Observing Or Attending God’s Feast of Tabernacles?

Posted: September 28, 2015 in Christian Living
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This week signaled the beginning of Sukkot, (Feast of Tabernacles) and many will be attending the Feast at various campgrounds around the country.

Each of the three major festivals, the sacred seasons sanctified by God, are designated in Scripture. And each one possess a special quality even today. Passover, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, is known as “the time of our freedom;” this is the holiday of national emancipation. Shavuot, the anniversary of the Sinai Revelation, is “the time of the giving of our Torah.” During these holidays, the entire nation of Israel made the pilgrimage up to Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.

The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Lord’s Festival of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. For seven days present food offerings to the Lord, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the Lord. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work. (These are the Lord’s appointed festivals, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies for bringing food offerings to the Lord—the burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings required for each day. These offerings are in addition to those for the Lord’s Sabbaths and in addition to your gifts and whatever you have vowed and all the freewill offerings you give to the Lord.) “So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the Lord for seven days; the first day is a day of sabbath rest, and the eighth day also is a day of sabbath rest. On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 23:33-44)

It is appropriate that the Festival of Sukkot is referred to as “the time of our joy.” For although it is marked by the observance of special, highly visible commandments such as the “four species” (referred to by the Jewish people as the lulav) and dwelling in huts, commemorating a specific period in Jewish history, (When Israel dwelt in huts in the wilderness) nonetheless, the central theme of this season is the pure joy of having a relationship with our Creator.

Now, some sages have stated that those original “huts” of that generation were actually God’s Clouds of Glory, which He spread over Israel in His protection and Divine grace. (BT Sukkah 11:B; Rashi) Whether or not this statement is taken literally is irrelevant—for what it symbolizes is a concept that not only personifies the very essence of this holiday, but the essence of our faith in God as well.

That is why Sukkot is marked by such great joy in Israel. Of all the sacred seasons that God commanded Israel to observe, the festival of Tabernacles has the strongest implications for the nations of the world. Even today, vast numbers of Gentiles identify with the holiday of Sukkot, and converge on Jerusalem just to be in the holy city at this time of year. It is as if their heartstrings are pulled by some invisible force.

And yet here in the United States Sukkot has become more like so many of the Christian music festivals—complete with all the venders and money changers profiting from those attending. Is this any different than when Jesus chased away the money changers from the Temple? (Matthew 21:12-13)

For that reason we observe the Feast at home. We stay home and study the Scriptures and do the best we can to capture the spirit and joy of the Feast.

Notice that the Scripture commands us to OBSERVE His feasts, not just ATTEND His feasts. We are commanded to observe the Sabbath and the festivals, even if we are unable to attend a service. It isn’t ideal, but when one is unable to attend the Feast or Sabbath services during times of sickness or other hardship, one can still observe them at home.

God intends that we experience the Feast of Tabernacles in a place that He has chosen. He expects us to attend the Feast when feasible, but it is possible to ATTEND the Feast and not properly OBSERVE the Feast. I’m afraid that at times some have treated the Feast as they would a music festival or vacation—simply time away from home and the normal schedule.

Having observed the Feast at home, I can tell you that when you’re alone with your family, you are forced to consider the spiritual meaning of the Feast in a different way. I am not advocating that you stay away from attending God’s festival at one of the many campgrounds, but I am happy that I learned to observe the Feast before ever attending the Feast. And I believe it made a difference.

I sincerely encourage you to observe the Feast. And if you feel the need to attend the Feast, remember, it’s not a vacation, or a music festival, but a holy assembly. It should be the highlight of your year. Above all, I pray that this Feast will be spiritually rewarding and bring you great joy—indeed, the greatest joy you’ve ever known! Don’t just attend the Feast this year, but make sure you also observe it as God commanded.

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