Silence permeated the audience. All eyes were fixed on the conductor of the orchestra as he strode to the center of the stage and readied himself to cue the attentive musicians. Sensing the right moment, he began the concert with a swift upward motion.
A beautiful, melodic rush from every direction enveloped the building. A hundred different musicians with diverse types of instruments played in unison, knowing exactly when to enter and exit at every note. Seasoned orchestra-goers and first-timers alike delighted in the beauty and perfection of the musical arrangements. All were treated to a flawless, magnificent performance.
What was not immediately evident, however, were the many thousands of practice hours that each musician had put into the performance. The instruments that now made such incredible music were also the same ones that had squeaked, squawked and bellowed errant notes in the months prior.
No musician can play an instrument automatically. He has to put in a great amount of work and effort to master it. This involves making mistakes and improving over time so flowing music can result. Yet not only does each musician have to master his individual part, he also has to learn to function as a team with other members of a large orchestra.
We are very much like these musicians, but in a way in which you have most likely never considered.
When explaining His Holy Days, God calls them commanded assemblies—“holy convocations.” In Leviticus 23, it states, “These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their seasons” (vs. 4). This even applies to the Sabbath.
Strong’s Concordance defines the Hebrew word for “convocations” as “something called out, that is, a public meeting (the act, the persons, or the place); also a rehearsal…assembly, calling, convocation, reading.”
Among all of these definitions, one stands out: “a rehearsal.” God inspired this command so that every year we rehearse, or practice, coming together on His Holy Days so we can understand His Plan more deeply.
Nowhere is this more applicable than the time of the Feast.
God has given mankind 6,000 years to live his own way (just as He gives man six days of the week to do his own pleasure), while the last 1,000 years in a total 7,000-year Plan pictures a rest—when mankind will finally be freed from the influence of the devil. Just as the seventh day of the week is for man to commune with God and do His pleasure (Isa. 58:13-14), the last “day” of 1,000 years will be a time of rest in which all people will commune with God and enjoy a millennial period filled with peace and abundance.
The Feast of Tabernacles is the festival that pictures this seventh “day” in God’s 7,000-year Plan. During the Feast, we are to “rehearse” what is coming—the millennial reign of Jesus Christ when He returns to set up His kingdom and we reign as kings and priests in that governmental structure.
Notice what it says in Leviticus: “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 a holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein” (23:34-35).
The Last Great Day is also called a holy convocation (vs. 36). Although attached to the Feast of Tabernacles, it is a completely separate feast day because it pictures a distinct period of time.
Have you ever thought that just one of the responsibilities of the saints will be to work with physical human beings and teach them how to keep the Feast? Billions of people on Earth who currently have no idea about the truth of the Bible will need to learn what this special time is and how to keep it properly. Someone is going to need to teach them. That someone could be you!
With this as our future, we must expand our thinking. We are in training to serve humanity—and the time to learn this way of life is short.
Just as musicians put in thousands of hours to ready themselves for a physical performance, God expects us to do the same for a much greater spiritual purpose.
From the very start, God’s focus has always been on teaching and training others. Since everything that He does starts small, His Plan is to work with a few people now who can work with many others later (II Tim. 2:2).
Any teacher in the world of education has to go through years of specialized schooling. He or she then must complete an internship to put all that they have learned into practice.
We are no different. To be able to direct others who do not understand God’s ways, we have to train—study, learn and live those ways right now. We must draw close to Him by using the tools of Christian growth including Bible study, prayer, meditation, fasting and regularly exercising God’s Spirit.
Getting ready is serious business. Mr. Herbert Armstrong, the leader of the Church of God during the 20th century, wrote in his May 2, 1974, Brethren/Co-Worker Letter: “We are right now in the time of FINAL EXAMS—of severe trying and testing—to determine whether we shall make it into God’s Kingdom and eternal life—to be a priest or king, ruling under Christ for a thousand years—and after that, the WHOLE UNIVERSE under our feet! The future before us is so transcendently ENORMOUS we cannot now fully conceive of it.”
