Now, the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall keep the festival of the LORD, lasting seven days; a complete rest on the first day, and a complete rest on the eighth day. On the first day you shall take the fruit of majestic trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a festival to the LORD seven days in the year; you shall keep it in the seventh month as a statute forever throughout your generations. You shall live in booths for seven days; all that are citizens in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 23:39-43)

Religion doesn’t have to be boring. The festivals, feasts, worship ceremonies that God gave the Israelites were supposed to be fun for them. Once a year, for a whole week, the entire nation of Israel was supposed to go on a nationwide camp-out. Its purpose was to remind them of their forty years wandering in the wilderness when they had all lived in tents. And they were supposed to have fun doing this. It was a time off. A holiday. On the first and last day of the festival they weren’t supposed to do anything but goof off and be as lazy as possible. The rest of the time, they were supposed to be having a good time. Consider the implications: another whole week every year that God set aside for nothing but fun.

What kind of God is this, that insists that his people enjoy themselves? A God that really does love them. What has gotten into our heads that somehow the best way to get close to God is to isolate ourselves and to deny ourselves the pleasures of life? Instead, God called his people to come together, to go on a big camp-out, to sit around campfires and cook food and spend time with each other in celebration of how much God loved them by rescuing them from Egyptian bondage and protecting and caring for them over forty years of wandering in the desert. God did not intend that it be difficult to know that he loves us. Worshiping God is not supposed to be just hard discipline.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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