Shalom everyone! It’s a joyous time as we are now in the midst of the Feast of Tabernacles. This Feast (appointment with God) began at sundown on October 13, 2019, and will last until sundown on October 20. This Feast Day is also called Sukkot, which means booths or dwellings. The Feast of Trumpets and Day of Atonement have passed and we have entered into a season of joy.
The Feast of Tabernacles ends the cycle of seven feasts mentioned in Leviticus 23. The cycle begins with Passover and ends with the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). The Spring Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Pentecost point to the death and resurrection of Jesus, as well as the arrival of the promised Holy Spirit. The Fall Feasts point to the return of Jesus, and the redemption of Israel and the entire world. These feasts offer a glimpse into the promises Jesus will fulfill in the future- possibly the Rapture and his Second Coming.
If you are interested in reading about the Feast of Trumpets or the Day of Atonement, take a look at these links – Feast of Trumpets- Day of Atonement- For this blog I am focusing on the last of the Fall Feasts- the Feast of Tabernacles.
Why do we celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles?
While Rosh Hashanah (The Feast of Trumpets) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) are about turning from sin and true repentance, the Feast of Tabernacles is all about happiness and hope that come from being forgiven. This is the one feast where God commands his followers to be joyful. It is the 7th feast on God’s calendar and referred to as “the season of our joy.” This is a time to celebrate all the Lord has done for his people. He has atoned for their sins, and now it’s time for the blessing to come. There is great joy in knowing you have been forgiven and you no longer carry the burden of the sins you’ve committed.
The Feast of Tabernacles is a time of celebrating the harvest. Back in ancient Israel this was the time of year when all of the harvest was ripe. Even though the fruit crops were planted in the Spring, you could now see the end result of that planting. A great sense of joy would come when the Feast of Tabernacles finally arrived. Now you could gather and harvest the fruit of your labor. This is why the Feast of Tabernacles is also called the Feast of Ingathering.
Leviticus 23, 33-36 says this about the Feast of Tabernacles. “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Lord’s Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days, The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. For seven days present offerings made to the Lord by fire, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present an offering made to the Lord by fire. It is the closing assembly; do no regular work.”
When is the Feast of Tabernacles?
The Feast of Tabernacles always occurs on Tishrei 15 on the biblical calendar. This date will vary on the Gregorian calendar that runs from January to December. The Feast will fall in September or October on our calendar, depending on the year. This year, the Feast of Tabernacles began at sundown on October 13 and will end at sundown on October 20.
What is the Feast of Tabernacles?
The Feast of Tabernacles celebrates life with God, and the promise of dwelling with our creator. It’s a feast that has been celebrated for thousands of years by the Jewish people- since their exodus from Egypt. A tabernacle is a dwelling, or place to live. The word simply means booth, shed or dwelling. Back then, they would dwell in simple tabernacles made of tree branches. These tabernacles were by no means fancy. They were designed so they could be hastily built- without frills.
The roof was made with branches and leaves, and there were to be spaces between the branches/leaves to allow the people inside to see the stars that God made. They could look through these spaces and see the sky above them, which pointed them straight to God. These sukkahs were also a symbol of wandering and dependence on God. After the Israelites escaped slavery they wandered in the desert, depending on God for provision. It makes me think of the popular slogan right now that says, “Not all who wander are lost.” I think I’d change that to, “Those who wander with God are not lost.” If as we wander we are depending on God, then perhaps we aren’t really lost.
This design of a fragile shelter lent to the idea that God was their actual dwelling place. Their own lives were fragile, but they were being led by an all-powerful God. He was all the provision they needed. Throughout their journey, he would be the one to sustain them.
Leviticus 23:39 says, “So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the Lord for seven days; the first day is a sabbath rest, and the eighth day is also a day of sabbath rest. On the first day you are to take branches from the luxuriant trees- from palms, willows and other leafy trees-and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year. THIS IS TO BE A LASTING ORDINANCE FOR THE GENERATIONS TO COME.”
