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The Feast of Tabernacles

The Lord's Feasts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:20
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The Fast of Tabernacles transcends time and ties the events of the past, present and future together so that we celebrate the past, are revitalized in the present and anticipate the future with great joy.

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Our Theme for 2020 is “Seeing Spiritually.”
What we see is not all that there is.
We are in the Fall season and The Lord’s Feasts.
We place so much value on things that are passing away, but God’s Word is eternal.
The Feasts of Israel and the biblical calendar are not just for Jews, but they outline God’s plan of redemption through history.
The Fall Feasts then represent events which are yet to come - the second coming of Christ to His people.
The Feast of Trumpets reminds us that Jesus is coming again.
The Day of Atonement reminds us that God has written our names in His book of life.
The Feast of Tabernacles then is the celebration of the culmination of fellowship and relationship with God.
If we are going to “see spiritually” we need to be looking not only at what God is doing in our lives now, but also have the perspective of knowing that we are going to share an eternity with Him and with each other.
The feast of tabernacles transcends time and ties the events of the past, present and future together so that we celebrate the past, are revitalized in the present and anticipate the future with great joy.
This is a season of joy as it is the culmination of everything that God has purposed through the ages.
Deuteronomy 16:13–17 ESV
13 “You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress. 14 You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. 15 For seven days you shall keep the feast to the Lord your God at the place that the Lord will choose, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful. 16 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. 17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.

Celebrating the past

Remember that this life is temporary.

The Feast of tabernacles is called Sukkoth in Hebrew.
A Sukkah is the kind of structure it is describing.
We loosely translate tabernacle as tent, but that’s not a Sukkah.
Sukkah in Hebrew means woven together.
It is a temporary structure with a light framework and a semi-open roof structure.
It was like the booths used by vendors in the marketplace.
It’s purpose is for shade or temporary shelter. - It’s not permanent.
The first lesson of Sukkoth is to remember that we are just passing through this life.
2 Corinthians 5:1–5 ESV
1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
We get so attached to our bodies and material things, but when you look at your life in the light of eternity what does all this really mean:
All of this is meant to prepare us for eternity.
Your life is a dress rehearsal to prepare you for life with God.
It’s not that your life now is not important - it is! But it is just the warm-up for eternity.
You are not yet clothed with your supernatural body. You’re in your “earth suit.”
Having the Holy Spirit is a foretaste of what is to come.

Remember what it was like in the wilderness.

Deuteronomy 8:2 ESV
2 And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.
God led Israel through the wilderness for forty years until they would enter the promised land.
Future generations would celebrate the feast of tabernacles just after taking in the year’s harvest.
Part of the celebration would be the telling of stories, “Remember when we didn’t have a harvest?” “Remember when we had to gather manna and depend on God for each day’s food?”
God provides for us in the wilderness, but don’t ever forget that when times are good and you are living in your promised land.
The wilderness is a place of testing and learning to humbly trust God.
Does everyone have to go through their own wilderness?
To some extent that is true, but future generation can also learn the lessons that we have learned when we tell the story.
We don’t have to relive the lessons of the past if we are willing to remember.
Celebrate the goodness of God!
Manna was a miracle from heaven! At the time it probably just felt like survival.
Their clothes did not wear out either. That’s a fact that can only be recognized and celebrated when looking back.
My friend Pastor Mark Jayakumar likes to say, “If you pass the test you can enter His rest.”

Remember how God has been with you.

The Sukkah is also a reminder of the presence of God.
During the wilderness journey there was a cloud that covered the tabernacle.
Exodus 40:34–38 ESV
34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36 Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.
The tabernacle itself was not so much a sukkah, but a tent.
The covering over the tabernacle was what the sukkah represents.
God gave them shade, protection from the heat, by His presence.
That cloud also filled the tabernacle with the glory of God.
They followed the cloud wherever they went. It was the very presence of God that led them through the wilderness.
Jesus is the embodiment of what the sukkah represents.
John 1:14 AMP
14 And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth.
He came and He lived among us.
As you are around the table with your family, Jesus is there with you.
As you are visiting and sharing stories with friends, Jesus is there with you.
As you are praying and thanking God for His goodness and the abundance that we all enjoy, Jesus is there with you.
He lived for a time in the same tents of flesh that we do, that was His wilderness experience.
But now He is preparing eternal dwellings for us.
And not only that, but He has given us all that we need for life in the here and now.

Revitalizing the present

Discover the source of life.

John 7:37–39 ESV
37 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. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
The Feast of Tabernacles at the time of Jesus involved a water drawing ceremony.
The priest would retrieve a pitcher of water from the pool of Siloam and pour it out in a basin on the altar.
It was not just an appeal to heaven for rain, but for spiritual refreshing and blessing.
They would quote this scripture:
Isaiah 12:3 ESV
3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of that ceremony.
Except instead of water falling out of the sky it would come from the depths, just as they drew the water out of the depths of the earth in the ceremony.
Refreshing, spiritual life and vitality would come from within, for our innermost being.
Jesus used the phrase, “as the scriptures say,” but He was paraphrasing. Where do the scriptures say that rivers of living water come from within?
Ezekiel 36:24–27 ESV
24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
The imagery is all there.
they will come into their promised inheritance as is celebrated at Sukkoth.
The water of life, cleansing and refreshing will pour over them.
Except it will come from within, because they will have a new heart and a new spirit.
And the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon them.
The water drawing ceremony ultimately foreshadowed the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, the presence of God, is what we are really thirsting for.
The Holy Spirit is all of that welling up inside of us.
The cloud that was over the tabernacle is now a stream of water coming from a renewed heart and a revitalized spirit.

