“I Hate Your Feasts!”

“I Hate Your Feasts!”

“I Hate Your Feasts!”

“I hate, I despise your religious feasts! I cannot stand your assemblies! Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs!”  (Amos 5:21-23).

On the one hand, Yahweh loved the Feasts and Sacred Assemblies seen in the Hebrew Bible… the fasting and feasting, the family celebrations, the remembrance of God’s saving deeds, the acknowledgment of God’s character, the focus on God’s truth. Of course God loved the Feasts! They were his ideas in the first place! “These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.” (Lev. 23:2). The Jewish Feasts and Assemblies were opportunities to remember, to worship, to teach, to listen to the Word of the Lord, and speak of His care and presence. They were intended to cause believers to reenact sacred events, to confirm the Faith of the people of God. Celebrations like Sabbath, Passover, and Succoth filled a deep need to offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving and to be reminded of God’s actions on behalf of the believers.  The people are spiritually fulfilled when they gain the habit of pointing to God as the supreme reference point in all of history.

But on the other hand, if these appointed spiritual activities become personally meaningless, if the words become empty, if the people are just going through the motions of faith, then the celebrations become repugnant to God, a stench in His nostrils. And how can the LORD tell if the Feasts are merely rote, useless and pointless? The answer according to the prophets: when the religious celebrations, whether in large groups or family settings, don’t result in a lifestyle of justice and mercy. If the biblical celebrations don’t result in a changed heart, in a transformed way of life that reflects the heart of God, then He says, Don’t bother! I hate your feasts if your faith style is empty and doesn’t reflect My priorities. Keeping the Law doesn’t necessarily translate to pleasing God. As Jesus told the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23, how ridiculous it is to observe the tiniest details of the Torah and at the same time ignore the weightier matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness.

So, then, taking the  prophets below to heart: Judeo-Christian homes that love to explore the Jewish roots of the Faith and celebrate the OT feasts and Holy Days need to also develop a family ethos of hospitality and reconciliation. Churches that highlight Christ’s fulfillment of the Feasts in the Hebrew Bible need to also engender hearts that are sensitive to the needs of others, and embrace biblical justice issues and compassion activities. Christ-centered schools that love to reenact the Jewish feasts as biblical history need also to develop student experiences that involve meaningful service projects and sacred field trips. In all three cases, home, church and school, honor codes and ritual experiences need to be tied to personal faith development and righteous character that reflect God’s eternal concern for justice, mercy and peace.

Notice the priorities of the Lord when it comes to biblical celebrations and sacred assemblies:

Isaiah 58:3-7: “Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” 

Amos 5:21-24: “I hate, I despise your religious feasts. I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! 

Jeremiah 7:2-8: “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!’ If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. 

Isaiah 1:11-17: The multitude of your sacrifices… What are they to me? says the Lord. I have more than enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened animals. I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations… I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me. I am weary of hearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will  hide my eyes from you; even if you offered many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood. Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop  doing wrong; learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” 

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress, and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”  (James 1:27).