Doing the right things for the wrong reasons won’t bring the results you expect.
The important thing is rejoicing before God as we observe these Holy Days.
~ an unnamed elder in an unnamed organization
The above quote was in a blog post I read, and it saddens me to no end. It was on my mind when I read Jim Frank’s article on “Will You Be Observing the Feast or Just Attending the Feast?” He concluded it by saying:
Don’t just attend the Feast this year, but make sure you also observe it as God commanded!
Wise words, indeed!
I have written at various times over the years various thoughts about the Feast during the Feast, and I have had the “opportunity” to do some from various viewpoints, including, to my sorrow, from the vantage point of one unable to go for this or that reason. So, when I say I am joyous about “going to the Feast”, trust me when I say I mean it!
However, part of that reflection is asking, “Why?” In fact, it is a Christian duty to constantly ask, “Why?” We should all be asking ourselves, “Why are you going to the Feast?” We can do all the “right things”, but totally miss out on the fact that Jesus is asking more of us than He would ask from servants!
15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
~ Jn 15:15
You have probably heard this read every year near or on Passover, but I wonder if it really sinks in. No one asks or even cares why a servant does anything. After all, even a paid servant often does what he or she does not want to do in order to keep their wages, but they don’t really want to do those things! A friend, however, submits to another friend not from pure obligation but because of love, loyalty and consideration for the other’s feelings.
Yes, feelings! There are some false teachers who would have you believe that Jesus Christ and God the Father are only looking for wooden robots that obey, obey, obey, but the fact of the matter is that they want sons and daughters instead. They want a family, and with that goes all of the gooey, sticky emotions that comes along with the definition of family. More importantly, though, even obligatory actions are based upon love and not mere servitude.
There may be many reasons to “go to the Feast”, but chief among them should not be simply rejoicing. We can rejoice over, for and because of many things, but if that is our focus, then we have already lost before we have begun. In essence, that type of joy really isn’t joy at all, but it is the world’s definition of happiness!
Godly rejoicing is over the fact that we get to spend time with Him! Whatever physical blessings we may have, it is because of Him!
Don’t misunderstand me, rejoicing is part of the Feast. The word “rejoice” is used several times in Deuteronomy 16, which is more or less a parallel to Leviticus 23 (an interesting subject in its own right). It is expected that we will rejoice. However, we really should be asking, “Why?” If we are rejoicing for all the wrong reasons, then we are still missing the point.
As Concretized Christianity points out in “God’s Expectation of The Net Effect of the Feast of Tabernacles on Us“, the key is to read everything in context.
23 And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always.
~ Dt 14:23
As I have been stressing, and as I hopefully always will stress, God is building a family. As the head of that family, He expects the proper respect and reverence due Him! As any father would, He bestows wonderful blessings upon us, and yet do we really pay Him back with gratitude, humility and reverence?
Reasons to Not Go to the Feast
I have come up with a list of really bad reasons to go the Feast of Tabernacles. Some of these may seem obvious, but I really have to wonder. If I were an outsider looking in, would I come away with the wrong impression? I believe that could easily happen!
Some of these may seem silly, even, but what impression do we leave upon those outside of our little groups? Are we salt and light, or are we another fifty shades of confusion?
To Go on Vacation
“The Feast is not just a vacation.” Hopefully, you’ve heard this over and over again. Yet, with all of the focus seemingly upon physical activities, isn’t that the impression that is sometimes given? Sure, family day, teen bowling, go karting, singles mingles, and such, are part of the fun, but is that all that there is to it? Have we packed so much “fun” into the Feast that we have forgotten why we are there in the first place?
To Show Off That Little Black Dress
It seems weird that you can observe some of the crowd in any gathering and have difficulty telling them apart from the rest of the world. Modesty is still a virtue, and dressing up to turn the head of the opposite sex is not. Again, we need to remember why we are there, and that is to please God and not get the attention of another’s eyeballs (and potentially lead the other into sinful thoughts).
I just should not have to write or say such things, but invariably it seems that some do not get the message. Perhaps they reason, “It’s the other person’s problem,” but that justification might not do a lot of good before the judgment seat of Christ.
