Here is a clear, simple explanation showing how YOU can keep God's festivals
HAVE YOU been robbing yourself of happiness? Have you been cheating yourself of one of the greatest joys of living? Like so many others, you probably have been surprised to learn for the first time that God wants to keep you happy. He isn't the stern God He has been pictured. One way God has provided for our happiness — our great joy — as well as growth and development in the true Christian life, is an opportunity for fellowship at His festivals with those whose hearts God has filled with His Spirit. You have read in previous issues of "The Good News" exactly WHY these festivals are to be kept, and WHAT their significance really is. Here's an article telling how you can observe these Holy Days. If you have missed previous articles, send for them immediately so you will understand the truth with hundreds of others.
Purpose of Festivals
Investigators have proven that you need a weekly day of rest. But your Heavenly Father knew that long ago. He created you that way! That is why God gave the weekly Sabbath as one of His festivals! (Lev. 23:2, 3.) But men have substituted their weekly holidays in place of God's. Did you know that research men have also "discovered" that we human beings need annual periods of rest so that we can be more efficient? Get the most our of life? God knew that long before our modern investigators, too! He created us that way! That's why He instituted the annual festivals. But God also knew that YOU need to spend these seasons in DIRECT CONTACT WITH HIM, not just by yourselves. These festivals are so arranged that you can have TWO annual periods of eight days, one in the spring, the other in the fall, when you can be free from the worries of life and share the happiness of many others who have learned that God's ways pay. On them and the other Holy Days, God meets with us. On other days of our choosing, He is not in our midst because we are not gathering together "in His name" or by His authority. No wonder the world doesn't know God! There is no time in all the year as joyous as these festive seasons! They are not yokes of bondage as many have been deceived into believing, but days ordained to keep you FREE — if you follow the LAW OF LIBERTY with your whole heart (James 2:12). By keeping the Sabbath and the annual Holy Days (memorials of creation and the plan of God) you are FREED from the superstitious, ignorant beliefs of men, who try to cover up their own unhappiness and dread of life with their own "holidays," and who confuse you as to the Will and Purpose of the Creator.
What Is a Festival?
A festival, or feast, as ordained by God is a time of rejoicing, both spiritually and materially. The Sabbath is a weekly festival, a period of rest from our usual labors, with everything possible prepared the day before. There will be future articles explaining bow to keep the Sabbath as God intended. The annual festivals are not always rest days, however. The passover is a festival but not a sabbath day. The intervening days in the major spring and fall festivals are not sabbaths either. All festivals are COMMANDED ASSEMBLIES or convocations called by God, in which we are to meet at the place He chooses. In this age, however, God realizes that many of his people are unable to assemble on the Sabbath or even on the annual Holy Days. We are to worship the Father in Spirit and truth no matter where we may be (John 4:21-24). But when it is possible to assemble we are commanded to do so. Many brethren who find it impossible to meet on the weekly Sabbath are able to do so on the annual Festivals. Last year a family, very dear to all of US, thought they could not afford to attend the feast of Tabernacles. Because of neglect, when the time came they realized what it meant to spend these days alone and not in the presence of God when they could have done so. Now they arc joyously planning LO assemble on the festivals this year. So don't let God find any of you cheating yourselves out of the precious joys of meeting with His people. MEN are especially commanded to appear with offerings during the three seasons of the year, at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. The whole family is commanded to come whenever possible (Deut. 16:11, 14 and 16). Jesus and his brothers and sisters came with Joseph and Mary at the Passover and the days of Unleavened Bread (Luke 2:41, 42). God wants the men especially because they are the heads of the homes; but today when many women are converted and their husbands not, they should come to the places God makes possible for the brethren to meet. Each year a mother and daughter come about seventeen hundred miles to assemble on the Festival of Tabernacles. If they can do it, God certainly can open the way for you to do the same, especially as most of you don't have nearly that distance to travel.
