LCN Article
How Does God Place His Name?

September / October 2023

Gerald E. Weston

Dear Brethren,

It was 1964, and I attended my first Sabbath service only days before the Day of Atonement, which fell on a Wednesday that year. Following that day of fasting, I began traveling for the Feast of Tabernacles, where I camped out on the shores of Lake Tahoe with several other single men—all strangers to me. I have fond memories of that first Feast. 

The sermon I heard on the Sabbath before the Feast had addressed the question “How does God place His name?” In retrospect, it seems that this had been a topic of discussion among the leadership—probably because the Church expanded that year to a second site. In 1945, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong began meeting with others for the Feast in Belknap Springs, Oregon. As the Church grew, the site was moved to Seigler Springs in California, and eventually to Big Sandy, Texas. There was only one site until 1964, when Squaw Valley was added along with Big Sandy. My guess is that this engendered the question, “How does God place His name?”

God instructs us that “you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide” (Deuteronomy 14:23). Scripture states explicitly that God has chosen to make His name abide in Jerusalem after Christ returns (Zechariah 14:16–19). It is simply not logistically possible for several billion people to come to Jerusalem each year—yet the command is for everyone to keep it every year. “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide” (Deuteronomy 14:22–23).

When Zechariah speaks of all nations coming up, he must be speaking of representatives from those nations. We know that the tabernacle was first set up in Shiloh, not Jerusalem (Joshua 18:1). The Corinthians kept Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread locally, and Paul kept Pentecost outside of Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 5:7–8; 11:17–22; 16:8). This tells us that God has had more than one location set apart for His pilgrimage Feasts. He has also shown the Church in this age that there needs to be more than one place for His people around the world to observe the Feast.

Setting up more than one Festival location was new in 1964, which was apparently the reason for sermons on the subject. Nevertheless, the question is still legitimate: Where and how does God place His name for us to keep His Feasts?

Who Decides?

Our Church Administration Department takes many factors into account: a suitable hall that is available for the time needed, sufficient housing, affordable restaurants, safety concerns, a strategic location for people to attend, and much more.

However, the proverbial elephant in the room is, “Who decides?” That was the question in 1964, and it is a question still relevant today. I believe most of you understand that we should not take a vote on the subject. Suitable sites are difficult enough to find—never mind taking a democratic approach to sorting through the difficulties in finding locations. Yet we are often asked, “Why can’t we have a site in [fill in the blank]?” The answer is likely that we already looked into it, but an appropriate venue simply wasn’t available—God didn’t open that door.

One factor that may surprise you is that there has been a change in where and when people in society today are getting married. With more and more people in Western countries dropping away from churches, other meeting rooms are being booked more often for wedding venues. And instead of getting married two months from engagement, couples move in together first and book weddings two or three years out. All it takes is one weekend wedding to knock out a potential venue where the Church of God could meet.

But the question “Who decides?” applies to more than Festival site selection. There is no need for me to go into a doctrinal dissertation on Church government, but neither can that subject be neglected in answering this question. God’s word gives general instructions for the individual. For example, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). But He gives only a few instructions on how to do so (vv. 9–11; Isaiah 58:13–14). The ministry should give guidance (1 Corinthians 11:1), but Jesus showed how the Jews of His day took the Sabbath command to ridiculous extremes. We must avoid that.

However, when it comes to community decisions about Sabbath observances, this is not—and from a practical sense, cannot be—left up to individuals. Decisions have to be made as to where and when services are held. Everyone cannot decide for themselves, and the Bible nowhere indicates that this subject should be up to the congregation for debating and voting.

God gives us instructions on how to solve controversial decisions (Deuteronomy 17:8–13). This does not imply that Festival site locations or the times to hold services are generally points of contention in the Church, though some few do decide for themselves. The rest of us are reasonable and rational, understanding the big picture.

Decided in an Orderly Fashion

Colossians 2 has been greatly misused by the world of false Christianity. We often spend more time explaining what it does not mean than what it does, but it has everything to do with the subject at hand. We know that whatever the controversy was in Colossae, it involved “philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles [influential powers] of the world, and not according to Christ” (2:8). The Sabbath and Festivals of God are of God and not traditions of men, but how they are kept is another matter.

The New King James Version translates verses 16 and 17: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” The original, inspired text is “missing” the verb is at the end of verse 17, as shown by the King James Version, which places the word in italics. The word substance is the same word translated elsewhere in Colossians as body (1:24; 2:19; 3:15) but translators here changed it to substance according to their bias against the Sabbath and God’s Festivals. Properly translated, Colossians 2:16–17 should read, “So let no one [no human being] judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of [foreshadow] things to come, but the body of Christ.” Yes, the Sabbath and Festivals foreshadow future events—when people neglect them, they miss the lessons of the Holy Days. We are not to let someone come along with human traditions and philosophies to tell the body of Christ how to observe these days.

Those destabilizing the early Church in Colossae were ascetics with gnostic ideas of intermediary angels between God and man. “Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head [Christ]…. Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles [influential powers] of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to [human] regulations—‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’… according to the commandments and doctrines of men?” (vv. 18–22).

Christ is the Head, and He appoints His leaders to ensure that common matters for the Sabbath and Festivals are decided in an orderly fashion for His body. “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers… for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11–12). Yes, the organized Church must decide where Christ is placing His name. Oftentimes, by opening or closing doors, God makes it abundantly clear in an orderly manner—not to each individual, but to His ordained leaders—where He has placed His name. So, let us be grateful for those locations to which God has opened doors this year to show us where to keep the Feast of Tabernacles!

signature of Gerald Weston