Amir’s commentary on The Feast of Tabernacles.
Jews around the world will begin to commemorate Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles) on Monday evening. What is the purpose of this eight-day observance, and does it biblically portray a greater story than the feast itself?
Immanuel – “God with us”. That is a name that we typically think of around Christmas. Matthew reminded us of this glorious title when, while speaking of the birth of Jesus, he alluded to the words of God through Isaiah the prophet:
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
What comfort and joy come from knowing that God is near. Again, it is the theme when we as Christians celebrate Jesus coming into this world as the perfect God/man. It is also the theme of the Jews’ celebration of Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles.
Sukkot is an eight-day feast which Jews all over the world will commemorate by building booths, or sukkahs, decorating them with plants and fruits, and maybe even sleeping in them. From the outside looking in, it is a very strange practice. But there is a reason for this celebration, and it comes right from the mouth of God through His servant Moses:
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day, you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it…. And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’”
It is that last verse that helps it all make sense. This is about the Exodus. God wants the Israelites to remember that miraculous event when He brought them out of Egypt. But what about this astounding event is He reminding them of? Is it just, as the passage says, that they dwelt in booths? “Hey, guys, remember that time I had you live in temporary shelters for 40 years? Yeah, kinda crazy, huh?” No, to get the meaning, we must dig a little deeper.
Living in temp housing for eight days was an experiential reminder that for a time the Israelites didn’t have their houses and fields and vineyards. They were homeless, hapless, and helpless. What they did have was God. He was their one constant, and He was completely sufficient.
And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.
That is Immanuel – “God with us”. The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths is not ultimately about tabernacles or booths. They are simply the methodology that God had chosen to remind the Jews that He has always been and always will be with them. But that is a principle that is not just for the Jews. God is always with His people – Jew or Gentile. That is why this seventh and final Feast is the only one that continues long into the future.
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. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain. If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
Two facts to notice about this passage. First, Zechariah is prophesying regarding the Millennium. So, this is a future picture of the Feast of Tabernacles being kept during the thousand year reign of Christ. Second, the ones celebrating will be from “all the nations” – Jews and Gentiles alike. So all people from all over the globe will come to Jerusalem. Why Jerusalem? Because that is where Jesus the Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, will sit on the throne of David and rule His global kingdom. Again, that is God with us, not just in smoke and fire, but in His resurrected body.
But that is not all, because there will be a time when the Feast of Tabernacles is fulfilled and there will be no more need for it.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”
In the new heaven and new earth, there will be no more need for our tabernacles. God Himself will tabernacle with us for eternity. Are you ready for that day?
Again, the tabernacles the Jews built represented their complete dependence upon God for all things. Have you come to a place where you are completely trusting in God for every part of your life, including your salvation? If not, let me encourage you to build that tabernacle in your heart today. Recognize your need for Him. Give yourself to Him by receiving Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Open the door in your life for God to be with you always.