The Feast of Tabernacles
“33 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 34 “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. 35 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. 36 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.
37 ‘These are the feasts of the Lord which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the Lord, a burnt offering and a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, everything on its day — 38 besides the Sabbaths of the Lord, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the Lord.
39 ‘Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. 40 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. 41 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. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 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.’”
44 So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord” Leviticus 23:33-44.
The Feast of Tabernacles Reviewed
“13 “You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress. 14 And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant and the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, who are within your gates. 15 Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice.
16 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and 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 which He has given you” Deuteronomy 16:13-17.
While serving as custodian of the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, the Lord laid it upon my heart to call Christian believers to gather in the city during the Feast of Tabernacles to praise and worship our God, and to stand in comfort and solidarity with the people of Israel.
To ascertain how the believing community in Jerusalem would view such an event, we held a “pilot” celebration during the Feast of Tabernacles in 1979, which was addressed by David Pawson, Peter van Woerden (nephew of Corrie Ten Boom) and various other speakers.
Our first International Feast of Tabernacles the following year drew close to one thousand participants from at least ten nations. It was during this Succot that the International Christian Embassy was birthed, opening its doors as a standard and channel of worldwide Christian support for the Jewish Nation.
We have now entered 2008. And what was on my heart when we began to celebrate the Feast about 30 years ago remains-the belief and inner anticipation that one day, during a celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, the double portion of the Holy Spirit will fall upon us all. This will be the former and latter rain, as the prophet Joel promised-also in relation to Israel-for these latter days:
“Then the LORD will be zealous for His land, and pity His people” Joel 2:18.
“Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done marvelous things!” Joel 2:21.
Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God; for He has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you-the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month (Joel 2:23).
“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” Joel 2:28-29.
What is remarkable in Joel’s beautiful prophecy is the stress placed on the restoration of the land, and not only of the people of Israel. Remarkable too is the foretold subsequent pouring out of the promised Holy Spirit during ‘the first’ month (which may indeed be during the Feast of Tabernacles).
The Bible teaches us that this restoration of the land is a key element in God’s dealing with His people Israel. It was the promise of the land, and the restoration to, and of, that land, that was linked with the further abundance in physical as well as spiritual blessing. This is so clear in this passage, but it is also clear in other portions of Scripture concerning God’s future dealings with His land and people.
And yet it is on this point that the thinking of many Christians has grown foggy as they have spiritualised almost everything relating to it, believing that the land and people of Israel have served their purpose-which was to bring the Messiah and His Gospel into the world. Those thinking this way believe that God no longer has a specific interest in the people of Israel or in their land, or in their future as a nation. It is this widespread misconception that has led to much bewilderment and ignorance concerning the clearly enunciated biblical statements and pronouncements of God about the wonderful future awaiting His land and His people.
“For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns. The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory.
You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” Isaiah 62:1,2,4,5.
And Ezekiel promises:
“Therefore prophecy concerning the land of Israel, and say to the mountains, the hills, the rivers, and the valleys, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I have spoken in My jealousy and My fury, because you have borne the shame of the nations.” Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “I have raised My hand in an oath that surely the nations that are around you shall bear their own shame. But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are about to come. For indeed I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown. I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bear young; I will make you inhabited as in former times, and do better for you than at your beginnings. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. Yes, I will cause men to walk on you, My people Israel; they shall take possession of you, and you shall be their inheritance…
“For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land” Ezekiel 36:6-12,24.
First the physical, then the spiritual God first formed Adam as a wholly physical man before breathing His Breath and Spirit into him to make him spirit. In this same way, Israel has been restored to the land of its fathers as a physical nation, as foretold in these, and many other, passages of Scripture. It is only after the flesh, sinews and bones have come together in a physical restoration of the nation that God instructs ‘the son of man’ to call on the breath to come from the four winds and breathe upon the dead body, that the nation may live. (See Ezekiel 37:9)
Paul too tells us that in God’s economy, the physical often precedes the spiritual:
“However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural and afterwards the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust, the second Man is the Lord from heaven” 1 Corinthians 15:46,47.
