This video was played during the opening night service of the Feast of Tabernacles. United Church of God president, Rick Shabi speaks of the great meaning the Feast holds as we begin this year's festival.
[Welcome greetings from around the world]
[Rick Shabi] Good evening, everyone. Welcome to this opening night service of the Feast of Tabernacles in 2022. You have all gathered to gather here in God's presence as we begin this Feast. I know that there is an excitement in the air as we gather together here tonight, as is fitting for the Feast of Tabernacles. This Feast that we're about to observe for the next seven days and then the eighth day following represents a tremendous time in the history of mankind. It represents the fulfillment of God's plan for mankind, a time that will come when there will be peace and joy and happiness throughout all of the earth. We look forward to that time and as we look forward to the feast each year, it's only fitting that that anticipation builds. The anticipation that we call Feast fever.
We've been planning for the Feast ever since the Feast of last year. We've prepared our travel plans. We've saved our second tithe. We're here right where God wants us to be and the place where He has placed His name for this Feast here this year. You know there's a verse that comes to mind always about how important this time is and how not only we, but the hosts in heaven and all of the heavenly beings look forward to this time that is picture by the Feast of Tabernacles. I won't turn to Romans 8 verses 19 to 22 because you know the verses, but it talks about how creation groans and it's just waiting for the time that the sons of God are revealed. The creation waits. It's the same for you and me as well. We anticipate the time when we will be no longer chained in physical bodies and with the physical limitations that we have. But as we live and as we serve God that we will be become everything that He wants us to be in new bodies.
So we're here at this Feast of Tabernacles. It is a time of rejoicing. It's a time for us to picture the coming Kingdom of God. As we begin these days, there comes a time of the fulfillment that Jesus Christ has returned to earth. Satan has been bound and now creation and man are free to become everything that God intended them to be when He created them for us. And so we're here at this Feast at that time.
You know I think back to the time of ancient Israel when they would keep this Feast. They would prepare for it all year long, just like we do. Their saving of the festival tithe was different than our saving of the festival tithe. Their journey to Jerusalem each year was different than our journeys. They had to plan that journey. They had to walk or whatever they did to get there, as opposed to us hopping into a car or hopping on an airplane to get where we need to be. But they left their homes behind and they trusted that God would look over all their belongings because they knew they needed to be where God placed His name as the Feast of Tabernacles began.
We leave our homes behind. Part of the Feast of Tabernacles God says, is go to the place, go to the place where I have placed My name. And as we leave our homes behind we're reminded that this world that we live in is just a temporary dwelling place. It isn't eternal. This isn’t what God had in mind for all eternity. It's a place for us to learn of Christ, for us to grow, a place for us to develop the character that God wants us to have so that we can receive that eternal life as we live our lives completely committed to Him.
We're reminded too, that these bodies that we live in that are subject to pain and suffering and all sorts of discomforts are just temporary bodies that we are in now. We look forward to the time when our bodies will be made new spirit bodies that will no longer be subject to the pain and the suffering. All these things are part of the Feast of Tabernacles with Christ returns to earth and His way, His way is upon the earth and all people are learning of the ways that He has set for us.
You know as Israel, ancient Israel, went to Jerusalem. It says in the songs of ascent that they went with singing, there was joy in their hearts as they came before God. We're told come before His presence with singing. We'll intersperse this message tonight with some singing and praise to God because we're all here to glorify His name and to remember that it's because of Jesus Christ that we're even here and have the future and the hope that we do. So we'll intersperse it with some songs that I hope will uplift you and inspire you and focus us all on the Kingdom of God, the return of Jesus Christ, and what we're picturing here as we as we keep the Feast here this year.
Of course, we know that Jesus Christ is the reason for all of this. He came to earth, He lived, He died that our sins could be forgiven because of His death and ascension into heaven. We have His Holy Spirit once we repent and we're baptized and have hands laid upon us. Jesus Christ came. He went to heaven, and He's waiting there, waiting there for all of us to complete the plan that God has for us and the development in all of us that God has. In Acts 3 and verse 18 it says this, it says, “But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all of His prophets that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ who was preached to you before, whom Heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all of this Holy Prophets since the world began.”
Jesus Christ is at God's right hand today. He's waiting there, but He's waiting for the time when everything can be restored to the way that God wanted it to be, the way He intended it to be before man got involved, did his own thing and rejected God's way and chose and subjected us all in the creation itself to the ways of Satan. Far different and far inferior to what God had in mind.
The times of refreshing. As we are gathered here at the Feast of Tabernacles that time of restoration will begin. People will live different lives. They will be taught God's Word. Satan will be banished. And there will be a lot of work that needs to be done. The people, as they live God's way of life, they will learn. They will learn the joy and the peace and the contentment that comes from yielding to God. “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.”
