Wednesday, 21 May 2008 12:10

Learning From The Feast of Tabernacles

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Looking at Nehemiah 8:12-18, this passage of Holy Scripture tells about how the people of Israel in Nehemiahs time, after the rebuilding of the city walls in the seventh month, also practiced the God-ordained so called seven day feast of tabernacles or feast of booths. In this time the people would gather all kinds of branches from different trees to make a small booth and live in these simple lean-to tents. We read in verses 16&17, So the people went forth, and brought them [all kinds of branches], and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim. And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: And there was very great gladness

Dear friends, may I challenge you from this Word of God in thinking about what an example we have here of the people living by faith and not by sight. We are told after the special worship service on the first day of the seventh month that the Israelite men then on the second day of that same month, especially as the spiritual heads of their households, met again with Ezra to hear and learn more from the Word of God for their lives and their families. How good, by the way, when as head of the home we show spiritual leadership and seek to be well grounded in the truth, also to guide and guard our families in the way of Gods Word and will. Isnt it true, generally speaking, we live in a time where all too many men are neglectful in their responsibilities in the family and home, especially spiritually speaking? What about you in this regard? Let us learn from Nehemiah 8:13, And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law.

What happened in the Bible study these men had with Ezra? They learned about the feast of tabernacles and the call annually to live in lean-to booths for a week. You can read about God instituting this in Leviticus 23:33-44. But what was the purpose of this feast of tabernacles or booths, living in these lean-to grassy tents for seven days? What was the value of that then and how can it apply to us now in our New Testament age? Surely the point is not that we literally do the same today, but yet there are some real spiritual lessons for us to remember from this feast of long ago. Consider with me how we can learn still today from this Old Testament feast being a prayerful thanksgiving feast, a pilgrim-minded feast, and promise-focused feast.

It was a prayerful thanksgiving feast. God designed this feast to take place right after the harvest season. We read in Deuteronomy 16:13, Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine. This was a feast to take place annually, acknowledging Gods goodness and undeserved mercies again for another year, especially after the time of harvest. We know too the Lord wanted this feast of tabernacles to serve as a memorial of their dwelling in tents in the wilderness when the Lord mightily had delivered them from the bondage of Egypt and wonderfully provided for and protected them in the wilderness journey. This time in these simple booths was to be a time of spiritual reflection and meditative thankfulness and dedication and devotion to the LORD for all His mercies to them.

In Nehemiahs time what reasons there were for prayerful thanksgiving and reflective gratitude to God for all His mercies and loving-kindness to them as the covenant people of old. Though they had forsaken God in former days and worshipped idols, and though they had been scattered and brought in exile, God had now mercifully brought them back to the promised land and to the Holy city, and now both the temple and the city walls could be restored. The Lord showed and promised mercy and grace when the people repented and returned to Him. He promised His further presence and help also in all their needs in life. Was there not then countless reasons for prayerful thanksgiving before the LORD, their faithful covenant keeping God, in spite of all their unfaithfulness? This sort of meditation and rededication to God and His ways was the spiritual purpose of this feast of tabernacles as God designed it.

Do you live in prayerful thanksgiving to the Lord for all His mercies to you today? Is there not reason for humble thanksgiving before God also in your life in regards to countless material and physical blessings and spiritual blessings and gospel privileges? Do you not live in a golden gospel age, and regardless of your circumstances, are you not yet favored about what you deserve and favored with blessings others are deprived of? Do you not benefit from gracious Christian privileges and blessings, yes, including even this message? The feast of tabernacles was intended to lead the people in lives of prayerful thanksgiving before God. Does your life reflect this same prayerful thankful mindset before God and all around us? The natural man is not preoccupied with God and His glory, but for the true child of God, blessed by the Holy Spirit and led in grace and truth, this becomes characteristic of you, and then you become sad when you are not all caught up with the Lord and His praise as is His due. In the busyness of life do you need a reminder of the feast of tabernacles long ago to take stock of your life and to live in prayerful thanksgiving before God and others? Yes, regardless also what others might say and think?

