For years, through Herbert W Armstrong's guidance and leadership, this Philadelphia era of the Church of God has understood that God has given His Holy Days to teach us many wonderful lessons. This article will help you to better understand two special lessons to be gained by keeping the Feast of Tabernacles.
Those associated with God's Church understand that when Almighty God revealed and ordained His annual Holy Days, He was setting forth a master plan of the ages. God reveals through these festival periods how He will ultimately save mankind from utter chaos, misery and death. One facet of God's Holy Day panorama shows there will be an age of 1,000 years in which men will live at peace and learn God's holy and righteous ways... a time in which the earth will blossom as the rose... a time when the earth will be as full of the knowledge of God as the seas are full of water (Isa. 11:9). This great millennial period is pictured in the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles.
Commanded by God
As His people, we are commanded by God to attend the annual Feast of Tabernacles. God gave this command because He wants us all to live and experience the meaning of these days in His overall plan: "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" (Lev. 23:34). Many benefits and lessons can be learned by keeping God's Feast days. By attending the Feast of Tabernacles each year we are once again refreshed in our realization and perspective of the coming Kingdom of God. But, there are two great and special lessons to be gained from this. Feast. Lessons that all mankind will one day learn by keeping these days.
Learn to fear God
First we are to appear before God to learn to fear Him — to learn the lesson of obedience and the meaning of His wonderful government. "And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God [during His Feast days], in the place which He shall choose to place his name there... that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always" (Deut. 14:23). The Bible tells us that all wisdom begins with the proper fear of God: "The (ear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Prov. 1:7). The fear of God is not terror or horror. It is an appropriate sense of awe, a supreme level of respect and worship. As we learn more of God, get to know Him better through prayer, Bible study and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the fear of the Lord becomes tempered and balanced with love (I John 4:17-18). Yet, the mind of man is such that often as babes, when we are just coming into a knowledge of God's truth, we may be primarily motivated by fear of the punishment God brings on those who don't keep His laws.
Nations will learn proper fear
God will have to use punishment and great power to subdue the nations of this world at the beginning of His Kingdom: "And out of his [Christ's] mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" (Rev. 19:15). God will use the rod of correction to teach nations His Way. Especially will this be true of the observance of His Holy Days, which teach the overall plan of salvation: "And it shall come to pass, that everyone 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. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. "And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles" (Zech. 14:16-19). The nations will be taught to fear God in the world tomorrow. But this proper fear actually builds love and great peace. Notice how the nations will prosper and their lives will be blessed as they grow more and more into God's way: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. "And many people shall go and say, Come ye, 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. 2:2-3). And: "they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it. For all people will walk everyone in the name of... the Lord our God for ever and ever" (Micah 4:4-5). Godly fear leads to right conduct, which results in blessings and rejoicing. Even Egypt, the archenemy of Israel for centuries, will come to know God and worship Him, and partake of the blessings that flow from God's hands: "And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation... Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance" (lsa. 19:21,25). The fear of God brings good results! Nations will learn to live in peace and harmony. There will be no more warfare, suffering and misery.
Learning to fear God today
As Christians today we also learn to fear God properly by observing His commandments and keeping His ways. Notice the example set for us by Jesus Christ: "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications... and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered" (Heb. 5:7-8). During the Feast of Tabernacles we have a special opportunity to show ourselves obedient to the government of God. As God's Church has certain structure and order in its organization, so also the Feast operations have to be organized to run smoothly and efficiently. Your example of obedience to the authority set in the Church (whether it is simply your willing cooperation with a traffic guide or a hotel monitor) shows how willingly you would follow God's government during the 1,000 years. Your personal example can make a great deal of difference. Jesus said we are the light of the world. He said we shouldn't hide that light, but rather let it shine so that the world will realize there is a great God and benign and powerful Spirit behind our actions. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16). Every year come dozens of reports from various Feast sites of how the citizens of the areas are impressed at the order, neatness and obedience of our people.
During the Feast of Tabernacles we have a special opportunity to show ourselves obedient to the government of God. As God's Church has certain structure and order in its organization, so also the Feast operations have to be organized to run smoothly and efficiently. Your example of obedience to the authority set in the Church... shows how willingly you would follow God's government during the 1,000 years.
Your example is a living reality of the proper fear of God in action. During the Feast of Tabernacles you can practice a way of life that will be experienced by all people in the world tomorrow. It's a life based on the fear of God — worship, awe, respect and reverence — and by your example of obedience many hundreds will also see that this life leads to blessings and rejoicing.
