Thursday, June 15, 2017

Feast of Tabernacles

The Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration of God's provision of the children of Israel in their wandering in the wilderness. In particular, it was a festival of water and light. God provided water in the wilderness through a rock that followed them. They did not know where the underground water sources were. (The bedouins knew.) Archaeologists have suggested that God led them to places where there was water perhaps deep underground and the rock was bringing up water from the ground and distributing it to the Israelites. That is speculation, but it is possible. In any event, God got water from a rock. That doesn't happen in nature. It is supernatural.

Another miracle in the wilderness was the fire above the tabernacle indicating that God was present and also providing light by night to the Israelites in the dark desert. According to some sources, the Jews of Jesus' day put two giant torches on the temple to represent the fire by night in that wilderness. Supposedly, those torches could be seen from anywhere in Jerusalem.

In John chapters seven and eight, Jesus and his disciples went up to Jerusalem to the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths). During that time, Jesus proclaimed, "I am the light of the world." (John 8:12) I can imagine Jesus standing at the entrance of the temple, torches lit, saying these very words. Once again, Jesus has transformed our understanding of a key Jewish festival. We should no longer look back to some past time when God did great things. He is our light, our guide, our understanding. He brings us truth. Later in that same chapter, Jesus said, "If you continue in my Word, you will be my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." (John 8:32) When we are set free, then we can help others get free through the Word. Jesus also said that we are the light of the world. (Matt 5:14)

Likewise, Jesus is the Rock that followed them in the wilderness. "They drank from the same spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ." (1 Cor. 10:4) But it goes further than that. Jesus extended this image to the followers of Christ. "On the last day, the great day of the feast [of Tabernacles], Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him would receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given because Jesus was not yet glorified." (John 7:38-39)

So we believers who are filled with the Holy Spirit have rivers of living water flowing from Jesus through our spirits to meet the needs of the world. That is what the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is for. It is not for us, but for our ministry to others. "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be My witnesses." (Acts 1:8) We need the power of the Holy Spirit to minister to others. We cannot do it in the flesh. And if God can get water out of the ground and through a rock to bring needed water and refreshing, then He can use the church as channels of blessing to all the world. Jesus is the source of water and then it comes through our hearts (spirits) and brings life to others. These are rivers of the gifts of the Spirit, the love and mercy of God, wisdom and whatever else is needed at the moment.

Another part of our transformed understanding of the Feast of Tabernacles is the future. During the Millennial reign of Christ, all nations will celebrate this feast. "It will come about that any who are left [after the battle of Armageddon] of all the nations ... will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles." (Zechariah 14:16) Some of us have known this, but there is one more part of this we have missed. And that is the fact that during the Millennium, the Feast of Tabernacles will be celebrated continually. "In that day, there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle ... [there will be] neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light. And in that day, living waters will flow out from Jerusalem." (Zechariah 14:6-8) That is the Feast of Tabernacles.

So, we have Tabernacles being celebrated all the time. We should always honor God's provision for natural and spiritual needs and any other needs that we might have in this world. For the church, we honor this by ministering the Word and the Spirit to those God puts in our path for that purpose. He is the source of blessing, but we are the channels of blessing. And, of course, we are first the recipient of blessing.

The church need not celebrate this feast on certain days of the year. Instead, we celebrate it every day by ministering the Word and the Spirit to others. That is true for all the Jewish feasts. They are fulfilled in Christ, and often, in His Body, the church. We celebrate them every day by honoring Him to Whom all the feasts point.

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