We should notice, secondly, in this regard that the feast of tabernacles was also very much a pilgrim-minded feast. Living in these temporary and very simple booths for a week was a reminder to the people and to their neighbors that we are just pilgrims here on earth, living lifes brief earthly journey heading towards an eternity beyond! Just think of the testimony given here in Nehemiahs time with the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem, and the organizing and establishing of the royal city of David once again, and with people settling in homes, yet this was their perspective, we are just passing through now, and heading to an eternal city by Gods design. Their trust was not in the here and now, but they were looking to the Saviour God to lead them onward in the everlasting way. As it says in Hebrews 13:14, For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.

Dear friends, do you not find it wholesome too, to be reminded of having a pilgrim mindset as we live and work day by day in our times? Are you keeping in mind in all your ways that life here is short and there is an endless eternity beyond? Living fruitfully and faithfully to Gods praise always involves keeping an eternal perspective in all your ways. Do you reflect such in your home life, and your priorities in life? In all your pursuits and relationships in life, is it evident that what counts above all for you is the world to come and being ready for that, on route there and having treasures there more than here? Or have you fallen in the trap of sin and Satan and this world, thinking only mostly always just of here and now and not beyond this life? The feast of tabernacles was directed by God with this purpose also, to keep the people pilgrim-minded, even when earthly blessings multiplied. Who doesnt need the divine reminder to live with a pilgrim mind-set, and to reflect that also in word and deed in our lives here and now? Will you ask God so to help you live and die too? .

The third truth to bring out concerning this feast of tabernacles is that it was also surely a promise-focused feast. In other words, this time of sitting in these lean-to tents was a time for looking to Gods further promises of blessing and help, and especially also in Nehemiahs time still, looking to the promise of the coming Messiah. Participating in this feast of tabernacles demonstrated living by the promises of God. The people knew, as God had been faithful to His Word till then that He would continue to be faithful to all His Word, and they lived in humble expectant anticipation of this fulfillment. We know later again many strayed from this focus, getting caught up in this present world, but that only brings out the repeated need to be humble and earnestly and diligently to focus on the promises of God in Christ Jesus. Do the possessions of earth control you or the promises of God? We read that the people during the feast of tabernacles had the Book of the Law read to them daily. In other words the people fed themselves with Gods Word and daily heard the law and gospel of God, learning from the God of promise and looking to the promises of God.

Are you a promised-focused person, living in view of all Gods Word and promises? Should we not be so, very much so, living in our last times and in view of the fulfillment of Gods gospel promises in and with Christ Jesus, the once crucified and now forever exalted Saviour of sinners? Are you living by and out of Gods promises as revealed in His Word, and made sure in and through Christ Jesus? This is the call also with the Old Testament feast of tabernacles long ago. Just think too of the final eternal fulfillment of all Gods promises in Christ Jesus! Who can tell the glories of the promised land of the new heavens and earth to come for all Gods true people? It will be exceeding abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think.

Are you alive for God and in the ways of God living a prayerfully thankful life, a pilgrim-minded life, and a promise-focused life, looking ever to Jesus Christ, the one and only Saviour of sinners? In this way Gods people still today, in fact, reflect by Gods grace what the this feast of tabernacles was all about. If you are still a stranger to God and His gospel ways, how you need to be convinced and convicted of your sinful and lost condition and to flee to the Lord Jesus while He still offers pardon and peace. The gospel truth is, the Saviour is yet calling to sinners dead in sin and trespasses to be saved by His grace through the once for all sacrifice of Christ on behalf of sinners. In John 7:37 we hear Jesus say on the last day of the feast of tabernacles being celebrated in His time, Jesus stood and cried [out], saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Here we learn, with Christ and His saving work, what an outpouring through His Spirit is promised to all who come to Him. But you need to take Gods Word seriously then and to keep taking it seriously, indeed, increasingly so even. Dont be a camper on earth and traveler through life here, unmindful of the feast of tabernacles and its spiritual lessons for all people in all ages. Will Nehemiah 8:12-18 profit you spiritually speaking in this life and the next? Isnt that Gods express purpose with all His inspired Word that it be truly profitable to us? May this Old Testament feast teach us further in the way of Psalm 90 as expressed in song,

Our God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy blast,

And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne

Thy saints have dwelt secure;

Sufficient is Thine arm alone,

And our defense is sure.

Like flowery fields the nations stand

Pleased with the morning light;

The flowers beneath the mowers hand

Lie withering ere tis night.

Our God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come,

Be Thou our guard while troubles last,

And our eternal home.Amen.

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