One of the primary duties that we will have in the Millennium will be to reeducate the world about God’s global Plan. We will do this by individually ruling cities (Luke 19)—as well as by teaching God’s statutes and laws (Isa. 30:20), proper agricultural practices (Mic. 4:3), correct financial management principles (Mal. 3:8-10), how to have happy families (Zech. 8:4-5), and so much more!
In addition, we will be required to judge all types of situations. It takes experience—training—to know how to handle matters. Properly assessing situations will be part of our duties: “Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (Dan. 7:22).
Are we ready to make decisions that will affect others’ lives? Can we make proper decisions in our own lives right now?
During this time, God’s Law will be taught from His world headquarters in Jerusalem: “…for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Mic. 4:2).
Unlike today, all people will be able to follow God’s Law because the veil of “darkness of this world” (Eph. 6:12) will be lifted, as it states in Isaiah 25: “And He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations” (vs. 7).
Yet once the darkness has been replaced by the “light of the world” (John 8:12)—Jesus Christ and His saints, “…the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14).
All of this will be possible because God will make His Holy Spirit available to all human beings, as it states in Ezekiel: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments, and do them” (36:26-27).
There will be no more violence (Isa. 60:18), peace will break out across the Earth (2:2-4), the land will be healed (41:17-20), and the deserts will blossom (35:1-2, 7). As a result of the land being cared for properly, there will be an abundance of food (Joel 2:24; Amos 9:13) and pure water (Joel 3:18). Even animals will be at peace (Isa. 11:6-9).
Learning to teach what is the opposite of the world’s way takes time, patience and practice. The Feast offers the opportunity for us to put what we are daily learning from our studies to work before our greatest “performance” on the world stage.
One way in which we do this is by exercising economic stewardship before, during and after the Feast.
Everything belongs to God, including what He allows us to use and enjoy. He requires just 10 percent of the income we generate to finance His Work. In His great wisdom, He has also commanded us to set aside a separate tithe, or a second 10th of what we earn, for the observance of His Holy Days—His spiritual rehearsals.
Deuteronomy 12 explains how we should use this portion of our income: “You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your corn, or of your wine, or of your oil, or the firstlings of your herds or of your flock, nor any of your vows which you vow, nor your freewill offerings, or heave offering of your hand: but you must eat them before the Lord your God in the place which the Lord your God shall choose, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite that is within your gates: and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all that you put your hands unto” (vs. 17-18). (Notice this second tithe is different from the first tithe that is given to support God’s Work, as it states in Deuteronomy 18:1-4.)
Second tithe is not to be used for anything other than the observance of the Holy Days. It must be saved beforehand.
This additional tithe—a full 10th of one’s annual income—is to be used primarily during the Feast of Tabernacles, which pictures a time of abundance: “Then [during the Millennium] shall He give the rain of your seed, that you shall sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous…” (Isa. 30:23).
God desires for us to taste just a tiny portion of that goodness during His Feast.
In fact, He actually commands us to use our second tithe to enjoy quality foods and things that we desire but would not be able to afford during the rest of the year: “…you shall bestow that money [second tithe] for whatsoever your soul lusts after [desires], for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever your soul desires; and you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you, and your household” (Deut. 14:26).
Of course, as with everything, we must apply the principle of moderation (Phil. 4:5).
At the end of the Feast, we can give leftover second tithe in our offerings during the Last Great Day or soon after we have returned home. These extra funds are a boost to God’s Work.
Not only is keeping second tithe a wonderful blessing, it is also a test. Being faithful and obedient by keeping a second tithe of our income throughout the course of a year is a serious matter to God. He wants to know if we will be faithful with His goods. This is a ready-built test to see if we will obey Him or not, as it states in Exodus: “…that I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law, or no” (16:4).
Think. If we are to rule cities one day—which will include being in charge of the economy—we must rehearse sound monetary practices today!
Fear God and Rejoice
Practicing good financial management is directly tied to fearing God and rejoicing—two other ways in which we rehearse the coming Millennium at the Feast. We are to “learn to fear the Lord your God always” (Deut. 14:22-23) and “rejoice before the Lord your God seven days” (Lev. 23:40).