I’m not stupid. I realize that some people are naturally beautiful and would literally look good in a potato sack. I’m not suggesting burkas here. However, I think most reasonable people realize that modesty lies between that and a tight outfit that shows off every curve.
I apologize if it seems I’m picking on only one side here, but the standard dress code makes it a little more difficult for one side to dress inappropriately than the other, at least at services. Of course, outside of services is no excuse to be immodest, either, and that certainly includes both sexes.
OK, I’ll admit that food has a certain attraction for me. Even the name “Feast” implies a lot of food and drink. However, we must watch that it doesn’t become like an ancient Roman festival full of satisfying all sorts of physical desires.
I’m not even exaggerating, I’m afraid. I’ve heard some stories about adultery at the Feast, even!
Remember, it is more important to partake in an abundance of spiritual food than satisfying cravings outside the limits of morality and even sensibilities.
And, getting drunk at the Feast is unacceptable. The phrase “Feast of Booze” is not funny at all, but rather it borders on blasphemy.
Be sensible. If you are eating more, then go hiking, swimming or something else to burn it off. Don’t eat or drink yourself sick, neither short-term nor long-term.
Reasons to Go to the Feast
However, let’s not leave it all negative. We are to go there and rejoice, after all, and that does include being with others of like mind, which provides a safety net. However, there is much more, which I’ve already alluded to:
Learn to Respect God and Show Gratitude
We are to eat before Him in order to learn to respect Him. Why eat before Him should lead to respect? Because all good things are from Him ( Jas 1:17; Ps 127, NCV)! We are to do nothing less than show our gratitude!
This should be obvious, but it is obviously not obvious in the sea of false teachers and prophets amongst us. The surest sign of a false teacher is the total lack of humility, which can take on different forms from never admitting mistakes to pointing out others with labels (usually meaningless labels) to put them down without cause.
The English word “fear” is used in the KJV, and “reverence” is such an abused word. However, we should not just reverence God, but we should stand in awe of Him! We are nothing before Him!
Learn to Love One Another
After all, we are to spend an eternity together, right? We are supposed to love one another as ourselves, right? Not only that, but we are to show compassion even more than normal (another thing that separates the real Christian from the false one):
29 And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.
~ Dt 14:29
This reminds me of what James said about doing more than wishing someone to be warmed and filled but actually doing something about it. It should be year-round, but the Feast should be a time of extreme generosity towards others, and especially those who cannot pay you back (Pr 3:26-28; Lk 14:12-14).
It might be tempting to consider whether or not the person “deserves” to be treated in a given manner, whether or not at the Feast, but if we have true humility, we will realize that God treats us with mercy and does not give us what we truly deserve!
Feast on God’s Word
We often say the physical symbolizes the spiritual, but how often do we focus on the former and not the latter? Feasting on God’s word does not simply mean showing up every day at services. Break out the Bible in between times! After all, you have additional time! Go to the Bible study! You do remember why you are there, right?
If we do all else but fail on this one point, then we are risking it all! If God’s word is our sure foundation, then we must reverence it for what it is!
The Law stipulated that the Law was to be read during the year of release (Dt 31:10). Of all the areas we fall short in, this is the one that really troubles me. It is up to each of us to read God’s word, all of God’s word, on a regular basis. Expository preaching is good and a must, but reading God’s word in context has no equal.
You probably hear a lot about serving this time of year, and it is understandable since there may be few opportunities throughout the year otherwise. It is a bit of a disappointment that it gets neglected seemingly the rest of the time.
There are many ways to serve. I have served in unofficial ways that were truly rewarding. It does not have to be ushering, sound equipment or even answering questions at an information table. Those are all good and necessary, but sometimes serving is doing something when no one else is looking, filling a need that few others or no others even know about, or sometimes just something that got overlooked. It does not require accolades. Christ Himself sees what you do when no one else does, so that is what is really rewarding.
In the end, remember Who it is you are going to present yourself before. Remember Who it is you are working to please. Remember that God knows the heart as well as the actions, so if you need a heart adjustment, He is the Ultimate Heart Surgeon!