It is hard to believe that we are now well into the countdown to the Feast of Tabernacles. There are only a few weeks to go! Here are some scriptures to get us into its spirit:
And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. (Deuteronomy 14:26)
Yet, is the Feast of Tabernacles just a time for physical feasting? Is it a time merely to get all of those things that "your soul lusteth after" (KJV)? No! The Feast of Tabernacles is clearly a time of giving!
You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress; and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your manservant and your maidservant and the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, who are within your gates. Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice. . . . [A]ll your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses . . . at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you. (Deuteronomy 16:13-17)
God commands His children to give—to family members, employees, God's ministers, strangers, orphans, widows, and God's church.
How can we give at the Feast of Tabernacles? How can we live God's "way of give" at the Feast? Perhaps it has been a tight year, and as it is, we barely have enough to manage our Feast expenses. How can we give then?
This article will suggest some ways in which we can give in preparation for and at the Feast of Tabernacles—and most of them will not cost us a cent.
Prepare to rejoice and learn to fear God!
In addition to what we have already noted, these are the main reasons why we attend the Feast:
And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. (Leviticus 23:40)
And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstlings of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. (Deuteronomy 14:23)
Yes, God wants us to learn to fear Him in the proper ways, but God does not want His children to be cringing, faithless, fearful cowards (Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:40; Revelation 21:8). Be excited! Get excited! Prepare to rejoice and to enjoy the Feast.
Do not be critical!
Please do not negatively criticize the Feast location just because it may not, in your opinion, have all the facilities of your hometown or other great Feast sites you have been to. Be patient. Take it for what it is and make the very best of it.
Participate in church activities!
There will be more than enough for you to do during the eight days of the Feast. Without overdoing it, take part in as many church functions as possible: choir, special music, picnics, tours, group meals, volunteering, etc. You will enjoy the Feast much more if you do.
Lend a hand!
Let all things be done decently and in order. (I Corinthians 14:40)
This verse applies to so many areas of living God's way of give at the Feast. Proper organization is necessary, and willing volunteers are always needed. Even if you think you cannot help in a certain capacity for the whole eight days, if you are in good health, please still sign up. Schedules can be drawn up, and "many hands make light work."
As mentioned above, avoid the temptation to spend the eight days of the Feast in the spirit of the "way of get." Share the blessings God has given you with others, especially those less fortunate than yourself. Keep a special lookout for fatherless children, widows, and widowers!
Be sure to put aside time every single day before and during the Feast to talk to God. Pray in detail for those you know who are sick, for those who are troubled, and for those who are unable to attend the Feast. Pray for God's inspiration on the sermons and sermonettes, for the attention and receptive minds of fellow Feast-goers, and for His blessing that all of the technical matters will function without any problems.
It is, of course, preferable to go to the location where we believe that God, through His ministers, has placed His name. However, because of circumstances beyond our control, this is not possible for every member. Still, even if you must stay home for the Feast, God wants you to rejoice and to learn to fear His name. God has made the Feast a very special time, so if you are staying home, set the eight days aside and keep them as well as you possibly can. Make a point of having some special activities and treats, according to your budget and health restrictions, and, if possible, spend time with others who also cannot attend.
Attend every service!
Plan your travel arrangements so that you can be present from the opening night to the afternoon service of the Last Great Day. Try to leave a little margin for unexpected emergencies. Do not miss a service because you want to take the kids to Six Flags for a full day. The purpose of God's commanded feasts is not to visit theme parks.
Adhere to quarantine laws when sick!
Among the descendants of the Israelites, quarantine has been an effective way of isolating and stopping the spread of contagious sickness and disease for millennia. Today, however, this valuable principle of health has been abandoned. God lovingly gives the principles of quarantining the sick in Leviticus 13, where He uses examples of leprosy to represent any contagious disease. Any man, woman, or child who is sick should not attend church services or fellowship with other brethren so as not to infect others and cause them to miss services. This is an important way to give, sacrifice, and show love toward others.
Be attentive. We attend the Feast to learn to fear God, and He inspires eight full days of special teaching. The messages are diverse and interesting. Listen to all the announcements, as well—even the ones that may not concern you directly. You may, for instance, need to give the details of Family Day to a mother who missed the announcements because she had to take her baby out of the meeting hall.
Sit near the front where distractions are less likely. Besides, it is better to leave the rear seats for special-needs brethren and for parents with young children. If and when interruptions do take place, strive to ignore them and concentrate on the messages.
Do not disturb others!
