Another year has passed and soon God’s people will be packing clothes, loading cars and boarding planes, buses or boats to travel to the Feast of Tabernacles—the most joyous time of the year. Brethren will travel from the four corners of the world to gather at the places God has put His name for the Feast of 2007.
We are all looking forward to the Feast with much anticipation, to meeting new people and welcoming them into the begotten family of God. To become reacquainted with old friends whom we have not seen for a year or more. To learn from the messages that will be given, preparing us for a another year and directing our focus on our ultimate goal: being born into the Family of God and rule with Christ when He returns.
Imagine if that spiritual “family reunion” could be at one festival site instead of many. In the beginning of the first-century Church this was often the case, as most brethren lived in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. And in the early years of Mr. Armstrong’s ministry, brethren were able to assemble at one location.
If this were possible today, what would the Feast be like? You could have breakfast with a family from the Philippines. Talk with a New Zealander before services, trying not to confuse his accent with the Australian couple you met on opening night. After services, you could enjoy a light lunch with a Belgian before going on a hike with a group of teens from Kenya. In the evening, have a wonderful conversation with a couple from England discussing the sermon of the day. Then, before going to bed that night, enjoy a long walk with a family from Jamaica, looking at the stars and talking about God’s awe-inspiring Plan for all of us.
At such a Feast we would learn to appreciate our heavenly Father’s love for the human race, and we would better understand why He created us with a wide variety of personalities, talents, cultures and potential. We would more fully understand that God is not a respecter of persons, “but in every nation he that fears Him, and works righteousness is accepted with Him” (Acts 10:35). Such a Feast would help us to develop more of the mind of Christ, who gave His life so that all would have an opportunity for eternal life (Rev. 5:9).
Though a Feast like this is not yet possible, it will be in the near future. However, being in the Body of Christ—God’s one true Church—enables us to experience the Feast of Tabernacles in unity, harmony and joy as if we were all at one site.
Pilgrims in Temporary Dwellings
As we gather at different sites, we are reminded that as Christians we must live as “strangers and sojourners” in this world. We must have our eyes and minds firmly set on the world to come, when the Millennium—which the Feast of Tabernacles pictures—will occur.
The word tabernacle means “temporary dwellings or abodes”; the Feast could be called “The Feast of Temporary Dwellings.” In Leviticus 23:40-43, God commanded that ancient Israel dwell in booths during God’s festival. Today’s equivalent is to stay in motels, hotels and other places of temporary residence.
But why temporary dwellings? God intends for us to separate and free ourselves from the world for an entire week and enjoy a foretaste of the soon-coming Millennium. God wants us entirely focused on the meaning and purpose of His Feast, our minds removed as far as possible from Satan’s world.
This mindset should also be true for the rest of the year. We must maintain the constant realization that we are sojourners and pilgrims. We realize this world is only temporary and that we are on a journey, growing in God’s character so we will inherit the kingdom of God. Abraham focused on “a city…whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10), “not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off” (vs. 13). This should be true of us as well!
Gathering together in temporary dwellings helps us to bond and unify—to understand that we are all on the same journey with the same goal—helping, supporting and encouraging each other on the path to God’s kingdom.
God’s Work—Done in Unity
Examples of the past should inspire and motivate us. The first century Church’s striking unity, sense of purpose and drive, seen in Acts 4:32, sets the example. So do memories of decades ago when tens of thousands gathered in peace and unity to keep the Feast. Both examples were made possible because the true government of God was present and functioning.
Today, we have the same government—God’s. The same message—the true gospel, which is desperately needed by this ever-sickening world. And the same Leader—Jesus Christ (Heb. 13:8).
Consider what a blessing it is to keep the Feast—to observe it where God has placed His name. There are many sites of other organizations throughout the world where a Feast could be kept—but it is not where God has placed His name! It is not God’s Feast!
Take a moment to grasp the difference.
The Feast of Tabernacles depicts tomorrow’s wonderful world ruled by the kingdom of God. The Church is God’s “teachers college”—training and preparing us to rule in that kingdom. Led by Christ and the saints, and functioning in unity, the government of God will bring peace and prosperity to the world! Would God have many different “colleges” training His government, each using a different curriculum to teach them how to rule in His kingdom? Christ wants everyone who will rule with Him to be “on the same page,” and the only way to do this is to keep His Feasts.
The many publications of the Church help keep us unified. In the early Church, when all lived much closer together, in the same city, everyone deeply prized the Holy Days and festivals of God (Acts 2:1; 12:3). The Holy Days gather God’s people and weld them in deeper unity (18:21).
Through the massive amount of literature and weekly sermons we receive, we are being taught the same doctrines—the same truth—by the marvelous technology God has provided for His Work today. When we arrive at the Feast this year, we will be able, as Amos 3:3 states, to walk together in agreement.
The “communications revolution” that God used in the 20th century to launch the Work to dazzling heights continues today. Now we reach nearly every nation on earth on a monthly basis, soon to be weekly, through the power of the Internet.
This year the Opening Night service at all three North American sites will be one live service directed from Niagara Falls. At our current size this would be incredibly expensive if it were not for recent advancements of technology.
The Work into which we have been drafted is directly tied to the message of the Feast of Tabernacles. That message is probably the greatest driving force to advance and amplify the unity and camaraderie of God’s people.
Purpose of the Feast
The Feast depicts an incredible phase in the Plan of God—ultimately, a pivotal period in man’s history. After 6,000 years of doing things his own way, man will finally choose to be taught how to live God’s way of life. Notice: “And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3).