Here are some pictures of sukkahs, as well as some pictures of the traditions involved in the season of Tabernacles- click on this link if you’d like to see
Jesus is the Branch- Jesus is the Tabernacle
In these verses we see the Lord telling his people to rejoice. What I find interesting is the use of the branches on top of the dwellings ( also known as a sukkah or tabernacle). These branches were to be taken from palms, willows or other leafy trees. Jesus actually called himself the Branch. Not only that, his hometown was Nazareth, which means town of the Branch.
“And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.’” Matthew 2:23
“A shoot will spring forth from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch from his roots will bear fruit.” Isaiah 11:1 . The prophet Isaiah was describing the future birth of Jesus- the Branch who would descend from the line of King David. The verse below illustrates a future prophecy where Jesus would come from the line (branch) of David and reign as King over all the Earth.
“Behold the days are coming”, declares the Lord, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and he will reign as King and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.” Jeremiah 23:5
Isaiah 11 goes on to say that, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him (Jesus), the spirit of wisdom and understanding………with righteousness he will judge the poor, and decide with fairness the afflicted of the Earth; and he will strike the Earth with the rod of his mouth………..”
Zechariah 6 says, “Thus, says the Lord of Hosts, ‘Behold, a man whose name is the Branch, for he will branch out from where He is; it is He who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne, Thus he will be a priest on the throne.”
These verses are prophesying what the Messiah would do and what he would be. They prophesied Jesus. And guess what? Jesus came as the Branch, just as prophesied. But he has more work to do. He will come back again and be the Branch that unites all nations. The leafy branches placed on top of dwellings during the Feast of Tabernacles are a reminder that Jesus the Branch is our dwelling here on Earth, but he will also literally dwell on Earth when he returns. Palm branches were a popular choice to use on the roof of tabernacles during Jesus’ time. They are associated with Kings. When Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey the week before his crucifixion, palm branches were waved before him. “They took palm branches and went out to meet him shouting ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the King of Israel.’” John 12:1
The Feast of Tabernacles began as a harvest festival and prayers for rain abounded. The feast itself involves an elaborate water ceremony that ties into these prayers. Rain, of course, was equated with joy and blessing. Crops needed rain and when rain fell the food supply increased. An abundant rain produced an abundant harvest. Thus, water was a critical element needed to survive and thrive. On average a person can live for up to 30 days without food, but only 3-4 days without water.
Jesus actually attended the Feast of Tabernacles and this is described in John 7 . Jesus taught great truths while at the Feast, but most telling is what he says here in John 7: 37, 38.
“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
Jesus describes himself as the Living Water. He was saying he is the water they cannot live without! Anyone who believes in Jesus and receives him as Savior will experience this living water flowing from within them. This water, of course, is the Holy Spirit. Usually people think of water as something that washes our bodies on the outside. But, this living water washes us on the inside.
The Feast of Tabernacles Water Libation Ceremony
It is possible Jesus made this declaration during the elaborate water ceremony that took place during the Feast. Each morning of the Feast the priests would go down to the Pool of Siloam. Men and women would be dancing as they accompanied the priests to the pool. When they all arrived at the Pool, a golden pitcher would be used to draw water out of the Pool of Siloam. This Pool was referred to a as the well of salvation. What’s amazing is that Jesus’ name actually means SALVATION! When the priest drew the water from the well all the other priests would recite the following verse out loud from Isaiah 12:3- “You shall draw forth water in joy from the wellsprings of salvation.”
After the priest had the golden pitcher filled with water, he would then head back to the Temple. A series of trumpet blasts would be heard as he poured the water out on the altar. On the last day of the water ceremony (the one Jesus attended), the priest would actually circle the altar seven times before pouring out the water! Seven, of course, points to God, as this is his perfect, holy number. The circling is reminiscent of Jericho and victory as well. At Jericho, the Israelites circled the wall and it fell down. Jesus took down the wall between sin and death. He took down the wall so we could enter heaven through his blood.
