RIVERS OF LIVING WATERS
The Feast of Tabernacles
17 July 1996, Cranleigh, Surrey, England
I welcome you today in the Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and bring to you a message which is the theme for this ecclesiastical year in the Church. Last year our theme was More Than Conquerors as we came to appreciate and to begin applying the total victory of Christ in our lives. This year's theme is Rivers of Living Waters.
In John's Gospel it is recorded:
Last month, in July of 1995, the New Covenant Church of God came to a vitally important crossroads. In two meetings, forming two parts of our annual General Conference, a great change began to take place in our people. Though its significance may not appear to be very much for those unaccustomed to seeing with spiritual eyes, it was, for us, monumental. It marked the beginning of our rebirth.
"On that last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, 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.' But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, who those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:37-39).
Rebirth of the Church
This is an extraordinarily exciting time. For nine years this Church has been gestating, awaiting for a great anointing of the Holy Spirit. We have waited with many different attitudes -- sometimes patiently, sometimes impatiently; sometimes with enthusiasm, sometimes with apathy; sometimes with faithfulness, sometimes with open rebellion. We have in fact displayed all the characteristics of a people moving out of one life in Egypt into a new life in Zion.
The ninth year of the Church was, I suspect, the most difficult for us. I warned you that 1994-5 would be a tough time, and so it was. Just as Jesus turned up the temperature of His requirements for His disciples and witnessed a mass desertion, so we too witnessed the last of the rebels dessert us as they, in their turn, were confronted with the challenge to fully commit themselves to Jesus.
I am sure you have all seen dramatic movies where someone trying to catch an aeroplane, or a ship, or some other vehicle, makes a final dash to catch it seconds before it departs? Last July was one such period. With bated breath we saw one or two members who made a final dash to catch the New Covenant ship before it set sail. They may still be clinging for dear life onto the side of the ship but they're on it nevertheless!
The New Covenant Ship
Brethren and sisters, the New Covenant ship, a picture familiar to you through the visions received by the Holy Order, has set sail! Yes, we're on the way! Isn't that exciting? I hope you're thrilled -- I know I am! And what a fantastic vessel it is -- brand new, straight out of the heavenly dockyards! However, we aren't passengers, my friends. We can't go and get the deck chairs and sun ourselves on the decks. We're not its passengers, we're its CREW!
The New Covenant ship has started its maiden voyage. It's our first trip into the ocean of evangelism and growth. But, you may ask, haven't we evangelised before? My answer to you is, no, not really. Before we were simply gathering the crew for the ship. We haven't got the passengers yet -- not yet, neither have we picked up its cargo.
The ship is underway -- but we need cargo and passengers. The New Covenant ship is a cargo-passenger liner. The cargo is the water of life, or the Holy Spirit, and the passengers are people out in the world thirsting after righteousness.
The Divine Timetable
So don't rush out onto the streets proclaiming the Word of God...not just yet. We must do other things first -- we must follow the Lord's timetable.
Every ship's crew member has duties to perform. The crew must function in a disciplined and motivated manner. You, the crew, have all been trained on land in the School of Seamanship which is the Lord's Temple, and you will continue to be trained there. Now you are going into action on board ship.
Thirsting and Drinking
To train at sea means that we must now, as a Church, go up to the Lord's Festival which in the Bible is known as the Feast of Tabernacles. It was during this feast that Jesus stood up and cried to the people: "If anyone thirsts let Him come to Me and drink" (v.37). The idea of going up to a person to drink may sound a little strange to some but the Jews hearing Jesus knew exactly what He meant. They would have called to mind Isaiah who said: "I will pour water on him who is thirsty and floods on the dry ground" (Isa.44:3). "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters" (Isa.55:1). In saying these things Jesus was speaking of the work of the Holy Spirit and the principle by which the Spirit is given, namely, THIRST. To put it another way, unless you are really thirsty, you aren't going to get the Holy Spirit!
