As many in North America approach the one-year anniversary of Coronavirus restrictions being introduced, nearly everyone has celebrated a birthday without the usual fanfare.
While vaccines are being rolled out, celebrations of all kinds will continue to be cancelled or scaled back, which can be extremely disappointing, especially if you are marking a milestone. But, there is a celebration that includes everyone and is not limited by restrictions. The daily celebration of Jesus, the Savior of the world, should circle the globe and emanate from every human heart.
God not only loves to hear the celebration of His people, He established times of celebration to benefit us!
God built into Israel’s calendar about thirty days of feasts per year. Add the weekly Sabbaths, and the total celebration time comes to around eighty days of feasting and rest annually. God is serious about celebration!
When God mandated celebration among His people in the Old Testament, He used three Hebrew words – hâlal, châgag and shâbath. At the dedication of Jerusalem’s rebuilt wall in Nehemiah 12 (ESV), these three essentials of true celebration are included.
Celebration Keeps God Central
Hâlal, haw-lal’; to praise1
Nehemiah’s celebration plans included instruments and singers filling the air with triumphant praise. The people sang and offered sacrifices to God with praise that centered their hearts on the source of their joy (vs. 27).
God is both the reason and the focus of our celebration. Without celebration we lack the strength we need to face life’s greatest challenges and opportunities.
In the middle of a day of celebration, we read this familiar phrase in Nehemiah 8:10, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Celebration holds the key to the strength we desperately need – the Lord. And, it is powerful when it is habitually practiced. Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4).
Celebration Claims God’s Promises
Châgag, khaw-gag’; to move in a circle, i.e. (specifically) to march in a sacred procession1
Nehemiah organized the people into two choirs that marched in different directions around the wall encircling the city (vs. 31-39).
Symbolic walking by faith to receive God’s promises is a familiar concept in scripture. In Genesis, God told Abraham to walk through the land and “I will give it to you.” Joshua was told that “every place” his foot “tread upon” was his. God’s people were instructed to walk around Jericho before the walls of the city fell and they conquered it.
Claiming God’s promises are necessary to a life of victory. When we keep celebrating by faith, we surround our lives with hope.
Celebration Culminates in Rest
Shâbath, shaw-bath’; to cease, keep (sabbath) rest.1
After they walked around the wall (vs. 38), they went into the house of God (vs. 40). They gave “great sacrifices” and entire families rejoiced with “great joy” (vs. 43). This is the crowning moment of the celebration. The sound of rejoicing was so loud it could be heard far and wide.
When we are partnering with God on something and it gets done, God wants to celebrate! He loves to take time to sit back and enjoy what has been accomplished (Read Genesis 2, Exodus 15, Revelation 19). Learning to celebrate the goodness of God releases overflowing joy that points others to our great God who always causes us to triumph.
Building margin into our lives for rejuvenation through celebration also allows God to give us rest from our adversaries.
God uses our celebration to silence the enemy (Nehemiah 6:16).
Satan and his followers have nothing to say when God does a great work in and through otherwise weak people!
1The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
MAKE IT PERSONAL
What can you learn about practicing the discipline of celebration from Israel’s dedication of the wall?
Have you walked around a situation by faith and claimed the promises of God? Have you prayed your way around every aspect of it, surrounded it in celebration, and asked God to give it to you?
In what ways has God challenged you to live a life of celebration?