The “Feasts” Series  #1




TEXT:         Lev. 23:26-32; 16:3-34;  Num. 29:7-11;  Ex. 30:10


INTRO:       Ever wonder why God gave such elaborate preparations for Israel to do before a feast or worship service?  There are very real and practical reasons for God asking them in the Old Testament to do all these elaborate plans.


Ever gone to a party or celebration of some kind and had a rotten time even though every one else seemed to have a wonderful time?  Why can this happen?  How can one person seem to enjoy themselves while another doesn't enjoy it at all?  The reason probably isn't the party or celebration; it is more likely the PRE-PARTY preparations of our attitudes and plans.


I.E.  If you don't plan to have a good time you'll probably not have a good time!  If you don't plan to be enthusiastic, you'll probably not be enthusiastic...!  If you plan to bring items to share, you'll enjoy partaking of the items there!


The preparations we make mentally and materially will greatly affect the level of enjoyment we experience when at a gathering with others.  It is this truth that makes holidays so special ... we mentally look forward to them with excitement, and we prepare for them materially to add to the fun, thus the mental and material preparations allow us the great joy we experience on the day of these holidays or celebrations ... to some however, holidays are not joyful or fun, their mental and material preparations are nil or negative, and so their holiday fun is nil or negative for them as well!


ILLUS:   I have a 95-year-old grandmother.  No one has heard me preach more than three times without hearing a story about my grandmama.  The saddest thing I can probably say about you is that you'll not get a chance to meet Sweetie Pie.  She lives in New York City, and we are lovers.  I am the second born of her 65-year-old daughter, and she makes me happy.

   We talk on the phone every Sunday night no matter where I am in the world.  When I talk to her or when I see her, as I will next week, it's not drudgery for me to enjoy her presence.

   Over these last forty-three years, I have simply bathed in the sunlight of her presence.  I don't say "Oh, I've got to go see my grandmother."  It's "I get to see Sweetie Pie."

   Until you stop coming to worship as if you have to see God, you'll never know what the Psalmist is talking about.  He says it ought to be your delight to come up into Papa's face and enjoy his presence.  It presupposes a relationship that makes you want to be there.  He says, "When we have the festival, when we have our Sabbath, when we have our convocation, we ought to come with a certain gladness of heart because God is God. -- Richard Allen Farmer, "The 'What's' and the 'Why' of Worship," Preaching Today, Tape No. 150.


PROP. SENT:    The Bible teaches us that a worship service begins before the worship service begins!  The mental and material preparations we make before our worship service will deeply affect the dynamics of our worship of God together.  Prepare with joy and excitement and watch what happens when we worship our Lord!


I.   FASTING   Lev. 23:27a, 28-32; 16:29,31;  Num. 29:7


A.   Requirement of Gathering   Lev. 23:27a,28-32; 16:29,31

1.   "Denial of Self"

a.   This is basic to the Christian life!

b.   In context, it was to be a day for God, not for self.

c.   Hence, "The Lord's day" ... not "my day!"

2.    Self-denial is the mark of maturity.

a.   Babies don't know the meaning of self-denial.

b.   An adult must if he is to succeed as an adult.

c.   We must not stay a "baby" Christian ... maturity came when mom and dad taught us we can't have our own way all the time and we finally learned to live it!

d.   God will teach us this also!

3.    The selfish can never know the joys of giving, love, peace, contentment, friendships, caring, or of growth!

4.    When we come to God we need to know that to receive God's best we must prepare by giving up our best!

a.   It was in the "sacrifice" that life came to them!  They were reminded of this each time they made a “sacrifice” for their sins – the sacrifice was necessary in order to have God’s life.

b.   It is the denial of "my time" that God gives me "His Time!"

c.   It will cost you something to worship God!


ILLUS:    David and Araunah's threshing floor, Araunah offered it to David but David turned it down and said he would buy it, that he wouldn't worship God without some cost to him!  READ: 2 Sam. 24:18-25


5.    Notice the frequency in the texts of the phrase "deny yourself" in preparing for the "Feast of Atonement."


B.   Reserved for God   Lev. 16:29;  23:26-27

1.    There was a certain fixed date reserved for God [set here annually]

a.   Didn't matter what the weather was!

b.   Didn't matter what household duties needed attention.

c.   Didn't matter what ball-game was playing ... OUCH!

d.   Didn't matter how hectic the past week's schedule had been, or what next week's schedule looked like!

2.    More will be said about this on the "FEAST OF SABBATH"

a.   This feast was anticipated with:

(1.   Awe!

(2.   Excitement!

(3.   Hope!

(4.   Joy and enthusiasm!


ILLUS:    The current phrase "worship experience" merely serves to confuse us.  Those who worship with the expectation that the act ought to generate certain experiences for them will undoubtedly have many experiences.  But they will probably not be the sorts of experiences that Christian worship offers to those who seek only the face of God through song and prayer, preaching and sacrament.

   Liturgists can generate many powerful experiences, but when experience is the aim, this becomes cheap theater at best and manipulation at worst.  Both are repulsive substitutes for an encounter with the power of the living God. -- Mark Horst in the Christian Century (Nov. 11, 1987).  Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 16.


b.   Elaborate planning went into making this time special, not a thoughtless “anything goes” attitude or unplanned “whatever happens!”

3.    You must plan to gather to worship and plan how to worship!


II.  FIRE   Lev. 23:27b; 16:6,11-13,24-25;   Num. 29:8


A.   Responsible Giving    Lev. 23:27b   Num. 29:8

1.    It is not enough just to give up something ... we must also give something!

a.   Lev. 23:27 says "deny yourself AND present an offering by fire!"

b.   The fire means it will be "consumed" ... you can't take it back!

c.   Giving without expecting return!

d.   That's real giving!

2.    Do you give for just the joy of giving?


ILLUS:    The late Dr. Peter Marshall once selected for use in a church service the familiar hymn of consecration, "Take My Life and Let It Be."  He requested the congregation to give particular thought to the words:

"Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold."

Exacting the practical sense of the words "not a mite would I withhold," he asked that all who could not sing this line with literal sincerity, refrain from singing it at all.

The effect was a dramatic commentary on the glib, thoughtless manner in which, all too often, we sing our hymns.  Hundreds of voices, with organ accompaniment, sang vigorously up to the designated point.  Then, suddenly, there was only the sound of the organ music.  Not a single voice ventured to so challenging a height! – Source Unknown


3.    When coming to worship plan on giving!

a.   Worship and praise to God

b.   Your time!

c.   Your joy and prayers!

d.   Your tithes and offerings!

e.   Your heart and life!

4.    When you do God richly blesses anyways!


B.   Rewards of Giving   Lev. 16:11-13

1.    Joy of life

a.   Note: If the high priest failed to sprinkle this fine powder on the hot coals as an incense offering while entering the Holy of Holies he would die once inside!  Why?  Because the cloud caused from the burning incense covered the presence of God above the atonement cover, thus protecting him from seeing the presence of God and dying … failure to do this left him un­protected from God's being ... thus death!  His giving this offering on the coals protected him from God … and actually brought blessing!  Under the Old Covenant no man could see God and live!  Remember Moses was even covered by God’s hand when he passed by Moses on the mountain lest Moses die by seeing the face of God uncovered, Moses only saw the back side of God.

b.   Life comes from giving it!


ILLUS:   When men stop worshipping God, they promptly start worshipping man, with disastrous results. -- George Orwell in the Observer (1945), Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 15.


2.    Thrill of communion ... the sacrifices brought man into communion with God!


C.   Renewal by Giving   Lev. 16:24-25

1.    Cleansing for sins ... they were renewed!

2.    Start the year off fresh!  A clean start!

3.    Happiness enjoyed ... the “Year of Jubilee” began with this feast.

4.    Renewed the communities life together.


ILLUS:    Not long ago, the world watched as three gray whales, icebound off Point Barrow, Alaska, floated battered and bloody, gasping for breath at a hole in the ice.  Their only hope:  somehow to be transported five miles past the ice pack to open sea.  Rescuers began cutting a string of breathing holes about twenty yards apart in the six-inch-thick ice.

