An Act of Worship
Feast of Tabernacles 2023
In honor of my friend Paul Drieman
So here we find ourselves worshipping together this morning attending His Feast of Tabernacles. I have to ask the question, “Are You Happy?” I mean just so joyful and HAPPY? Well then since you are I’d like you to scoot forward to the edge of your seats. Yes humor me for a moment and scoot to the edge of your chaIrs please. Now I’m going to read to you Nehemiah 8:10 “Then Ezra said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, FOR THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH.” Now everyone of you can return home after this Feast and tell others, “When the Joy of the Lord is our strength” was read at the Feast we were sitting on the edge of our seats and we were so happy“ Ha Ha! Isn’t that the way it should be? When at His Feast it is always Him we are rejoicing over. It is Him that brings us such joy. But perhaps better yet, when taking into account Nehemiah. 8:10, it is that He is filled with joy that we are rejoicing over Amen? That gives us something to joyfully shout out about.
The flurry, and I mean THE FLURRY of activity that has consumed your homes these last several weeks in preparation for “The Feast” would probably make some people’s heads spin. Especially if you are an organizer or major participant in His Feast Site prep in some way. What a monumental task for the planning committee’s! WOW! That’s not to diminish those of you who have little children in the home to contend with while packing and making Feast arrangements. I would expect that most all of us here have shared conversations with others about this “labor of love” that goes into staying here for over a week to 10 days. But there are some of us here who don’t give that much thought to the preparation and packing any longer. It is so ingrained in our Feast prepping experiences from over the years that it almost becomes second nature to them. Especially if they are now empty nesters. We might even brush that action off as just “one thing” of the many things that are required, that are necessary to travel and tabernacle here. What we might overlook though is that even the most basic of preparation, whether large or small, routine or uncommon is an act of worship in and of itself. Consider and rejoice that your labor to honor God does not go unnoticed by Him. We can find some associated inspiration from Colossians 3:23-24 CJB “Whatever work you do, put yourself into it, as those who are serving not merely other people, but The LORD! 24. Remember that as your reward, you will receive the inheritance from The LORD. You are slaving for The LORD. The Messiah.” Consider, for just a moment, all that’s involved in all your intentionality to get to a Feast of Tabernacles location. Listen up: You intentionally save up the funds necessary all year, you intentionally bring an offering, you intentionally ask off from work, you pack suitcases and boxes and toys. You service your vehicles, you do laundry, buy groceries, maybe purchase some new clothes and buy some gifts for one another. You schedule pet sitters, and someone to water your plants and gardens back home. You notify schools, neighbors, family members, and arrange mail pick up. You schedule doctors, dental, and therapy visits so they don’t conflict with this Feast! You’ve had haircuts and hairdos and car washes, made reservations with the Moors Resort (aka Ericka Deering), you’ve filled up the gas tanks and mapped out the route to get here, and we’ve done these things because our hearts simply move us to be intentional about serving God. And ALL that is BEFORE we even get here!
