This planet has 7.5 billion people on it, some estimates say. How many of them do you interact with in a typical day? How many have you met in your whole life? Admit it: You have had personal contact with a tiny fraction of the people alive today. And we naturally tend to care most about ourselves and maybe the few people we are closest to.
God wants to expand your thinking.
God gives a lot of thought to those 7.5 billion people—and more! And there is one time of year in particular when He really helps us stretch our minds to think bigger.
In the Bible, God calls the Feast of Tabernacles by another name: “the feast of ingathering” (Exodus 23:16; 34:22). Literally that refers to the fact that it happens during the great fall agricultural harvest (Leviticus 23:39). But the gathering of grains, fruits and vegetables was only a type of the real “ingathering” the Feast pictures: the future ingathering of a great harvest of human beings into God’s Family during the Millennium!
The Feast teaches us that God’s master plan includes everyone. He “will have all [people] to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).
The smaller spring harvest is pictured by a single day: Pentecost. That represents those called into God’s Church now—numbering in the thousands—who will be transformed into spirit at Christ’s Second Coming.
Tabernacles, though, is a full seven days. It pictures 1,000 years when people will be born into a world ruled by God, educated in God’s truth, and, after developing righteous character, transformed into spirit beings. We’re talking about many millions of people!
The eighth day, the Last Great Day, pictures the second resurrection, when all who have ever lived and not known God will rise and be able to come to the knowledge of the truth, repent and be saved! So God’s master plan includes everyone who has ever lived—perhaps 100 billion or more!
I’d like to challenge you to stretch your thinking this Feast. Work to get your mind off yourself, and get it onto the people around you. Build more of the “ingathering” mindset God has!
Read Deuteronomy 16:11, and pay close attention to this foundational instruction on how to keep the Feast: “And thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter [your parents, siblings and extended family in the Church], and thy manservant, and thy maidservant [this would include the people who serve you in the hotels, restaurants and activities you go to], and the Levite that is within thy gates [the ministry and Church leaders], and the stranger [people you don’t know], and the fatherless, and the widow [those who have no family in the Church or are otherwise in need], that are among you, in the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen to place his name there.”
The Feast is a time for rejoicing with others! God commands that you spend time with others and focus on rejoicing and helping them rejoice!
Before the Feast, think of as many ways to do that as possible. Then talk to your parents. Perhaps you can brainstorm together as a family. You might create a list of Feast goals together. Here are some suggestions.
Before the Feast, check whether you could volunteer for any duties at the Feast site. Sign up to sing in the teen choir and/or adult choir. Volunteer to contribute an act for entertainment night, maybe even together as a family. Get names and addresses of people who won’t be able to attend the Feast that you can send postcards to. Make Feast cards: Create an assembly line around the kitchen table, where each person adds something to each card; then mail them right before the holy days.
At the Feast, be on the watch for ways to lend a hand and serve in any way possible. At services, show up early to have extra fellowship time. Look for people who are sitting alone, and introduce yourself. Set a goal for each family member to meet three new people each day; at the end of the day, compare notes. Make or purchase small gifts or gift baskets to give to friends. “Adopt” an older person for the Feast to say hello to each day; make that person a card; ask your parents if you could take him or her out to a meal. Include others in as many meals as possible (and not only if you’re able to pay for them); be sure to include seniors, fatherless, singles, foreigners—all types. Attend all sponsored Feast activities. Cook a big healthy meal and invite a big mix of people over. Have a multi-family barbecue at a local park. Offer to babysit for a family, or even several families, with small children so the parents can have a date night. Bring a stack of thank you cards; write one for anyone who extends you a kindness—even waiters or others in the world.
This is the feast of ingathering! It pictures when the whole world will be a part of God’s Family! Do all you can to stretch your thinking to be more like God, who yearns for the day when He will extend salvation to all people!