It is interesting to note that, particularly in the last two decades, “independent” Feast of Tabernacles sites have been established. We read in Deuteronomy 16:13-16: “You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress. And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant and the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, who are within your gates. Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the LORD your God in the place which the LORD chooses, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice. 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.”
God is very clear when He instructs His people to keep the annual Feasts “in the place which He chooses.” How does He do that? The question is about who decides where a Feast of Tabernacles site should be and the same principle applies to the other Feast days.
Originally, God placed His Name in Jerusalem when the Feasts were revealed to the ancient nation of Israel. At that time, the Truth of God was given to Israel but as the Word of God spread, particularly after the inception of the New Testament church at Pentecost in 31 AD, it became obvious that the Feast of Tabernacles would have to be kept in other parts of the world. In recent times, there have been the people of God in most nations around the world who had to be accommodated by Feast sites within reasonable distance for them to be able to attend.
How is this achieved, and by whom?
We read in Ephesians 4:11-16 the following: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
Unfortunately, these verses don’t appear to sit well at all with some who seem to reject the authority of the ministry.
The Bible clearly reveals that in God’s plan for mankind, the Father is in charge, that Christ is the Head of every church organization and congregation, and under Christ are God-appointed leaders, as we read in Ephesians 4:11-16. We read in Hebrews 13:17 that we are to “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” Church members are to be subject to God’s delegated authorities in the church which comprise the ministry.
In 1 Peter 5:1-3, we read about how the ministry are to act: “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”
Those who are in authority in the church are not to lord it over members but are to serve them and to be examples, and they are given responsibilities to fulfil, one of which is to organise Feast sites.
In the past, God gave responsibilities to man directly – for example, Adam was instructed to name the animals (Genesis 2:19); Moses was spoken to at the burning bush (Exodus 3) and on other occasions; the prophet Samuel was told to anoint Saul as king (1 Samuel 9) and David as king (1 Samuel 16); the word of the LORD came to Jehu against king Baasha (1 Kings 16:1); the word of the LORD came to Elijah to present himself to Ahab (1 Kings 18:1): the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 12) and Haggai (Haggai 1 and 2). These are just some of the examples of God instructing some of His servants.
We read in Matthew 16:16-19: “Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’” (We read this same principle in Matthew 18:18.)
In our Q&A “Could you explain the extent of the power that Christ gave in Matthew 16:19, to ‘bind and loose’?” we state: “Christ empowered the leadership of the Church, throughout the Church’s history and existence, to discern God’s Will regarding binding Church decisions as to what God permits and prohibits, based on His law, and who is to be excommunicated and reinstated, based on the Church leadership’s discernment of the person’s repentance and God’s forgiveness. This is not to say that Church decisions are to be considered infallible. God does not bind in heaven a Church decision which is against His Will and His Law. We are told that all of us have to GROW in the KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST (2 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 4:13). Therefore, when God, through the power and wisdom of His Holy Spirit, clearly reveals to the Church leadership that a wrong decision was made in the past, perhaps by not fully submitting to, or understanding the Will of God, such a wrong decision must be corrected immediately.”
The Bible here clearly reveals that God works through the ministry.
God has delegated anointing (James 5:13-15) and baptism (see Acts 19:1-6) through the laying on of hands by elders in the Church of God, not by non-ordained church members, not even deacons. Please read our Q&A on the concept of the laying on of hands which proves that God has given His ordained ministers the exclusive right to lay hands on anyone for the purpose of “sanctification,” including in areas of baptism, healing, marriage, blessing of little children and ordinations.
It should now be apparent that God works through His ministry and one of their responsibilities is to follow God’s lead in finding and deciding on suitable Feast of Tabernacles sites, and if any baptised members are unwilling to go to a Feast site where GOD has placed His name, then they are being self-willed by either not attending the Feast or by attending a site that has not been chosen, approved of and organised by the Church of God ministry. In short, they are not willing to submit to God! They are in effect showing that they are self-willed!
Of course, non-ordained members can be used to search for a site, and once a site has been chosen and approved of by the ministry, many non-ordained members may be used to help in the organisation and the effective running of the Feast.
It appears that, at times, a Feast site may be organised by non-ordained members for which no ministerial approval has been given, and the Feast is then being conducted without ministerial blessing. God is not going to bless and support such an approach and arrangement. Matthew 7:21-23 is relevant to this situation: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
As we read earlier in Deuteronomy 16:13-16, the key words were “in the place which the LORD chooses” which is mentioned twice and so it must be important to God. It is important to understand and realise that elders in the Church of God have been given God-ordained responsibilities and choosing and approving of a Feast of Tabernacles site is one of them, and such a site then will be “in the place which the LORD chooses” through their actions and any arrangement other than this will not be acceptable to God.
You might want to review a previous Q&A entitled “Why do we attend God’s annual Feast and Sabbath services in the place where God makes His Name to be known?” which was published in our Update 657 dated September 19th 2014.
Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)