Spiritual Festivals—Ancient and Modern
JEHOVAH GOD, the Almighty, is our grand Creator. His works testify that he is a wise, just and loving Sovereign. He knows better than anyone else just what our needs are as humans and what will make us happy. Consistently, he not only made us with certain basic needs, wants and desires, but also arranged for the satisfying of these.—Ps. 104:24; 145:16-18.
The earth teems with things that our Creator made available to us to satisfy our physical needs for food, clothing and shelter. God also lovingly provided for the satisfying of our emotional needs for beauty of sight and sound, for affection and friendships and for the joys and blessings that go with being members of a family.
In just the same way Jehovah God provided for the satisfying of our intellectual and spiritual thirsts: our faculty of reason, our hunger for knowledge and our instinct to worship. We want to know the purpose of our existence, where we came from and what our destiny is. Yes, we want to know to whom we are indebted for all life’s blessings and how we can best serve the purpose for which we were created and thus show our gratitude. To satisfy such basic needs Jehovah God has, from the beginning, communicated his will for us through chosen servants of his. In ancient times God particularly used the prophet Moses to make His purposes and will known to men.
Among the ways that Jehovah God lovingly provided for his ancient people to get to know him better and to enjoy other spiritual blessings was by instituting sabbaths and festivals. All these festivals testified to the loving concern that Jehovah God had for the well-being of his people, not only spiritually, but also in many other respects.
ANNUAL FESTIVALS AT JERUSALEM
As we look back on those times, we can see that particularly prominent and important were the three great annual festivals that were celebrated in Jerusalem, the center of Jehovah’s worship. These festivals are of special interest to us because of their prophetic significance. “Three times in the year every male of yours should appear before Jehovah your God in the place that he will choose.” (Deut. 16:16) We find that these festivals had a number of basic characteristics. They were to be occasions of great joy: “You must rejoice during your festival . . . and you must become nothing but joyful.” (Deut. 16:14, 15) There were also many sacrifices offered. An important requirement was that none were to appear empty-handed; each one brought a gift in proportion to his having been materially blessed by Jehovah. (Deut. 16:16, 17) And at one of these, every seven years, there was also the reading of the law of Moses.—Deut. 31:10-13.
If we examine these festivals according to the calendar year, we find that the first of these was the festival of unfermented cakes. (Deut. 16:1-8) It immediately followed the Passover celebration and lasted for seven days. The unfermented or unleavened cakes, or loaves, reminded the Israelites that they had left Egyptian slavery in such haste that they did not have time to leaven the dough in their kneading troughs. (Ex. 12:33, 34) Calling attention to the prophetic significance of this feast, the apostle Paul wrote: “Christ our passover has been sacrificed. Consequently let us keep the festival, not with old leaven, neither with leaven of badness and wickedness, but with unfermented cakes of sincerity and truth.”—1 Cor. 5:7, 8.
Next came the festival of weeks or of Pentecost. (Deut. 16:9-12) It was celebrated seven weeks after, or on the fiftieth day after Nisan 16. On it the firstfruits of the wheat harvest were offered. It lasted but one day and pictured the firstfruits of humankind, the 144,000 members of the spiritual body of Christ, that were bought from among mankind. (Jas. 1:18; Rev. 14:4) Most appropriately this congregation of spiritual Israel, as it is also called, got its start on the literal day of Pentecost.—Acts 2:1; Gal. 6:15, 16; Rev. 7:4-8.
The final festival of the year was the “festival of booths.” (Deut. 16:13-15) It took place in the seventh month from the fifteenth to the twenty-first day, with a solemn assembly on the twenty-second day. It commemorated the fact that the Israelites dwelt in booths during their forty-year wilderness journey. This was also called the festival of ingathering, as it celebrated the final harvesting of all their crops. One of its characteristics was the waving of palm branches. This calls to our minds the vision the apostle John had of the ingathered “great crowd” waving palm branches and saying, “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:9, 10) Today, Jesus Christ is gathering this “great crowd” of his “other sheep” so that eventually they may be united with his “little flock,” making just “one flock” under the one “fine shepherd.”—Luke 12:32; John 10:14, 16.
