Festivals of Gratitude

October 12, 2021

Exodus 23.14-19

14 “Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me.

15 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.

“No one is to appear before me empty-handed.

16 “Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field.

“Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.

17 “Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord.

18 “Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast.

“The fat of my festival offerings must not be kept until morning.

19 “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.

“Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.

Three festivals to celebrate.  All to do with the reception of grace.  Receiving grace as they left Egypt and receiving grace with the beginning and end of harvest.  Festivals that give the people an opportunity to give thanks to God for the ways he blesses and provides all they need in life.  Festivals that we still use in some ways.

The first is Passover, when we now celebrate the resurrection at Easter and the events of Good Friday leading up to it, the sacrifice of the Lamb for the life of all.  The second is Pentecost.  Fifty days after passive they celebrated first-fruits and it was called Pentecost in the Septuagint and in the days of Jesus.  The beginning of the harvest.  The last one is the final harvest festival.  All has been gathered in.  This is not on the same day, but will be seen on the last day of the church year, Reign of Christ, or Christ the King.  We celebrate that final gathering of all who belong, all who are called in faith to God.  The end of the harvest.

Still not sure what to do with the goat.  The best explanation has to do with a combination of a Ugaritic text that speaks of a pagan rite that boils a young kid (goat) and the idea that it is wrong to kill the young and cook it with the very thing that was meant to bring it life.

What we can see with much more certainty is that we are given life.  Life that is not contingent on doing everything right.  It does not depend on making proper sacrifices, saying certain prayers, or any other action that that we might put before it.  Life, and the blessings within it, are gifts of God that come to us freely.  We are made his people out of his actions, just as Israel was brought out of Egypt by God’s actions, not the work of the people.  All that comes in the worship and sacrifices, these celebrations, is an act of gratitude for what is already true.

We belong to God, he has redeemed us and given us life.  We celebrate that life in gratitude for what he has done and for what he has already declared to be true, we are his people and loved by him.

SongGoodness of God


Almighty and merciful God, from whom comes all that is good, we praise you for all your mercies: for your goodness that has created us, your grace that has sustained us, your wisdom that has challenged us, your patience that has borne with us, and your love that has redeemed us.  Help us to love you and all your children and to be thankful for all your gifts, by serving you and delighting to do your will.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

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