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The Feast of Tabernacles - Why Here, Why Now?

Welcome to the 2006 Feast of Tabernacles in beautiful Vancouver, Washington. Look all around you. The hills and the valleys are a vibrant shade of green. It's been a little wet but the temperature is still moderately warm and enjoyable. We have a beautiful facility in which to meet. Everything is great! In this small enclave, God has provided a sheltered venue of peace and safety for us all. We are still in the world but not besieged by the ugliness of the world.

We need to ask ourselves the questions, "Why here, why now? Year after year, we celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles but I wonder if we don't just go through the motions as a matter of course out of habit. How much do we think about the concrete reasons we keep God's festivals? We still live in countries free enough to allow us to make our own decisions. We still have a considerable amount of freedom of choice. Do we keep God's festivals just because our friends do?

What is our motivation and what is our commitment? It's simple enough to say we keep the days because God commands it in scripture but we need to go beyond the mere letter of the law and focus on the spiritual intent. If we just went by the letter of the law and hadn't investigated the topic more thoroughly, we might very well be keeping the Feasts on the same days as the Jewish calendar. Do we choose to assemble where God has placed his name and when he has placed his name there? Are we going to be obediently submissive to God's command or are we going to perform in a manner more of our own choosing?

The Commandment

The commandment is plain for all to see. As we all know, Leviticus 23 outlines all the Holy Days of God throughout the year. Verse four holds the key to the rest of the chapter. Let's begin with the King James Version.

(Lev 23:4 KJV) These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.

The King James translators chose the English words "feasts" and "seasons" but is that what the original Hebrew means? No, it doesn't because the underlying Hebrew uses the same word for both. The word is Strong's number 4150, Mo'ed, and it means "an appointment or a fixed time." Now, let's look at the New American Standard Version.

(Lev 23:4 NASB) 'These are the appointed times of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them.

Well, that version appears to be more truthful to the original texts. Notice, Moses didn't say that God's instructions were for his people to keep seven holy days throughout the year just whenever they wanted to keep them. He didn't say that God was just "OK" about keeping those days whenever it best suited us. He said they were:

  1. appointed times, that is, times of appointments with God and
  2. they were to be kept "at the times appointed for them."

You wouldn't go to a doctor or dentist just whenever you wanted, expecting him to meet with you. You wouldn't go to the governor's mansion or the presidential palace without an appointment. That would be foolish because you don't know his schedule. His schedule might be full of other business meetings or he might be on vacation, or he might be in conference. You wouldn't go without an appointment and you wouldn't go at the wrong time for that appointment.

The Jewish calendar seems to disregard that fact. Through their tradition of postponements, the Jews move days on the calendar around for the convenience of man, regardless of what God has directed. It seems the whole intent of the Jewish calendar is to avoid double-Sabbaths, particularly a weekly Sabbath day being back-to-back with the Day of Atonement.

This fall, as we have been obediently following the instructions of God given to us through the scriptures and according to the signs in the heavens, we have experienced several double-Sabbaths. The Feast of Trumpets was on a Friday, immediately followed by the weekly Sabbath. The Day of Atonement was on a Sunday, immediately following the weekly Sabbath. The first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, today, is on a Friday, immediately followed by the weekly Sabbath. So, too, will be the Last Great Day next Friday.

So, what's the difference? Double-Sabbaths, no matter when they occur, mean we have to be more diligent in preparation. Instead of preparing for one day without work, we have to prepare for two consecutive days without work. Is that an undue burden? I don't think so. It just means more thinking, more planning, and more preparation.

So it is with God. He is the master of planning and preparation. He is the King of the Universe. His job is to mind the functioning of that Universe. It's no small job. He invented and he maintains the laws of the Universe. Out of his busy schedule though, he has set aside time to commune with his people at definite, set, appointed times. At other times, he might be off attending to a wandering comet, or minding the planets Saturn or Jupiter or even something far off in the Andromeda Galaxy. Keep that in mind: who are we to tell the King of the Universe what time is most convenient for us to come before him. What gall, what chutzpah! What would you think of the insubordination displayed if the King was present for an appointment but his subjects weren't? Would you want to show up with your offering a day late for your appointment with the head of state? Our creator and our sustainer, the one who gives us our very lives and the breath that sustains us, has plainly told us the precise times he has chosen out of his busy schedule when he will meet with us.

