Tabernacles

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Tabernacles (Le 23)

33  And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
34  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.
35  On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.
36  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.

37  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, every thing upon his day:
38  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.
39  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.
40  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.
41  And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year.  It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month.
42  Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths:
43  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.
44  And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD.

This feast follows Atonement, Yom Kippur, which evidently symbolizes God’s call of Man to ultimate and final judgment. This final feast, called in Hebrew Sukkot, is evidently both a memorial of how Israel dwelt in temporary dwellings during their wandering in the dessert, and also a reminder that God tabernacled among them during this time.

While the above Levitical text describes the sacrificial duties of this festival, as with the other feasts Deuteronomy provides additional helpful practical details:

“Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine: and thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates. Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD shall choose: because the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice.” (De 16:13-15)

“Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty: every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee.” (De 16:16-17)

Firstly, observe that the primary focus of this final feast is rejoicing. God calls us to come together in families and community to engage with Him in His Creation, getting our hands dirty in building temporary patchwork dwellings of freshly cut, leafy branches. He commands us to dwell in these frail, fragrant structures together, being reminded of our dependence on Him and His willingness to care for us in our journey Home. Also, as noted in Unleavened Bread, a is required of the men for a third time in the calendar year, evidently an animal sacrifice symbolic of voluntarily giving our entire selves to God. As men give themselves unreservedly to God they tend to be more charitable, patient and humble, providing for stronger families and blessing the nation and encouraging all to follow their lead.

By looking at both of these texts together we find God calling us in this feast to separate ourselves in community from our routines into a special place to do four things:
[1] rejoice with family, community and others interested in attending;
[2]
remember our vulnerability during our journey out of slavery into the promised land and how God miraculously cares for us;
[3]
remember how God Himself dwelt among His people in a tent and went with them in their journeys, never leaving them (He 13:5);
[4] voluntarily offer our lives to God, especially men, putting ourselves at His disposal to do with as He will.

From all appearances then this feast is also prophetic, foreshadowing God’s final dwelling among men as He did in the wilderness, and may have been partly fulfilled in His coming to dwell among us in the Person of Christ — Who was very likely born during this feast, a time when all devout Jews would have been in or near Jerusalem along with their families. The ultimate fulfillment of this final feast is likely to be found in God’s physical dwelling with Man in the New Jerusalem which will come down from Heaven and adorn the New Heavens and the New Earth (Re 21:3), which follows the final Judgment and destruction of sin and completes the prophetic calendar.

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