A look at the Feast of Tabernacles from the viewpoint of a journey to find out what lessons we should learn and where this journey is going to lead us.
[Steve Shafer] I know we've all greatly enjoyed these past seven days, being here at the Feast of Tabernacles; we look forward to and plan for that, and think about it throughout the entire year. And when you get to the seventh day you think, like Mr. Martin said, where does the time go? It seems to go so fast, and now we have only one day left, the Last Great Day. But, as both very much a physical and a spiritual highlight of the year for all of us, and it's sad – as was mentioned also by Mr. Martin – it's sad to realize that, you know, that in just a couple more days, most of us will be heading back home to our more permanent dwellings, as we would look at it. Some of us journeyed quite a ways to get here. I won't ask for a show of hands, but we've all journeyed to get here to the Feast of Tabernacles in Panama City Beach, or other people have journeyed to other places. Some of the journeys were not too long, some of them were short journeys, some were very long journeys. Of course, we journeyed to be here from Seattle, which is the other corner of the United States, a journey of a little over 3,000 miles. And we flew from Seattle to Detroit, then we rented a car in Detroit; it may seem like a funny way to go, but we rented a car in Detroit, and then we drove down to Arkansas, and picked up Evelyn's aunt, Nancy, and her brother, Larry, to bring them down here; and drove from Arkansas then down here to Panama City Beach. And we'll go back the same way, and then we'll spend a few days up in the Detroit area in Michigan, I should say, where our home still is. We still have a home there and family there, so we're just going to spend a couple of days after the Feast visiting family in Michigan before we fly back to Seattle. So that was our reasoning for doing it that way. That was a fairly long journey. And I know a lot of you – some of you journeyed over a 1,000 miles as well; but our permanent home, like I said, is still in Michigan. Our home right now, also out there, is a temporary dwelling. We were in the Lukers' home up until Denny died, and then we had to find another place to locate; and my sister had an apartment over in Bainbridge Island across the Sound from Seattle, so we now are in that temporary dwelling, if you will; an apartment in Bainbridge Island. You have to get your ferry to go across; it's about five miles across the Sound from Seattle, so you have to catch a ferry. And you have to try to time it right, because sometimes you'll get there, and if you don't get there long enough ahead of time, you may not get on. They are large ferries, they hold over 200 cars. They run full most of the time. And sometimes we'll fetch one when we're coming back – we'll just make it – it will be like the next-to-the-last car that made it on. Sometimes we'll just miss it, and we'll have to wait an hour for the next ferry.
But, we all came on a journey to be here. And we will all journey back home in about two more days. And these past seven days right here at the Feast of Tabernacles in Panama City Beach, have also been a journey of sorts; a journey into God's word and through God's word, to understand the meaning of this Feast of Tabernacles, a time we're observing. And also, if you think of our lives, these temporary bodies; even our entire life, is a journey. From the day we're born until the day we die. And our journey through life can have many ups and downs, and many twists and turns.
Now Mr. Burns' sermonette leads directly into my sermon, where he talked about GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) which can guide us to a destination whenever we go on a journey. And like he said, sometimes they work fine, sometimes you make a wrong turn and you try to pick – oh, I don't think I want to go that way, I want to take a shortcut – and they say, recalculating, recalculating. But, they can get us there, they're a handy device; very modern handy device that we all use. And of course, if we live by faith and by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God., God will guide us to our ultimate spiritual destination. But, as you go through life and you have lots of things that happen in your life, and you have to try to make a decision on, should I do this or should I do that? How should I handle this? Wouldn't it be nice to have a spiritual GPS system that could give you the answer as you face these different, maybe roads, you could take in life; turns we could take? Sometimes the path ahead of us, as we go down our road through life, is clear; sometimes it's not so clear. And, as we look back on our lives and our personal journey through life, and we look back, and there are many lessons that we can learn.
So on this seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles, I want us all to take a look at the Feast of Tabernacles from the viewpoint of a journey. Of course, the Feast of Tabernacles does indeed portray a journey. It portrays our journeys to the coming Kingdom of God. And for each of us who are here today, it portrays our journey. Our personal journey that we've been called to, to the Kingdom of God.
As has been mentioned in this Feast – and many of those scriptures I'm going to use have already been used – you get down towards the end of the Feast, and you look at your notes and say, well, that's been used, that's been used, that's been used twice. And, well, I've still got a couple that haven't been used yet, boy! But, I'll use them anyway; put them in a little different context.
