The Feast of Tabernacles is a most special time of year, truly the highlight of God’s Holy Days, which picture His Plan of Salvation for mankind. God’s people look forward to this annual event with great anticipation. Many can barely wait for the Feast to arrive, as it offers them the opportunity to get away from the humdrum, work-a-day world, with its cares and concerns, and enjoy beautiful settings in peace and unity with those of like mind. Feast fever is taking hold!
Having faithfully saved second tithe (Deut. 14:22-26), brethren have made travel plans, booked hotel rooms, readied their cars, polished their shoes and dry-cleaned their clothes, all in preparation to have a great Feast—the best one ever!
Yet, this will not happen all by itself. In order for the Feast of Tabernacles to be rewarding, profitable and meaningful on the physical and—more importantly—the spiritual level, a lot of time, energy and effort must be expended not just before, but also during the Feast.
Here’s how you can be assured of having the best Feast ever.
You Need To Be There
After facing a year of the trials and problems that this world brings, the Feast is a wonderful time to be rejuvenated. It is also a time to be inspired and uplifted by the many messages that will be given during the eight days that God’s people are assembled together. It should be a time that motivates us to rededicate ourselves to our Creator, His way of life and the Work of which He has blessed us to be a part. There is simply no other time during which we can leave behind our daily routines and come together in complete peace, harmony, unity and fellowship, to worship and rejoice before God. And it all starts with us being there.
As we see the end of this age fast approaching, with world troubles mounting daily, our focus ought to be on the coming kingdom of God. Never before in history has the need been as urgent as it is now to finish taking the true gospel—a message of hope—to a sin-sick world that truly needs to see the fulfillment of the world tomorrow. When we keep the Feast of Tabernacles, we are rehearsing the time when humanity will at last be living in peace in a utopian world, free from the bondage of the devil. We should reflect upon our part in helping Christ administer the world-ruling government that will bring this unparalleled time.
The many sermons and sermonettes—vital messages—that you will hear will point to this “world to come” (Mark 10:30; Heb. 2:5; 6:5) and your part in it. They will also relate to unfolding world events and address prophecies that are being or yet to be fulfilled. We cannot afford to miss a single service.
Keep It God’s Feast
When thinking of the Feast, many things may come to mind. All eagerly look forward to the beautiful surroundings and the many activities the festival sites offer. For some brethren, it is the only opportunity they have to take time off and get away. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the many good things and physical activities at the Feast, all within the framework of God’s Law.
However, we must be careful that our focus is not solely on physical activities—that we are not just on vacation, traveling or resting, therefore losing sight of the primary purpose for keeping the Feast. We must be careful to avoid it becoming our feast instead of God’s.
Over time, ancient Israel fell into this very pattern, greatly displeasing God. Of them, He declared, “Your new moons and your appointed feasts [they were no longer observing God’s] My soul hates: they are a trouble unto Me; I am weary to bear them” (Isa. 1:14). Not having the Holy Spirit, Israel could not see past the physical good times and appreciate the spiritual intent of the annual feasts. In God’s eyes, their feast-keeping had become an empty practice.
Here is what God thought about their actions: “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of His hands” (5:11-12).
Yes, the Feast is a time to have “whatsoever our soul lusts [desires] after,” and Israel certainly experienced that very thing. However, they were too involved in having a “good time” to be concerned about God—to have time for Him in their feasts. They never comprehended the spiritual intent of these days—that God’s Feast days pictured His Plan of Salvation.
It can be all too easy for us to fall into that same pattern of only having a physical Feast. Yes, you can enjoy the many physical activities, but remember to put God first during the Feast, as we must also do throughout the entire year.
Do not let activities get in the way of spending enough time in Bible study (God speaking to you) and prayer (you talking to God). Be resourceful. Make the time to do these things. When in services, focus your attention on the messages, not on the fun that is coming later. Keep everything in its proper place, perspective and importance. If you are worn out from the previous day’s activities or from staying up too late the night before, then you will hardly be alert and attentive and able to take effective notes when presented with the banquet of spiritual food placed before you. So, above all else, keep God in His Feast.
Set the Right Example
Setting the right example is a serious responsibility. God expects us to do this for each other and for those in the world with whom we may come in contact at the Feast. Those in and not in the Church will surely notice how well you do this. The whole Church may be judged on your conduct alone. Think of the many questions those not in the Church might have: “Who are you?”—“What is this Feast of Tabernacles?”—“What are these people like?” These and other questions will be answered by how well we conduct ourselves.
Certainly, much of the hotel staff will know that you are a Church member; the impression you make on each one is important. They should be able to see a positive difference between their usual guests and us. Each one of us ought to reflect the fruits of a completely changed—converted—life.
For instance, one member told us about his experience in a splinter group. He explained that, during the Feast some years ago, he was approached by restaurant staff who commented about the conduct of this group’s members. The staff mentioned that these people were loud, obnoxious, discourteous, had left behind messes, and that, though they brought in much revenue, the restaurant staff would be glad to see them go. Do not let this be said about any of us! We should leave the opposite feeling—they ought to be sad to see us go.