Always looking to the Scriptures for motivation and or inspiration they alone may have encouraged you or better said “energized” you to press on with your sometimes arduous Feast preparations. Most likely because of some of the things that we can recall from the Scriptures! For example, could there be any way that a convincing line such as 2 Chronicles 16:9 could possibly motivate your Feast preparations for Tabernacles? This verse is about a conversation between a Prophet named Hanani the Seer and Asa the King of Judah. It states plainly in 2 Chron. 16:9a: “For the eyes of YHWH roam to and fro over all the earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are fully devoted to Him.” In my own words, he is describing those who are living intentionally for God. We’re also being reminded in this verse that YHWH is Omniscient, He can see everyone at any time. Omniscience is defined as “the state of having total knowledge, the quality of knowing everything.” Let’s move on to a more familiar prophet whose name is Job and appeal to his experiences for incentive in two verses. It’s recorded in the first verse I’m using by Job in 31:4 “Does God not see my ways and count my every step?” Can you say ‘Motivation’ anyone? And Job reminds us yet again in 34:21 NLT “For God watches how people live; He sees EVERYTHING they do.” Wow! And finally, the writer of Psalm 33:13-15 records for us his insights also beginning in vs 13 “The LORD looks from heaven, He sees ALL the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks, On ALL the inhabitants of the earth. He shapes the hearts of each; He considers ALL their works” HE CONSIDERS ALL YOUR INTENTIONAL WORK ON HIS BEHALF AND HE SEES THAT YOU’RE SEEKING WHAT’S HOLY TO HIM IN BEING HERE! And your intentionality today is recorded by heaven. Verified with Psalm 53:2 ESV “God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.” HMMM….. Brethren, for all of you who are sincere about being at His Feasts that should bless you to the marrow of your bones! He KNOWS your hardships in life. He KNOWS your struggles to get here. He KNOWS the sacrifice of organizing a Feast and managing His people. He KNOWS what the Deerings, and the planning committees, and all of us go through in organizing this event that starts months in advance. But the best part in this is He KNOWS us all by name and He considers all these works of ours as acts of worship because these works, after all, are for His glory! “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV
Now some of our evangelical friends back home just outright tells us that we’re trying to EARN our salvation by observing these Feasts. I see that repeated on facebook often. But that’s just not true about us. Brothers and sisters, it’s not that we are saved by DOING His Festivals but that He has saved us TO DO His Festivals, amen? His divinely, inspired Holy appointments are FOR His people… as well as FOR Himself. Remember, we’re in this WITH Him together! So in other words, they are for YOU to share in and rejoice in WITH Him! That’s the essence of ALL His Sabbaths! His holy times intentionally bring us together with Him and For Him. They have intent and are one of the many things that we joyfully have in common with Him. When we “Keep” these days we are literally performing the deed of “Guarding” His stated position. We repeat this verse almost every year God tells us in Leviticus 23:2b, and I quote: “EVEN THESE MY FEASTS” = MO-ADE’ H4150 = “His appointments.” If we would spiritually contemplate at this point, Isaiah 1:18 God is inviting us to engage in an examination by request saying: “Come let us reason together.” So then brethren, come let you and I reason together over God right here and now about His MO-ADE, His appointments. Now listen to this very closely. God has held them out to us. He is offering His appointments to us today. He’s made appointments for us. He’s sent out His invitation to each of us here. Let me repeat that: God has offered His appointments to us today. He’s made appointments for us. He’s sent out His invitation to each of us here. Then He let us decide if we’re going to keep them or not with Him. Now when one describes it very simply like that it sounds almost ridiculous that someone, anyone would refuse to keep an appointment with God, doesn’t it? I’d almost expect that if some logical thinking person, even someone from outside our assembly, a total stranger, let’s say, would walk in and sit down in one of our back rows, he would say to me after hearing this message when services were over: “Oh, so Keith, let me make sure I understand this. The one and only Almighty God, Creator of both heaven and earth, makes an appointment for you to rejoice with Him, to be with Him for 8 days and there is some question in your mind whether or not you’re going to keep that appointment? Are you serious?” I’d have to thank that stranger for wording his question so purposefully. He gets it! Even he understands.
