There are a lot of days that I drag my feet to read the Bible. I get sucked into thinking it’s on me to figure out what God’s written and to write something profound.
But I miss the party.
Today, there’s a whole lotta partyin’ going on. Even for all my foot dragging, I couldn’t miss it.
Some of the highlights in the first 15 verses include: “Celebrating…God delivered you… holiday; don’t work…Feast…God has blessed you…Rejoice…observe the Feast…Rejoice at your festival…celebrate the feast to God…your God has been blessing you…really celebrate!” 16:1-15, MSG, emphasis added.
Celebrating is God’s idea. Special week-long events marked the ancient Hebrew calendar at least three times a year, 16:16-17. But the regular worship at God’s house included celebrating, too, 12:11-28.
It’s easy to forget that God invented eating and drinking and enjoying each other’s company. It’s easy to forget that God loves a good party. It’s easy to focus on the offerings in the Old Testament as a kind of payback-to-God for messing up.
But God says he doesn’t need them. They’re not for his benefit. He doesn’t get hungry. What does he want with the blood of bulls and goats anyway? Is 1:11; Ps 50:7-13.
The sacrifices benefited his people. Some of the offerings the Israelites were required to bring were burned completely as commanded, but others were grilled and given back to the Israelites. The priest and Levites got their prime cuts, and the rest was eaten right there at the tabernacle, a delicious dinner-on-the-grounds for everybody else, 15:19-23; 12:11-28.
It wasn’t a spicy chicken sandwich at the drive thru, either. It was a sit down meal with bread and wine, eaten with friends and family, thoroughly enjoyed in God’s presence.
What were they celebrating?
The offerings in the Old Testament were a way to say to God “thank you” or “I want a right relationship with you again” after sin. The feasting afterwards was God’s way of saying, “You’ve got it. We’re good. Let’s celebrate!”
The only thing required of them was the repenting. God provided everything else, including the meat on the spit and the wine and the keg.
It was the famous prodigal son’s return home celebration for everyone. They said the “I’m undeserving” part with their offerings, and God said, “Here’s my robe for your rags. Wear my ring. What’ll it be, lamb or veal?” Luke 15.
In the story of the prodigal son, God doesn’t emphasize the “woe is me” part of coming back to him. The son hardly has a chance to say his part about not being worthy of the father, because the father’s so eager to move on and get to his part—rejoicing over the son’s return and celebrating him.
God’s not half-hearted when it comes to celebrating, either. “Really celebrate” God tells them. This is what we’re made for. De 16:15, MSG, emphasis added.
Jesus didn’t turn water into wine at the wedding in Cana to drown sorrows. He did it to celebrate a love relationship. God’s all about the “happily-ever-after,” Jn 2:1-11.
He wants our feasts and weddings and off-days to be regular occasions of exultation, of exuberance, of dancing and singing and praising with him, because being in relationship with him is what life’s all about. And being restored to him, time and time again, is the very best reason to celebrate there is.
Sin doesn’t win. Our mistakes don’t pile up and tip the scale into God’s disfavor. He keeps short accounts. He wipes our slates clean. He brings out the bleach and scrubs us up. He tosses mistakes into the sea. And then he says, “Come dance with me!” Mi 7:19; Ps 51:7; Ps 103; 2 Sam 6:14.
The longing of every heart is to be loved by God, to be in his good graces, to be pleasing and seen and accepted and validated by the One who made us and delights in us. This is what Jesus died to give us–a continual, inexhaustible supply of forgiveness and grace, a lifetime pass into God’s presence where he says,
“You are my beloved one. I’m so pleased with you. Let’s get this party started!”
Jesus tells his disciples he will suffer, and if they follow him, they will, too. Lk 8:40-9:27.
Don’t say he didn’t warn you. “Don’t run from suffering. Embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how,” 9:23 MSG.
But it’s not an ascetic’s life Jesus calls us to. Suffering is a doorway into deeper relationship with him, not an end in itself. It’s another way to experience his fellowship, comfort, and glory, “…we share in his sufferings that we may also share in his glory,” Ro 8:17, 2 Co 1:4, 12:9-10 NIV; Ph 3:10 NASB.
And it’s the way to find your truest self. “Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.” Suffering is the door into more, not less. 9:21-25 MSG; Ro 5:3-5, 1 Pe 5:10 NIV.
Solomon’s psalm must’ve been written in his early years as king before his wealth and wives and war machine distract him from loving God first-and-best.
In a nutshell, he tells God’s people to praise and bless God because he’s worthy and good and glorious. “All earth brims with his glory,” 72:20, MSG.
The praise here feels fresh and heartfelt, and King Sol finds plenty of reasons to lay it on thick. It’s sad to remember that later, he succumbs to sexual addiction, greed, and idolatry, losing his wisdom and mind, right along with his golden reputation, 1 Ki 11:3-4.
“Staying the course” doesn’t happen by accident. Faith doesn’t work on auto pilot. It’s a deliberate, daily choice to do what God says and to love him best, the step-by-step walk to finish well.
Jesus says living God’s way is the road to our best self. He throws in parties along the way and good meals with friends. He lets suffering in, too, to connect us to him, because he knows that left to ourselves, we won’t come to him nearly enough, much less celebrate when we get there.
Praise is our party ticket. It’s an indicator that we’re looking to God and not to self. It’s a little gut check…a day-off…a Xanax, all rolled into one and good on so many levels. It’s partying at its best.
Thank you, God, that the things you ask of me are good for me. Pull me into your party over and over until I stick.
Deuteronomy 16-17, Luke 9, and Psalm 72 are selected for today in The One Year Bible.