Gilead Graduates Told: “You Must Become Nothing but Joyful”
SEPTEMBER 16, 1979, brought great joy to the 67th class of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead; it was graduation day. Gathered together at Jehovah’s Witnesses Assembly Hall, Long Island City, New York, the 51 students heard the school’s president, F. W. Franz, admonish them to be joyful. He stressed the joy that went with the Festival of Booths, which celebrated the ingathering of the fruits of the ground in ancient Israel.
To a total audience of 2,033, the school’s president described the prolonged joyfulness of this Festival of Ingathering. It lasted for seven days, and Jehovah through Moses told the people: “You must become nothing but joyful.”—Deut. 16:15.
Franz pointed out two joyful features that were later added to this festival, and these were carried out when Jesus was on earth. One was the priest’s going to the pool of Siloam with a golden pitcher, filling it with water, returning to the temple and pouring it out into a basin leading to the base of the altar. At the time of the pouring of the water there was great rejoicing, so much so that it was said that ‘he who has not seen the pouring out of the water of Siloam has never seen rejoicing in his life.’
Another joyful feature of the festival, Franz explained, took place at night. There were four great golden lampstands in the Court of the Women, and each lampstand had four great golden bowls. Oil was added and the old clothing of priests served as wicks. When the lamps were lit, the brilliance was such that the whole city seemed illuminated. Certain men danced and sang. This lasted till daybreak.
He explained further that when Jesus attended the Festival of Booths in the year 32 C.E. he may have alluded to the ceremony with the water of Siloam when he cried out: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He that puts faith in me, just as the Scripture has said, ‘Out from his inmost part streams of living water will flow.’” (John 7:37, 38) Also, Jesus may have alluded to the lighting up of Jerusalem by the lamps during the festival when he said to the Jews: “I am the light of the world.”—John 8:12.
Does the Festival of Booths, or Ingathering, have an antitypical fulfillment? If so, when? Franz explained that the Scriptures provide some clues to understanding this. For example, Isaiah 12:3 foretold a time when God’s people would ‘draw water with exultation.’ At Matthew 13:39 Jesus revealed that the “harvest is a conclusion of a system of things.” And at Matthew 24:31, in a context dealing with the “sign” of the conclusion of the system of things, Jesus foretold the gathering of his “chosen ones” world wide. So the joyful Festival of Booths, or Ingathering, could not begin its modern-day fulfillment before the “time of the end.” Such gathering is now under way since 1919 and will lead to a time of great joy.
But what is being gathered? People. So the 51 graduates were encouraged by the school’s president to continue to have a part in this ingathering work, serving as “the light of the world” in their respective missionary assignments. “Keep on loving the Festival of Ingathering and of Booths,” he stressed in closing. “May your rejoicing from Jehovah be a strengthening to you and may you keep on rejoicing” forever.
Earlier, another speaker also stressed happiness. Joel Adams told the students that Jehovah is pleased that they are happy. He encouraged them not to let little things rob them of joy. “Keep your happy spirit,” he admonished. “Yes, Jehovah is a happy God, and he wants us to be happy in our lives. It is an honor to him when we maintain a happy spirit.”
J. E. Barr similarly encouraged the students: “How much you have to be thankful for—this happy day of your graduation! May none of you during all the years that lie ahead ever lose the feeling of thankfulness to Jehovah. It is the secret to your enduring joy and happiness wherever your assignment may be.”
In the afternoon the Gilead graduates put on a joyful international musical program, displaying the cultural music and dance of the countries that the missionaries represent. The afternoon was climaxed by the graduates’ staging a drama stressing the need for appreciation of things that are really important. Entitled “Do Not Despise Sacred Things,” it was about Jacob and Esau.
As the day’s program came to a close with prayer by M. G. Henschel, the graduates were determined to heed Jehovah’s word through Moses: “You must become nothing but joyful.”