Feast of Tabernacles – Lev 23:33-44

We’ve seen that these seven feasts describe an end-time plan of God for humanity. Christ is our Passover Lamb, and the Bread of Truth without leaven. He is our First Fruit from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:22-23). On the day of Pentecost (Hebrew is Shavuot – the Feast of Weeks), the Holy Spirit came. The last three feasts remain: Trumpets, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Tabernacles. We read in 1 Corinthians 15:52 that Christ will return at the last trump. This is the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets. Ten days later is the Day of Atonement – the judgment of the nations. From there, we celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, which is celebrating that in the wilderness God tabernacled among men. In the fulfillment, it will be celebration that God has come to tabernacle among men and set up His Kingdom upon the earth (see Revelation 20:4).

In Leviticus 23:33-43, we find God’s commands concerning Sukkot. Sukkot is the Feast of Tabernacles. “The Lord said to Moses, Say to the Israelites: On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Lord’s Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the Lord for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest. On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

So, you have this eight-day festival. The first and the eighth day are days of rest. The other days are times to party. You bring your first fruit offerings, that which you’ve pledged, and the normal Sabbath offerings. We are just going to have a big party; it will be loud, and it will be long. And here is the key: we will live in tents. It’s like a big campout.

Lets consider the traditional way that this festival is kept among the Jewish people. On the first night, a Sabbath night, the four species of vegetation that are mentioned in Leviticus are arranged in what is called a lulav (named from the palm branch). The four species are the lulav, hadas, aravah, and etrog. The lulav is a plant that grows fruit, but has no smell, and is symbolic of those who have the knowledge of the Bible, but don’t follow its commands. The hadas is a plant that has a pleasant smell, but bears no fruit. It is a symbol of the people who perform good works, but do not possess the knowledge of the Bible. The aravah has neither fruit nor a good smell. It is a symbol of the wicked who do no good, nor know the Torah. The etrog bears fruit and also has a pleasant fragrance. It is the symbol of a truly righteous man. So, when we read Jesus’ parable of a man who sowed seed, and there are four different possibilities for that seed, we are reading of a reiteration of the same symbolism given at Tabernacles. We can call it, “the parable of the lulav”.

The first night of the feast, there is a “guest” who leads the feast. This mysterious guest is a symbol. The four species, the mystical “guest,” the sukkah (tent), and the recital of the certain prayers and psalms are the process for this first night. Every night has a special guest. One the first night, it is father Abraham. He is a symbol of loving-kindness. The second guest (for day two) is Isaac. He is a symbol of power. Jacob on the third day is symbolic of splendor. Moses on the fourth day is symbolic of eternality. Aaron on the fifth day is symbolic of glory. Joseph on the sixth day is symbolic of a good (sure/strong) foundation. King David on the seventh day is the symbol of kingship.

During the festival, there are passages of Scripture quoted and taught. The first two days are days of teaching upon salvation. There is a prayer that is recited called the hoshanah. They pray things like, “Please save for your sake, our God; for your sake, our creator; for your sake, our redeemer, for the sake of your truth; for the sake of your covenant; for the sake of your mandate; for the sake of your goodness…” Passages like Deuteronomy 33:1-26 (Moses blessing the tribes) are read. Numbers 29:17-25 is read on the third day. Numbers 29:28 is read on the fourth day, Numbers 29:23-31 is read on the fifth day, and Numbers 29:26-34 is read on the sixth day. It is said that the sixth day is the last possible day to get your name written in the book of life. During this day, there was a healing service held that lasted through the night, and the entire book of Deuteronomy was read. Others read all the Psalms instead of Deuteronomy (in honor of David being the “guest”).

And on the eighth day…

The eighth day was the climactic ending. It revolved around two pitchers: one of wine, and the other of water (much like blood and water came out of Jesus’ side). This great celebration is about the harvest. God has provided, just like He provided for our forefathers who dwelt in tents. Now we celebrate this, and then there is the winter. After the winter is spring, where we will have another feast dedicated to praying that God would provide the rain for the crop. If the fain comes, the grapes grow, and the harvest is brought in, and then wine is produced.

Water became symbolic of God providing for your needs. The rabbis would teach from passages like Jeremiah 17:13, “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.” Water was symbolic of provision, but it was also symbolic of a deeper spiritual truth. We are dust. Without the water, we are only dust. God takes away from us His presence, and we are nothing. Isaiah 12:2-3 reads, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

These are some of the teachings that are given during the feast. The water is a symbol of God’s life in us. The wine is a symbol of the evidence of God’s presence in us. Once again, it goes back to the lulav. If we have God’s life, and do not bear fruit, then what good is the life of God? If we have fruit, but we don’t have life, what good is the fruit? But if we have both, then the evidence is both the water of the Spirit as well as the anointing of His presence. It is from here that we can open up our New Testaments to understand how the pieces come together.