Picture yourself going to a kiosk to buy a bottle of 7-Up or some other soft drink. You're strolling along the street and think to yourself: "Mmmmm. I think I'd like a cool drink." You go into the shop and ask the shop assistant: "One Sprite, please." And you get one.
But if you go to the Lord like that, and say: "Mmmm. The Holy Spirit sounds a good idea. Could I have some Holy Spirit, please?" do you think the Lord is going to give it to you? No!
Let me remind you again of what the Lord's conditions for receiving the Holy Spirit are -- I am reading from John's Revelation: "I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who THIRSTS" (Rev.21:6).
Now if you don't know what the word "thirst" means I hope that by the time I have clarified it you won't be in any doubt. The Penguin English Dictionary says that the word "thirst" means a "strong desire, a longing, a craving" (p.731, 1973).
Many years ago I was wandering through the Negev desert in Israel, the same desert that Jesus went into to fast and pray for 40 days. It was unbearably hot. The air was as dry as dry can be and my throat felt like sandpaper. I sweated like a wrestler in the ring on a hot day. The sun was merciless. I was really thirsty. And when I say "thirsty", I really mean thirsty. All I could think of was water. Water, water, water. And I was only a tourist. I found a man selling soft drinks and bought a coca-cola. I drank it greedily and I still felt thirsty. I bought a fizzy orange drink, drank it down, and still felt thirsty. Neither of them satisfied my need for water. I had to go for several hours until finally I came to a tap and there, joy of joys, I filled my mouth with buckets of lovely, delicious water!
This little story tells us two things: (1) You won't get the most precious gift in the universe, God's Holy Spirit, until you are craving for it. You've go to be thirsty in a special way; and (2) Unless you get the real Spirit, and not some counterfeit "Spirit", you'll stay thirsty.
Brethren and sisters, we're on a brand new ship -- a fantastic ship -- but the sailors are thirsty. We have wandered through the desert of affliction as the Lord has burned away our worldliness and those who would not be burned have metaphorically "died" by leaving us. To the very last hour we were put under tremendous pressure, each and every one of us in our different ways. The devil offered us Coca-Cola, 7-Up and Fanta Orange but it didn't slake our thirst. Christ said: Wait a little longer and I will give you the real thing. My, those months were hard, but you are going to come to treasure them with all your hearts one day. Some of you are already being blessed by that time and have told me personally how you have been strengthened.
The Lord Jesus Christ has a special drink to give to you. It's the only one that will satisfy you. Other spiritual drinks may give you a short-term "kick" of pleasure but that pleasure won't last -- I guarantee it. Those of who have left us because they were tempted by the advertisements of the world's drinks will, I guarantee you, be thirsting again sooner or later. They will search but not find, for no-one will be able to give them what deep down they crave.
A Message for the Children
Now I particularly want to talk to you children today. Some of you have been baptized because you have made the decision to follow Jesus Christ. That was an important decision in your life. However, you won't be able to live the Gospel -- the commandments, the moral law, the teachings of Jesus -- until you, like the adults, have obtained the water of life, the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit your best efforts will fail. Without the Holy Spirit you are going to make no more progress than the Jews under the Law of Moses did in observing the Feast of Tabernacles.
When Jesus made His prophetic promise that "rivers of living water" would flow out of the heart of the thirsting believer, He did so on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. That in itself is significant.
The Feast of Tabernacles
Jesus had sent His disciples ahead of Him to attend the Feast. He Himself had said that He was not going to the Feast (v.8). Sometime during the middle of the Feast, Jesus had arrived in Jerusalem and taught in the temple (v.14). His teaching raised many questions as to His education (v.15) and people really wondered if He was the Messiah (v.26). Not until the last day did the Saviour make His invitation. Why? These are the reasons:
To redress this imbalance we need to understand what the Old Covenant Feast of Tabernacles was and what the New Covenant Feast of Tabernacles is.