It is this truth which is so wonderfully clarified in Ezekiel 37 concerning Israel’s physical and spiritual rebirth: First the physical restoration-including the restoration to, and of, their land. Then the spiritual awakening, when the Breath of God’s Spirit will blow upon these bones.
The same theme is seen all over the Bible, especially as it relates to the ongoing miracle of Israel’s restoration! Hear what Jeremiah foretells:
“And it shall come to pass, that as I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to throw down, to destroy, and to afflict, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the LORD. “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days (of physical restoration to their land), says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” Jeremiah 31:28, 33.
And Isaiah prophesies:
“Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’ Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth-Everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” Isaiah 43:5-7.
“Thus says the LORD who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you: ‘Fear not, O Jacob My servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring; One will say, ‘I am the LORD’S’; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; another will write with his hand, ‘The LORD’S’, and name himself by the name of Israel” Isaiah 44:2-3,5.
It is this biblical balance between the importance of the physical restoration of the land and people of Israel, and their subsequent spiritual restoration, which formed the basis of the vision calling Christians to support God’s glorious promise to come to Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles. These Christians have gathered year after year to praise Him and be a channel of comfort and encouragement in the name of millions of Bible-believing Christians from all over the world.
In these days we hear of revivals in different parts of the world where God is pouring out His Holy Spirit in remarkable ways to get His Gentile body of believers ready both in quantity as well as quality. But this is only a foretaste and a foreshadowing of the mighty outpouring of His Holy Spirit over all the house of Israel as promised by His prophets. And this will happen one day during the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem.
It was during the Feast of Tabernacles that the Lord Jesus made His wonderful promise of rivers of living water! It did not happen on Pentecost-that was only a foreshadowing of the greater rains to come, a foretaste of Joel 2. No, Jesus made this offer during the last and great day of the Feast of Tabernacles, thus indicating that the wonderful day during which the Lord would give us the former and latter rains would be during this Feast.
It was during a celebration in Jerusalem that the Passover was fulfilled in the Messiah becoming, as the Servant of God, the Passover Lamb whose blood was sprinkled before His heavenly Father on the mercy seat.
It was during a celebration in Jerusalem that Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks, was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, was poured out on the early believers-the first fruits.
Is it then not reasonable that in like manner, something will occur during a celebration of Succot in Jerusalem that will fulfil all that the biblical Feast of Tabernacles stands for?
Is it not remarkable that it is the Feast of Tabernacles, and not Pentecost or Passover, that is to be kept during the millennial reign of the Messiah, and that this is foretold with the added warning that ‘no rain’ will fall on all those nations who refuse to attend that Feast? Surely there has to be a tremendous reason why, out of all the feasts to be kept during those wonderful years of the Messiah ‘s earthly reign, the one singled out of all the major biblical feasts is the Feast of Tabernacles. There may be more than one reason for this, but certainly it bears pondering.
As George Warnock explains in his booklet on the Feast of Tabernacles, this Feast is meant to be:
A feast of joy;
A feast of unity;
A feast of harvest;
A feast of restoration;
but also the Feast of the Messiah’s appearance.
All these are ample reason for us to celebrate this Feast with great expectancy in our hearts. No wonder that God commanded the Israelites in days past concerning Succot:
“You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress. And you shall rejoice in your feast … Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the LORD your God in the place which the LORD chooses, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice. Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you” Deuteronomy 16:13-17.
As we were preparing to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, the Lord stressed to us the importance of worshipping Him in our lives, but especially during the celebration of Succot. After all it is, as God commanded, to be a feast of joy, and what better way is there to rejoice than with singing and dancing before Almighty God. This joyful and abundant Davidic praise and worship has become the hallmark of the Christian celebration during the Feast of Tabernacles. As the Psalmist says:
“Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, and His praise in the assembly of saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise His name with the dance; let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp” Psalm 149:1-3.
“Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing” Psalm 100:1-2.
“Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises. Sing to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of a psalm, With trumpets and the sound of a horn; shout joyfully before the LORD, the King” Psalm 98:4-6.
One of the reasons the 98th Psalm gives for us to praise the Lord is God’s remembrance of His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel (Psalm 98:3).
It is as a result of this that “all the ends of the earth” will be able “to see the salvation of our God” (Psalms 98:3).