Try not to be the one who initiates or permits any disturbance to the other brethren. Those of us with children may have the toughest time with this. Preparation is the key! Get your books and your children's activities ready well before services, not during the first hymn or during the first few minutes of the sermonette. This is very distracting for the songleader or the sermonette speaker. At the other end of the service, please wait until the speaker finishes before putting your things away.
A whole article could be devoted to this subject. God commands us to sing praises to Him. Hearty hymn singing is spiritually good for us as well as enjoyable to the Father and Jesus Christ. Think about the words of the song, sing to God with gusto, and do not be ashamed of doing so!
Keep the meeting hall tidy!
Make sure that you pick up any papers and other trash left on the floor or seats. Apart from being your duty, this will be helpful to the ushers and to the hall's cleaning staff.
Teach children to stay quiet during services!
Many brethren do not have the opportunity to enjoy formal Sabbath services throughout the year, spending most Sabbaths at home. So, when the Feast comes around, many church children are unprepared for the quiet behavior that is necessary for peaceful and orderly services. In the few weeks left between now and the Feast, parents should make a point of training their little ones to sit quietly for extended periods, especially on the Sabbaths while listening to the telephone transmission.
Take young children to the restroom before services!
Please do not let them go in and out of the meeting room repeatedly once services have started. This is distracting and annoying for other members near you and your family.
Prepare activities to occupy your children during services!
Please get these activities ready before services so no unnecessary and disturbing commotion occurs once services begin.
Bring quiet toys and activities!
Please do not bring rattles or squeaky toys. Those around you who are trying to listen to the sermon will certainly not appreciate it if you do.
Try to time babies' naptime for services!
Of course, this is not always easy to plan, but you will save yourself a lot of going in and out of services if you can manage it.
Use the mothers' room!
If your child cries or makes noise, please take him out right away. Do not try to tough it out in the hope that he will soon quiet down and fall asleep. Do not be embarrassed. Please think about the other members who are trying to listen to the message.
Discipline your children, if necessary!
But please do it in a private place! Hotel restrooms are not private. Although it may take you out of services for a longer period than you would prefer, take your child back to your room to administer discipline.
Do not let your children wander!
This is especially important for the safety of younger children, but applies to teens as well. Your children belong in the meeting hall with you or another responsible adult. This rule is proper for our respect and worship toward God, for the church's good example toward the public, and for the comfort and peace of mind of church members.
Do not let your children sit unsupervised at services!
The two-hour period of church services is not an appropriate time for them to fellowship and giggle. They have lots of time for those activities before and after services. Such behavior is annoying and distracting to other members. If you have another person's child sitting with you, it is your responsibility to make sure that they behave properly and quietly.
Teen activities should be chaperoned!
We love our teens and are pleased that they still enjoy attending the Feast with us, despite all that has happened in the church. We trust them, but it is proper for responsible adults to supervise their group activities.
Manners and Example
Be considerate to everyone!
At the Feast, God puts us in circumstances that are different from what we are used to in our everyday lives. It may be difficult to stay in a little hotel room if you are used to living in a big house. Nevertheless, please be considerate at all times and in all places: when traveling, at services, in your hotel room, in restaurants, and at church activities.
Keep the noise down!
You might be able to burn the midnight oil and still be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at six the next morning. If so, please be quiet and considerate to those in the rooms above, below, and on all sides of your room. It is not at all pleasant to be kept awake into the wee hours of the morning by a group talking and laughing loudly in an adjacent room.
Look after your hotel room!
Most of us live in homes much larger than our Feast accommodation, making our eight or nine days in a hotel room feel somewhat cramped. Please remember the hotel's housekeeping and maintenance staffs—and the good name of God and the church—by keeping your room clean and tidy. Spend a few minutes tidying your room and bathroom before leaving for services each morning. The housekeeping staff will thank you for it.
Be friendly and polite!
Through the apostle James (James 2:1-6), God commands us not to be respecters of persons. So, do not be friendly and polite just to church members, but also to everyone you encounter at the Feast: the airline staff, the restaurant waitresses, the hotel staff, and the taxi driver. Smile!
. . . Even if you are tired!
Our schedule may cause us to cram as much into the eight days as we possibly can. This, plus different than usual food and lodging arrangements, can lead to lack of sleep, tiredness, and irritability, yet these are no excuse for impolite behavior. Please guard against the impulse to be grumpy with others despite how you feel.
Say "Please" and "Thank you"!
The magic words! In my travels throughout the year, I am dismayed at the lack of common courtesy displayed by so many travelers of all ages. It seems to be the accepted norm to treat hotel, airline, restaurant, and store staff as if they were slaves:
» "I'll have the steak dinner!"
