“Let Us Keep the Festival . . . with . . . Truth”
THREE times each year the Israelites in days of old came together to celebrate their annual festivals, namely, the festival of unfermented cakes, the festival of weeks and the festival of booths or ingathering. In a similar manner Jehovah’s servants of modern times come together three times annually, twice for their circuit assemblies and once for a larger assembly, for a district, national or even international assembly.*
Many of these will soon be having their annual district assemblies, and so they do well to ask themselves: Have I made my plans? Am I arranging my affairs so as to attend all four days of these spiritual festivals? Am I going, prepared to contribute to the success of the assembly by attending all the sessions, paying close attention and taking notes, by volunteering for service, by witnessing and by making financial contributions, to the extent that Jehovah has blessed me, to help defray the cost of the assemblies? Am I arranging to bring all my family, even as Joseph, Jesus’ foster father, brought all his family to the festival in Jerusalem in 12 C.E.? Could I arrange to take others along with me?
It is truly faith-strengthening to read in the 1968 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses of the efforts some Christians put forth to attend these assemblies. In the Congo “many of them walked as much as two hundred miles and even more in order to be able to partake of the spiritual food presented at the assemblies.” (Pages 112, 113) Two special pioneer ministers in Peru started out with a small motor launch down a jungle river. It took them eleven days, facing treacherous rapids, whirlpools and voracious insects, and the launch even sank from under them. In Lesotho, in South Africa, two Witnesses walked eighty miles through mountains and snow to get to their assembly, and one walked twenty-five miles through mountain and snow to get to hers, even though she was six months’ pregnant.
However, the words of the apostle Paul, “Let us keep the festival . . . with unfermented cakes of sincerity and truth,” are by no means limited to attending such assemblies. (1 Cor. 5:8) Rather, from the context, where Paul deals with an immoral man who needed to be disfellowshiped, it is apparent that keeping the festival of unfermented cakes with sincerity and truth applies primarily to our everyday conduct. It means to lead clean lives, free from the wicked leaven of this world, including its teachings, its habits, its standards and its practices.—Matt. 16:6, 12.
And truly the world today is reeking with the leaven of wickedness as never before. Motion-picture shows, television programs and stage plays become ever more lewd and violent. Commercial interests stop at nothing to draw the public by shocking entertainment. What a danger these pose for dedicated Christians trying to keep free from leaven! One cannot associate with such people without having his useful habits spoiled!—1 Cor. 15:33.
True, none of Jehovah’s servants can serve him perfectly; they all come short. But certainly they must all strive against sin and, like their Leader Jesus Christ, ‘love righteousness and hate wickedness.’ That is their safeguard, hating what is bad! (Heb. 1:9; Ps. 97:10) They must at all times guard against making a practice of sinning. Jehovah God is merciful and will forgive our shortcomings, but we must not grow careless and make a practice of sinning. And while he may forgive, we will still have to deal with the results that follow our coming short!
The apostle John helps us to appreciate the difference between committing a sin and making a practice of sinning: “I am writing you these things that you may not commit a sin. And yet, if anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one.” But, “everyone remaining in union with him does not practice sin; no one that practices sin has either seen him or come to know him.” Yes, to ‘keep the festival with sincerity and truth’ we must keep free from willingly indulging in the “works of the flesh.” It means leading a Christian life.—1 John 2:1; 3:6; Gal. 5:19-21.
In particular when servants of Jehovah attend assemblies should their behavior be above reproach, that a good report might go forth to the honor of Jehovah’s name and Word, even as has been the case time and again. Let all such exercise care so that these assemblies will be like law-abiding islands of purity and peace in a sea of immorality, lawlessness and strife.
For details see The Watchtower, July 15, 1967.