How to Observe the Passover
As most of you know, the Passover comes the day before the great spring Festival of Unleavened Bread. It is not a sabbath day; work may be done on it. The Passover is a very serious time of the year. Jesus set us the example on the day of his death so that we today might know how to keep the passover. For the explanation of how YOU can keep this commanded ordinance, whether with the brethren or in your own homes if necessary, be sure to write Mr. Armstrong. This is very important so YOU will know where and how to observe it. Also, if you haven't already written, ask for the booklet explaining when and how often to keep the passover (or, as popularly called, the "Lord's Supper"). Although the passover is the day before the Feast of Unleavened Bread, it was customary to use unleavened bread on the passover day as well (Luke 22:7). No leavened bread is ever to be used with the passover service — which is wrongly called "communion," "eucharist" or "Lord's supper" (Exodus 23:18). The morning after the passover service, which is still the same day (all these days start at sunset, not at midnight) is probably the most convenient time to remove any leavening agents or leavened bread. Be sure that all leaven is removed from your premises. Don't store it in some other room. Removing leavened products which cost a few cents is just one way God has of testing you to see how much you prize true happiness above the money and pleasures of this age. By following His will, God will give you more in this life in return for your loving obedience (John 10:10). It is wise to arrange your purchases so that when the passover comes there will be little to discard. If you do have some left that is suitable to give to neighbors or friends, that may be done. Remember, there is nothing wrong with leaven, it is merely used as a symbol of sin in the festival. There is nothing wrong in bestowing it on unconverted friends or neighbors who do not understand the meaning of the feast. Perhaps some of you are wondering what leaven is. A leavening agent is any substance that is used to puff up or produce fermentation causing dough to raise. Yeast, soda, baking powder, cream of tartar are such products. Bread, crackers, some prepared cereals, cakes and some bought pies contain leaven and should be discarded. Home made pies, cereals, and unleavened bread are to be used for the festival following the passover. Cakes with beaten egg white are leavened and should not be used. At first it may seem strange to do without leaven in a festival, but once we come to know the mind of God and Jesus Christ, we see the lesson of obedience it teaches. Happy are you if you do these things, Jesus said (John 13:17). As there are many products containing leaven, be sure to examine the labels of all products on your shelves. As will probably happen, there will always be some leavened material that somehow escapes! A very good type of the hidden sins that we don't always discover upon conversion. We must always throw away this forgotten leaven — a type of sin — upon discovering it.
Festival of Unleavened Bread
Here is the great spring festival, midway in the first month of the sacred calendar, when the people of God are to assemble with one another and rejoice over the wonderful year ahead. The feast is a seven-day period in which we celebrate with God, who has separated us from the troubles that overtake the world, and who has opened up a new way of life that is full, abundant and without those needless worries. Whenever possible, Christians should gather together for the passover and the entire seven days of unleavened Bread as God makes possible. The festival, although seven days long, has but two annual Holy Days or Sabbaths, occurring on the first and last days of the feast. The intervening days are not sabbaths or convocations. Annual sabbaths differ from the weekly Sabbath in that cooking for the occasion may be done on them. But all other forms of work are not to be done as the festival is meant to be a time of restful rejoicing. Exodus 12: 16 reads: "No manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you." Although the intervening days are not sabbaths and work may be done on them, time on these days, when voluntary meetings of joy are held, is spent in good fellowship. As some of you will not be able to assemble, be sure that the usual routine does not stop you from realizing the purpose of the occasion — a time of laying aside your labors and rejuvenating yourself spiritually and physically. The entire festival is meant to be a special period of happiness, free from your customary duties of life.
