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The story of Moses doesn’t end with the Ten Commandments.  In fact, God was just beginning to teach His chosen Israelite people how to be Holy. It would be 40 years before the wandering Israelites would enter the Promised Land, and it’s no coincidence that the number 40 is associated with transformation in the Bible.  God used those 40 years to transform the Israelites from being former slaves to the Egyptians, to being a nomadic people who were cared for and provided for by God, to becoming His Holy nation of people.   In addition to giving them the Ten Commandments for right living, God also taught them how to worship Him.  Part of their worship included Festivals that are detailed in Chapter 23 of Leviticus. 

The LORD said to Moses, “Give the Israelites instructions regarding hte LORD’s appointed festivals, the days when all of you will be summoned ot worship me.  You may work for six days each week, but on the seventh day all work must come to a complete stop.  It is the LORD’s Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day to assemble for worship.  It must be observed wherever you live.  In addition to the Sabbath, the LORD has established festivals, the holy occasions to be observed at the proper time each year.     – Leviticus 23:1-4

In addition to the Passover and Unleavened Bread festivals held in early spring, God also established the following festivals:

Festival of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:23-25):  This festival was held in early autumn and signified the beginning of the season of festivals to come.  It was a time to express joy and thanksgiving to God.    The people were to do no regular work on this day, but were to make burnt offerings to the LORD.

Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-32): This was a somber day to be observed on the 9th day after the Festival of Trumpets.  On this day the people were to have a sacred assembly,  humble themselves before God and present offerings to him.  Atonement was made for them before God, and payment was made for their sins (verse 28).  Anyone not spending the day in humility would be cut off from the community, and God said he would destroy anyone doing any kind of work on that day.  (verses 30,31)

Festival of Firstfruits (Leviticus 23:9-14):  God instructed Moses that when the Israelites arrived in the Promised Land and harvested their first crops, they were to bring grain as an offering from the first portion of their grain harvest in addition to other offerings as instructed by God.  This was to celebrate their first harvest in the land God had given them and also to remind them how God had provided for them.

Festival of Harvest (Leviticus 23:15-22):  Seven weeks after the Festival of Firstfruits, the Israelites were to celebrate the Festival of Harvest.  This was a time to celebrate the end of this time of harvest and to show joy and thanksgiving to God.  The Israelites were to give offerings which included bread made from choice flour from the first of their crops.  Not only were they to make offerings to God at harvest time, God also instructed them to leave unharvested the grain along the edges of their fields and not to pick up what the harvesters dropped.  This grain was to be left for the poor and foreigners living among them. 

My friends, whether you live in an agricultural community or not, this is your time of harvest!  It is this time of year we’re to reflect on the bounties God has provided for us.  Maybe He’s provided for you financially or with opportunities.  Maybe He blessed you with good health or the love of family and friends.  Maybe you didn’t ‘get ahead’ this year, but you still got by.  Maybe God answered long-awaited prayers or showed Himself to you in awesome ways. 

How were you blessed this year?  What do you have to offer in return?  How can you give back to God in return for all He’s done for you?

If you look back at the instructions for the festivals above, you’ll find the answers.  First we’re to acknowledge this season of harvest with joy and thanksgiving as in the Festival of Trumpets.  Then we’re to stop what we’re doing and give sacred time to God by humbling ourselves before Him, seeking atonement for our sins and making payment for them.  With humbled hearts, and having been made “at one” with God through atonement, we’re to go before the Lord giving Him the first and best fruits of our labors, not what’s left over after we serve ourselves.  We’re also to find ways to help the ‘poor and foreign’ among us.  We’re to give to God first, before giving and spending in other ways, with the best we have to give, and we’re to do so with joy and thanksgiving because of all He’s done for us! 

