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The Feast of Tabernacles
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD. On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein. These are the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, everything upon his day: Beside the sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which ye give unto the LORD. Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD.” (Leviticus 23:33-44)
The Lord God required the children of Israel to observe seven great, annual feasts by which he was to be worshipped.
These feasts, called “holy convocations,” were solemn assemblies of worship. Each feast was highly symbolic, portraying specific aspects of our redemption by Christ Jesus. But three of these feasts stand out from the others. For the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and tabernacles, God required every man in Israel to go up to Jerusalem to keep them (Deuteronomy 16:13-15), because these three feasts specifically portrayed three great aspects of redemption and grace that cannot be separated.
The feast of Passover, of course, portrayed our redemption by the sacrifice of Christ our Passover. The feast of Pentecost was typical of the ingathering of God’s elect, the harvest of redeemed souls, by the effectual, irresistible work of God the Holy Spirit. All for whom the Passover was sacrificed, all for whom Christ died at Calvary, shall be called to life and faith in Christ by God’s omnipotent mercy and irresistible grace. The feast of tabernacles typified the consummation of redemption in resurrection glory, the gathering of all the redeemed into heaven in the resurrection, at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. When the Lord God has finished his work, when all his purpose of grace has been accomplished (And it shall be accomplished!), every chosen sinner shall be with him in glory. Every sinner for whom Christ obtained eternal redemption, every ransomed soul, called by God the Holy Ghost, shall be brought into the eternal, heavenly bliss of resurrection glory.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD. On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein.” (vv. 33-36)
These verses do not give us a full description of the feast of tabernacles. Rather, they simply show us its place among the other feasts of the Lord in the Old Testament. This was the last feast, the feast by which the year was brought to its final conclusion. It speaks of that time John describes in Revelation 10. When the Lord Jesus, the mighty Angel of the Covenant, shall have fulfilled all the purpose of God, when he shall have fulfilled everything written in the book of divine predestination, he shall come again, make all things new, lift his hand to heaven, and declare — Time shall be no more. The mystery of God is finished (Revelation 10:1-7). For a more detailed description of the feast of tabernacles read Exodus 23:14-17, Numbers 29:13-39, and Deuteronomy 16:13-15.
“These are the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, everything upon his day: Beside the sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which ye give unto the LORD.” (vv. 37-38)
These two verses conclude the Lord’s instructions about the solemn feasts of divine worship and service. But the conclusion is announced before further instruction is given about the feast of tabernacles. The feast is announced in verses 33-36. Then, Moses gave a summarization of all “the feasts of the Lord.” Then, he returned to the subject of the feast of tabernacles and gave more detailed instructions about how it was to be observed.
I cannot help asking, “Why did Moses appear to interrupt himself?” It was not that, as he was writing out the Word of God, he suddenly realized he had forgotten to mention a few things. The arrangement of the passage is by divine purpose. By writing as he does, the Holy Spirit here calls special attention to that feast which represents the most joyful prospect of heavenly, everlasting bliss in that day called “the times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21).
“Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD.” (vv. 39-44)
The Time of the Feast
The feast of tabernacles was to be observed on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, at the time of full harvest, when all the fruit of the land was gathered and the grapes were in the wine press. It was held at this season of the year because it typified the full harvest of the earth in the resurrection, when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again and gathers his elect up to glory in the resurrection.
This is not a matter of speculation. Zechariah 14 shows us plainly that this is the typical meaning of the feast of tabernacles.
The feast of tabernacles was kept during the rainy season in Israel. Had the feast been held in the Spring, it would not be an unexpected thing to see people camping out in booths. But during the rainy season, it was not an expected sight to those who were not Jews. So it shall be when our Lord returns. He shall come again at an hour when he is not expected.
No one knows the day or hour of Christ’s second advent. No one even knows the approximate time of our Redeemer’s appearance. Learn this fact and learn it well. No one knows when the Lord Jesus is coming again. The language of Scripture in this regard is crystal clear (Mark 13:32; Acts 1:4-11).
No one knows, or even has a hint of an idea, when the Lord Jesus will come again to this world. And no one knows when Christ is coming to take him out of this world, to meet God in judgment. I find it utterly amazing that we so blatantly ignore this fact. David said, “There is but a step between me and death.” We all say we realize that; but very few people live like they realize it. There is but a step between you and death. O my soul, hear the Word of God and learn. — “There is but a step between me and death!”
God has, from eternity, fixed the moment and the means by which he will take you out of this world. As soon as God takes you out of this world, you are going to stand before him in judgment. I know, there is a day of judgment at the end of time. Following the general resurrection, there will be a general judgment (John 5:28-29; Revelation 20:11-15). But you will meet God in judgment as soon as you draw your last breath (2 Corinthians 5:10-11; Hebrews 9:27). — “How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?”
The Purpose of the Feast
God’s purpose in establishing the feast of tabernacles was to remind Israel of their time in the wilderness, when they dwelt in tents (booths) as pilgrims, and the Lord God dwelt in their midst in the pillar of cloud. For this purpose, the Lord required them to dwell in booths for seven days during the feast (vv. 42-43). In keeping the feast, the Lord would have his people remember continually that as they journeyed through the wilderness, he spread his covering over them and journeyed with them every step of the way.