The Use of Unleavened Bread
In this feast, no leavened bread should be in your homes and no leavened products should be eaten. Use UNLEAVENED bread instead, together with the customary meals. God wants you to rejoice especially on these days, so give Him thanks by preparing wholesome food with UNLEAVENED bread. If some of you have never tasted unleavened bread before, you have a surprise corning. Children should be trained by their parents to eat unleavened bread during these days, and also TAUGHT THE MEANING FOR so DOING. This will always be a wonderful experience for them, because most children have never tasted nutritious unleavened bread, which can either be bought, or baked very simply in your own home. Unleavened products are sold in most all stores near you. Just ask the grocer, or look on the packages to see that no leavening is contained. If some of you would enjoy baking your own unleavened bread, be sure to write for the recipes, if you do not already have some. If families are divided, with only some converted, difficulties may arise. Perhaps you are a husband or a wife whose family does not follow God. Don't let that worry you, because God took all your troubles into account when He ordained these days. It is a test to see how well you do His will and how much consideration and love and patience you can give to those who have not changed from their wrong ways. Never force your will on others. This festival is a matter between, you and God. You will not have these worries with members of your family when you assemble with brethren. But if this is not possible, you might need to take the example of a co-worker from Texas. He was in partnership with another man who would not approve of the festival. Rather than cause undue difficulties, he went into another town for the festival, rented a neat, inexpensive room for the festival and rejoiced with God alone. And when he returned there was perfect harmony! Most of you will not find that necessary as there are many more brethren now with whom to assemble. It is so much more enjoyable to meet with the saints or remain at home; but still it is infinitely better to be alone in peace than with angry attitudes surrounding you. If God has not provided you the monetary means through the second tithe, whether your own or others, then, of course, you will need to observe these days at home. First, explain to your family if they do not understand. If they do not object thanks be LO God. You may have to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves in explaining the matter, however. If opposition might develop, it would be well before saying anything, to delight unconverted members of your family with unleavened products so that they will not think anything strange when you first mention it. It is surprising how many people know little or nothing about unleavened breads, but who enjoy them from the very first. Perhaps if the, unconverted really enjoy it, nothing need be said about the festival and you can use unleavened bread for the entire week. Where the entire family serves God, all leaven must be removed by the beginning of the festival. If unconverted members are in the family, all leaven should be removed if they do not object. But if they object to the will of God, rather than provoke wrath, it is better to reckon the house as the others property and not remove the leaven. Doing otherwise would involuntarily impose your religion on the unconverted. However, a wife can take all leaven from the kitchen shelves and place it where no objections would be raised. You wives should not bake or buy leavened bread for unconverted members of the family; nevertheless, allow others perfect freedom to eat it if they purchase it. When living with the unconverted all these troubles can be avoided by attending the festival with the brethren. Of course, there might be limiting circumstances, especially if there is a new born child. In I Samuel 1:21-23 we are given an example of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, who, when her son was first born, was not able to attend the passover and feast. The first annual Sabbath or High Day of Unleavened Bread is the only NIGHT convocation that is commanded, except the passover (Exodus 12:42), It is a night to be much observed, for the great wonders that God does for us in making it possible to live His way of life. What could be more pleasant than beginning a festival with an enjoyable dinner in thanks to God?
The next festival when all are to gather is the Day of Firstfruits or Pentecost. It usually occurs a few weeks before summer. Unlike the miscalculations of many Jews, Catholics and Protestants, the day of Pentecost always occurs on a Monday. If you want to know how to count the fifty days to Pentecost, write for the article explaining it in a previous issue of "The Good News." Pentecost is an annual Holy Day in which no work is to be done except for what a person must eat. There is to be a convocation held on the day, just as we find in the example of the disciples on the day of Pentecost in A.D. 31 (Acts 2:1). Did you notice how important God deems it that we meet together on this day before the summer's work fully begins? There were devout men in that day of slow transportation who came from Rome, Persia, Libya and Egypt to Jerusalem. If those men, perhaps with their families too, could make the trip, how much more should we do so as we see the crisis at the close of this age approaching! As with every holy day when any of you are unable to gather together in an assembled convocation, there should be a great deal of Bible study alone. In that you might — be keeping this day alone with opposition from the family, be very considerate of the others by giving the day a festive atmosphere. Let then all enjoy the bounteous material blessings of God in a feast, avoiding, however, any statements that would precipitate religious strife. Let them see that the Holy Days which God set in motion are so much more enjoyable than the burdensome holidays which our modern society has incorporated from the rites of the ancient pagans by way of an apostate church.
The Day of Trumpets
As autumn approaches, there is another single Holy Day — the Day of Trumpets. It is a Sabbath day when no work should be done except what is permitted on an annual High Day. If any of the annual Sabbaths falls on the weekly Sabbath, then the annual Sabbath takes precedence and we are allowed to prepare meals on that day. Although there is no direct command to have all men assemble on this day or on the Day of Atonement, the examples of Scripture would indicate that as many as possible should gather together. It has been possible for several brethren to assemble with distant members of the church for all the fall festivals. Since it is not always possible, God does not demand the assembled presence of all on this day or the Day of Atonement.