OUR MODERN FESTIVALS
Christians today are not under the Law requiring such great annual festivals. Nevertheless, we find that Jehovah’s people in modern times do enjoy happy spiritual festivals, particularly since the 1880’s. Typical of such early conventions was the one held June 16-18, 1900, at St. George’s Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An announcement in the June 1, 1900, issue of Zion’s Watch Tower explained that hotel rooms could be obtained at a dollar a day and meals from fifteen cents and upward, also that these would be provided free to any who could not afford them. The July 1 issue reported that some 200 brothers had assembled on the opening date, that nineteen states and England were represented, that thirty-nine adults were baptized and that some 400 attended the public talk.
An outstanding assembly was that held at Cedar Point, Ohio, in 1919, shortly after the officers of the Watch Tower Society were released from unjust imprisonment. Their presence at this convention was great cause for joy, as also was the introduction of the Golden Age (now Awake!) magazine. In 1922 another convention was held at Cedar Point. Enthusiasm at that assembly reached its peak as Brother J. F. Rutherford gave the call, “Advertise! Advertise! Advertise the King and Kingdom!” This was also the first of seven annual conventions, corresponding to the trumpet blasts and the pouring out of the bowls as prophesied at Revelation 8:7 to 11:15; 16:1-17.
The convention in 1931 at Columbus, Ohio, gave God’s people even greater cause for rejoicing. How so? In that they here learned the reasons why they should from now on be identified, not simply as Bible Students, but as Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Isa. 43:10-12) Critics sneered: ‘The name won’t stick.’ But ‘stick’ it did! A few years later many thousands of the “other sheep” gathered at the 1935 Washington, D.C., assembly thrilled to learn that they belonged to the “great crowd” described at Revelation 7:9-17. The announcement in 1943 of the Theocratic School for congregations made the assemblies held that year—in many places while under war restrictions—a most happy occasion. And at the first Yankee Stadium, New York, convention in 1950, Jehovah’s people were delighted to receive a number of aids for their worship of Jehovah, most notable of which was the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. Truly, all these conventions were milestones in the history of the modern witnesses of Jehovah, even as those held since then have been.
The greatest single convention of Jehovah’s people in modern times was the 1958 Divine Will International Assembly, eight days in length. It was held in New York at Yankee Stadium and nearby Polo Grounds. For the public lecture on Sunday, more than a quarter million persons attended. At the assemblies in 1961, the Witnesses were delighted to receive the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in one complete volume. At their 1968 assemblies they joyfully accepted their most useful Bible study aid to date, The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. At the 1971 assemblies, Jehovah’s people embraced the arrangement whereby there would be no longer a congregation servant and his assistants. From now on each congregation would have men designated as elders or overseers to care for its spiritual interests. Many more dedicated Christian males could now ‘reach out for the office of overseer’! (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) The assemblies in 1976 and 1977 revealed or introduced still more refinements in congregational structure as well as providing God’s people with further Bible study aids. Now Jehovah’s Witnesses are looking forward eagerly to the many 1978 international conventions.
BEGIN PREPARING FOR THE 1978-1979 INTERNATIONAL ASSEMBLIES!
In the years 1978 and 1979 there will be scores of such assemblies throughout the world. At these international assemblies, we can be confident that if it be Jehovah’s will that these assemblies be held, he will ‘open the floodgates of heaven’ and pour upon his people rich spiritual blessings. (Mal. 3:10) It will cost time, energy and means to go to the assemblies, but it certainly will prove to be worth it. In fact, the more effort, time and means we expend to attend one or more of the assemblies, the more inclined we will be to pay rapt attention to the program and the more we will be rewarded for coming. So begin planning, working, saving for these assemblies. There are rich spiritual blessings awaiting you.
At all the assemblies where the language of the country is other than English, some sessions will be presented in English for the benefit of overseas visitors. Please await further details that will be supplied to local congregations.
