The Feast of Tabernacles
The Feast of Tabernacles Leviticus 23:33-43 Pastor Pat Damiani October 1 2017 “If I am going to live a normal Christian life, then I must live in a way that is not normal.” Let me say that again. “If I am going to live a normal Christian life, then I must live in a way that is not normal.” Do you believe that is true? If not, let me remind you of a few of the instructions that Jesus gave that certainly wouldn’t be considered “normal” in this world: … Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:39 ESV) … Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:44 ESV) But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret… (Matthew 6:3-4 ESV) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-20ESV) Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (Matthew 6:31 ESV) “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12 ESV) Anyone here believe that the world would consider any of those things to be “normal”? And that is just from one of Jesus’ sermons. And His disciples also said and wrote some things that seem far from normal, too. Most of us are probably familiar with these words that James wrote: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, (James 1:2 ESV) That’s not very normal either, is it? So how do we live a normal Christian life that is far from normal? I think that last of the seven feasts on the Jewish calendar, the Feast of Tabernacles, helps us to answer that question in a very practical way. One last time let’s quickly review where we’re at in our study of these feasts. The seven feasts were divided into two seasons. The four spring feasts, were fulfilled by Jesus at His first coming: [show chart] • The Feast of Passover was fulfilled by Jesus’ sacrificial death • The Feast of Unleavened Bread was fulfilled by His burial • The Feast of Firstfruits was fulfilled by His resurrection • The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) was fulfilled by the coming of the Holy Spirit Then there is a four month break until the fall feast season – a gap which represents the “Church Age” in which we are now living. During this time God is bringing salvation to the Gentiles in order to make Israel jealous so that they can eventually be saved. God’s dealing with Israel resumes with the three fall feasts, which will be fulfilled by the second coming of Jesus. We’ve looked at the first two fall feasts over the past couple of weeks. We saw that the Feast of Trumpets will be fulfilled when Jesus returns to the earth accompanied by a trumpet blast that will gather the nation of Israel to Jesus. And then last week we saw that the Day of Atonement will be fulfilled when Israel will finally understand that Jesus is their long-awaited Messiah and they will mourn over their role in His death and be saved through faith in Him. The third and final feast, like all the others, is described in several places in the Old Testament, but I’m just going to read the applicable portion of Leviticus 23. [Read Leviticus 23:33-36, 39-43] The word translated “booths” in the ESV translation is the Hebrew word “sukkot”, which is how the Jews still refer to the feast. That word is also translated “tabernacles” in many other English translations and that is probably the word I’ll end up using frequently this morning. That word is derived from the Latin word for a “tent” or “hut”. The underlying Hebrew word can describe any kind of dwelling place, but here these booths are to be a reminder of the temporary dwelling places in which the people of Israel lived in while they were wandering in the wilderness before entering into the Promised Land. The feast begins on the fifteenth day of the month of Tishrei and lasts for seven days – actually eight days if you include the day of solemn rest on the day following the end of the feast. This year the feast will begin at sunset on Wednesday and end at sunset on the following Wednesday. No work is to be done on the first or eighth day. Since the feast occurs at the end of the harvest season, it is also known as the Feast of Ingathering. In contrast to the somber mood of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, this was a time of great rejoicing as the people celebrated the final ingathering of the harvest that God had provided during the year. That is why the feast is also known as “The Season of Our Joy”. Like Passover and the Feast of Weeks, this is one of the three pilgrimage festivals that required all able bodied Jewish men to travel to Jerusalem to observe the feast. As the last of the seven feasts, this feast represented the completion of the religious season. According to the Scriptures, there were three main activities related to the celebration of the Feast of Booths. • The first was that the people were to live in temporary shelters, or booths, during the feast in order to remember the time when God had brought them out of Egypt and had provided for them in the wilderness. • The second aspect of the feast is that the people were to bring specific fruits and tree branches which were waved before the Lord at the appropriate time. • There were also specific sacrifices that were to be offered on each day of the feast as well as the day following the feast. These are described in detail in Numbers 29:12-38. As we have seen with many of the other feasts, the Jews also developed other traditions related to the celebration of this feast which were not prescribed by God in the Bible but arose from their oral tradition. Two of these practices which were in place during the lifetime of Jesus have special significance: • The first was a water-drawing ceremony in