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In keeping the Feast of Tabernacles members and supporters of the Church of God, Ministries International, rejoice together for eight full days in beautiful resort communities. For eight days, we enjoy at least one inspiring preaching service each day, with wonderful special music provided by lay members-chorales, duets, solos, instrumentalists sometimes a sermonette, and then a main sermon of about an hour in length, followed by closing congregational singing. There are many scheduled events, like beach parties, hayrides, barbecues, singles' parties, "Family Night," featuring home-grown talent and good food, and plenty of time for unscheduled leisure--things like dinner in fine restaurants with good friends, deep-sea fishing, golf, tennis, trail walks, horseback riding, or simply basking on the beach or around the many beautiful swimming pools in the hotels and condominiums.
The feast is the highlight of the year for many of God's people, and we invite you to join us!
But what is the Feast of Tabernacles? And what relevance does it have for today's Christian?
God's Promises to Abraham
Long ago, God commanded Abraham to leave his native country and go to a land He would later give to him and his descendants as an inheritance (Genesis 12:13; 13:1417).
Abraham left his home and went to the land. In time, and after many trying adventures, Isaac was born to him. The promises God had given to Abraham were passed on to Isaac, and then to Jacob, Isaac's son.
Yet, of all the years Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob dwelt in the land of promise, the land never belonged to them! They were resident aliens until their deaths.
When Abraham's wife Sarah died, the patriarch had to purchase property in order to have a place to bury her body (Genesis 23). He was still "a foreigner and a visitor" even after many years of dwelling in the land (verse 4). Yet, he believed God right up to the day of his death, as did Isaac and Jacob.
"By faith he [Abraham] dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God....These [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, among others] all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:9,10,13).
The "dwelling in tents" indicates that the patriarchs were resident aliens, having no permanent homes. Their willingness to abide in temporary dwellings reflected their faith in God's promise of a permanent dwelling, the "city which has foundations."
The patriarchs knew that God could not lie. They knew that even their deaths could not prevent Him from fulfilling His promise. And, indeed, God will keep His word! He will give the land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-just as He promised-for implicit in the promise is the assurance of a resurrection.
The Tabernacling Israelites
After a long time of dwelling in the land of Canaan, a famine forced Jacob and his sons to move to Egypt (Genesis 46), where they "were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty" (Exodus 1:7). The king of Egypt, concerned that this great people might become a threat to his nation, made slaves of them and "made their lives bitter with hard bondage" (Exodus 1:814).
A few hundred years later, God delivered the people from Egyptian bondage and brought them into the wilderness, where He gave them His law (Exodus 1224).
God did not want the children of Israel to forget the wilderness experience. He did not want them to lose sight of who delivered them from bondage and provided for them as they moved from one encampment to another. To keep this lesson-filled experience ever before them, God established the Feast of Tabernacles.
"Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a Sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a Sabbath-rest....You shall dwell in booths [tabernacles, or tents] for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 23:39,42,43).
Once in their permanent homeland, the Israelites could recall from year to year how their fathers had dwelt in temporary huts during their wilderness journey-just as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob before them had done as they looked forward to the "city which has foundations."
Israel entered the promised land under the leadership of Joshua.
"So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass" (Joshua 21:4345).
At long last, the tabernacling was over...
Or was it?
The True Rest
The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that the "rest" Joshua gave Israel was not the ultimate and final rest. Seeing a promise of a future rest in Psalm 95, the writer concludes, "For if Joshua had given them rest, then He [God] would not afterward [in Psalm 95] have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a [Sabbath] rest for the people of God" (Hebrews 4:79).
The "Sabbath-rest" is the eschatological "rest" God's people will fully enter when Christ returns and establishes the Kingdom of God upon this earth. Only then will the true rest begin. And until then the tabernacling continues for God's people!
Just as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob dwelt in temporary huts as they looked forward to their permanent dwelling, and just as the children of Israel tabernacled as they sought a permanent rest, God's people today abide in temporary dwellings, recognizing the transitory nature of their present mortal existence, as they look forward to the establishment of God's Kingdom.
The Feast of Tabernacles reminds us of our present, temporary condition, and directs our attention to our permanent home, the "city which has foundations," in the Kingdom of God.
We keep the Feast of Tabernacles today in anticipation of the time when everyone will keep it. Notice how the feast is linked to the millennial reign of Jesus Christ:
"And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem [during the Great Tribulation] shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles" (Zechariah 14:16, emphasis added).
One day the whole world will be invited to keep the feast, but you are being invited to keep it now. So why wait for the future? Why not bring a glimpse of the future into the present?
Do it this year. Keep the great fall festival-the Feast of Tabernacles!
For anyone who is unfamiliar with observance of the holy days we will answer the most often asked questions.
"Can anyone attend your services?"
Absolutely. Anyone, anywhere, anytime.
"What about your annual feasts. Can any one attend?"
Anyone, at any one of our sites.
"Do I need to call, or write, your home office first?"
No. Just come for services and activities. You are welcome to attend.
"Can I attend if I am not a member of a church?"
Of course. All are welcome.
"Do I have to contact a minister first?"
No. You don't need to contact anyone. Just show up. You're most welcome. Our services are completely open.
"Can I attend if I still smoke, or have some personal problems I need to overcome?"
"Can I bring unconverted members of my family, or neighbors, or friends, or distant relatives?"
Absolutely. All are welcome.
"Is there any charge? Do you pass the collection plate?"
No charge. We never ask for money over the television program, or in any of our literature. We do not take up collections in our weekly church services. Tithing and giving, while taught by the church, is voluntary, and is not monitored. We do, however, in accordance with God's commands (Deuteronomy 16: 16), take up offerings on our annual holy days only. Guests should not feel obligated to participate. It is not obligatory to give, but completely voluntary.
"Do I need to remain for the full number of days?"
No. You may leave whenever you need to do so. There are no restrictions.
"Are counselors available if I have questions?"
Absolutely. Just ask one of the ushers.
"Is free literature available?"
Yes. We usually have a good deal of sample literature available, as well as tape-recorded sermons. Any literature not displayed will be sent to your home by merely filling out a card, and leaving it with one of the ushers or counselors. As you probably know, the Church of God, Worldwide, is a Sabbath-keeping church.
When the Church of God, Ministries International, observes God's annual Sabbaths -- consisting of the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day (Leviticus 23)-many of our congregations and fellowship groups will come together in a central location for these annual high days. These day provide for special preaching services, potluck meals, special music, and fellowship. The Feast of Tabernacles, because it is of seven days' duration, immediately followed by the Last Great Day, thus making eight days in all, is the highlight of the spiritual year for God's people. Thousands plan their vacations around the feast.
Families make it a special time for their children. Many save their "festival tithe" (Deuteronomy 12:17,18) so they may purchase new clothing, books, puzzles, toys, and gifts for their children, helping them rejoice in the feast.
Those who diligently obey God in saving a full festival tithe are sometimes greatly blessed in having even more than their own family needs, and so give to others in their local congregations, so they too can attend the feast.
Some local congregations "chip in" together to sponsor someone experiencing hardships, or on fixed incomes, so they can rejoice in the feast.
God's people look forward to these feasts all year long, plan for them months in advance, regard them as "God's vacation plan" for His people!
They are rich with historical and spiritual meaning. The feast days provide God's people with an opportunity to "keep in remembrance" God's plan of salvation. This vital time is spent with our families and friends--old and new. We are enriched and revitalized by the holy day experience.
We hope you will be able to join with us as we "rejoice before the Lord" in this year of .