not secure, the future is uncertain. But even in that uncertainty, we know that God is reliable. We remember that the “Word became flesh and ‘tabernacled’ among us.” We’re reminded that God’s Spirit “tabernacles” in us each moment, sharing the very presence of God with us. This is what Sukkot teaches us — this is why God commanded His people to remember.
As Christians, we are not bound by the Law or forced to celebrate these biblical holidays. But they are a part of our heritage, and they are clearly important to God and His people. I have loved learning more about God’s Word and His desire to see us remember and celebrate (I mean, God commands celebration. This is the kind of command we can get behind, people!).
I’d encourage you to think about celebrating along with me and learning about the commands, traditions and celebrations that God invites us to enjoy.
Have any of you ever celebrated the biblical holidays? What did you think? What did you learn?
Copyright 2011 Denise Morris Snyder. All rights reserved.