September 8, 2016 Member Letter
Since I don’t plan on writing an October letter because of the timing of the holy days, this will be my final member letter prior to the Feast of Tabernacles. Sharron and I leave on Wednesday, Sept. 28, for London, where we will observe the Sabbath and the Feast of Trumpets with the brethren in England. We return to Dallas after Trumpets and then leave again the following Tuesday for Pensacola, Florida, where we will observe the Day of Atonement. From there we drive the short distance to Orange Beach for the first half of the Feast. Midway through we travel to San Diego, California, for the remainder of the Feast.
I am well into my Feast preparation, having completed two sermons with two more to go. I have already recorded a backup sermon video for the Feast (to use if something goes wrong with the recording from Orange Beach) that will be distributed to all U.S. sites and other English-speaking sites around the world. It will also be translated into Spanish and French for use in those regions.
This will be my 54th Feast to attend and probably my 60th to observe (I was too young to remember the first Feast we observed). The difference in the numbers is that for the first 10 years my mother was associated with the Radio Church of God we had no local congregation, and my father would not allow us to travel to Gladewater, Texas, to attend the Feast. I was very young and don’t remember much about those early years, but I do remember keeping the Sabbath and the holy days at home. There wasn’t much for us to do to make the days special, but my mother did the best she could. She taught us to respect the Sabbath and the holy days even though there were only three of us observing them at home. We lived on a farm and worked as sharecroppers while my father worked a job in Memphis, Tennessee, for our primary source of income. Farming didn’t pay well, especially if you were a sharecropper, which meant you only got a “share” of the total cotton crop (and it was a small share at that).
My earliest memories are of spending most of those special days reading. We read the Bible, The Plain Truth magazine, The Good News magazine and occasionally a booklet. Before I learned to read, my mother read to us. So, when we were finally able to attend our first Feast in Big Sandy in 1963 (by that time my father had come into the Church), we knew exactly what the meaning was. And when Mr. Herbert Armstrong asked “Why are you here?” on the opening night of the Feast, I knew the answer!
That was 54 Feasts ago! I wonder how many of us—especially among our young people—can answer that question today. Why will you be at the Feast this year? Do you know?
You might say, because God commands our presence, and that would be true. In Leviticus 23:1-4 we are told that these are “the feasts of the LORD.” He is the owner. They are not the festivals of the Jews or even the Israelites. They are the feasts of the Lord! And we are told that they are “holy convocations.” In Hebrew the word for holy is qodesh, and it means sanctified or set apart. The challenge for those who choose not to observe these days is to find a scripture that declares them no longer holy, and of course, they can’t. We keep all seven of the festivals each year with confidence, knowing that God is the owner and preserver of these days. We simply have the privilege of doing what He commanded, and we go to the Feast expecting to be in His presence.
The Hebrew word translated “convocation” is also interesting. It is miqra and means, according to Strong’s, “something called out, i.e. a public meeting (the act, the persons, or the place); also a rehearsal: —assembly, calling, convocation, reading” (emphasis added). What a remarkable word! Many people may stop after the word “meeting” and understand that we are to assemble on these days, which is, of course, true. But the full meaning has the implication of a “rehearsal.” What are we rehearsing? We understand that each year we rehearse the plan of salvation through the festivals, beginning with Passover and ending with the Last Great Day.
It is clearly understood that we attend the Feast of Tabernacles because God commands it. There are two special Sabbaths during the festival (the first day and the eighth day) that are referred to as holy convocations (Leviticus 23:35-36). We know that the festival itself is holy in the sense that God created a seven-day festival, followed by a one-day festival, which we are commanded to observe by traveling to “the place where He chooses to make His name abide” (Deuteronomy 14:23). The Israelites were told to turn their grain into money “if the journey is too long” (Deuteronomy 14:24-26). Today, since we are not an agrarian society, we save money throughout the year for this special occasion.
We also attend the Feast to gain a deeper understanding of God’s plan of salvation. We will rehearse that meaning every day of the Feast. Through the messages, the special activities and the fellowship, we will learn more about ourselves, God’s plan for mankind and each other. What a wonderful opportunity it will be! There is nothing like it during the course of the year, and there is no comparison to the holidays that are observed in society. To take a holiday that is based on pagan worship and compare it to one of God’s festivals is foolish. Even as a child, I knew that I wanted to go to the Feast rather than keep Christmas.
Brethren, I want to wish all of you a most rewarding festival season. Remember that the Feast of Trumpets will be observed on Monday, Oct. 3, followed by the Day of Atonement on Wednesday, Oct. 12. The Feast of Tabernacles is the most anticipated of all the festivals because of what it involves, but don’t make the mistake of looking beyond Trumpets and Atonement and missing the deep meaning of these two festivals. The Feast of Trumpets pictures the return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the saints, and the Day of Atonement pictures the binding of Satan and mankind’s reconciliation to God and one another.
Be sure to pray for the brethren around the world, where simply traveling to the Feast is a major challenge. Remember Christ’s words in the model prayer when He asked us to pray to be delivered from the “evil one” (Matthew 6:13). Keep in mind that Satan always desires to disrupt our Feast! We must ask God to protect us from this powerful influence.
I sincerely hope you will enjoy the upcoming festivals, not losing sight of why you are there. It is a great rehearsal for God’s plan of salvation for all of mankind!
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,