I am missing large gatherings, music festivals, weddings, carnivals and parties, because they are fun. Human beings have always liked getting together. There is evidence of large gatherings near Stonehenge in Britain going back to the stone age and in Jewish history festivals were an important part of the religious calendar instituted by God.
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all,
“This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law….
They found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem:
“Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make temporary shelters”—as it is written.
So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves temporary shelters on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim.
The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them.
From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.
Nehemiah 8 v 9,10,14 – 18
Israel and Judah had been invaded and much of the remaining population of the kingdom of Judah had been taken into exile into Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) which was first part of the Babylonia empire and later part of the Persian one.
Cyrus, the Shah of Persia, gave permission for some of the Jewish exiles to return with Nehemiah to start rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Then with the help of Ezra the rebuilding of the temple began in the fifth century BC.
Many of the people had forgotten their inheritance and didn’t know the law of Moses. It became so emotional as the people realised their loss, their sin and their collective shame.
But Ezra and Nehemiah had a different view of holiness -
that it isn’t a time for mourning or grieving, but a time of joy and feasting.
This eight-day celebration is one example in the Old Testament of a Jewish festival
– the festival of the booths.
They remembered the time when the Lord brought them from slavery in Egypt to the promised land. By sleeping in temporary wooden structures or booths they remembered the journey when they lived in tents.
They listened to reading of the law, preaching about the law.
They worshipped the Lord in great assemblies.
They feasted and celebrated.
Sounds like a Bible Week to me!
I’ve attended Stoneleigh, Wales Bible Week, Dales Bible Week, North, as well as many more civilised Christian conferences in hotels. I’ve sadly never been to Spring Harvest or the Keswick convention. My children enjoyed New Day, which was for the youth.
Most of these events involve thousands of Brits congregating in fields, camping and attending wonderful times of worship and preaching in warehouses or barn-like buildings.
Unfortunately, the British weather isn’t conducive to living outside. It took us years before we realised that we didn’t have to like camping in the rain, to be good Christians.
However, if you have the opportunity to attend an event like this, go.
I assume the world will return to normality some time!
All our family have all been encouraged by these large celebrations.
We need variety, and fun and laughter. God invented it.
The Trinity shows us that we are designed to live in community,
as we are made in the image of the Triune God.
Whilst it is true that the road is narrow and few find it, it is also true that will be multitudes in the valley of decision. In a country like Turkey the church might be hidden, but worldwide Christianity is the largest religion, with over 2 billion adherents.
Nearly one in three of the world’s population identify as a Christian
It’s good to remember that and to celebrate God’s goodness.
Waiting Here For You
Passion conferences draw crowds of 20,000 students from across America. This song was written for a conference in 2011 by a group of musicians: Chris Tomlin, Martin Smith, Jesse Reeves. Christy Nockels then added her own interpretation for the conference.