A further reason to praise God is because this is exactly what He has in mind: to show His mercy and faithfulness to the House of Israel so “that all the nations of the world may know and realise the He is God indeed”. This is the general thrust of many of the promises of God’s restoring love and favour for His people Israel: that He might be glorified even among the nations.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, with their voices they shall sing together; for they shall see eye to eye when the LORD brings back Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem! For the LORD has comforted His people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” Isaiah 52:7-10.
What better time and place is there for those representing the nations to make this proclamation to Israel than during the International Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem? “International,” because the Feast of Tabernacles, more than any of the other biblical feasts, is open to all the nations. We see this in the way that God, through Zechariah, foretells that the day will come when all nations will be summoned to keep the Feast of Tabernacles and worship the King in Jerusalem! It will then be the climax of everything that has preceded the glorious day of His reign on earth, explicitly, all that God promised to do for, and with, His nation Israel-‘that the nations shall know that I am the Lord (Ezekiel 36:23).
So we see that the connection between the bringing of praises to the Lord, and His wonderful acts and faithfulness towards His people Israel, is very strong in many of the biblical passages. This provides all the more reason for us as believers-called out of the nations to be the sons and daughters of the God of Israel-to take note, and to rejoice with God for all the good that He is about to do for His people. So great will be that day when the Lord will restore and redeem Israel, that He will call upon all creation, even the heavens, the moon and the sun, to take note of it and to join Him in rejoicing.
As is written by Isaiah:
“Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him. For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you” Isaiah 30:18-19.
And then comes this astounding, climactic statement:
“Moreover the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, IN THE DAY THAT THE LORD BINDS UP THE BRUISE OF HIS PEOPLE AND HEALS THE STROKE OF THEIR WOUND” Isaiah 30:26.
No wonder that God calls upon the heavens, and the lights in the heavens, to rejoice with Him in the light of this outpoured love and comfort for His people after the centuries’ long road of torture and sorrow. How much more should we then praise Him and worship Him in great joy as believers here on earth, especially as we have come so near to this prophesied miracle and time of Israel’s restoration? As Isaiah prophesies further:
“Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, AND GLORIFIED HIMSELF IN ISRAEL” Isaiah 44:23.
“Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem! For the LORD has comforted His people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” Isaiah 52:9-10.
Thus the reason for rejoicing and singing, especially as we come together in Jerusalem during the Feast, is that God is about to comfort and show favour to His people. We are not just rejoicing as we are accustomed to do as Christian believers, to thank Him for what He has done for us! This gives a completely new dimension to our praise and worship, lifting it to a different level above ourselves and the interests of our lives. It is so far reaching that it will cause God to turn on the heavenly lights: The moon and the sun shining more brightly than they have ever done in ‘the day that the Lord will heal the stroke of His people Israel!’
So great is the crescendo that God is building up in His great and astounding acts toward His people Israel that even the nations will be forced to acknowledge the greatness and wisdom of the LORD.
But now, we who are being called out of the nations prove ourselves to be the children of the God and Father of Israel by coming alongside and rejoicing with Him, and praising Him for all the good that He is about to do in and for His people. Thus we shall also do in respect to the Feast of Tabernacles, to which one day those also will come who are left from among the nations which God will have judged terribly in the valley of Jehoshephat for having come against His people and their city, Jerusalem.
For this very reason-that we have been called out of the nations to be part of the people of God-we do not want judgement to force us up to Jerusalem to worship the King and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Now that we are seeing the beginnings of God’s restoring grace and favour to His people, we already want to come to Jerusalem, to rejoice with God and praise His Name for all He is about to do for Israel. If God calls upon the heavens, the moon and the sun, the mountains and the beasts of the field, the trees and “the waste places of Jerusalem” all to rejoice with Him, how much more should we, His blood-washed bride and the children of Him who is still called the living God of Israel, not come up to rejoice?
Hear the prophets of Israel express the refrain of this truth over and over again as one of the main reasons for God’s restoring of grace to His people. See how the Apostle Paul writes about the wonderful end-time future of Israel, and how he himself explodes in a doxology of praise-even as we believers should do, in the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles set aside for this very purpose!
