"and he's not just whistling dixie either!"
A Call to Repentance for Faulty Feast-Keeping
As the spring holy days and fall
feast days start to roll around once again, most of the WCG split-off churches
continue to argue that these days must be observed in order to please God and
acquire salvation. They're especially adamant that the fall Feast of
Tabernacles must be observed, at all costs. And those costs can be
more than financial. They are quick to point to their favorite scriptures
to back up their zeal for these days. But it's truly amazing how selective
those who still hold to old covenant practices can be.
For example, they will preach that we are still under the old covenant food laws of Leviticus 11, but then go on to insist that we can ignore the laws that apply to a woman's monthly cycle in Leviticus 12. By what reasoning can one uphold one chapter of "law" and reject the next chapter? Consistency and predictability are not the strong suits of your typical old covenant adherent.
We of the new covenant understanding have been trying to bring some enlightenment to some of our fellow believers who insist that the new covenant still embraces the commanded observance of the Sabbath and all the holy days.
We have cited such Bible verses as Hebrews 8:13 (he has made the first covenant obsolete), Deut. 4:13 (the Ten Commandments WERE the old covenant), Romans 14:5-6 (one man esteems one day above another), Colossians 2:16 (let no one judge you regarding the observance of days), and Galatians 4:10 (you observe days.. I fear for you) to back up our stand on this issue. We have taken their favorite holy-day "proof" text of Zechariah 14:14-18 and gently guided their eyes to verse 21 which mentions sacrifices will also be extant in that day, but are NOT required at present.
We also have pointed out that after Christ's resurrection (when the new covenant began) there is never again any injunction in the scriptures that sabbaths or holy days must be observed, or that we would be sinning to not observe them. We back this up by pointing out to them the various "sin-lists" of the new covenant books (such as I Cor. 6:9 and Gal. 5:19) and how mention of sabbath and holy day observance is conspicuously lacking in them.
And as if this were not proof enough, we have posted (on other websites) such articles as "Observing the Sabbath on a Round Earth - An Impossibility," which shows, in laymen's terms, how utterly futile it is to try to observe the Biblical Sabbath unless you live in the basic area of the Middle East. But our arguments have fallen on deaf ears.
Those who hold that the Sabbath and holy days are still to be observed counter with the argument that these sabbaths were not part of the old covenant, but stand alone as eternal laws, and must be observed forever. They state that they believe in neither adding to nor subtracting from the holy, righteous word of God, but in following God TO THE LETTER regarding every thing written pertaining to the sabbaths, as to do otherwise is to rely on one's own understanding, which the Bible labels as SIN. They argue that we have forsaken the clear teachings of God and have instead relied upon our own faulty understanding, in our desire to "do our own thing".
They, on the other hand, believe that they have been faithful to the word of God and have been diligent to obey EVERY teaching of God, even if it has not always been easy or convenient. They believe that God still uses these days as a test of the willingness of his people to obey him. And they are especially proud of their faithful observance of the holy days, as this separates them from those who just keep the 7th day Sabbath and think that this alone makes them Christians.
One TRUE test of a Christian, they assure themselves, is in how faithfully one observes the holy days. And probably the prime holy day test is the Feast of Tabernacles, as it requires one to faithfully save up 10% of one's income, and take time off from one's job (even at the risk of losing that job). These people feel confident that they not only "talk the talk," but humbly "walk the walk" in love and obedience to their God. They find solace and comfort in reading Leviticus 23: 39-43, which lays out God's clear commands regarding the observance of this special holy feast:
"Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. AND YOU SHALL TAKE ON THE FIRST DAY THE BOUGHS OF GOODLY TREES, BRANCHES OF PALM TREES, AND WILLOWS OF THE BROOK; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. And you shall keep it as a feast unto the Lord seven days in the year. It shall be a STATUTE FOREVER in your generations: you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. YOU SHALL DWELL IN BOOTHS SEVEN DAYS; all that are Israelite born shall DWELL IN BOOTHS: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."
