The Feast of Tabernacles begins tomorrow evening at sundown and is the last of the biblically mandated feasts celebrated yearly by the children of Israel as outlined in the book of Leviticus, chapter 23. During these seven days, God commanded that we ‘live’ in what are called in Hebrew, succot or temporary dwellings with a loosely woven roof through which we can see the stars at night.
At Sinai when God delivered the Torah to Moses He envisioned a people who by the holiness of their lives would be a ‘living sanctuary’ of His presence in this world and serve to demonstrate to the rest of the nations what that looks like. Sadly, the children of Israel did not live up to that high calling and after the episode of the Golden Calf, God commanded that a ‘Tabernacle’ be erected in the wilderness. The Tabernacle was never intended to replace God’s desire for a people who would be a living sanctuary; it was instead to be a reminder, a visible expression of what their high calling. Much later, the Temple in Jerusalem was also a sign and a reminder that what God was really looking for was a “temple” not made with hands but with hearts; a living Temple of His presence in the form of a nation, a congregation whose daily life inspired the rest of the world to love Him and follow His ways.
The feast of Tabernacles is yet another visible reminder of what the God of Israel longs for. We carry on our activities, not in the comfort of our homes, but in our temporary ‘tabernacle’. These take the form of a tent-like structure in which we eat our meals for seven days, and here in Israel where we enjoy sunshine until well into November, many people even sleep in the ‘succah’.
The experience reminds us of how our ancestors dwelt in the desert, provided for by God Himself. It reminds us of what we are supposed to be, individually and corporately. It also reminds us that our time on this earth, however long we live, is nevertheless temporary but that we have an eternal dwelling awaiting us in the presence of God. Therefore, Tabernacles speaks to us in at least three ways.
It’s a unique time, a very enjoyable time. Families and friends gather, visit each other’s ‘succot’, share festive meals with singing and laughter.
But when Tabernacles is over, seven days later, what is most important is whether or not we have renewed our commitment to live in such a way as to be a Godly example of love, compassion, integrity, moral character, humility and kindness to those around us; in other words, in the year to come, if someone wanted to know what God is like, could they watch our daily lives and get some idea of His goodness?
That is the call of the Feast of Tabernacles.
May we rise to that calling and make this world a better place!