» "Get me a magazine!"
» "Two more drinks over here!"
» "Give me one of those!"
At a hotel restaurant in Mexico City, some years ago, I witnessed the ultimate in bad manners when a man bellowed uncontrollably at a Mexican waitress who spoke very little English, "Bread! I want bread!" This is not the accepted standard for God's people! God commands His people to treat even slaves and servants with common decency and respect! Service industry employees are not our slaves. They are not lesser human beings because we are paying them to do a job for us.
Be polite. Get into the habit of saying "Please" and "Thank you," and teach your children to do the same. There are few things worse than hearing a child speaking to an adult waitress as though she was a lower life form. If your child omits these magic words, give him the look. If he still does not get the point, do not hesitate to remind them verbally.
Learn to tip appropriately!
The practice of tipping is a commonly accepted, North American standard. Although you may not agree with it and feel that prices are already high enough, it is common courtesy to tip. Little of the cost of a meal goes to the waitress. Most waiters and housekeepers do not earn very high wages, and they depend on tips to supply a decent income. For good restaurant food and service, the standard tip is 15%. Add more at your discretion for better-than-average food and service. A dollar per day is the norm for hotel housekeeping staff.
Health and Safety
Eat or drink in moderation!
God commands His people to enjoy good food and drink at the Feast (Deuteronomy 14:26), things that we may not be able to afford during the rest of the year. The Creator of good food and drink enjoyed this part of His creation during His years as a man, but as our example, He never overdid it, even though accused of doing so (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). Gluttony and drunkenness are clearly forbidden throughout God's Word (Deuteronomy 21:20; Proverbs 23:21).
If you eat and drink in modest quantities, you will feel much better for it, you will feel more alert in church services, and your example to the community as a representative of God's church will be enhanced.
Early to bed and early to rise. . .
". . .makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." This practice will certainly help the development of spiritual health, wealth, and wisdom. A great benefit of the Feast is the opportunity to fellowship with our friends, old and new, but with only eight days to do it, we can overdo it. We attend the Feast to learn to fear God. We learn much better after a good night's sleep. In addition, if we fellowship late into the night in our rooms, it may disturb our neighbors.
If we are not diligent, we can be very sedentary during the eight days of the Feast. A week and a day of sitting in services, sitting in restaurants, and sitting in hotel rooms will make us feel sluggish and irritable. Try to participate in as many church-organized picnics, tours, and other activities as possible. If you meet some new friends and want to spend time getting to know them, suggest a walk or a visit to a nearby attraction. Walk and talk!
We hear daily about the results of unsafe driving. Speed kills, so please slow down—even if your flight was late, even if your car broke down, even if it means missing the opening night service. Better to miss one service than to spend the Feast in a hospital bed—or worse!
Supervise young children at all times!
God has not yet set up His Kingdom on earth, and until He does, this is still Satan's world. Although every effort has been made to choose a Feast site that is comparatively safe, no place on earth is 100% safe. There are wicked people everywhere. We do not need to be paranoid, but neither should we invite trouble. People are not the only dangers—keep a close watch on young children around automobiles, water, and electricity. Your Feast environment may not be as safe from these hazards as your home is.
Save your Festival Tithe!
It may be a little late to give advice on this point for this year's Feast, but perhaps we can keep it in mind for future years. God wants all of us to attend His Feast at the place where He places His name, if we are physically able. For most of us, Feast attendance would be impossible if we did not save our second tithe according to God's command:
You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstlings of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires. . . , and you shall rejoice, you and your household. (Deuteronomy 14:22-26)
We should also teach our children the habit of saving their second tithe, so that, when they grow to adulthood, the practice will not be a surprise to them. Give them two jars or cans and mark them "1T" and "2T." Teach them to calculate ten percent of their allowances and "wages" for special jobs, to deposit those tithes in the appropriate containers, and to enjoy watching the amounts grow as the Feast draws near.
You might also like to teach your children to prepare their holy day offerings well in advance. A child's offering loses its meaning if the parent just gives him a dollar to put in the basket at the last minute.
For adults and older children, it is wise to calculate how much second tithe funds you expect to have available, to prepare a Feast budget, and then to stick to it. In the past, some have committed the "mistake" (sin) of "borrowing" (stealing) second tithe for non-Feast-related purposes, thereby shorting themselves for God's Feast. God wants His Feast to be a blessing to His children, not the cause of additional financial burdens upon us.
Let us all prepare for the Feast of Tabernacles, so that we can rejoice and learn to fear the great God. By preparing to live God's way of give at the Feast, we will be preparing to live God's way of give for eternity!