Why Does God Command We Keep the Feast of Tabernacles?: Spiritual lessons from staying in a temporary dwelling

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Why Does God Command We Keep the Feast of Tabernacles?

Spiritual lessons from staying in a temporary dwelling

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The Feast of Tabernacles pictures the wonderful and exciting 1,000-year period following the return of Jesus Christ. The unusual name for this festival comes from God’s instructions to the Israelite families that they were to dwell in booths—or tabernacles—during the autumn Holy Day season. This was to remind them that their ancestors dwelt in tents or “booths” as they passed through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land (Leviticus 23:42-43 Leviticus 23:42-43 [42] You shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: [43] That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
American King James Version×

What can Christians learn from this ancient custom? To understand the answer it is important to learn more of what the Israelites faced in the wilderness. After they were freed from slavery in Egypt they wandered in that desert area for 40 years before going into and possessing the Promised Land. In the wilderness they had no permanent dwellings and roamed from place to place. God provided them all that they needed to survive.

As the ancient Israelites wandered, they were heirs to the promised land but were not yet inheritors. They were sojourners waiting for a future home. Likewise, a Christian’s “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20 Philippians 3:20For our conversation is in heaven; from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×
). In other words we belong to a different place, even as we sojourn in what the apostle Paul called “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4 Galatians 1:4Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
American King James Version×
). We are waiting to inherit the Kingdom of God. And just as the Israelites needed God’s miraculous help to survive in the wilderness, we need His help to endure spiritually. The Israelites were guided by following a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Likewise Christians today are led by following God’s Holy Spirit and allowing Christ to live in us.

What a beautiful picture God has given us! The ancient Israelites were waiting for a physical promised land. Christians today live in temporary bodies waiting to be changed into spirit beings and inherit the Kingdom of God, which is in a sense our spiritual Promised Land. Peter called Christians “sojourners and pilgrims” (1 Peter 2:11 1 Peter 2:11Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;
American King James Version×
), and the apostle Paul also referred to the concept of Christians being sojourners as they wait to inherit the Kingdom. In Hebrews 11 he provides what could be called the “Sojourners Hall of Fame,” where he discusses the trial-filled journeys of our spiritual forbearers.

Today Christians in God’s Church stay in various temporary dwellings such as hotels, campgrounds, or rented homes during the Feast of Tabernacles. The spiritual lesson from staying in temporary dwellings during the festival reminds us that we are merely pilgrims in this present life, and that we are dependent on God to protect us while we are in the “wilderness” of this world. We also celebrate the risen Christ, who tabernacles within us through the Holy Spirit.

Dwelling in a booth—a temporary habitation—helps us focus on the reality that our human existence is an important time of preparation for eternity. Our eyes must be following Christ on our journey to God’s future Kingdom and not on all the cares and trials in this life. With this knowledge we can rejoice in God’s plan for an eternal and wonderful future in His coming Kingdom.

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