God Likes to Party

The Israelites were commanded to celebrate—and we would be wise to follow suit.

While some people may envision God as a dour policeman whose primary interest is simply to keep our behavior in check, a quick peek into the Scriptures reveals quite the opposite. Instead, we discover a God of celebration who loves to fire up the grill, crank up the music, and invite the whole neighborhood over for a bash.

Israel’s National Block Parties

One of the Hebrew words for celebration is chagag, which is often associated with Israel’s national festivals. In the Old Testament, God established seven major festivals, which are (in calendar order): Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, the Feast of Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

“We discover a God of celebration who loves to fire up the grill, crank up the music, and invite the whole neighborhood over for a bash.”

These were like Israel’s national block parties, where the people all came together to celebrate who God is by remembering what He’s done and commemorating His great acts in history. At Passover, for example, God declared as He delivered His people from Egypt, “For the generations to come you shall celebrate [Passover] as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance” (Ex. 12:14 NIV). While Passover celebrated God as Deliverer, other feasts, like the early-harvest observance of Firstfruits, recognized His provision and rejoiced in His abundance (Lev. 23:9-14).

Not every festival was fun and games, however—the Day of Atonement, for example, involved fasting as the people solemnly recognized their sin and prepared to rejoice in God’s forgiveness (Lev. 16:29-31). But most involved fine dining, serving the best crops and livestock, to party it up in the Lord’s presence.

Priests were, to some extent, “party planners”: One of their significant tasks was to oversee the national celebrations. And these festivals could be massive. While we might throw shindigs for our neighbors or friends today, these were times for the whole nation to come together and rejoice. They could also be long. The Feast of Tabernacles, for instance, lasted seven days, during which time the Jewish people lived in temporary shelters reminiscent of their time in the wilderness (Deut. 16:15).

What significance might all this have for us today? God invites us to joy—He wants us to take time to celebrate who He is and what He’s done, not only as individuals and families, but also together as the church. It’s worthy and right that we celebrate the Lord together.

Take Joy in God

A related Hebrew word—simchah, or “joy”—is often associated with the national celebrations. Numbers 10:10, for example, refers to the annual festivals as “times of rejoicing” (NIV). When King Hezekiah restored temple worship and festivals, the priests “sang praises [to the Lord] with joy, and bowed down and worshiped” (2 Chronicles 29:30). The prophet Nahum looked forward to the day when the people would return from exile and again be able to “celebrate [their] festivals … and fulfill [their] vows” (Nahum 1:15 NIV). And when the prophet’s hope was realized in Nehemiah’s day, “there was great rejoicing” (Neh. 8:17) as the people once again celebrated their festivals in the land.

“He longs to throw the front door open wide to let in everyone who would come.”
 

This joy was not only for festival times, however, but also pointed Israel to year-round delight in God. She was to serve Him “with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things” (Deut. 28:47). Israel’s national life was to be characterized by continual celebration of who God is. She rejoiced in divine victories, as when David returned from defeating the Philistines (1 Samuel 18:6). When David’s son Solomon was anointed as king, the people made music and celebrated with such exuberance and “great joy … that the earth shook at their noise” (1 Kings 1:40).

We’re invited to take joy in God all year as well. He encourages us to feast and rejoice before Him, to celebrate in His presence. While there is a proper place for reverence before His greatness as Creator, this doesn’t mean we should put on a “serious face” in His presence and wait until we leave to have fun. Rather, the best celebration is in the presence of God—our mighty Deliverer, loving Father, and gracious Savior. What greater cause for rejoicing could there be?

We shouldn’t put on a “serious face” in His presence and wait until we leave to have fun.

The King Wants His House Full

God’s throwing a party, and He wants the world to come. In Jesus’ parable of the great banquet, God is described as a host throwing a massive dinner at His home (Luke 14:15-24). After His friends make excuses to avoid attending the party, the host instructs His servant, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city … into the highways and along the hedges” to “bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame” (vv. 21, 23).

God sends the invitation out far and wide, and the guest list for his party is filled with a lot of names you might not expect. Jesus’ kingdom welcomes good folks and bad, moralists and murderers, Pharisees and philanderers—any who will bow their knee to Him and rejoice in His presence.

Why does God invite everyone from everywhere into this celebration? Jesus tells us as He closes His parable: “So that my house may be filled” (v. 24). God desires a home that’s bursting at the seams; He longs to throw the front door open wide to let in everyone who would come.

God wants us at His party, and the cross reveals the extent to which He’s gone for us to be there. The question is whether we want to be with Him. Are we willing to let our lives be shaped and formed by the beauty of His kingdom? He invites the church to joy even now. So let’s bring the best we have to give and revel in our great King!

 

Illustrations by Adam Cruft

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14 `Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.

9 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

10 Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, `When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.

11 `He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.

12 `Now on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb one year old without defect for a burnt offering to the LORD.

13 `Its grain offering shall then be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering by fire to the LORD for a soothing aroma, with its drink offering, a fourth of a hin of wine.

14 `Until this same day, until you have brought in the offering of your God, you shall eat neither bread nor roasted grain nor new growth. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.

29 This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you;

30 for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the LORD.

31 It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute.

15 Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the LORD your God in the place which the LORD chooses, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.

10 Also in the day of your gladness and in your appointed feasts, and on the first days of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be as a reminder of you before your God. I am the LORD your God."

30 Moreover, King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to sing praises to the LORD with the words of David and Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with joy, and bowed down and worshiped.

15 Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace! Celebrate your feasts, O Judah; Pay your vows. For never again will the wicked one pass through you; He is cut off completely.

17 The entire assembly of those who had returned from the 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.

47 Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things;

6 It happened as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments.

40 All the people went up after him, and the people were playing on flutes and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth shook at their noise.

15 When one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!"

16 But He said to him, A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many;

17 and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, `Come; for everything is ready now.'

18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, `I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.'

19 Another one said, `I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.'

20 Another one said, `I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.'

21 And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, `Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.'

22 And the slave said, `Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.'

23 And the master said to the slave, `Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.

24 `For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.'"

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