But, we are on this journey towards the Kingdom of God because of a very, very special calling that God gave us – a miraculous calling. For God, somehow, looked down on each and every one of us and said, I'm going to open that person's mind. I'm going to reveal My precious truth, My precious plan of salvation to that individual. I want that person to be, to have the opportunity to be part of the firstfruits. It wasn't my doing. It was a miracle that took place, with you all back then; but think of that, even those of us raised, maybe in the truth, can think of the time when, all of a sudden, we made that decision; something lit up in our minds that said, yeah, I want to go that way.
But, as we look at the Feast of Tabernacles from the viewpoint of being on a journey, we want to look at what lessons we can learn, and we also want to look at where this journey's going to lead us into the very beginning of the millennium in the Kingdom of God, when it comes to the earth, after Christ returns. My title for this message here this morning is, Our Journey and the Kingdom of God. Our Journey and the Kingdom of God. Now, all the scriptures we're going to use are very basic; you're very familiar with them. I'm going to start off with a very, very familiar scripture, and ask a very familiar question. How many times a year was Israel to appear before God in a special place? And, as we often read in the time leading up to this time and on holy days, the answer to that is given to us in Deuteronomy 16, verse 16, so I want to begin there. Deuteronomy 16, verse 16:
Deuteronomy 16:16 – Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.
Three times a year the Israelites journeyed to a special place. Now in ancient times, that was usually to Jerusalem, even as it was in the time of Christ. And even today there are many Jews who make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem during those three special occasions that I just mentioned there. Of course, today, there are many places around the world where God has placed His name, for us to assemble and meet together to observe these special occasions. Just two chapters back, God said this, if you turn just back to Deuteronomy 14 verse 23:
Deuteronomy 14:23 – 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 firstborn of your herds and your flocks...you will tithe that...that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.
As was also mentioned earlier in the Feast, to learn to fear God; learn to fear God always. Of course, here in this verse 23, it's talking about what we now call second tithe, but notice the next three verses; first let's notice verses 24 and 25:
Deuteronomy 14:24-25 – 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. Vs. 25 – then you shall exchange it for money...and...take the money in your hand, and go to the place where the Lord your God chooses. Of course, that's what we do today. Then verse 26:
Deuteronomy 14:26 – And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires...that's what we've been doing here for the last seven days, in a right and balanced way; just getting a little bit of a foretaste of a prosperity that God is going to give the entire world after Christ returns...and you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep...or steak, or whatever...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...entire...household.
Which is what we've been doing for the last seven days. Again, to get a little bit of a foretaste of the prosperity that God's going to bring on the whole world, when it gets in sync with God. We'll come to understand what the whole world can experience after Christ returns, and after Satan's been removed for 1,000 years. It's going to make a huge difference, isn't it? But, note the word journey in verse 24. If the journey is too long for you, and here the word journey is used in conjunction to appearing before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost) and at the Feast of Tabernacles. So how many times a year was Israel to appear before God in the special place? Three times a year: the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
I want to just touch on something here at the beginning of the sermon. What do these three overall times that were mentioned here; how do they differ when it comes to how they might portray Israel's journey? Now, Israel had a journey they had to go on when God called them – He called them out of Egypt – and they had to journey from Egypt to Mt. Sinai, and from Mt. Sinai to the land of Canaan. So how do these three overall times differ when it comes to their portrayal of a journey? There's an interesting look at how they differ. What did the Feast of Unleavened Bread portray? Of course, after the Passover – after the death angel passed over all the houses of the Israelites, who had the blood of the slain lamb on their doorposts – after the Passover, they began a journey, didn't they? They begin their journey by departing from the land of Egypt. So the first leg of their journey had to do with a departure. They had to depart; they had to leave Egypt, which was a departure from their slavery in Egypt, where, we are told, their lives were made bitter with hard bondage (Exodus 1 verse 14).
When God called us, what was the first thing we had to do? We had to depart, didn't we? We had to depart from the ways of the world. We had to depart from the slavery of sin. That was the first leg of our journey toward the Kingdom of God; to begin with departure.
Now, you think about the first leg of Israel's journey – and I'm not going to go through all the things they went through, you're familiar with it – but, it was easy for God. But, it was very difficult for Israel. It shouldn't have been, but it was. It was easy for God to shield Israel from Egypt's pursuing army. You know when they left Egypt, Pharaoh finds that, oh, hey, we can't let them go, let's go after them. And Egypt pursued them with all of his army. But, it was easy for God to protect them. He stood between the Egyptian army and the Israelites, with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. It was easy for God to deliver Israel out of Egypt. It was easy for God to open the Red Sea; they thought they were doomed. But, God is sovereign over all things, He's all powerful. It was easy for Him to open the Red Sea and let the Israelites pass through. They probably passed through with a great deal of trepidation. But, He stood between them and the Egyptians, and He got them across the Red Sea! And then, when they had crossed, what did He do with the Egyptians? The waters came down and drowned all the Egyptians. That was easy for God; but it was difficult for Israel. Why? It was difficult for Israel to believe God. It was difficult to believe that God could do what they knew they couldn't do, what they knew what seemed impossible. But, things that seem impossible to us are possible with God. See, many of them believed they would never make it. Many of them believed they would die.