One of those seven annual holy days is today: the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. It's not tomorrow or next week or even next month. Today is the fifteenth day of the seventh month. It's easy enough for us to determine that this is the fifteenth day since the new moon. The new moon is the precise time between the waning or decreasing of the old month and the waxing or increasing of the new month. It is the instant of time in God's capitol of the world, Jerusalem, when the moon is in direct line with the sun, when there is no visible moon. The seventh month, and every other month, is determined by counting from the first month, Abib, near the time of the spring equinox. As per God's instructions in Exodus 34:22, the Feast of Tabernacles in the seventh month is at the "turn" of the year, or "tequphah." That is the fall equinox of almost two weeks ago, on September 23. For more information on the details of Gods' calendar, please see our booklet, The Original Calendar for Our Day.

The specific command for the Feast of Tabernacles is found in Leviticus 23:34.

(Lev 23:34-36 NASB) "Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths for seven days to the LORD. {35} 'On the first day is a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work of any kind. {36} 'For seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation and present an offering by fire to the LORD; it is an assembly. You shall do no laborious work.

Continue in verse 39.

(Lev 23:39-44 NASB) 'On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. {40} 'Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. {41} 'You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. {42} 'You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, {43} so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.'" {44} So Moses declared to the sons of Israel the appointed times of the LORD.

Focus on that last verse, "So Moses declared to the sons of Israel the appointed times of the LORD." Yes, Moses declared the specific, appointed times for the children of Israel to meet with the King of the Universe. Did they listen? Well, maybe a few did for a little while but despite the Israelites' pledge of agreement to keep God's covenant in Exodus, we know Israel failed. In Israel's history, there were high spots and low spots but mostly low spots. There were good times and bad times, but mostly bad times. The examples of faith and stalwart obedience were few and far between. To the degree that Israel kept God's holy days, so went Israel's lot in the world. Sure there was the overriding plan of God that rescued his people in their greatest times of distress but it was not due to their own righteousness. It was for God's great purpose that he rescued his people time and again from the edge of the cliff.

When Israel truly sought God and truly returned to obey his laws and statutes, including his holy days, God heard and came to the rescue of his people. Look at a prime example in the book of governmental and societal restoration under the authority of the great governor, Nehemiah. Look at chapter 7 and verse 73.

(Neh 7:73 NASB) Now the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the temple servants, and all Israel, lived in their cities. And when the seventh month came, the sons of Israel were in their cities.

Let's continue in chapter eight and verse one.

