Lesson 5 of 5
When did you last truly celebrate?
The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart (Ps 19:8).
In what ways has God’s word brought you joy?
Open in prayer and or song as the Spirit leads.
Nehemiah 7:73. What feast was celebrated in the 7th month? (see Lev. 23:33ff). Can you remember what Jesus did at this festival during his ministry (see Jn. 7:36-37)
Nehemiah 8:1-9. What do you think made the people weep when they listened to the Law (The Torah, or first five books in the New Testament)?
Nehemiah 8:10-12. Dallas Willard described God as the “happiest most joyful being in the universe”. Is that how you imagine God? In what ways does Jesus show us God’s joy? What is it about God’s word spoken to us that brings joy? God’s word was not given to burden them with legalism but to lead them into true joy. Jesus epitomises this ideal (Mt 11:28-10). How can we avoid legalism and yet remain joyfully obedient.
What were the people commanded to do to express their joy? Comment on this thought “a joyful community is a generous community”.
Revisit the notes Engaging Meaningfully with Worship (attached below) - focus especially on how Holy Obedience leads to joy.
What one thing is God asking you to do? How can the group help you to be faithful?
Note on the Feast of Tabernacles
The seventh month was a special time in the Jewish calendar because the Jews celebrated the Feast of Trumpets on the first day, the Day of Atonement on the tenth day, and the Feast of Tabernacles from the fifteenth day to the twenty-first day
The ‘tabernacles’ were makeshift shelters, .. set up in the open air in a back yard or porch. They may be used for meals, or even for sleeping. Their purpose is to remind the people of the time when their ancestors wandered in the wilderness, living in tents, that is, ‘tabernacles’ or ‘booths’.
It was also an agricultural festival, coming at the climax of the harvest season, celebrating the harvest of grapes and olives in particular. In the time of Jesus it was one of the three great annual pilgrimage feasts (the others being Passover and Pentecost), when tens of thousands of Jewish people would converge on Jerusalem. All kinds of lavish celebrations took place, involving lighting of lamps, dancing by torchlight, processions that ended with the pouring out of water and wine in the Temple.
Meaningfully Engaging in Worship
1. Prepare through ‘margin’. Getting to worship with the right attitude is a challenge for many of us. It's not our lack of desire but lack of what Smith calls "temporal margin". We can't cultivate the proper attitude for worship in the ten seconds we spend walking from the front door to the Sanctuary. We must prepare long before that. Going to go to bed early on the evening before worship allows us to awaken earlier, giving us a time margin to eat, dress and prepare our hearts for worship.
2. Arrive early. A sim
ple, effective way to become more attentive in worship is to arrive well before the service begins. This gives one time to become "fully present". Richard Foster offers this advice: "Enter the service ten minutes early. Lift your heart in adoration to the King of Glory."
3. Come with holy expectancy. Foster encourages a sense of holy expectancy. A simple prayer helps: "Spirit, speak to me. Jesus, teach me. Father, let me experience your love and power." Smith says, "I believe this is a prayer God loves to answer. And it is a prayer that awakens our desire."
4. Focus on one aspect of worship this week. There are many acts within a worship service (e.g. Holy Communion, Bible reading, singing, sermon etc.). Pick a different element of worship to focus on each week. "For example, if you choose singing, pay attention to your body, to the sounds and to the words being sung. Reflect on its meaning—why do we sing? What is happening to us as a community as we sing?" After a few months you will have reflected on nearly every aspect of worship, "thus enabling an entire worship service to become an act of doxology."
5. Apply one thing. "Foster wisely writes, 'Just as worship begins in holy expectancy it ends in holy obedience'. Worship transforms us and leads us into new ways of living." Be alert to how God might be asking you respond: "Is there someone you need to speak with? A change you need to make? Keep it simple by aiming to discern one thing God may be asking of you, and then work to put into practice this week.
 Adapted from Wright, T. (2004). John for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-10 (pp. 92–93). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.