The “Feasts” Series  #4



(Or "Booths" or "Ingathering")


TEXT:         Deut. 16:13-17; Lev. 23:33-43; Num. 29:12-39; Ex. 23:16-19


INTRO:       Thanksgiving is not a holiday created in the United States several hundred years ago ... some other nation created it first, Israel!  Actually this great holiday was created by God Himself for the nation of Israel.  The “Feast of Tabernacles” like our Thanksgiving holiday was a harvest celebration at the end of the fall season to give thanks for all of God's blessings in goods and care, and to give thanks for freedom.  Like we honor our pilgrims, they honored their pilgrimage.  The “Feast of Tabernacles” was their “Thanksgiving” holiday, celebrated once a year at the same time, it was a national event.


It lasted 8 days total, the 1st and 8th day were special services.  The people lived in tents for 7 days as did their forefathers in the wilderness.  It was required attendance for all Jewish males!   [Ex. 23:16-17]


It was a time of rejoicing ... sacrifices given each of the 7 days.  Num. 29:13-39 describes how much was to be given each day.  It was a great time of thanksgiving to God.  [Deut. 16:13-17]


It celebrated the time the Israelites spent in the wilderness living in tents, thanksgiving for God's care and provisions for them when they experienced the worst time of their life.  Hence this was the most joyous of the feasts for them.


ILLUS:     A man whom many believe was the greatest American president is a good example.  When he was 7 years of age, his family was forced out of their home, and he went to work.  When he was 9, his mother died.  He lost his job as a store clerk when he was 20.  He wanted to go to law school, but he didn't have the education.  At age 23 he went into debt to be a partner in a small store.  Three years later the business partner died, and the resulting debt took years to repay.

   When he was 28, after courting a girl for four years, he asked her to marry him, and she turned him down.  On his third try he was elected to Congress, at age 37, but then failed to be re-elected.  His son died at 4 years of age.  When this man was 45, he ran for the Senate and lost.  At age 47 he ran for the vice-presidency and lost.  But at age 51 he was elected president of the United States.

   The man was Abraham Lincoln, a man who learned to face discouragement and move beyond it.  Did you know that it was Abraham Lincoln who, in the midst of the Civil War, in 1863, established the annual celebration of Thanksgiving?  Lincoln had learned how important it is to stop and thank God in the midst of great difficulties. -- John Yates, "An Attitude of Gratitude," Preaching Today, Tape No. 110.


The “Feast of Tabernacles,” was only 5 days after the “Feast of Atonement,” which was a fast ... the pain now gone from fasting it was time for great joy!  What’s the lesson?  The pain won't last; it will be replaced with rejoicing ... soon!  Life is still like this, the Bible records it this way, "WEEPING MAY ENDURE FOR A NIGHT, BUT JOY COMETH IN THE MORNING"


We are still dwelling in tabernacles (our bodies), and still in a desert (this planet), we are awaiting the final “Feast of Tabernacles” ... in Heaven!  The tabernacles were only intended to be temporary dwellings for Israel, the Promise Land (Heaven) was to be their home!


So why the feast?  To have them remember their humble beginning and God's provisions for them, then and now!


PROP.SENT:   The Word of God teaches us that we should celebrate and be joyous in our life together in God; with Thanks and with Giving.  True thanks is evidenced by giving!


I.   CELEBRATE!   Deut. 16:13-15a


A.   Joyous Gathering    Deut. 16:13-14

1.   It wasn't "Time to go to church again, is that all we do?"  It was "Time to go to church again ... praise the Lord!"

a.   The first word in this verse is "CELEBRATE."

b.   It was an exciting time for God and His people!

2.   No wonder their worship time was so dynamic ... they were filled with anticipation before it ever began!

3.   It was nearly a command!  Deut. 16:14a “Be joyful at your Feast—”

a.   You can choose which attitude you want to display.


ILLUS:    In southern Alabama is the town of Enterprise, in Coffee County.  There they have erected a monument to an insect, honoring the Mexican boll weevil.  In 1895 the boll weevil began to destroy the major crop of the county, cotton.  In desperation to survive the farmers had to diversify, and by 1919 the county's peanut crop was many times what cotton had been at its height.  In that year of prosperity a fountain and monument were built.  The inscription reads: "In profound appreciation of the boll weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity this monument was erected by the citizens of Enterprise, Coffee County, Alabama."  Out of a time of struggle and crisis had come new growth and success.  Out of adversity had come blessing. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 263.


b.   This is still true today ... you can choose to shut out the problems and focus on God or think about them to the point of crowding God out.

4.   All people called to celebrate, rich or poor, slave or free.  Deut. 16:14


B.   Jubilee of God's    Deut. 16:15

1.   God called for this celebration!

a.   God is not dull; He wishes our life with Him to be full of celebration and joy!

b.   So why not cooperate, don't be afraid to celebrate ... you have something to celebrate about in Christ!


ILLUS:    Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings. -- William Bradford, governor of the Plymouth Colony, 1623 -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 263-264.


2.   Salvation, God's gift to us should excite all of us ... even our emotions!  [There is nothing wrong with being "Pentecostal"]

a.   Dancing in the Spirit

b.   Singing hymns and spiritual songs

c.   Lifting up holy hands

d.   Shouting unto God

e.   Testimonies

f.    Prayers

g.   Laughing in the Spirit.

h.   Expressing love by hugs and handshakes, etc.

3.   Why are we so afraid to show what we feel?


ILLUS:    In Vermont a farmer was sitting on the porch with his wife.  He was beginning to realize how much she meant to him.  It was about time -- for they had lived together forty-two years, and she had been such a help, a very willing worker.  One day as they sat together, he said, "Wife, you've been such a wonderful woman that there are times I can hardly keep from telling you." -- Leslie Flynn -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 263.


a.   God blesses celebrations!  Deut. 16:15b He doesn't want every service to be a wake!

b.   Not only will we be blessed in our harvests and work ...

c.   But also our joy will be complete!


II.  CONSECRATE!   Lev. 23:33-41  Num. 29:12-40


A.   Just for God   Lev. 23:33-41

1.   Consecrate myself.

2.   Consecrate money.

3.   Consecrate materials.

4.   Everything was consecrated to God so that they might enjoy Him, to experience the joy that comes from giving.

a.   The focus was God ... not me!


ILLUS:     The old coronation mantle worn by most of the Hungarian kings bore an inscription in Latin from the "Te Deum," a popular Christian hymn.  It was a hymn of thanksgiving.  There's no better way for a king to begin his reign, or a commoner to begin his career, or every man to begin his day. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).


b.   We would do well today to copy this dynamic.

c.   Rather than self we look to a savior.


B.   Join in Gladness    Num. 29:12-40

1.   They joined in together for 8 days of celebration.

a.   Day 1 -- holy gathering.

b.   Day 8 -- holy gathering.

c.   They began and ended this feast with worship!

2.   They were to consecrate the time they would be together before God.

3.   The atmosphere was gladness!


ILLUS:     How happy a person is depends upon the depth of his gratitude. -- John Miller (1923-1961) -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 5249.


4.   This was the most joyous of all their celebrations ... 5 days after the “Feast of Atonement,” a time of fasting!


III.  COMMEMORATE!   Lev. 23:42-43


A.  Journey with God   Lev. 23:42-43

1.   They were commemorating the time in the desert when they lived in tents.

a.   Why?

b.   To remember how God took care of them under the worst of conditions ... life in a desert!

c.   It was a "thanksgiving" celebration of God's goodness to their ancestors and to them, they were to live in tents 7 days so they would know and remember the past ... gave them faith for the future!


ILLUS:      Out of the history of Napoleonic France, Leonard Griffith has given us a moving story of a political prisoner by the name of Charnet.  Charnet was thrown into prison simply because he had accidentally, by a remark, offended the emperor Napoleon.  Cast into a dungeon cell, presumably left to die, as the days and weeks and months passed by, Charnet became embittered at his fate.  Slowly but surely he began to lose his faith in God.  And one day, in a moment of rebellious anger, he scratched on the wall of his cell, "All things come by chance," which reflected the injustice that had come his way by chance.  He sat in the darkness of that cell growing more bitter by the day.

   There was one spot in the cell where a single ray of sunlight came every day and remained for a little while.  And one morning, to his absolute amazement, he noticed that in the hard, earthen floor of that cell a tiny, green blade was breaking through.  It was something living, struggling up toward that shaft of sunlight.  It was his only living companion, and his heart went out in joy toward it.  He nurtured it with his tiny ration of water, cultivated it, and encouraged its growth.  That green blade became his friend.  It became his teacher in a sense, and finally it burst through until one day there bloomed from the little plant a beautiful, purple and white flower.  Once again Charnet found himself thinking thoughts about God.  He scratched off the thing he had scribbled on the wall of his dungeon and in its place wrote, "He who made all things is God."

   Somehow through the guards and their wives and the gossip of the community, this little story reached the ears of Josephine, Napoleon's wife.  She was so moved by it and so convinced that a man who loved a flower that way could not possibly be a dangerous criminal that she persuaded Napoleon to release him.  So Charnet was set free.  You can be sure that he dug out his precious little prison flower and took it with him and cultivated that plant in the years to come.  He also pondered in his heart a verse that he put on the little flower pot holding the plant.  What would that verse be?  "If God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" -- David A. Seamands, "Instruction for Thanksgiving," Preaching Today, Tape No. 62.