The Biblical instruction for giving is a tithe, which means 10% of what God has provided to us. As our former and current pastors say, “God gives us a pretty good deal.  He let’s us keep 90%!  He only takes 10!”     The Charlotte Observer reported today that the average offering in America is only 2.2%.  It went on to say that if full tithes were given, churches would have an additional 161 billion dollars (yes, that’s billion with a ‘b’) to benefit charities and mission work.  Can you imagine?!  Not only would this make a tremendous difference in the world around us, it would serve as an incredible stimulus to our economy!  (Hmmm…kind of makes me wonder if there’s a correlation as to why our nation is in the financial fix we’re in… ) 

This is our season of harvest.  It is a time for festival-type worship and praising for the good God has done in our lives!  It’s also a time to account for our sins and seek atonement (at-one-ment) with God.  Then with humbled hearts, we need to go before Him with the first and best of what we have to offer.  He gave of His best when He gave His beloved Son as a sacrifice for us.  What can we now offer Him in return?

Dear Lord, Help us to search our hearts and find all the reasons we have to be joyful and give thanks to You!   Help us to understand that making offerings to You is an act of worship and a way to give back in return for all You have done for us.  The Bible says that just as You have blessed us, we are to bless others.  Help us find it in our hearts to bless others by giving to You.  And Lord, some people may not be financially able to tithe even though it’s a desire in their hearts to do so.  Please bless those people and receive their gifts with even more pleasure, knowing they give what they can; and help them to one day be able to give the amounts they want to give.   Lord, the most important gifts we can give is of our hearts.  May our hearts and the offerings they yield be pleasing and acceptable to You, our Lord and Redeemer.  To You my Heavenly Father I pray, with Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and in the love of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.  So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”     – Matthew 9:37-38

My son, Jackson, recently informed me that the no-sew fleece blanket I made for him several years ago was getting too small.  He asked if we could buy more fleece so I could make a new blanket for him.  I was touched that he wanted me to make another one and looked forward to doing so. 

Anxious to get the blanket started, Jackson got the fleece out on his own. He spread it out neatlyso that it was ready for me to begin my work.  I had only made a few cuts in the fabric when Jackson asked if he could do some cutting, too.  “Sure!”, I responded.  “It will  fun to make it together!”   About that time I had to take a phone call.  I returned to discover that Jackson had gotten a lot done all by himself!  He even told me he wanted to finish the rest of the cutting by himself.  I was disappointed that he didn’t want to do it together, especially since this was something I wanted to make for him as a gift of love.  Yet, at the same time I was impressed that he wanted to take ownership and do it himself.  That was fine.  He could finish the cutting and I’d help with the tying…or so I thought.  He wanted to do that by himself, too!  

“You’re doing a great job,” I told him, “but making this blanket was something I wanted to do for you.  Are you sure I can’t help?”   He was sure that he wanted to make the blanket by himself, and was sweetly reminded me that I’d gotten to make the first one for him.  How could I argue with that? 

At first I felt like I’d had an opportunity taken from me.  I wanted the joy and satisfaction of making something special for my son.  However, when I thought about Jackson’s eagerness to do the project himself and how happy it made him to experience the satisfaction of completing the project on his own, I realized it wasn’t an opportunity taken at all.  It was an opportunity given. 

I’d set an example for him and inspired him to do something he’d seen me do.  As a parent, how rewarding is that?  That’s a big part of my job as a mom – to teach and inspire my children so that they will take on projects and responisibilities of their own.  This enables them to discover their talents and grow in the gifts God has given them.  

This is a big part of being a Christian, too.  We’re to use the gifts and talents God has given us to teach and inspire others, while at the same time helping them to discover and grow in their gifts, too!   

Seeing that colorful Bobcats fleece blanket on Jackson’s bed reminds me of how proud I am of him, and how much I admire him for having the confidence to take on something new and the determination to do it himself. 

I’m thankful for those who have inspired, encouraged, and allowed me to take on new things, too.  They gave me invaluable opportunities to use and grow my God-given gifts and talents.   Good leaders don’t just take opportunities to help others follow.  Good leaders give opportunities for others to be leaders, too! 

Dear God, Yes, the harvest is great and the workers are few.  Help me to inspire and lead others to ‘your fields’ so they can find their places in leadership and service, too.   In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

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