As you know when you read that story, many of them even wanted to return to Egypt, at some point in that journey. They wanted to return to Egypt. They said, oh, if we could go back to Egypt where, you know, we had this and that and all these things, and they forgot about the slavery and the people that died; but they had food, they had their comfort zone. It wasn't very comfortable following God. He wasn't leading them the way that they thought they might be led that seemed easy. See, it was easy for God to deliver Israel out of Egypt, but you know, when you think about that story, there was one aspect of that story that was difficult for even God to do. Do you know what that is? What might have been difficult for God? It was easy for God to deliver Israel out of Egypt, but it was difficult for God to deliver Egypt out of Israel. For many of the Israelites, Egypt had become their comfort zone. It was difficult for them to step out of that comfort zone to follow God, as they began their journey of departing from Egypt – their journey of departure out of Egypt – as portrayed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
What did the Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost) portray? Why was it called the Feast of Weeks in the Old Testament? Because, after departing from Egypt, it took them seven weeks to arrive at Mt. Sinai, to receive the Ten Commandments from God. Thus, in the Israelites' journey out of Egypt to the land of Canaan, the Feast of Weeks was about their arrival at Mt. Sinai, to receive the Ten Commandments, to receive God's law. And they had to count 50 days, the day after the seventh Sabbath (Leviticus 23 verse 16) hence, the term, Pentecost, count 50.
Now, spiritually speaking, after we departed from the ways of the world, we had a countdown period, didn't we? We had a countdown period to where we finally arrived at the place in our life where we said, you know, if I'm going to make this journey, this calling that God is giving me; if I'm going to stay on my journey to the Kingdom of God – to be in God's Kingdom, to be with Christ, to rule with Him – I'm going to need some help, I can't make it on my own power. I'm going to have to make a commitment. I'm going to have to have God's Holy Spirit in my life, working in my life; I can't do it on my own power, it'll never get me there.
We realized we had to have God's laws written in our minds and in our hearts, we had to have God's spirit. So, in our spiritual journey to the Kingdom of God, the Feast of Unleavened Bread portrays our departure, and the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, portrays our arrival; not our arrival to the Promised Land, but our arrival to Mt. Sinai, to receive the Ten Commandments to have so God's laws can be written in our hearts and our minds by God's Holy Spirit. Because, spiritually speaking for all of us, our real journey began the day we received God's Holy Spirit. That's when our spiritual journey began, when we made that commitment, we were baptized, and received God's Holy Spirit. That's when our journey began in earnest. God's Holy Spirit was given first on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2 verses 1 to 4).
What then, does the Feast of Tabernacles portray as it pertains to Israel's journey; as it pertains to a journey? When the Israelites left Mt. Sinai, their real journey toward the land of Canaan began. That's when they began their real journey in earnest towards the land of Canaan; because that's when they left Mt. Sinai. And when we were baptized and we received God's Holy Spirit, our real journey toward the Kingdom of God began. So the Feast of Unleavened Bread is about departing from Egypt for Israel, the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, was about their arriving at Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, and the Feast of Tabernacles is about their actual journey toward/to the land of Canaan. That is how these three overall times differ when it comes to their portrayal of a journey; their portrayal of the journey of the Israelites toward the land of Canaan, and an analogy there is also as a portrayal of our spiritual journey toward the Kingdom of God.
So the Feast of Tabernacles then that we're observing now here this week – it portrays/looks forward to the coming Kingdom of God, as we all know. But, our journey will also carry us over into the millennial reign of Jesus Christ as well.
So this morning then, while we're looking at our journey and the Kingdom of God, I'd like to cover two aspects of our journey: our journey now, going on right now; and our journey with Christ into the very beginning of His millennial reign in the Kingdom of God. First, let's look at our present journey. Looking at our present journey towards the millennial reign of Christ, and toward the millennial Kingdom of God, you know, we can learn a number of lessons from Israel's journey to the land of Canaan. Here's a lesson that's very interesting to look at: how many days' journey – once they arrived at Mt. Sinai, and you know all the story of Moses going up, and all that – but, it's wise to get the Ten Commandments; but, once they left Mt. Sinai and headed towards the land of Canaan, how many days' journey was it from Mt. Sinai to Horeb, as it's called, here, and to the land of Canaan? How many days' journey? Let's go to Deuteronomy, just go back in Deuteronomy 1 verse 1. It tells us, and I think it tells us for a reason, because of the very valuable lesson we can learn. Deuteronomy 1 verse 1:
Deuteronomy 1:1 – These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on this side of the Jordan...just before they would cross over the Jordan to go into the land of Canaan.