The Day of Atonement
A most unusual day is this! Imagine God commanding one fast day for His people annually. The Day of Atonement is a commanded fast. Leviticus 23:28-32 explains that there is no work whatsoever to be done on it. God's people are to congregate whenever possible, as on the preceding Holy Day. Even though no one is to partake of food or juices, there is no specific prohibition on water. A fast is a fast, whether it be with or without water. Both kinds of fasts are mentioned in the Bible. See the example of Moses. No explicit instruction is given infants either. Nursing infants were assembled in a special fast (Joel 2:16) bur there is no indication that they did not nurse. Since fasting has a meaning, little children should be taught to fast when they can comprehend the fact that God commands it, and not before. Once a child starts to fast, never let him have food that day, lest he develop a weak will. 'It is worse for a child to start turning back on what he should do, than not to have known about it at all. We are to neglect the usual meal on the evening of the Day of Atonement (remember, God's days begin at sunset), partaking in moderation of the evening meal that follows the Day of Atonement. Be careful not to eat the usual amount of heavy foods. If some of you have never fasted for the first time — Jesus says to fast often — there might be slight physically uncomfortable reactions. But how small are these compared to the heart-warming desire to do the will of God. Since God instructs that no work whatsoever be done on this day, be sure that all preparations for the day have been previously made so that unconverted members of your family will not have cause to complain.
The Festival of Tabernacles
The greatest and most joyous festival is without doubt the Feast of Tabernacles, when men, women and children are expected to attend. What can be more wonderful than, after a hard summer's labor, with much of the winter's store in, that we should rejoice before the Lord of Heaven and earth? As we read in Nehemiah 8:9-10 of all the festivals in general: "This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep... Eat the fat (animals), and drink the sweet (wine), and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto the Lord: neither be ye sorry; for STRENGTH." the JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR The Festival of Tabernacles is a time when we are to be separate from the world, rejoicing as in a festive dance, before God who has given us every wonderful material and spiritual gift in the past year. Sorrows that we may have suffered are to be laid aside, allowing not one heavy cloud of human problems to weight our minds down. Lay them aside and give God honor by declaring his wonderful kindnesses to your family and the brethren. Although the festival itself is only seven days long, the last annual Holy Day coming immediately after it makes it customary to refer to all eight days as part of the same festival. On the first and eighth days no work is to be done except what is required for meal preparation, and assemblies are to be held where possible. If you are alone because of some great unforeseen circumstance, be sure to study your Bible, and especially the law, these days. The intervening six days are to be celebrated in the same manner as are those of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Work is permitted on them, although God does not intend you to do the usual routine. That is why the festival was given — to relieve you from your normal duties so you can rejoice with the brethren. It is to defeat the purpose of the festival if you merely rest on the two High Days and neglect the entire festival as a whole period of supreme happiness. So be sure you attend, as God commands, in the place where He places His name. One of the brethren who heard of the festival of tabernacles for the first time, was in the midst of peanut harvesting. He decided that if God wanted him to meet where the other brethren were gathering, the Lord of the earth would protect his crop. Wonder of wonders, it was perfect weather until the very last peanut was harvested in December. God never fails to protect and prosper the person who serves Him. We never need to be worried about problems "back home." God makes that promise in Exodus 34:24! For the few of you who may not able to attend the Festival of Tabernacles, there is another part of the occasion that must not be overlooked. This feast is especially intended to separate us from the world, to give us an atmosphere of joyous rest from the many problems of life. That is why, if it is possible, booths or tabernacles should be constructed if you are away from the world, rather than dwelling in your own home. Of course circumstances will not permit some of you to do this, just as some of you are unable to assemble on the Sabbath. But if God grants the means to do so there can be little greater pleasure for you or your children than to construct booths or lean-tos according to the instructions given in Lev. 23:39-44 and Nehemiah 8:13-18. Since booths are commanded when possible, it is naturally understood that they should fit the climate, heavier, water-shedding and more durable in cooler areas, just as campers would build them to live in. If any of you have transportation problems, or personal or financial difficulties, that make it seem physically impossible to attend these festivals, please write us and we shall be so glad to answer your letters. Also, if some of you have been especially prospered, kindly notify us, just as the early church did (Deut. 14:24-27 and Acts 4:34-37).