The Jerusalem Debate – Objection Number 7: Keep the feasts outside of Jerusalem! | The Lamb’s Servant
Response by Bob Parham
Deut 30 – (1) When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, (2) and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, (3) then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.
What a beautiful passage! What does this passage have to do with whether it is good to keep the Pilgrimage Feasts outside the land or not? Very much! But what is it telling us: To keep the feast outside the land, or to NOT keep the feast while outside the land?
It was (erroneously) explained to me that when we keep the Pilgrimage Feasts outside the land, we show Yah that we are returning to Him and that we want to keep His commandments fully. Therefore, we should do the feasts in any of our cities that we choose, to show Him that we are doing our best to keep His commands, relying on Him to honor our obedience and ultimately bring us home (with the implication that when we come home we will be able to do ALL the commands).
But what are the commands concerning the Pilgrimage Feasts that would tell us whether we are or aren’t being obedient to Yah’s commands when we observe the feasts outside of Jerusalem?
Here are a few verses that might give you a hint as to one of them:
Deut 12:18 – But thou must eat them before YHWH thy God in the place which YHWH thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before YHWH thy God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto.
Deut 14:23 – And thou shalt eat before YHWH thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear YHWH thy God always.
Deut. 16:5-6 – You must not sacrifice the Passover in any town the Lord your God gives you except in the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name.
See also (Deut 15:20) (Deut 16:2) (Deut 16:5-7) (John 4:45; John 11:55); regarding the Pilgrimage Feasts, see (Deut 16:11, Deut 15-16) (Deut 17:10) (Deut 31:10-12) (Joshua 9:26-27) (2 Chro. 7:11-16) (Psalms 122:1-6) (Isaiah 18:7).
If you took time to read any of these verses, you found that the Pilgrimage Feasts are only to be observed “at the place YHWH your God will choose”! Scripture only gives us ONE place in which He wants us to observe the Pilgrimage Feasts, and that place is JERUSALEM! So are we really ‘keeping His commands’ if we are breaking parts of them that we could keep?
There is another command that is very similar to the command we just looked at. It has to do with where a Feast is kept as well. It’s the command concerning sacrificing. We know that we can only do sacrificing in Jerusalem on a sanctified altar with a ritually clean Levitical priest. I was shocked to realize that if I were to sacrifice, “in any of your towns,” it would be like sacrificing to goat demons and I would be guilty of shedding blood.
Everyone should be in full agreement that Jerusalem is now the only city in which sacrificing can take place, not in any city that one chooses.
Leviticus 17 – The Lord said to Moses, (2) “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites and say to them: ‘This is what the Lord has commanded: (3) Any Israelite who sacrifices an ox, a lamb or a goat in the camp or outside of it (4) instead of bringing it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the Lord in front of the tabernacle of the Lord—that person shall be considered guilty of bloodshed; they have shed blood and must be cut off from their people. (5) This is so the Israelites will bring to the Lord the sacrifices they are now making in the open fields. They must bring them to the priest, that is, to the Lord, at the entrance to the tent of meeting and sacrifice them as fellowship offerings. (6) The priest is to splash the blood against the altar of the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting and burn the fat as an aroma pleasing to the Lord. (7) They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come.’
We also see punishment tied to not coming to Jerusalem for the feasts during the coming Kingdom Age in Zechariah 14: 16 – 19.
(16) Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. (17) If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. (18) If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The Lord will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. (19) This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.
Did you notice how it talked about Egypt here? But was Egypt the only nation He says will be punished? NO! Egypt AND the NATIONS that “do not go up” to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles will receive their punishment.
What does it mean, “do not go up”? We see it three times in this passage, and the first mention defines it for you. The punishment comes if the nations don’t ‘go up’ to Jerusalem!
So, let me ask you, are we really showing Yah that we are willing to obey Him with all our heart and soul by actually breaking the command to observe the Pilgrimage Feasts only in Jerusalem, and instead allowing ourselves to observe them wherever we choose?
His feasts are designed to have you rejoicing before Him in Jerusalem.
