Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

God's Festivals: A Reminder of the Purpose of Life

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God's Festivals

A Reminder of the Purpose of Life

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God's Festivals: A Reminder of the Purpose of Life

MP4 Video - 1080p (2.49 GB)
MP4 Video - 720p (915.88 MB)
MP3 Audio (19.37 MB)

The festivals are symbols of very deep truths that God wants us to keep in the front and center of our minds each year as we walk through these festivals. They teach us who God is and His plan for mankind. They teach us that now is a time of preparation for when Christ returns, when we will reign with Christ on the earth. Everything we do now should be in line with that great purpose.


[Darris McNeely] I’d like to take you back for an open story, the time in yesteryear, even further back than the Lone Ranger.

Way back in the way back machine to the year 386 AD,  in a town called Antioch in the Middle East – the same Antioch that you read about in the book of Acts where there was a vibrant church that they would start with the Apostle Paul in his travels, his missionary journey.  A lot of time had passed from the time of Paul and Barnabas and those elders in the year 386 AD, about 400 years later other things were taken place and the church that was the church, the Christian church at that time was no longer likely meeting on the Sabbath day, Saturday the seventh day.  But it was a Sunday about this time of year that its pastor got in the pulpit and looked out at his congregation, much as I’m looking out over you today.  The man’s name was John Chrysostom, you’ll have to remember that, there’s won’t be a test unless you’re in ABC this year.  We’ll just call him John C.  He had a reputation, a fiery speaker, I believe they called him Golden Boy, he was just a master of oratory.

On this particular week, he gave a blistering sermon to his congregation and at a certain point, from the record that we have in history that has come down to us, he looked his audience in the eye and as only certain ministers can do, gave them the look.  He probably knew who he was talking to and he singled them out, they couldn’t hide and he said this:  “The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession.  The Feast of Trumpets, the Feast of Tabernacles, the Fast i.e. Day of Atonement.”    He went on:  “There are some in our ranks who say they think as we do, yet some of these are joined to keep the festivals and others will join the Jews in keeping their feasts and observing their fast.”  Then I can imagine that he probably paused and looked out into the eyes of exactly those maybe sitting at a particular section of his church who were of this particular vent, that is they were going to meet with Jews and keep the fall festivals.  He said this last statement:  “I wish to drive this custom from the church right now.  I wish to drive this custom from the church right now.”

This is the year 386 and let me tell you why this is an interesting year.  It’s really a remarkable testimony, it’s certainly a very powerful sermon and it would not be one you or I would want to hear from anyone speaking to us on a Sabbath day although a few years ago we heard certain sermons and ideas quite like that even in our own time, about 19 years ago.  But this goes back several centuries, but it’s remarkable in this way because at this late date, by comparison to the time of Jesus Christ, the Apostles and the New Testament church which we read of in the New Testament, there are still people who are Christians calling themselves Christians keeping the holy days.  Now the irony is this sermon was given very likely almost positively on a Sunday.  The church by that time had already abandoned the Sabbath Day, but there were still people who were keeping the holy days in some form or fashion.  For the minister to get up and say what he did and to have that recorded and even survived the times and come down to us today, it’s a remarkable testimony.

Yet five years earlier there had been a major church council called the Council of Constantinople and that was a very important church council because what it did was it locked in forever more forward the doctrine of the trinity and the approach to what Christ and the Father and especially the Holy Spirit, that it was the great triunda  and there was something else because the Emperor at that time backed it 200%;  Church officials now had the authority of the state behind them to enforce orthodox teaching not only on the trinity, but anything else that they wanted in their Christian churches and they began to do so.  They locked the door on anyone who didn’t believe the trinity and as you can see from a sermon like this, they were going to lock the door on anyone who would dare to keep the Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement or Feast of Tabernacles and still try to fellowship with them in a spirit of love and peace.  It couldn’t co-exist and this man and his church had the power of the state behind him to make it happen.  But I find it actually a testimony of faith and a positive testimony.