1. The last day of the Feast of Tabernacles was religion at its best. Jesus knew that religion never satisfies the thirst for the Spirit of God. All of you, over the years, have tried to do what is right by living the covenants you have made with the Most High. Everyone has struggled. Most of you have come to see that trying to live the Gospel in our own strength is impossible;
2. The Feast of Tabernacles was man's best effort to fulfil what God wanted of them. Jesus knew that man's efforts would never satisfy the thirst for the Spirit of God. You have all made great efforts to live the temple covenants but that is not enough. You'll never manage without the Holy Spirit. If you've struggled, or fallen out of the temple, then it's because you either openly rebelled or lacked the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
The Feast of Tabernacles was the third feast that the Jews were required to attend. It was also known as the Feast of Booths, or In-gathering (Ex.23:16; Lev.23:42). It had three major components:
We therefore come before the Lord to thank him for the spiritual rain of the last 9 years, both in our spiritual deserts as well as in times of refreshing -- for all the light and truth that has been poured out from heaven and that has blessed us so abundantly. We also come before the Lord to anticipate the rains of the Messianic age -- the pentecostal endowment that is promised all Christians who thirst and hunger after righteousness. And we come to thank the Lord for the spiritual rains that shall come hereafter.
1. A Celebration of the Harvest. On the 15th day of the seventh month when all the harvest was gathered in a feast was held to celebrate the harvest and the faithfulness of God in His provision of rain. Sacrifices by fire were made for seven days and the eighth day was a sacred assembly. My friends, do you see the prophetic significance of this Feast to us today? You, the members of the Church here in Norway have passed through the fire for seven prophetic days, or years. You are the harvest, the ingathering! Today, and the year lying ahead of us, is a time of celebration. This year, brethren and sisters, we celebrate what God has done for us. And He has done a lot, has He not?
2. A Celebration of Joy. It is written: "You shall rejoice in your feast" (Deut.16:14). This year, this eighth year in Norway, is to be a time of great joy. One Jewish rabbi, commenting on the feast, has said: "He who has not seen the joy at the place of water-drawing has not experienced joy." Joy. We have yet to see joy in our meetings, brethren and sisters. For seven years we have wandered through the desert of affliction, as God has purified us. But now the Promised Land is in sight! Isn't that enough to cheer the soul? We are standing at the River Jordan and have yet to cross it, but the prize is in view. The day of the weak "Amen" after prayer is over and the day of joyous song and dance before Jehovah has come. Never mind what the Michals think -- do you remember Michal, the wife of David? She despised her husband because he danced half-naked before the Ark of the Covenant. When David celebrated the coming of the Ark into Jerusalem, He really celebrated! There were no long faces in the crowd -- no bored, restless, fidgety children -- they were all dancing and celebrating. So must we. And that means that the dispensation of long and numerous sermons without accompanying joy, like this one, must soon end!
3. A Feast of Water Drawing. For hundreds of years water played a significant part in the celebrations at the Feast of Tabernacles. The Jews celebrated God's faithful provision of rain as well as looked forward in hope to the anticipated "rains" of the Messianic age. On the last day of the Feast, priests and pilgrims went with great joy to Siloam and returned with water. A mixture of water and wine were poured on the altar with thanksgiving to God for water in the desert (Ex.17:1-7; Num.20:8-13) and anticipated spiritual rains (Ez.47:1-9; Zech.13:1) and faithful provision of future rain (Joel 2:22-23).
As the procession returned with water from Siloam, silver trumpets rang out and great choirs sang the Great Hallel of Psalms 113-118, concluding with the words: "O give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever". The priest would then hold a ceremonial jug of water towards the East and pour out the water which would flow down the altar steps. The band would then cut loose and the choirs sing, and the people would shout out the words of Isaiah 12:3 -- "with joy you will draw water from the wells of Salvation." It was at this very moment that Jesus cried out: "If a man is thirsty let him come to Me and let him drink, who believes in Me."
Everyone who heard Jesus would, because of the context of His words, know exactly what He meant and would have sensed the thirst for fulfillment of what was happening.
Today the Lord makes the same invitation to us to drink. By His grace, He is inviting those who are thirsty to come and drink. And He will pour out His Spirit upon His people to answer that thirst.