2.   We are still dwelling in tents (our bodies); in a wilderness (our planet); the great “Feast of Tabernacles” or celebration will ultimately be experienced in the Promise Land (heaven)!

a.   The tents were intended to only be temporary structures.

b.   So it is with our bodies!

3.   That journey with God was celebrated every year ... so should we regularly celebrate our journey with God ... every day and week when together!


B.   Jesus' Gift    John 3:16

1.   New life ... there is no greater gift!

a.   Not just in the future.

b.   Now also new life!  Get in on a great deal ... now!


ILLUS:    Thanksgiving is good, but "thanksliving" is better. -- Croft M. Pentz, The Complete Book of Zingers (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990).


2.   Yet, some still continue to reject this offer; choosing instead to live in doubt, fear, loneliness, pain, routine, etc.

3.   There is a rich life for those who accept Jesus’ gift, eternal life.  Don’t throw it away!


IV.   CONTRIBUTION!   Deut. 16:16-17;  Ex. 23:15b,19;  Num. 29:39


A.   Joyous Giving   Ex. 23:15b,19;  Num. 29:39

1.   "No one is to appear before me empty handed."   Ex. 23:15b

a.   We all have something we can give ... even if it isn't money!

b.   You'll leave church feeling empty if you come empty handed!

c.   It is a thrill to come and give ... there is great joy in giving, whether it's money, talents, love, joy, time, and a hug; whatever!

d.   "It is more blessed (happy) to give than to receive" ... sounds like a great verse huh?

e.   Even the widow that only had 2 coins (worth less than 1¢) found the ecstasy of giving, not much by the world's standards but a fortune by God's standards, for it was all she had!  Mark 12:41-44

(1.   Jesus said the wealthy had given their excess ... thus no real gift!

(2.   The widow had given all, thus a real gift of great value!


ILLUS:     In 1636 during the Thirty Years War--one of the worst wars in the history of mankind in terms of the sheer number of deaths, epidemics, the economic results -- there was a godly pastor whose name was Martin Rinkert.  In a single year, this pastor buried 5,000 people in his parish -- about fifteen a day.  He lived with the worst that life could do.

   But if you look in your hymnal, you'll find that in the middle of that time, he wrote a table grace for his children, our thanksgiving hymn:

   "Now thank we all our God

   With hearts and hands and voices,

   Who wondrous things has done,

   In whom his world rejoices."

   If I'd spent the year holding 5,000 funerals of the people I served, could I write for my children a song of thanksgiving?  It's an unusual thing that in history many who have the least to thank God about thank him the most. -- Joel Gregory, "The Unlikely Thanker," Preaching Today, Tape No. 110.


2.   The point was to come before God full ... not empty!

a.   Try driving your car on empty ... how far do you get?

b.   Try coming to church empty ... you'll get about as far as your car does on empty!

c.   If everyone came empty there wouldn't be much to share.

d.   If everyone came full we would all leave flowing over!

3.   We are to bring the best to God!  Lev. 23:19

a.   Where do we bring it?

b.   The House of God!

c.   You don't mail it away!

4.   If everyone practiced this the churches would be overflowing so much they would have to find ways to use it for the Kingdom!

a.   Needs would be met.

b.   God's work would snowball around the world!


B.   Joy's Gifts   Deut. 16:16-17

1.   One of Joy's gifts is giving!

a.   When you're full of joy you want to give!

b.   In fact you can't help but give!

2.   Another of joy’s gifts is life … where there is giving there is life!

3.   Another of joy's gifts is freedom ... freedom to love and be loved!

4.   Another of joy's gifts is more joy ... like the old song: "The beat goes on!"

5.   Bring gifts with you when you come to worship -- gifts of love, fellowship, joy, giving of time, talents, money, praise, singing, etc.  and watch what happens to the church and to you!


ILLUS:     Fulton Oursler tells of his old nurse, who was born a slave on the eastern shore of Maryland and who attended the birth of his mother and his own birth.  She taught him the greatest lesson in giving thanks and finding contentment.  "I remember her as she sat at the kitchen table in our house; the hard, old, brown hands folded across her starched apron, the glistening eyes, and the husky old whispering voice, saying, 'Much obliged, Lord, for my vittles.'  'Anna,' I asked, 'what's a vittle?'  'It's what I've got to eat and drink, that's vittles.  'But you'd get your vittles whether you thanked the Lord or not.'  'Sure, but it makes everything taste better to be thankful.'" -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 265.


a.   Watch your burdens begin to shrivel.

b.   Watch your faith begin to grow.

c.   Watch others begin to glow.

d.   Watch God do mighty things in our midst!

6.   There's no need to wait once a year for this kind of "THANKSGIVING," we can experience it daily and weekly with each other!


CONCLUSION:   God wants a people who can celebrate!  Let's be sure to come full, not empty.  We should celebrate and be joyous in our life together in God, with Thanks and with Giving; true thanks is evidenced by giving!