Tag Archives: jews

Re-enacting to remember [God’s heart for the holidays, part 2]

6 Nov
Image result for gettysburg reenactment smoke

A few years ago the Gettysburg Battlefield celebrated the 150th anniversary of the terrible and momentous events of July 1-3, 1863 during our nation’s Civil War.  Because my family lives about an hour away, we visited the battlefield hoping to see re-enactors.  While we were there before any full battle re-enactment took place, at one point we viewed a company of soldiers perform various rifle assault formations, including firing their weapons.  It was eye-opening for me to see the variations used, as well as the amount of smoke their rifles emitted.  If the wind was low during the original battle, the smoke could have been like thick fog across the fields.  Re-enactment gave me a whole new perspective. 

In this series of posts we’re talking about God’s heart for holidays, and today we’re going to see how re-enactment is very important to God.  I don’t think I ever encountered that phrase before: God’s heart for holidays.  But as we continue studying Deuteronomy 16, God very clearly has a desire for his people to have regular holidays.  Why?  Doesn’t it seem like the God of the universe should have bigger things to fuss over than holidays?  Keep reading, and perhaps we can find out.

Yesterday we talked about how one particular ritual was embedded in many of Israel’s feasts and holidays, and that is the ritual of sacrifice.  In this post, we are going look at the first of three feasts described in Deuteronomy 16 in which Israel performed  sacrifices would take place: Passover, Pentecost (or Weeks) and Tabernacles. As we read about them, we’ll see that God gives the times of the year when these feasts are to take place.  The image below presents an annual calendar of when the various feasts take place, and you’ll notice that there are other feasts not mentioned in Deuteronomy 16.

Before continuing with this post, read Deuteronomy 16:1-8, which talks about the Feast Unleavened Bread and Passover. During the celebration of Passover, Israel was to sacrifice a firstborn animal at the place God chose as a dwelling for his name.  We already heard God, in 15:20, refer to the place he would choose as a dwelling, and he will mention it a number of times in the rest of the passage as well.  So what is this place? 

Remember that Deuteronomy is the second telling of the law.  Thus, these feasts have already been commanded of God previously.  Your Bibles most likely list the Scripture references where you can read the first time that God commanded these feasts. Passover, for example, is previously described in Exodus 12, Leviticus23 and Numbers 28.

You know what that means?  These are not new festivals.  In fact, the people of Israel have already been observing them every year for about 40 years.  So that place where God says they should come, the place that he will choose for his dwelling, that would have been the tabernacle, and eventually, hundreds of years later during the reign of King Solomon, that place would be the temple in the city of Jerusalem. Look ahead to verse 16, and we see that they were to go on a pilgrimage three times every year to this place. One pilgrimage for each of the feasts we are learning about.  That’s where they are to go with their firstborn and celebrate the Passover. 

See that word, “celebrate” in verse 1.  It literally means “prepare” or “keep” the Passover.  It has much more to do with the practice of observing the holiday.  No doubt about it, we’re going to get to the rejoicing and celebrating part.  But here in verse 1, God is instituting the habit of regular holidays.  This same word “celebrate” is repeated in verse 10 and verse 13.  It is the same Hebrew word that refers to preparing or keeping the holiday. 

That is very instructive.  God wants his people to habitually, every year, observe these feasts, these holidays, and for a reason!  What reason?

God wants them to regularly remember his amazing miraculous power that freed them from slavery in Egypt.  The word “Passover” refers to the last of ten plagues that God sent on Egypt in the process of freeing Israel from slavery. 

That final plague was the one where God said the firstborn (there’s that again) child of every family would die, unless they covered the frames of their doorways with the blood of an animal sacrifice.  That blood was the sign to God’s angel that the house was to be passed over and the firstborn inside would be saved.  All the people of Israel performed the sacrifice, used the blood to mark their doorways, and they were saved.  The Egyptians did not do this, however, and their firstborn died, leading the Egyptian king Pharaoh to finally allow Moses to lead Israel to freedom.  So the people of Israel gathered their belongings quickly, and left, beginning the long journey toward the Promised Land.

If you look through the description of the holiday in Deuteronomy 16, you see that God wants his people every year to re-enact what happened during the original Passover.  Of course it is not a total re-enactment, but there are elements of the celebration that remind them of the original story.

See how they enter into the drama and story of the event?  Every part of it is an act of remembering, as he says in verse 3.

We did this a few years ago when we had a Passover Seder dinner here.  It was so great to hear the story of Passover from a Messianic Jew, and learn of all the connections between Israel’s deliverance from slavery and the whole world’s deliverance from sin in Jesus’ death and resurrection.  What we see about God’s heart for the holidays, then, is that he wants his people to remember, and he wants them to practice remembering on a regular basis. 

In part 3 of this series we’ll look at the two other feasts mentioned in Deuteronomy 16, and as we study those feasts, we’ll continue to learn about God’s heart for the holidays.

Moses’ fireside chat: Introducing Deuteronomy, a bold, risky book of truth-telling

28 Aug

Related imageI want you to imagine a scene with me.  In this scene older adults sit down with their family.  Splayed out around them are their kids, grandkids, and maybe even great-grandkids.  The older adult then starts telling the family history.  They include the familiar stories, and they tell ones never heard.

What I am describing is a fairly common scenario.  Maybe you have that one grandparent that loves to tell stories.  In our family it is my father-in-law.  He is a story teller, and he loves to talk about the pranks he pulled in college and when he and my mother-in-law were missionaries in Africa for 6 months and he shot big game.

The scenario of an older adult telling family stories tends to focus on “when I grew up in the Depression” or “When I fought in the war”. But how often do the stories tell the personal details of family failure?  Would a grandparent talk with their grandkids about how the grandparent really messed up, or how the grandkids’ parents really messed up?

Would they tell the good, the bad and the ugly?

We are very used to the public airing of dirty laundry of celebrities or politicians.  But not so much of our own.  We really appreciate our privacy.  It can be hard for us to hear the bad things.  At funerals we rarely talk about the person who passed in a negative light.  You get the idea that they were perfect and amazing.  But the family knows the true story.  The person who passed, like us all, had their faults.

Too often we just hide our faults, and we don’t talk about our mistakes.

What if older adults did broke with tradition?  What if we made a practice of reviewing the good, the bad and the ugly with our families?   What if we review the way of the Lord with our families?

At Faith Church this past Sunday, we started a sermon series through an Old Testament book that is just like that.

In the book of Deuteronomy, for the most part, Moses is sitting down with the nation of Israel to review what they have gone through.  The good, the bad, the ugly.  As we study Deuteronomy, we get to hear wisdom from Moses, as he reviews the work of God, and the Law of God, with the people of Israel.  We’ll hear a very courageous and shocking group of stories from Moses.  When the people totally screwed up, he reminds them of it.  He doesn’t excuse himself either.  And he doesn’t excuse God.  There are some stories where Moses tells about his own failures, and there are some things he says about God that will leave us scratching our heads.  These are not the tidy stories we’re accustomed to hearing.

So what about you?  Who can you tell stories to?  Has God given you kids or grandkids?  Maybe employees?  Maybe someone that you are seeking to invest in?  How can you sit down with them and have a fireside chat like Moses?  Tell the the good, for sure, but will you also tell them the bad, the ugly?  As Moses does with the Israelites, we can do with those God has placed in our lives.  The Israelites needed to hear the truth.  The whole truth.  The needed the real picture of what got their people to this point.  Our families and friends need the same from us.  Who can you can tell the truth to?