March 7, 2021
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
Leviticus 23:33-36, 39-43
Leviticus 23:33-36, 39-43
33 The Lord said to Moses, 34 “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Lord’s Festival of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. 35 The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. 36 For seven days present food offerings to the Lord, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the Lord. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work.
39 “‘So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the Lord for seven days; the first day is a day of sabbath rest, and the eighth day also is a day of sabbath rest. 40 On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. 41 Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters 43 so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’”
A free vacation sounds great, but there is no such thing as a free vacation. When you go on vacation, you often stay at a hotel or the home of friends and family. A couple weeks ago many people were doing just that, but not by choice. The unexpected winter weather in Texas drove many out of their homes to hotels or the homes of friends and neighbors because they lost power, heat and water. Now most are back in their homes with the rise in temperature, which they are thankful for. Yet, the rise in repairs and repair costs are not causing many to give thanks. A change of temperature for a few days was all it took to cripple many southern states and leave many scrambling to make their homes livable again.
There is always a cost to going on vacation. When you step away from the routines and responsibilities of life, it takes planning. If you have pets, then you need to make sure they are cared for when you leave. If you have kids, then you need to make sure they know what their assignments are for missing class. If you have a job, then you need to request time off and make sure someone can cover your position. You also need to make sure you can afford to pay for your vacation and afford to take time away from work if you take an unpaid vacation.
There is always a cost to going on vacation, but those costs are balanced with the benefits of a vacation. A vacation gives you the chance to rest your body and mind, to reconnect with family and friends, to experience some aspect of God’s creation, to catch up on projects around the house, etc. One of the Old Testament festivals called The Feast of Tabernacles had many aspects of what we would consider a vacation. The outline for the Feast of Tabernacles is recorded in Leviticus 23, 35 “The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. 36 For seven days present food offerings to the Lord, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the Lord. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work.” For eight days there was rest for the people along with sacrifices and offerings. This festival came at the end of harvest so the people would be ready with both grain and fruit to offer to God. These offerings showed the peoples thanks to God for blessing their harvest and trust that even if they gave up some of what they harvested, God would provide them what they needed to survive. The sacrifices were given as sacrifices of atonement; they were the shedding of blood and taking of a life to satisfy God’s anger for the people’s sins. This festival had both rest and a cost associated with it, along with another unique feature, the tabernacle. The tabernacle or booth as it also called were temporary structures the people were to live in during the festival. Israelites were 40 … “to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.” While the people celebrated and gave thanks to God at this festival they lived in temporary shelters. This was done in memory of the time the Israelites lived in temporary shelters wandering forty years in the desert after being delivered from slavery in Egypt and before they entered the promised land of Israel. And these were mandatory vacation days from God to be celebrated every year by Israel as God said, 42 … “All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters 43 so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’” At this festival, Israel gave thanks to God for bringing them to the promised land and remembered their temporary time wandering homeless in the desert.
The Feast of Tabernacles called the people of Israel to be devoted to God. God’s people stopped from their regular lives to devote eight full days to God. And if you are sitting there marveling at their devotion and how wonderful it must have been to experience this festival, then it is time for a reality check. Yes, this festival was required by God, but the people were often not devoted to God. The commands, sacrifices, festivals, offerings and good requirements by God for his people often went undone.
The sinful nature in the hearts of Israel often left them devoted to other gods and the rituals associated with them, other priorities like work in the fields, pastures, home, and family with kids, relatives, and keeping up with politics and war. God seemed far off, uninvolved in their lives and irrelevant for what they saw as the practical things of life. The lack of devotion to God on the part of Israel was worse than skipping a week of mandatory vacation each year from your job.
The lack of devotion on the part of Israel meant they had separated themselves from God, which left them to pick up the cost of living in this temporary world and the cost of life after death. This meant Israel worked hard at life and was often disappointed because the false gods they served were useless, lifeless, powerless pieces of wood or stone, their fields were unpredictable yielding either feast or famine, their families had the usual troubles of families today with arguments, personality conflicts, selfishness, playing favorites, etc. So, life was hard, but then they faced death and what came next. Without trust in God who is describe in Exodus 34 as, 6 … “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” They were lost to death and hell.
You like Israel lack devotion to God. Paul wrote in Romans 8, 7 “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” Your mind and my mind have too much on them. You and I constantly devote our time to worrying how we will survive the next day, week, month or year at school, work, home, relationally, politically, financially, etc. Notice, God was not on that list. Our sinful nature does not worry whether or not we spend enough time devoted to God. Instead, it works hard not to think about God at all. Paul wrote in Galatians 5, 17 “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other.” As a believer, one of God’s people filled with the Spirit, you have a war going on inside of you. It is a war of devotion. Your sinful nature wants you to be devoted to the affairs of the world, while the Spirit wants you to be devoted to God. It is a battle that we are not able to win and a battle that rages throughout our lives. Lost to the sinful nature, we only have death and hell in our future.
You are not lost; you have been delivered. Though it is not commanded by God, we devote ourselves to a season of Lent. During this season, we hear again how we are lost on our own in this broken world of sin and death. By faith, we admit because our eyes have been opened by the Holy Spirit working through his Word that we are sinners who cannot make our lives good in every way, who cannot be perfect, and who certainly cannot pay our way into heaven. Instead, we during the season of Lent see that Jesus delivered us from our temporary wandering in this world of sin to the enteral home of heaven. Jesus revealed to his disciples in Matthew 20, 18 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death.” Jesus was innocent and without sin. He did not deserve death, but life. He followed all of God’s commands perfectly, but God abandoned him on the cross to die. Jesus did this to deliver you as we hear in Romans 4, 25 “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Justification means God does not call you a lost sinner sentenced to hell, but for Jesus’ sake, God calls you good, perfect, righteous and found to be without sin. God calls you his own child and a member of his eternal kingdom. Jesus’ eyes were always on deliverance. He was here temporarily to save you, and you are here temporarily before God will take you to live with him forever in heaven.
God has provided you with eternal life in an eternal home. Whether it is during the season of Lent, a worship service, a Bible Study or a personal devotion, when you take those moments to rest from this life and spend time with God, it is a vacation, a celebration and a time to see wandering through this world as temporary and to give thanks for the many blessings waiting for you in your eternal home in heaven. In Jude 1, we get this encouragement, 20 “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” You face many challenges wandering through this sinful world, keep meeting together around God’s Word to keep your faith built up. Devote yourselves to hearing what Jesus has done for you and you will live with joy waiting for eternal life.
A free vacation sounds great, but there is no such thing as a free vacation. Eternal life in heaven is not a free vacation. Your time there was paid for by Jesus’ blood shed on the cross, and your time there is not a temporary rest from this life, but endless life with every need met. The Israelites enjoyed the eight-day Feast of Tabernacles at the end of harvest season, but your eternal life in heaven will be a constant cornucopia of blessings. You have been delivered from this temporary world, and this is the good news, we see Jesus giving us eternal life. Amen.