The many things we do on earth are not missed by God. And today you get to participate in His Feast of Tabernacles as one of the many things that He “made for man” just like the weekly Sabbath. Your participation is your active living witness to your children and acquaintances and friends. It becomes your public testimony of your Spiritual priorities. Turn to Matthew 13 please. Your witness before Him is the Gold Standard for your walk on earth. This week we could’ve easily disregarded this festival and been like some who Jesus talked about in Matthew 13 in the famous Parable of the Sower. Matthew 13:3 “Then He spoke to them many things in parables. Behold, a Sower went out to sow. 10 And the disciples came and asked Him But why do you speak to them in parables?” Then in verse 16-23 He begins to reveal the meaning of His parable to them. 16 “But blessed are your eyes for they see and your ears for they hear. For assuredly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see and did not see it and to hear what you hear and did not hear it. Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. Now he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the CARES OF THE WORLD and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who HEARS the word and UNDERSTANDS IT, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Now my immediate concern is with verse 22 in that it is more relevant and dangerous for us in our culture today than the other two non-fruit bearing illustrations in this Parable. I’m referring to “seed among thorns” because the personal wealth, pleasures, and recreational possibilities in America are so inescapable, so pervasive, so readily available, and tempting. Too often they are in direct competition with our devotion to Jesus Christ. But Jesus Christ is not to be in competition with ANY THING! Our activities, pursuits, interests, and leisurely preoccupations can all be defined under “cares of the world.” That is IF, IF we are not discerning with their use. But in God’s graciousness He has instituted Spiritual recurring countermeasures for us which are found in His “set apart times.” His “Holy Days”, “HIS APPOINTMENTS”, that materialize as timely continual provisions, even routine reminders for us that all of God’s Holy Times are designed (or at least turn out that way) to be weekly, monthly, and annual Spiritual Advocates. A type of God’s divine interruptions in our lives for our benefit. They can actually counter a misguided use of time for those who take advantage of their power by simply observing them. Without them, the “Cares of the World” would be much more likely to succeed over the Saints of God. But He KNOWS that our nature requires a ceaseless exercise in time management. Established as the things in our lives of Jesus Christ on a routine schedule. Brethren we are hopeless creatures of habit. So the Father gives us access to the Son to develop Godly habits, His habits. His Spirit moves us into these places, these divine spaces regularly, in the hope that, we will keep or guard what’s best! They are choices that potentially will strengthen us in holiness and righteousness. These places are called His Sabbath’s! Yes Sabbath’s! And His Sabbath’s appear to deliver us to Him over and over and over again weekly, monthly, and annually. Spiritually and bodily, they keep us closer to Him and this is according to His satisfaction. This is what PLEASES Him! ALL His “Holy Days” infuse us with Him! They have to because He says in Lev. 23:2 “EVEN THESE MINE FEASTS.” Did you ever sing the great hymn by Robert Lowry composed in 1872? I’m sure you have it’s titled “I Need Thee Every Hour”? I’ve pondered if one of the lines that you and I have sung before from this Hymn hints at why God implemented SO MANY DAYS a year for us to formally acknowledge Himself. Days for you to be with Him in rejoicing, to worship Him, to be in fellowship with Him and with those who are His. It’s only an opinion but I believe one reason could be found in the second line of Mr. Lowry’s song because the words go like this: “I need Thee ev'ry hour, Stay Thou nearby; Temptations lose their pow’r When Thou art nigh.” Now, He’s with us everyday. He lives in us as we are new creatures in Christ, but during Holy Time, He appears to make an even broader investment in what is His by inhabiting even that which is the measure of our existence. That “measure” has a name and it’s called TIME! Our Time sanctified unto Him is what’s on His Heart….and right now what’s on His heart is called Holy Time! This is His time that He made exclusively for us to draw nearer to Him and He to us. James 4:7-8 ESV “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Being at His Feast is more evidence of being single minded. Because of His Spirit we can be people after His own heart like David. Therefore keeping Feast unto Him is to “carry out My will” Acts 13:22b. A heart that loves Him unto obedience is clear evidence of a pure heart.
