PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 23:13-19 – Invited To Celebrate

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120129_exodus23_13-19.mp3

01/29 Exodus 23:13-19 Worship God and Celebrate in His Presence

We are going to jump back into Exodus right where we left off a little over two months ago. All scripture is God-breathed and useful for the New Testament believer to benefit by, so we are working our way through the book of Exodus to see what God has to say to us there. We are in Exodus chapter 23, at the tail end of what is know as ‘the book of the covenant’, a series of specific applications of God’s Ten Words to his people, describing to them what life lived in relationship with God should look like. The verses we will look at today, 23:13-19, reiterate the first command and then describe three annual pilgrimage feasts, feasts that all Israelites would be required to attend.

Exclusive Worship

13 “Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.

This is a reiteration of the first command that God gave his people: ‘You shall have no other Gods before me’ (Ex.20:3). God is a jealous God. When God wastes parchment by repeating something in his word, it is because it is important. We need to hear it. It is important that we get it. Here he is coming to the close of the book of the covenant, and he reminds us how important this is. ‘Pay attention!’ ‘Pay attention to all that I have said to you’. Remember the first commandment I gave to you. ‘Make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips’. God demands first place in our hearts. God demands an exclusive place in our lives. God will tolerate no rival affections. God is King of kings and Lord of lords, Lord over all. He is not one among many. He refuses to share his glory. God alone is to be worshiped, honored, obeyed, loved. We need to be told this multiple times, because our hearts are so inclined to worship so many other things.

To know the name of a deity was thought to grant access to that deity, and obligate that deity to answer your requests. To forbid even the mention of the name of another deity was to exclude the possibility of any association with any deity other than God alone. This is the strongest possible statement of monotheism, that there is only one God, and he alone is worth knowing. “Make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.” This is why it is so startling that Jesus teaches his disciples to pray in his name. If Jesus were a rival deity, this would be a direct violation of this command. Jesus suggests that we pray in his name to the Father, and he encourages us that this is a way of assuring that the Father will answer.

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

John 16:23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. … 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

But Jesus even goes beyond praying in his name to the Father. He invites us to address our prayers to him personally.

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Jesus invites us to ask him in his own name. This would indeed be blasphemous if Jesus were not God. Praying in Jesus’ name would fall under the condemnation of Exodus 23:13 if Jesus were claiming to be another God. But what Jesus claims is that he is one with the Father, one God. For Jesus’ command to make any sense at all, Jesus must be personally distinct from the Father; not the same person. We may ask the Father in Jesus’ name; or we may ask Jesus in his own name. Jesus is not the Father. Jesus is one God with the Father. This is exactly what Christianity has historically expressed as the teaching of the trinity. There is only, exclusively, uniquely one God. But this one God eternally exists in three distinct persons.

13 “Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.

three annual feasts

14 “Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. 15 You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty–handed. 16 You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. 17 Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord GOD. 18 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my feast remain until the morning. 19 “The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.

Corporate Worship

God says ‘you shall keep a feast to me’. He says ‘None shall appear before me empty-handed’. He says ‘three times a year shall all your males appear before the Lord GOD’. He tells us we must bring our best to him. Notice that all males were required to appear before the LORD God. This is corporate worship. I’ve heard some people say that they feel closer to God worshiping at home in their living room or out on the mountaintop than in church. I understand that sentiment. But worship is not about you or how you feel. God desires that all his people gather together to worship him. Worship is not about us, it’s about God. There were three times in the year, these three pilgrim-festivals, that every male in Israel was required to appear before the Lord. Although women were not required to be there, we learn from passages like 1 Samuel chapter 1 that they were welcome and that they did indeed come. God desires that we gather together to worship him. Listen to God’s ultimate purpose for our worship:

Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

The Pilgrim Feasts

Let’s look at each of these feasts that God required all his people to participate in. There are seven feasts listed in Leviticus 23. Here in Exodus, the three pilgrim festivals are highlighted.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover)

14 “Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. 15 You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty–handed.

