celebrating the temporary

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Leviticus 23:33-36

Lev 23:33 And Yahveh spoke to Moses, and this is what he said,
Lev 23:34 “Speak to the people of Israel, and this is what you should say, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Huts to Yahveh.
Lev 23:35 On the first day will be a holy convention; you will not do any ordinary work.
Lev 23:36 For seven days you will present fire offerings to Yahveh. On the eighth day you will hold a holy convention and present a fire offering to Yahveh. It is a solemn assembly; you will not do any ordinary work.

celebrating the temporary

The feast of huts gave the Israelites the opportunity to celebrate their transit in the desert on their way to permanence in the promised land. Those of us who are goal-driven need to stop and figure this out. We are accustomed to thinking of life as a search for the ultimate. God does have an ultimate destiny for those whom he has called to himself. But he is also very much interested in our next breath, and our next step. None of us have arrived at our ultimate destiny, but it is a comfort that God wants us to celebrate the present in addition to anticipating the future. It is all the same to him.

LORD, show us how to stop and celebrate our relationship with you today.

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Leviticus 23:26-32

Lev 23:26 And Yahveh spoke to Moses, and this is what he said,
Lev 23:27 “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Reconciliations. It will be for you a time of holy convention, and you will discipline your souls and present a food offering to Yahveh.
Lev 23:28 And you will not do any work on that very day, because it is a Day of Reconciliations, to provide reconciliation for you in your God Yahveh’s sight.
Lev 23:29 Because every soul who is not disciplined on that very day will be eliminated from his people.
Lev 23:30 And every soul who does any work on that very day, that soul I will destroy from among his people.
Lev 23:31 You will not do any work. It is a permanent prescription throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.
Lev 23:32 It will be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you will discipline your souls. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening will you keep your Sabbath.”


As much as we might want to deny it, words like these cause us inner turmoil. As much as we proclaim our devotion and loyalty to God, there is an impulse within every soul that dares to defy him — to insist on our own sovereignty over ourselves. That inner self is enraged that anyone would dare to tell it that it must stop working for someone else — even God. That inner self laughs at the notion that some other precept is more important than personal liberty.

My point is not that all believers are obligated to keep the festival of Yom Kippur: we are not. Christ’s death on the cross fulfilled that festival as a prophecy. To attempt to keep that festival as a Gentile is to deny the gospel. My point is that in spite of this fact, these words still haunt us, because we still have an impulse to respond to them as many of the Israelites did — with contempt.

LORD, we repent again of the sin of self-sovereignty

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with blast of trumpets

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Leviticus 23:23-25

Lev 23:23 And Yahveh spoke to Moses, and this is what he said,
Lev 23:24 “Speak to the people of Israel, and this is what you should say, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you will observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convention.
Lev 23:25 You will not do any ordinary work, and you will present a fire offering to Yahveh.”

with blast of trumpets

The feast of trumpets introduces a whole month of special celebrations in the covenant community. Are the trumpets intended to instill fear or to provoke excitement and joy. The answer is yes. It all depends on your relationship with God. Just like resurrection day, when the last trumpet will sound. That same trumpet call will rescue the dead in Christ from their mortality and set them free to live forever, so it will be a joyful sound. But that same trumpet will call the angels of heaven to bring death and disaster on the planet as a judgment against all powers that have stolen dominion from the Lord, so it will be a fearsome sound.

LORD, we are straining to hear your trumpet blast. Come and rescue us, and restore your creation.