Turn to Luke 10:38. While reading this, let’s consider the decision that you have intentionally CHOSEN that brought you here this week, to His Feast, keeping His divine appointment:
You have left your worldly life behind this week. And as the story in Luke reveals He will not deny you the blessing for that which was NEEDED to do. This should be very encouraging. The Joy of the Lord is your strength this morning. So let’s grasp what is written here for us who chose to be at His feet this week. Turn to Luke 10:38-42. A reminder that this is not a Parable of Yeshua but states that it is written as it actually happened. Let us read it then, vs.38, “Now it happened as they went that He, Yeshua, entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Yeshua answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But ONE THING is needed, and Mary has CHOSEN that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
We have here the Lord Jesus telling Martha, “You are worried and troubled about many things.” But there’s just ONE THING that is needed and Mary made the spiritual choice. She chose the good part. And Jesus tells her it will not be taken away from her sister Mary. There is clearly something of great importance in these words for us. The key question is, what is this ‘one thing’ that is so necessary? “One thing is needed” said Jesus. We are told that there is something wrong with Martha’s hospitality by Jesus’ use of the word ‘troubled’. “Martha, Martha, you are … troubled about many things.” In other words, it implies that Martha’s attention was drawn away by the burden of her duties. Things were competing inside her for Jesus’ time. The pounding noise in her heart and mind to get something accomplished for Jesus drowned out what was the most important part to Him. But what about her sister Mary? Surely she is experiencing the same mindset as Martha right? Nope! Mary is in full Jesus mode…..and loving it!! And that’s as easy for me to see in this story as it is for me to look out at all of you daily resting on the Lord’s words this week, before His feet, in this room, at His Feast of Tabernacles. It’s obvious this is where you want to be today. The phrase “sat at His feet” in vs. 39 seems to imply that Mary is literally as close as she could get to Him. THAT’S where she wanted to be and you’re doing just as she did. THAT’S why you’re here. You chose the “One Thing” over SO MANY “Cares Of The World” BACK AT YOUR HOMES AND JOBS that could’ve pulled you away like Martha. Even worthwhile things, such as serving others like Martha. Yet misguided Martha, looking at Mary, determined that sitting at the feet of the Messiah they’ve waited for, been waiting on for centuries was not what was needed. I know there’s people back home where you and I live that believe that way about what we’re doing here this week. Especially those thinking, “Jesus fulfilled all those Jewish ceremonial traditions at the cross.” How do we know there are people who think like this? Because Martha is a type of those people who at times can’t see what is the most important thing to God, the “One Thing.” Whoever said, “Timing is everything” could’ve used this story as an example. At this point a Scripture comes to mind. It may be a tad out of context but still applies in the aggregate, I believe. It’s John 6:27 “Do not labor for the food which perishes, ‘Martha’, but for the food which endures to everlasting life….” In defense of Martha, though, she is being practical. Somebody has to serve all these guests right? It was probably a sizeable gathering with the apostles and several others. We get it! But for THAT moment, THAT teachable moment right there where Jesus came in a once in a lifetime event, just like these 8 days which are only a once in a year event. Jesus clearly indicated to Martha it was Mary who has done the right thing. She has chosen the “ONE THING” that really counts.
As you can see, applied to us, this may well be a contrast between being distracted with the cares of the world and being sensitive and focused enough to see the Godly thing, His Things which can include ALL His Sabbaths and Holy Days in their times.
So what is this “One Thing” for us? It’s a lesson on the importance of discerning, then responding to the Lord in the correct manner over the infinite cares of the world.
For you His followers the “One Thing” in your lives will be a recurring thing, a frequent crossroad in YOUR walk with Him in “The Way”...His Way! Those crossroads will require discernment with God’s will in mind first. It will obviously involve many different circumstances in our life at many different times. But at this time today, right here, right now, in THIS season of His between the 15th day and the 22nd day of the 7th month, the “One Thing” right now is His Feast of Tabernacles. THAT’S WHAT’S NEEDED NOW! Rejoice and be happy because everyone here has chosen the good thing. You have chosen it, Like Mary….. you have chosen the good part. And as Jesus says in this story, “It is not to be taken away from you.” In conclusion: Remember this, ALL His Sabbaths are HIS JOY and HIS JOY is OUR STRENGTH. THAT - THAT is what should be the “One Thing” in life, the first thing that keeps us on the edge of our seats! Take that back to your homes with you. May God be blessed in your Feast and you blessed in His.