How Should We Observe God's Festivals?

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How Should We Observe God's Festivals?

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After we come to realize that God’s festivals are vitally important to mankind and eminently applicable to our modern world, we should naturally want to learn more about how to observe them.

Where should we celebrate them? Should we keep them at home or in some kind of religious service? What should we do on these days? Does God mind if we do our normal work on these days, or should we reserve them for other purposes? How will the observance of these days affect our families and jobs?

These are all important questions we must consider upon learning about God’s festivals. Let’s examine some biblical principles we should consider in dealing with these real-life issues.

All different, but all holy

Some of these festivals have designated methods of observance that set them apart from the others. For example, only the Passover involves partaking of bread and wine as symbols of Christ’s death. The Days of Unleavened Bread are the only feast days during which God tells us to have no leaven in our homes and to eat no leaven. The Day of Atonement also stands alone as the one Holy Day observed by fasting. Proper observance of these days includes acknowledging their distinctions, each of which are designed to teach us crucial spiritual lessons.

Taken as a whole, however, there are principles that apply to observing all of God’s festivals. First, we must remember that these observances are holy to God. They are “the feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations,” says God (Leviticus 23:2 Leviticus 23:2Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.
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God is the only one who can make anything holy. God places these particular days on a plane higher than all humanly devised celebrations. Men and women can dedicate time to God for a special purpose, but God alone can set time aside as holy (Genesis 2:3 Genesis 2:3And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
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; Exodus 20:8 Exodus 20:8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
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, Exodus 20:11 Exodus 20:11For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: why the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
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). When we exercise proper respect and appreciation for these special annual occasions, we also honor God Himself by acknowledging His authority over our lives. Understanding this principle is important to worshipping God properly.

Our Creator desires that people willingly and in faith follow all of His instructions (Isaiah 66:2 Isaiah 66:2For all those things has my hand made, and all those things have been, said the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word.
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). A cooperative, humble attitude stands in contrast to the frame of mind of those who want to do only as little as possible to get by. The heart of the matter is whether we really believe and love God. The apostle John illustrated the attitude God desires when he wrote: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3 1 John 5:3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
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Commanded assemblies for our benefit

But how does God want us to conduct ourselves on these days? Consider His basic instruction: “These are the Lord’s appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times . . .” (Leviticus 23:4 Leviticus 23:4These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their seasons.
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, NIV). Other versions of the Bible, such as the King James and New King James, use the phrase “holy convocations,” but the meaning is the same. These are special occasions on which we should gather with other believers. As with the weekly Sabbath, God commands special worship services on each of the Holy Days.

God revealed to the early Christians the principle of meeting with -others of like mind on the Sabbaths and Holy Days: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23-25 Hebrews 10:23-25 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.
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). What better time to encourage and exhort each other than on the days that depict God’s great plan of salvation!

When we assemble at the times of these annual festivals, we allow ourselves a wonderful opportunity to learn more about God’s plan of salvation. Nehemiah 8 records a striking instance of God’s people gathering to observe the Feast of Trumpets (Nehemiah 8:2 Nehemiah 8:2And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month.
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). During their religious service, the leaders “helped the people to understand the Law . . . So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:7-8 Nehemiah 8:7-8 7 Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. 8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
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). The early Church continued to keep these yearly feast days according to these same principles, but with much greater spiritual understanding (Acts 2; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 6 Your glorying is not good. Know you not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
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In Nehemiah’s day the people needed encouragement because they had neglected God’s festivals. “And Nehemiah, who was the governor, 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 nor weep.’ For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’ ” (Nehemiah 8:9-10 Nehemiah 8:9-10 9 And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said to all the people, This day is holy to the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. 10 Then he said to them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions to them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy to our LORD: neither be you sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
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). Then, after they were taught God’s law, “all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them” (Nehemiah 8:12 Nehemiah 8:12And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.
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These special days are meant to be enjoyed by the whole family— everyone who attends! Especially at the Feast of Tabernacles, sufficient time is available for proper family activities and recreation, as well as rejoicing over the spiritual knowledge God reveals.

Doing as God says, living by faith

To properly rejoice on God’s days of celebration, we are not to do our customary work (Leviticus 23:3 Leviticus 23:3Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; you shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.
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, Leviticus 23:7-8 Leviticus 23:7-8 7 In the first day you shall have an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein. 8 But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein.
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, Leviticus 23:21 Leviticus 23:21And you shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation to you: you shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
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, Leviticus 23:25 Leviticus 23:25You shall do no servile work therein: but you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.
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, Leviticus 23:35-36 Leviticus 23:35-36 35 On the first day shall be an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein. 36 Seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation to you; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and you shall do no servile work therein.
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). Notice that, even though preparing food on the annual Holy Days does entail work, God says that this kind of effort is allowable and appropriate (Exodus 12:16 Exodus 12:16And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.
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). However, on the Day of Atonement we are to forgo all regular work including, of course, food preparation (Leviticus 23:28 Leviticus 23:28And you shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God.
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, Leviticus 23:30-31 Leviticus 23:30-31 30 And whatever soul it be that does any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. 31 You shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
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We also demonstrate our obedience and commitment to God by arranging time off from our jobs so we can observe the Holy Days. With proper planning and respectful communication with employers, most people can work out the details required to be able to take these days off. It is our responsibility to use wisdom and patience when informing family members of our decision to observe God’s festivals.

Responding to God’s instruction is a matter of faith. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:7 2 Corinthians 5:7(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
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, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” It is, therefore, important for us to start keeping the Holy Days when we learn about them. Even though we may not understand everything at first, we will learn a great deal more as we actually begin observing them (compare Psalms 111:10 Psalms 111:10The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endures for ever.
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If you would like to learn more about observing the annual festivals, please contact our office for your country or region listed in the back of this booklet. If you so desire, we would be glad to forward your request to a minister near you. He can let you know the times and locations of annual Holy Day and weekly Sabbath services nearest you.

In summary, the annual feast days are a time of happiness, not just because of their meaning for us, but because of the marvelous hope they promise for all mankind. Observing the Holy Days reminds us of God’s great love for humanity. Worshipping God in this way is a joy and pleasure. These festivals truly are wonderful gifts from God to His people!