This water ceremony points directly to Jesus, the Living Water, who was poured out on the altar (the cross) for us. He is the perfect Son of God, who brings victory to all who receive him. The last day of the water ceremony is called Hoshana Rabbah, which means SAVE NOW. Jesus, the Savior of the World, stood among the people on that last day. He is the one who can SAVE NOW and FOREVER..
Jesus is the Light of the World
During the Feast of Tabernacles there was another element that pointed directly to Jesus. There was a beautiful ceremony involving light. This one was done at night. Four giant menorahs were set up to illuminate the Temple areas. The menorahs were so big that their stems were not candles but torches. The wicks for the torches were actually the linen garments of the priests. A parade of people would also carry smaller torches as they danced and played music.
Jesus is the Menorah
Jesus declared he is the Light of the World. The sight of the four giant menorahs holds great symbolism. The number four represents the world- the four corners of the world. Jesus is the light for the entire world- all four corners! The wicks of the giant menorahs were made from the priests’ garments. Jesus declared he is our High Priest! The light of the menorahs engulfed the Temple area. Jesus is the Living Temple, who brings light and salvation to a broken world. The light of the four menorahs must have been bright. It reminds me of when Jesus was transfigured:
“There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” Matthew 17:2
Jesus said, “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” John 12:46
The Feast of Tabernacles was a Required Feast
In ancient Israel, all Jewish men were required to go up to the Feast of Tabernacles. The word “Alyihah” is a word many Jewish people will use to describe when they make a trip to Israel and visit Jerusalem. This comes from the idea that all Jewish males were required to “go up” to Jerusalem three times a year at the Feasts of Passover, Shavuot and Tabernacles. The other reason the people were told to “go up” to Jerusalem is because it is the highest place on earth. I know, you are thinking, Mount Everest is much higher than Jerusalem. Not so in God’s eyes! Jerusalem is God’s chosen city and it’s the apple of his eye. In God’s eyes there is no place higher on earth than Jerusalem. God chose to place his Holy name in Jerusalem. It’s the city where Jesus will reign. So, literally it is the highest place on earth! The term “go up” is quite appropriate.
The Feast of Tabernacles: Presence and Provision
The Feast of Tabernacles involves two very important elements- presence and provision. God set up the Feast of Tabernacles so Israel would be reminded each year of his provision in the harvest. This harvest supplied food for the remainder of the year. This is why the feast is also referred to as the Feast of Ingathering. This was the FINAL HARVEST. The remaining produce of the land would be gathered.
Deuteronomy 16: 13-15 says, “Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your wine press. Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. For seven days celebrate the festival to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest (produce) and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.”
When the threshing floor is referenced we know this shows its the end of the wheat harvest. There are actually two wheat harvests in Israel. The first one happens during the Feast of Pentecost. The other wheat harvest, called the latter, occurs during the Feast of Tabernacles.
The wine press in the verses above points to the grape harvest, as well as other citrus fruits in the land. Also, the verses mention that God will bless you in all your harvest or produce. This means it was the time when ALL PRODUCE was ready such as figs, dates, olives, pomegranates and any other fruit.
Tabernacles was a time for giving thanks for the wonderful provision God had given that year. In addition, it was a time to share in his presence, as the people danced, worshiped and had fellowship with God.
The Pilgrims and the Feast of Tabernacles
Speaking of giving thanks, very soon here in the United States, it will be Thanksgiving. Here in the U.S. we are very familiar with the story of the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving. They were giving thanks to God for the plentiful harvest. This occurred in Autumn, as does the Feast of Tabernacles. The Pilgrims were very familiar with the Old Testament and considered themselves similar to the Israelites. They left the bondage of England and were essentially leaving the wilderness. When they reached new land (the U.S.) they believed they had entered their Promised Land, where they could worship God freely. The observance of Thanksgiving has similarities to Sukkot/Tabernacles because it was a time to bring in the crops, gather with the family, give thanks to God and celebrate a season of agricultural blessing. It is interesting to note that Sukkot or The Feast of Tabernacles is also known as the Feast of Ingathering, or gathering together.