1978 INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS
Cincinnati, Ohio; Riverfront Stadium; June 21-25
Dallas [Irving], Texas (Spanish only); Texas Stadium; June 14-18 Detroit [Pontiac], Mich.; Silverdome; June 21-25
Houston, Tex.; Astrodome; July 12-16
Lakeland, Fla. (Spanish only); Lakeland Civic Center; June 21-25 Los Angeles, Cal.; Dodger Stadium (Two); June 28–July 2; July 12-16
Los Angeles, Cal. (Spanish only); Dodger Stadium; August 2-6 Milwaukee, Wis.; County Stadium (Two); June 28–July 2; 26-30
New Orleans, La.; Superdome (Two); June 14-18; 21-25
New York Metropolitan area (E. Rutherford, N.J.]; Giants Stadium; June 28–July 2
New York City [Queens]; Shea Stadium; July 12-16
New York Metropolitan area [Elmont, N.Y.] (Spanish only); Belmont Park Race Track; August 2-6
Philadelphia, Pa.; Veterans Stadium; June 28–July 2
Pittsburgh, Pa.; Three Rivers Stadium; July 26-30
St. Louis, Mo.; Busch Stadium; June 28–July 2
San Diego, Cal.; San Diego Stadium; July 14-18 (Fri.-Tue.)
San Francisco, Cal.; Candlestick Park; July 12-16
Seattle, Wash.; Kingdome; July 26-30
Washington, D.C.; RFK Memorial Stadium; June 14-18
(Almost all the above dates and places for conventions in the United States are tentative. But these are the locations that we are endeavoring to secure. At this time there is no need to rush into making arrangements for personal motel and hotel accommodations. We strongly advise that you await further information that will be provided before long. You will then have sufficient time to make arrangements that will be to your advantage.)
Anchorage; Romig Auditorium; July 5-16 (Two)
Montreal (French, English, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Spanish); Olympic Stadium; July 5-9 (tentative)
Winnipeg (English only); Winnipeg Stadium; July 12-16
Vancouver (English only); Empire Stadium; July 19-23
Edmonton (English only); Coliseum; August 23-27
MIDDLE AMERICA (Spanish)
Mexico; Mexico City; November 25-29
Guatemala; Guatemala City; December 6-10
CENTRAL AMERICA (Spanish)
Belize; Belize City (English); November 15-19
Honduras; San Pedro Sula; November 29–December 3
El Salvador; San Salvador; December 27-31
Nicaragua; Managua; December 30–January 3, 1979
Costa Rica; San Jose; January 3-7
Panama; Panama City; January 6-10
Colombia; Cali; January 10-14, 1979
Peru; Lima; January 17-21, 1979
Venezuela; Caracas; December 27-31
Barbados; Bridgetown (English); August 2-6
Guadeloupe; Pointe-à-Pitre; August 9-12 (French)
Antigua, Leeward Islands; St. Johns; August 23-27
Puerto Rico; San Juan (3 Spanish) August 16–September 3; (1 English) August 24-28
GREAT BRITAIN and IRELAND
Ireland; Dublin; July 12-16
England; Sheffield (Two); July 5-9; 12-16. London (Two); July 19-23; 26-30
Scotland; Edinburgh; July 26-30
NORTHERN EUROPE (Scandinavia)
Denmark; Copenhagen; July 5-9
Finland; Helsinki; July 12-16
Sweden; Stockholm; July 19-23
CENTRAL and WESTERN EUROPE
Netherlands; Rotterdam; July 12-16
Austria; Vienna; July 26-30
Belgium; Brussels; July 26-30
France; Marseilles, Lille, Nantes; July 26-30. Paris, Toulouse, Grenoble; August 2-6
Germany; Munich; July 26-30. Düsseldorf; July 29–August 2
Portugal; Lisbon; August 2-13 (tentative)
Spain; Barcelona; August 2-6
Italy; Milan; August 2-6. Rome; August 9-13
ASIA—ORIENT (North Pacific)
Japan; Osaka (Japanese); August 2-6
Korea; Seoul (Two) (Korean); August 4-8; 9-13
Hong Kong; North Point (Chinese); August 12-16
Taiwan; Taipei (Chinese); Not determined
Philippines; Manila (Local languages); August 22-26
HAWAII (In the Pacific)
Honolulu; Two assemblies; July 5-9; 12-16
Papua New Guinea; Port Moresby; August 31–Sept. 3
Solomon Islands; Honiara; September 7-10
Fiji; Ba (Fijian, English); November 28–December 3
New Zealand; Auckland (English); December 6-10
Australia; Perth (English); December 9-13. Sydney (English); December 11-15
New Caledonia; Nouméa (French); December 6-10
Tahiti; Papeete (French); December 13-17
Ivory Coast; Abidjan; December 13-17
Kenya; Nairobi; December 27-31