I studied this subject and after a bit of time, knowing how quickly the truth fled from the church 200 years earlier, 250 years earlier, soon after the death of John and the original apostles to find this being in the 4th century to still find this being done is amazing.  Now it didn’t last long because indeed John C. and his cohorts they did crush it out of the church and virtually any further references to the holy days or truths that we might hold dear such as even the millennium begin to disappear from history as we have it.  In fact a few decades later into the fifth century and there’s actually I found one reference to church that still believes in the millennium, the thousand year reign of Christ.  You know where that church is according to the history?  In a little town called Laodicea.  The next time you want to get down to the Laodiceans think twice.  Some of them in that church in that city as late as the fifth century still held to one thread of truth, the idea that Christ was going to reign on this earth for one thousand years.  They had a lot of other things wrong.  It’s a testimony certainly to the truth of God and how powerful it is and how lasting and enduring it is.

God has always kept a remnant alive and the truth has never died out, as small as it may have become among small groups of people who have held to the Sabbath, non Trinitarian teaching, maybe even a fragments of the holy days.  It’s always been there, you can trace elements of it and see it through history, what we are a part of in our time, in our period in the church is truly an anomaly since the first century.  We should always remember that.  Do you know what happened to these people that John C. spoke to that day, I don’t know.  Did they fold to the pressure immediately?  Did they not want to be associated with the Jews and did they find themselves there then on Easter Sunday and whatever else was being done and forget any idea of keeping the Passover on the fourteenth day?  I don’t know.  Did they stick to their belief, did they put God first, did they fear God more than man?  I don’t know, history doesn’t tell us that.  But it was a perilous period for spiritual truth.  The last messages were of faith that had once been delivered, but being hunted down and exterminated by a very powerful church/state combination called the Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church. 

Now my sermon today is not meant to drive you away from the holy days.  Rather it’s meant to lead you to God thru our observance of the holy days.  I start with that, just to show a little bit of the challenges through the centuries that anyone who has wanted to hold onto any part of truth has had to face.  We’re very fortunate in that we don’t have such a situation today where our doctrines and faith may have been challenged in past.  We have had the freedom and the means to reorganize and to keep it alive and to worship God as we see from scripture and we will continue to do so.  We will not let that be ripped from us in any way shape or form.  But what I want to do today is to lead you to a true spiritual lesson, to learn from these upcoming holy days about God as we begin to keep the holy days.  We, just two days ago, kept the Feast of Trumpets.  We’ll be keeping Atonement as Mr. Myers mentioned here and others of people of God will be in until next Sabbath and then we’re off to the Feast of Tabernacles and all the conversations are abuzz around church right now:  Where are you going?  When are you leaving?  What are you going to do and that’s dominated in our conversation and rightly so.  It’s a wonderful time for the people of God, it’s a wonderful time for the church as we begin to keep the fall festivals.  Trumpets is always a big high and as we drove to Indianapolis two days ago and kept it with the brethren over there and it was not only good to be home (our former home) to see our kids and family and old friends, but just to keep the feast again and to get to the holy day season now.  So we’re into it and it’s on our mind and certainly in our hearts.

But it’s also important that we refresh our mind as to the significance, the importance and understand why they are so important to God’s people, not only in past history, but obviously for us today as we are living it, breathing it, writing our own epic of history and the story of the Church of God.  The festivals are symbols of very deep spiritual truths that God wants us to keep front and center in our minds each year as we begin to walk through the meaning of the festivals.  They teach us number one, who God is.  It teaches who God is, the true God and His Son, Jesus Christ.  Christ prayed in John 17:3 John 17:3And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
American King James Version×
This is eternal life that they might know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.   Everything about the holy days points us to Jesus Christ and to God the Father because you can’t speak, as Christ Himself told us, without coming to the Father.  He is the way by which we come to the Father.  None can come to the Father except thru Me, He said.  So every time we speak of Christ, we’re speaking to the Father and about the Father and of the Father because they are one.