(Neh 8:1 NASB) And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had given to Israel. {2} Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. {3} And he read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. {4} And Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. {5} And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. {6} Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. {7} Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. {8} And they read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. {9} Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. {10} Then he said to them, "Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." {11} So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved." {12} And all the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them. {13} Then on the second day the heads of fathers' households of all the people, the priests, and the Levites were gathered to Ezra the scribe that they might gain insight into the words of the law. {14} And they found written in the law how the LORD had commanded through Moses that the sons of Israel should live in booths during the feast of the seventh month. {15} So they proclaimed and circulated a proclamation in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, "Go out to the hills, and bring olive branches, and wild olive branches, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of other leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written." {16} So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate, and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. {17} And the entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them. The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing. {18} And he read from the book of the law of God daily, from the first day to the last day. And they celebrated the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly according to the ordinance.
Look at verse 17 again: "The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day." Well, you remember the reforms made under one of the last kings of Judah, Josiah, when his priests rediscovered the Torah scrolls and God's instructions about the Passover. God made a summary statement about the type of feast they kept to him in 2 Chronicles 35:17.
(2 Chr 35:17-18 NASB) Thus the sons of Israel who were present celebrated the Passover at that time, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days. {18} And there had not been celebrated a Passover like it in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet; nor had any of the kings of Israel celebrated such a Passover as Josiah with the priests, the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Truly it was a monumental celebration in obedience to God's instructions but it only showed they had not kept the Passover in such a diligent manner since the time of Samuel. Josiah's kingdom was about a hundred years before the time of Nehemiah, so let's go back again to God's statement of the quality of Israel's celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles at the time of Nehemiah. God said, "the sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day." We just read how Josiah kept the Passover better than any king since Samuel [that means better than any king of Israel, because Samuel was the last Judge of Israel before the first king]; but there was no comment about how Josiah kept the Feast of Tabernacles. Nehemiah's Feast of Tabernacles was compared all the way back to the time of Joshua, before even the first Judge of Israel. Remember, Joshua lived hundreds and hundreds of years before Israel's last judge, Samuel. Think of the significance of that statement. The sons of Israel had not kept the Feast of Tabernacles so obediently in the time of Hezekiah or the time of Josiah. Both of those kings were the only ones of whom God made the praiseworthy statement that there was "no king like him" either before or after who trusted in the Lord with all his might or who turned to the Lord according to all the law of Moses. Certainly, the sons of Israel had not kept the Feast of Tabernacles so obediently in the time of Solomon or even in the time of David, the man after God's own heart. They hadn't kept it so obediently in the time of any of the judges. It wasn't since the time of Joshua that the sons of Israel had kept the Feast of Tabernacles as obediently as they did during the governorship of Nehemiah. That's more than 1,000 years. Just roll that concept around in your mind for a while.

The Willfulness of Israel

Why do you think it was so? Was it due to forgetfulness or inattention or ignorance? In times of war, it may have been due to circumstances beyond their control. In times of peace, however, the type and duration of such celebrations were certainly within their control. Since David was termed by God as "a man after my own heart," it's reasonable to expect that Israel did keep all of God's holy days, including the Feast of Tabernacles, during David's reign but probably not to the degree of Nehemiah's time. The intensity to which the celebration occurred in the time of Nehemiah may actually have been so full due to the circumstances of their recent return from captivity. Nonetheless, it is clearly stated that their celebration had not been so jubilant for more than 1,000 years.

Except for the unusual and periodic reigns of righteousness, Israel's wanderings from God were frequent. There's probably no better example of Israel's see-saw obedience than that related in the book of Judges, the second chapter and verse seven.

(Judg 2:7-22 NASB) And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of the LORD which He had done for Israel. {8} Then Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of one hundred and ten. {9} And they buried him in the territory of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. {10} And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. {11} Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals, {12} and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger. {13} So they forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. {14} And the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. {15} Wherever they went, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had spoken and as the LORD had sworn to them, so that they were severely distressed. {16} Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them. {17} And yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them. They turned aside quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do as their fathers. {18} And when the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them. {19} But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways. {20} So the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He said, "Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not listened to My voice, {21} I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, {22} in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk in it as their fathers did, or not."

The ups and downs of Israel under the Judges is best summarized in the last verse of Judges 21:25.

(Judg 21:25 NASB) In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

In Ezekiel 20:3, God recounts the many instances in which the good he extended to Israel was repaid with betrayal.