See, the book of Deuteronomy was written by Moses toward the end of his life, as a new generation were about to cross over the Jordan River into the land of Canaan. Think of that. And, as you think about that, think about our situation in God's church today. We have an older generation, and I'm a part of that older generation. I'm almost 74. My time is coming to an end. There's a younger, new generation that's going to have to take the reins. So this lesson applies to that as well. But, how long should the journey from Mt. Sinai, or Horeb, as it's called here; how long should that have taken? How long should it have taken for the Israelites to have journeyed from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea, and to the entrance of the Promised Land? Deuteronomy 1 verse 2:
Deuteronomy 1:2 – It is eleven days' journey from Horeb...from Mt. Sinai...by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea...and to the entrance to the Promised Land.
It was only an eleven-day journey. They could have made it there in eleven days, potentially. But, how long did it take? It took them 40 years! Forty years to make what could have been, potentially, an eleven-day journey.
Now think about that as far as our calling and our journey that we're on, after God called us, and gave us His Holy Spirit. Did Christ know that our journey, after we were called, and made that commitment, did He know it also would not be a short, easy journey? Did He know it would be a difficult journey, a long journey? What did Christ say to those who wanted to be His disciples? And, I'm just going to quote it. He said, enter by the narrow gate (Matthew 7 verse 13). Why? Because, narrow is the gate, and difficult is the way which leads to life (Matthew 7 verse 14). What was one of the main reasons why it was such a long and difficult journey for ancient Israel? Why was it so long, why was it so difficult, why did it take so long? And now, you think about this. Why did it take so long, especially, since they were following God, in the pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night? Let's read that. Let's go to Exodus chapter 40; let's look at the last few verses of Exodus 40. This is amazing when you think about it. A fantastic lesson here for all of us. Exodus 40 verse 34:
Exodus 40:34 – Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Vs. 35 – And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Vs. 36 – Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. Vs. 37 – But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. Vs. 38 – For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day...in a pillar of cloud...and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.
Think about it. I mean, just think about, they were camped in tents; and, if you get up in the middle of the night – wherever their tent might be – walked outside, what would you see? You'd look off there towards the tabernacle and you'd see this pillar of fire! And this great glory, you know, God was there! When you got up in the morning, and you walked out to have your cup of coffee (I don't know if they had coffee) but, you looked over there; you'd see a pillar of cloud, you'd see the glory of God right there in your presence. And, all they had to do was follow that pillar of cloud by day and that pillar of fire by night. You talk about GPS! That was the spiritual GPS of all GPS! All they had to do was follow God! And they knew it was God, they could see His glory. God's presence was ever before them, and God was leading the way. How could you go wrong? How could that be difficult? If God was leading the way, as it says here, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys? Why, then, was it so difficult? And why did it take so long? All they had to do was follow God's lead. Why was that so difficult? See, the problem wasn't external; the problem was internal.
Think about the situation of the Israelites at that time. Up to this point, what was the only thing this particular generation of Israelites had known and experienced? Up to this point, the only thing they had known was slavery. The whole generation; they grew up as slaves in Egypt. That was the only thing they identified with. Slavery had become their identity, and they had then become victims of what they identified with. Now, you stop and think, can that ever happen to any of us? Have any of us ever been overtaken by our experiences in life – about what happened to us – overtaken by mental, emotional or even physical abuse? As the Israelites were as slaves in Egypt, where they were under hard bondage and sorely mistreated; some even died. Have any of us ever been overtaken by hurt or loss or victimization? See, what happened to Israel in Egypt, that became who they were. Slavery became their identity, and they couldn't break free from their past. Does our past ever hold any of us as slaves? See, it could be a long, difficult journey to free ourselves from our past, or even maybe, from an addiction. I don't know how many of you were here, not near enough I don't think, but Sunday night, Merna Eppick gave a wonderful seminar on alcoholism and addiction, on intervention treatment and recovery. She covered various different types of addictions, including pornography. And the tentacles of that particular addiction are reaching out into all millions of Americans' households and lives. It's destroying and shattering millions of families. I know that from personal experience. I've worked with people in Seattle, who have been members for many, many years in Sedro-Woolley, where, all of a sudden, that came to the surface, and you try to help them. Some of them are so shattered, they can't put the pieces back together. In one case, we're trying, but it's going to be a long road, though, a long haul. Some addictions are very hard to overcome, break free from. To heal the mind, to heal whatever it is that needs to be healed. It can be a very difficult journey. But, we have to come to realize that whatever happened to us in our past, or whatever got us to where we are – a different point in our lives – and we come to see we need to change something that's got a hold on us that we can't break free from.