Let God illuminate your life.

Another ceremony during the Feast of Tabernacles in Jesus’ day was the illumination of the temple.
This amazing light show was the most incredible thing in its day.
It consisted of lighting four large menorahs at the four corners of the temple complex.
They were said to be some seventy feet high. The laps were golden bowls each holding about ten gallons of oil.
It would be like lighting the Olympic torch times four.
It would light up the temple grounds like daylight and the spectacle could be seen for miles around in all the surrounding villages.
Imagine how it would be for people who had made the pilgrimage to the Feast. The city would triple or quadruple in population. I’m sure that the Sukkah made it possible for people to stay with relatives on the rooftop or in a courtyard. But many people would be forced to find shelter in the surrounding villages. Around the beginning of the feast would be a full moon, but as the feast continued this giant light display would continue to light up the surrounding hillsides, providing light for people traveling to and from the temple.
It was in this context that Jesus said these words:
John 8:12 ESV
12 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.”
Do you need light?
Do you want to understand what life is all about? Why you are here? and what God wants you to do?
Jesus not only has the answer, He is the answer.
Jesus made a way for you to come back to God, to know God and to know God’s love for you.
When you give your life to Jesus it’s like turning on the light.
Life will seem much different and a lot of things will begin to make sense.

Celebrate the fruit of God’s promises.

There’s another tradition of the Feast of Tabernacles that continues to the present day.
Celebrants will carry the lulav and the etrog which represent the fruits of the land
Leviticus 23:40 ESV
40 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.
They are four representative species of the fruit of the land of Israel
The etrog or citron is a citrus fruit (like a lemon)
The lulav is a palm branch.
There is also the myrtle and the willow, shown here bound together with the lulav.
But the four species are also also said to represent our bodies.
The etrog is the heart.
The lulav is the spine.
The myrtle is the eyes.
The willow is the lips.
So in waving them before the Lord, we are not only thanking God for the fruit of the harvest, but we are presenting ourselves to God as His fruit and His harvest!

Anticipating the future

The feast of tabernacles is a foretaste of heaven.

On the calendar of the Lord’s Feast, the feast of Tabernacles is the culmination.
It is to be a season of joy, not only that the harvest is in, but that we can finally rest and enjoy what we have worked so hard for.
In eschatological terms it is the marriage supper of the lamb.
Revelation 19:9 ESV
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
While we look back and remember the time spent in the wilderness and the lessons that we learned about trusting God, we also look ahead to the culmination of our life with God.
Just as the wilderness is to the promised land, so is our earthly existence to our heavenly one.
Remember the Sukkah is temporary, and so it points to a permanent dwelling.
We will eventually celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, the real feast, in heaven with Jesus.

All the nations will celebrate the feast in the Kingdom of God.

Zechariah 14:16 ESV
16 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.
Zechariah is describing the literal and physical reign of Christ on the earth.
Th final battle has ended and Jesus has established the Kingdom of God on this earth.
Some call this the millennial reign of Christ.
It is interesting to note that Zechariah says we will still be celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles when Christ returns.
Only, it will not just be the Jews celebrating, but all the nations will go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast.
In fact it goes so far as to say that the nations which are not represented will not have rain the following year.
This is the allegiance that God asks for, that we spend time in His presence.

The presence of God is with us forever.

I started out by saying that the Sukkah is a reminder of the temporary nature of this life.
And that it is also a symbol or a reminder of the presence of God.
One more thing needs to be said, the presence of the Lord is not temporary, it is permanent.
Hebrews 8:1–2 ESV
1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.
When God gave Moses the instructions for the tabernacle on the mountain, it was patterned after a heavenly tabernacle.
Everything about the tabernacle reflected something of heavenly reality.
The Sukkah also reflects a heavenly reality, the presence of God.
The symbol may be temporary, but the reality is permanent.
After eight days the Sukkah will come down.
The decorations will be put away.
The branches will be thrown out.
The poles will be stored for another year.
But the presence of God is renewed such that we will go in that strength for another year, continuing to abide in His presence.

Questions for reflection:

What is a wilderness that God has brought you through? How did God sustain you and provide for you? What are some miracles that you experienced along the way?
Is there a place that you can go to get alone with God? What can you use as your Sukkah for this season? How will you decorate it? What reminders of God’s faithfulness would you have in your Sukkah?
How are you refreshed in the presence of God? Is there living water coming from inside you? How has Jesus brought light to your life? How will you give expression to your joy?
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