We also know that the Indians were at the Thanksgiving Feast. This is worthy of noting because the Feast of Tabernacles is also called the Feast of Nations because it pictures a time when all the nations of the Earth will celebrate with Jesus, who is King of the Earth. The Indians and the Pilgrims sat down together in peace, and joined in a meal where they thanked the King of the Universe for his blessings. One day, during the Millennial Reign of Jesus, all nations will sit down together in peace. No more wars or famine. The prince of Peace will unite all nations and bless the Earth. Truly, this is what the Feast of Tabernacles is all about. It is a prophetic feast that shows God’s people that HE IS COMING BACK AND HE WILL DWELL WITH THEM ON EARTH AS THEIR KING.
THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES IS AN AGRICULTURAL CELEBRATION
It’s easy to see that the Feast of Tabernacles is a feast/festival of agriculture, since it involved the harvest being gathered. Israel, however isn’t the only nation to celebrate the time of harvest. All ancient civilizations had festivals associated with agricultural cycles. These festivals held religious meaning, but the origins and practices were pagan and often degenerate. The customs of Baal worship were common and included cultic prostitution and even human sacrifice. These pagan ceremonies were done to please the gods in hopes they would provide an abundant harvest and fertility among the people. Israel, of course, was aware of this pagan system. God wanted his people to reject this form of ceremony and worship, and instead follow his ways. God wanted his people to have a proper understanding of Him and of his seasons. While the pagan nations worshiped many gods, the nation of Israel worshiped ONE GOD- THE TRUE GOD. The Feast of Tabernacles reminded Israel that God controls the rain and harvest at the proper season and more importantly, he cannot be bribed by sexual rituals, human sacrifice or perverse actions. God is holy and his Feasts embody his character and nature. This is why the Feasts of the Lord offer so much symbolism and point to Jesus in such a direct way. The Feasts are shadows of our Messiah- a picture of Jesus.
The Feasts of the Lord each show different parts of God’s loving-kindness and each one reminds us to thank him. During Passover, God freed Israel from slavery. Jesus died on the cross during Passover and freed all believers from the slavery of sin. We are eternally thankful for this. At Pentecost, also known as Shavuot, God gave his people the Torah- the Word of God. Believers in Jesus received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost/Shavuot. We are so thankful to have the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to direct our lives daily. The Feast of Tabernacles points to thanking God for the land of Israel. The land produces good fruit and provides for the people. It is the place where they dwell with God. In the future, Jesus will rule from Jerusalem (the land of Israel) and dwell in this land flowing with milk and honey. We will be eternally thankful for that glorious day!
Why Should Christians Study the Feasts of the Lord?
The study of the feasts brings one to the realization of the bigger picture. The Feasts of the Lord show how all the promises of Jesus are fulfilled in his first coming, and inevitably his Second Coming as well. They paint a picture of the past and the future of God’s people. These dress rehearsals are a grand performance set before us- a grand play that’s set to play out before our eyes. We get a glimpse of hope in these Feasts. These feasts also remind us that the land of Israel is engraved on the palms of God’s hands. He will not let his land descend into ruin. On the contrary, he will see both the people and the land completely restored.
Ezekiel 37 makes a bold promise. God promises to bring the nation of Israel back from the dead. He promises to resurrect the nation and bring them back into their own land. On May 14, 1948, this promise came to life. Israel became a nation once again, after being scattered for thousands of years.
‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
Now that the nation of Israel is dwelling in the land again, another promise is coming. This new one is even better than the first promise…………..
“‘My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”
Finally, God will dwell with his people. His tabernacle will be among them. His presence will live on earth. When the verses say “My servant David will be king over them” it is referring to Jesus, who descended from the line of King David. When Jesus returns he will restore the land and the people. The Feast of Tabernacles will be fulfilled! The Glory of the Lord will fill the earth like one giant tabernacle!!! Hallelujah!