Ministers in God’s Church give guidance to new contacts who are about to be invited to services. We give them an idea of what to expect when they start attending. I tell them that if they don’t hear one of the members talking about the Feast of Tabernacles on the first Sabbath they attend, they will hear about it by the second service.
Why are God’s people so excited to talk about the Feast? It is because they enjoy this festival, and they yearn for the fulfillment of what it pictures. It is at the forefront of their minds and it surfaces regularly in their fellowship. God is surely pleased with that anticipation and excitement about His annual Feast and His coming Kingdom.
When He commands His people to keep the annual Feast of Tabernacles in Leviticus 23:40, God says, “[A]nd ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.” This is actually the first time God uses the word rejoice in the Bible. Strong’s Concordance states that this word means to be cheerful, to brighten up, to be merry or to be gleesome.
God gives additional festival instruction, such as: “… thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto” (Deuteronomy 12:18). Does this simply command that you rejoice in things you can put your hands around? A fine bottle of wine, a large slice of cheesecake, a premium cut of steak? Boating, skiing, dancing? Is that the sum total of your rejoicing at the Feast of Tabernacles—physical things you can consume or experience with your own hands?
If that is the total focus and the measurement of how you rejoice at the Feast this year, you may brighten up or be cheerful for those eight days, but most likely you will experience what has come to be referred to as “post-Feast letdown” (sidebar, page 19). God does want you to enjoy fine food and drink and worthwhile activities at the Feast, but that should only be a part of your rejoicing.
Those attending the Feast who have been begotten by God’s Spirit know that their future is to reign with Jesus Christ for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:6; 2 Timothy 4:8). They understand that the Feast not only pictures the physical wonders, the peace and the abundance that physical humans will experience on Earth, but it also pictures the firstfruits ruling as God beings during the Millennium.
With this in mind, should you not obey God’s command to rejoice at the Feast with more than just physical sustenance or activity?
Rejoice in God’s Will
The Apostle Paul exhorts Christians to be humble and unified by the example of Jesus Christ. He said that if the members did that, he would be able to “rejoice in the day of Christ” (Philippians 2:16). Strong’s Concordance and some translations define “rejoice” as “glory.” Webster’s defines glory as praise, honor and distinction; resplendence—a state of exaltation. To rejoice should mean more to us than just being cheerful with what our hands can wrap around to eat and drink at the Feast. It really means a spiritual rejoicing and glorying, as well as physical cheerfulness.
Won’t we rejoice in God’s Kingdom because we will be free of human nature? How many times have we known what God’s will is, yet succumbed to our own will? How many times have we done things we knew we should not or omitted to do what we knew we should? We often allow our human nature to have its way.
How much of your time is spent doing your will at the Feast of Tabernacles and ignoring God’s will? Have you ever stayed out so late during the Feast that there simply was no time to pray to your Father the next morning? Or maybe it resulted in missing services. In these examples, whose will was being followed?
We have a few activities each year at the Feast that include all the Family of God: entertainment night, Family Day, the Behind the Work film, etc. Some activities cater to certain groups of the family (seniors, singles, etc). Every year, a few do not attend these activities. Most do, however. They do so not because they can’t think of anything more exciting or more personally enjoyable to do, but because they know that during that designated time God’s will is for them to be with His Family. They rejoice—they glory—in doing God’s will, not their own will!
This is a wonderful way to rejoice spiritually during this festival—to ignore your own nature and embrace God’s divine nature. That is glorying in the future when those who are born into God’s Family will be free of human nature.
At this year’s Feast, when you face two or more distinct alternatives to choose from, ask yourself: Am I choosing God’s will, or am I submitting to my own human nature? One way to rejoice spiritually at God’s Feast is by pursuing and embracing His will.
Let’s consider a few other examples of how we ought to rejoice at the Feast of Tabernacles.
Rejoice in Family Reunion
“[T]he dead in Christ shall rise first,” and those who are alive “shall be caught up together with them … and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). This denotes a close association. At Christ’s return, we will be reunited with the members and loved ones who died in the faith, plus those with whom we do God’s Work today. All will be united in God’s Family!
We will rejoice in the Kingdom because we will have more family to love and to be loved by than we can possibly imagine. Rejoice at the Feast with the Family. It’s not a family of immortal spirit beings yet, but they are your Family. They are progressing to be part of the same Kingdom you are pursuing! As Paul wrote, “so shall we ever be with the Lord.” You are to be part of the same Family forever! So rejoice at the Feast! Give of yourself, and apply God’s will in your fellowship and conversation with God’s royalty. Rejoice with as many as you can. Be hospitable and kind, extending your hand in fellowship. They are your royal brothers and sisters.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 that at present we see through a glass darkly and now know only in part. You will rejoice in God’s Kingdom because, as His children, you will no longer see through a glass darkly. You will be a member of the God Family, able to rejoice with even those who are physical beings, as the Earth will be full of the knowledge of God (Isaiah 11:9).
Rejoice at the Feast by attending every service. Rejoice in the opportunity to have the mind of God and the plan of God made more real to you in a concentrated way during the eight days. The focus of the Feast is God’s Word, and services are where we focus most intently on His Word. So don’t sacrifice the spiritual rejoicing in God’s Word by overextending your physical rejoicing with too much food and drink that may result in missing services.
Rejoice in God’s Government
Daniel 2:44 and other verses tell us that the misrule of mankind is coming to an end. This is a reason to rejoice! The fifth empire of Daniel 2, represented by the stone, will smash the governments of man. The corruption of political parties, beasts, false prophets, dictators and emperors will cease and the government of God will begin.
Herbert W. Armstrong stated that God will not have anyone in His royal government who refuses to be ruled. So rejoice at the Feast whenever and however you come into contact with God’s government. God’s people today are to be complimented for their response to God’s government during the annual fall festivals. When they willingly submit, they make the jobs much easier for those who shoulder responsibilities at the Feast. The members who are given responsibilities do not exalt themselves, lord over or mismanage the brethren they serve. This is a beautiful thing and truly a cause for rejoicing! It makes the Feast more pleasant for all, and it also highlights a much deeper cause for glorying and rejoicing: God’s government will serve and assist everyone around the world when this festival is fulfilled.
When everyone governs and is willing to be governed because he wants to glorify Christ, everyone rejoices more abundantly. We are all part of the embryo of the government of God that will blossom and expand forever. The people you obey at the Feast and the people you direct at the Feast are not just week-long acquaintances. No, they will be part of the government of God together with you forever! Rejoice during the Feast by submitting to direction and lovingly leading those you direct in God’s royal Family, His holy nation!
This is not an exhaustive article on how to rejoice at the Feast, but it should help you consider how to rejoice at the Feast in everything you “puttest your hands unto”—literally everything you undertake.
We will truly rejoice when the Kingdom of God is established and we are part of the ruling Family government. There will be a multitude of reasons for rejoicing in the Kingdom. At that time, rejoicing over fine food and strong drink will be low on the list. High on the list will be rejoicing in the abundant fruits of God’s Spirit that fill His Kingdom.
Rejoice in the physical blessings God has provided for you with His second tithe at this year’s Feast. Rejoice in the foods and activities that you put your hand to. But most of all, rejoice in the spiritual glories of this year’s Feast because they picture: your soon-coming future!