Soon, we will depart for the locations around the world where we will again observe the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day. Ever since the restoration of the knowledge of observing God’s Holy Days in this modern era of the Church, the keeping of the Feast has involved the gathering of the brethren together in large congregations at specified locations around the globe. This is, in fact, a tradition that God initiated when Israel was to gather at Jerusalem for the Feast, and today this is done in a manner that reflects both the spirit and the letter of God’s command.
Leviticus 23:39 reads, "Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest."
Because the Sabbath day starts at sundown, as Leviticus 23:32 clearly shows, the Holy Day at the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles commences as the sun sets between the 14th and 15th days of the seventh month. The Holy Scripture tells us we are to observe that time as a Sabbath, and not as the other days of the week. The tradition of the Church is to hold a service as this great Festival of God begins. This is not new. Indeed, this was the same tradition or practice that may have been observed by ancient Israel in the days of the Temple service.
Psalms 120 to 134 are collectively known as the Psalms of Ascent for a very specific reason. In the Temple compound, just at the entrance to the courtyard surrounding the Temple itself, was a wide, curved staircase of 15 steps. Some historical accounts state that, at the opening night of the Feast of Tabernacles, the staircase was lined on both sides by the choir of Levites, and the High Priest would lead a procession that would initiate the Feast of Tabernacles. As the sun began to set, the High Priest would stand on the first step while the choir sang Psalm 120. He would ascend to the second step and wait for the choir to complete Psalm 121. By the time the High Priest stood on the fifteenth step, the sun had set, the great menorahs lighting the courtyard were ablaze, and there on the top step, Psalm 134 was sung:
"Behold, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who by night stand in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord. The Lord who made heaven and earth bless you from Zion!" (Psalm 134:1–3).
Thus, on the opening night there would be a grand service to commence this special eight-day Festival, a time that we understand holds out so much hope for mankind, which is otherwise lost and aimless. The Feast was also a time when Israel was to remember that they were made into a nation, not by their own power, but by the power of the God of Heaven alone, who took them out of slavery in Egypt—a slavery that would have led to their oblivion as a people. We, too, remember that we were called to truth, not by our power, righteousness or intellect, but through the mercy of God alone; otherwise we would be without a future.
Historical accounts depict people of God conducting a special service on the opening night of the Feast in the days of the physical Temple, and God has inspired the Church of God in this modern age to do the same. We do not have a great physical temple, a priesthood of Levites, or the animal sacrifices, but God in this era enjoins us to gather on the opening night to be reminded of the purpose of the Feast and the tremendous vision of hope for humanity it projects.
Thus, if we truly respect our God and honor Him and appreciate His calling, we will all make every effort to be settled into our accommodations before the opening service and to be in attendance for the commencement of this commanded assembly. It is not a time to plan to spend travelling to the Feast, or to complete shopping or other mundane tasks, but a time to respectfully come before God to show our appreciation for the great truth that has been set before us all.
Let us be sure we plan, so that we can all be present on the opening night of the Feast of Tabernacles this year.