Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sukkot—The Feast of Tabernacles- God Dwelling With His People

Forgive the belatedness of this post; my seminary studies have kept me occupied. Beginning this past Monday through this approaching Monday, is the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles on the Hebrew calendar. Sundown will mark the end of the appointed time with Simchat Torah—the celebration of Torah.

It is important to note, the reason for examining the feasts, is to celebrate the Christology in them, and the fulfillment of them in Christ. I do not “keep” the feasts, but I celebrate them, and I study them to gain an understanding of end time events. Not all of the feasts have been fulfilled. The fall feasts, (The Feast of Trumpets, The Feast of Tabernacles, and the Day of Atonement), speak to future events. For believers in Christ, He is our atonement, but there is coming a day when all Israel will look upon Him who they pierced (see Zech. 12:10) and receive Him as the Messiah.

 I do not waste time trying to determine when Christ is coming back, for no man knows the hour (see Matt. 24). But Jesus does tell us that we will know the season: Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door (vv. 32-33). He also warned us that we would see signs in the heavens (see Lk. 21:25).

Leviticus 23 describes the Lord’s command for the Feast of Tabernacles. The people are to build temporary tents. The NASB renders it the Feast of Booths; it is the Lord’s appointed time to remind the Israelites of their season in the wilderness, of living in tents, and how the Lord sustained them (Lev. 23:33-44). It is also a time to celebrate in awe and wonder that the Creator of the universe came to dwell with His people.
The feast falls at the end of the harvest, and ushers in the beginning of the rain and new winter planting season. Tabernacles is kept for eight days after the corn and wine have been gathered. The corn represents the Word of God; the corn and wine together represent the fullness of God’s blessing, and speaks to the millennial kingdom when all God’s people will be gathered to Him. For this world is temporary:

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near (Jas. 5:7-8).

A sacrifice was to be offered—there must be a blood offering. The priests sacrificed seventy bulls—one for each nation of the earth and the seventy souls that came out from Jacob.

This feast is not yet fulfilled, the answer to this season of festive joy is still in the future— the future days of glory when Christ and His risen saints will return with Him, and reign over a world rejoicing in His coming. Israel will be restored to their land and to Yeshua, their Redeemer. He will be head of the nations and under His righteousness creation will no longer groan, but will rejoice at the redemption of all things.

For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven {Col. 1:19-20}.

To all the people of the earth, the Feast of Tabernacles points to the joy and rejoicing that waits them in the millennial reign. The feast will be kept, and all the nations will go up to the city of the great king to celebrate it (Zech. 14:16, 17).

God Dwells With His People

The booths were made of palm and willow branches. They serve as a reminder for God’s chosen people of His strength and victories in the wilderness, and His mighty works on their behalf. The willows represented the tears that He wiped away—they have so much to be thankful for, and this festival should evoke a worship from Israel worthy of the Lord of Glory.

Three Ways to Worship

During the Feast of Tabernacles, there were possibly two million Jews in Jerusalem celebrating Jehovah’s feast; it was a time of great rejoicing—because Yahweh is dwelling with His people. Due to the great number of people, the priests were divided into three groups. The first group was responsible for offering of the sacrifices. The High Priest led the second group to the Watergate, and the Pool of Siloam. The Third group of priests went out the Beautiful Gate to cut the palm and willow branches.

The Women’s Court was the main place for the celebration of the feast, and it was here that the Levites played music in praise to Yahweh. As people sang, the men would dance. While ascending the steps to the court of Israel, the Levites played lyres, trumpets, and harps. Two priests would blow the silver trumpets while positioned on either side of the great gate of the Court.  

In the Women’s Court stood four massive lampstands. Each lampstand was capped with a golden bowl, and they stood approximately seventy-five feet high. The wicks for these lampstands were worn-out priestly garments, and young priests in training would climb to the top carrying large jugs of oil to fill the bowls. The light emanating from these lampstands filled every courtyard in Jerusalem. It was during this feast, with the lampstands burning bright, that Yeshua proclaimed Himself to be the Light of the World. I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life {Jn. 8:12}. Oil also represents the Holy Spirit.

The water libation ceremony commenced at the Watergate. A parade of faithful Jewish pilgrims marched with the high priest to the pool of Siloam; the pool of living water. The priest then filled a golden vase (representing divinity) with living water from the pool, while a second priest filled a vase of wine in a silver pitcher (representing redemption); speaking to the blood and the water—the two elements of the crucifixion.

On the last day of the feast the pilgrims then performed a “Jericho march” around the altar seven times, and with singing, ascended the stairs to the Temple, and poured out the blood and water on the altar. This is the water libation. The people pray for rain and blessings upon the earth for the coming year. The liturgy continues with the singing of Psalm 118:

The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation. The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly (vv.14-15).

This song of praise is re-iterated in Isaiah’s twelfth chapter:

Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the Lord God is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation. And in that day you will say, Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name. “Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted.” Praise the Lord in song, for He has done excellent things; Let this be known throughout the earth. Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel {vv. 1-6}.

