Feast of Tabernacles
Why Is It?
Read Leviticus 23:39-44 and Zechariah 14:16
39 “‘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 sabbath rest, and the eighth day also is a day of sabbath rest.40 On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. 41 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. 42 Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters43 so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’” 44 So Moses announced to the Israelites the appointed festivals of the Lord.
16 Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.
While an ancient Jewish feast day like the Feast of Tabernacles might sound strangely foreign, I’d invite us to think of it as we would any other special day of celebration. Birthdays, Christmas and the Fourth of July all hold special meaning only because we understand what they stand for. We know the “why” behind the celebration. What is the “why” behind the Feast of Tabernacles? There is a past, present and future aspect to answering this question:
The Feast of Tabernacles served as a physical reminder of God’s deliverance of Israel during the Exodus and His faithfulness in sustaining them through their desert wandering.
The Feast of Tabernacles was presently celebrated by Jews as a time of thanksgiving and joy. It fell at the end of the harvest season in ancient Israel, and served as a week where Jews might recognize God’s faithfulness in providing more than enough. Worship at the Temple in Jerusalem was the right response to God’s abundant goodness.
Zechariah foretold of a time when all would go to Jerusalem each year to “worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zachariah 14:16). We, like the Jews, celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles by holding to this prophetic promise. Jesus will one day come again.
In keeping the Feast of Tabernacles, let us consider this threefold meaning in our own lives. Reflect on a moment or season in your past where you may particularly note God’s faithfulness. Presently, where is God providing for you? Finally, let us look with perspective-giving anticipation to a day when Jesus will come again.