My wife and I were among a dozen brethren from our New England Church area planning for a Feast in Israel this year. We would all fly together from Boston-Logan Airport and join about 200 other UCG brethren in Tel Aviv. I was picturing meeting our dear friends from the local congregations at the Logan airport gate, all of us in high spirits. We would be expecting a spiritually enriching and joyful Feast in the land of the Bible. We would see archaeological sites rich with history and biblical significance: Caesarea, Megiddo, Mount Carmel, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives and more! But spending the Feast in Israel will not happen for us. Not this year.
Six months ago, none of us likely thought the pandemic would squash our plans. But as the summer days passed, virus case counts were spiking higher in Israel, the United States and other countries. On the evening of July 11, our Festival coordinator emailed the “disappointing, but probably not surprising news.” He announced the postponement of the 2020 UCG Feast in Israel. It was moving to 2021.
Our situation is not unique. The pandemic is disrupting Feast plans for many of us. Even as I write this in late July, my wife and I are not completely sure where we are going for the Feast this year. But just like everything that happens to us, we know God is working in this, for “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28).
When we keep the Feast in the way God commands, we go to the place where the Lord chooses, the place where He puts His name (Deuteronomy 12:5). For you this year, that place may be at home or at a Feast site where you had not originally planned to go. Still, God intends that we make His Feasts enriching physical and spiritual experiences. His Word tells us to “rejoice before the Lord your God” (verse 12) at the Feast. And though the pandemic may have upset your plans, rejoicing at the Feast depends on you! Though you are keeping the Feast at home, or at a Feast site where you had not originally planned to go, there is much to rejoice about! Even during this worldwide trial, we have so much to be thankful for.
We can be thankful for having life itself. We have time to apply ourselves to God’s Word. We have an opportunity to learn more about Him at His Feast. God still wants us to have a joyful Feast experience. Though the pandemic may have altered your Feast plans, you can still richly enjoy this time. You can create lifelong Feast memories with your family and brethren when you keep the Feast as God commands.
He tells us to keep the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days and to “dwell in booths,” or temporary dwellings (Leviticus 23:41-42). This is because He wants us to understand that we are “strangers and pilgrims on this earth” (Hebrews 11:13). At this Feast, you can look at the current trouble in the world in this way. It is a temporary situation; this will change.
This great fall festival season pictures the time when God will mightily intervene in human events. This is the only hope for humanity, for when Jesus Christ returns, He will save man from his own destruction. How wonderful to understand the meaning of these Holy Days as we look now “for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13)!
Remember that the fall festival season also pictures a great harvest. God calls it “the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end” (Exodus 34:22). He is like the farmer who has planted and tended His fields. He is patiently waiting now to gather the increase of the earth.
Just as God waits in patient hope for the ingathering, so must we, even during the turbulent events of this age. As James the apostle wrote, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain” (James 5:7). The “precious fruit of the earth” are the people who will inherit immortality with God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. How wonderful to understand that this is us!
When the true, heavenly Feast of Ingathering begins, we will be “changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Rehearsing these days each year helps us to keep a vibrant hope in that coming glory. Only a few realize the significance of this Feast now, and God has blessed us with that understanding!
However our Feast plans are disrupted, if we are keeping the Feast at home, or wherever we may be going for the 2020 Feast, let us be physically and spiritually well prepared to joyfully observe God’s wonderful Fall Holy Days again.
Let us make determined plans with all diligence to keep this coming Feast. As he was traveling to the Feast, the apostle Paul said to the Ephesian brethren, “I must by all means keep this coming Feast in Jerusalem” (Acts 18:21). Let us have that same attitude and “by all means keep this coming Feast!”
This year, many of our Feast plans are upset by events we did not foresee. We must believe that God is working through all these circumstances. If we give the effort to rejoice before the Lord at the Feast, no matter how much the pandemic has disrupted our plans, He will bless us. He will help us to make our Feast a wonderful memory.
May we all be able to look back at the 2020 Feast and say, “That was the one of the best Feasts ever!” And may we all one day joyfully say, “Next year in Jerusalem!”