In a sense, the Feast is a worldwide family reunion: “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zech. 14:16).
Isaiah 11:9 describes the fruits of the efforts of Jesus Christ and the saints: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”
The kingdom of God will bring about the greatest re-education program the world will ever see—and we all have an opportunity to be part of it.
God has given us His Feast, a divinely ordained “time out,” to reflect upon our awesome destiny, our prime goal and purpose of life.
In the Millennium, who will conduct the vital Sabbath Services? The Bible studies? Give key instructions? Teach all human beings how to live a truly successful life for the first time?
We will (Rev. 1:6)!
We are being prepared now to become teachers in the world tomorrow—to be Christ’s assistants in top positions of the coming world-ruling government.
If humanity’s ways are to change, it must start with us (Matt. 13:31-32). As Mr. Armstrong taught and reminded the Church years ago, God’s true Church is the kingdom in embryo—not yet born! We must drive ourselves now to learn and live God’s Way so thoroughly that we will be able to teach millions of others during the Millennium. It is our zeal now in supporting God’s Work today that will determine how many we will teach in the kingdom tomorrow (25:14-30).
Every year at the Feast we demonstrate to the world God’s ability to unify mankind through His Spirit. We are pioneers of the only true solution to man’s endless problems.
Make It a Joy—and Rejoice!
Again, we are in the Church that has the government of God leading it. An inevitable fruit of His government is rejoicing and celebration (Isa. 25:6; Matt. 22:2-4)!
Consider the God to whom we are to submit. In I Timothy 1:11, He is called a “blessed God.” In this instance, blessed could also be translated “happy”—God is a “happy God!” We serve a happy, joyful God, and He commands us to be like Him. Notice Deuteronomy 16:14: “and you shall rejoice in your feast.”
Yet, do your physical problems, trials and worries cloud your ability to see and experience the joy that you should experience at the Feast? Remember, we all have our own crosses to bear (Luke 9:23).
You have been called to a new life in Christ; you are to leave behind all the sins and mistakes of your former life—truly a cause for rejoicing: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psa. 32:1) and “My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto You; and my soul, which You have redeemed” (71:23).
Rejoicing at God’s Feast can help you change your short-sightedness in regard to your personal problems and lead you to dwell on the truly exuberant, matchless opportunity set before us (1 John 3:1).
An effective way to help you be full of joy during the Feast of Tabernacles is to take a moment to reflect upon the past year and make an inventory of all your blessings!
We are also commanded to use 10% of our income during the eight days of the Feast and Last Great Day. Applying that budget to the whole year would equate to a 450% rise in wages. Such a raise would allow most of us to live like kings, queens, royalty—which is what we will be in the kingdom. And that is how God wants us to enjoy His Feast!
Make It God’s Feast
While God commands us to rejoice at His Feasts, all things should be done in moderation and balance. We should not overdo it (Isa. 5:11-12) by having a great time physically, but spiritually wasting the Feast. Making time for God should be a priority. Resolve to keep God in your plans—He has included you in His!
For example, you could wake up early each morning to pray and study your Bible. This might take some resourcefulness, as we will be living in temporary dwellings for eight days. However, do not let this become an easy excuse, but rather be creative and make sure there is time and a place set aside to talk to God in prayer and allow Him to talk to you through Bible study. The daily messages we will hear will be a tremendous resource—use it, and make it a goal to review your notes every day.
The Feast is a time like no other to practice living God’s Way. Follow festival instructions promptly and without complaint (Ecc. 5:1; Phil. 2:14); obedience in even small matters displays godly character (Luke 16:10). Do not become the exception to the rules. Punctually arrive at services and pay attention to the sermonettes and sermons. Make sure your children do this as well. Our obedience gives God reasons to rejoice!
Here are some helpful points to enjoying your Feast and making it the best one ever:
- Put extra effort into child training before the Feast. This will greatly benefit you and fellow brethren.
- Make it a point to participate in all Church activities—do not miss even one!
- Enthusiastically meet new people—and be an ambassador of peace.
- Do not avoid crowds of brethren; rather, use the opportunity for fellowship. The mutual support and strength derived from it will benefit the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12:14).
- Broaden your horizons. The Feast is the greatest family reunion on the face of the earth. Make room for new family members, visitors from abroad and new attendees—make Mark 10:29-30 a reality!
Do not forget those who are unable to attend the Feast. Send them cards or flowers, or even contact them. Perhaps write a personal letter. They will appreciate this more than you know. Remember, they will not be able to enjoy the Feast in the same way you will.
Make God and our awesome future the topics of conversation with other brethren. Discuss sermons and the meaning of the Feast. You could even include Bible games at some of the activities, rather than talking only about the mundane issues in our lives. Talk about your blessings, or trials you have overcome during the past year. But do it in a natural way, not as the world does with so-called religious testimonials, “witnessing to the Lord.”
God listens to our conversations, and these are noted in a “book of remembrance” (Mal. 3:16).
Remember the Big Picture!
Envision what lies before us. Someday we will all be changed, stepping out of our physical “tents”—our temporary bodies that now confine us—and into spirit bodies. We will “inhabit eternity” with God (Isa. 57:15). What an incredible calling!
Knowing that our ultimate purpose is to be a part of God’s government in the world tomorrow under Christ’s leadership, re-educating mankind, we can come together to make God’s Feast of Tabernacles a festival of joy! “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance. In Your name shall they rejoice all the day: and in Your righteousness shall they be exalted” (Psa. 89:15-16).