Learn to rejoice
The second grand purpose and lesson behind the Feast of Tabernacles is that mankind will learn to rejoice in the Almighty Creator, the Provider of all blessings and good things. "Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days... and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days" (Lev. 23:39, 40). The Feast is a time of commanded rejoicing! And, for a great and wonderful purpose. Just as the fear of God leads us into the proper understanding of God's way and motivates us to begin obeying, as we live God's way we begin to see how our obedience and fear of God results in blessing and rejoicing. This is especially apparent during the Feast of Tabernacles. For a concentrated eight-day period we are able to live among God's people, apply God's principles to every phase of our fellowship together and drink in of the priceless truths of God's Word as expounded by Christ's ministers. We are able to experience in our own lives the blessings that will be poured out upon all nations during the thousand-year reign of Christ. The rejoicing at the Feast has deep and significant meaning. We can't afford to miss this deep lesson and realize that one day — soon — all mankind will experience the fantastic blessings we portray during the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day. The special second tithe God, commands us to save (Deut. 12:17) is to be spent on keeping His festivals. God says we are to take this tithe, come to the place He has chosen and rejoice before him (verse 18). God further says: "And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after [earnestly desires], for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household" (Deut. 14:26). Our rejoicing should picture the deliverance, exuberance and spontaneous joy of a world given true freedom from fear, want and turmoil. It should picture a world of fatness, goodness and peace. That is indeed the meaning of the Feast. "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" (Deut. 16:15). God, in that happy world tomorrow, is going to wipe away all tears from all eyes. There shall be no more purposeless sorrow or crying. The former ways will be changed to God's abundant ways. God says: "And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined" (Isa. 25:6). Think of all the starving children around the world,. the soldiers dying in agony in armed conflict. Think of misery, ignorance and death. Realize that in God's world — tomorrow — all of these things will be gone and in their place every good and wholesome thing. God also promises that He will, in that day, take away the spiritual blindness now cast over all people so they can know the saving truth that you and I know. He promises ultimately to swallow up even our enemy, death, in victory and to truly wipe all tears from all eyes (verses 7-8). In rejoicing, make every effort to get along harmoniously with fellow Church members. Share the bounty of your blessings with others who are new or with brethren who may not have as much. Invite them over for wine and cheeses. Take them out to dinner. Create a utopian atmosphere by being warm and courteous and fellowshipping with all. And don't forget the widows and orphans.
How to properly fear God and rejoice at the Feast
Although the Feast is a time of rejoicing for God's Church, its main purpose is to give God's people a foretaste of how life will be lived in the world tomorrow. In that age, all people will be living together in harmony and peace. They will be serving one another. They will live together in fellowship, talking of God, thinking of God and teaching their children about the wonderful God who has given them the bountiful blessings of the earth. When you are at the Feast this year, remember the following principles that can help emphasize the spiritual meaning of those days: 1. Be in a serving attitude. There are many opportunities to serve at the Feast of Tabernacles. If it were not for the many hundreds who serve at each Festival site, doing myriads of jobs, we literally could not have a Feast. Those who serve experience a foretaste of the world tomorrow in a special way. They return home full of love and joy knowing they gave of themselves to others. 2. Rejoice with your family. The Feast is a time for family orientation. Enjoy God's blessings with your children. Point out places of interest during the trip to the Feast, stop at places where the children can enjoy themselves. Make the Feast special for them — and for your wife. Take her out to a fine meal, just the two of you, as a refreshing break in routine. Make the Feast a joy for your family. 3. Share the Feast with others. Help to give fellow members a bountiful Feast. Get into a sharing attitude. Think of things you can do to make others happy. Develop new friendships, smite and be the first to introduce yourself and shake hands. In all your social encounters, experience the joy of this Festival spirit. 4. Plan that you are going to be a proper example of God in all things (Matt. 5:16). Be clean and orderly in your accommodations. Expect to leave things cleaner and neater than you found them. Be a true light and example of obedience and mannerliness. In restaurants and cafes be patient and pleasant. If food doesn't come just as you might have expected, be understanding. Put a smile on your face and a spirit of tolerance in your voice. Think of every possible way you can be a witness and an example to all. Remember, what you do will be a living testimony that there is something more behind your actions than just human conduct: "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am He: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me... therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God" (Isa. 43:10, 12). 5. Plan to increase your spiritual knowledge. The Word of God and the understanding of the Word of God is priceless. Without an understanding of the law and will of God expressed in His Word — the Bible — we are lost, blinded and helpless. At the Feast each of us will have the precious opportunity to hear many messages from the Word of God. Plan ahead of time to listen carefully. Come to learn and expect to be changed and inspired by the messages. Attend every service. Be there on time, in your seat and receptive. 6. Above all, be sure not to neglect prayer while at the Feast. Remember that you are there to emphasize spiritual truth. Don't get caught up in a vacation attitude and forget to talk to, God every day. Ask God in your personal prayers to give inspiration and understanding to the ministry so their messages will be especially helpful to the Body of Christ and to yourself personally. Come to the Feast asking God to pour out His Spirit powerfully.
Rejoice with meaning
These are lessons we can take home with us from the Feast. Each time you are blessed to sit down to a sumptuous meal, remember and realize what you are picturing. The Feast is to be a time for rejoicing — but with meaning. Our activities should portray that our whole lives are centered around the coming of the world tomorrow — God's glorious Kingdom. Learn the two major lessons of the Feast: We are to come to eat and drink before the Eternal that we may learn to fear the Eternal always — and rejoice!