The Hebrew term for fear can be used to mean “to stand in awe of,” “honor,” “reverence” and “respect.” In Proverbs 8:13, we learn the “fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” So learning to fear God at the Feast means to learn—or rehearse—a different way of life, one that is unique from “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4), and appreciate—honor and reverence—the God who so wonderfully designed His Plan in such an awesome and loving way!
While we are to continually rehearse hating evil, the Feast gives us a special opportunity to walk uprightly and allow our lights to shine. For example, we should exhibit good conduct in cities where Feast sites are located: “But as He which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation [conduct]” (I Pet. 1:15).
Likewise, Philippians states, “That you may be blameless, and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (2:15).
When you are shopping, filling your gas tank, or eating a meal in a restaurant while attending the Feast, remember that you were called to be an ambassador of Christ’s city afar off and to represent God’s supergovernment that will teach all of mankind the way of give. This will help you be more of a positive example and cast a good light on the Church wherever you may be attending the Feast.
God not only desires for us to fear Him and be good examples, but in doing so rejoice at His Feast: “There you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all that you put your hand unto, you and your households, wherein the Lord your God has blessed you” (Deut. 12:7).
In addition, God ties rejoicing to physical pleasures at the Feast such as eating and drinking, as seen in Deuteronomy 14:26.
But it goes further than that. There are many other ways we can rejoice at the Feast.
There will be numerous opportunities to praise God through singing hymns at services. Approach every hymn you sing as a way to praise the great God we serve—and do it with zeal!
“Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth: sing you praises with understanding” (Psa. 47:6-7).
We can also rejoice by sharing our time and our blessings with others. There will be those who do not have much second tithe and may not be able to afford as much at the Feast. This is a way in which we can help others enjoy this time. Jesus Christ told His disciples it was more of a blessing to give than receive (Acts 20:35).
Again, think. If we are to teach others to fear God and rejoice in the Millennium, we must be learning to do so in our own lives today!
The Feast is more than just a vacation or time to think of one’s self and how we can enjoy all the physical pleasures that having extra time and money brings. Instead, our focus should be on serving others. This is an additional way we rehearse the Millennium at the Feast.
There will be ample opportunities to serve, including through organized duties such as the choir, ushering, clean up, set up, helping with stage crew, security, flower arrangement, mother’s room, first aid, business office, and so much more. If you have experience with any of these duties, you can volunteer your time.
If you do serve in such capacities, expand your thinking. Know that in a few short years, you may be teaching others how to do these same tasks so they can teach others to also do the same!
Additionally, there are other ways to serve that do not involve you being assigned to a specific task—which can have more impact than you might realize. You can seek out others who are alone or who may be shy and include them in conversations. You could also take them out to eat or to an activity. These are great ways to demonstrate brotherly love.
Be creative. Consider how you would like to be served and then take the godly approach of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matt. 7:12). Pray and ask God how you can serve others. He will open your mind to show you how to serve His children. Give of yourself just as Christ did during His time among men.
Another way to serve is by surprising someone with a nice gift or writing to brethren not able to make it to the Feast because they were new and could not save enough second tithe, or may be sick or disabled.
You can even serve by serving yourself. While this may at first sound selfish, the Feast is a time not only of physical abundance, but of spiritual abundance. You will hear three months’ worth of sermons and sermonettes in an eight-day period. Be attentive and take a lot of notes. Gorge yourself on the spiritual banquet that God is preparing through His faithful ministers.
Also, take time to fellowship with our Father. Set aside time to quietly meditate on what you are learning. Do not neglect your prayer time. The Feast should be one of the greatest opportunities to spend time alone with God. During eight days, we are insulated from daily routines and distractions. Try not to plan so much that you get run down and become susceptible to sickness. Remember, this is a spiritual feast more than a physical one.
As is the case with everything God does, services and activities start on time. Make sure you allow enough time to arrive in a timely manner. Try not to get to services five minutes before and leave five minutes after.
The Feast is a wonderful opportunity to fellowship with and meet new brethren. We fellowship with Jesus Christ and God the Father by spending time with others who have the Holy Spirit (I John 1:3; Matt. 18:20). We should get to know our spiritual family as much as possible. We will be spending all eternity with each other. Do not cheat others of the opportunity to get to know you!