   For eight days they coaxed the whales from one hole to the next, mile after mile.  Along the way, one of the trio vanished and was presumed dead.  But finally, with the help of Russian icebreakers, the whales Putu and Siku swam to freedom.

   In a way, worship is a string of breathing holes the Lord provides his people.  Battered and bruised in a world frozen over with greed, selfishness, and hatred, we rise for air in church, a place to breathe again, to be loved and encouraged, until that day when the Lord forever shatters the ice cap. -- Craig Brian Larson, Arlington Heights, Illinois. Leadership, Vol. 11, no. 2.


III.  FREEDOM   Lev. 16:7-10,20-22,30,34


A.   Removal of Guilt!   Lev. 16:7-10,20-22,30

1.    2 goats:  1 slain for sins, the other became their "scapegoat."

a.   Sins are not only forgiven but removed!

b.   Thus they could even be free of guilt feelings!

c.   Their sins gone now!

2.    Can you imagine how this made them feel?


ILLUS:    There are delights that the heart may enjoy in the awesome presence of God that cannot find expression in language; they belong to the unutterable element in Christian experience.  Not many enjoy them because not many know that they can.  The whole concept of ineffable worship has been lost. -- A. W. Tozer (1897-1963) -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 12120.


3.    Knowing this can you think of the excitement of anticipation they felt as this feast approached and their worship time together?

a.   No wonder the Jews danced a lot, and shouted, and sang, and had fellowship meals, and laughed!  (Almost Pentecostal!)

b.   We still can too!


B.   Restored to God   Lev. 16:30

1.    Clean!  What a joy to be in the presence of God clean!


ILLUS:   Worship is seeing what God is worth and giving him what he's worth. -- Tim Keller, Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 2.


2.    Forgiven!  Their sins held against them no more.

3.    Loved and loving!  God takes joy over them!


C.   Resting in Grace   Lev. 16:31

1.    Resting from what?

a.   From trying to earn salvation!

b.   From selfishness!

c.   From sin!

d.   From guilt!

e.   From failure!

2.    "It is a lasting ordinance!" Lev. 16:31

a.   Grace goes on and on.

b.   What a thrill!

3.    No wonder church feels so good!  We are here to rest in His grace, or to find it so we can rest in it!  We're here to share His life, His love, to celebrate our communion with God and each other!

4.    Good preparations make possible this wonderful experience of worship and communion with God!

a.   This is NOT about ceremony!  This is not about just another worship service like all other worship services in the past!  Each time we gather together to worship our Lord it should be filled with joy, anticipation of being together as His people, cleansed people who are loved by God, privileged to come before the God of the universe in wholeness!

b.   Familiarity breeds contempt … so many have learned to take for granted the worship opportunity we have; and have learned to “sacrifice” nothing in preparing for it.  Hence, nothing into it … nothing out of it!

c.   We get out of worship what we put into it.  If we learn to deny self we will discover the God who is there rather than discovering our selfish needs.

5.    There is joy waiting for true worshippers, are you one of them?


ILLUS:   What was our Lord thinking about as he walked along the roads of Galilee, so often alone?  What were his thoughts in times of repose, during the journeys by boat that he liked making with his disciples after a day's exhausting preaching?  What occupied his mind among the hills where he liked to go alone, without even the disciples?  The answer, we may think, is easy: he was thinking of men, of sinners and their salvation, and what he had to do to effect that salvation.  But, surprising as it may seem to us, it wasn't with us that Jesus was concerned.  The constant object of his meditation, the natural orientation of his heart and mind and soul, the food that constantly nourished him, was his Father. -- Louis Evely (1910- ) -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 12128.


CONCLUSION:   Celebrations are more joyous when we prepare for them mentally and materially ... so is a worship celebration!  Prepare to enjoy worshipping the Lord and prepare to be involved ... you leave rested and refreshed spiritually if you do!