Like the Feast of the Tabernacles

The nation of Israel celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles last month
from October 9-16. It is one of the three pilgrimage feasts of Israel, the
other two being Pentecost and the Passover (c.f. Exo 23:14-17; Deut.
16:16). During these feasts, the men of the children of Israel are to
journey to Jerusalem and to worship the Lord.

There are two main words used to describe the holy feasts ordained by
God. The first word is (hag), which has the idea of a joyous yet
solemn celebration. The other word is (moed) which means fixed
times or seasons. The feasts were therefore appointed times when
God’s people were to gather to worship Him. These feasts were to be
conducted in the beauty of holiness and in much sobriety, yet with
much joy in the LORD.

The details of the keeping of the Feast of Tabernacles of Booths
(sukkot) can be found in Leviticus 23:33-44. The beginning of this
feast was on the 15th day of the seventh month. The children of Israel
were to construct booths made from the boughs of goodly trees. They
were to dwell in these booths for seven days, rejoicing in the LORD,
praising His name, and learning from the Word of God. The feast was
to remind them of how God had brought the children of Israel out of
Egypt and led them through the wilderness. They lived in booths for 40
years before entering the Promised Land and conquered it. Thus, they
must remember that Israel is a spiritual nation, unlike the other nations
of the world. It was also a poignant lesson that this world is not their
home. They are just pilgrims passing through, till they reach their
heavenly home above.

When the festival was kept sincerely from the heart according to God’s
stipulations, the peoples’ hearts were filled with joy as they marvelled
at the goodness of the Lord. “And on the second day were gathered
together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the
Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the
law. 14 And they found written in the law which the LORD had
commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in
booths in the feast of the seventh month: 15 And that they should
publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go
forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches,
and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick
trees, to make booths, as it is written. 16 So the people went forth, and
brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof
of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of
God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate
of Ephraim. 17 And all the congregation of them that were come again
out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since
the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children
of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. 18 Also day by
day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the
law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day
was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner.” (Neh. 8:13-18)

Our annual church camp is in some ways similar in spirit to the Feast
of the Tabernacles. We are called to gather for a time of spiritual
refreshment and instruction in God’s Word. This concentrated time of
learning of the Scriptures and fellowship with the saints is good for our
souls. We are also blessed to be able to travel overseas to Hotel Jen,
Puteri Harbour for the church camp this year. This will assist us to
fully concentrate in fully seeking the Lord. If we come with hearts
prepared to meet with the Lord, our time at the church camp will surely
be like a foretaste of heaven above.

As we are nearing the time of the church camp (December 5-9), let us
remember to pray for the camp committee, that the Lord will grant
them grace in the preparation of the camp. May the Lord find it
pleasing to grant us a most blessed fellowship in His precious Word.
Looking forward to seeing all of you at the camp.

Electronic Bibles?

With the advancement of technology, it has been common to find many beginning
to use electronic Bibles and Bible software. These can be useful for our spiritual
growth and I use these for my personal study and preparation of sermons.
However, I am somewhat hesitant to recommend the use of electronic Bibles and
Bible software during worship services, especially when it is found on devices
connected to the Internet such as mobile phones. These devices can be a
distraction when messages or notifications pop up on the screen. Therefore, the
advice given for worship services is that we should use our printed Bibles.
The same goes for church camp. The use of printed Bibles will keep the
distractions of app notifications and messages away from us. If we want to
receive God’s Word, we must first take away anything that distracts us from
receiving it. Using printed Bibles will be a good first step.

Luther on the Hearing of Sermons

During the video which we watched on Reformation Sunday, we learnt how
Luther emphasised the participation of the whole congregation in the worship of
God. Every believer is a priest of God, and thus able to offer spiritual sacrifices
unto the Lord, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy
priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus
Christ.” (1 Pet. 2:5)

In the past, the congregation sat passively during the mass even as portions of
Scripture were read. Luther rightly taught and demanded from God’s Word that
all who come to worship the Lord must be active hearers when the sermon was
preached. The sermon was also to be the center of the worship service. This is one
of the rich biblical heritage that was left for us from the 16th century Reformation.
If we are to be true recipients of God’s Word, let us first not be passive but active
hearers whenever the Word of God is preached.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew