From “Feast of Tabernacles,” Chapter 9- Tabernacles – The Feast of Joy
And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates” (Deut. 16:14).
Israel continued to live in peace and prosperity as long as they obeyed God and walked in His ways. But with disobedience came drought and famine and depression–and the Feast of Tabernacles ceased to have any real meaning to them. It is just as true with the Church of Christ. And though the Church as a Body has never really observed this Feast, there were nevertheless periods in her early history when she had a foretaste and an earnest of its glory. Our testimony is therefore that of Joel:
“The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted; the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished. The vine is dried up, the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men” (Joel 1:10-12).
The new wine, the corn, the oil, the wheat, the barley, the palm, the apple: all these speak of the abundance of spiritual blessings and the joy which they impart to the saints. And because of the spiritual drought in the Church: “Joy is withered away…”
THE BLIGHT OF BABYLON
This hilarity of our modern churches is not the joy of the Holy Ghost. In most cases it is the song of Babylon. In other words, it is an attempt of the enemy to lull the saints to sleep and to cause them to forget their heritage in the Spirit. By Babylon we mean what it meant to Israel; bondage in a strange land. When Israel walked in disobedience they lost their glory, their beautiful temple, their place of worship, their prominence as a nation and kingdom. And when the Church of Christ walked in disobedience, she too lost her glory, her beautiful temple was destroyed, and from her lofty position as a “holy nation” and a “royal priesthood” she degenerated into a nation of slaves and bondservants. Her people were taken captive at the hands of the world, the flesh, and the Devil–and her joy departed.
And so the Babylonians came to the children of Israel in their captivity, and said unto them, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.” Perhaps many of them consented. The Church, likewise, has been too willing to accommodate the world in this manner, and to partake of her false joy. But the godly remnant in Israel refused to do so, because they knew they had nothing to sing about. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion…” How could they rejoice as they contemplated the desolation of their beautiful temple and city? “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” was their reply. (See Ps. 137).
We ought to have been mourning and howling for the desolations wrought in the Church, instead of trying to generate a false joy in our midst. And yet this continues unto this very hour: the world is invited to come and hear “one of the songs of Zion.” You may read in the advertisements in the “church” section of the newspapers about good orchestras… lively singing… so-and-so will play the sleighbells, or anything else that might produce a tune. Why not? they would argue. Get the sinners out to “church” and then preach the Gospel to them. But “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” Far better that the Church should mourn and howl before God, and her priests be clothed in sackcloth and sit in ashes. GHW
Could it be the church has lost the capacity to mourn because she senses nothing to mourn over? Has the world infiltrated the church to the point that we cannot distinguish true Christian holiness and doctrinal purity from the “curb appeal” holiness and watered-down sermons of a ministry more concerned with numbers and budgets than conviction and repentance? Oh, saints of God, we need to find again a comfort we’ve lost in mourning and howling with sackcloth and ashes.