which water was drawn from the pool at Siloam. This ceremony, which was performed on all except the first day of the feast, was a time of great joy and celebration. • At the close of the first day of the feast, the worshippers would descend upon the Court of the Women in the Temple where four large candelabras, about 75 feet tall and each with four golden bowls had been set up. Four youth of priestly descent would climb the ladders and fill the bowls with oil and then ignite them, using the worn undergarments of the priests for wicks. Since the Temple was on a hill above Jerusalem, the light from the candelabras would illuminate the entire city. John records the account of Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7 and 8. The recorded words of Jesus have clear references to those two aspects of the feast: On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:37-38 (ESV) Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV) Today, the observance of the feast revolves primarily around the booths and the fruits and branches that are waved before the Lord. As with the other feasts, the prescribed sacrifices can no longer be made due to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. Each family constructs a sukkah, or temporary shelter. It must have at least two and a half walls and a covering that will not blow away in the wind. The covering must be constructed of materials that grew in the ground and were cut off and there must be openings so that the stars may be observed at night, but not so large that there is more light than shade in the sukkah. The requirement to “dwell” in the sukkah may be met by eating all of one’s meals there, but the people are encouraged to spend as much time as possible there, even to sleep there if feasible. The second main part of the observance involves the “Four Species”, which is based on the instructions in Leviticus. For the first six days of the feast, the etrog, a fruit similar to a lemon, a palm branch, two willow branches and three myrtle branches are waved in all directions as the people make a procession in the synagogue and pray. On the seventh day of the feast, the same procession is made for seven circuits. There are several Old Testament prophecies that connect this feast to the coming of the Messiah. We have time this morning to look briefly at just one of those passages: “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,” declares the LORD who does this. (Amos 9:11-12 ESV) In this passage that describes the future restoration of Israel, I don’t think it is any accident that Amos refers to the “booth of David”. Granted, if this is all we had, it would be a pretty weak connection to the Feast of Booths, but I promise I’ll be able to make a much stronger connection as we proceed this morning, We clearly see this connection between the Feast of Booths and the coming of the Messiah in one particular event in the New Testament. One day Peter, James and john accompanied Jesus up to the mountain and while he was praying His appearance changed and He was talking with Moses and Elijah. Peter clearly connected this event with the coming of the Messiah when he spoke these words: And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”… Luke 9:33 (ESV) The Greek word translated “tents” there is the same word used in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, to translate the word “sukkah” or “booth”. Since Peter believes that this event represents the coming of the Messiah, he is prepared to erect the “sukkah” that he associated with that event. And just like we saw last week with the Day of Atonement, this feast is associated with both the first and second coming of Jesus. • At His first coming I’m just going to give you a little teaser here. During the Bible Roundtable time we’re going to explore the possible connection between this feast and the birth of Jesus. The first time I was introduced to that idea I was probably as skeptical as many of you, but after doing a lot of research on this idea over the years, I’m convinced that there is very likely a connection. But you’ll just have to wait for a bit to explore that idea together. • At His second coming Remember that the Feast of Trumpets pictures the return of Jesus to this earth, accompanied by a shout and loud trumpet blast. Following that, the Day of Atonement pictures a time of tribulation for Israel during which the many will recognize Jesus as the Messiah and be saved. The prophet Isaiah provides us with a good framework for what occurs next: In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain. Isaiah 4:2-6 (ESV) This fits perfectly with what we’ve already seen. Isaiah refers to the time when the sins of Israel will be washed away and their names recorded in the book of life. This is a clear reference to what the future fulfillment of Rosh Hashanah and the Day of Atonement. And then God’s glory will appear over Mt. Zion and His glory will create a canopy – a canopy that is described as a “booth” – a “sukkah” – a clear connection to the Feast of Booths. Last week, we saw how the future fulfillment of the Day of Atonement is revealed in the book of Zechariah, chapters 12 and 13. So it’s really not surprising that Zechariah also reveals how the Feast of Tabernacles is going to be fulfilled as well: Zechariah 14 describes how the nations of the earth will come up against Jerusalem, but Jesus will return with His army and completely defeat those nations. And then we find these words: On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one. Zechariah 14:8-9 (ESV) Remember Jesus’ claims about being the living water