But there is more. The feast of tabernacles also typically spoke of another, better, more glorious day for the Israel of God. It typified that blessed, endless day of eternal glory, when our God has made all things new and tabernacles with men forever, that day when the Lamb shall lead us to living fountains of water. The beginning of the new creation was the incarnation of Christ and the accomplishment of redemption by him (John 1:14; Hebrews 9:6-12). And the full accomplishment of the type will take place when our Lord Jesus comes again in his glory (Revelation 7:15-17; 21:1-7; 22:1-7).
A Time of Great Joy
This feast of tabernacles was a celebration of God’s goodness. It was kept with joyful remembrance of his wondrous works, and observed in hope of eternal life and resurrection glory. Believers in those days were as fully convinced as we are of Christ’s second coming, the fact that our God shall make all things new, and that we shall be raised from the dead. Job declared this hope as his own back in Job 19. Enoch spoke of these things (Jude 14-15), as did Isaiah, Zechariah, and the other prophets. — What a blessed hope we have!
“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 1:14-5)
“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:25-27)
The Significance of the Booths
The booths they made displayed a picture of the new creation, when the earth shall be covered with rich, luxurious vegetation, where men and women shall forever live in righteousness and peace, sending up songs of praise to God continually. Try to get a picture of this celebration and the booths the people made, in which they dwelled during the seven days of the feast. Reading Nehemiah 8:14-18 and Leviticus 23:33-44 together we see a picture of the new creation, when God’s creation is restored to him and restored by him fully.
“And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.” (v. 40)
They dwelt in these booths for seven days, rejoicing before the Lord and rejoicing in the Lord. So we shall dwell with our God forever in resurrection glory, possessing all the earth, rejoicing before him.
Still, there is more. These booths, being made of these trees, portray the matchless love of the God of Jeshurun, in which we have dwelt from eternity, in which we dwell now, and in which we shall forever dwell (Deuteronomy 33:26-29). The love of God, like the bough of every good tree, feeds us continually. Like the palm tree, it is lofty and triumphs over all obstacles. Like the pine, it is strong and fragrant. Like the myrtle, the love of God reaches down to the lowest and is thick, immense, indescribably full. Like the olive tree, it is rich and full. And, like the willow by the brook, God’s infinite, everlasting, immutable love bends over us and protects us continually, refreshing our souls in the heat of the day.
“There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them. Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew. Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! And thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places.” (Deuteronomy 33:26-29)
Did you notice that the feast of tabernacles involved the observance of two sabbaths? One was to be kept on the first day and the other on the eighth (v. 39). Eternal life in, by, and with Christ, God’s great salvation, involves two great sabbaths: the sabbath-rest of faith in Christ and the sabbath-rest of eternal glory with Christ. (Hebrews 4:3-11).
The Addition of Men
The Jews added another element to the feast of tabernacles. They presumed to add to God’s ordinance their own superstitious religious invention. They were not satisfied with God’s ordinance and thought they would improve it by their own devices. They added the ceremony of drawing water out of the pool of Siloam, to which they attached magical healing powers (John 9). Of course, they claimed that it represented the water that flowed from the smitten Rock. They would draw up their “magic” water and pour it out in the temple. As they did, they sang and rejoiced, as if the angel of the Lord had come down among them.
But their addition turned “the feast of the Lord” into nothing but “the Jews’ feast of tabernacles” (John 7:2). What a sad commentary that is on all the additions of men to the worship of God! Instead of worshipping God, they were will worshipers. Instead of looking to Christ and trusting him of whom the feast spoke, they worshipped water drawn from a pond! Instead of finding satisfaction for their souls in keeping the feast, they went away as dry and thirsty as they came. That makes the words of our Lord in John 7:37-38 all the more striking.
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”
The Sacrifices of the Feast
In Numbers 29:12-40 the sacrifices of this feast are described. There were many, many sacrifices (189) made throughout the week of the feast. But each day the number of sacrifices diminished. The sacrifices, of course, all pointed to Christ, the Lamb of God, who is our sin-atoning sacrifice.
The fact that those sacrifices diminished every day is more than interesting. They were, like the whole of divine revelation in Holy Scripture, focusing more and more clearly upon the fact that there is but one sacrifice for sin; and that sacrifice is Christ. Truly Christ is All, and all we need!
The Solemn Closure
In verse 36 the closing of the feast of tabernacles is called “a solemn assembly.” The marginal reading is “solemn restraint.” An even better translation might be “a solemn shutting up,” or “a solemn closure.” The feast of tabernacles portrayed God’s solemn closure of all things. When Christ comes again, raises the dead, and makes all things new, when at last he brings us into that state of glory wherein the tabernacle of God is forever with men, when we dwell with him in a new heavens and a new earth, that will be God’s solemn closure (Psalm 96:9-13; Isaiah 25:6-9; 35:1-2). Then, we will say what Peter did on the Mount of Transfiguration, “Master, It is good for us to be here!”
The Servant of God
Here is a picture of God’s servant. — “And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD.” (v. 44) The Lord God testifies of his servant Moses that he was faithful. He faithfully declared all that God told him to declare. He faithfully and implicitly obeyed the revealed will of God. May God give each of us grace to do the same, following his example, following the Lord fully, for Christ’s sake.
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” (2 Peter 3:9-14)