Faith teaches the true God, which is the first commandment.  Really when you stop and think about it, to understand the true God strikes at the very first commandment.  The Passover identifies this as the fullness of Jesus Christ, His suffering and His death.  Unleavened Bread teaches us of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.  We go from the death and the suffering of Jesus Christ on Passover to the fullness of the gospel as we move in to the Days of Unleavened Bread because, as we eat that unleavened bread, we picture the risen Christ in us by the means we have a hope of glory as sons of God.  Only God can deliver us from the bondage of sin and death and bring us to salvation.  When we get to Pentecost, it shows us we are among the first fruits of creation.  That God has a purpose and a plan that He is bringing to pass in phases and Pentecost teaches us about the first fruits, that this today is not the only day of salvation and that we are among a group of people and Christ is the first, a group called the first fruits.  That lays a very great responsibility upon us because we are now under a time of judgment and now is the time of our calling and that’s the message in part that we’ve attained from the Feast of Pentecost. 

The festivals help us to understand the flow of prophecy.  Christ is going to return at the seventh trumpet.  The Feast of Trumpets teaches us that.  We know and we can even look to the sequence of events from the book of Revelation, we own from I Thessalonians of the blowing of that trumpet, will also be the time of the first resurrection. When Christ returns it will signal many events at that particular point in time and then prophecy is going to open up in terms of the end time event which will begin to really get going.  We sometimes think of end time events and the study of end time events and we look at where we are right now, to events and personalities of the lives of the ten kings and of another revival of a beast system and two witnesses and false prophets and we tend to think that that’s only the end time that we are concerned about.

Oh no, that’s just a rough shoals of passage to get to the really big times of end time, because with Christ’s return then the end time really begin to roll at that point, and the new creation begins to be created with that thousand year reign as Christ reigns with the saints, that period of time and preparation for another event and ultimately a new creation completely and Christ hands the kingdom up to the Father.  The study of end time moves way beyond just the point at which Christ returns and so we have to keep it all in the proper perspective there.  But these festivals help us to do so, onto Tabernacles and then to the eighth day.  In fact a major lesson when we understand where we are in our places that we are now called to prepare ourselves for that kind of reigning with Jesus Christ for a thousand years of Revelation 20, verse 4 teaches us about.  That’s why we were born and that’s why we are called now, to prepare in advance for that period of time.  This time is the period of preparation and that all we do in the faith, in every aspect of our lives every day, every hour, our lives are wrapped up in preparing for that point in time when Christ returns and afterwards as we prepare to reign with Him.  We have to use that terminology, we should not shy away from that.

As imperfect as we sometimes get, even ruling our own selves and even collectively among ourselves, the scripture is still true as to what is Christ’s purpose for the church today to be prepared for that, to prepare saints to reign and rule with Him.  That’s why you and I have been called now in advance of the billions who will be called at a later point.  There’s a reason and it’s to prepare to reign with Christ and to have a role in that which means everything we do in our life right now.  Every decision that we make, every action that we take, every word we speak, every plan that we bring to fruition should be in line with that great purpose.  That takes discipline, that takes overcoming, it takes endurance and it takes all of the things that we normally talk about in terms of our approach to Christian living, but that’s what it is, that’s it.  So when we begin to prepare ourselves to keep the Feast of Tabernacles and Atonement and the eighth day, let’s keep that in mind as to really what we are to learn from these and what God tells us we should learn.  We keep the Feast to learn a proper fear and respect of God, a respect and a deep rooted love that’s unbending and unshakeable for God.  That’s why we keep it.  After all, that’s what He tells us back in Deuteronomy 14.  Let’s go back to a well known passage which is always a good starting point for the festivals and typically a lot of times during even the fall festivals.

In   Deuteronomy 14 let’s go after certain tithing principles and other matters we come down to tithing principles in Verse 22:  You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. Verse 23:  And you shall eat before the Lord your God in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstlings of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.

So in this basic agrarian society of the time of Moses and the subsequent conquest and Israel in their period, God lays out to Moses this plan for a society in which they will worship God and they will keep the festivals.  They are based around the harvest cycle (yes) but there’s far more meaning then just the harvest aspect there.  We know them as very deep spiritual meaning and it’s interesting just to look at this.  Tithing is just talked about and new grain and oil, wine and herds and flocks, which are means of exchange and wealth that we, most of us don’t deal in today, unless you have a few chickens out back or if you had a cattle that you’ve got, but that’s not where you’re making your income from.  You’re going to a job and tithing on that and we’re setting that tithe aside for keeping of the festivals.  That in a sense fulfills what the instruction that we see here.  What we really have done in our time is take these instructions that were rooted in an agrarian tribal society and adapted them into the modern world as best we can to keep the holy days.  We should all know the story of that, the history of that even in our own time, but this is what we have done.

