How to Celebrate
How to Celebrate
It will be a ‘joyous celebration’ – a time of ‘happiness and joy, gladness and honour’ (see Esther 8:16–17).
Pippa and I love our annual Leadership Conference held at the Royal Albert Hall (which was built in central London to display ‘the greatness and power and glory and victory and the majesty of God’). Thousands of people gather together. There are times of great celebration with ‘heavenly’ worship and powerful life-changing teaching. People are inspired, refreshed and equipped to make a difference to the world around them.
The Bible has much to say about celebration. There is a celebration in heaven every time one person turns to Christ. When the prodigal son returned to the father, the father said, ‘Let’s have a feast and celebrate’ (Luke 15:23).
In our Old Testament passage for today, we read that ‘the city of Susa held a joyous celebration’ (Esther 8:15) ‘it…exploded with joy’ (MSG). What were they celebrating? What should you celebrate now? How should you celebrate?
Celebrate answered prayerPsalm 142:1–7
For many years, as I’ve read this psalm, I have written down a list of ‘troubles’ and situations for which I am crying out to God for mercy and help. As I look back, it is amazing to see the way in which he has answered these prayers.
The context of this psalm is that David is imprisoned in a cave (1 Samuel 22:1–2) and fearing for his life. He cries out loudly to God, spelling out his troubles and pleading for mercy (Psalm 142:1–2, MSG). He prays:
‘Get me out of this dungeon
so I can thank you in public.
Your people will form a circle around me
and you’ll bring me showers of blessing!’ (v.7, MSG).
David longs to be able to praise God for answering his prayers and rescuing him. He promises that if he is rescued he will turn it back to worship and gather others together to celebrate God’s goodness.
It is important to remember to celebrate answered prayers – to praise God’s name and celebrate his goodness. It will build your faith and increase your love for God.
Lord, thank you for the many times you have rescued me. Again, today, I cry out to you…
Celebrate before the throne in heavenRevelation 4:1–11
We have a 24-7 Prayer room at our church. There is worship and prayer twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week: ‘night and day, never taking a break’ (v.8, MSG).
You do not need to wait until heaven to experience ‘heavenly’ worship. This worship is happening now – 24-7 – in heaven. In this passage, we get a glimpse of what it looks like. Every time you worship, you join in with the worship of heaven.
John’s eyes turn from the church on earth to the church in heaven. John looks through an open door in heaven (v.1). Accompany John as he is invited to ‘Ascend and enter. I’ll show you what happens next’ (v.1, MSG).
What follows is an extraordinary vision of the greatness and glory of God. God is at the centre of the universe, surrounded here by images of who he is and what he has done. The ‘throne’ suggests the highest authority, the ‘rainbow’ is the rainbow of promise, the ‘lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder’ point to the power of God, and the ‘sea of glass, clear as crystal’ suggests peace and security (vv.2–6).
‘Seven fire-blazing torches fronted the throne (these are the Sevenfold Spirit of God)’ (v.5, MSG). There is one Holy Spirit but the fire-blazing torches represent all the different ways in which he expresses himself and in which you experience his fullness in your life.
Around the throne are twenty-four elders seated on thrones, probably representing the twelve tribes of the Old Testament and the twelve apostles of the New Testament. This is the completed and perfect church of Jesus Christ. You are included (1 Peter 2:9–10).
As those around the throne contemplate the wonder of God the natural response is to turn to worship – and this is the first thing that John finds going on in heaven. There are five worship songs in the next two chapters.
‘Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come”’ (Revelation 4:8). (Those of us who find repetition hard may have to get used to a lot of it!)
‘Whenever the living creatures give glory, honour and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and give him all the glory’ (vv.9–11).
The church, the angels and all created things bow down and worship God. The eternal Father sits on the throne surrounded by the worshipping community.
As John Stott wrote, one day you will ‘join the church triumphant, the great multitude that no one will be able to count, drawn from every nation, tribe, people and language, and you will stand with them before God’s throne. ‘The King of the universe will give you refuge in the shelter of his throne. You will see him and worship him day and night. The Lamb turned Shepherd will lead you with the rest of his sheep to fountains of living water. You will satisfy your thirst forever at his eternal springs.’
My Lord and my God, I thank you that I don’t have to wait until the new heaven and the new earth to worship you. You are worthy to receive glory, honour and power today and every day.
Celebrate the great acts of GodEsther 6:1–8:17
Sometimes as we look at the world it seems that evil is triumphing. Good people suffer and are even being persecuted for their faith. Will things ever be put right?
Yes, they will. God has come to earth in the person of his Son, Jesus (the incarnation, which we celebrate at Christmas). He has defeated evil through the cross and resurrection (which we celebrate at Easter). The final victory will take place when Jesus comes again. In the meantime, he has given you the Holy Spirit so that you can experience a foretaste of that final victory right now (this we celebrate at Pentecost).
God was preparing his people for these great events. In the book of Esther, we see a prefiguring and a picture of what was to come in Jesus.
In a dramatic turn around, Haman’s plot fails. Mordecai ‘the Jew’ is honoured. Judgment falls on the evil and arrogant Haman. Esther is used by God to save the people.
This is the origin of the great Jewish celebration of Purim. The providential hand of God rescued his people from ‘destruction and slaughter and annihilation’ (7:4).
Events began to turn when ‘the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles – the record of his reign – to be brought in and read to him’ (6:1). He was reminded of the heroic loyalty of Mordecai (v.2).
Have you ever achieved something for which other people have taken the credit? Haman tried to take the honour that belonged to Mordecai. Mordecai’s response is a model of humility and trust in God. Other people may not see what you have done, but God sees and he will reward you.
Instead of being hanged, Mordecai receives honour and recognition. The king issues an edict granting the Jews in every city ‘the right to assemble and protect themselves’ (8:11).
The city of Susa held a ‘joyous celebration’ (v.15). It was ‘a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honour’ (v.16) ‘with feasting and celebrating’ (v.17).
‘Many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them’ (v.17). This is the earliest reference to many non-Hebrews putting their faith in the Lord. There had been cases of individuals coming to faith (for example, Ruth and Uriah the Hittite), but nowhere before had there been a mass movement like this.
When the Jewish festival of Purim is celebrated, the book of Esther is read. It is now one of the three great Jewish celebrations.
The church also has three great celebratory festivals: Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. These should be joyous celebrations of happiness, gladness, honour and feasting – celebrating the great acts of God in history: the incarnation, the resurrection of Jesus who died for us on the cross, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. As well as the annual celebrations, celebrate these great events daily in your heart.
Lord, thank you that you have given us so much to celebrate. Thank you that you have delivered us through Jesus Christ. Thank you for the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Help me to celebrate these great events, annually in our church festivals and daily in my heart.
‘Now Haman thought to himself, “Who is there that the king would like to honour rather than me?”’
Thinking too much of oneself is not a good idea!
Verse of the Day
‘When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is you who watch over my way’ (Psalm 142:3).
Gather with other leaders who will challenge, inspire and refresh you at the Leadership Conference 2019, on 6 and 7 May 2019 in London. Book your tickets today: https://alpha.org/lc19
John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church, (Candle Books, 2000) p.127.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.