Some Christians also observe Sukkot

Why I Keep the Feast of Tabernacles

The Feast of Tabernacles is simply loaded with rich spiritual and symbolic significance. Those who truly submit themselves to God’s command to assemble for eight days with other worshipers “in the place which he shall choose to place his name” for worship and instruction find it incredibly rewarding. Their understanding and appreciation of it grows year by year.

Joel Hilliker Columnist

October 12, 2011 | From theTrumpet.com

It’s about joy and thanksgiving—but that’s really only the start!

Scrolling through the am radio dial a few days ago, I stopped short at a mention of the words “Feast of Tabernacles.”

Aha! I keep this festival—have my whole life. It is the highlight of every year. Very rare to hear it mentioned on the radio though.

“The 2011 Feast of Tabernacles features must-hear speakers at Cornerstone Church, October 28th through the 30th,” the radio ad began.

This really intrigued me, for a couple of reasons.

This church’s website gives some important history of this biblically mandated observance: “Leviticus 23:33-43, Numbers 29:12-39 and Deuteronomy 16:13-16 all describe the details of this unique feast,” it says. “‘Sukkot’ [the feast’s Hebrew name] commences the 15th day of ‘Tishri’ [the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar], five days after Yom Kippur or the day of Atonement. It lasts seven days, with an eighth day, Sh’mini Atzeret, spent as an added day of rest. This feast occurs during late September or October.”

All true. This year, Tishri 15 is tomorrow; thus, the opening night of the feast is tonight at sunset (which is when Scripture reckons the beginning of a day—e.g. Leviticus 23:32). After this weeklong festival, at sunset of next Wednesday begins the Last Great Day.

This is why it struck me as odd that that church decided it will celebrate “Tabernacles” more than two weeks late, and for only three days. Scripture commands seven days starting on Tishri 15, followed by another festival on Tishri 22. These folks go three days from Tishri 30 through Cheshvan 2 and say close enough.

An extremely important biblical principle I have come to appreciate over the years is encapsulated in Psalm 111:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments.” Take another look at that. Proper reverence and respect for God leads to wisdom. Obedience to God’s commandments precedes understanding. The corollary is this: People who refuse to obey biblical instructions they don’t understand to their satisfaction are guaranteeing they’ll never understand them. As Jesus said, God hides His truth from those who are wise in their own sight, and reveals it to “babes” (Matthew 11:25).

Early in his married life, Herbert W. Armstrong began studying the Scriptures and found the commands to observe the Feast of Tabernacles and six other annual festivals. “I did not know why!” he wrote. “I knew only that God said ‘Do it!’ My wife and I did—alone! For seven years!” (Good News, May 1981). At that point, congregations of what would later become the Worldwide Church of God began to form, and the Armstrongs kept those biblical festivals with the congregants for seven more years—still not understanding their spiritual meaning. “For 14 years we kept these annual days holy because we saw that God commanded it. We wanted to obey! In due time God revealed to me, and I to the Church, why! … God’s days have meaning, and this meaning God wants us to understand. That’s why they are repeated yearly.”

The Feast of Tabernacles is simply loaded with rich spiritual and symbolic significance. Those who truly submit themselves to God’s command to assemble for eight days with other worshipers “in the place which he shall choose to place his name” for worship and instruction find it incredibly rewarding. Their understanding and appreciation of it grows year by year.

This church that keeps a three-day “Tabernacles” conference of their choosing says the feast’s major theme is “joy and thanksgiving.” In a shallow sense that is true. But in truth, the major theme of the feast is something far more awesome.

Another name for this event is the “feast of ingathering.” Yes, it was meant celebrate the ingathering of the harvest of late summer or early autumn (e.g. Leviticus 23:39). However, as Mr. Armstrong came to see after years of festival-keeping, many other scriptures show that it pictures a prophesied ingathering of the great harvest of human beings, begotten by the Holy Spirit, into the Family of God during the thousand-year period known as the Millennium. (You can read scriptural proof of this in Mr. Armstrong’s booklet Pagan Holidays, or God’s Holy Days—Which?)

Anciently the Israelites celebrated the feast by traveling to Jerusalem and living in booths, or temporary dwellings. It was a massive, literal ingathering of peoples from all over the land. This merry scene anticipated the time in the World Tomorrow when people of all nations will gather in Jerusalem to keep the feast (Zechariah 14:16).

Today, feast-goers from many countries assemble at a handful of pre-selected and organized feast sites around the world. Uprooted from our normal lives, we meet, worship and fellowship together with people of all different ages, different races, different backgrounds and personalities—yet as one spiritual family, all joined by one spirit.

The festival theme of rejoicing is established in Deuteronomy 16:13-15. “This will be a happy time of rejoicing together with your family,” says verse 14 in the Living Bible. The feast is meant to unite parents with their children: “thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter,” it says. Bring the servants, too! Clearly few people have servants today, but consider how much this instruction separated Israel from surrounding nations. At the feast, God wants no one excluded—which makes sense when you understand that this festival pictures the time when God opens His Family up to everybody!

This passage tells people not to forget the Levites, or those in the ministry. At a proper feast celebration, God’s ministers are full participants in all activities, rubbing shoulders with everyone in the spiritual family. Foreigners, people from other countries, are also included. The widows and fatherless, those without physical family, are deeply involved. No one is neglected. Everyone does his or her part not only to rejoice, but also to see that everyone rejoices!

We thus picture the time, vividly prophesied in the Bible, when the whole world will live together in peace and harmony under God! It is a spectacular means by which God demonstrates the grandeur of life in His eternal Family.

As I said, I have been keeping the Feast of Tabernacles my whole life, and it truly does get better every year. Obeying the commandment as God gave it brings unanticipated blessings and rewards, not the least of which is an enhanced understanding of the tremendous prophetic vision wrapped up in this magnificent holy day. •

Joel Hilliker’s column appears every Wednesday.
To e-mail Joel Hilliker, click here.
To read more articles by this author, click here.

This content was printed online at: http://www.thetrumpet.com/?q=8752.7499.0.0
Copyright © 2011 Philadelphia Church of God, All Rights Reserved.

This entry was posted in Christianity, Judaism, Monotheistic Religions, Opinion, Recent Posts. Bookmark the permalink.