“Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year: You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread … and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field.” Exodus 23:14-16
Our focus text identifies the three feasts, instituted by God, that were required of the Jewish people to be kept every year. The first was the feast of unleavened bread which began with the Passover. The second came fifty days later and is called a variety of names throughout scripture: the Feast of Harvest, the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. The third feast, at the end of their religious calendar, was the Feast of Ingathering also called the Day of Atonement.
Eventually two more feasts would be added to the Jewish calendar. The first of these, called Purim, followed God’s rescue of the Jews from the plotting of Haman during the time of Queen Esther. The second of these rabbinically appointed feasts was the feast of Hanukkah which celebrates the restoration of Temple services following the desecration of the Temple at the hands of the Greeks.
The divinely appointed feasts each fell shortly following one of the three harvests of the staple crops used by the people. The first was the barley harvest, the second was the wheat harvest, and the third was the olive and grape harvest which occurred together.
At the times of these festivals the people would return their tithes and offerings to the temple. At this time they would also, as a nation, worship God, recalling his mighty acts in delivering them from Egypt, parting the Red Sea, giving them the Ten Commandments and the rest of the law, and making them his people.
By calling the people to leave their homes and assemble before him at the Temple God was also able to break the people out of their day to day routines and work a revival in their lives, deepening their awareness and understanding of him and consolidating their identity of being a holy people dedicated to him.
I’ve seen the same kind of effect occur in relationship to events like camp meeting, an eight day gathering for worship and Bible instruction commonly celebrated by Adventists in North America. There’s something about going and worshiping in a place we don’t usually worship, being with people we don’t often see, and in numbers we don’t often experience that does things for our walk with the Lord that staying home doesn’t do. It’s like we forget who we really are as a people, as a church, if we allow ourselves to be too isolated from the church as a whole.
As I write this, camp meeting is still months away. I’d encourage you to begin now to plan to attend at least part of that camp meeting convocation. It comes just once a year. God called the children of Israel to convene three times a year when traveling was much slower and more difficult.
The blessing we’re able to receive at camp meeting is great but we have to go if we’re going to receive it.