FEAST OF TABERNACLES

“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 23:39-43)

The seventh, the final and the longest of the biblical feasts of the Lord is the Feast of Tabernacles, also known as the Feast of Booths or Sukkot in the Hebrew language. While each one of God’s seven feasts convey a profound message and a spiritual meaning, I confess that this feast is one of my favorites.

Starting five days after the Day of Atonement, on the 15th day of the seventh month, this feast brings to conclusion the magnificent story of God’s salvation plan for mankind as it is reflected in Israel’s history and as it is fulfilled in Messiah. His perfect life, sacrificial death, burial, resurrection, ascension, spirit poured out, Israel’s redemption and ultimate return as King of Kings, are all spoken of in the feasts. I love the happy ending which this feast coveys, but I also enjoy the fact that there is no fasting involved, no prohibition or the institution of any special foods, and no particular protocols other than dwelling in festive booths, bringing our offerings to the Father and rejoicing before Him.

This feast appears multiple times in the scriptures starting during the Exodus from Egypt. Tabernacles is one of the three pilgrim feasts when all the men of Israel were commanded to annually come up to Jerusalem to “appear before the Lord your God in the place which He shall choose” (Deut 16:16). This was also the time of year when Solomon’s Temple was dedicated and when Ezra and the Levites publically read the entire Law of Moses in the hearing of the Israelites who had returned from Babylon.

In the gospel of John we read that it was also during the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus declared in the Temple courts, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37–39). No doubt, Jesus was making reference to the pouring of the water ceremony that was observed in the Temple during the feast days while the congregating was singing the scripture saying, “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3).

The Feast of Tabernacles takes place during the season of the fall harvest, and it was a time to fill up the barns and celebrate God’s faithful provisions. With hundreds of thousands of pilgrims filling up the streets of Jerusalem in bible times, the atmosphere was very similar to what we experience today as Israel hosts multitudes of Christians from all over the world arriving to celebrate the feast in Jerusalem. And why do they come, if not to “rehearse” the great international worship gatherings prophesied in Zechariah 14:16, saying, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”

Not only is this feast a celebration of God’s past deliverance from Egypt and His present time faithful provisions, the Feast of Tabernacles also points to the “Grand Finale” of God’s salvation plan in this age of grace. It is this great annual celebration that points to the time when the nation of Israel is redeemed and spiritually revived; her enemies overwhelmed by God’s power; and all nations are summoned to worship the Lord in Jerusalem each year! No wonder I like this feast the best, as do hundreds of thousands of worshippers who are celebrating in the streets in Jerusalem these very days.

Blessings from Israel,
Samuel Smadja