By Dennis Leap
Why do you go to the Feast of Tabernacles? This may seem like a silly question. But it does deserve some thought. Amos prophesied for our time that God’s own people would develop a very casual attitude about God’s Sabbath and other traditions (Amos 8:5). Have we become indifferent to God’s holy days? We need to be sure that we do not take God’s Feast days for granted. So let’s answer the question: Why do we attend the Feast of Tabernacles?
The most important reason why we attend the Feast is out of loving obedience to God the Father. God does not just suggest we be at the Feast. “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts” (Leviticus 23:2). The word for “convocations” in Hebrew is miqra. This word means “a public meeting, a calling or an assembly.” Also notice that God says we are to proclaim them “holy” meetings. God inspired the holy days and God commands us to be there. If we decide not to go to the Feast—without a valid reason—then we are choosing to disobey God.
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, 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 an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein” (verses 33-36). These scriptures are very clear. There should be no doubt that we should plan to be at the Feast.
Are there any valid reasons for not attending the Feast? Certainly poor health is one reason. The Feast is very demanding physically. Members with severe health problems are excused from attendance and should plan to keep the fall holy days at home. Women who are in the latter stages of pregnancy should counsel with a minister before attending the Feast. Feast stress could adversely affect delivery and the health of your newborn.
Another valid reason for not attending the Feast is financial hardship. God has instituted second tithe as the way to provide the financial means to attend the Feast (Deuteronomy 14:22-23). But due to our weakened national economies, some members have found themselves with little or no work for a long period of time. If you have been out of work, and have not been able to save sufficient second tithe, then there is the possibility that you may not be able to attend the Feast this year. You may request second tithe assistance, but realize that funds are limited and not everyone who requests assistance will receive it.
Some men undergoing financial hardship have asked if they should attend the Feast without their families. There is a biblical principle to follow with regard to this issue. “Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty” (Deuteronomy 16:16). If you do not have sufficient second tithe for you and your family to attend the Feast, but there are enough funds for you as the head of household, then you should plan to be at the Feast. It is not easy leaving our families behind to attend the Feast. We must look at this issue God’s way. All males are to appear before God at the Feast. If for some reason you are not planning to be at the Feast, please counsel with a minister.
Worship the King
Another reason why we attend the Feast is to worship God. “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” (Zechariah 14:16). The Feast of Tabernacles pictures the time when Christ will reign on the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). After Christ’s return, the whole world will learn how to truly worship God and Christ. When we go to the Feast, we have an opportunity to do this same thing—in advance! The Hebrew word for “worship” here is shachah. It means “to prostrate in homage to royalty or God; to bow yourself down, humbly beseech or worship.” When we go to the Feast, we should plan to do homage to Christ and God the Father.
God designed the Feast and Last Great Day to be observed within an eight day period. We should plan to worship God by attending all services—all eight days. Over the years, some of God’s people have become lax about attending services. As God’s Philadelphia Church, we must strive to meet high standards. We should be at services unless there is an emergency or illness. Each service provides us another opportunity to worship God. This is the one time each year when all of God’s people gather together and thank God and praise Him for His many blessings.
In a similar vein, everything we do at the Feast should be conducted as if we are in the presence of royalty. God is omnipresent and He is at our Feast. How we act before God is very important. Christ taught us the importance of dressing and acting appropriately through the parable of the wedding garment (Matthew 22:11-14). Our dress and conduct in eating, drinking and entertainment activities should have the highest standards of excellence. Remember that during the Feast, we will be in the presence of the greatest Royalty in the entire universe.
To Learn to Fear the Eternal
Another important reason we attend God’s Feast is to learn how to fear God. “And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23). The Hebrew word for “learn” is lamad. It means “to goad or teach.” The Feast is one of God’s greatest educational tools. We will have the opportunity to hear approximately three months of sermons and sermonettes at the Feast. Some messages will be exhortative, some corrective, but all will be encouraging and inspiring. These messages are planned for us!
We should all be praying about the messages to be given at the Feast. God’s Philadelphia ministers are now busily preparing their messages for the Feast. If we go to God in faith and pray that God will inspire the messages—He will! Jesus Christ will be behind our Feast messages. He will ensure that we receive the good spiritual meat that we need!
In this same verse, the word for “fear” in the Hebrew is yare, which means “to fear or to revere.” As we experience each new holy day season, above all, we must learn to develop a deeper respect for God. If our attitude is right, attending the Feast will certainly help us do this. God brings us to the Feast to show us how He and Christ have been working throughout the year. Seeing growth in the Church causes us to more deeply respect God. Also, when we see the Work growing, it does inspire us and helps us realize that we are a part of a much larger spiritual body.
We also attend the Feast to rejoice! “Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine: And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates. Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord shall choose: because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice” (Deuteronomy 16:13-15).
God designed the Feast to refresh us spiritually. This rejuvenation comes by rejoicing. During the seven days of the Feast and the Last Great Day, we have the opportunity to put our problems aside and focus on the glorious future to come. Studying and meditating on the prophecies related to the Millennium recharges our spiritual batteries and gives us a stronger and more positive mental and emotional outlook.
While at the Feast, we have the chance to come into contact with people of like mind. This annual fellowship provides great encouragement for us. Talking with our brethren often provides us with the extra confidence we need to meet the challenges and tests of the year ahead.
A Time for Family
Deuteronomy 16:14 shows us that we are to rejoice with our “sons” and “daughters” at the Feast. In other words, the Feast is a time for family. We should plan our Feast to be of great benefit to our families. The Feast provides the perfect opportunity for parents to teach their children about God’s great way of life. The Feast pictures a time when the whole world will be taught how to live God’s way. During the Millennium, the Earth will be filled with the knowledge of God (Habakkuk 2:14). We must fill our children with the knowledge of God while at the Feast.
We should follow the principles for teaching children as outlined in Deuteronomy 6:7. “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” We must spend time with our families at the Feast. Talk about the sermonettes and sermons with your children. Do this daily while it is fresh in your mind and theirs.
You will ensure that your family has the best Feast ever by including all family members in Feast planning. This means involving your children in helping to choose restaurants, entertainment and other activities during the Feast. And certainly sharing our second tithe with family members will help every one of them to truly rejoice.
The scriptures in Deuteronomy 16:13-15 refer not only to our immediate family, but to God’s Family as well. We are to see to the needs of “strangers,” “fatherless” and “widows” during the Feast. God wants us to also make sure that the other members of the Church have the best Feast ever. We should be on the lookout for brethren who may need our help during the Feast. Providing rides to services and other events is always a big help for some of God’s people. Including singles, widows and single-parent families in our Feast fun provides a great service to God’s people. Because our brethren are so scattered, it is important that we all concentrate on including others in our Feast activities.
Another way to attend to the needs of others at the Feast is to serve under one of the festival departments. There are many different jobs to be done at the Feast. Successfully conducting a Feast takes many hands. If you are not assigned a duty prior to the Feast, volunteer while at the Feast. A smoothly running Feast will be uplifting and encouraging to all of God’s people.
Many people who have wholeheartedly served at the Feast have learned that their best Feasts have always come when they served. Paul wrote, “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). If you work hard to make everyone else’s Feast the best ever—you will have the best Feast ever!
The Feast of Tabernacles is just around the corner. Let’s all take some time and ask ourselves why we attend the Feast? Fully understanding why we go to the Feast will ensure that we keep a very meaningful Feast—God’s way!