(Ezek 20:3-24 NASB) "Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel, and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Do you come to inquire of Me? As I live," declares the Lord GOD, "I will not be inquired of by you."' {4} "Will you judge them, will you judge them, son of man? Make them know the abominations of their fathers; {5} and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "On the day when I chose Israel and swore to the descendants of the house of Jacob and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt, when I swore to them, saying, I am the LORD your God, {6} on that day I swore to them, to bring them out from the land of Egypt into a land that I had selected for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands. {7} "And I said to them, 'Cast away, each of you, the detestable things of his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.' {8} "But they rebelled against Me and were not willing to listen to Me; they did not cast away the detestable things of their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I resolved to pour out My wrath on them, to accomplish My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. {9} "But I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made Myself known to them by bringing them out of the land of Egypt. {10} "So I took them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. {11} "And I gave them My statutes and informed them of My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live. {12} "And also I gave them My sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them. {13} "But the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness. They did not walk in My statutes, and they rejected My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live; and My sabbaths they greatly profaned. Then I resolved to pour out My wrath on them in the wilderness, to annihilate them. {14} "But I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, before whose sight I had brought them out. {15} "And also I swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands, {16} because they rejected My ordinances, and as for My statutes, they did not walk in them; they even profaned My sabbaths, for their heart continually went after their idols. {17} "Yet My eye spared them rather than destroying them, and I did not cause their annihilation in the wilderness. {18} "And I said to their children in the wilderness, 'Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, or keep their ordinances, or defile yourselves with their idols. {19} 'I am the LORD your God; walk in My statutes, and keep My ordinances, and observe them. {20} 'And sanctify My sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.' {21} "But the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, nor were they careful to observe My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live; they profaned My sabbaths. So I resolved to pour out My wrath on them, to accomplish My anger against them in the wilderness. {22} "But I withdrew My hand and acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. {23} "Also I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them among the lands, {24} because they had not observed My ordinances, but had rejected My statutes, and had profaned My sabbaths, and their eyes were on the idols of their fathers.

The Rebellion of Israel

God has much to say about mankind choosing to go his own way. Thousands of years ago, Samuel told Saul how God feels about a man going his own way, disregarding the directives of God. In 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel caught Saul directly disobeying the clear instructions of God to kill all the Amalekites and their possessions.

(1 Sam 15:22-23 NASB) And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. {23} "For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king."

So, Saul lost it all because of his rebellion. Now, he probably didn't see his actions as rebellion but that's the way God saw it. Saul had been placed by God in a position of responsibility and had authority over all the people of the land, yet he feared and gave in to the demands of the people rather than obey the demands of God. In verse 23, God flatly called his actions "rebellion" and that rebellion God deemed as being sin. Furthermore, God saw Saul's actions as "insubordination." Webster's Dictionary tells us that insubordination is "not submitting to authority; disobedient." God went on to say that Saul's insubordination was "iniquity and idolatry."

That's pretty plain. Rebellion and insubordination are sin in God's eyes. Well, if that's the end result, what is the beginning? What is the start or origin of rebellion and insubordination? Mankind, as a whole, has insisted on going his own way and making his own choices, independent of the directives of God. The germ of that rebellious reasoning starts in the mind with willfulness, the insistence of pursuing the wishes of the self. Willfulness is rooted in selfishness.

Selfishness can be displayed in many ways, either overtly through our actions or covertly through our thoughts. Everyday we are surrounded with people's rebellion against God. We see it so much that we may become numb to it. We may no longer see the actions of others in the same way God sees them. Take, for example, a staple in the commonplace American diet. Look at it from God's viewpoint in Isaiah 65:2.

(Isa 65:2-4 NASB) "I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, {3} A people who continually provoke Me to My face, Offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks; {4} Who sit among graves, and spend the night in secret places; Who eat swine's flesh, And the broth of unclean meat is in their pots.

We can plainly see that God equates the eating of swine's flesh and unclean meat with rebellion. Furthermore, God says it is a sign of people following their own thoughts, which he says, "is not good." God isn't the only one who says the eating of swine's flesh is not good. So do many modern scientists and health experts. In his book, Lifeforce, Dr. Jeff McCombs advocates the elimination of pork from the American diet.