Whatever happened to us in our past was a condition; it should not be our identity. When we receive God's Holy Spirit at the beginning of our real spiritual journey toward the Kingdom of God, God set us free from our past, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He set out to give us a new identity; to be His very own children, to be His own sons and His own daughters. He wanted us to have an identity of being a part of the very family of God, regardless of our past or what happened. As His children, and as members of His family, what does God want from us in return? What are God's expectations for His sons and daughters? Let's read the answer from Jesus Christ Himself, the Head of the church. Let's go to Matthew 22; Matthew 22 verse 35:
Matthew 22:35 – Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying...asked Christ a question. Vs. 36 – Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?...or you could say, what is the greatest expectation You have for Your sons and daughters? What is Your greatest expectation? Jesus said to him...Verse 37...“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Vs. 38 – This is the first and great commandment”...or we could say, this is My first and great expectation that I have for you; to love Me with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul, and all your being. Vs. 39 – “And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Vs. 40 – On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Everything hinges on these two expectations. Now, why did it take the Israelites 40 years to make an eleven-day journey? Let's go to Deuteronomy chapter 8. Deuteronomy chapter 8, beginning in verse 1:
Deuteronomy 8:1 – Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers. Vs. 2 – And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you...well, let's just stop there for a second. Led you all these forty years in the wilderness. Well, He goes on, to humble you...and test you, to know what was in your heart...to know what was in your heart...whether you would keep His commandments or not.
He said, I led you these 40 years in the wilderness; it was only an eleven-day journey, but I led you these 40 years so I could come to know what was in your heart. That tells us what? It tells us that the problem was not external, it was internal. It had to do with what was in their heart. With how they felt, and with how they felt about themselves internally as well. So, before they could really be free and make it to the land of Canaan, they had to escape from themselves. It's hard to escape from yourself sometimes. They had to escape from their past, and from their past hurts, and from their past comfort zones. We have to do the same. And God had to change their heart, and He had to come to know what was in their heart. How can God come to know what is in our hearts? How can He come to know what is in our hearts? He can do that by humbling us, and by putting us to the test. Again, going back to Deuteronomy chapter 8 verse 3, which emphasizes again what we are told in verse 2:
Deuteronomy 8:3 – So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger...think about that. He humbled you and allowed you to hunger.
Having to depend on God for one of the very basic necessities of life, like food; that could be very humbling. It could be a very humbling experience. At the time Deuteronomy was written, who were these lessons intended for? They were intended for the new generation of Israelites, who would enter the land of Canaan. They were intended for the new generation. This was written at the end of their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, as we're told in verse 2; but, by this time, the previous generation had all died, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb. And, even Moses was at the very end of his life. He was almost 120-years-old. When the previous generation left Mt. Sinai and began their journey to the land of Canaan, where did God lead them? He led them into a desert wilderness. Think about that. He led them – and there were over two million of them – and He led them into a desert wilderness. Where are you going to find food enough to feed upwards of perhaps two million or more people in a desert wilderness? Where are you going to find enough food to feed that many people? How much food, how many grocery stores filled with food, would it take to feed two million or more people every day? You know, we only have six cities in the United States that have a population of two million or more. New York has a population (this was as of July of 2012 census) New York, at that time, had a population of 8.3 million, Los Angeles had 3.9 million, Chicago had a population of 2.7 million, and Houston, Texas, had a population of 2.2 million. Feeding the Israelites in the wilderness would be like finding food for the entire city of Chicago, or for the entire city of Houston, each and every day. How did God do that? Is that possible? How did He do that? There's no food out there in the wilderness. Deuteronomy 8 verse 3:
Deuteronomy 8:3 – So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know...their fathers were now all dead. They never learned the lesson God wanted them to learn. What lesson was that? Continue in Verse 3: that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.