In John chapter 7, we see an incident in the life of Jesus that makes absolutely no sense. If you’re like me, you’ve read this and heard this a hundred times, but it just seems like this strange sort of incident. “After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’ For even his own brothers did not believe in him. Therefore Jesus told them, ‘The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come.’ Having said this, he stayed in Galilee. However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.”

What is Jesus saying? It is the same thing that He is saying to Mary, His mother, at the wedding in John 2. “Woman, my time has not yet come.” The only time that Jesus ever seems to be speaking about “His time’ is when He is referring to His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. His time is not yet come. The time is not now for the Son of Man to be glorified. Does this make a little more sense? Why isn’t He going to the feast? He isn’t going, because He knows the feast is a symbol describing Him, and it is not time for His glory to be manifested. He knows that the feast is all about the Messiah, and the water and the wine are speaking of a future time when God will dwell among us. He won’t just live in the Temple or the Tabernacle, but will live hand in hand with His people He will be the living water for them, and He will be their wine. He will reside here among us.

Jesus says, “My time is not yet come.” Then, as soon as His brothers live, He goes. As soon as they’re gone, He secretly goes. Notice verse 37: “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice…” Remember what happens on the last day. Remember that there is the wine, and the water, and the prayers, and the teachings from Isaiah and Jeremiah and Numbers and Deuteronomy that all look forward to some event where the Messiah comes and lives among them. Now, during the time of Jesus, there was an extra bit that would be performed on the last day. While all the people are gathered together at the Temple, the high priest would take an empty pitcher, walk down the isle and out of the Temple, down to the pool of Salom, which is a fresh water spring, fill the pitcher with water, carry the pitcher back up to the Temple, slowly walk up the steps, carry the pitcher up the isle, and stop at the Holy of Holies. While this is taking place, the crowd is chanting “hoshanah.”

As the high priest walks out of the Temple, the chant is quiet. As the high priest dips the pitcher into the pool, the chanting grows louder. The crowd gets louder and louder as the high priest approaches the Temple. Hoshana means “God, save us.” While the high priest would be walking up those steps and moving toward the Holy of Holies, the crowd would be chanting at the top of their lungs. When the priest comes to the Holy of Holies, he then takes the pitcher of wine and the pitcher of water, and he begins to pour them out. The liquid runs down the steps and out of the Temple – a red river flowing from the Throne of God. When they pierced Jesus’ side, what flowed? Blood and water…

While that river is flowing, the people are now screaming, “HOSHANAH! HOSHANAH! HOSHANAH HOSHANAH! HOSHANAH!” As this scene is taking place, the people are shouting at the tops of their lungs, the red river flows, and Jesus stands up and speaks… with a loud voice. You don’t say… He speaks with a loud voice, so as to be heard, “If anyone is thirsty! Let him come unto me and drink! Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him!”

Jesus waits until the last day of the feast, when everyone is on their feet and crying, “God save us!” to come out and speak with a loud voice, “That water is not the real water! Come to me if you want the Living Water. You just heard Isaiah 12 and Jeremiah 17. Come to me all who are truly thirsty.” The real water, the true reality, is not something physical. It is not something that you claim. It is no the food on the table or the water in your glass, or the clothes on your back. It isn’t the house that you live in. It isn’t your tent being nice and fancy like tradition says it should be. The real water is this: the Spirit. And this Spirit flows like a river of living water from without you. Now, it is interesting to note that living water is the same term as “flowing” water.

Notice the next chapter. In John 8, we have Jesus being tested by the Pharisees. They bring a woman who was just caught in adultery to Him. First off, where is the guy? It takes two to tango. Secondly, how did they know it was adultery? Do they know the husband? Thirdly, how did they know this was going on? Was she committing adultery in the broad daylight? The whole thing seems mighty fishy. Yet, when they ask Jesus what they should do, Jesus doesn’t respond. What does He do? He starts writing in the dust

Remember Jeremiah 17:13, that when the Messiah comes, He shall write the names of the disobedient in the sand. They just read these passages. They just taught that God would write their names in the dust if they were found without this living water… And they bring this woman in an unjust fashion, and they present her to Jesus, and they are full of pomp and arrogance. They are trying to disprove what just happened the night before, and now Jesus is doing what? I have heard time after time that we can’t tell what Jesus was writing in the sand. Of course we can. They just read this passage yesterday. He is writing the names of those who persecute this woman. It all makes sense when we see the Old and New Testaments together.

