Saturday, March 31, 2018

If God taught Sunday School: models, maps, and calendars

The Word for today:
Numbers 32
mark this:
These you shall present to the Lord at your appointed feasts (besides your vowed offerings and your freewill offerings) as your burnt offerings and your grain offerings, as your drink offerings and your peace offerings. (Numbers 29:39)
Yesterday, we saw that God loves a celebration:
God is often mischaracterized as stern and dour. We don’t often think of him as festive.
And yet Jesus, who is both the only way to God and the only way to get to know God, seemed to love being invited to dinner. He loved it so much that if no one invited him, he invited himself:
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today." (Luke 19:5)
Not only did he invite himself, but once he got there, he wasn’t a picky eater:
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' (Luke 7:33-34)
God called for a lot of feasts in the Old Testament. He wanted happiness to abound. He wanted to celebrate often and regularly, lest anyone should get out of the habit of being happy!
Moreover, heaven is depicted as a big wedding reception, and the first impulse of the Prodigal Son’s Father was to hold a feast.
The angels celebrate every time a sinner turns to God. Talk about a daily excuse to party!
In the Old Testament, God instituted a yearly cycle of feasts that were designed to illustrate the Good News to come. When seen together, the feasts reveal God’s plan for mankind.
For Israel, the feasts were prophetic. For us, they are instructive.
This may sound odd to you, but when they make me Pope (don’t hold your breath) or, better yet, put me in charge of international Bible literacy, every Christian is going to be required to make a full-featured model of the Tabernacle and be able to explain the prophetic significance of each item of furniture.
When we’ve mastered that, we are going to do some map-making. Every believer will be able to explain the spiritual pilgrim’s progress that is symbolized by the journeys of Israel: out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, through the wilderness, over Jordan, into the Promised Land, up the hill rising from Jericho to Jerusalem, into the Temple, past the curtain, and into the Presence.
Then, having mastered the model and the map, we are going to make a calendar with the feast days marked out. We are going to be able to show the plan of God as it is outlined in the cycle of the feasts.
Finally, as a matter of continuing education, we will annually celebrate the cycle of Old Testament feasts. Partying will be mandatory in my administration!  Strictly for educational purposes, of course.
Returning to some modicum of reality, I can assure you that I haven’t lost all of my marbles. I applied for Worldwide Director of Biblical Literacy, but haven’t been appointed—yet.  But I am altogether serious about the syllabus I suggested above.
Give every Sunday School teacher a model, a map, and a calendar; then throw out all the silly videos we try to teach with today; and within five years the faith would experience Pentecost II. I guarantee it.
That’s probably not going to happen on an international scale anytime soon, but we can make a modest start right here. So I hope you’ll be here tomorrow for our very brief and basic summary of God’s Good News—past, present, and future—as depicted in the Feasts of Israel.

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