that He made while attending the Feast of Booths? Here we see the final fulfillment of those words as living water flows from Jerusalem. That occurs as a result of Jesus, the Messiah from the line of David, taking His throne and ruling over all the earth. This same battle is also described in Revelation 19 where Jesus comes as the rider on the white horse who destroys all His enemies and begins His reign over all the earth. Then, near the beginning of chapter 20, we find this passage: Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Revelation 20:4 (ESV) This ushers in the 1,000-year period that is usually referred to as the “Millennium”. It is a period in which Jesus will physically reign here on earth along with those who have been proven to be His true followers. The Bible doesn’t really give us much detail about what will occur during that period of time, but Zechariah does reveal one significant activity that will take place: Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. Zechariah 14:16-17 (ESV) During the church age in which we now live, we have no obligation to observe any of the Jewish feasts that we’ve been studying. But after Jesus returns, all His followers, both Jews and Gentiles will be required to observe the Feast of Booths. Why only that feast? Why not any of the others? I think it is because that feast, being the Feast of Ingathering, is a fitting fulfillment of the promise that God made to Abraham all the way back in Genesis 12 to bless all the nations of the earth through his descendants. So the Feast of Booths will ultimately be the gathering of all of God’s people – Jews and Gentiles – to celebrate and rejoice in the Messiah. So we shouldn’t be surprised that when Jesus gave his commentary on the parable of the weeds, he compared the return of Jesus to gathering in the harvest: The harvest is the close of the age… Matthew 13:39 (ESV) Remember that God also gave instructions concerning the day after the Feast of Booths. This celebration is known by the Jews as Shemini Atzeret, which means the “eighth [day] of assembly”. Eight is the Biblical number for new beginnings. And just as we would expect, immediately after the end of the 1,000 period, we find a new beginning described in Revelation chapters 21 and 22 in which the new heaven and the new earth come down from heaven and become the eternal dwelling place for those who are God’s children through faith in the Messiah, Jesus. And near the beginning of John’s description of the new heaven and new earth we find these words: And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. Revelation 21:3 (ESV) As you probably would expect by now, the noun “dwelling place” and the verb “dwell” come from the same word we saw earlier that can also be translated “booth” or “tabernacle”. But that dwelling place will no longer be temporary – it will last for eternity. Just like we’ve found with all seven of the feasts, this is all very fascinating. But once again we need to answer the question: What does this mean for my life today? And, in particular, what does this have to do with helping me to live the normal Christian life, which is anything but normal? In order to answer that question, let’s begin by focusing on… The two primary purposes of the Feast of Tabernacles: 1. To remember God’s faithfulness in the past The temporary booths in which the people lived during the feast were to be a physical object lesson to remind them of God’s faithfulness to provide for them while they were wandering in the wilderness. In some ways that is very similar to the purpose of the Lord’s Supper for us. That, too, is a physical object lesson to remind us of God’s faithfulness that was demonstrated by Jesus’ death and resurrection which covers our sins and makes it possible for us to be reconciled to God. 2. To rejoice in God’s goodness now and in the future The second main activity of the feast was to wave the specific fruit and branches before the Lord as an act of rejoicing in what God was doing for His people right in the moment and looking forward to the future blessings that would accompany the coming of the Messiah. Although we are not required to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles as New Testament Christians, that doesn’t mean that these two aspects of the feast aren’t relevant to us. In fact, I would suggest to you that if we want to live the normal Christian life, which is far from normal, the key is to integrate these two practices into our daily lives. So in order to help us all learn to do that better, I’m going to issue a challenge to all of us to participate in… THE SEVEN DAY “REMEMBER AND REJOICE” CHALLENGE Each day for the next 7 days: 1. Write down a specific way that God has been faithful to you in the past. 2. Write down a specific way that God is showing His goodness to you right now. 3. Write down a specific future blessing that you can rejoice in. 4. Share what you’ve written down: • On social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) • On our Faithlife church page: https://faithlife.com/thornydale • Email a friend • Share it in person with someone else The “normal” Christian life is anything but normal. So it’s not always easy to live like that. But I’m going to give you a “money back” guarantee on this morning’s sermon. If you complete the seven day “remember and rejoice” challenge and it doesn’t help you live that abnormal normal Christian life this week, I will gladly refund every single penny you paid for the sermon this morning. Bible Roundtable We’ll be exploring the connection between the Feast of Tabernacles and the birth of Jesus.