One thing I love about the Bible is that it addresses every aspect of human life – and it does that through the lens of what God wants to reveal to us.
I’m always fascinated when I talk to people who have no appreciation for the way the Bible can help us with things like the rhythm of our lives. But often, they only have that outlook because they’ve never really read the Bible. They see the Bible as a set of rules, or a textbook, or some sort of encyclopedia. That kind of perspective keeps people from realizing that the Bible is a book about God’s plan for us. It is a revelation of His will for our lives.
When we look in Scripture, we find that God instituted the rhythm of celebration for the nation of Israel. He wanted them to regularly celebrate His activity in their lives – especially surrounding significant milestones.
One passage that I’m reminded of is in Nehemiah. When we study the passages about the building of the walls, we usually think about leadership: the assignment of tasks, the efficiency of the work, the lining up of resources… And it can be a great model for that. But what we sometimes forget is that at the end of that account, there was a huge celebration.
Nehemiah 12 says: “The Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres. The musicians also were brought together from the region around Jerusalem…”
They had a party. They had a huge party.
That’s like the Fourth of July. In American culture, it’s a big celebration. I love the Fourth of July. I love celebrating the freedoms we have and the history of our nation. Many countries around the world celebrate their national independence days.
When we all come together like that, we’re saying: This is what God has given us. These freedoms. This joy.
When I was a kid, on July 4th, we would go on a picnic in a nearby town. There would always be a community orchestra playing patriotic music all afternoon. People would gather in the park. There would be horseshoes. And then, as the sun went down, there would be fireworks. Massive fireworks!
I think of the celebration the people of Israel had in response to God’s faithfulness in helping them rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. They brought in cymbals, harps, lyres, percussion, singers… It was a party!
I see a real intentionality on God’s part. He put that account into the Bible for a reason. He wanted to emphasize our need to celebrate.
Too many times, our lives are just work, work, work, work… We do our work heartily, as unto the Lord. That’s great. But sometimes we have to stop and celebrate – to reflect, to remember what God has done for us, to praise Him and be thankful for the blessings He has bestowed on us, our families, and our nation.
When we get the chance to pause and celebrate, it should be like we see in Nehemiah – very, very joyful! We should be shouting with joy over the blessings that God has given us.
In addition to that, we should celebrate regularly. Someone once said that the Sabbath was a weekly reminder of God’s goodness and provision. It was an intentional part of the rhythm of life, an invitation for people to cease from the business of what they were doing and to celebrate.
Too often our Sabbaths are nothing like celebrations. They’re sterile, dull, even rigid.
Growing up, I remember being frustrated that I couldn’t do anything on the Sabbath. I had to wear a suit all day. We would go to my grandmother’s house. The adults would sit and have coffee and talk, and we kids couldn’t do anything. It was awful. That’s what many people think the Sabbath is. But the Sabbath should be a celebration – a weekly celebration of God’s daily provision.
The other festivals of the Jewish calendar were also there to remind us to celebrate. They were all put into place to be big parties. But what do we do as human beings is ruin that joy and celebration with legalism.
So my challenge to everyone during this summertime of celebration – and throughout the year – is to take God at His Word, to thank Him, and to get into a regular rhythm of celebration. Just as it says in Nehemiah, let’s “celebrate joyfully” those things that God has brought into our lives.