Today we continue processing the book of Leviticus, with this focus: God desires relationship with us -AND- What we do in that relationship matters or has value in relationship with God.
We talked about the offerings and how God stands out in stark contrast to Pharaoh, especially in how there was nothing that the people could do to please Pharaoh or to have relationship with him.
We talked about the priests and how they had responsibility to manage the tabernacle, to offer sacrifice for the people in relationship with God, and to speak the blessing of God on the people. We dwelt on Jesus being the High Priest and on the reality that through the sacrifice of Jesus, the temple curtain was torn and we are now indwelled by God–we are the tabernacle and Jesus is our High Priest.
We talked about the call to be set apart and how it is not a call to be set apart externally and be unchanged internally, nor is it a call to be set apart in order to elevate ourselves. We are called to be set apart in order to live out the covenant calling to be a blessing to all people. We are set apart to be a blessing to others.
And last week, we talked about atonement and how relationship with God is available. Biblical history shows the repeated reality of breaking relationship. God still desires relationship and opens the door to atonement. Atonement is walked out and relationship is restored again. We focused not just on HOW it works, but AMAZEMENT that it does work: My folly can be transferred onto the clean and in turn I am made clean. My separation from God is transferred onto Jesus as the perfect sacrifice, in turn making me clean
Today we come to Leviticus 23 and a flood of celebrations and feasts. A call to celebrate relationship in trust, in gratitude, in commemoration.
Today we are going to start off with some processing around holidays. The first is a competition. As a table, or as a small team, see if you can list all 11 US federal holidays without using your phone or the internet. GO.
There are 11 federal holidays. What are they?
Here is the list: New Year’s Day (January 1). Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (third Monday of January). President’s Day (third Monday of February). Memorial Day (last Monday in May). Juneteenth (June 19). Independence Day (July 4). Labor Day (first Monday in September). Indigenous Peoples’ Day or Columbus Day (second Monday in October). Veterans Day (November 11). Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday in November). Christmas Day (December 25).
Of course there are other holidays beyond this list, and other things to celebrate, whether it’s a recognized holiday or a family thing or just a ‘you’ thing. What do you celebrate?
Other than national holidays, what do you celebrate and why?
Now here’s the foundational conversation:
What does what a person celebrates tell you about a person?
What does what you celebrate tell people about you?
Today as we walk into Leviticus 23, there is a theme of celebration, commemoration, reverence, and gratitude.
I am going to bring up an idea that has appeared a few times in this series–being forced to do something. Forced to understand, forced to love, forced to give, forced to be reverent…
We know that being forced does produce a result, but it is probably not the desired outcome. So if forced gratitude is maybe something other than gratitude:
What is happening inside of someone when they choose to feel and express gratitude?
Here’s another point to process. I feel like this sounds like a very simple question until we start talking about it:
How is gratitude expressed?
When gratitude is being directed towards you, how do you prefer to receive it?
We have talked about how God opened the door to relationship and is providing atonement in spite of what we do to separate us from Him. So we are welcomed to an ongoing relationship with God. And again, in Leviticus 23 there is a theme of celebration, commemoration, reverence, and gratitude.
These crossing-over actions of celebration, commemoration, reverence, gratitude, and worship are an overwhelming theme in Scripture:
Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. (Psalm 150:1-6)
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29)
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:15-16)
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. (Psalm 95:6-7)
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:8-10)
Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. (Psalm 29:1-2)
Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. (1 Chronicles 16:23-25)
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.” (Daniel 2:20-23)
Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked. (Jeremiah 20:13)
Great is the Lord in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations. Let them praise your great and awesome name—he is holy. The King is mighty, he loves justice— you have established equity; in Jacob you have done what is just and right. Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy. (Psalm 99:2-5)
All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. (Psalm 86:9-10)
He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelations 14:7)
We’ve talked about what is happening inside of someone that chooses to feel and express gratitude. Let me ask you this:
What is happening inside of someone when they choose to feel and express gratitude to God?
How is gratitude expressed to God?
How do you think God prefers to receive gratitude?
In Leviticus 23 there are directives in celebrating sabbath, Passover, First Fruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. These focused holidays scream out a hyperlink moment that Jesus had with some Samaritans in John 4:1-42 (go read it!).
Jesus talked about worshiping in spirit and in truth. ‘In spirit’ means not just in the seen, but in the unseen. ‘In truth’ means coming to God in no pretense or mere display of spirituality.
Remember that the Israelites knew the trauma of living in Egypt–they saw the difference between God and Pharaoh. Remember that the Israelites knew what it was to repeatedly break relationship–they had the experience of the golden calf. Remember that God still desired relationship and is into atonement–that God desires relationship with the Isrealites and with us. Now here’s a final dialogue question:
What foundation do you need to be building, refining and/or reinforcing in order to be a person that feels gratitude towards God?
Take It Deeper Questions
- Read Psalm 150:1-6, Luke 19:40, Romans 12:1, Hebrews 12:28-29, Hebrews 13:15-16, Psalm 95:6-7, Matthew 4:8-10, Psalm 29:1-2, 1 Chronicles 16:23-25, Daniel 2:20-23, Jeremiah 20:13, Psalm 99:2-5, Psalm 86:9-10, and Revelations 14:7.
- What do people in your world worship other than God? Why? How?
- Why do people worship God? How?
- How are you challenged, focused, encouraged, and/or confused by this grouping of texts focused on worship and gratitude towards God?
Bible Reading Plan
- 2 Samuel 7
- 2 Samuel 8
- 2 Samuel 9
- 2 Samuel 10
- 2 Samuel 11