Vision of the Giant Fish
Many years ago, while in Denmark, I had a strange vision. I saw, in the sky, a huge fish with a door in the side. In the doorway was a man throwing small fish into the water beneath him. As each fish struck the water, it suddenly came to life. The water was teaming with fish.
That was a prophecy for us. Now, you may wonder, where did the ceremony of pouring out water come from? It comes from the prophet Ezekiel who saw water flowing from the "threshold of the temple towards the east". This river became an ever deepening river as God measured a thousand. That river is an image of the ever increasing abundance of the Holy Spirit that God desires to pour upon us.
The scripture continues: "The man went out to the east with a line in his hand" (Ezek.47:3). The depth of the water is determined by the response to the distance measured by the measuring line. What is that line? It is the Word of God. It is the Covenants of God. In Zechariah 4:10 we read: "The seven (spirits of God) rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel."
Brethren and sister, the depth of the Spirit that we are going to enjoy in this Church and our progress towards the fulfillment of all that God intends will be determined by our measuring the Word and our obedience to it and the Covenants.
Ezekiel remarked: "It was a river that I could not cross, for the water was too deep" (v.5). This was a critical moment for the prophet. He knew he could not cross the river, so what was he to do? He let go! He stopped trying to control the situation!
The New Covenant Crossing
We face a spiritual River Jordan. We must cross it to get to the other side to our Promised Land, to the Holy City of Kadesh. How are we going to cross it? It is too deep for us to wade across. There are no bridges, no boats, so what shall we do?
We must give complete control to the Lord, as Samuel did when he ordered the Levites to march with the Ark of the Covenant to the east bank.
For the last nine months we have been standing on the east bank of Jordan wondering how on earth we were going to cross. For nine months we have prayed for Kadesh, sometimes earnestly, sometimes half-heartedly, sometimes not at all. And we have suffered, how we have suffered! Some have walked away in disbelief. We have petitioned the Lord for guidance -- He has spoken in visions but never given the exact location. Why? What have we done wrong?
The great 19th century Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once said: "Are we expecting God to move, or God to move the way we expect?"
Think about that for a moment. How have we been expecting the Lord to act? Have we come before Him with pre-conceived ideas? What have we been doing on the east bank of Jordan these last nine months?
I said to you that the depth of the Spirit we will enjoy will be in direct proportion to our faithfulness to the covenants. If the depth of our commitment has been weak, then we will never cross the mighty Jordan. It will be too deep for us and if we crossed we would be drowned. And some have tried to do that -- or at least got their feet wet, been disappointed that nothing happened, and returned to the shore depressed. I remember that one of the members recently said that it felt as though God had abandoned us.
No He hasn't. We have, to varying degrees, deserted Him by failing to control ourselves. We can't control the Jordan, but we can control our own souls -- our minds, hearts, and bodies. Remember, that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Those who lack self-control lack the Spirit.
It is useless petitioning the Lord to control the Jordan by parting its waters for us to cross if we aren't unified in mind, heart and spirit. That is one the greatest short-term tasks that faces us today. It is beginning to happen -- several of us have experienced this oneness of mind and heart, this silent understanding. But before all those who are called to cross can cross, they must all be one.
Again, I remind you, that we, of our own power, cannot control self. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Therefore the question must again be asked: Are you trying to control the Spirit of God by earning His favour, or are you totally surrendering to His Word -- His Covenants -- and allowing Him to take control?
Get in and Wade!
Ezekiel waded into the river coming out of the temple. First, led by the angel a thousand cubits, he went ankle-deep. He paused while the angel measured another thousand cubits, and waded until he was waist deep. The angel measured another thousand cubits but Ezekiel could go no further.
These past seven years you have been led into progressively deeper and deeper covenants -- first ankle deep, then waist deep, until you could go no further. You have gone as far as you could individually go, and stopped. Some were very frustrated, some very upset, that they could go no further. But I tell you, the next step would have been drowning.
When Ezekiel could go no further, the angel led him back to the river back. He had gone as far as he could go in his own power. He had gone as far as the Old Covenant would take anybody.
