Three Times a Year in One Accord
by: Robert (Bob) Somerville
"Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me.” (Exodus 23:14)
God identified three times in the year that His people would gather as one body before Him to demonstrate their common ground of faith in Yahweh as the one true God. Although the names of these three times of assembly may vary, they are most commonly identified as Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Ancient Israel is a foreshadowing of the church. The lesson to be learned in this for the church today is to acknowledge our need for a public demonstration of community (common-unity) in Jesus, and to acknowledge the lordship of Jesus over His body, the church. God is very concerned that His people faithfully demonstrate collective unity in Him regardless of tribal affiliation (denomination). Yahweh clearly stated that He wanted these festivals to be celebrated by His people in perpetuity, that is “forever” (Exodus12:14, Leviticus 23:21, Leviticus 23:41, Hebrews 13:8). These celebrations are happening in Huntsville, Alabama, and in our Tennessee Valley region!
Unity at Passover
The festival of Passover began the annual cycle of corporate celebration in unity. In John 13:35 Jesus, having celebrated the Passover with His disciples, said “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." To what is Jesus referring? He is encouraging a meaningful demonstration of corporate unity and love through the Passover meal. In 2 Chronicles 30, King Hezekiah commanded something very similar and for the same reason of unity. After 40 years of neglect, the king ordered the tribe of Judah to lead the way in restoring the corporate celebration of Passover in unity. An invitation was sent to the ten revolted tribes to stir them up to come and attend this festival, not with any political design to bring Judah and Israel back together, but with a design to bring them back to the Lord God of Israel. This can be a prophetic lesson to the politically/denominationally divided Christian community of today. We should set aside differences that we might corporately celebrate the Lamb of God through whom we have redemption by His blood. 2 Chronicles 30:10 records that some scorned the invitation but many came from all tribes to celebrate the Passover.
Unity at Pentecost
The common-unity and corporate relatedness of God's people is established in these words from the Lord in Exodus 19:5-6. “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” It is well established in Jewish tradition that this declaration, and the giving of the Ten Commandments, occurred on the original day of Pentecost at Sinai. The feast of Pentecost should be celebrated in the Tennessee Valley as the birthday of the Church (the priesthood of all believers). It is a special time to cry out for fresh anointing upon every member of the body of Christ. Pentecost celebrates our unity through the anointed word and spirit. The fire that fell on Sinai at Pentecost (Exodus 19:18) is the same fire that fell in the upper room at Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2:1-3, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord (unity) in one place.” God works where there is unity in righteousness. The power of Pentecost was due in great part to the unity of these saints and the bond of their peace through the Holy Spirit.
Unity at Tabernacles
Both Old and New Testaments identify the feast of Tabernacles as a time for corporate celebration (John 7:2). The lesson of unity is found in Nehemiah 8:1, 9-18, “When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel. This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep. Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves booths on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim. The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great. They celebrated the feast for seven days.” Again it is stated of the festival of Tabernacles; “And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem. They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required;" (Ezra 3:1,4). A corporate Celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in the Tennessee Valley is an acknowledgment that all of us together represent the “Tabernacle of God” among men (Revelation 21:3).
Three times a year in the Tennessee Valley: “If not us, who? If not now, when?”