Keep in mind that there will be some new members attending their very first Feast. All of what the Feast is about will be new to them. They will be watching you for an example to follow. What kind will you set for these babes in Christ? Will it be Jesus Christ living in you whom others will see? It should be. He lived a life of cleanliness; He took care of and respected the property of others; He considered the needs and welfare of others. May each of us have this mindset throughout this annual eight-day festival.
Be balanced and moderate in all you do. We are called to be shining lights in a world of darkness. Those in it should see our good works, leading them to glorify our heavenly Father.
You can enjoy the physical things the Feast has to offer—the activities, food, wine and other strong drink—but be moderate in this privilege. We need not hide what we do, but we do need to be careful of setting a wrong example. Keep in mind what Paul wrote in Romans: “Let not then your good be evil spoken of…It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby your brother stumbles, or is offended, or is made weak” (14:16, 21). We should also remember his instruction in I Thessalonians 5:22: “Abstain from appearance of all evil.”
Fellowship at the Feast
It is natural to want to spend time and do things with our own families, those with whom we are most comfortable. Yet, we must also consider our spiritual family—the begotten yet unborn family of God. Consider those who cannot be at the Feast. They will spend this time with just their immediate family or alone. They will have no one to meet or greet, no one with whom to fellowship or go to dinner—no one with whom to rejoice before God. What if you were in their shoes? Try to imagine what it would be like.
Are you also aware that it is possible to be at the Feast with hundreds of people, and yet have kept it alone? How could this be? Because a key ingredient was missing—fellowship—without which no Feast is the same or complete. This can happen because one either did not receive it or give it. You may be physically present, hear the messages and do many things, but unless you fellowship with others, your Feast experience will be much less than it could and should have been.
What is the best way to receive fellowship at this year’s Feast? It is very simple—give it! After all, we have been called to live the way of give. This is no time to be a “wallflower,” standing alone in a corner somewhere, or to just be with those we have seen all year long. God commands us to rejoice at His sacred assembly, and to do it together (Lev. 23:40; Deut. 14:26).
But what is fellowship? What does it mean to fellowship with another person? Some synonyms for fellowship are: companionship, camaraderie, friendship and friendliness. These words speak of talking, sharing and partnership. It is much more than just a passing hello or a simple greeting at the door. It is an earnest right hand extended in greetings (Gal. 2:9)—involves in-depth conversation, speaking and listening, truly getting to know one another (Mal. 3:16)—and giving of oneself (Gal. 6:2, 10). It means spending time together in hospitality (Heb. 13:1-2) and exhortation (3:13).
Be sure to include those who are at their first Feast. True fellowship is not reserved for the few, but to all in the Body of Christ, making everyone feel loved, included and accepted: “Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom you also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:19-22).
As a spiritual family, the relationship we are to have with one another ought to be close—closer than any human organization. We are to be “knit together in love” (Col. 2:2). This is possible because we understand and hold fast to the same doctrines, practice the correct form of government and worship the same God. We are able to walk together (Amos 3:3) and have the unity necessary to move forward in the Work of God (I Cor. 12:12-13).
The Holy Spirit, which comes from the Father and Jesus Christ, binds us together. Our fellowship is with God and Christ, and each other: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full…if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:3-4, 7).
Strive for godly fellowship at this year’s Feast, which for some is the only opportunity to do so. Recognize that as we fellowship, we will have done to Christ whatever we have done to the least of His brethren (Matt. 25:40).
Giving and Serving
One sure way to have a great Feast is to focus not just on ourselves, but on others (Phil. 2:4). And though we should be practicing the way of give all year long, the Feast presents the ideal time to do this. You might be serving officially as an usher, a song leader, a mother’s room monitor or a greeter. Or maybe you are going to sing in the choir or perform special music, or perhaps you are organizing specific Church activities. If so, be sure to make the most of this opportunity, looking to the needs of the brethren, having care and concern for them in a genuine attitude of service—giving for the sake of giving.
But what if you are not serving in an official capacity? There are other ways to serve or give to brethren!
Look for those who are alone or being overlooked, perhaps the individual whose spouse is not in the Church. Search for them, come to services early and stay late to talk with them. Spend time with them; invite them along on an outing or to dinner.
Offer to take a widow to lunch or, if she has children, baby-sit one day or evening so that she can enjoy a little free time. This also applies to a couple with small children, as they would appreciate a few hours to enjoy a dinner alone. This is one area in which teens or young people in the Church could easily serve.
You could call or send a card to those who could not be at the Feast. Think of the joy and happiness you could give to another member by this simple act of letting them know you are thinking of them.
Practice hospitality. This need not be some extravagant event. It could be as simple as inviting a few people over to your room for some wine and cheese and all the conversation that will naturally result. Look for what areas of service may be lacking, and fill the need. If you are alert and watchful, you will find endless ways to serve and give of yourself. Your reward will be great (Matt. 10:42; Mark 9:41). If you are involved at the Feast—giving—you will have a wonderful time.
Of course, there are many, many things involved in having a great Feast. By applying what you have read in this and other articles, you will be well on your way to being able to say, “I had the best Feast ever!”