What does the more immediate future hold for all of us, who are now on our spiritual journey toward the Kingdom of God? What lies ahead of us? We don't know. But, we do know that the world we are now living in is a very, very dangerous place; getting more dangerous every day. We now have the very real threat of Iran developing nuclear capability, and even having the rockets to deliver that. That's a potential that probably could be realized within a year, or just over a year from now. That could be a reality. And, of course, we have ISIS, which has now taken over most of Syria, and they're right on the border of Turkey, and they've taken over a lot of Iraq; they're right on the outskirts of Bagdad, and people are dying in Bagdad every day now because of ISIS; every day people are dying. And you've got these beheadings, these terrorist beheadings from ISIS. And now, even right here in the United States – not that long ago, just a few weeks ago – we had a man who was beheaded in Moore, Oklahoma. And they say, well, it was just an act of violence. No it wasn't an act of violence. It was an act of terror. It was to strike terror and fear into the heart of people. When will our next 911 occur? When will our present world (where we're now having so much peace here at the Feast of Tabernacles) when will our present world be turned upside down again? How many more Feast of Tabernacles will we have to meet together in peace? When might the people of America be humbled and allowed to hunger as the Israelites were? Might that happen? Oh sure, it might, it could happen. Now, we don't know the answer to any of those questions, but the answers will come; maybe they will come sooner rather than later. But we do know this: if we love God with all of our heart and with all of our mind and with all of our soul, and if we also trust God with all of our heart and all of our mind and all of our soul and all of our being; if we do those two things, God will see us through to the end of our journey. But Christ also said, as we read, we must love our neighbors as ourselves.
What lesson can we learn from observing the Feast of Tabernacles (or the Feast of Booths) in regards to learning how to love our neighbor as ourselves? At the time of Christ, the Jews and Israelites who came to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, they built temporary structures. They built a booth to dwell in, either on the outskirts of Jerusalem, or they traveled in, or they journeyed into Jerusalem. If they lived in Jerusalem, a lot of them had flat roofs, and they would put that booth/build it on top of their roof, their house. And during the entire Feast of Tabernacles, that temporary dwelling or booth – that would be their shelter; where they would eat, sleep, and at times, fellowship with one another.
What lessons can we learn from leaving the more permanent shelters of our homes, to living in temporary shelters throughout the Feast of Tabernacles; especially, as we associate the Feast of Tabernacles with being on a journey toward the Kingdom of God? What should cause us to pause and think, and ask ourselves, what is the true shelter for our lives? What is our true shelter? Is it in permanent houses, made of brick, stone and wood? Is it being inside of the walls of our home with locked windows? Is our shelter and security in the locks and deadbolts on our doors? Is it maybe, in a built-in alarm system? See, we live in a very dangerous world, where break-ins occur daily in our towns and cities.
Now, we currently live on Bainbridge Island, about five miles across the sound from Seattle, and what people would say would be a very, kind of an upscale and very safe neighborhood. All the residents there would feel pretty secure. Well, a little over a month ago, our little dog, Bailey, a Bichon – a cute little Bichon – a little before 3 a.m. in the morning, she began growling. And then she began to bark. And there was nothing Evelyn and I could do to get her to settle down. She kept barking. She heard something down the street; we don't know what it was, and I'm trying to say, Bailey, shut up, I want to get back to sleep. Finally, Evelyn got up and she looked out the window of our bedroom and didn't see anything, so she went to a room adjacent to our bedroom. She looked out there where you could see our car parked in front of the entrance to our apartment, and then she saw something that startled her. She saw a man come up and try to break into our car, tried to get the doors open. He was trying to break into our car, and he said, it's locked, as if he was talking to another individual. They were trying to break into our apartment/into our car. What do you think Evelyn did? At that point, Evelyn began banging on the window and said, get out of here! She screamed at them! Woke me up. All of a sudden, I'm awake! Guess what happened? The guy fled in the night; he got out of there as fast as he could go. He didn't want to face an enraged woman, or a ferocious Bichon.
Now we were glad that we had our little dog, Bailey, as an alarm, but is our security in a guard dog? See, what is our real security? What about the money we might have in the bank, and I hope we do have it to save, and try to save money, and invest it wisely. But, is our security in the money we have in the bank, or in a 401b? What did Christ tell us? Matthew 6. Matthew 6 beginning in verse 19. He said:
Matthew 6:19 – “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal”...You know, you hear about break-ins all the time; you never think it will happen to you. Vs. 20 – “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Vs. 21 – For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
See, God wants our hearts. And God wants our security to be with Him. Living in a booth or temporary dwelling can remind us that our ultimate security is not found within the walls of our homes, but in the presence of God in our lives. God must be our ultimate security. Our permanent dwelling must be with God, and in our relationship with God. I want to turn to one of my favorite Psalms. Turn back to Psalm 91. No Psalm illustrates the security we have in God better than Psalm 91. Psalm 91 beginning in verse 1:
Psalm 91:1 – He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Vs. 2 – I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress...You know, you read this Psalm, as you read through the first 11 verses, it's almost like this Psalm is written for our time today, and the world we live in right now....I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust...I'm going to trust my life to Him, no matter what's happening around me. No matter what the threats are. Vs. 3 – Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence...like Ebola. Vs. 4 – He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
God's truth; don't ever compromise with God's truth – hold on to it with all your might. It's your shield and buckler. It'll keep you secure in your relationship with God.
