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Why do you observe the Feast of Tabernacle?

COME LET US REASON TOGETHER:

A friend from Knoxville asks . . .

Dear Pastor,

I am confused and need an explanation if you will. I have been studying the Feast of Tabernacles and have reached the following conclusions. That the Israelites were commanded to keep the feast yearly as a holy convocation in Jerusalem. This involved a daily ritual of sacrificial offerings. That during the millennial reign of Christ everyone will be required to keep the Feast. In place of burnt offerings and other sacrifices all will worship Christ as he was the ultimate sacrificial lamb.

I am confused as to where we stand today and why the Feast is still observed. Since the temple has been destroyed and there is no Levitical priesthood to perform the ceremonial offerings; and since we have not yet reached the time mentioned in Zechariah 14:16, it seems as though we are somewhere in between. Please help me understand why the Church currently observes the Feast.

Dear Friend,

I agree that God commanded his people to "keep the Feast of Tabernacles yearly" as you stated. However, I believe you will find that Tabernacles is not just for the "Israelites". Please note the following scriptures which include "the stranger within thy gates" indicating non-Israelite persons were to observe the Sabbaths as well.

Isaiah 56:6 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;

Isaiah 56:7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices [shall be] accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

Numbers 15:13 All that are born of the country shall do these things after this manner, in offering an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.

Numbers 15:14 And if a stranger sojourn with you, or whosoever be among you in your generations, and will offer an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD; as ye do, so he shall do.

Numbers 15:15 One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD.

Numbers 15:16 One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you.

Deuteronomy 31:9 And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and unto all the elders of Israel.

Deuteronomy 31:10 And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles.

Deuteronomy 31:11 When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.

Deuteronomy 31:12 Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law:

Exodus 20:10 But the seventh day [is] the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

So as you can see, the laws of God, including the observation of and participation in the Sabbaths, were meant for all people who would join themselves to the Eternal and be obedient.

Levites Required for Feast?

Regarding your observation that the High Holy Days, God’s annual Sabbaths, involved daily ritual sacrifices by the Levites: this is true. However, as you will see from the following scriptures, there were also daily sacrifices every day of the year, including the weekly Sabbath. In fact there were special Sabbath day sacrifices over and above the daily sacrifices. Our Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) referred to this fact in Matthew 12:5 when he said that the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and yet are blameless. (See Numbers 28:1-10 for an example of the priestly duties for every Sabbath.)

The priests were required to do their job, their servile work, on the Sabbath days, both weekly and annual Sabbaths. The remainder of Leviticus chapter 28 as well as the entirety of chapter 29 are dedicated to dictating exactly how the sacrifices were to be carried out on the annual Sabbaths.

Now let us reason together for a moment. If the fact that there is no Temple, and no Levitical priesthood operating today negates the commandment of God to observe the annual Sabbaths (because the annual Sabbaths involved ritual sacrifice), then isn’t reasonable to assume that the observation of the weekly Sabbath is also improper? After all, as we see in the preceding scripture, there were specific ritual sacrifices on the weekly Sabbath. Furthermore the weekly Sabbath is listed as a "feast of the Lord" in Leviticus 23 right along with the annual Sabbaths. Can we separate the weekly Sabbath from the annual Sabbaths? I don’t think so.

Why Confusion?

I believe your confusion owes in part to the fact that you have not recognized the high Sabbaths as something in which the average person was involved. The high days were looked forward to by all the people. They were seasonal holidays which are linked to harvest, both early and late. The people were commanded to save a tithe (tenth) of their increase so that they could travel to the place where God chose to place his name and rejoice, eating and drinking and enjoying all the best things. (This was a separate tithe from that commanded for the Eternal. Its sole purpose was to benefit the families as they attended God’s annual feasts. God even made provision for his people to help the less fortunate to enjoy the feast as well.) The following are some scriptures describing the attendance of the feast by the people of God.

Deuteronomy 14:22 Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.

Deuteronomy 14:23 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.

Deuteronomy 14:24 And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:

Deuteronomy 14:25 Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose:

Deuteronomy 14:26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,

Deuteronomy 16:13 Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine:

Deuteronomy 16:14 And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates.

Deuteronomy 16:15 Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD shall choose: because the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice.

What God Intended

The intent of God’s feasts was not to subject his people to arbitrary rituals or to increase the work load of the Levitical priests. In fact the holy days beautifully picture God’s plan of salvation for mankind. Jesus is the Passover lamb, the bread of life (Days of unleavened bread), the firstfruits from the dead (Pentecost), the one who will gather his army together with a trumpet blast (Feast of Trumpets), the covering for our sins (Day of Atonement) and our King with whom we will reign in our glorious new bodies (Feast of Tabernacles), and the judge before whom every knee shall bow and to whom every tongue shall confess on judgment day (the Last Great Day).

What better way for God to teach and remind us of his plan for us than to act it out every year in a pleasurable time of family togetherness? I thank the Eternal that in time he will cause the entire earth to rest from their labors, after they have gathered in the bounty of the harvest, and he will invite them to come and dine with him in rejoicing, alleluia!

If our sacrifices are to be spiritual rather than physical in the Kingdom of God and when the temple of God from Heaven is with men, then why should we wait until then to observe the holy days? The scriptures clearly teach that right now our bodies are the temple of the Lord (I Corinthians 6:19), and that we should present our bodies a living sacrifice, wholly acceptable unto God (Romans 12:1) every day. It is also worthwhile to note that not all sacrifice was for payment of debts to sin. It is a mistake to think that the Feasts are only tied to Levitical sacrifice and require the same to be observed.

Only in Jerusalem?

But wait! What about the idea that we must keep the feast in Jerusalem?

Many stumble at this point and as a result they refuse to observe God’s feasts. But does the scripture actually say that the Feast would always be in Jerusalem? Please note that time and again the scriptures use the phrase "the place where God shall choose to place his name there..." Now I readily admit that after Solomon built the Temple, God placed his name there. Of this there is no doubt. However, it is critical to note that there were hundreds of years of feast observance before the Temple was built! That’s right. Although there were recorded lapses of keeping the feasts to the extent that God had ordained, there were feasts kept from the time of Moses to the time of Solomon before the Temple was built.

Do you imagine that during that time period (minimum 400-500 years) that the Feasts were always observed in Jerusalem? The first 40+ years of Feast-keeping took place in the Sinai during the wilderness wandering. No, the feast is not "married" to Jerusalem. It was always observed where "God chose to place his name there". That place was signified by the presence of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, the Ark of the Covenant and God’s Shekinah glory, his Holy Spirit. Yes, later on the Ark was placed in the Temple. But the symbol of the covenant, the Ark, was always where God’s name was found.

Where is our Temple?

Where today does the name of the Eternal reside? Where is the place where God chooses to place his name? Jesus promised that wherever two or more of us are gathered together in his name, he would be there among us! We are the Temple of the living God today! Therefore, if we being led by the Holy Spirit in us, agree together to meet for fellowship and worship on God’s holy days in a certain place, GOD WILL BE THERE! We are the earthen tabernacles in which the token of the covenant (God’s Holy Spirit) today resides.

I hope that this study will draw you closer to the Eternal.

Your Bible questions are welcome. If we don’t know the answer we know where to find it; in the scriptures!

-Ken Swiger


Seventh Day Christian Assembly • P.O. Box 22351 • Knoxville, TN 37933-0351• 865-688-1107
"And hereby do we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." 1 John 2:3
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