We are here to bring glory to His Name as we have done by following His command and coming here to the Feast. To the Feast, wherever it is that you're keeping it. Verse 11 of Psalm 96 says, “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; Let the field be joyful and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord.”
You see the same, the same sentiment that was there in Romans 8 verse 19. The earth is waiting for this time to be renewed, “For He is coming,” verse 13, “He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with His truth.” That's what we picture. That's what we should be feeling. That's all we should be remembering as we go through the Feast and as the earth is under Christ's reign, and as people learn to treat it with the respect and with the adherence to the instructions that God gave for keeping the earth, we will see it renewed just as Christ said or just as it was inspired in Acts 3.
In Isaiah 35, words you'll probably hear later on in the Feast as well, but to focus us on it and put it onto our minds. It talks about that time of restoration, how beautiful the earth will be. Isaiah 35, verse one, “The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom is the rose; It will blossom abundantly and rejoice, Even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, The excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the excellency of our God.”
Back in the book of Revelation we see the hosts in heaven rejoicing as the time of Christ returned to this earth draws near. Just read a few of the scriptures there and their praise that they give to God as they look forward to this time. Revelation 5 and verse 11. It says, “I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, all of them rejoicing, all of them praising God, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!’” Just listen to that praise. That same praise should be in our hearts and in our minds as well.
Again, in Revelation, this time in chapter 11, chapter 11 and verse 16, “The 24 elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worship God saying, ‘We give You thanks, o Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth.” At the time of Christ return that's done. We are those saints that is mentioned there if we continue to follow God and let Him lead and guide us through His Holy Spirit for the rest of our lives.
And finally, in Revelation 19 and verse 6 says, “I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God omnipotent reigns!”
[Hallelujah Chorus Video with Lyrics on Screen]
[Rick Shabi] The truth of God, the plan of God, the creation of God. It's an amazingly beautiful thing, isn't it? God wants all men to experience that. He wants all of mankind to be able to experience the love, the joy, the peace, the abundance that He had always intended but that mankind himself chose another way and forfeited all those blessings that God would have given him.
Again, we're here at this face to picture of the time when mankind will begin to experience how good and how wonderful it is to live under the way of God. The things that you and I have the opportunity to learn and to apply into our lives today. And as we do that we see those blessings. We feel that peace, we feel that serenity, we feel that commitment, and we feel that establishment that God wants us to have as we build our trust and we build our hope and we build our faith in Him.
You know God's truth is a precious, precious thing as you hear probably every Sabbath that you are at services. The precious, the precious truth of God is the most important thing in our lives that we have. And it's here in that Bible that's sitting on your laps, this Bible that's sitting here on the podium in front of me. We need to learn to live by every word of that. Jesus Christ said that He was sanctified by the truth as He lived on Earth and He sets us apart. He sanctifies us by His truth. We live by this word. The very same word that the word that the people in the millennium will learn, that they will apply into our lives and they will a hunger and thirst after it. The same way you and I should be hungry and thirsting and adhering to that word and making sure that it is in our lives, that it guides us and directs us.
That truth that we come to know that we continue to learn throughout our lives, that truth that we must come to love, especially as we face tough times, tougher times ahead of us between now and that return of Jesus Christ. In that day in the Kingdom truth, truth will reign.
God uses some fitting analogy as He talks about truth and His Holy Spirit in the Bible. One of those we find in Ephesians 5, Ephesians 5 in verse 26, and this series of verses God is talking about the marriage relationship between man and woman. But He references that that, that relationship is a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church, the body that He has placed us in.
And in Ephesians 5 in verse 26, it says that Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. Why? “That He might sanctify it and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.” “The washing of water by the word.” You know as we read the Bible, as we learn the Bible, as we look into it and compare it to how we live our lives, how we think, act and react, we find that there is that washing of the water of the word. When we see ourselves in the faults and then use God's Holy Spirit to wash away those faults and weaknesses and attitudes. There is that washing as God speaks to us through the Word that He has reserved for us, His truth washed by the water of the Word.
The Holy Spirit is compared to water as well. We go back to the Old Testament in Ezekiel and the speaking of the time when Christ will return. In Ezekiel 36 and verse 25 he talks about this time that we're picturing now, the Feast of Tabernacles, and verse 25 of the Ezekiel 36, he says, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and I will put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and I will give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will keep my judgments and do them.”
His Holy Spirit. He will sprinkle us with it. He will give that to us. And Joel 2 and verse 28 to 29 it talks about God pouring out the Spirit on the people of that day, that Spirit that's so valuable that without it we cannot possibly live God's way of life. Without it we cannot possibly be in that Kingdom and be there part of it when Jesus Christ returns where He wants us to be and doing the things that He wants us to do. It's in this lifetime we learn those things as we use and are led by His Holy Spirit that He pours out on us in that time and in that reflection of how it is that we receive the Holy Spirit.
