The Biblical Feasts of Israel – 04 (Third Feast – The Feast of Booths)
The past three Sundays we discussed the first two festival seasons of Israel. It is not only interesting facts that are presented to us through the Word, but they are extremely important too. We must understand that these festivals were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We constantly hear of believers in some other denominations that still maintain some of these festivals because they believe it is the right thing to do. According to them it is Biblical. These are Biblical feasts, but what they do not realise is that all these festivals have been fulfilled. Therefore, we as believers no longer have to continue maintaining it. In fact, if we maintain these feasts, we deny the implications of the Gospel and the fulfilment of these festivals.
Today we are going to look at the Feast of Tabernacles, so turn with me to the book of Ezra.
2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Ezra 3:1-13 ~ “When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 3 They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. 4 And they kept the Feast of Booths, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the rule, as each day required, 5 and after that the regular burnt offerings, the offerings at the new moon and at all the appointed feasts of the Lord, and the offerings of everyone who made a freewill offering to the Lord. 6 From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. 7 So they gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the grant that they had from Cyrus king of Persia. 8 Now in the second year after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their kinsmen, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to supervise the work of the house of the Lord. 9 And Jeshua with his sons and his brothers, and Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together supervised the workmen in the house of God, along with the sons of Henadad and the Levites, their sons and brothers. 10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.”
3. REBUILDING OF THE ALTAR:
After the exiles from Babylon returned back home, their first task was to rebuild
the altar for burnt offerings. This was of the utmost importance, so that the people could receive atonement for their sins. This altar was to be built on the same site as the previous one. It was this sacrificial system that distinguished them from other nations, as the people of God. It was also used by God to once again reconcile His sinful children with Him.
It is generally accepted that the reference to the start of the construction work during the seventh month (vs.1), refers to the time elapsed since the exiles “return(ed) from Babylon and therefore the construction of the altar (commenced) during September-October.”
4. THE FEAST OF THE TABERNACLES:
The first festival season, which is also known as the Passover (Lev.23:5) took place during the month of “Nissan” (March-April). The Passover was accompanied by the barley harvest and consisted of two sub-feasts, namely the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev.23:6) and the third was the Feast of the First Fruits (Lev.23:10, also called “The Wave Offering”).
The second festive season, known as Pentecost (Lev.23: 15-16; “Feast of Pentecost”), took place during the Hebrew month, “Sivan” (Aug.-Sept.) which was also during the wheat harvest.
The seventh month (“Tishri”) has always been an important month in the religious calendar of Israel, due to the celebration of the third festive season of the people of God. It was celebrated during the month “Tishri” (the seventh month) (final gathering in the Hebrew) and it is known as the Feast of Tabernacles (“Sukkot” in Hebrew).
The Feast of Tabernacles had three secondary festivals, viz. the Feast of Trumpets (Lev.23: 23-25) that took place on the first day. On the tenth day, the second celebration commenced and was called the Day of Atonement (Lev.23: 26-32). The third and main feast was celebrated during the 15th to the 21st day and was called the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev.23: 33-36, 39-43; Num.29: 12 39). It was during this Feast of Tabernacles that the altar was rebuilt. Next week, we will Lord willing, look at the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles.
It is important to note that these feasts were not primarily a feast of eating, drinking and all sorts of pleasures. No, it was a time of humbling and a time to meet with God in a very special way. Doing this time, the people received a special blessing from God as promised, e.g. the reconciliation which was achieved between God and the people during the Day of Atonement.
The Israelites also had to maintain various physical practices and rituals during this time of humbling and reconciliation (e.g. fasting; resting from work; living in specially built huts, etc.). The aim of these practices was to acquire certain spiritual truths regarding their relationships with God. It also had another very important aim. The reminder of their coming Messiah, Jesus the Christ, for He would be the transition from the physical to the spiritual.
These feasts were critical to the lives of the Hebrews, as it was all about God’s relationship with them, the People of God. This symbolised important encounters between God and His chosen people.
5. THE FEAST OF THE TRUMPETS:
As mentioned earlier, the rebuilding of the altar was done during this third festival season. What was the meaning of this season for the Hebrew people? We gain an understanding and an explanation, when we look at the most important features of the Feast of Trumpets.
With this Feast of Trumpets, God wanted to teach His people to rest in Him. They had to aspire to a place in their relationship with Him where they would find resignation, comfort and contentment within Him, because He is the God of the universe. In Lev.23:24-25, the Lord said the following to Moses ~ “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the Lord.” The Israelites were in the desert after their exodus from Egypt and camping at Mount Sinai, where God instructed them to establish this memorial feast, the Feast of Trumpets.
In Num.10:10 we read that the first day of each new month, was announced by the blowing of trumpets, but the first day of the month Tishri (Sept.-Oct.), was a special day and therefore the trumpets were sounded extra loud and long. This was to announce the start of the Feast of Tabernacles, and specifically, the beginning of the sub-feast, viz. the Feast of Trumpets. According to the Jewish calendar this was also the beginning of the new year, or rather the “Rosh Hoshanah”. It was expected to attend this festival in Jerusalem.
Unlike other festivals which were joyful, this festival was a time of deep and intense introspection, as it behooves any man or women when they appear in the presence of the Almighty Judge and Ruler of the universe. A time to beg that the Eternal Judge will save his or her life. It was a time for every individual to experience standing before the judgement seat of God, seeking forgiveness and cleansing from God.
