Understanding Tabernacles Pt 2: Party Time
We have seen that God established all of Israel’s worship to center on His feasts. They were occasions for celebration and enjoyment, but they were rich with meaning that we can appropriate for our lives today. The Fall Feasts started with Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets, which was followed by ten days of reverential awe. These led to the holiest day, the Day of Atonement, and then five days later began the Feast of Tabernacles, which lasted for seven days. Let’s talk about this, the Feast of Tabernacles—which I call “Party Time!”—because of all the feasts we’re talking about in this section, this has some of the most fun and exciting promises for God’s people. I’m going to frame it up for you in this chapter, and in the next one, I’m going to show you the very exciting principles God taught me about this feast.
This joyful seven-day festival contains many themes, but probably the heart of God can best be captured by the word “indwelling.” God doesn’t just want visitation rights—He wants habitation with you!
God lays out a lot of instructions in the book of Leviticus, including the specifics of this Feast of Tabernacles (which we could call the Feast of Booths or Shelters but was “Sukkot” to the Jews). In Leviticus 23, God explains the details of this festival.
The first day of the feast was a day of rest (as was the eighth day). God had them take the branches from the trees, palm fronds, those from leafy trees, and willows that grew by the streams, and create little shelters they would live in during the feast.
God tells them that this feast is to be a permanent law or ordinance for every generation to come (Leviticus 23:41), showing that this feast is an enduring principle the Lord does not want us to forget. Living outside in shelters that they built from tree branches was to remind them of how God had brought the Israelites out of Egypt.
After the seriousness of reverential awe and the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles is a very joyful time. What I love most is that after the repentance and atonement came something very special: the unlimited blessings of restoration and all that God has promised His people!
In short, this feast was party time!
Yes, that’s right—your God knows how to party, how to celebrate!
Season of Joy
God timed the Feast of Tabernacles to correspond to the fall grain harvest. It’s a time of celebration for the blessing of the Lord, and the agricultural timing positioned it so that as the crops came in, the Israelites praised God for their provision for the year.
From a spiritual perspective, Feast of Tabernacles corresponds to the joy of knowing that our sins are forgiven. It also recalled God’s miraculous provision and care after deliverance from bondage in Egypt (see Leviticus 23:43). Prophetically, Sukkot anticipates the coming of Jesus, where all the nations will come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord during the festival (see Zechariah 14:16). Because of Jesus’ finished work, the price that He paid for us all as the High Priest of the New Covenant, we now have access to a Heavenly Temple (see Hebrews 4:16). We’re now members of a greater Temple—the Body of Christ. Because of Jesus, Christians are part of His great Sukkot and can partake of all the blessings promised to God’s people!
It’s important to note when a pilgrimage feast comes around, the Lord impresses on us His enormous burden for the poor. The Lord was always reminding the Children of Israel to share with the poor from their abundance.
The reason we can have such joy, no matter our outside circumstances, is because we know the principles that God established for His people, and we can be a part of this blessing. While the Day of Atonement was the holiest day, in Biblical times Sukkot was considered the most important of all the Jewish holidays—they simply called it “the Feast.” All of God’s celebrations were important, but He specified that of all of them, this was the most important season.
God called for many sacrifices and offerings at this time, but it wasn’t just a time where the people offered sacrifices—it’s the season they were commanded to rejoice for the blessing of God’s provision and care for their lives. As the harvest came in, they sacrificed as part of thanking God for their provision for the year, and God poured out His blessings on His people.
This was a season for praising God harder than they ever praised Him during the year. This was a season for blessing the Lord at all times, for recognizing how good He is above and beyond the normal.
And how did God tell them to commemorate this, the most important feast season on the calendar?
Have a party! Celebrate His goodness!
During the Feast of Tabernacles, God’s people had a continuous series of parties—as a family, together with friends, and before God. It was seven days of partying! What a God we serve who would command His people to part for seven days to celebrate His provision!
If you let it, this will change your view of God—for the better! This blows concepts of God as being a killjoy or anti-fun right out of the water. God was so pro-fun. He ordered His people to have parties and fun! Stop and just think about that for a moment, because this tells us so much about the character of God.
One of the best ways I’ve found to describe what “the Feast” is like is by telling people it’s like seven days of Thanksgiving—a whole week of feasting, family, friends, rejoicing, giving thanks, and celebrating what we have to thank God for. It was a time for eating too much, fellowshipping into the night, enjoying one another’s presence, and—most of all—remembering where all the goodness came from. God provided, and now He told them to celebrate His provision.