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national deliverance

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Leviticus 23:15-22

Lev 23:15 “You will count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering.
Lev 23:16 You will count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you will present a new tribute offering to Yahveh.
Lev 23:17 You will bring from wherever you stay two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They will be of fine flour, and they will be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to Yahveh.
Lev 23:18 And you will present with the bread seven perfect lambs a year old, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They will be an ascending offering to Yahveh, with their tribute offering and their drink offerings, a fire offering with a soothing aroma to Yahveh.
Lev 23:19 And you will offer one male goat for a mistake offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice for healthy relationships.
Lev 23:20 And the priest will wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering in Yahveh’s sight, with the two lambs. They will be holy to Yahveh for the priest.
Lev 23:21 And you will make a proclamation on the same day. You will hold a holy convention. You will not do any ordinary work. It is a permanent prescription wherever you stay throughout your generations.
Lev 23:22 “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you will not reap your field right up to its edge, nor will you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You will leave them for the poor and for the temporary resident: I am Yahveh your God.”

national deliverance

The festival of Pentecost was a national celebration. It focused on God’s relationship with the whole people of Israel. The New Testament event that we call Pentecost was also a national miracle, as the participants were all Jews. The book of Acts recounts the story of God’s move to rescue first Jews, then Samaritans, then Gentiles. While each person who experienced that deliverance had a personal faith in God, Pentecost reminds us that God wants to rescue nations, not just individuals. He wants to transform nations so that they reflect his holiness and justice. We see that in the rule about leaving the gleanings for the poor and the temporary resident.

LORD, deliver our nations. Transform them so that they reflect your love and holiness.

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Leviticus 23:9-14

Lev 23:9 And Yahveh spoke to Moses, and this is what he said,
Lev 23:10 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, when you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you will bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest,
Lev 23:11 and he will wave the sheaf in Yahveh’s sight, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest will wave it.
Lev 23:12 And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you will offer a perfect male lamb a year old as an ascending offering to Yahveh.
Lev 23:13 And the tribute offering with it will be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a fire offering to Yahveh with a soothing aroma, and the drink offering with it will be of wine, a fourth of a hin.
Lev 23:14 And you will eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a permanent prescription throughout your generations wherever you stay.


The tribute offering to be given along with the firstfruits presentation was twice the amount as that given to accompany the other festivals. None of the new bread was to be eaten before this offering was made. But on this day, the bread was sanctified for the use of the people, from then on. In the New Testament, Christ is called the firstfruits (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). He is called that because he is the first to be raised to immortal life. He is also called the bread of God (John 6:33). He is God’s provision to give life to the world.

LORD, thank you for our daily bread, and the bread of life who you sent to sustain us forever.

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up time

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Leviticus 23:4-8

Lev 23:4 “These are the appointed feasts of Yahveh, the holy conventions, which you will proclaim at the time appointed for them.
Lev 23:5 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is Yahveh’s Passover.
Lev 23:6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to Yahveh; for seven days you will eat unleavened bread.
Lev 23:7 On the first day you will have a holy convention; you will not do any ordinary work.
Lev 23:8 But you will present a fire offering to Yahveh for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convention; you will not do any ordinary work.”

up time

Notice the prepositional phrases associated with the description of Israel’s feasts:
“feasts of Yahveh”
“Yahveh’s Passover”
“Feast of Unleavened Bread to Yahveh”

The celebrations were to be dedicated to, and centred around Yahveh, the God of the Bible. Their holidays had to be holy days because their entire culture revolved around God. Taking time off of ordinary work meant taking time for God. Their times of rest were not down time, they were up time.

LORD, help us to focus our down time to include up time for You.

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rescue and rest

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Leviticus 23:1-3

Lev 23:1 Yahveh spoke to Moses, and this is what he said,
Lev 23:2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, these are the appointed feasts of Yahveh that you will proclaim as holy conventions; they are my appointed feasts.
Lev 23:3 “Six days will work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convention. You will do no work. It is a Sabbath to Yahveh wherever you stay.

rescue and rest

The LORD listed the Sabbath among the festive celebrations because that is what he intended it to be. It was to be a time set apart every week to celebrate the freedom from bondage bought by the blood of the Lamb. It was to be a celebration of grace, looking forward to the perfect rest promised when the Messiah rules. Jewish legalism turned it into something else, a bondage of works. So, Jesus (the Lord of the Sabbath) had to set the record straight and remind his followers that the Sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28).