Brethren and sisters, learn this important truth -- you, and you alone, must of your own initiative wade first ankle-deep into the covenants, then knee-deep, then waste-deep, then shoulder-deep -- only then will the Lord Himself take you the rest of the way. If you quit half way, or don't even step into the water, and then ask the Lord to take you across, what do you think will happen? Nothing. Because you have not performed your act of faith.
Now if God has commanded you to go into the river and you can go no further -- if He has commanded you to enter into sacred covenants and you feel you can go no further -- what do you conclude? You have only two answers: either you must conclude that God was mistaken and that you were never supposed to enter into such covenants, or that God will bear you Himself the rest of the way. And that is what has happened. Many have abandoned the Church because they have said that the covenants were too hard, therefore they cannot be of God, therefore they are man-made. So they give up and then deny what the Spirit led them into in the beginning.
This is the fruit of a lazy and rebellious spirit. They fall back on false doctrines to justify themselves, like saying: The Lord must do everything, there is absolutely nothing we can do. False.
This river of life -- this spiritual Jordan -- is in God. "I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end" (Rev.21:6), says the Lord. We can absolutely trust God that He has started something that He will finish so long as we go with the river and trust Him to do it. Otherwise everything we have done these last 7 or 9 years has been in vain. Is there anyone who believes this?
100% Commitments Preceeds the Vision
Ezekiel is eventually shown the destination of the river, but only after he has committed himself 100%. He sees it empty into the Dead Sea and transform it into a Living Sea teaming with fish. And that Dead Sea, brethren and sisters, is you and me -- dead in sin -- but made alive in the Spirit.
Once Ezekiel was committed he was shown that there were many trees on either side of the river (v.7). These trees will provide food, their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month (Psalm 1:3). This fruit is the fruit of faith that Jesus looks for in the House of Prayer (Mark 11:22-24) and which He has chosen and ordained for us (John 15:1-17).
Let me remind you of God's promises to us. Jesus said: "Have faith in God...I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins" (Mark 11:22-26).
This faith is not blind -- it is predicated upon the righteousness of forgiveness. God will grant whatever request you make to Him because you have completely forgiven all others -- and yourself. When you have done that -- you will be praying in the Spirit, and the Spirit will always lead you to ask for, and do, what is right.
The Great Crossing Point
Now listen to this. The river Ezekiel saw flowing from the temple did not go directly into the Dead Sea -- it went into the River Jordan, a little north of the Dead Sea. Now it does not say in the scripture where it joins the Jordan exactly, but I have a deep sense that it joined where the children of Israel crossed under Joshua to take Jericho.
Think of that! Two great historical and prophetic events combining into one! Entry into the Promised Land and entry into God's Spiritual Land. They are one and the same. This river, where does it come from? The temple. What enabled the Levites to cross the Jordan under the leadership of Joshua? The Ark of the Covenant. There you have it -- temple + covenant = crossing!
Now we all desire Kadesh -- we all want to cross Jordan, lay siege to Jericho, and take the Promised Land. But wait a minute! Something else has to happen first -- we have to enter an inner, spiritual land first. We must enter our own souls, call upon the redeeming love of Jesus to heal our dead spirits, and be born anew!
If we are to understand the prophetic pictures given in the Bible, these two events are to take place simultaneously. The river of God comes from the temple and enters the Jordan at the very point where we are to cross into the Promised land. As we march westwards, overcoming our foes -- our obstacles to Zion -- so we are healed inwardly and become fruitful. The two go together.
What must happen must be supernatural. It must be. Where does the Dead Sea get its water supply from today? The Sea of Galilee. Why, then, isn't the Dead Sea alive today? Because the Sea of Galilee is a picture of the world, with its storms that the Messiah must continually be calming while we ride our boats of doubt and faithlessness. The Lord is saying: What are you doing in Galilee, New Covenant Christians? Why are you searching for natural solutions to Kadesh? You know that you don't have the economic resources to built it, so why think naturally? Stop looking north. Look west, to the temple mount. That is where the living waters are going to come from.
