By Bob Hightchew
When I was young, I remember two days that were always special in our community. On July 4th our city celebrated Independence Day with parades and fireworks. On June 6th we celebrated D-Day, marking the invasion of Normandy that eventually led to the end of the war in Europe.
At that time, World War II had been over for about 30 years. Those who had sacrificed were not forgotten and many veterans walked in the parade, still proud of our victory. Even in church we were reminded of how the hand of God gave us our nation and our freedom. We were reminded that it is God who sustains during our toughest days. Today such celebrations seem to have faded into the past. What a shame that is. If we are not careful, with the passing of the World War II generation, Americans might eventually forget that freedom is not free.
Through the reforms of Nehemiah, the people were getting back to an established reminder of what God had done for Israel. The Feast of Tabernacles was a reminder that God had brought the Israelites out of the bondage of Egypt, and now he was bringing them home yet again from exile. I think that is why we read in verse 17 that they had not celebrated like this (with real enthusiasm) since the days of Joshua, when they were given their home for the very first time.
God gave the Israelites many festivals to celebrate his protection and provision. Today the Lord’s Supper serves as this reminder. We must never forget who set us free from the bondage of sin and offered us a way to come home from our exile. Judges 2:10 is a grim reminder that it does not take much for us to forget. May we always celebrate our spiritual freedom with real enthusiasm, remembering that our freedom came at a great price. Freedom is never free.
Bob Hightchew has served as the senior minister of South Fork Christian Church in Verona, Kentucky since 1996. He and his wife, Holly Jo, have been married for 22 years. They have three children.