My Feasts vs. Your Feasts
Yah talks a lot about His feasts and “your” feasts. He said He hates “your” feasts in Isaiah 1:14-20.
(14) Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. (15) When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! (16) Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. (17) Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. (18) “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (19) If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; (20) but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Isaiah was told to prophesy to the people because of their unclean WORSHIP. Yeshua also abhors unclean (improper) worship. In His eyes, it is not even true worship. In Matt 15:8, Y’shua quoted YHWH’s message to Isaiah’s people:
And so the Lord says,
“These people say they are mine.
They honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
And their worship of me
is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote. (Isaiah 29:13)
When we keep the Pilgrimage Feasts the way we want to, in a way that pleases us and is not in accordance with His commands, then the feasts become OURS and not HIS!
He said, “Your hands are full of blood!” What is one way that our hands are full of blood when we are keeping OUR feasts instead of His? He tells us this when we sacrifice in any of our cities that we choose. Look again at Leviticus 17:3-4 that was quoted earlier:
(3) Any Israelite who sacrifices an ox, a lamb or a goat in the camp or outside of it (4) instead of bringing it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the Lord in front of the tabernacle of the Lord—that person shall be considered guilty of bloodshed; they have shed blood and must be cut off from their people.”
I have been guilty of this very sin! For a short time, I was persuaded that I needed to perform Passover just like they did in Exodus. I thought I was doing this great spiritual and scriptural act of OBEDIENCE. I wanted to show my Elohim that I loved Him with all my heart and soul in the very place that I was dispersed to. But what I learned later was that I was guilty of bloodshed and had made sacrifices to goat demons! I was doing MY feasts, not Yah’s feasts! I quickly repented of this act.
I completely understand the desire to be a part of a gathering in the country you live in, but it should be a gathering to weep and mourn over the fact that Yah has taken the feasts away from us by sending us into the diaspora.
Instead of just taking the feasts back and doing them in any city that we choose (when commanded not to), we should be repenting of the sins of our fathers and our own sins and asking Yah to bring us back to the Land –
I will gather those who sorrow over the appointed assembly,
Who are among you,
To whom its reproach [the inability to observe it] is a burden. (Zeph 3:18)
Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept
as we thought of Jerusalem.
We put away our harps,
hanging them on the branches of poplar trees.
For our captors demanded a song from us.
Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn:
“Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!”
But how can we sing the songs of YHWH
while in a pagan land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget how to play the harp. (Ps 137: 1-5)
These passages, spoken to and by Israelites in captivity, record that the people were broken-hearted because they could NOT observe the Feasts when they were away from Jerusalem. They were not ‘celebrating’ a replacement feast in their own towns – they were mourning over their separation from the Land and their inability to observe as commanded.
I rejoice that I am able to observe the Pilgrimage Feasts in Jerusalem, but each time I go, I also visit the Western Wall and MOURN with Judah that we are not able to fully observe all of Yah’s commands.
It’s a Choice
Did you know that there are many gatherings all over the world that people pay thousands of dollars to attend? People will pay more to go to a Sukkot gathering in France or Germany than it would have cost them to go to Jerusalem, where they are supposed to be! The sad thing is that, for the most part, none of those gatherings teach the command to be in Jerusalem for the feasts. Jerusalem is forgotten and left alone.
The roads to Zion mourn
Because no one comes to the set feasts.
All her gates are desolate;
Her priests sigh,
Her virgins are afflicted,
And she is in bitterness. (Lam 1:4)
Many Sukkot gatherings are even hiring (or trying to hire) musicians and speakers to leave Jerusalem to come and play or speak in their gatherings in other countries. I talked to both kinds of people this year (2015) in Jerusalem. They said it was really tempting because of the money offered, but their heart’s yearning to be in Jerusalem for His feast days was stronger than the desire for the pay. Hallelu Yah!
If we cannot live in the Land, we can at least find a way to GO UP TO JERUSALEM for the Pilgrimage feasts. (I give you some suggestions for this in the article entitled “But What Should We Do?“)
We need to put our feasts to an end and start keeping Yah’s feasts again.