“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the Lord. On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein” (Lev. 23:34-36).
Here we read the command to keep a Feast to the Eternal for seven days. Many in the Philadelphia Church of God have kept this Feast for multiple seasons, but do we fully realize that this Feast is a time for families to get together both to worship and rejoice before God? Seven days to be filled spiritually and physically with the best of God’s blessings. Seven days which picture a joyous time in the near future when this earth will reap the abundance of God poured out upon the human family—the millennial, 1000-year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth. Now is the time for us to understand that God commands us to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles as a joyous family Feast!
Notice Deuteronomy 16:13-15: “Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine: And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates. Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord shall choose: because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice.”
There is God’s command for your immediate family (“thou, and thy son, and thy daughter”), your extended family (“your manservant, and your maidservant”) and your spiritual family (“the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow”)—to rejoice as a total family before Him, and with Him, the head of the God family!
Everything we read here shows that God made the Feast of Tabernacles to be a joyous Feast for the family. What a wonderful opportunity we have this year to obey God, and make this festival of 1998 the best ever.
“You Shall Rejoice…”
The word “rejoice” means different things to different people. To the world it means to have a great party. If we’re not careful, the word rejoice might present a picture of excess food, drink and music. It might give a wrong picture of staying up all hours of the night—burning the candle at both ends—until our senses are exhausted. In fact, some have mistakenly participated in actions of this sort, not realizing, perhaps, that these are all a part of Satan’s concept of rejoicing—not God’s.
To understand God’s command to rejoice, and how we are to do so, we need to meditate on what this Feast portrays.
Looming just ahead of us is a time in which this earth and all humanity will suffer the most excruciating, gut-wrenching horror ever endured. Remember that Christ said it would be a time in which all humanity would be mercilessly destroyed unless supernaturally stopped! (Matt. 24). Only a fraction of all the people on earth will survive this coming holocaust.
The event which stops this attempt by Satan to destroy man will be the return of Jesus Christ as King of kings pictured in Psalm 53:6: “Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When God bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.” This ushers in the 1000-year period, also known as the Millennium, which the Feast of Tabernacles portrays.
This rejoicing spoken of in the Psalms is of a people who have been spared. Consider the plight of these individuals: They have been starved, lived with the pain of loved ones perishing, perhaps witnessed the raping of their own precious daughters, the murder of their defenseless babies—treated like cattle by a beast power who considered them sub-human. Most, if not all of them, might have begged for death because they just could not stand to see, or endure, that existence; and now, the Kingdom of God has arrived, and they rejoice!
This picture does not equate to a time of drunkenness, partying or gluttony. It is a time of relief from pain—a time of gladness and joy because the earth finally has been given a government of love and mercy—the government of God. A time when families can be together and not have to worry about crime or catastrophe. A time when Satan will be bound for a thousand years. That’s the kind of rejoicing we see here. “The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof” (Ps. 97:1).
So we now start to realize what God means when He tells us to rejoice. But this is only a beginning. Rejoice also means to have divine protection: “Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice” (Ps. 63:7).
Rejoice also means to have abundance: “Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness. They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing” (Ps. 65:10-13).
Rejoice is pictured as enjoying God’s mercy in Psalm 31:7: “I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities….”
Rejoice also means to be victorious. “I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me” (Ps. 30:1).
Rejoice means to be exceedingly glad because of God’s truth, and because we have that truth revealed to us: “Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise. For the word of the Lord is right; and all his works are done in truth” (Ps. 33:1-4).
But, by far, the greatest meaning of rejoice, the one most fulfilling of Deuteronomy 16:13-15, is to sing and praise God, as we read in Psalm 68:3: “But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.” This is truly what God means when He says rejoice.
“Before the Eternal”
Psalm 68:4 continues, “Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.”
God commands us to rejoice before Him at the Feast of Tabernacles. How does He reveal to His servants where the Feast will be? Before the Bible was written, He spoke directly to men. Adam, Enoch and Abraham communicated with God personally. Today, God speaks directly to His servant through His written word—the Holy Bible.
And Christ commands us, personally, to come to the Feast of Tabernacles and appear before our God. More than ever, we need the fellowship of each other! And most of all, we need the fellowship of God and Christ who are in the festival in a very special way. We need the special messages He provides through His ministers. We need the direct revelation which He inspires through Mr. Flurry.
All who have attended the Feast of Tabernacles know that certain points are brought out and certain lessons learned by living and worshiping with God’s people that would not be learned any other way!
Those brethren who are too distant to attend a local congregation can receive the fellowship with other saints, and personal contact with God’s chosen ministers, only by attending God’s festivals. For you who live in that circumstance, attending the Feast of Tabernacles is a must for those reasons!
Attending the Feast where God places His name is a means of developing God’s very character in us. We need to prove to God that obedience to Him is first in our lives!
To enable us to appear before Him, God tells us to use the second tithe, which we have diligently saved, on good food and drink in a way that will cause us to rejoice at His Feast (Deut. 14:21-27). Here, God says, “And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after [margin, rightly desires], for oxen or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desires: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household” (v. 26).
And God promises to bless us and all the work of our hands, whatever our source of income might be, if we obey Him in this command. And for this reason we shall rejoice in the Feast knowing that we’re receiving a blessing by keeping it! (v. 25).
If, for some unforeseen circumstance, you are unable to attend the Feast of Tabernacles, what should you do with your second tithe? First, let us remember the purpose of the second tithe. God, in His Word, commands us to assemble at His set Feasts. In order to make our attendance possible, God ordained that we set aside a second tithe to cover expense to and from the festival (Deut. 14:23-26; 16:13-15).
