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In keeping the Feast of Tabernacles members and supporters of the Church of God, Ministries International, rejoice together for eight full days in beautiful resort communities. For eight days, we enjoy at least one inspiring preaching service each day, with wonderful special music provided by lay members-chorales, duets, solos, instrumentalists sometimes a sermonette, and then a main sermon of about an hour in length, followed by closing congregational singing. There are many scheduled events, like beach parties, hayrides, barbecues, singles' parties, "Family Night," featuring home-grown talent and good food, and plenty of time for unscheduled leisure--things like dinner in fine restaurants with good friends, deep-sea fishing, golf, tennis, trail walks, horseback riding, or simply basking on the beach or around the many beautiful swimming pools in the hotels and condominiums.
The feast is the highlight of the year for many of God's people, and we invite you to join us!
But what is the Feast of Tabernacles? And what relevance does it have for today's Christian?
God's Promises to Abraham
Long ago, God commanded Abraham to leave his native country and go to a land He would later give to him and his descendants as an inheritance (Genesis 12:13; 13:14-17).
Abraham left his home and went to the land. In time, and after many trying adventures, Isaac was born to him. The promises God had given to Abraham were passed on to Isaac, and then to Jacob, Isaac's son.
Yet, of all the years Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob dwelt in the land of promise, the land never belonged to them! They were resident aliens until their deaths.
When Abraham's wife Sarah died, the patriarch had to purchase property in order to have a place to bury her body (Genesis 23). He was still "a foreigner and a visitor" even after many years of dwelling in the land (verse 4). Yet, he believed God right up to the day of his death, as did Isaac and Jacob.
"By faith he [Abraham] dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God....These [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, among others] all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:9,10,13).
The "dwelling in tents" indicates that the patriarchs were resident aliens, having no permanent homes. Their willingness to abide in temporary dwellings reflected their faith in God's promise of a permanent dwelling, the "city which has foundations."
The patriarchs knew that God could not lie. They knew that even their deaths could not prevent Him from fulfilling His promise. And, indeed, God will keep His word! He will give the land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-just as He promised-for implicit in the promise is the assurance of a resurrection.
The Tabernacling Israelites
After a long time of dwelling in the land of Canaan, a famine forced Jacob and his sons to move to Egypt (Genesis 46), where they "were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty" (Exodus 1:7). The king of Egypt, concerned that this great people might become a threat to his nation, made slaves of them and "made their lives bitter with hard bondage" (Exodus 1:814).
A few hundred years later, God delivered the people from Egyptian bondage and brought them into the wilderness, where He gave them His law (Exodus 12:24).
God did not want the children of Israel to forget the wilderness experience. He did not want them to lose sight of who delivered them from bondage and provided for them as they moved from one encampment to another. To keep this lesson-filled experience ever before them, God established the Feast of Tabernacles.
"Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a Sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a Sabbath-rest....You shall dwell in booths [tabernacles, or tents] for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 23:39,42,43).
Once in their permanent homeland, the Israelites could recall from year to year how their fathers had dwelt in temporary huts during their wilderness journey-just as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob before them had done as they looked forward to the "city which has foundations."
Israel entered the promised land under the leadership of Joshua.
"So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass" (Joshua 21:43-45).
At long last, the tabernacling was over...
Or was it?