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 come from the four corners of the world to gather at the places God has put His name.
With this special time quickly approaching, we all look forward with much anticipation to meeting new people and being reacquainted with old friends whom we have not seen for a year or more. We eagerly await the messages that will be given, which will prepare us for the coming year and direct our focus toward our ultimate goal—being born into God’s Family and ruling with Jesus Christ.
Imagine if this spiritual “get together” 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.
If this were possible today, you could have breakfast with a family from the Philippines or 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 teenagers from Kenya.
Over dinner, you could discuss the sermon of the day with a couple from England. Then, before going to bed, you could enjoy a long walk with a family from Jamaica, looking at the stars and talking about God’s awe-inspiring Plan for us all.
At such a Feast, we would learn to further appreciate our heavenly Father’s love for all of mankind, and would better understand why He created us with a wide variety of personalities, talents, cultures and potential. We would more fully comprehend that God is not a respecter of persons and how that “in every nation he that fears Him, and works righteousness, is accepted with Him” (Acts 10:35). Such a Feast would help us 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 gathering such as this may not be possible today, it will be in the near future. In the meantime, within the Body of Christ—God’s one true Church—we can experience the Feast of Tabernacles in unity, harmony and joy as if everyone in the world were all together at one site.
Pilgrims in Temporary Dwellings
As we gather for the Feast, 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 tabernacles means temporary dwellings or abodes. Summarized, the Feast could be called “The Feast of Temporary Dwellings.”
In Leviticus 23:40-43, God commanded that ancient Israel dwell in booths during this 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. He wants us to focus entirely on the meaning and purpose of His Feast with our minds removed as far as possible from Satan’s world.
This mindset should carry into the rest of the year. We must maintain the constant realization that we are sojourners and pilgrims. We should realize this world is only temporary and that we are on a journey, growing in God’s character so we can inherit His kingdom.
The biblical patriarch 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 bond and become more unified. We can understand that we are all on the same journey with the same goal of 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 remarkable unity along with its 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 government of God was present and functioning.
Today, we have this same government. The same true gospel message. And the same leader—Jesus Christ (Heb. 13:8). All are desperately needed in this ever-worsening world.
Consider what a blessing it is to keep the Feast—to observe it where God has placed His name. There are many sites 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 God’s kingdom. The Church is God’s “teachers college”—which trains and prepares us to eventually rule over those learning to live God’s Way for the first time. Led by Christ and the saints, the government of God will function in complete harmony to bring peace and prosperity to the entire world!
Working in unity is of utmost importance. Would God have many different “colleges” training His government, each using a different curriculum to teach saints how to rule in the kingdom?
Of course not! Christ wants everyone who will rule with Him to be “on the same page,” and an effective way to do this is to come together to keep His Feast.
In the early Church, the Holy Days gathered God’s people and welded them in deeper unity (Acts 18:21).
Today, the Church’s many publications help keep us unified, despite us living great distances from each other. Through the massive amount of literature and weekly sermons we receive through the power of technology, we are taught the same doctrines—the same truth. These all work together to ensure that when we arrive at the Feast, we are able, as Amos 3:3 states, to walk together in agreement.
Technology even benefits the Feast in direct ways. Take the Opening Night service. Everyone at multiple sites all over the world can listen to the same message from our Pastor General, which allows us to move forward and begin the Feast in unity. As simple as this may seem, it was not remotely possible for the early Church.
The Work into which we have been drafted is directly tied to the message of the Feast of Tabernacles. That message is 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 their own way, people 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).
Gathering for the Feast will continue into the Millennium and it will involve virtually everyone in the entire world: “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 in working with those in the world: “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.”
God’s kingdom will bring about the greatest re-education program the world has ever seen—and we all have an opportunity to be part of it! The Feast, essentially, is a divinely ordained “time out” to reflect on our awesome destiny, our prime goal, and purpose of life.
In the Millennium, who will help conduct vital Sabbath services? Bible studies? Give key instructions? Teach all human beings how to live a truly successful life for the first time?
We will! (Read Revelation 1:6.)
We are preparing 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 has often been said, God’s true Church is the kingdom in embryo—not yet born (John 3:3-6). 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 in supporting God’s Work today that will determine how many we teach in the kingdom tomorrow (Matt. 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!
We are in the Church that has the government of God leading it. An inevitable fruit of His government is rejoicing and celebration! (Read Isaiah 25:6 and Matthew 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 joyful God and He commands us to be like Him. Notice Deuteronomy 16:14: “You shall rejoice in your feast…”
Do your physical problems, trials and worries cloud your ability to see and experience the joy that you should experience at the Feast? While we all have our own crosses to bear (Luke 9:23), we do not have to bear them alone (Matt. 11:28-30).
You have been called to a new life in Christ. You can and should 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 any shortsightedness in regard to your personal problems and lead you to dwell on the truly exuberant, matchless opportunity set before us (I 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. See if you can make it to 1,000 and then have fun sharing your list with others!
We are also commanded to use approximately 10 percent 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 percent rise in wages. Such a raise would allow most of us to live like kings, queens and royalty—which is what we will be in the kingdom.
This truly is a reason to rejoice and further proof that 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). The Feast is not just about having a great time physically, but also about strengthening ourselves spiritually. Making time for God during the Feast should be a priority. Resolve to keep God in your plans. Remember, He has included you in His!
For example, you will want to wake up early each morning to ensure you have sufficient time to pray and study your Bible. This might take some resourcefulness, as you will be away from your normal routine for eight days. But do not let this become an easy excuse. 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 are a tremendous resource. Make it a goal to review your notes every day and use them to strengthen your relationship with God.
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 feel as though you are an exception to the rule. Arrive at services on time and get plenty of rest the night before so you can pay close attention to the messages. Make sure your children do this as well. Our obedience gives God reasons to rejoice!
By following these additional helpful points, you can make the Feast the best one ever.
- Put extra effort into childrearing 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 strive to “show yourself friendly” (Prov. 18:24).
- 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 gathering of God’s people 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!
Also, do not forget those unable to attend the Feast. Send them cards, flowers or a personal letter. You could even call them on the phone. Those who are unable to come will appreciate this more than you know. Remember, they will not be able to enjoy the Feast in the same way you will.
Use God and our awesome future as topics of conversation with other brethren. Discuss sermons and the meaning of the Feast. You could even be creative with including Bible games at some activities. This is far better than talking only about the mundane issues in our lives.
Talk about your blessings, or trials you have overcome during the past year. Yet make sure to do it in a natural way, not as the world does with so-called religious testimonials, “witnessing to the Lord.” Remember, God listens to our conversations (Matt. 18:20).
Throughout the Feast, envision what lies before you. Someday we will all be changed and step out of our physical “tents”—the 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 and re-educate mankind, we should come together to make God’s Feast of Tabernacles a festival of joy!
Strive to become those described in Psalm 89: “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” (vs. 15-16).