When you look at what they were told to do here, they even were tithing on goats and cows, but when God tells them in Verse 24:  But if the journey is too far for you so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, Verse 25:  then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. Just spend your money there. That’s a modern method given by Moses, all this time in the ancient world, really it’s a modern method for them to have done that.  But that’s what we do as a matter of course, we take our money and we don’t convert it to animals or else you’re in Africa and they do that literally over there.  But we don’t and they literally buy sacks of corn and meal and goats.  They kill the goats and hang them up, I’ve seen it.  They like skinned goats with flies on them but it sure teaches you a few things.  Here’s what they’re told to do is to take this to a place where God has chosen.

Verse 26:  And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God and you shall rejoice, you and your household. Verse 27:  You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you.   This is a classic, basic text that we take.  I began hearing this from my very first Feast of Tabernacles as to why we were there and what we were doing.  I heard it expounded and I’ve expounded ithundreds of times I guess through the years as a minister and I go back every year and I look at this and look at it, this is what we are to do.  It’s really quite simple in terms of the instructions, go where God places His name.

When I first came into the church I thought God had placed His name only in three places on this earth; Squaw Valley, CA, Big Sandy, TX and Jekyll Island, GA.  When they added a fourth one about three years later, I think it might have been Mount Pocono, I thought no, no, no, there’s only three places where God has placed His name.  Then I realized oh, He can mix that around based on the need and everything else and as the church grew, we had to have more Feast sites in that period of time.  God places a lot of places thru the years.  Sometimes I’ve been to certain Feast sites and I’ve thought I don’t know that God put His name here.  Sure enough we didn’t go back.  We went to Johnson City, TN one time years ago.  I went there, a lot of us went there.  No offense, but as my Dad used to say, I didn’t leave anything behind to have to go back.  But the church didn’t go back.  Some places just don’t work out, but administrative decisions are made and we go and we keep the Feast in that location.  There are two things that these verses here that we read, tell us to do.

The first one is to fear God and that means basically to respect God, to look at God with awe and a wonder and a reverence and love.  It is not to stand and start reigning fear of God.  It is meant to respect and love God with teaching and all He tells us and to love the truth and to love it with all of our heart, might and being and to love God with all of our heart, might and being.  What we do teaches us how to have a proper respect and fear of the Almighty God.  So we do it as He says in verse 23 that we might learn to fear God, the Lord your God always.  Then He says in verse 26, after we do all these things, wine, food, spending our money it is that we might rejoice, us and our household.  Fear God and rejoice.  Two great principles of keeping all the festivals and as we keep the Feast of Tabernacle in a unique way in a seven day setting for the Feast and then the eighth day and the travel to and fro and all of that, that becomes obviously  the bulk of our attention and that has been what has been our tradition as we have developed it within the church today.  

We used to keep the Days of Unleavened Bread for seven full days in a location, hotels, camping, but that went out some time in the middle to late 60’s and was settled by tradition upon just keeping the Feast of Tabernacles.  But that’s kind of what we used to do, but because of modern setting and demands and time and money, we just couldn’t do that.  So we keep the Feast of Tabernacles in this manner and it has served the church well, spiritually speaking.  It is uniting and bonding fact for the church as we have come along to do this.  When I look at these verses every year and I think about all my Feasts and experiences and as I said some places haven’t always been that great.  But most of them have and they’re wonderful and I have learned through the years how to rejoice, I’ve learned how to rejoice at the Feast.  He says this in the context of food and fellowship and the people that we’re with, you and your household, the Levite and others who don’t have a part in the inheritance.  So there’s people, there’s food, there’s socials, there’s a general true feasting experience as you keep the Feast.

