Reflections on Celebration
God’s Banquet Table
I wanted to share a few short reflections on the theme of celebration and praise. So I went to the Bible to look up what it says about celebration. And the bible has a lot to say about celebration. The Jews, God’s people had several holidays a year set aside for celebration, fellowship and worship. God wanted His people to come together to rest, have refreshment and remember with thanksgiving all he had done for them. Ecclesiastes says there is ‘a time to grieve and a time to dance’. The Jews had the Passover, where the Isaelites feasted and rejoiced in the presence of God. festival of Unleavened Bread, Celebration of Harvest which was praising God for a bountiful harvest, The Festival of Trumpets, and the Festival of Shelters – which taught all ages about God’s nature and what he had done for them. It was a time of renewed commitment to God. The Jews really knew how to celebrate. They also had the Festival of Purim and Jews still celebrate Purim today – they were a celebration of feasting, gladness and gift-giving. Gift giving is an important way to remember God’s specific acts. Ezra in the book of Nehemiah connected celebration with gift giving, and gave those in need an opportunity to celebrate with others. Their celebrations were not self-centred. Who knows that we as modern day Christians have a lot to celebrate? Those who love God have the most to celebrate. We have eternal life in heaven and God wants us to have abundant life and life in it’s fullness here on earth. We have celebrations as Christians, we have Easter, Christmas, and we can establish rituals as families ie, family night. And celebration is the smaller things of life too. One thing I enjoy as a parent is celebrating the milestones of my children and I love celebrating their birthdays. Blowing up the balloons, choosing a cake out of the cake books, baking the cake and some cupcakes, and having a party. God also wants to celebrate with us as we are His children. It’s a common misconception that God is against celebration, wanting to take all the fun out of life, but this is a lie of the enemy. Christianity is portrayed s a list of things you can’t do and while sometimes it can be harder to walk on the narrow path than on the wide path, the narrow path protects us from sin and destruction and leads to life. On this path we can celebrate who God is and what God has done, God has a spiritual feast for us and non-believers will look in and see the fun, the feasting and the celebration that is in God’s kingdom and want what we have. A primary old testament symbol for the kingdom of God was a banquet table. ‘He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love’ Song of Solomon 2:4. I think of the Senior’s lunch that Sarah and others organized this week, was a celebration to honour the mature members of our congregation. Those beautiful tables that Sarah put together, the flowers, the china, the bows on the seats, not to mention the feast, reminded me that God also has for us a banquet table and He brings us to His banquet table. Today there is room at God’s table for you and for I. It is to be inclusive of all people. In the parable of the great banquet jesus said ‘blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God’ In god’s kingdom there is a party going on and everyone is welcome. We can accept His invitation to come and dine at he table, we don’t live on bread alone but we have spiritual food which is the Word of God. In Isaiah 51 it is an invitation, ‘Come to me you who are hungry and thirsty, come and buy wine and milk without cost’. God has prepared and provided for you eternal life. He invites you to that eternal life. He invites you to the heavenly lavish banquet. He invites you into His eternal kingdom. We believe we will be resurrected into heavenly glory and blessing. Unlike the Jews we know that the way to the banquet of God is through Jesus, that he is the door to the banquet hall. And at the banquet table is every good thing imaginable. That God has prepared good things for his children, in this life and in the next. And it has already been paid for. Joy, peace, forgiveness, acceptance, restoration, peace, healing, purpose and fulfillment. Who knows that so many people today are so spiritually hungry? They are spiritually destitute, broken and hungry. We try to fill our lives, the God shaped vacuum that only He can fill. With busyness, achievements, relationships, food, materialism, technology, drugs, alcohol etc. It’s then our duty to tell them the good news and bring them into God’s kingdom. The sinners who feel they don’t belong at the banquet of God. Even as believers we can fill our lives with things, with busyness, we can feel empty. But Only God satisfies.
We need rituals of celebration to renew our faith and to pass it on to the next generation. God wants us to meditate and He wants us to confess our sin, that’s important. Often these days in church there is a tendency to be too casual with sin, and in these last days, God is calling His church to holiness. But this is balanced with God’s grace and the celebration of who God is and what He has done for His people. When we celebrate with others in ways that honour God we are strengthened spiritually and filled with joy. We can enter in Celebration fosters joy. And the God of the Bible encourages joy. Joy is independent of circumstances, unlike happiness. Who knows that we are in a spiritual battle? But god wants to give us joy for the battle – the joy of the Lord is our strength.
One of the ways we can celebrate is through praise. Praise is a part of prayer and it is also a weapon. In Psalm 9:1 it says ‘I will praise you Lord with all my heart, I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O most High.’ So what does praise do? Derek Prince, the acclaimed bible teacher talks about how praise is frequently related to God’s awesomeness and fearfulness. Praise calls forth God’s supernatural intervention and is the appropriate response to that intervention. In Exodus 15 it says ‘God is awesome in praises.’ And we as his people are part of a majestic symphony 0or a choir comprised of harmonic parts that together offer up songs of praise to the Lord. We can be caught up and carried along in swelling tides of praise. Are we singing our part well in the worldwide choir of praise? ‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord’. Praise takes our mind off our problems and shortcomings and helps us focus on God. I can qualify that by saying that God understands our pain and suffering, that sometimes life can be really hard and there is a place to be real and honest and even to lament. But sometimes if we only complain, we will remain and if we praise we will be raised. If we look at the book of Acts when Paul and Silas when they were thrown into prison, despite this they praised God, praying and singing, and the jailer came to Christ because of their godly example. Not easy to do, I’m sure. Praise helps life our perspective from the earthly to the heavenly. To have our hearts and minds set on things above, to have an eternal perspective. Praise also helps to move us from individual meditation to corporate worship. We are created to worship God, to not to fill our lives with other distractions and we are created to live in community. Praise helps us to appreciate and consider God’s character. Praise prepares our hearts to receive God’s love and the power of the Holy Spirit. Praise gives God the glory. The glory belongs to God and not to us. We are to bear his image and be glory carriers of His presence but all gifts talents and abilities are from Him. We are merely vessels called to reflect God’s image. When we prayer we need to praise first. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he first praised God and then made his requests. Praising God first puts us in the frame of mind to tell him about our needs. Otherwise sometimes our prayers can sound like shopping lists. Praise is one weapon in spiritual warfare. The battle that we are in and we have an adversary. There are principalities, powers, rulers and authorities (Ephesians 6). Often the battle is in the mind. The enemy can’t read our thoughts but he has been watching us since we were born and knows our weaknesses. His main weapon against us is accusation. Bible says that satan is the ‘accuser of the brethren’. He is accusing us continually before God both day and night. Often fear and guilt are other ways that the enemy wages against us often in our mind, planting lies that are not of God. But it is praise that ascends through the heavenlies, reaching the throne of God and silences Satan’s accusations against us. Praise that silences satan comes out of the mouth of God’s people. Psalm 149 says ‘May the praise of God be in their mouths like a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment in the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against the,. This is the glory of all his saints.’ This describes how all God’s saints (and we are God’s saints, only because we are forgiven sinners made righteous through Christ) and we can do all these things through praise. We can take authority over the kingdom of darkness through the weapon of praise and walk in victory. God has taken the shackles off our feet so we can praise Him. This helps us to walk in freedom and wholeness with God.