Pastor Irene Chong of Tabernacle of David stepped onstage to welcome the guests for the much anticipated Feasts of Tabernacles, held in conjunction with the church’s 40th anniversary.
Held against the backdrop of various colourful fruits, worshippers and shofar blowers danced in joy for the Lord, lifting the spirits of the broken and contrite.
In this festive season, Pastor Irene shared about the Feast of Tabernacles. The Jews or Israelites were asked to gather four types of trees (Lev 23:40) and rejoice before God. It is a practice of the Jews, even today.
And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days (Lev 23:40).
“What is the heart and mind of God? Why didn’t God ask for roses, lilies or something pretty? But God said bring these (things) and rejoice before Him?”
“There’s always a reason, a story behind (every celebration). I do not presume to know, but I can only reach down to the heart of God to what He feels about it,” Pastor Irene shared enthusiastically.
“In the Word of God, humans are metaphorically referred to as trees (Judges 9:8-15; Psalm 1:3). The four trees could likely refer to four types of people in God”, shared Pastor Irene.
The fruit of beautiful trees represents those who are fruitful.
These are the group of people who are in a good place right now. They are seeing harvest and results from their labour. They have fruits, and their fruits are a blessing to them and others.”
The branches of palm trees represent those who are righteous but could be self-righteous as well, unbendable in the truth. Like the palm tree branch, they appeared straight and rigid.
Palm trees speak about righteousness. But they can also speak about being rigid, legalistic, and religious.
“They are full of truth but they lack grace. They cannot accommodate those who are weak and struggling. They are like the Pharisees in the Bible.”
The thick and leafy plants represent believers who do not have a name, unlike their contemporaries of palm trees or willows, shared Pastor Irene. They make up the majority of believers – the common and ordinary in the eyes of the world.
The Jews would put together in a bundle – three thick and leafy plants, two willow branches, one palm branch and one fruit – to wave in the Feast of Tabernacles.
Therefore, the thick and leafy plants make the highest number in the bundle. This indicates how most believers fall under this group, shared Pastor Irene.
Finally, the willow of the brook represents sorrowful believers, with its notable species of weeping willow, she continued.
“The willows of the brook are the weeping and sorrowful. But they are hardy like the willow; they are still able to flex and bend without breaking.”
God wants all people – whether fruitful, rigid, ordinary and sorrowful – to come and rejoice before Him in the Feast (Lev 23:40), she shared. He welcomes all to come, as they are.
“I believe among us here today, there are four groups of people. Some are common and ordinary like the thick and leafy plants. Some are more prominent like the named palm tree or willow tree.
“It’s God’s choice. Some God choose to be known, while others less known. Most of us fall in the less known category.
“No matter your station or condition, God says, ‘It is my feast, just come as you are.’ His heart is so big and loving that He has room for each of us today.
“He does not favour one over another. God does not say, ‘Only the fruitful ones can come because they bring offerings.’ He welcomes everyone.
“But what do you do when you come? You can rejoice because God promises to bless those who keep the feast (Deut 16:15)!
For seven days celebrate the festival to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete. (Deut 16:15)
“God will cause rain to come! When the rain comes, you will not become a stiff plant but you will blossom and open up.”
The Jews will wave their bundle (or Lulav), from their heart and then outward, before drawing it back to their heart.
“It’s a time to go out and not stay in. We want to reach out. We don’t want to be internal-looking anymore, like a dead sea,” shared Pastor Irene, in regards to the church.
The church needs to be like the Sea of Galilee with a continuous flowing in and out; God who took the church out (of the old season) will bring the church in (to the new season), shared Pastor Irene.
The sermon ended with a scrumptious lunch with a joyous celebration in the church.
Everyone went home refreshed by the Word of God; each bringing home a bag of fruits from the Tabernacle of David.
| Share the Good News |