“For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. For God has committed them all to disobedience, THAT HE MIGHT HAVE MERCY ON ALL” Romans 11:30-32.
Paul then enters-and we as a living Church should enter with him-into an outpouring of praise and awe as he sees the restoring grace of God to His people Israel! It is, therefore, reason for all creation, even the ends of the earth, to notice and exult in the amazing wisdom and purposes of God concerning the restoration of His people. FOR IT WILL ALSO, ACCORDING TO THE SAME SCRIPTURES, RESULT IN AN UNBELIEVABLE REVIVAL AND RESTORATION OF THIS EARTH!
“Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! … For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” Romans 11:12,15.
What an considerable reason to exalt the Lord our God-the all-inclusiveness of this latter day outpouring of His grace and Holy Spirit upon His people! And we believe that the timing of this event was revealed in what His Son said on that last, great day of the Feast of Tabernacles:
“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 7:37b-38.
I believe that it will be during this Feast, while we exult in Our God and Saviour for all He has done, and is still willing to do, for us, and as we especially praise Him for all that He is about to do for His people Israel, that the Holy Spirit of God will one day fall. Like a wind gathered from the four corners of the earth, it will blow upon the gathered nation of Israel as she is supported and joined by thousands of Christian believers from all the nations of the world. Is this not even the way it was in the foreshadowing of this great outpouring of God’s Spirit on the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2:1-4?
“Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting … And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” Acts 2:1-2,4.
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; AND THE NATIONS SHALL KNOW THAT I AM THE LORD,” says the Lord GOD, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes” Ezekiel 36:22-23.
This is therefore one of the main purposes in teaching this world a divine message from God Almighty, that just at a time they driven Him out from their lives and societies as nations, He will astound them by the very thing He is about to do, in complete fulfilment of His owns promises to His people Israel, “that the nations shall know that He is the Lord” (Ezekiel 36:23).
It is this refrain that is repeated in the scriptures over and over again: That God Himself will be magnified in front of the nations of the world through His mighty acts in Israel. It will be ‘life from the dead’ says Paul in the Epistles of the Romans. It will usher in says Isaiah a day when ‘all nations will come up to Jerusalem and hear the Word of the Lord and see His glory and turn their swords into ploughshares!’
As no other feast, the Feast of Tabernacle includes the nations. For this reason, seventy candles are lit during the Feast for the nations of the world. Succot is the great Harvest Feast when all the nations, the redeemed of the nations-as Zechariah foretells-will be summoned up to Jerusalem to worship the KING and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. It is in faithfulness to this vision that we already now come together in Jerusalem to honour and worship the Messiah King and to foreshadow that great Millennial Feast that is soon to come!
It is therefore the Feast of the nations, the fullness of the Gentiles coming up to Jerusalem to experience with Judah, the Jews, the blowing of the Wind of God’s Spirit, the Feast of the double portions, the former and the latter rain which will fall upon God’s people in the month! It is also amazing to note that it was during the Feast of Tabernacles that the inauguration of Gods temple took place, when the glory of the Lord came down to fill the House of God, as we learn form the second book of Chronicles:
“Now Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the chief fathers of the children of Israel, in Jerusalem, that they might bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD up from the City of David, which is Zion. Therefore all the men of Israel assembled with the king at the feast, which was in the seventh month.
Then the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the temple, to the Most Holy Place, under the wings of the cherubim. And it came to pass when the priests came out of the Most Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had sanctified themselves…), and the Levites who were the singers… clothed in white linen, having cymbals, stringed instruments and harps, and with them one hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets-indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying: “For He is good, for His mercy endures forever,” that the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God” 2 Chronicles 5:2,3,7,11-14.
So we see that the Feast of Tabernacles is meant to signify the restoration of the tabernacle of David-physical as well as spiritual-the unity of Gentile believers, the fullness of the Gentiles and the people of Israel, and the promised blessing of the former and latter rains coming down on one day during the Feast of Tabernacles. It is singularly the Feast of Messiah’s appearance; His first and his second!
Jan Willem van der Hoeven, Director
International Christian Zionist Center
Republished with the kind permission of Author Jan Willem van der Hoeven, Director of International Christian Zionist Center.
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