Notice that this commandment to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, and to "dwell " in booths (sukkahs) - - temporary huts built for use during the Festival - - was "A STATUTE FOR EVER in your generations"! If these people believe that they are still under the old covenant teaching regarding the observance of days, then they MUST believe that God intends for them to be diligent in observing his EVERY COMMAND - neither adding to nor subtracting from it. Isn't this what God seeks above all else - humble, yielded OBEDIENCE to his EVERY word, no questions asked? (True new covenant believers understand that "circumcision" was ALSO an "everlasting covenant" (Gen 17:13), and that "everlasting" has it's obvious limits, but that's another story for another time.)
One might wonder, "How have so many so-called churches of God overlooked this PLAIN Biblical command?"
Ezra, in Nehemiah 8:1-8, found that Israel had not been observing the Feast properly for many years, and the people REPENTED and began to OBEY God by observing it as instructed in the Bible. Notice:
"They found written in the law which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month: And that they should proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch OLIVE BRANCHES, AND PINE BRANCHES, AND MYRTLE BRANCHES, AND PALM BRANCHES, and branches of thick trees, to MAKE BOOTHS, AS IT IS WRITTEN. . . for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day HAD NOT THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL DONE SO."
Here the Feast of Tabernacles is described - and the statement is made that the festival had not been observed in this manner, with the construction of booths (sukkahs), since the days of Joshua himself! Truly, in the days of Ezra, there was a turning back to observe the laws of God among the people, and much more attention was given to PROPER and CORRECT observance.
When you enter the sukkah
each day, you should recite the "Blessing of the Sukkah," which
goes like this:
Nevertheless, many of these features
of the Feast, as observed in modern times, have ALSO been neglected by thousands
of "God's people." How many literally build "booths"
to sit in, to hold discussions, to pray, meditate, and to fellowship in?
The booths built during this time of year are to remind us of God's protection,
and our dependence and reliance upon him for safety and survival.
God delivered his people from Egypt in fragile, flimsy booths built of branches of trees and leafy boughs - teaching us and reminding us of the transitory fragility of human life, and how utterly dependent we truly are upon the living God. It also helps us to remain vigilant - aware - and undeceived as to the "permanence" of our surroundings, or the lack of real permanence in our illusion-filled lives.
The sukkah helps give us the power and insight to avoid deception - spiritual deception and physical deception. We are living in times of incredible deception. Many are falling away from God's truth. The deception would be so bad, Christ declared, that, "There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. But the sukkah protection of God will safeguard his TRUE people, who obey his commandments, and who "dwell" in the sukkah during the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth)!
Let me carry these assumptions even further. If, indeed, the sabbath observers are correct and we should be observing all the holy days EXACTLY as God instructs, then, to properly observe the Feast of Tabernacles, we must make ourselves a sukkah or booth. Not being one to stand in the way of your heart-felt desire to be righteous in all things, let me be a "helper" to you in your righteousness. Let me pass on a few helpful tips. Let's see. Where should we start? How about where we should construct the sukkah, and how?
The "where" is simple enough. Most of us can make one in our own backyard. Some people who have flat roofs, can make one on their roof. In some cases, we can make one in a park, or camping ground. Once made, we should spend some time in it - "dwell" in it - during the Feast of Tabernacles. Having built a sukkah in one's back yard, and fellowshipping and entertaining friends and family in and around it, with beverages, wine, fruit juice, snacks, and food, is a most enjoyable pastime during the Feast of Tabernacles. The sukkah must be a temporary structure, not a permanent one. We are encouraged to study, read, and talk in the sukkah, but only if it can be done comfortably. There is a general principle that you should rejoice in the sukkah, not suffer in it.
Building one can involve the whole family. Over the years people have shown great imagination in both construction and decoration of the sukkah. For those less handy, there are reasonable and attractive pre-fabricated models with easy directions for putting them together. Many prefabs come complete with bamboo stick s'chach.
If there is no forest in your areas, evergreen or perishable s'chach can be purchased from a nursery or landscape contractor. An evergreen roof will add welcome fragrance to the sukkah. When gathering s'chach from local forest or riverbank areas, one must be sure not to destroy public property and not to take s'chach belonging to a private person without permission. Jewish law rules that a mitzvah is not validly performed if goods used in its performance are stolen.
If your church or local fellowship group can make a sukkah for your group, that would be wonderful! It is an experience you will never forget - a true spiritual high can be experienced when we obey God's simplest commandments!