"One of the greatest risks in eating pork is an unknown one. It is a retrovirus called porcine endogenous. This retrovirus lives in all pork cells. Scientists have no idea how this retrovirus affects humans. What is known is that these viruses survive heating and cooking, even at extremely high temperatures over long periods of time. If you are not familiar with what retroviruses can do, think of AIDS. The symptoms that come from AIDS are associated most often with retroviruses. Retroviruses use the body's own cells to replicate themselves. This means that retroviruses go undetected for many, many years as they spread throughout the body... These retroviruses dramatically reduce the body's ability to fight off disease, suppress the person's immune system, and make the consumer of pork more susceptible to disease... Eating pork causes many problems, including hormonal imbalances, joint and back pains, inflammation, excessive histamine production, headaches, increased susceptibility to colds and flues, as well as potentially being partially responsible for degenerative disease such as arthritis, heart disease and cancer... Pigs also harbor many other toxins, are latent with diseases, and contain worms. Most flu viruses that we encounter in the United States come from the lungs of pigs that create an incubator for the combination of bird, human, and porcine diseases. The Center for Disease Control has stated that as many as 200 of these combined viruses make their way from Southern China to the United States each year through pigs. Pigs scavenge and eat anything in their path including dead insects, worms, rotting carcasses, rats, their own feces, garbage, and other pigs. Whatever a pig eats turns to meat on its bones within a few hours. Pork is virtually undigested garbage. Pork causes stress in the body, both physically and emotionally, and gives rise to physical poisoning. This is a fact well known in the scientific community. It is obvious to everyone that when pork products are not prepared properly, sickness can result [from] their consumption. However, this also applies to all pork products, including cured meats such as ham and bacon, smoked meats, sausages, etc... A professor at the London Institute for Virus Research states that flu viruses remained alive and active and were found in sausages, hot dogs, ham, bacon, pork chops, virtually all pork products. This means that the flu viruses and other viruses that live in the lungs of pigs and in the tissues of pigs survive the cooking and preparation process. When you eat any pork product, you are eating living, dangerous viruses. Additionally, pork is the primary source of taenia solium tapeworm. This type of parasite spreads throughout the body. One in six Americans has triginosis and gets it from eating pork. Like most parasites, these go undetected for years, and years, and years. These parasites steal nutrients from our cells and promote inflammation and degeneration within all tissues. They help create an environment that is conducive for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, as well as indigestion, gas, bloating, acid reflux, fatigue, and depression."

Just think about it for a moment. God knows all this. While it may be news to some of us, it is not news to God. He created pigs for a purpose: to be scavengers and to be the "clean up crew" in fulfilling the cycle of nature to dispose of other dead and dying creatures. He created pigs to do a job, not for them to be food for humans. Remember what we read in Isaiah 65:4; "a rebellious people follow their own thoughts and walk in a way which is not good."

We may take this as ho-hum old news. If we have been in the church for years, we learned God's warning many years ago. That isn't the point. Most Americans either know or have suspicions about such common abominations to God. Most people have heard that practicing Jews are commanded not to eat pork. Even though they may be deluded by modern perversions of New Testament teachings, they know the consumption of pork is not pleasing to God. Why do they do it? Granted, some few may do it out of ignorance but the majority, whether they admit it or not, do it out of rebellion and selfishness. In Hosea 4:1, we can see that clearly stated.

(Hosea 4:1-6 NASB) Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel, For the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is no faithfulness or kindness Or knowledge of God in the land. {2} There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing, and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed. {3} Therefore the land mourns, And everyone who lives in it languishes Along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky; And also the fish of the sea disappear. {4} Yet let no one find fault, and let none offer reproof; For your people are like those who contend with the priest. {5} So you will stumble by day, And the prophet also will stumble with you by night; And I will destroy your mother. {6} My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

Most Americans and, most of the rest of the European Israelitish nations have, indeed, forgotten or ignored the law of God. Are you among them?

We stated earlier that we are here because God commands us to assemble before him on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. We know that and we are dutifully obeying that command, but is there more to it?

God looks at the Heart

Well, yes, there is more to it than just obedience. Earlier we read where Samuel said to Saul, "to obey is better than sacrifice." In other words, to live correctly according to God's prescriptions is better than living disobediently and continually seeking forgiveness. In the Psalms, however, David went beyond the admonition of Samuel, however, and got right to the intent of what God yearns for in those who seek him. Let's look at Psalms 78.