In that day when people are on earth in Christ's Kingdom, Isaiah 2 verses 2 through 4 it says that they will all go up, they will go to the mountain of the Lord. They will look to Him. The law will go from Zion. It's a beautiful time because the people that are there will be seeking God's truth. They will be eager to learn. They will go to His house to learn the things just similar to the way that you and I have come to the Feast of Tabernacles. We're here to honor God, to glorify Him, to be, to learn the things that He has brought us here to. And being a services every day and hearing those words of instruction in inspiration, those words that could create the vision of the Kingdom of God and hone it more perfectly or more clearly in our minds is a very, very, very important part of our observance of the Feast.
In Zechariah 8, Zechariah 8 in verse 20 it says, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Peoples shall yet come, inhabitants of many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, “Let us continue to go and pray before the eternal and seek the Lord of Hosts. I myself also will go. Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before Him.’” That's what we've done. That's what we're here for. That's why we've come to the Feast of Tabernacles.
You know every day during the Feast there will be a service. I know that there's holy convocations on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles and on the Eighth day or the Last Great Day. But there's a service every single day during the Feast. Have we come to the Feast of Tabernacles to go to the mountain of the Lord, to hear His Word, to seek His law, to seek His instruction, to be inspired by the Word of God? That's what we're here for. You know in Hebrews 10 verse 25, it says don't forsake the assembling of yourselves together. It doesn't say on just the Sabbath day. Don't forsake the assembling of yourselves together. God gives us this once a year opportunity for 8 straight days and 9 when you consider the opening night service. Nine straight days that we can assemble together before Him, nine straight days that we can hear His message, that God can speak to us and that we can be here together in His presence.
Don't neglect. Don't forget those things. Make that the important part of your Feast. Of course we know that there are other activities of the Feast as well, and that's well and good. God wants us to have fun. When we're obeying God and doing His will fun becomes even more fun. All of our teens and pre-teens who go to summer camps each year, they they can tell you that. They experience that, they have great times unlike any other time they have during the year because they're there together. Every day they are immersed or they are begin their day with God's Word and the fun they have when they're sharing their experiences with people of like minds. They'll tell you it's like unlike any other thing they do in life. So it should be for you and me as we're here at the Feast of Tabernacles. That we're together, we've come out of the world that God has called us out of the world to come to this place, to be together and to be before His presence, to hear His word but also to have fun.
And Habakkuk 2:14, “In that day, the knowledge of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” And these nine days that we're here and in our lives, the knowledge of God, the truth of God should guide us and be in our lives as the waters cover the sea. In Zechariah 14 a few chapters ahead in Zechariah 14, he talks about the time, the time of God and the time of water.
Zechariah 14 verse 8, it says, “In that day it shall be that living water shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea. In both summer and winter it shall occur. And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be ‘the Lord is one,’ and His name one.”
Waters, we're told, will go forth from Jerusalem. Healing waters. Healing waters that the whole world needs to hear. A as we live, as we live and as we go through this Feast of Tabernacles each day, being able to enjoy the activities that have been planned, to be a services each day, to immerse ourselves in the way of God in this time we'll find ourselves thirsting for God's way more and more. We'll find ourselves praying more and more for God's Kingdom to come when everyone can enjoy this.
In John 7 and verse 37 the Bible says, “On that last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
[Rivers of Living Water Video with Lyrics on Screen]
[Rick Shabi] In Isaiah 2 verses 2 and 3, God talks about the importance of Jerusalem as I've previously mentioned. But let's read those scriptures. And Isaiah 2 verse 2 it says, “And 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, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations will flow to it. Many people will come and say, ‘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 Eternal from Jerusalem.” The teaching in the millennium will come from Jerusalem which has a prominent place in world history, has a prominent place in the here and now, has a prominent place in the Kingdom, and it has a prominent place in the time beyond the time of this physical earth. Teaching will go out from Jerusalem. People will flow to it. The law will go forth from Jerusalem. There will be teaching then just like there is teaching today, and people will have that as part of their everyday lives like you and I should have. At home they will be teaching their children in the way that we see you described in Deuteronomy 6. God will just be part of the family. He will be there as part of the conversations. Children will grow up knowing God is real. He is present. He is always there and that families follow His way. And when we follow His way peace and all those good things in life come to us.
We talked about teaching and the teaching that will go on during the Feast of Tabernacles. There's activities that are there at the Feast of Tabernacles as well. The coordinators have planned some things so people can be together. When we are doing God's will, when we're with God's people, when we're putting first things first and putting God first, the fun becomes even more fun.