How can you make a sukkah for your own home? Here's the answer! Just do it! Gather together enough building materials, rope, twine, safety pins, branches from trees, palm trees, banana trees, and leafy plants from your own back yard, or from other people's yard (with permission, of course). You can use just about any materials to make the walls: cinder blocks, scrap lumber, old doors, bamboo shades, canvas or nylon sheeting attached to a frame of wood or metal piping (try PVC pipe - it is easy to use!) with nails or grommets and rope.
Beams can be placed across the top to support the s'khakh. In Israel, authorities trim the palm trees in time for the holiday and leave the branches in piles on the streets for people to take home. In this country, parks departments often oblige with the by-products of fall pruning. If you cannot obtain leafy branches, bamboo, straw, reeds, and thin boards may be used.
Your enjoyment of the mitzvah is enhanced when you consider its aesthetics, so it is appropriate to make the sukkah as beautiful as possible. Gourds, fruits, birds made from hollowed egg shells, cranberry garlands, popcorn strands and paper chains, pictures and wall tapestries, along with representations of the seven species that grow in Israel (wheat, barley, grape, fig, date, pomegranate, olive), are all traditional. Place a small table inside your sukkah, a few chairs, and place a dish of fruits, apples, oranges, a pumpkin or two, grapes, raisins, and cookies, for entertaining guests and friends, on the table.
You can also obtain a "lulav" (branches of various plants to wave before the Lord) from a local Jewish store, or through a local synagogue, or obtain a telephone number to order one from a Jewish supplier - or you can make your own, for rejoicing before the Lord.
Now let me repeat - if you TRULY believe that the holy days are still in force, just as they were originally commanded by Almighty God, then you NEED to be following God's commands to the letter. Many think they are observing the Feast of Tabernacles - by going away to a swank or holiday resort, and having "fun," and listening to a number of sermons, and living in motels and living it up with pleasures, gourmet dining, visiting museums, etc. BUT THE LAW OF GOD NOWHERE says THAT is the way to "KEEP THE FEAST!"
The "Feast of Booths" is to observed by BUILDING OR CONSTRUCTING BOOTHS - JUST AS THE "NAME" OF THE FEAST IMPLIES! Those nations who will not do this, during the Millennial reign of the Messiah, will suffer PUNISHMENT! No rain will fall; drought, and consequent famine, will erupt! And if that doesn't bring them around, then disease epidemics, and the plague. Do you get the point? Will God be pleased if you continue to ignore his commands, and celebrate his feasts in a manner that only pleases you, in a way he NEVER commanded?
Repent, you faulty feast-keepers who are still under the whole law, by your own choice. You have chosen to observe the old covenant laws regarding days, foods, etc. Being that you wish to be judged by this ancient standard, you jolly well better follow the DIRECT COMMANDS of God. Otherwise, God is left with NO alternative but to judge you as he will judge all hypocrites - those who preach one thing, but do another.
|In a possible future column
(after allowing sufficient time for our splitting sides to heal):
We may consider delving into the mystery of the "lulav," - the branches to be waved before the Lord (Leviticus 23:40). Is it mere ritualism? Legalism? Jewish "tradition"? Or is it an approved Biblical COMMAND - custom - and something you should take note of, and observe, during the Feast of Tabernacles? Certainly, if Almighty God says "DO IT!", then we should jump up and DO IT - without hesitation, equivocation, or hemming and hawing! Who are we to refuse a DIRECT COMMANDMENT of God? God is the FINAL AUTHORITY!
We may even examine in greater detail how nearly ALL sabbath and holy day observers have fallen terribly SHORT in pleasing God in this aspect of feast observance, and how it is not too late to change their ways and CRY OUT to God for forgiveness, and for guidance in this matter.
Much of the above was garnered from several articles in a past issue of William Dankenbring's "Prophecy Flash!" As you can see, it's a great magazine to read when you need a little comic relief! He has the uncanny ability of being able to out-legalize even the legalists, and is continually coming up with strange new "understandings" about hidden symbolism in the Bible - all of which are apparently hidden to everyone but him. And strangely enough, all are vital to understand if you value your salvation.
But the funny thing is, if we ARE still under the obligation to observe the Sabbath and holy days, then what he says in his articles is TRUE! Dankenbring is the legalist's worst nightmare, for he never allows them to be half-hearted in their legalism, but rubs their noses in their own hypocrisy. ;o)