Feast of Tabernacles


Do you know what the feast of Tabernacles is all about?


IN A.D. 32 the Feast of Tabernacles would begin on September 10. Jesus, like every faithful Jewish man, would make the journey to Jerusalem to attend. The Feast of Tabernacles was the most popular of the three annual feasts re­quiring attendance in Jerusalem of every Jewish male.

The purpose of the Feast of Tabernacles was to remind the Jewish people of God's blessings on them during their forty years of wandering in the wilder­ness during which God had been present in their midst in the tabernacle. There in the wilderness he had provided them water from a rock when they were thirsty (Exodus 17: 1-7) and manna from heaven when they were hungry (Exodus 16:4).

As an annual reminder of God's provision in the wilderness, every Jewish family was to build a small booth out of tree boughs and palm branches and live in it during the seven days of the feast (Leviticus 23:39-43).

Jesus' anticipated trip to Jerusalem was filled with absurdities. For the past months Jesus had been spending his time in Galilee because the Jews of Jerusalem and Judea were seeking to kill him (John 7:1). Now that the time had come for the Feast of Tabernacles (v. 2), Jesus was expected to go to Jeru­salem, but he had to be careful how he went lest he be murdered before God's appointed time for his death on the cross.

The instruction for observance of the Feast of Tabernacles was that "every man in Israel must appear before the Sovereign Lord" (Exodus 23:17), yet here the Sovereign Lord, Jesus, was personally present but many in Israel were trying to kill him. Indeed, just a few months later they would crucify their Sovereign Lord.

In the first chapter of his Gospel, the apostle John used a verb related to the Greek word for tabernacle to introduce Jesus: "The Word became flesh and [literally] 'tabernacled' among us." In other words, just as God had been present in the midst of his people in the Old Testament tabernacle in the wilderness and later in the temple, God was now present in Jesus. The Jews were seeking to kill Jesus at the feast of which he was the fulfillment - he was the "tabernacle of God with men."

A daily highlight of each of the feast's seven days was the water-drawing ceremony. At daybreak priests went from the temple to the pool of Siloam. There they filled a golden pitcher with water and carried it back to the temple.

As they approached the south side of the temple, trumpets sounded three times. The priests bearing the pitcher then proceeded around the altar while the temple choir sang the Hallel (Psalms 113-18). When the choir reached the opening words of Psalm 118, every male shouted with them three times, “Give thanks to the Lord.” Then as the chosen priest mounted the altar, he poured the wine and water offerings into the two silver bowls. As he poured, the choir sang the words of Psalm 118: "The stone rejected by the builders has now be­come the cornerstone" (v. 22). On the seventh day of the feast, the priests cir­cled the altar not once but seven times.

Of this particular Feast of Tabernacles John records, “On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, ‘If you are thirsty, come to me! If you believe in me, come and drink! For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water will flow out from within’” (John 7:37-38). Jesus used "living water" to refer to the Holy Spirit who would be “poured out” on believers after he had ascended into glory (John 7:39; Acts 2:17-18). Jesus, “the stone rejected by the builders,” was the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles.

Have you come to Jesus and drunk the living water of his Spirit? The Spirit indwells all those who believe in Jesus, and the water that he offers satisfies their deepest longings.

For I will give you abundant water to quench your thirst and to

moisten your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit and my

blessings on your children. ISAIAH 44:3

SOURCE: The One Year Book of Christian History by Michael and Sharon Rusten

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