The Stagnant Saints
Brethren and sisters, the natural way ends in death. Its is the Spirit which gives life (2 Cor.3:6). There is a warning in Ezekiel -- I wonder if you've ever noticed it? Though the Dead Sea is healed, it says: "But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt" (v.11). Why? Why not heal the whole area?
Well, this is why: Swamps and marshes are areas of land where water has touched but does not flow. It is stagnant water. There are many people who have been, and will be, touched by the waters of the New Covenant who won't do anything. They will sit on the edge of the river waiting to be carried across without doing anything. They won't be carried across. They will stay where they are and spiritually die, because they won't receive life.
Movement and Life
Life is in movement. The moment you stop moving in the Spirit, the moment you stand still and do nothing for the Lord and His Kingdom, you stagnate and die. Have you become lazy? Have you become indifferent? Watch out, you are condemning yourself to spiritual death. Get those ankles wet, then your knees, then your waist, then your shoulders, and then cry out to the Lord, saying: "Lord, take me to the other side!"
The fulfillment of the prophecy of Ezekiel is in Jesus Christ Himself. Those of you who are here, and who are coming back at this hour, have done what James the apostle said: "Be patient, then brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You, too, be patient, and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!" (James 5:7-9).
The Lord of the Latter Rain
This autumn and spring rain has come, and is coming. The prophet Joel writes: "Be glad, then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God; For He has given you the former rain faithfully, and he will cause the rain to come down for you -- the former rain and the latter rain in the first month" (Joel 2:23).
The former rain prepares the soil for sowing -- this was received by the Independent Church. The latter rain causes the grain to swell and the fruit to come forth before the harvest. We now call upon the Lord for the latter rain -- the rain that will bring this work to fruition.
When this latter rain comes -- our endowment -- then we must plant and reap faster and faster. We were given 7-9 years to come as far as we have -- the next generation of converts will require far less. The season we are awaiting is prophesied by Amos who declared: "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when the plowman will overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains will drip with sweet wine and all the hills shall flow with it" (Amos 9:13).
Brethren and sisters, the correct celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles is the key to our endowment and growth both in terms of establishing Zion as well as -- and even more importantly (for this is the immediate purpose of Zion) -- preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout the world.
Did you know that the Feast of Tabernacles was the occasion on which Solomon dedicated the temple? And do you remember what happened at that time? The presence of the Lord was so strong that "the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God" (2 Chr.5:14).
Four Things to Celebrate at Tabernacles
So I suppose that leaves us with one final questions: how does the Lord want us to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles this year? There are four things we must do. Let me tell them to you one by one:
As the Word of the Lord was read and understood by the people in Nehemiah's day, they began to weep as they realised their disobedience to God. God is more interested in obedience rather than sorrow (Isa.58:5-14) and so the leaders directed the people, saying: "This day is holy to the Lord, do not mourn or weep." Understand this, that there is no holiness in mourning and weeping. Mourning and weeping preceded holiness. The Hebrew word "holy" carries with it a different meaning to what our religious minds would like. It's quite different to what most suppose it means. It is more than cleanliness, purity, set-apart, "peculiar", and all the other terms we have come to associate with this key word. The word "holy" in Hebrew also means "to be bright, to be cheerful, to spin around under the influence of an outpouring of the Spirit".
(1) UNITY. In Nehemiah we read: "They gathered as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate" (Neh.8:1). If there is no unity, there can be no spiritual endowment. We must be one, united in covenant. David said: "It is good when brothers dwell together in unity" (Ps.133:1). What happened when Solomon dedicated the temple? "The trumpeters are singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the Lord" (2 Chr.5:13). And what did they sing? "He is good; His love endures for ever" (Ibid.).
Why did the Spirit pour out upon the first Christians on the day of Pentecost? It was because the disciples "continued with one accord in prayer and supplication" (Acts 1:14) and were all "with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1).
Brethren, we had that unity on the second Sunday of our General Conference -- that unity must be present from now on, and for all time.