The imagery is stunning. The blood sacrifices and the water is a picture of Christ pouring blood and water from His body on the altar of redemption. Through His blood we are saved and our sins are symbolically washed away through water baptism {see Acts 22:16}. The Brazen Altar is a shadow of Christ’s blood sacrifice and the Brazen Laver, the washing away of sin.

The third group of priests marched from the Beautiful Gate to the Motzah Valley to cut branches from the willows, palms, and other luxurious trees. Imagine the scene. Thousands of priests walking in sync and waving the branches; stepping and waving, stepping and waving. The waving created a swooshing noise. The Hebrew word for wind is ruach, meaning spirit. The word for the Holy Spirit is ruach hakodesh. The swishing is an illustration of the Holy Spirit’s breath that would blow in the temple. It was symbolic of the Spirit of God coming to Jerusalem.

The liturgy of the feast represents the Trinity; the blood, water, and Spirit.

This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.  And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one (1 Jn.5:6-8).  

 The three processions make their way to the Temple, where a priest stands playing a flute,  calling each to the Temple. Because the flute is pierced, the flute player is known as the pierced one—the pierced one is calling for the wind and water to enter the Temple.  

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn {Zech. 12:10}.

The Lulav

The liturgy of rejoicing is accompanied by a lulav which is made from the branches of four trees {Lev. 23:40}, each represents life in the wilderness. The palm tree represents the strength and victory of God, and it is a Jewish picture of joy. Remember that the people used palm branches to welcome Yeshua as the King of Israel {see Jn. 12:13}.  Palm branches will again be waved to welcome Christ:

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” {Rev. 7:9-10}.

The lulav also contained myrtle branches, which represents the rest God gives to the people on Sabbath cycles. The willow branches evoke memories of sorrow and weeping.  During the Babylonia exile, the Jews hung their harps on the willow trees and refused to sing the Lord’s songs while in exile:

By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.  Upon the willows in the midst of it we hung our harps. For there our captors demanded of us songs, And our tormentors mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”  How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? {Ps. 137:1-4}.

The fourth branch in the lulav is the citron, which is a citrus tree that is bitter and sour—to remember times of bitterness and of their slavery.

Jesus and the Feast Of Tabernacles

On the last day of the feast, Christ is in the temple near the brazen altar as the high priest pours out the wine and water, prays for the rains, and for the Spirit to be poured out. Suddenly, according to v. 37, He cries out and interrupts the song service of Psalm 118 and Isaiah 12, and proclaims that He is very One about which they are singing:

Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the Lord God is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation. And in that day you will say, Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name. “Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted.” Praise the Lord in song, for He has done excellent things; Let this be known throughout the earth. Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel {vv. 1-6}.

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified {Jn. 7:37-39}. 

Jesus declares that He is the water of salvation. Shout aloud for the Lord God is standing in your midst. The Hebrew word for salvation in Isaiah is Yeshua, He is the well of Salvation, and with joy, they shall draw water from His wells. He is literally standing in their midst.

The libations are to ask God for rain for the season, and for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to reach the four corners of the earth. Jesus connects the last day of Tabernacles with the coming outpouring of the Spirit.

The lulav branches are beaten on the side of the altar following the pouring out of the blood and water by the high priest. Christ then cries out for the outpouring of the Spirit. The coming of the Spirit was preceded by the beating of the Messiah, and the pouring out of the blood and water from His body. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was only possible because of the death of Christ our Great High Priest {Heb.4:14-16], and the pouring out of His life on redemption’s altar.

The season of the fall feasts, are known as “the seasons of our joy.” It begins with the Feast of Trumpets and ends with the Feast of Tabernacles. The trumpet sounds as a warning that the Day of Atonement is coming, and on that day, God will determine judgment or mercy; it is a solemn day. However, repentance is followed by great joy and rejoicing. Jesus teaches us that the angels and all of heaven rejoice when one sinner repents {see Luke 15}.
Everything in this feast, like the others, speaks to the person, ministry, and work of Christ. The Bible says that all nations will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles during the millennial reign of Christ. Every nation that does not come up to the Feast of Tabernacles will not receive the rain that the feast is designed to bring. 

In Mark 9:1-2, 5, Peter, James and John witness Christ in His glory in the Transfiguration. When Moses and Elijah appear to minister to Jesus, Peter is emphatic about constructing a tabernacle for the three of them. He thought this because the Transfiguration occurred during the Feast of Tabernacles. This reminds us that Jesus is coming back, and we will rule and reign with Him.  It is the only feast that Jews and Gentiles will celebrate and rejoice in together. Celebrate and look for the return of Christ; for it is near, even at the door, and we will dwell with Him forever. 


  1. Piper, I loved this writing on the Feast of Tabernacles! It as well done in defining the various points of the traditional celebration and how we continue to celebrate in the expectation of His coming to dwell with us in His reign.

  2. Thanks Ruby, I appreciate you reading, and taking the time comment!! Come Lord Jesus!