Make it a priority to attend all the planned activities such as Family Day and the Dinner Dance. How will you oversee these activities in the Millennium if you are not participating now? Do not just attend, but be involved. Watch how things are done decently and in order. Notice the quality. Notice the details involved.
Throughout the Feast, strive to give of yourself in every way. Make others feel welcome. Ensure no one is left out. The more you focus on making the Feast special and memorable for others, the happier you will become and the easier it will be for God to hand over authority to you to govern cities in the future.
Do you pay attention to what is going on around you at the Feast? Do you go to serve or do you go to be served? You may never have thought you needed to consider these questions, but they are an important part of the Feast. Remember, Jesus Christ, our example, came to serve mankind, not to be served (Matt. 20:28). So must we become servants in all aspects of our training (23:11).
Once more, think. If we are to serve all mankind in the future—we must be honing this skill now!
Practice Makes Perfect
Unless you are a musician, it can be easy to take for granted how incredibly difficult it is to master an instrument and qualify to participate in a professional orchestra. Many hours of rehearsing are necessary.
Another way to look at rehearsing is that it is a systematic approach to getting mistakes out of the way so one may fine tune the process toward a flawless performance. Since this is a lifelong process, there are going to be mishaps—“errant notes”—along the way.
Being physical human beings means we are susceptible to the pulls of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). Because we have these tendencies, we will have problems in our lives until we can completely overcome them.
Offenses, mistakes and wrong attitudes will occasionally surface, meaning that trials can follow.
How many sour notes have formed the foundation of numerous flawless performances? Those mistakes were pushed out before performers ever walked onto a stage. Every missed beat, every ear-piercing squeak, every head-tilting wrong note was erased by hours of practice.
Even the greatest professionals at any level have suffered setbacks. While everyone wants to experience the adrenaline rush of roaring crowds when a performance begins and ends, they must first endure the painful mediocrity of practice and diligent rehearsals.
No matter how often we may fall while training for the kingdom, we must get right back up and not dwell on our mistakes (Prov. 24:16). We cannot quit. Can you imagine if an accomplished musician quit along the way because he made a minor mistake while practicing a difficult piece? No one would have been able to enjoy his beautiful music!
As with mastering a musical instrument or developing a talent, achieving anything worthwhile in life takes time and practice. The same is true of our Christian conversion.
Read carefully what the apostle Paul went through on a daily basis: “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do…For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:15-23).
Paul understood exactly what it meant to be a physical human being. Because he had God’s Spirit, he knew his life would inevitably be a constant battle of overcoming.
The human mind is the enemy of God (Rom. 8:7), yet we all need to rehearse being obedient daily and learn to yield to His government. It will not be easy, but this is all part of the spiritual warfare we must wage (I Tim. 1:18).
When we do fall, we need to quickly get up and not look back (Phil. 3:13-14). Think how silly it would be for a professional musician to dwell on past mistakes and give up after years of playing. So it must be with us—we must forget past mistakes, learn from them, and move forward.
Progress never occurs by dwelling on the past.
God’s people are blessed in a unique way. We understand the exciting events that are going to take place—and in our lifetimes! Just as any type of performer sees things differently from the stage, we too have a different vantage point from the world. Our lives have incredible purpose!
Also, God has given us an unbelievable gift. That gift is the understanding of His Plan to offer salvation to all mankind. That is a statement very few can grasp. We have been given the incomprehensible privilege of teaching the rest of humanity how to live. We are called firstfruits for a great and exciting purpose. We are the first to have access to God Almighty, His Spirit, and His truth in a world that has been cut off from Him for millennia. That brings a heavy responsibility.
Our attendance at His Feast of Tabernacles not only is required, but it also is a period of training for the next phase of God’s Plan.
Take advantage of your opportunity at this year’s Feast to rehearse and ready yourself to help others. Go to it with a different purpose—one that focuses on others and your part as a future teacher and leader.
Rehearse now for the greatest “performance” of your life—one that will last forever and affect many millions of people for all eternity.