10 Key Bible Verses on Celebrating

This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.

All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.

1. Philippians 4:4

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Read More

Rejoice. The joy that Paul calls for is not a happiness that depends on circumstances but a deep contentment that is in the Lord, based on trust in the sovereign, living God, and that therefore is available always, even in difficult times.

2. Ecclesiastes 3:1–4

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; Read More

Poem: A Time for Everything. There is an appropriate occasion for every human event or activity; life is endlessly complex. Several of the items mentioned in this poem have already been examined by the Preacher (e.g., compare Eccl. 3:2 “a time to die” with Eccl. 2:14–17; 3:2 “a time to plant” and Eccl.3:3 “a time to build up” with Eccl. 2:4–5).

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3. Colossians 2:16–17

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Read More

food and drink. . . a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. The false teacher(s) were advocating a number of Jewish observances, arguing that they were essential for spiritual advancement. On “new moon.”

a shadow of the things to come. The old covenant observances pointed to a future reality that was fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Heb. 10:1). Hence, Christians are no longer under the Mosaic covenant (cf. Rom. 6:14–15; 7:1–6; 2 Cor. 3:4–18; Gal. 3:15–4:7). Christians are no longer obligated to observe OT dietary laws (“food and drink”) or festivals, holidays, and special days (“a festival. . . new moon. . . Sabbath,” Col. 2:16), for what these things foreshadowed has been fulfilled in Christ. It is debated whether the Sabbaths in question included the regular seventh-day rest of the fourth commandment, or were only the special Sabbaths of the Jewish festal calendar.

4. Luke 15:23–24

And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. Read More

fattened calf. Kept for special occasions (Gen. 18:7; Amos 6:4). They will eat and celebrate in thanksgiving to God and not godless self-indulgence (contrast Luke 12:19).

The son was (assumed to be) dead, but is now alive (united with the family) again: a picture of membership in God’s kingdom.

5. Psalm 95:2

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
      let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! Read More

The Lord Is King. The members of the congregation singing these verses invite one another to the great privilege of worshiping the LORD, the great God, the great King above all gods. On the kind of kingship attributed to God here, see note on Psalm 93. God is King over creation: it is his, he made it, and he rules over it all (it is in his hand, i.e., under his authority). The marvel of being Israel is that such a majestic King has pledged himself to his people, making them the sheep of his hand. It is no surprise, then, that worship offered to him would be both exuberant (sing, make a joyful noise, thanksgiving, songs of praise) with astonished wonder, and humble (bow down, kneel) before such majesty. The whole person, body and soul, must offer this worship.

6. 1 Corinthians 5:8

Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Read More

leaven. Not yeast (which was uncommon in the ancient world) but fermented dough, a little of which would be left from the previous week to be added to a new lump of dough. By analogy, when publicly known sin in the church is not subjected to church discipline, it will silently spread its destructive consequences throughout the whole fellowship.

7. Ecclesiastes 2:24–25

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? Read More

If one has no certainty of making a lasting impact on the world through the results of one’s work (Eccl. 2:11, 18–23), the best that one can hope for is to find enjoyment in toil and in God’s simple gifts of food and drink. Such enjoyment is to be viewed as a gift from the hand of God.

8. Psalm 118:24

This is the day that the LORD has made;
      let us rejoice and be glad in it. Read More

This is the day probably refers to the festival day that occasioned the psalm.

9. Luke 15:3–10

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Read More

calls together his friends and his neighbors. Cf. Luke 15:9. The Pharisees and scribes should rejoice that the lost sheep of Israel are entering the kingdom.

Joy in heaven contrasts with the grumbling of Jesus’ opponents. It apparently means that both God and all the heavenly beings, including the angels, rejoice greatly (cf. Luke 15:10). righteous persons who need no repentance (cf. Luke 5:31–32). In light of the emphasis in Luke–Acts on the universal need of repentance (see Luke 3:3) and the evil of humanity (Luke 11:13; cf. Rom. 3:10–20), this is best understood as ironic for “those who think they are righteous and have no need to repent.”

10. Psalm 150:1–6

Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
      praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
      praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
      praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
      praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
      praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD! Read More

This hymn closes the Psalter with its call for “everything that has breath” to praise the Lord with every kind of jubilant accompaniment. This psalm may have been intended for some particular liturgical use (say, the opening of a joyful service of celebration), but it now also serves as the final doxology of the whole book. The list of musical instruments in Psalm 150:3–5, with its mixture of wind, strings, percussion, and rhythmic dance, gives the impression of loud song and ceaseless motion—the worshiper’s whole body offering praise to God.

Praise God in the Sanctuary. The members of the congregation invite one another to praise God in his sanctuary, where they are gathered to worship; the call to praise him in his mighty heavens may be addressed to the angels and heavenly lights, inviting them to join in (cf. Psalm 148:1–4). The reasons given in Psalm 150:2—his mighty deeds for his people and the excellent greatness of his character—indicate that, with this topic of praise, the voices of human worshipers alone are too feeble; let the heavenly host help!

Praise Him with Music and Dance. Not only is the topic too great for merely human voices to do it justice; it also deserves the full expression of human energy and devotion, with instruments as varied as trumpet, lute, harp, strings, pipe, and various cymbals. The tambourine is commonly coupled with the dance (Psalm 149:3; Ex. 15:20; 1 Sam. 18:6; Jer. 31:4) in a joyful procession. This builds to the final wish, let everything that has breath (all Israel, all mankind, all animals; cf. Ps. 148:10–11) praise the LORD: here is where they are most fully alive. Cf. Rev. 5:13–14. Hallelujah!

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