Rejoice! That’s a command. And it’s for everyone—regardless of age.
Those who have kept the Feast of Tabernacles in God’s Church are familiar with that charge in Deuteronomy 16:13-14: “Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days … 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.”
What’s unique about this charge to rejoice is that God commands you that others rejoice—the implication being that we are responsible for making them rejoice. That is God’s way.
Among these are members of our physical family.
So the command isn’t just that we rejoice individually. It’s not just that our biological families rejoice with us. God includes even those beyond our physical families: namely our servants, the Levites, the strangers and the fatherless and widows.
This applies to those in these groups who are “within thy gates.” The Hebrew for “gates” implies city gates. So if they are at your Feast site—“in the place which … God hath chosen to place his name” (verse 11)—then God commands us that our rejoicing includes them, that we watch out for them specifically at the Feast.
This is something that you, as a youth in God’s Church, can practice this Feast. In addition to applying the same principles to our own physical family, those of you attending the Feast of Tabernacles should consider these other groups your extended Feast family.
Let’s examine these four broad categories of people we are commanded to help rejoice at the Feast.
“Servants” come in many forms at a modern Feast of Tabernacles celebration. They come in the form of those who are not in God’s Church: hotel staff, restaurant staff and retail staff. They also come in the form of members of the Church: ushers, door greeters, table attendants and activity volunteers.
With either group, we can ask ourselves: What can I do to make their Feast more special?
We definitely must cause those “servants” in God’s Church to rejoice. That might mean doing something as simple as being cooperative, or not asking them to make exceptions to the policies they are asked to enforce.
Even with those servants in the world who are not yet converted, we should also consider: Can I do something special for my housekeepers or servers not in the Church?
God commands that those “servants” you come into contact with rejoice because they too are part of your extended Feast family. Consider what you can do in the hotel or in a restaurant to make them enjoy you being there.
The second group that is part of our extended Feast family is the Levites. In modern terms, this would not just be the ministers, since “Levites” implies far more than just “priests.”
In Deuteronomy 12:19, God commanded the Israelites to “forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth.” In this context, that means don’t desert them.
If applied to the Feast, consider doing something special for a minister or his family or even related staff. Don’t forsake them, desert them (that is, don’t avoid them), or assume they’re busy enough.
Since the Levites included the priestly families, this is not just referring to the priestly men. It would include ministers’ families. We can look out for their rejoicing, especially if the minister is temporarily busy serving the Feast site in another way.
Again, God commands you that they rejoice because they too are part of your extended Feast family.
The third group that is part of our extended Feast family is the “stranger.” This refers to sojourners or foreigners.
Do something special for someone who is not from the Feast site’s country.
If you’ve ever been to a Feast site in a city where you have never been, consider how new everything was for you—even if it was based in the same country where you live. Considerations (like how to get around, where to eat, and where to shop) consume a lot of mental energy. Now, multiply that by being in a different country—perhaps in a place where a different language is spoken or where someone would stand out as a minority in that city because of his physical attributes.
God wants us to watch out for those from different countries at our various Feast sites.
Psalm 146:9 reads: “The Lord preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.”
God, as the Hebrew reads, protects, or guards, the strangers. “Strangers” is such an important category to look after because it’s what we are spiritually! We are strangers and pilgrims on the Earth. So we must have an affinity for those at the Feast who are also in this physical category. They are part of your extended Feast family, and God commands you that they rejoice.
Fatherless and Widows
The fourth and final group we’ll discuss as part of our extended Feast family is that comprised of the fatherless and widows.
These two groups have one thing in common: They lack a physical type of God in their immediate families. There is no one physically to represent God the Father. There is no one physically to represent Jesus Christ.
And we just read about this group in Psalm 146. That portion of verse 9 reads: “The Lord … relieveth the fatherless and widow … .”
God relieves this particular grouping. The Hebrew word for “relieve” here can mean to testify, bear witness and (positively) to praise, restore or confirm. It can also mean to surround.
At your Feast site, you can surround these people with praise, confirmation, positive reinforcement! God, through you, can relieve them. God, through you, can cause them to rejoice.
Job said, “I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy” (Job 29:13). He was boasting about it in that verse, but it is a good thing to do this. At the Feast of Tabernacles, God commands us that we cause this at our Feast sites.
They may not have an immediate male influence in their homes, but they are a part of your extended Feast family.
In each of these categories, you could actually plan some special gesture, gift or even activity for each group of people.
Do something special for the unconverted servants you encounter or something to cause those converted volunteers at the Feast site to rejoice.
Remember the Levites (the ministers, their families and any employed Church staff); plan to make them rejoice.
Make a foreigner feel at home—like they’re a part of your circle.
Surround the fatherless and widows—those who lack or need a physical type of God in their families: Plan to do something for or with them that will make their hearts sing for joy—not for some self-righteous exercise, but because God commands it!
If they are within our gates—at our Feast site—then they are our extended Feast family. And God commands you that they rejoice.
So let’s prepare now to rejoice—with our extended Family—at this year’s Feast!