Festivals are very popular, especially music festivals. Within the church family there is a delight in gathering together to worship and enjoy good Bible teaching.
Keswick Convention started in 1875 and is still going. Filey Week started in 1955, and continued until 1987, changing its name to New Horizons in 1985 when it moved to Skegness. We have all heard of Spring Harvest, Soul Survivor, New Wine and Stoneleigh, as well as many others throughout the UK and around the world.
In Nehemiah chapter 8 the Children of Israel, numbering about 50,000, gathered together in Jerusalem. It was the first day of the seventh month. It was to be a re-instatement of the Feast of Tabernacles, which had not been celebrated since they went into exile in Babylon. Most of these people had been brought up in a foreign land and knew very little of the laws and feasts that God had instructed Moses to institute. The Temple had been rebuilt and the rebuilding of the walls was complete. They had come to celebrate!
The people gathered in an open square in front of the Water Gate in Jerusalem. A wooden platform had been erected, and Ezra stood on it to address the people.
When the people saw Ezra open the scroll to read, they all stood up. They had a great respect for the Word of God.
Before Ezra started to read, he blessed Yahweh, the great God (verse 6). The people responded by saying “Amen, Amen,” lifting their hands in the air.
Then they bowed their heads and worshipped Yahweh with their faces to the ground.
As Ezra read the scroll, Jeshua and others and some Levites explained what was being read so that the people could understand the meaning of it. They read for several hours, from morning to noon (verse 3).
As the people heard and began to understand the words, they began to mourn and weep, because they realised the extent to which they had fallen short in obeying the Word of Yahweh. The Holy Spirit started to convict them, and they reacted positively to Him.
Ezra, Nehemiah and the Levites then spoke to the people, and told them “This day is holy to Yahweh your God; do not mourn nor weep.” So the people spent the afternoon rejoicing, enjoying each other’s company, and feasting together.
The next day they discovered how God had instructed the children of Israel to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths). So the people were instructed to “go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches , and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.” Off they went, collected materials, and built shelters wherever they could find a place. Some built on the roof of their houses, some in their garden, and some on one of the squares.
The response of these people is quite interesting. To them it was a very significant occasion, and their hearts were open to whatever God would say to them, and they responded to His words.
When we first come to God, the initial response should be that of awe and respect. Then we should become aware of our own needs and shortcomings, and realise that we are totally unworthy to be in His presence. But Jesus has done all that is necessary to eliminate those things which bind us and condemn us by His blood shed on the cross, and we can come boldly into His presence and worship Him.