There is sand on the ground of the universe, and Jesus has been, and still is, writing upon it. It is called the Lamb’s book of Life. Most of us are familiar with the term from Revelation 20. It isn’t hard to know who is in it and who isn’t. Jesus said that we would know them by their fruits. He even was bold enough to mention that grapes don’t have thorns, and figs don’t grow with thistle. Do you get it? Grapes and thorns; figs and thistle… One is a fruit; the other isn’t even the same kind of vegetation. They are completely different. Do you see His point? They have nothing to do with one another, and that is the point exactly. It should be that obvious who really serves God and who doesn’t.

So why, then, do we have so many people who follow the Lord, and no way to distinguish them? Why does it seem like all of the “ways” are by being around them for five or more years before you can even tell if there really is fruit in their lives? Does it really take five years to tell a fig from an octopus? It is obvious. Have you ever been around someone, and even if they aren’t perfect, there is just something about them that seems to bring forth life and joy? Have you ever met someone that you go to counsel and be by their side, and when you leave, you feel better about yourself because of how they’ve counseled you? This is the fruit. It is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If these things are lacking, then most likely the person is a thorn or thistle.

Sukkot is about celebrating the God who would dwell in a Tabernacle with His people. It is about praising God for the fact that He doesn’t leave us. The way that John starts his Gospel is by claiming, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” That Greek phrase can also be translated “pitched his tent…” The word, which is God, pitched his tent among us. It isn’t about Christ’s death upon the cross, but about God dwelling with us. That is the first advent – the breaking in of the Kingdom of God upon this world.

It goes back to Exodus 40, just like all the feasts have gone back to Exodus, where God has the Israelites build a Tabernacle for God to dwell in while they all dwell in their own “tabernacles”. Sukkot is celebrating the God who dwells in our midst.

But there is a future coming of Christ that we look forward to. You see, we find that Christ is our Passover Lamb. We find that the Feast of Pentecost (Shavuot) is fulfilled in Acts 2. But when we read Revelations, we find it ending with God making His dwelling with men. The Feast of Tabernacles is the last feast of the year, and it is also the last one to be fulfilled prophetically speaking. Everything said up to this point is really progressing forward to the event that will one day come. We all sense it and desire it. We long for it. We know that when we shall see God that we shall be made like him (1 John 3:2). Paul even uses the phraseology of tents in 2 Corinthians 5:1-2 when speaking about the resurrection. The paradox of the faith is that the feasts are all fulfilled, but yet they have a future implication. We can see the fulfillment in the crucifixion of Jesus that because of His death, burial, and resurrection we have the water and the wine – the Spirit and the blood – poured out upon us. But that isn’t the end of the story. There is still a future gathering together, when even the heathen nations will celebrate Sukkot.

In Zechariah 14:16, we read of this very thing. In verse 17, God says that if any nation does not come up to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot, they will not have any rain. Egypt is specifically named. There are implications in this. Somehow there are heathen nations in the Millennial Kingdom, but they are no longer “heathen”, otherwise they would have been destroyed with the Antichrist. In this, Christ sets up a throne in Jerusalem along with other “thrones” upon which the priests of God sit (Revelation 20:4-6). This is called the first resurrection. It is only for those found worthy of ruling and reigning with Christ for those 1000 years. Beyond this, we find after the judgment, that those who are a part of the Holy City – the Bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem – they will reign with Christ forever and ever (Revelation 22:5).

The issue of ruling is simple. It is given to two people: those beheaded by the beast, and the priests. This is all summed up in what has been written here. Those who live from Eden, who see that through Christ we have victory over sin and death, will be a part of that Kingdom. Anyone that lays down their own life, and takes up their cross, and lives as a sacrifice unto God, constantly in communion with Him before the throne, will find a place at that throne when it comes down out of Heaven. These are the requirements of servanthood, but ultimately they are the high calling in Christ Jesus. To they who take seriously the words given by God, which are freedom, and they who because of the word of God take up their own cross, they shall here the words, “It is finished!”

No more do we struggle and strive in vain. No more do we weep and anguish without being comforted. No more do we suffer constant reproach without tasting glory. No more do we feel abandoned and left out without feeling accepted in the beloved. No longer are we contained in our mortal bodies. No longer does the snare of death hold us. Finally we are free. Finally we have attained unto life everlasting. Finally we have entered that rest. Finally we have come unto Zion. Finally we have entered into the Holy of Holies. Finally we eat of that table, which is Christ’s body and His blood; Christ in us – the hope of glory. And that finally is today.

It is finished…

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