Psalm 91:5 – You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day...maybe in a missile. Vs. 6 – Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness...like Ebola...Nor the destruction that lays waste at noonday...from a nuclear explosion possibly, or bombs. And then, this is scary, verse 7. I wouldn't want to live in a scenario like this. It says...A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you...If you love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul. Vs. 8 – Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked. Vs. 9 – Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge...David says, because you have made...Even the Most High, your dwelling place...Your dwelling place, your permanent dwelling place is in your relationship with God...Because you have made the Lord...Even the Most High, your dwelling place. Vs. 10 – No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling. Vs. 11 – For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.
Our security must be in our relationship with God and our relationship with one another. And one thing that's wonderful during the Feast of Tabernacles: during the Feast of Tabernacles, all of God's people come together as one united people of God. They eat together, they fellowship together, and to grow in love for one another, together. This Feast of Tabernacles can serve to remind us that our real security must be in God and in our love for one another; that's where our security must be. That then, covers our personal journey toward the Kingdom of God. This brings us then to a second aspect of our journey; our journey with Christ into the millennial Kingdom of God. When will that journey begin? Let's read it for ourselves in Matthew 24. Matthew 24, beginning in verses 30 and 31. Matthew 24 verse 30:
Matthew 24:30 – “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Vs. 31 – And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
It will begin at Christ's return, of being gathered together to be with Christ, from the four winds – the four winds of the earth – heaven here, referring to the earth's atmosphere. For what ultimate purpose will Christ gather together His elect from the four winds? When Christ returns to begin His millennial reign as Lord of lords and King of kings, what will His ultimate desire be? Again, this is not a new scripture, it was already been read earlier at the Feast. But, let's read it again, because it shows what God's ultimate desire is, for which way He's going to gather us together. I Timothy 2, verses 1-4. I Timothy 2 verse 1:
I Timothy 2:1 – Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men. Vs. 2 – for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. Vs. 3 – For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. Vs. 4 – who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
That is Christ's ultimate desire; for all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Who now seeks to hinder that? Well, we all know that Satan now seeks to hinder that by blinding men's minds and by deceiving the whole world (II Corinthians 4:4 and Revelation 12:9). So, in order for Christ to begin to fulfill His desire, what then, is the first thing He must do? Well, He'll have to lay hold of Satan, and bind him for 1,000 years, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were finished (Revelation 20, verses 2 and 3). Now once Satan is bound and put away, where will our journey with Christ take us from there? What will happen next? Will any of the world's leaders, will any of the world's leaders – who have their positions of power and control – will any of those world leaders still be around, or still be left after all this? There may be a few. Will they have to be rounded up? Will some of them have to be forcibly removed from their positions of power, because they will not want to relinquish that power and control? That's kind of what Mr. Beam talked about in his sermon on Monday. Let's go to Isaiah 24. Isaiah 24, and the last three verses. Isaiah 24, beginning in verse 21:
Isaiah 24:21 – It shall come to pass in that day That the Lord will punish on high the host of exalted ones, And on the earth the kings of the earth...who still want to hold on to their positions of power and control. And it says, Verse 22, they're going to have to be...gathered together, As prisoners are gathered in the pit, And will be shut up in the prison; After many days they will be punished...or judged.Vs. 23 –Then the moon will be disgraced And the sun ashamed; For the Lord of hosts will reign On Mount Zion and in Jerusalem And before His elders, gloriously.
So we, with Christ, will have to round up and remove those people from power, and to maybe imprison them somewhere, until we can begin to maybe work with them – depending on what their attitude might be – after they've been humbled and removed. If they have a repentant attitude, then we can work with them and help them.
During the three-and-one-half-years before Christ returns, as we know, the earth will have gone through a tremendous period of tribulation, a great tribulation. It says, such as has not been since the beginning of the world, and, unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved (Matthew 24 verses 21 and 22). Now looking back, after that is over, you can see that would have been a desperate time for the people of the world who still remain. Not only will they have been traumatized by the great tribulation, they will also have been traumatized by the Day of the Lord, when God will have to intervene, and He'll have to even pour out the 7 last plagues, to try to get people to repent. And all those things are going to greatly traumatize any people who are left. And a lot of them are going to go into hiding; they're not going to know what's going on. They're going to go into hiding, for fear of their lives.
