God rejoicing with us. God desiring us to rejoice. God instituting celebrations to make sure we rejoice. This is the God we serve! And yet so often today we have forgotten how to rejoice in and with God.
Yahweh is the one who brought Israel out of Egypt, and this becomes the foundational motivation for their rejoicing and feasts (v. 1). God chooses the places to make His name abide and wants us to join Him there (v. 6–7, 11). It really is all about relationship, and God wants to be as close to us as possible, bringing great joy to our hearts.
The people were to rest on the feasts, not to work, because they were to instead focus on the work that God did (v. 10, 15). God is the one who blesses His people, and in remembering these blessings, our joy actually increases, and we are able to gain perspective on any trials we may be facing. The feasts take our minds off this world, and point our hopes and desires and dreams toward the heavenly reality that God longs for us all to experience.
Rather than an exclusive celebration, the feasts were to include any who wanted to come, and especially all those who were vulnerable. The people were to invite the servants, the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows, and to celebrate with all of them (vv. 11, 14). Servants became equals in the feasts; Levites became heirs; foreigners felt at home; the fatherless and widows gained a spiritual family. The great needs of hearts were to be answered in the feasts. Each was to give as they were able, to contribute to the great celebration.
Today, the feasts are not normative or required, but are an invitation to joy and peace and rejuvenation. Now we can still come to the sanctuary by faith (Heb. 10:19–25), remembering what God has done for us in the past, claiming present assurance of salvation, and looking forward to the ultimate fulfillment in heaven. Although it is not a necessity, celebrating the feasts helps us to feel the reason for the prayer of the psalmist: “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all of the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple” (Ps. 27:4). May that also be our prayer!