The sound of the horn (or trumpet) was a call to repentance and confession. We find an example of this in Joel 2:15 where the people were called to engage in a joint fast. The Feast of Trumpets, however, is not just about condemnation and repentance. This feast reminded the people of God’s grace. That is why the people were called during this feast, to prepare for the next festival, viz. the Day of Atonement, where God’s grace and forgiveness were to be celebrated.
The people who gathered in Jerusalem after the exile, was to become a new nation. They were engaged into a new relationship to the covenant of Israel. It was therefore appropriate to begin the restoration of their relationship with God, with the rebuilding of the altar during the Feast of Trumpets.
We read in vs.1b that the people… ~ “…gathered as one man to Jerusalem.” They gathered together and agreed that the rebuilding of the temple had to start. The men who led the building was Joshua, the spiritual leader and descendant of Aaron, and Zerubbabel, a public leader and a descendant of David. Then of course there were all the other stakeholders as we have seen from our Scripture, viz. the other priests (descendants of Aaron) and the other descendants of David. Construction began with the altar. This was appropriate because it coincided with the festivities and sacrifices. It was necessary that the exiles would return to the Mosaic covenant, which their parents had turned their backs on. They had to ensure they did not make the same mistakes.
Despite the exiles fears of the strangers who lived amongst them (vss.3-6), they continued with the building and their sacrifices. Confidence in and confession of an almighty and sovereign God was after all, part of the Feast of Trumpets.
We see vss.7-9 that the building process only started in the second month of the second year after their return from Babylon (about May to June 536 BC – it was exactly 70 years after the first deportation of the captives or exiles). The reason for this was that a lot of preparatory work had to be done – for example, they had to bring only cedar wood from Lebanon and these logs had to come by ship to Joppa. From there it had to be transported overland to Jerusalem. It is interesting to note that, 430 years earlier, Solomon also imported many of the timber for the first temple, from Lebanon (1 Kings 5:1-10, 18; 2 Cron.2:1-16). Also remarkable is the fact that the building of the second temple commenced at the same time as Solomon’s building of the first temple. We also know that this second temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Roman army.
There is very little information given with respect to the building itself, but we do see in vss.10-11 that the traditions of their ancestors were carefully followed. E.g. the organisation of ceremonies and customs which was introduced by David, when the ark was brought back to Jerusalem. Furthermore, whilst the foundations of the temple were laid, the priests and the Levites sang a song that was based on 2 Cron.5:13 and Ps.136:1, viz. ~ “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel” (vss.10-11). All the people of Israel were however not equally excited and full of joy about the events in Jerusalem – we see this in vss.12-13 ~ “But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid” (vs.12). Many of the older people cried because they could see the old destroyed temple being restored again, whilst others were full of joy because they will at long last have a temple, ~ “…though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.” It is however possible that some of the older people cried, because the new temple would not be the same as the destroyed temple. It is tragic that one always find people who will experience the opposite emotion from what one would think they should experience – they always see the “half-empty glass”. In this case, it probably happened because they compared the new building with the majestic first temple of Solomon. May it be a lesson to us that we should never look back, but forward and be involved in what the Lord is doing right now.
6. THE FEAST OF THE TRUMPETS AND US:
The question that we must ask ourselves is what we as New Testament believers must do with the Feast of Trumpets?
• First, we must realise (as mentioned earlier), that in taking note of these festivals, we remember that Jesus Christ has already fulfilled them with the dawn of the new covenant. We therefore do not celebrate these festivals or maintain all kinds of rituals anymore. We now have direct access to God our Father, through Jesus Christ. Jesus made it very clear to us in Joh.14: 9 when He said ~ “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’” Whoever has “seen Jesus” (rebirth/salvation), has therefore seen the Father.
• Second, because God often spoke to His people through the sounding of trumpets or horns, they began to speak of God as “the horn of their salvation” (Ps.18:1-3; 2 Sam.22:3). John the Baptist called Jesus a “horn of salvation” (Luke 1:69). It is this “Horn of salvation” (Jesus Christ) who is the true Commander of God’s army. As God in Old Testament times, waged war against Israel’s enemies, Jesus Christ battled against our enemy (Satan) and won the fight, when He rose from the dead – we read in Col.2:15 that Christ… ~ “…disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him.”
• Third, in relation to the constant spiritual battle that we as believers are engaged in, the Feast of Trumpets teaches us, that we must keep on fighting the good fight as believers in this life. We are a threat to the devil if we live in the power of God and act accordingly. Learning how to live in the victory of Jesus Christ, our “Horn of salvation,” is a prerequisite to eventually enter into God’s eternal rest. Paul said in 2 Cor.10:3-4 ~ “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” In order to use these weapons, we must find our strength in the Lord and in His mighty power. Paul continues in Eph.6:11-12, saying ~ “Put on the whole amour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
∞ We have seen that it is important to take note of the Old Testament feasts. We as believers have graciously no requirement to maintain all these sacrifices and ceremonies. Christ has already fulfilled all of the Old Testament festivals when the New Covenant was instituted.
∞ During the 17th century, some of our ancestors fled Europe due to persecution and came to South Africa laying firm foundations for Christianity on our continent. Shouldn’t we, like the Israelites that rebuilt the altar and temple, also repent because of leaving “the Way” and be reconciled anew with God?
∞ We are God’s Temple. The old temple has been destroyed and the new temple has been built with Jesus Christ as the firm foundation… ~ “…thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: Whoever believes will not be in haste.’” (Is.28:16). Here we clearly see that the “tested stone;” the “cornerstone;” is Jesus Christ our Foundation and when we are built on Him, we can surely rest and know that satan is indeed defeated by our “Horn of salvation.”