In ancient times, when travel expenses were of little consequence, the tithe was used to cover food expenses primarily. But today, since the purpose of the second tithe is to enable us to attend the festivals, sometimes much more of it has to be spent for transportation than for food.
“Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there…that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the Lord thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the Lord thy God hath blessed thee: then shalt thou turn it into money…and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose…and thou shalt eat there before the lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice” (Deut. 14:22-26).
The second tithe is to be used to attend the festivals. Reading further we see: “Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine…but thou must eat them before the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter” (Deut. 12:17-18). There is the positive command that those who cannot attend the Feast should not use the second tithe at home.
Therefore, in the case where someone does not have sufficient tithe to attend, that money might be saved toward the next Feast, or even sent into headquarters for the use of other brethren. Please contact your local minister in this case so he may advise you.
A Balanced Feast
Rejoicing also includes family games, family outings and family fun. Our God loves to see His family enjoying their blessings. But we must put that fun into the perspective of what we have already learned. God does want us to enjoy the physical blessings of the Feast. A mouth-watering steak dinner, for instance, with all the trimmings—including plenty of wholesome vegetables—is definitely a worthy pursuit at the Feast. Topping off such a meal with a delicious piece of your favorite pie also gets the “thumbs-up” from God. He enjoys seeing us enjoy ourselves at the Feast—in moderation.
Eating such a rich meal occasionally is pleasurable. Partaking of such a meal every evening, however, would soon bog us down with heavy digestion. Even eating a meal like this late in the evening could destroy a good night’s rest. That wouldn’t be a good way to begin a day of spiritual learning at the Feast.
The physical fun we lawfully enjoy at the Feast should never inhibit the spiritual rejoicing before God. Staying up till dawn, even in righteous conversation, would not be conducive to being alert for the day’s messages.
The physical aspects of the Feast have too often caused people to miss services because they were ill from overindulging or exhausted from not enough rest.
Everything we do at the Feast of Tabernacles should revolve around rejoicing before the Eternal. The key to having a truly joyous Feast is to build it around God. Continuing daily prayer throughout the Feast is one way to guarantee “the best Feast ever,” as well as eating and drinking in moderation; getting plenty of rest, fresh air and exercise; and keeping focused on the picture of the World Tomorrow! Take time to meditate on being a king-priest in the Kingdom of God.
Represent the Kingdom
It is also crucial to remember that wherever we attend the Feast, we represent the Kingdom of God—we are ambassadors for Christ. When we walk into a restaurant, do we exemplify that great Kingdom? Is our speech filled with praise? Are our children mannerly? Do we demonstrate patience, good humor and the inward joy of the Spirit? The answer to those questions will be yes, if Christ is working in us.
Since the Feast of Tabernacles represents the time when God’s government will be on the earth, it also represents a time when spiritually born king-priests will interact with the humans of this world. At that time those who have qualified will be teaching, saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isa. 30:21). Most of the people with whom we will come into contact are the future subjects of God’s Kingdom. Are we teaching by our own example today? If not, we won’t be used in the very Kingdom that this Feast portrays.
Too often, God’s people go to the Feast emphasizing the aspect of “get”: get the best; get the most; get enjoyment; get new clothes; get all we can in eight days—pack the Feast with everything we can get! Not only does this poorly demonstrate God’s Kingdom, it also guarantees that we will return home with an emptiness inside and wonder why we didn’t have the “best Feast ever.”
As we journey to the areas where God has chosen to put His name, it is a good time to meditate on the aspect of ”giving” at the Feast. Here again, the time period pictured by the Feast is a time during which God is going to reward obedience with blessings. He is going to give abundance to the earth as nations obey the law. He is going to abundantly give the fruits of the Spirit. Think of it; as the Spirit flows around the earth, God will give to mankind love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance (Gal. 5:22-23).
Many prophecies show us that the Feast pictures a time when there will be worldwide obedience to God’s government. “And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles” (Zech. 14:17:19).
Obedience implies law; and where there is law, there is government. As we come to the Feast, we not only represent those who will govern—known as “the very elect,” but we also typify those who deeply love and hunger for government.
Finally, we should come to the Feast clothed with deep humility that God would even allow us to come before Him. We shouldn’t come to the Feast with a sentimental, pious, “holier-than-thou” attitude. Let’s not present our own sinful selves before the Eternal, and then search and look for “sin” in the brethren. Many of them may be newly converted and just beginning to understand and grow in God’s truth. Let us consider ourselves and be thankful for God’s mercy to us all!
Over and over again, God tells us that the Feast of Tabernacles is a time of rejoicing! It pictures the millennial reign of Christ—a time which Mr. Armstrong referred to as the “Wonderful World Tomorrow.”
“The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God” (Isa. 35:1-2)
Remember, the purpose of the Feast of Tabernacles, which God Himself sets forth in His Word, is that of spiritual and physical rejoicing—in that order. Let’s come expecting to be blessed with wonderful spiritual food in the sermons and spiritual fellowship with God’s family. Come prepared to rejoice in good food, drink, recreation, exercise and laughter! Come with a humble and thankful spirit of being able to enjoy yourself thoroughly before the Father of love and mercy!
Come with an open heart, an open Bible, and a ready pen and notebook. Come with a warm handshake and a ready smile.
Come to the Feast and rejoice!