With the walls rebuilt and the people of Jerusalem united by their faith and community, the future is bright and filled with hope. The Israelites have recommitted themselves to God and are ready to move forward as a city and as a community of faith. There is nothing left to do but celebrate! Nehemiah throws a huge celebration to dedicate the walls of the city. There are sacrifices and singing, choirs and musicians. The celebration is loud and is heard far away. The surrounding nations and those who opposed the rebuilding project realize that what has occurred in Jerusalem is nothing less than miraculous and they recognize that the Israelites have a powerful God.
Jer 29:11; Neh 6:16, 12:43
Then all our enemies heard that we had completed the wall, and all the nations around us saw that it was finished. So they lost their courage, because they understood that this work had been done with the help of our God. (Neh 6:16) And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away. (Neh 12:43)
In the Old Testament there are no less that 12 feasts and festivals in which God’s people were required to participate on an annual basis. Some lasted up to 7 days. The people prayed, presented sacrifices and enjoyed feasting and celebration with other worshippers. In the New Testament Jesus’ first recorded miracle takes place at a marriage feast. When the wine supply runs out, Jesus turns several containers of water into wine. Of all the awe-inspiring displays of power that could have taken place, he made wine! Jesus was criticized by the religious leaders of his day as one who spent too much time at parties and celebrations. Since God and Jesus have set an example of celebrating, we need to routinely participate in celebrating our faith, God’s goodness, and the joys and successes of life with our families and with our brothers and sisters in Christ. This quote by Dallas Willard says it all. “Human hearts are radically unsuited for the pain that comes to them in living life in this world. Therefore, that fragility of the human heart has to be offset with huge doses of celebration or the life gets squeezed out of us.”
How important should celebration be in the lives of God’s people? How much energy, time and money should be devoted to celebrations? How important is celebration to the human spirit? How important is celebration to your faith? Why do you think God required so many feasts and celebrations in the Old Testament? How is Godly celebration different than the party mentality? How might our Godly celebration attract others to faith in Christ? How may a lack of celebration drive people away from Christ and his church?
Ask a friend you trust whether you are celebrating life’s joys and blessings as you should. If your celebrations are out-of-sync with God’s design, determine to be God honoring. Remember that partying to escape life and celebrating the blessings of life are not the same thing.
Dear God, thank you for joy and celebration. Thank you that my heart and spirit is lifted through laughter, feasting, fellowship and thanksgiving! My soul rejoices because of your love. Help me to celebrate and fully enjoy the life you have given to me! In Jesus holy name I pray, Amen.