And like our children that attend summer camps, as I mentioned, they can tell you the fun they have there exceeds any of the fun that they have with any of their other compadres the rest of the year. When we are doing God's way everything, everything is better. There’ll be services every day. There will be activities every day. Go to services every day but also participate in the activities that are, that have been planned and scheduled there at the Feast. Be with God's people. It's fine to go off here once in a while and do some independent things on your own, but take the time to be with God's people. We are here to come out of the world, to be with Him, to be with His people. To be there in this place that He has set His name for you to be, to learn and experience and have a foretaste of the coming Kingdom of God.
You know in Jerusalem, when Jesus Christ reigns in Jerusalem, the law goes forth from Jerusalem, it'll far be a far different place than it is today. Jerusalem today and Jerusalem throughout history has just been a place of trouble. Always, always something going on there. Not a very peaceful place to live for any length of time. But in that day, in that day, Jerusalem will be different.
Jerusalem will be will be a better place to live. People will want to live there. And Zechariah 8 and verse 1, “Thus, as the Lord of hosts: ‘I am zealous for Zion with great zeal; with great fervor I am zealous for her.’” God loves Jerusalem. “Thus says the Eternal: ‘I will return to Zion. And dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of the Lord of hosts, the Holy Mountain.’” That's what it will be known for in that day. Not the things that it's known for today, a very confused city as Satan does everything he can to make Jerusalem a continually unsettled place. But in the millennium it will be a place of truth. The mountain that people will seek to go to. Verse four, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of great age. The streets of the city will be full of boys and girls playing in the streets.’”
I don't know what Jerusalem is like today but I know when you watch news reports, you could be sitting in the street have any missile from anywhere come upon you at any time. Not a place of peace, not a place that you would want to feel at ease there. But in that day under Christ's rule, the violence, the war, the strife will disappear. Jerusalem will be a place of peace. Jerusalem will be a place of truth. Jerusalem will be a place that people want to go to. Psalm 87 and verse one it says. “His foundation is in the holy mountains. The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of you.”
One of the songs of ascent that they might have sung as they were on their journey to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of Unleavened Bread, where they journeyed to Jerusalem back in ancient Israel. Psalm 122 is dedicated to Jerusalem. Psalm 122 verse 1, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ Our feet have been standing within your gates, O, Jerusalem! Jerusalem is built as a city that is compact together, where the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to the testimony of Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord. For thrones are set there for judgment, the thrones of the house of David. ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: may they prosper who love you.’”
Pray for peace of Jerusalem. When peace comes to Jerusalem, Christ will have returned. The millennium will be on earth. That time of peace will be there. That time that we picture now. There will be a temple there. There will be people flowing to Jerusalem there. And as we progress through the millennial time of God that Jesus Christ is on earth, we come to the time that the plan of God is complete. The purpose for the physical creation is done. The time of physical man is done. The plan of God is complete. The physical earth, we read, is dissolved. Physical man has become spirit beings if they have followed God, if they have repented, believed, have the Holy Spirit of God and chosen Him above the ways of the world, or the ways their own ways. All that is done and none of it remains. Mankind continues in beyond that time of the physical earth but the rest of it is history. But not Jerusalem. Not Jerusalem.
The Eighth day, or the Last Great Day, pictures the time of the Great White Throne Judgment. We will observe that eight days from now at the end of this time that we are together, we'll speak of those things and we'll look at those things when God's plan is complete. And Revelation 21 speaks to the time when the earth is no more, the physical earth as we know it, and God's plan for this creation is complete.
In Revelation 21 verse 1, it says, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also, there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’” In that New Jerusalem when God comes to earth and dwells with man on the new earth. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There will be no more pain for the former things have passed away.”
Don't we look forward to those times? Don't we yearn for those times when everything is in order, everything is peaceful. All the, all the strife and misery that this world brings upon us that we’ve become too conditioned to that we don't even know what it will be like when all things are made new and when Christ reigns the earth. The New Jerusalem, that Holy City, that will come down from heaven adorned as a bride prepared for her husband.
There's a lot that we picture during these eight days we'll be together. A lot of God's plan as we complete His plan of salvation that He gives for us and the Holy Days that we observe each year. What God's will is that salvation will come to all of mankind. He has called you and me now to that time. It's up to us to follow God, to yield ourselves and to do the things that He expects us to do, in fact commands us to do. As we're here at this Feast of Tabernacles, enjoy it, embrace it. Let it be an inspiration to you. Let it help hone your vision of the Kingdom of God and let that motivate you through this Feast and beyond. That you are ever and ever more committed to God, committed to do His way exactly, diligently, and carefully, just as He says in the Scriptures. Have a wonderful, wonderful and meaningful Feast, everyone. May God be with you all.
[The Holy City Video with Lyrics on Screen]