(This is not a transcript of the message at our Tabernacles celebration, just a tidied version of my notes. It does however contain all the Scripture references and so will hopefully prove useful for study.)
The Feast of Tabernacles may not feature in or be important to the British calendar but it is one of Gods celebrations and rehearsals, set in Israels calendar, to teach us about Gods important events in history. These events are called the Feasts of the LORD. This is why it’s important for us as Christians to understand it and celebrate it. God has given us His feasts to get our attention and listen to Him.
- It’s the 7th and final feast, hence very important. Seven is an important number to God, the number of completion. Set in the 7th month of the Hebrew year. Every 7th year the Torah was to be read out aloud in the hearing of the whole nation at Tabernacles. Deut 31:9-13
- Known as the Season of our Joy, a week of rejoicing, commanded to rejoice at this feast. All the feasts were to help Israel remember her roots as well as looking forward to her future.
- Solemn yet joyful celebration, Jewish men take clusters of leaf branches of palm, myrtle and willow trees & lemony etrog fruit (in Hebrew acronym for faith (emunah) repentence (T’shuvah), healing (raphah) and redemption (goelah)) & wave them before the Lord as a sign of welcoming the coming King. It’s what happened in Jerusalem when Jesus made His triumphal entry in John 12:12-13, Ps.118:25-26
- Tabernacles is unique amongst the feasts, in that the nations also were invited in ancient times to come up to Jerusalem at this season to worship the LORD alongside the Hebrew people. When Solomon later dedicated his Temple at Sukkot (Tabernacles), he also called on the LORD to hear the prayers of all the foreigners that would come there to pray (2 Chronicles 6:32-33). Thus, Jerusalem and the Temple itself were destined from the start to be a “house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 21:13).
- Tabernacles came to incorporate symbolic events with water and light. The water ceremony was performed by the priests and involved collecting water from the pool of Siloam and pouring it out in the Temple. There was also a light show with dancing every night.
- The most visible symbol of Tabernacles is the small hut or booth which the Israelites were commanded to dwell in for the eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-43). Jewish families across Israel build these booths on their patios and balconies, and decorate them with colourful fruit, ribbons and pictures. Some families eat their meals in the sukkah and even sleep there at night.
- These flimsy booths serve as a reminder to Israel that they once dwelled in makeshift huts during the forty years of wanderings in the Wilderness. It was a harsh environment and they were totally dependent on the Lord. Yet during that time, God was ever faithful to provide water, manna, quail and every other thing they needed to sustain them in the barren desert. He even was a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night – a shade from the noon-day sun and then warmth and light in the darkness.
- Came to also be a celebration of the abundance of harvest and provision from God to the nation
- Passover speaks of the release from Egypts slavery, Tabernacles speaks of the daily reality of living in the days of desert wandering – uncomfortable, difficult. Tabs reminds us of the reality of coming out from an oppressive but secure Godless society to live in the wilderness, guided and directed by God, living in temporary dwellings, always ready to move on. Not a comfortable existence. The leafy roof of the Sukkah enabled you to see the stars, showing heaven is not far away. Earth is a temporary home, and the Creator of the stars has existed forever. It reminds us that eternity is just a breath away, that our lives in this body are temporary but eternity is forever.
First fulfilment – Jesus first coming
- Biblical evidence, connected to the date of the birth of Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist to support theory that Jesus was born at Tabernacles, not in mid winter. Also, Jesus birth at Tabernacles fits the pattern of the feasts.
- John 1:14 – God came as a man to dwell with us for a short time, so that we can live with Him forever. Jesus tabernacled among us, dwelt among us. The Greek word here is skenoo which comes from the root to tent or encamp.The Son of God left the glories of heaven and humbled Himself , taking on a simple dwelling, the human frame, like a tent to dwell among us. Phil.2:6-8. By so doing, we have been able to see the glory of God in His life. Peter James & John actually saw His glory at the Transfiguration (Mat.17:1-4) Peter wanted to make a Tabernacle, one for each of them, but that was not necessary because He is returning and will dwell among us in glory.
- The sacrifices at Tabs had their fulfilment in Jesus, the perfect sacrifice.A total of 70 bulls would be sacrificed at Tabs. 70 is significant in Scripture – 70 nations, 70 represents all inhabitants of the earth (gen.10, 1Chron.1), the number of disciples Yeshua sent out to evangelise, 70 elders of Israel (Ex.24:1), 70 years in Babylon, 70 x 7 times to forgive, 70 x 7 years of Daniel, 70 holy days in the Biblical calendar (52 Shabbats, plus 18 extras at feasts). See also Numbers 29:12-35.
- The rejoicing with and waving of palm, willow and myrtle branches is symbolic of welcoming the coming King. It’s what happened spontaneously when Jesus entered Jerusalem just before the Passover. The people thought he was coming as a King to overthrow the Romans. They confused the feasts – this was Passover not Tabernacles. He had not come as the conquering King but as the suffering Servant. John 12:12-13
- The waving of palm branches is a reminder that Yeshua not only came to earth as the King of the Jews to save souls, but also that He will come again to save Israel and establish His kingdom on earth, when He will physically rule and reign from Jerusalem for 1000 years.
Final fulfilment – Jesus second coming
- The autumnal feasts all represent Jesus second coming, and Tabs is the third of these. Just as Jesus first coming, His birth, happened we believe at Tabernacles, so the final fulfilment of Tabernacles sees Jesus physically dwelling among His people once again.
- Zech 14 – Jesus returns to fight against the nations that will battle against Jerusalem, and His feet will stand again on the Mount of Olives. “Then He shall be King over all the earth (v.9), and every year all the nations will go up to Jerusalem to worship Him at the Feast of Tabernacles! (see also Rev.20, Is.2:1-4, Is.11 & 12, Micah 4:1 It will be celebrated every year throughout the millennial reign of Messiah, along with Passover. Zech.14:16-19, Ezek.45:21-25
- Tabs is a joyous feast, the work of the harvest is over and there’s great blessing on all the produce and wine etc. The fulfilment, when Jesus is reigning, the harvest of people will have been gathered in and we will rule and reign with Him in His kingdom Luke 22:28-30
- The 8th day – John 7:37-38 – the climax of all the Biblical feasts of the Lord, it speaks of the new beginnings of the new heavens and earth (1Cor.15:24-28).
- In the time of the 2nd Temple, the priest would pour out a water offering on the altar and pray for rain. It was on this day Jesus cried out in a loud voice to invite anyone who is thirsty to come and drink of Him. It is He who gives us His Holy Spirit. And it’s also indicative of the river that will flow from Jerusalem with healing properties for the nations.
- The day after the feast Jesus taught in the Temple – His loud exclamation proclaiming that He is the source of living water led many to believe in Him as their Messiah. He also demonstrated He was the Light of the World in the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. John 8:1-12. Life here is temporary, eternity lasts forever. God has made a way for each of us to be able to spend eternity with Him in His kingdom, and He has given us His feasts to help us understand it all.
So Tabernacles is when the Lord Jesus establishes His Kingly rule over all the nations, reigning from Jerusalem. That’s what we’re celebrating when we celebrate Tabernacles – not only that He is returning, but that He is returning as King of the whole world! The question is, is He King in our hearts today?