In our journey with Christ at the beginning of His millennial reign, what will our role with Christ be in regards to all those traumatized people? Let's go to Jeremiah chapter 16. Jeremiah 16 verse 14:
Jeremiah 16:14 – Therefore behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt. Vs. 15 – but, The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them...where they had been driven...For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers...Will Christ use His gathered-in elect to help find these people who've gone into hiding for fear of their lives? Will we become hunters and fishermen, trying to find these people, to help them?...Vs. 16 – Behold, I will send for many fishermen, says the Lord, and they shall fish them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.
This is also indicated in Revelation 6 verse 15, that was heard on Monday, by Mr. Tannert, in his sermon on fear. Now think of this: How will they be gathered from every mountain and every hill, and out of the holes in the rocks, where they're hiding? How will they be gathered? For the answer to that, let's go to Isaiah 27. Isaiah 27, first verse 12, which tells us:
Isaiah 27:12 – And it shall come to pass in that day That the Lord will thresh, From the channel of the River to the Brook of Egypt; And you will be gathered one by one, O you children of Israel...Think about it. They're hiding, they fear for their lives. We're going to have to try and find them and, maybe back there in that cave, you say, look, we're here to help you. You don't have to be afraid. We're not going to hurt you. You can come out, it's safe. The whole world has changed. We have a new King now. Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. Come out here and we'll take you there to introduce you to Him and show you His rule. Vs. 13 – So it shall be in that day: The great trumpet will be blown; They will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, And they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, And shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem...We'll bring them to Jerusalem; because, as Jeremiah 3:17 tells us:
Jeremiah 3:17 – At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts.
Why will they no longer follow the dictates of their evil hearts? Because, as Mr. Burnes concluded in his sermonette, though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner any more. For your eyes shall see your teachers, and your ears will hear a word behind you saying, this is the way, walk you in it; whenever you turn to the right hand, or whenever you turn to the left.
When our journey with Christ, at the beginning of the millennial reign, reaches this point, we're going to begin to start transforming the world. Let's go back, just a few chapters here, to Isaiah chapter 2. This was also stated by Mr. Cortelyou yesterday, but he used a different section of scripture. He quotes, reading from Malachi 4 verses 1-4. Isaiah 2 here says the same thing, but let's read it. Isaiah 2 verse 1:
Isaiah 2:1 – The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Vs. 2 – Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the Lord's house Shall be established on the top of the mountains...it's going to be over all the other nations...And shall be exalted above the hills...above all the smaller nations...And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say. Vs. 3 – Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Vs. 4 – He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.
What are they going to learn instead? They will learn to love the Lord their God with all their heart, and all their mind, and all their soul. And they will learn to love their neighbor as themselves. Now think how that one statement is going to transform the world; neither shall they learn war anymore. No more boot camps. No more enlisting in the military. No more terrorist camps. No more recruiting of terrorists, no more beheadings. No more waste of lives of young men and women to the scourge of war. No more mothers weeping for their children, as they are brought back home in a body bag or a coffin. No more singing Peter, Paul and Mary's song, Where Have all the Flowers Gone? You all remember that song? A war protest song of the 1960s? Those who seek with some flowers, they go to young men for their wedding with a boutonniere, then they become soldiers, and they give them flowers to go off to battle overseas, and then in the end, they come back home to be buried, and the flowers go on their graves. Where have all the flowers gone? Gone to the grave. Gone to graveyards, every one. When will they ever learn? What a profound difference it will make when that's fulfilled, neither shall they learn war anymore.
On our journey with Christ during His millennial reign on the earth, we're going to help Christ transform the world, from a world at war to a world at peace. That will be our journey with Christ in the millennial reign, and the millennial Kingdom of God.
Now in conclusion, some of you may have had very traumatic upbringings. You may have gone through some very bitter experiences. You may have had traumatic experiences in your life; because Satan, who is the god of this world, has severely damaged and destroyed many families. Many peoples' lives have been shattered because Satan is the god of this world. By the time Christ returns, before Satan is bound for a thousand years, the whole world will have been traumatized. Think of that, the whole world. Who better to help those people than those of you who have also been traumatized in your life by very adverse circumstances in your upbringing that you had to struggle to overcome? Who better to understand what those people will be dealing with? And who, also, in the process of your calling, have learned to love the Lord your God with all your might, and all your soul, and have learned to love your neighbor as yourself? Who better to help those people? See, God doesn't need the great of the world. He needs a people who's hearts are filled with compassion and understanding; who have a love of God in their hearts. And who've been through that terrible wilderness, and have learned to trust and depend on God. Who've learned, through their personal journey through life, the lessons God wants all of us to learn, so we can use those lessons to help Christ transform the world as we journey with Him in His millennial reign.
Those then, are some of the major lessons we can learn pertaining to our journey and the Kingdom of God.