Today is the Feast of Pentecost, the third of the seven commanded assemblies of God, and the second of the three harvest seasons. Today, before we give the offering, I would like to give a short message to explain the biblical command to give an offering on God’s Holy Days, as many people do not understand the reason why God phrases His command to give offerings on the Holy Days the way that He does.
Three Times A Year
I would like you all to turn in your Bibles today to Deuteronomy 16:16-17. Deuteronomy 16:16-17 commands that all believers come to him with an offering based on the blessings He has provided them throughout the year in the harvests. Deuteronomy 16:16-17 reads as follows: “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.”
This passage prompts several questions, and I would like to briefly answer some of them today. First, why did God command every man to give as he is able, and every male to appear before God in the place where He chooses? Let us remember that in the time of the Bible, Holy Day services were not held at local cities, but were to be held in the central tabernacle or temple of God. Whether this was at Shiloh or Jerusalem, it meant substantial travel for people three times a year. The male of every house, as the head of household, was commanded to come for each festival and to bring an offering from the harvest that was occurring at the time, to show gratitude to God for his bountiful harvest. Though many men brought their whole families, wives and children, with them (as Elkanah was said to do in 1 Samuel 1:1-7), as is customary for us to do nowadays, this was not a command. God did not want to place too heavy a burden on the poorer Israelites.
Second, we must spend more time on the question of why God commanded Israel to come up before Him three times a year, even though the Bible lists seven Holy Days: The first and last day of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the First Day of Tabernacles, and the Eighth Day. As it happens, there is good reason for the command to come up three times a year. For one, the word for “times” in Hebrew is moedim, which means seasons or times. All of the Holy Days occur during three seasons: the spring, the early summer, and the fall. Additionally, the three seasons correspond to three harvests: the spring harvest of barley and flax, the summer harvest of wheat, and the fall harvest of grapes, olives, and other fruits.
Let us also remember that the children of Israel were literally to come up three times to the place where God chose His name. For the Passover, the first and last days of Unleavened Bread, and the wavesheaf offering they were to come up before God with the firstfruits of their barley harvest. In the summer, on Pentecost, they were to come up with the firstfruits of their wheat harvest. And during the fall, for the Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day, they were to bring the fruits of their fall harvest, their grapes and olive oil, for example. They gave these offerings during the seven commanded assemblies, as we do today, but they came up before God three times a year, during three seasons with the fruits of three harvests. Hopefully that makes the picture more clear.
Do Not Come Empty-Handed
Let us close today’s offratory message with the closing part of this commandment from God. We are not to appear before God empty handed, but we are to give as we are able, according to the blessing which God has given us. On the Holy Days, like today, we are to reflect on the ways that God has blessed us, and we are to give to God from those blessings that He has given us. By showing our appreciation to God, to whom all things in heaven and on earth belong, we give to God what is His in the knowledge that He can give us many more blessings than He already has. Let us therefore give to God as we are able, for there is no limit to the blessings that God can give to a cheerful and generous giver.