And they all lived happily ever after
Esther 8: For Jews it was all sunshine and laughter.
As I wrap up my devotional reading of the story of Esther I find a “happily ever after” kind of conclusion. The tables have been turned on the enemies of the Jews. Their enemies had expected to exterminate God’s people but the Jews were given permission to fight back and they’ve done so with stunning success. The two most important people in Xerxes’ kingdom are now Jews: Queen Esther and his first adviser, Mordecai. The Jews have become so popular that many are converting to their religion. These are good days indeed. Clearly, this is a mere snapshot of history, but it’s one worth remembering so the Jews create an annual holiday to commemorate these events. I think that’s a pretty smart thing to do. We know that life isn’t always filled with happy endings. The very race of people we’re talking about here has a history of way more than its share of loss and destruction. However, they know that it’s good to remember special days of blessing. Frankly, good and bad constantly mix in our world. Even as we celebrate the birth of our Savior we comfort families who have lost loved ones, we make hospital visits, and we pray that for some very good people that the New Year will be better for them than was the old one. Remembering the good days brings balance and perspective to our lives. That doesn’t mean that we pretend all is well when it’s not, but it does mean that we step back and see the whole picture of our lives rather than focusing only on our problems.
Take Away: Don’t let the problems of life blind you to the blessings of life.
Numbers 29: Celebrate a Festival to God for seven days.
Sometimes I have the impression that the Law is all about “don’t do this” and “don’t do that.” While I understand that there are plenty of rules like that it’s good to be reminded that the Lord specifically orders his people to take days and even weeks off from work and during those times to celebrate all he’s doing for them. I’ve just read two whole chapters about such events. There’s the weekly Sabbath plus several annual celebrations. These festivals always include making sacrifices that the Lord gives back to the people. In other words, a lamb is given as a sacrifice, but part of it is given back to the one making the sacrifice. In this, we see the Lord joining them in the celebration! I think this is very neat! God says, “Okay, I have another rule for you: on the first day of the seventh month each year, take a vacation, bring offerings to the Temple and let’s enjoy one another’s company for a week.” This is an element of my relationship with the Lord that I need to remember. Serving the Lord isn’t all “dos and don’ts.” He’s good to me and he invites me to take time away from everyday life to celebrate that goodness.
Take Away: Followers of the Lord have good reason to celebrate.
Leviticus 23: Moses posted the calendar for the annual appointed feasts of God which Israel was to celebrate.
From the Exodus on the Lord gives the Israelites instructions for annual special events. Those events focus on both past and present blessings and touch on things like the Passover and on the harvest. God’s people are to remember his past blessings and appreciate the present ones. The feasts include their making offerings but they’re also to celebrate all the Lord’s blessings on them. These feasts connect God’s people to God in their daily lives, reminding them of his provision for them in days gone by and in the current events of their lives as well. This concept is not only good for the Israelites of centuries ago but is beneficial for you and me too. Without such celebrations we tend to get lost in the everyday details of life and lose sight of the big picture of God’s provision for, and connection to, our lives. The specifics of those celebrations might look different for us than it did for them, but it has a similar impact on us. Our celebrations might be a combination of civil and spiritual, like Christmas or New Year’s or Thanksgiving or Mother’s Day. However, they may be quite “Christian specific” like Pentecost or Easter (the real deal, not the bunnies and new clothes version). Those celebrations might even be quite personal, like remembering the date of one’s conversion or God’s deliverance in one’s life from some unwelcome event. It’s good to be reminded that even as we read the rules and regulations of Leviticus we find ourselves being ordered to remember and celebrate God’s goodness to us. It’s in things like this that we find the spice of life.
Take Away: God is good to us and is active in our lives, we need to celebrate that.