(Psa 78:1-8 NASB) Listen, O my people, to my instruction; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. {2} I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, {3} Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. {4} We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. {5} For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should teach them to their children, {6} That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, {7} That they should put their confidence in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments, {8} And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

David learned from history. He saw how his forefathers had treated God. He focused on the core of the issue, however, in verse eight by pinpointing the heart. His forefathers, and our forefathers as well, were "a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God." On the other hand, look at Psalms 51 to see an example, in a different setting, of the contrite attitude of one who did correctly prepare his heart.

(Psa 51:16-17 NASB) For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; Thou art not pleased with burnt offering. {17} The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.

In the New Testament in Titus 2:1, Paul wrote to Titus about the qualities God desires his people to have. These are all qualities that are motivated by what is in the heart.

(Titus 2:1-14 NASB) But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. {2} Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. {3} Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, {4} that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, {5} to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored. {6} Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; {7} in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, {8} sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. {9} Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, {10} not pilfering, but showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. {11} For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, {12} instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, {13} looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; {14} who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Furthermore, Paul spoke to the Romans about the subject of circumcision. It's evident that Paul was fighting a popular Jewish notion that circumcision was essential to salvation. We know that circumcision is merely the outward physical manifestation or sign of submission and obedience to God's covenant. In Romans 2:25, Paul shows the real circumcision God desires is that of the heart.

(Rom 2:25-29 NASB) For indeed circumcision is of value, if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. {26} If therefore the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? {27} And will not he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? {28} For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. {29} But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

Look at that more closely. Most people merely get the main point in the last verse and gloss right over the previous four verses. They read it as if Paul wrote verse 29 to read: "But since he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and since circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and since his praise is not from men, but from God... he doesn't have to keep the law at all."

Well, if that's what your Bible says, I think you'd better go get another Bible. That's not what Paul said and that's not what he meant. All you have to do to verify that is to read the previous four verses.

Look at verse 26: Paul is talking about the uncircumcised man who keeps the requirements of the law.

Look at verse 27: again, Paul is speaking about the uncircumcised man "who keeps the law will judge you [and the Greek word is Strong's number 2919, krino which means to distinguish or decide; by implication to try, condemn, punish]. So, again, Paul says that even the uncircumcised man who keeps the law will condemn you who are transgressing the law of God.

What can you conclude from Paul's verses? If you're reading without a Protestant spin, it's easy to see that Paul is not doing away with the law of God. Instead, he is focusing on the heart of the law keeper. He isn't saying it's only the heart of the person that counts, regardless of his actions. Paul takes as a "given" that Christians are obeying the law of God. He merely says that through a circumcised heart and spirit, even one who is not outwardly circumcised can keep the law of God.

We are gathered here, from being scattered by hundreds or thousands of miles, to obey God and keep his commanded Feast of Tabernacles. There's a difference, though. Even though we do it obediently, we do it through a willing heart. We willingly seek to keep the Feast in a manner pleasing to our Creator. To that end, we have abandoned obedience to mere Jewish tradition by diligently seeking the original intent of what God directed us in his scriptures. We follow the instructions, both those written and displayed for us in the heavens, to know beyond a shadow of doubt the first, the tenth, and the fifteenth day of the seventh month. We're not a day late or a month late. We are here on the exact day he commanded. The day when he says his people are to have an appointment with him.

In the next eight days, you're going to hear a lot about the law of God and the Kingdom of God. You will hear about the past, the present, and, most of all, about the future that awaits us. I urge you to listen with open ears. Study the lessons we are given. Meditate on them. Put them into action in your lives. Keep in mind, however, to look beyond the mere "letter" of the law to see God's spiritual intent. Write that in your hearts and minds. Remember, David said it is the broken spirit, the broken and contrite heart that God really desires. That is the real reason we are here at all. We're not here just to obey God's commandment to assemble. We are here to learn to put God's laws to work in our lives and to learn to have a spirit that is pleasing to our Creator.

Sermon given by Philip Edwards
Feast of Tabernacles
October 6, 2006
Copyright 2006,
Philip Edwards

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