The Feast of Tabernacles
Jews, Jewish believers, and Christians from all over the world celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles this year from October 6th through October 12th. Our dancers joined in the celebration by listening to the Bible stories from both Old and New Testaments that tell of the feast, looking at pictures, and learning Messianic Praise dances.
The Feast of Tabernacles, literally the Feast of Booths, is one of the seven feasts that God commanded His chosen people celebrate throughout the year. (Leviticus 23) It is a joyous celebration of God’s continued provision during the harvest and remembrance of His provision and protection during the 40 years spent in the wilderness.
God gave us biblical festivals to teach us about His character and to help us understand His plan of salvation.
In preparation for the week long celebration, booths or shelters were built from a variety of materials. They symbolized God’s protective nature, for He is our shelter and place of safety. During the eight days of the feast, the ancient Israelites would dwell in booths or tabernacles that were made from the branches of trees. (Leviticus 23:40–42)
The Gospels record that Jesus not only celebrated the festival, but He also took elements of the traditional celebration and applied them to His own identity and mission. (John 7 and 8) John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus was present at the Temple during the water drawing ceremony. This ceremony consisted of a procession of worshipers lead by a priest carrying two golden pitchers. One pitcher was for wine and the other was for water, which would be drawn from the pool of Siloam. This is the same pool of water Jesus told the blind man to use to wash off the mud Jesus had placed on his eyes. (See John 9:1-7). After the water was drawn, the procession returned to the Temple. Music was played and the people danced and recited the words of Psalm 118. In the Temple, on the altar, rested two silver basins. The priest poured the wine in one basin as a drink offering to Yahweh. He poured the water into the other basin as an offering of thanks for a bountiful harvest and a prayer to Yahweh for His blessing of rain for the coming year. It was at the moment of the pouring of the water that Jesus proclaimed,
"If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37-38).
Jesus was talking about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for those who believe. Just as physical water is necessary for the growing of crops, the living water of the Holy Spirit is necessary for the growth of fruits of the Spirit.
In John 8:12, Jesus is in the court of women speaking to the crowd and says to the people that He is the light of the world. He continues with these words,
“Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
At the end of the first day of the Feast, the Temple was “gloriously illuminated. The light was to remind the people of how God's Shekinah glory had once filled His Temple. But in the person of Jesus, God's glory was once again present in that Temple. And He used that celebration to announce that very fact.”1
In the wilderness, God gave the Israelites instructions to celebrate certain feasts so that they would remember how He had delivered them from slavery to freedom. His plan for complete salvation and deliverance from death to eternal life came through Jesus. It is therefore fitting that we remember God’s greatest provision and protection through Jesus, the Light of the World and through the Holy Spirit’s life giving water.
Even though the Feast of Booths is officially over, there is no law that says you cannot celebrate it beyond that time. Every day is a perfect day to celebrate Jesus. Choose a day when you have lots of free time and design and build a tabernacle together as a family. The weather is still warm and so building a tabernacle in the backyard would be great fun. Enjoy family meals in your tabernacle, tell Bible stories of God’s protection and provision for His people, and share stories of how God has provided for and protected you as a family. Be as elaborate or rustic as you want to be.
Here are some pictures of modern day booths.
Dance to Messianic praise music. Here are the two I used in class - “Come Let us go Up” performed by Paul Wilber and “Jehovah Jireh” performed by Don Moen.
Spotify has a Messianic Praise playlist. Google “Messianic praise music” and you will see a great list of songs you can use. Make tambourines, use colorful scarves, dance in a circle, and rejoice, for the Lord your God is your shelter and your body is the tabernacle of the Holy Spirit.
1 Brickner, D, Finding Jesus in the Feast of Tabernacles [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www1.cbn.com/finding-jesus-feast-tabernacles