Early years when I kept it, we camped on the big property in Big Sandy, the Ambassador College property in Big Sandy and what they called the Pinewoods and you could walk up and down the street and people would feed you.  They always had something cooking in their campsites and you never went hungry.  There was always somebody playing music, blue grass usually and some pick-up band that was going on and fellowship and up and down and services.  As those years, the first seven or eight years, I kept the Feast was in that type of setting and you rejoice in so many different things.  First of all, I rejoiced that I was out of school for ten days until I got back and had to do all the homework over again.  When it comes to food, I thought there was a time when to me spending my little bit of tithe that I had for what my soul and heart desired, there was no greater joy that I could experience then a bucket of Kentucky fried chicken.  To this day I have a memory, my best friend in the church at that time (1968),  he had a motel room and in a less than three star setting in Gladewater, TX.  We went over one afternoon after church to watch the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers play that afternoon in the world series.  We went and we bought a bucket of chicken and a 12 pack of frosted root beer.  It was the original recipe and we ate it all and I thought it doesn’t get any better than this.  I was rejoicing.  What is your memory?  What is your story, what’s in your wallet? 

Now as the years went by, I learned that there’s more to the Feast than Kentucky fried chicken.  I learned that there was good steaks, prime rib and all of that.  So I’ve had those and I’ve had good cook outs, pot luck meals at the Feast, cook outs at the beach, in the camp grounds, frankly even in a hotel room after a day of traveling and services and just pulling up everything, sharing what 3 or 4 of us would have and caring and every night putting it out on the beds in a hotel room and just having a pot luck on whatever was available there; chips and cheese and crackers and everything else.  I’ve had good meals, I’ve had medium meals, I’ve had not so good meals and the food part of it is great, it’s what is there. The other part of what these verses tell us is the fellowship.  It’s the second element that makes a good Feast.  These verses really speak to the people you’re with.  You’ve got to have fellowship with your family, with your friends that you go with, with people that you meet there that you take in and if you see someone that may be by themselves you include them and you get to know other people in the aisle at services, in the hotels, wherever you are in a restaurant and you get acquainted.  That’s what these verses are describing as well that make up the Feast and the experiences and the memories and draw us together.  I’ve met a lot of people as you have, as you kept the Feast.  I can think back to a lot of faces, a lot of families, a lot of people that have grown up that I’ve met in the many years of the Feasts and in various locations.  I wonder sometimes where are they, are they still alive, are they still in the church?  If they’re not, what’s happened to their lives?  You think about these situations as you look back over the years, of people and the best Feasts that I’ve had have largely been around because of the people that you get to know and you’re with and gotten acquainted with as you tell each other stories, that is one thing I have learned that makes the Feast what it does.

I’ve had my romances, my Feast romances too.  I was a teenager in Big Sandy.  I think it was two days before the eighth day I met this girl.  Cute little girl.  She looked at me and I looked at her and we just started talking and I actually started sitting next to her in services, I hadn’t done that before.  When it came to the last song, last service, on the 8th day, we sang “God Be With You Till We Meet Again” and we all had a tear in our eyes and she gave me her address and I gave her my address and we said well let’s write to each other.  I thought wow, a girl in the church, a nice girl and good personality.  So we started writing letters; (This was a long time ago.)  We wrote letters all through the year and come spring we thought we would be at the same Feast site the next year, which was going to be the first Feast at the Lake of the Ozarks.  How many of you were at the first Feast at Lake of the Ozarks, anybody here?  O.K., I was there and haven’t been back since, but I was there.  We were going to be at the Feast together, so we planned that, we couldn’t wait.  I got to the Feast. It was the first night and I went through the crowd looking for her.  There she was.  She saw me, I saw her across the crowded room.  How are you doing?  Good to see you.  We kept on going, we didn’t talk the rest of the Feast.  I don’t know what happened.  It was just like when we saw each other a year later, it just didn’t work and I don’t know whatever happened to her.  Literally I didn’t see her the rest of the Feast.  There’s a story there for all of you young folks, but I’m not going to get into that one today.  Feast romances are very interesting situations, be careful.  I’ve had mine.  As you know it was not Debbie.  That’s another story.