Christians are not under any obligation to keep the Sabbath just like we are under no obligation to keep any of the other Jewish celebrations. Paul indicated that Sabbath keeping is an option for us under the new covenant, not an obligation (Romans 14:5). There are many Christians who observe a day of the week (either Saturday or Sunday) as a day of rest and spiritual renewal). It is appropriate to do so as long as you are doing it because of your devotion to the Lord. Under the old covenant, the LORD required Israelites to keep the Sabbath to identify with him, and to celebrate their deliverance from slavery.

LORD, thank you for the rescue we have from sin, and the rest you promise us when Jesus returns. We celebrate our rescue and rest every day.

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mutual sanctification

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Leviticus 22:31-33

Lev 22:31 “So you will keep my commandments and do them: I am Yahveh.
Lev 22:32 And you will not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am Yahveh who sanctifies you,
Lev 22:33 who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am Yahveh.”

mutual sanctification

The LORD uses the same verb to describe his act of delivering Israel from the defilement of the surrounding nations, and the exclusive loyalty that he expects from them. He is sanctifying the Israelites, and expects them to sanctify him alone as their God. He expects their works to flow from his act of grace. So, the whole salvation experience can be described by analogy of the Israelite community in the desert, awaiting the promised land.

LORD, we set you apart as our exclusive God and Father. Teach us to walk in your ways, and so set us apart as your children.

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consecration, not cruelty

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Leviticus 22:26-30

Lev 22:26 And Yahveh spoke to Moses, and this is what he said,
Lev 22:27 “When an ox or sheep or goat is born, it will remain seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it will be acceptable as a fire offering to Yahveh.
Lev 22:28 But you will not kill an ox or a sheep and her young in one day.
Lev 22:29 And when you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to Yahveh, you will sacrifice it so that you may be accepted.
Lev 22:30 It will be eaten on the same day; you will leave none of it until morning: I am Yahveh.

consecration, not cruelty

Calvin commented on this passage that taking an immature animal fresh from the womb to the altar was a sign of contempt toward God, and would make people grow accustomed to cruelty. Our religion is supposed to show respect to God, and foster good habits, not cruel ones. A religion that does harm does not reflect the holiness and fairness of our God.

LORD, give us the courage to change our ways, when we discover that they do not reflect your image.

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only the best

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Leviticus 22:17-25

Lev 22:17 And Yahveh spoke to Moses, and this is what he said,
Lev 22:18 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and all the people of Israel and say to them, when any one of the house of Israel or of the temporary residents in Israel presents an ascending offering as his offering, for any of their solemn pledges or spontaneous voluntary offerings that they offer to Yahveh,
Lev 22:19 if it is to be accepted for you it will be a perfect male, of the bulls or the sheep or the goats.
Lev 22:20 You will not offer anything that has a defect, because it will not be acceptable for you.
Lev 22:21 And when anyone offers a sacrifice for healthy relationships to Yahveh to fulfil a solemn pledge or as a spontaneous voluntary offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there will be no defect in it.
Lev 22:22 Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you will not offer to Yahveh or give them to Yahveh as a fire offering on the altar.
Lev 22:23 You may present a bull or a lamb that has a part too long or too short for a spontaneous voluntary offering, but for a solemn pledge offering it cannot be accepted.
Lev 22:24 Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you will not offer to Yahveh; you will not do it within your land,
Lev 22:25 neither will you offer as the bread of your God any such animals gotten from a foreigner. since there is a defect in them, because of their mutilation, they will not be accepted for you.”

only the best

God only accepted perfect animals for sacrifice. One reason was that each sacrifice was a prophecy of the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross, a reflection of that ultimate work of grace. But there was a social reason as well. God was encouraging his people never to settle for second-rate for themselves either. By setting their standards high in their worship, they were learning to set them high for the quality of their lives. They were learning not to cut corners or produce ordinary work. If they were to reflect the image and glory of the LORD, they must set their standards high.

LORD, make us a people who reflect your high standards.

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