The feast of unleavened bread was closely connected with the feast of Passover. This fell at the time of the early barley harvest. Passover, as we have seen, celebrated God’s redemption of his people out of slavery. The passover lamb was killed as a substitute for the firstborn son, and brought protection from God’s wrath. John introduces Jesus by saying ‘behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ (Jn.1:29). Paul tells us that ‘Christ our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed’ (1Cor.5:7). The feast of unleavened bread began at Passover and lasted for seven days. All leaven, a picture of sin, was to be removed, and only unleavened bread was to be eaten, symbolizing the perfect righteousness of Christ, the righteousness that he gives to us. As Israel was lead out of slavery in Egypt, so we are led out of our slavery to sin. The crucifixion of Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God happened at Passover time.

The Feast of Harvest (Pentecost)

16 You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field.

Three days after Passover, a sheaf of the first grain was to be brought and waved before the Lord. This was a recognition of God’s provision and of the promise of good things to come. This was the offering of firstfruits mentioned in Leviticus 23:10. Counting 7 weeks or 50 days from Passover and the firstfruits offering, the feast of Harvest was celebrated. This feast marked the end of the wheat harvest, and was the only feast that implemented leavened bread. Two loaves of leavened bread would be waved before the Lord – Jew and Gentile together in one body, forgiven but still battling indwelling sin. Jewish tradition marked this day as the day of the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, fifty days after the departure from Egypt. This feast became known in the Greek-speaking world as ‘the fiftieth day’ or ‘Pentecost’.

Christ, our passover Lamb was sacrificed for us. On the third day, He was raised from the dead. Paul points to this in 1 Corinthians 15:

1 Corinthians 15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Fifty days later, we are told:

Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians–we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

The harvest feast is being celebrated. People from every nation under heaven were gathering together at God’s command to celebrate the feast in Jerusalem. The promised and anticipated Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples, and they preach the good news of Jesus crucified, resurrected, now Lord of all. God reverses the confusion of languages from the tower of Babel and the harvest begins.

… 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Jesus had told his disciples:

Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

God’s Holy Spirit was poured out, and three-thousand souls were harvested that day, and the church was born. And this was just a foretaste of the harvest that is to come! Jesus said:

Matthew 16:18 … I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The Feast of Ingathering (Booths; The Feast)

You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. 17 Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord GOD. 18 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my feast remain until the morning. 19 “The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.

The Feast of Ingathering celebrated the final fall harvest of second-crop grains, along with tree and vine crops such as olives and grapes. This was a massive celebration of the completion of the harvest, celebrating the goodness of God in his abundant provision. Remember, these instructions are being given in the wilderness of Sinai, in anticipation of entering the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey. This festival was also known as the Feast of Booths, because the people lived in temporary booths to remind them of their time in the wilderness after God had delivered them from Egypt.

In Jesus’ day, part of the celebration of the Feast of Ingathering had come to include taking water from the pool of Siloam and pouring it out as an offering to the Lord. This is the context of Jesus’ statement in John 7.

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

This feast, the Feast of Ingathering, when all of the harvest is complete and it is time to celebrate, has its ultimate fulfillment when God once again dwells or pitches his tent with his people. The prophet Zechariah points to its celebration at the time of Christ’s return.

Zechariah 14:4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, … 5 …Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. 6 On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. 7 And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. …8 On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. 9 And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one. … 16 Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths.

Invitation to Feast

God is inviting us to his feast. God knows how to host a magnificent celebration. God knows how to throw a party! The section just before this in Exodus laid out God’s requirement for rest. You must take time to cease from you labors, to seek refreshment and rest. Now God is demanding that we enjoy his feasts. These rules and commandments are so repressive and harsh! Rest. Be refreshed. Feast with me. It is sobering to see that this is one of God’s commands that his people failed to keep regularly. God invites us to a series of parties and we respectfully decline. This was the content of some of Jesus’ teaching; God throwing a feast.

Matthew 22:1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

God provides the feast. God invites us to come, enjoy, celebrate with him. God provides everything necessary for us to enjoy him forever! And yet we come up with excuses. We decline his invitation. We refuse to come. We despise his messengers. Or we reject his provision and attempt to come on our own merit. God invites us to everlasting joy in his presence, paid for by his own Son. Let all who are thirsty come!

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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January 29, 2012 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , ,

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