Moses is talking about food, fellowship and faith here, which really are the key ingredients for the best Feast ever.  Fear of God is nothing more than, again this faith in God, and all that it entails.  Food, fellowship and faith are what he is talking about here.  In all my years, no matter how many locations, no matter how exotic, no matter how close to home and not seeing what’s so special this year or whatever it might be, the best seats have always been with these elements and fellowship and faith the highest and most important, because this is the formula that God gives us in these verses and if we focus on that and the spiritual dimension that all of them work together to produce, we will have the best Feast and we will learn to fear God and we will rejoice in the proper spirit. 

I’d like to go through a passage. I got to thinking how might we learn from this?  What story could we learn  because my stories of the girlfriend and Kentucky fried chicken don’t quite measure up to the spiritual dimension that we need to get in to the Feast preparation sermon like this.  

I remembered one of the stories from the Old Testament that happened during one of the festivals, maybe the Feast of Tabernacles, maybe in the spring.  It’s in 1 Samuel, chapters 1 and 2.  It’s the story of Samuel, his birth and his mother Hannah.  About 3 months ago I gave a sermon and I referred to Hannah’s story as part of one of the points of that sermon.  I was thinking about that as I was putting this together and I realized, well yes I talked about Hannah, but I didn’t talk about chapter 2 about Hannah and her prayer.  But let’s rehearse for a minute before we get to chapter 2 and look at the prayer of Hannah, the story.  If you look at I Samuel chapter 1 and just remember what the setting is.  It tells us:

1 Samuel 1:1 1 Samuel 1:1Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite:
American King James Version×
Now there was a certain man,   Verse 2: He had two wives; the name of one was Hannnah and the name of the other Peninna.  I never been able to pronounce Peninna.  I guess if you’re from Ohio it’s Pennena but if you’re from Georgia, it’s Peninna.  Take your pick.  Anyway Penina had kids. Hannah didn’t and she wanted a kid.  But here’s what it says in Verse 3:  This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh.  (Shiloh was where the tabernacle was at that time long before David ever  took it up to Jerusalem.  This is where the tribes gathered according to the instruction that we read back in Deuteronomy, three times in a year.  They went to Shiloh.  So what we’re being told here is that he went up (Elkannah) with his wives yearly to the Feast.  Now again, one of the three seasons, Passover, Pentecost or the fall festivals, it doesn’t give us exactly which one, but you remember Hannah was there and she wanted a child, she prayed for a child and said I’d give him Lord to you if you do.  Well she got pregnant and Samuel was the result of that.

So if you look down in Verse 21 we find a second occurence later.  Verse 21:   And the man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and his vow. Verse 22:  But Hannah did not go up until the child is weaned; then I will take him that he may appear before the Lord and remain there forever.  She was going to devote him to the Lord.   Hannah’s example of faith is a remarkable one and I covered that a few months ago in a sermon in brief.  But that kind of sets it up because what I want to focus on here is her prayer which she began in chapter 2, verse 1 when she then finally went up to Shiloh and gave over her son.  Verse 27:  She prayed and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Verse 28:  “Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.”  So they worshiped the Lord there.   So the setting is in the festival period when these events took place.

If we look at her prayer I think that we can learn some things about rejoicing and fear of God is my point.  Here’s a prayer of a woman who had given her all, maybe her only son at that point, later she went on to have other children.  But she promised him to God and she followed through on it.  Hannah was a dedicated, zealous, fine spiritual woman and it is her prayer that is fascinating to really look at.  I think that this is a prayer that you and I could study personally for our own benefit at this time of year as we go up yearly to worship the God that we serve in the place that He has placed His name.  It’s a prayer not unlike Mary’s prayer in the New Testament when she found out she was pregnant with Jesus, and gentlemen, some of the best prayers in the bible are from women and we should learn from that.  Sometimes when you want a good spiritual conversation, find a good group of women standing around.  I mean that in a right way, some men get in to some good ones too but Hannah’s prayer here is pretty good.