(2) THE WORD OF GOD. The Spirit of God comes when God has a people who are available and ready to hear the Word of God: "Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears everyone who hears it will tingle" (1 Sam.3:11). Firstly, God had to have someone who was listening.
I have been talking a long time now -- have you all been listening? Has anyone been daydreaming? Has anyone been distracted? This is the Word of God that is being preached to you today and if you won't hear it you won't get the Spirit! Are you tired after 40 minutes? Do you know what happened in Nehemiah's day? "They read from morning to midday before the men and women who could hear with understanding; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law" (Neh.8:3).
Are you men and women who hear with understanding? Not just today, but every time we congregate together? How do you look upon the Word of God. Do you know how the people in Nehemiah's day reverenced the Word of the Lord? "When Ezra opened the book, all the people stood up" (v.5).
The leaders helped the people understand the Law, the scripture continues (v.7). They read "distinctly and helped them to understand the reading" (v.8). "All the people rejoiced greatly because they understood the words that were declared to them." (v.12). Sunday School lessons, temple education, family Bible study -- these are all sacred times. They are all a part of the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.
(3) GIVING. One of the clear instructions for the Feast of Tabernacles was "no man should appear before the Lord empty handed" (Deut.16:16). This is not just a reference to the giving of tithes and offerings (Mal.3:19) but to your time, your energy, your talents, your gifts. It means that you are called to give of yourself -- all of you -- to the Lord. Only then will, as Malachi promises, will the Lord "pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it" (Ibid.).
(4) REJOICING. As we have seen, the Feast of Tabernacles was marked with great rejoicing. Perhaps you have grown accustomed to thinking that the Lord is only pleased with us when we come forward with tears of repentance and deep sorrow. Good and necessary though these things are, they all too easily appeal to the religious mind and behaviour without getting to the core of the soul.
And why is this so? Because, as the Word of God says: "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (v.10). For us, as New Covenant Christians coming through the birthing period, celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles before the anticipated blessings, and rejoicing before God, is related to the anticipation of harvest -- of souls coming to Christ, of gathering to Zion, of all that we have been called to.
Each year, in the summer, we will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles -- one week of joyous celebration. We've never done it before because we haven't had cause to. But starting with a year's celebration, we shall do it, because it is the will of God.
With David, we shall now sing: "Restore to me the joy of my salvation and uphold me with your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways and sinners shall be converted to you" (Ps.51:12-13).
Missionary work. No Spirit, no joy, no conversion, no harvest. God's Spirit, joy, conversion, harvest.
"Let the people praise You, O God. Let all the peoples praise You. O let the nations be glad and sing for joy!... Let the peoples praise You, O God, let all the peoples praise You. Then the earth shall yield her increase; God, our God, shall bless us. And all the ends of the earth shall fear Him" (Ps.65:3-7).
The same thought is found in Joel 2:23-24. The command is given for a time of rejoicing. It follows the call to fasting and weeping (v.15-17). It is as though the Lord has accepted our prayers and now is "jealous for His land" (v.18). The rejoicing is again in anticipation of the "former and the latter rain in one month" (v.23) with the resulting harvest.
The Feast of Tabernacles concluded with the prayer for rain and often the rain commences shortly afterwards. As we celebrate Tabernacles and obey the principles of the Feast we can anticipate the cherished blessings.
The Patriarchate therefore issues this directive to all the NPKFs -- to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in praise of what God has done for us these past years and in anticipation of what He is now going to do for us. I invite every baptized member to present themselves individually before the Patriarchate to declare their intent regarding this festival and to thereafter dedicate themselves to realising it this year, and all those moved by the Holy Spirit to unite with us to request baptism as soon as possible. Let music and dance be prepared for the congregations, and all dedicate their talents to God's praise, at home, in Church, and in the Temple.
I therefore declare, in the Name of Jesus Christ, a year of praise to the Lord! May He do as He wills and show us the way we shall now go. Praise the Lord! Amen.
This page was created on 17 April 1998
Last updated on 17 April 1998
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