Day 56: Deuteronomy 16-19; Feasts, Kings, and the Future…

There are some interesting parts of our reading today.  We start off with some more information about the feasts that are to be remembered and the rules that go along with them.  I’m sure a lot of this was familiar, at least on some level, as we have read it in the past couple weeks in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.  God continues to impress upon His people the importance of living in right relationship with Him and keeping all of the commandments that He has established.  Each of these feasts is designed to direct the attention of the people of Israel toward God.  The Passover reminds them of God’s power, strength, and faithfulness in bringing the people out of Egypt.  The Feast of Weeks reminds them of God’s providence, sustaining work, and faithfulness in the harvest.  The Feast of Booths also reminds them of God’s providence and faithfulness, but also reminds them of how God guided them in the wilderness and kept them even in their disobedience.  This, again, is all about worship and about loving the Lord with your whole self.  Each of these events are major life events in the cycle of the year.  God has set up these times so that the people of Israel may remember always God’s faithfulness towards them.  It is, then, appropriate that this chapter ends by again impressing on the people that they not worship other Gods, ever.

The second thing I noticed in today’s reading was the part about the king.  As you may have noticed, Israel doesn’t have a king currently, and won’t for some time.  In fact, when the people of Israel finally decide that they want a king, there is considerable resistance from Samuel who points to God as their king.  It is important to remember this section, the laws that are for the kings; things like “he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses” and “he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold” will become important later… especially with King Solomon.

Finally, and once again I suppose, there is considerable talk here about the future of Israel.  From kings to future cities, it is important to note that here and now the Lord is telling them all the things that they need to do to obey Him in this new promised land.  In some ways, it was probably easier to follow the Lord when He was right in front of them all the time, leading the way and dwelling in the Tabernacle for all to see.  However, that won’t necessarily be the case once they settle across the vastness of Canaan.  So here and now the Lord is “pre-planning” this out for them, even going so far as to tell them what can and will happen if they don’t follow all these things that He says.  Again, this is a good thing to remember… because they don’t…  However, God is and always will be faithful to His word!

Day 35: Leviticus 21-23; Priests, Offerings, and Festivals… oh my?

Today’s reading contains much of the same in regards to levitical law.  Not that I would want to downplay any particular part of the Bible, because I certainly am not wanting to do that… but I feel like we’ve hit home the Levitical Law, Holiness Code thing in these past couple of days.  The rules for priests continue in this line of thought, perhaps a bit more accentuated being that these particular people are the Priests of the “priests.”  They were the mediators between Israel, the kingdom of priests, and God.  Israel was called to be Holy… the priests were required to be, lest they defile and profane God’s dwelling place and wind up dead.

Today I would like to draw our attention to the later portion of our reading, to the feasts and festivals that are held by the Hebrew people.  You might be thinking “why care about these outdated festivals?”  You would be right in thinking so.  As Christians we really don’t celebrate any of these festivals anymore.  Often times, we struggle just to keep the Sabbath.  What is the point of looking at these things then?  Well, they are, in many ways, the basis for which the Church has crafted the Christian Church year as well.  Some might know this as the “Liturgical Calendar.”  Some might not even know that it exists… or at least you don’t think that you do.  But we celebrate things on it every year… like Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.

There is, however, so much more to the church calendar; a tradition that has been relatively down away with in many of the mainline denominations of the Christian church, much to our loss.  Celebrating the main events like Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost seem important, but their meaning tends to get lost in the shuffle of preparation when there is no foundation for them.  The Liturgical calendar is just that… a foundation…  The image below is a general idea of what the church calendar looks like each year.  Picture it in a circle with “Christ the King Sunday” being the last Sunday of the year, and the first Sunday of Advent being the “Christian New Year.”  This Calendar comes from the website: One Eternal Day.

Church Year Calendar

So what’s the point?  One of the main reasons why the Church calendar has fallen into disuse is a lack of understanding about it (another being it’s over use to the point of making it more important that the important things).  What is the point of the festivals that the Hebrew’s celebrated?  They serve as a reminder, a way of guiding our focus and attention, pointing towards the greater story that we celebrate.  Every year the Hebrews walked through their own story of how God graciously and powerfully provided for them.  Leviticus 23:41-43 points this out:

“Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

All of the other festivals do the same thing… remind them of where they came from and connect their story to the greater story of God, like we spoke about on January 31 with the people always seeking a connection to their Center… to the Divine.  It would have been very easy for them to forget where they came from once they entered into Canaan and settled down, and it can be very easy for us to forget where we’ve come from in the busyness of preparing for Christmas or Easter holidays.  Yet we find ourselves in a greater story… God’s story!  Each year, following the weeks and months (all of which have their purpose and tell part of the story) of the Liturgical Calendar we can be reminded of the life of Jesus, His work on Earth, and the many other very important events that are part of God’s grand story of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration.  We are part of something bigger than ourselves.  We are not isolated in our lives, alone trying to follow after God… the Church Calendar reminds of us this and of the things that God has done for us and for the world!!