Look at Verse 1, chapter 2:  My heart rejoices in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord.  I smile at my enemies because I rejoice in Your salvation.  Now she was bitter toward Peninnah because Peninnah had kids and there was tension in the family.  Now Hannah has one and she’s giving him up.  But she was rejoicing before God.  What does God tell us to do when we go to the Feast?  To rejoice before Him and to fear Him.  Here’s Hannah, giving her all in devotion to her God and she was rejoicing.
“My horn” which is a symbol of strength, is what that is, that’s what her horn means.  My horn is exalted.

(Did you have a shofar here on Trumpets?  Did somebody try to blow the shofar?  Nobody did?  Really?  You didn’t keep the Feast of Trumpets!  We had two blowings in Indianapolis.  The second one was pretty good.  It blasted it.)  It’s not that kind of horn.  This is a horn that is a symbol of strength.  There were three elements, her heart, her strength and the words of her mouth, the deep feelings of her life, the inner person of Hannah and her actions that she’s able to do and the words that she speaks.  They’re all wrapped up and devoted to God, they’re centered on God which is where all of us should be with all of our life.  Thoughts that compel us to action and as we speak it should be from that type of heart, words that build and edify, and that are words of faith and words of encouragement that reflect on God centered life.  This is what she was.

Verse 2: “There is none holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.  She knew that God was supreme, paramount, faithful and sure and she was at His place where He had placed His name at a time of year during the festivals, she was before God and she was pouring it out in this prayer.  Verse 3:  Talk no more so very proud; let no arrogance come from your mouth, for the Lord is the God of knowledge; and by His actions are weighed. 

The Feast of Tabernacles is a very good time for any of us to check our pride.  How are we doing on pride?  Do we talk proudly?  Do we act proudly?  Do we think proudly?  When we go to keep the Feast and we have festival tithes, a lot of money to spend in a very short period of time, wherever or whatever we do.  Connect that with the idea of the harvest being in and as we read in Deuteronomy to turn it into money and go where God has placed His name.  The harvest time in society and the time when the bank accounts are full, the barn is full, but a good crop here or we’ve had a good year in sales and a good bonus, our checking account is full, our savings account is full, markets had a pretty good year on funds this year, and every thing else, and we go to keep the Feast (rightfully so), but the lesson to learn is that at any point in time and especially during the festival period, when we might think we have a lot, to not get arrogant and forget God.  God has given us what we have, small or great, God has given it, it comes from Him, which is why we should not be proud, don’t let arrogance come from your mouth, hopefully words of humility and sincerity, truth will come.

The end of Verse 3 says:  And by Him actions are weighed.  It is a time of judgment, certainly the Feast of Trumpets shows that period of judgment that Christ will bring on all nations.  But God’s actions are sure and He keeps the account.  We may have a time of abundance but we should not forget God and forget that God gives it to us.  Verse 4 begins a series of contrast that run for several verses here.  Ups and downs, highs and lows, successes and reversals that Hannah poured out because she’s been up and she’s been down and she’s been up.  She’s seen it from both ends.

Verse 4:  The bows of the mighty men are broken. (The bows are strong at one point, they’re together, they have an arrow fitted through them, the next minute it’s broken, nothing more useless than a broken bow.  You can’t shoot a deer with a broken bow.  You can’t hit a target with a broken bow.  A mighty man might have it at one point and then before you know it, it’s broken and defenseless.) And those who stumbled are girded with strength.  Have you ever made a mistake, made a big mistake, had it pointed out to you but then see yourself turn around a week later, get a bit of praise, get a commendation, you can be down, you can be up.  Verse 5:  Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread. ( Full bank account one month, looking for a morsel of bread the next.  Hiring out for bread the next.)  And those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.  The barren have borne seven, and she who has many children has become feeble.

Maybe she had in mind her friend Peninnah there in the household who had many and what her story became.  Now Hannah who had been barren had children, had one and went on to have more.  She knew she could have more.  Verse 6:  The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. Verse 7:  The Lord makes poor and makes rich.  He brings low and lifts up. So here is a period of contrast that goes on here. Verse 8:  He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory.

