A Festival of Thanksgiving
A FESTIVAL OF THANKSGIVING
Pt.#12 – A Constant Sense
Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd
Cortland Church of Christ / October 11, 2015
If we were living as Jewish people in Old Testament times, this time of the year would hold a very special meaning for us.
Immediately following their exodus from Egypt, where they had been enslaved by the Pharaohs for four-hundred years,
the children of Israel spent forty years in the wilderness on a circuitous and protracted journey to the promised land.
Had they not been such an obstinate (Num.14:26-29) and ungrateful people they would have arrived much earlier.
The distance between Cairo (Egypt) to Jerusalem is less than 300 miles (like Warren to Cincinnati).
Had they traveled just 10 miles a day, they could have arrived at their destination in about a month.
God was angry with them because of their rebellious spirit and He caused them to wander in the wilderness for forty years.
Jehovah God was not cruel in His punishment - - He provided sustenance and protection throughout their migration.
In no sense were these forty years w-a-s-t-e-d. They were filled with all-manner of instruction and teaching.
During the period of time God, through Moses & Aaron, gave significant schooling and instruction to the children of Israel.
Some of the most helpful teaching we might ever receive comes via “the school of hard knocks”.
This school of learning included not only the receiving of the ten commandments but also the provision of a multitude
of other laws and regulations (many of them quite detailed) - - teachings that were for Israel’s own good.
One of the “classes” that was offered (a requirement, not an elective) was a course of “festivals”.
Jewish feasts or festivals were rich in imagery - - they were somewhat comparable to an education vacation.
Three of these festivals were “pilgrimage feasts” because they required a trip to Jerusalem.
The Passover feast was the first of the year - - it arrived in April.
It was a one day feast that blended with a week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Seven weeks later came a one-day feast - - the Feast of Pentecost (50 days after the Passover).
It was also referred to as “the feast of weeks (seven weeks after Passover) and “the feast of harvest/day of firstfruits”.
The third and final pilgrimage feast came in October - - it was called the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths.
Cf. Ex.23:16; Lev.23:39-43; Num.29:12-38; Deut.16:13-17; 1Kg.8:1-2; Zech.14:16; and Jn.7:2 &37
It is this third festival that I want to focus upon in this morning’s sermon.
My reasons for preparing this message for today are threefold.
(1) The timing - - the Feast of Booths ran from October 15-21.
(2) The subject - - it was a harvest feast, celebrating the ingathering of the final harvest of the year.
“IT WAS THE OUTSTANDING FEAST OF REJOICING IN THE YEAR…”
(Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, Vol.I, pg.603).
It was a time of rejoicing and thanksgiving to God.
¯ “Let us with a gladsome mind praise the Lord, for He is kind; For His mercies aye endure, ever faithful, ever sure.” ¯
It was this feast that served as the template for the pilgrim’s “feast of Thanksgiving” in the early days of our nation.
(3) We’re having our own Fall Festival today and we are in a sermon series on prayer.
And constant thanksgiving needs to be a integral part of our prayer life.
When the children of Israel traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths it was a week-long (eight-day)
commemoration of the forty years that their ancestors spent in the wilderness wanderings.
It is called the feast OF BOOTHS because it included a re-enactment of the wildernness journey.
Each household would build a booth or tabernacle or tent. These booths were made primarily from boughs of trees.
Neh.8:14-18 provides some specifics:
They found written in the law how the Lord had commanded through Moses that
the sons of Israel should live in booths during the feast of the seventh month.
So they proclaimed and circulated a proclamation saying, ‘go out into the hills, and bring olive branches, and wild
olives branches, myrtle branches, palms branches and branches of other leafy trees, to make booths,’ as it is written.
So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts,
and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim.
And the entire assembly of those who had returned from captivity made booths and lived in them.
The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day.
AND THERE WAS GREAT REJOICING.
And (Ezra the scribe) read from the book of the law of God daily, from the first day to the last day.
And they celebrated the feast seven days, and on the eight day there was a solemn assembly according to the ordinance.
This was what we might call a BIBLICAL CAMPING EXPEDITION.
Can you imagine how exciting (and instructive) this festival would have been for the children?
The festival was filled with abundant thanksgiving.
It was a rehearsal and a re-counting of how Jehovah God had provided for them and watched over them in times past.
At night-time torches were lit all over the city to provide light - - like the pillar of fire in the wilderness journey.
All through the week thanksgiving offerings were made.
If I counted correctly, Num.29:12ff specifies that 199 different animals were sacrificed throughout the festival
The festival was noted for lots of singing and dancing - - outward expressions of great joy & gratitude.
This afternoon we are not planning to build booths (although next year maybe we should try to build a replica).
We’re going to do some singing around the campfire later in the day.
Although dancing is not on our agenda, I suspect the children will be jumping ‘round for joy.
We’re not going to sacrifice any animals, but quite a few pumpkins are going to be “offered up”.
Our Fall Fest is not meant to be a re-enactment of the Feast of Booths.
But there are two specific elements that we want to emphasize in our Fall Fest that coincide with that ancient feast.
(1) We want to provide instruction for the children. cf. Lev.23:43/so that your generations may know…
Not spoken lessons per se, but instruction in how important it is for the family of God to feast together.
To come together and to sing and pray and eat together and celebrate the goodness of God.
(2) Secondly, but most importantly, we want our focus to be on our gratitude to God.
Stephen Flask will include a number of songs of thanksgiving as we sing around the campfire.
One of the primary focuses of the feast of booths was on THANKING GOD FOR DELIVERANCE.
As Christians, this thought remains at the very heart and center of our gratitude-filled prayers.
While we have not referenced Scriptures that speak about “giving thanks in everything”, like 1Thess.5:18,
we have sung a number of songs this morning that speak of the importance of prayerful thanksgiving.
Jesus & the Church (as the body of Christ) is the ultimate fulfillment of Old Testament type.
It is not coincidental that John’s gospel begins with these words (Jn.1:14): And the Word became flesh, and dwelt (tabernacled) among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace & truth.
Neither is it coincidental that Rev.14:14f alludes to this OT type in detailing God’s fullness-of-time work in Israel’s last days.
Dear Heavenly Father,
As we reflect on the feasts of booths, may we be reminded of the need for constant gratitude.
We thank You for being our Redeemer and our Deliverer.
We thank You for Your constant care and provision for us as Your children.
Bless our lives that we might always have a God-ward gaze.
May we be mindful every day that “every good and perfect gift comes from Above” - - from Your hand.
May our prayer life be rich with thanksgiving.
Help us to daily count our many blessing and even name them one by one.
As we gather again this afternoon, may this Fall Fest, like the Feast of Booths, bring for us great rejoicing.
We thank you for the young ones entrusted to our care who will be participating.
May we implant within their young hearts a desire to want to be with the family of God.
May they look around and see happiness and joy in the lives of us older ones.
May the activities of this day remind us all (younger and older) of Your bountiful hand.
And may our lives be a continual expression of our gratefulness for all that You have done.
Through Christ, who has delivered us from the bondage of sin and ever dwells among us, we pray. Amen.