No matter where we might find ourselves this year, let’s be temperate in that it could be different next year.  Not that we have to live in fear of that, but we all know that we don’t know, do we what the next year will bring?  I’m praying for people this year in a different way than I was praying for them last year.  This year I’m praying for their life, that God would extend their life, kind of what He did for Hezekiah, give him a few more years.  I wasn’t doing that a year ago in some cases.  In the next year, who knows what will bring?  This is a list of reversals and ups and downs.  Are you up now, do you have the title, the name on the door, or do you have the position?  Good, use it well.  Don’t get proud, or arrogant, you might get down, it can be taken away, the business could go out, companies can fold, new management comes in, circumstances beyond your control takes place, time goes on, you’re up, you’re down.  As the saying goes, be kind to people on your way up, because on your way down and if you stay around long enough, you’ll be coming down and they’ll be coming back up.  That is true, that is true.  Treat people with respect.  Treat people with kindness and love no matter where they serve in the office, in the building, in the company, in the church, do what you can do.  Take out that can of trash if it’s full, pick up the trash on the floor, if it’s right there by you, teach the class, give the sermonette, lead the songs, do whatever you’re given to do, but do it and rejoice and do it in the fear of God because He’s going to be with somebody else next year or in five years from now.  Be nice.  There are so many more points that are right here and this is a big lesson for us to remember when we go to the Feast and as we come before God and we rejoice and we fellowship, because God doesn’t change.

It goes on here in the latter part of Verse 8: For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and He has set the world upon them.  God’s creation on this earth is sound and firm.  The sun rises and sets, the conditions of life are exact and they are not going to change.  Now hurricanes can come up, earthquakes can rumble and catastrophes can come out of nature which can be pretty rough.  But the earth still stands.  Hurricanes and winds can batter our lives but God’s purpose still stands, God’s plan still stands and it will not be moved.  The pillars of the earth are God’s.

Verse 9:  He will guard the feet of His saints, but the wicked shall be silent in darkness. “For by strength no man shall prevail.”  At another time in the bible, in Zechariah, I believe it’s chapter 4, verse 6, God’s going to say it’s not by strength or by my power says the Lord.  So when we’re young, when we’re strong, when we think we’re on top, when we think we’ve got it all figured out, just realize it’s not by our strength, it is by God’s strength and that’s a good lesson as we prepare to keep the fall festivals and especially the Feast of Tabernacles.

Verse 10:  The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces; from heaven He will thunder against them.  The Lord will judge the ends of the earth. ” He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed.”

We live and move and work in God’s strength, not our own and Hannah learned this and so should we.  It is not our strength that has gotten us to this point in life. If we can always remember that we will do well and we will be able then to deal with whatever comes our way, if unexpected, beyond our control and yet God still stands and the purpose in our life still stands.

And regardless of where we go for the Feast and what type of arrangements we have made for this year’s Feast of Tabernacles, as we go before God - food, fellowship, and faith, the fear of God help us to finally and fully rejoice before God. And to come to God in a time of peace, when we can do as God commands us to do and as we will do.

I want to go back to the story that I told you in the beginning of John C., the fiery preacher of Antioch who wanted to drive his people out who wanted to keep the Festivals. It’s a remarkable story of a period of time. And it might not seem to relate to us today, and by God’s grace it doesn’t because you and I can go to Panama City Beach and Mexico and Guatemala and Prince Edward Island and wherever we may go, if it’s just a Holiday Inn Eastgate, and keep the Feast and worship God in peace. And let’s thank God that we can for another year. The world is changing in many ways. There are people who don’t believe as we do, and yet they’re exposed on mountaintops in Iraq. And there are people who are Jews who we could have a bit more affinity with in some ways, perhaps, that found their synagogues torched in Germany in recent weeks because of rising anti-Semitism in that part of the world. And it hasn’t come to our shores exactly in that same way, and for that we give God the thanks, but a story like that should give us pause to consider what we do have, to give God thanks for what we have and wherever and however we come before Him this year, in the place where He’s placed His name.

Let’s go and let’s rejoice, and let’s always remember why we’re able to be there, and let’s learn to fear God, and let’s have the best Feast ever.