The Feast of Tabernacles is a time to celebrate God’s choice to dwell among His people and our complete dependence on Him. We are commanded to rejoice and feast with others: family and friends, the fortunate and the less-fortunate, believers and non-believers.
With that in mind, there is a small detail in the story of Jonah that many of us have probably missed. After Jonah preaches to the Ninevites, after the Ninevites repent, and after God forgives their sin and turns away their deserved destruction, Jonah leaves the city, sits on a hillside, and builds himself a small tabernacle to shelter himself from the sun.
But although he is dwelling in a tabernacle, he is embodying the opposite attitude of the Feast of Tabernacles. Rather than welcoming non-Jews into God’s family, he is angry that they have been forgiven. Rather than rejoicing, he is “displeased exceedingly,” “angry,” and “distressed” (literally, evil). Rather than depending on God, he is yet again trying to escape from God. Essentially, Jonah has a little pity-party on that hillside, a voluntary Anti-Tabernacles, during a time when he should have been rejoicing.
This week is a time for rejoicing. It is a time for celebrating God’s faithfulness and God’s blessings. It is a time for compassionately welcoming those who don’t yet know the truth. It is a time for trusting in God rather than the world around us.
Don’t be Jonah. Don’t choose to be angry and bitter. Don’t look for reasons to be upset. Don’t decide to hate those with different (even wrong) views. Choose to rejoice, to welcome, to celebrate, to feast.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
Haggai’s second prophetic word just so happened to be given on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Was this just a coincidence, or was God using this festival to show Haggai—and us—something important?
There are a lot of weird holidays. There’s one where a fat, jolly saint who lived 17 hundred years ago breaks into your house to put presents under a dying tree covered in lights… because Jesus. There’s also one where a giant, anthropomorphic bunny poops chocolate eggs, and kids hunt them down and eat them… because Jesus… again.
How about the one where you dress up like a cartoon character and then threaten to prank your neighbors if they don’t give you candy, to celebrate catholic saints? Or getting drunk, pinching people, and dressing up like leprechauns, to celebrate a missionary in Ireland? Or Labor Day, which is basically just “Communist Day,” where you don’t labor… because you’re a communist?
Yeah, there are a lot of weird holidays that don’t make a whole lot of sense. But are there any holidays in the Bible? Well yes, actually. Turns out, God is a big fan of holidays. And fun fact, none of them involve threatening strangers, chocolate poop, or communism.
So the Bible has a lot of holidays, but there are three major ones: the Feast of Passover, which eventually became Easter… sort of; the Feast of Weeks, also called Pentecost; and the Feast of Tabernacles, which is the one most of you have probably never heard of.
So… what’s the Feast of Tabernacles?
The Feast of Tabernacles—or Sukkot in Hebrew—is celebrated at the very beginning of the Jewish year, right after Rosh Hashanah, and is described in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy as a festival in which God’s people “shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.” Because of this rejoicing, Sukkot is often called “The Season of Our Joy.” So why do we rejoice on Sukkot?
Two reasons are given: One, that our children would know that God delivered His people from the land of Egypt; and two, because the LORD our God will bless us in all the work of our hands.
So let’s take those one at a time. We rejoice because God delivered His people out of Egypt. Now there’s a lot we can say about the deliverance from Egypt, but what happened after the Israelites left Egypt?
For the first time in 400 years, they didn’t have a home. They were out in the wilderness, completely on their own. Well, not quite on their own, because for the first time in hundreds of years, God was with them. Out in the desert, the Israelites were entirely dependent on God for everything.
God led them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He protected them from all danger. He provided them with every single thing they needed. And for forty years, God’s people dwelt in the wilderness in booths, or tabernacles. And they built one large tabernacle, right in the middle of their camp, where the presence of God could dwell in their midst.
First and foremost, the Feast of Tabernacles is a season of rejoicing because God eternally dwells with you and me. Immanuel—God with us—will never leave you nor forsake you. He is with you always, even to the end of the age. Our God isn’t far away. He dwells with us and lives within us. And if nothing else, that is something to rejoice about.
But there’s more. Not only does God dwell in the midst of His people; God’s people are entirely dependent on Him. Out in the desert, God provided all their needs, and we are to rejoice because we trust that God will bless us and prosper us in everything we do as well. For this reason, Sukkot is also called “The Feast of Ingathering.”
Think about it. When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, He didn’t bring them out poor and impoverished. No, they came out loaded down with the silver and gold of the Egyptians.
And during their time in the wilderness, God provided them with everything they needed: food, water, silver, gold. In fact, we’re told that God provided so much for them that Moses literally had to command the people to stop donating to the tabernacle building fund (Exodus 36:6).
And as their time in the wild came to an end, God promised to “to bless all the work of your hands,” the exact phrase God uses to describe why we rejoice during Sukkot.
During the Feast of Tabernacles, we rejoice because God’s blessing is upon His people—upon you and me—and we know that God will increase us in every area of our lives. Now that certainly means that God will increase us financially, but we also rejoice because God will increase our families, increase our relationships, and bring an increase into His Church.
For this reason, Sukkot is also called “The Feast of Nations,” and you can actually see this idea throughout the scriptures. When we celebrate, we are told to feast with our friends and family, but also with “the stranger and the fatherless and the widow,” and with all who are within our town. This feast isn’t just for you; you’re supposed to share it with everyone.
And in that cross-reference about God blessing the work of our hands, we are told that we are then to “lend to many nations.” This goes all the way back to the original blessing proclaimed to Abraham: “I will bless you… and you shall be a blessing… and in you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”
In fact, when you trace the celebration of Sukkot throughout the Bible, you find that it’s always connected with spreading the blessing of God to the nations. During the Exodus, which is the basis for Sukkot, God declared that He delivered His people from Egypt “that My name may be declared in all the earth.”
After Jonah preaches to the Ninevites—a foreign nation—Jonah has a Sukkot celebration… sort of. But that’s a tale for a different time. When Zechariah prophesies about the Millennial kingdom, he sees all the nations gathering to celebrate Sukkot. And when Jesus celebrates Sukkot, He sends out the 70 disciples to preach the gospel.
Now seventy’s a pretty interesting number. In a previous video, we talked about how “70” represented the nations. And how many sacrifices were the Jews supposed to make on Sukkot? Seventy!
Sukkot isn’t just about you being blessed. It’s about everyone being blessing through you. So we rejoice because God is with us. We rejoice because God will bless and increase us. And we rejoice because God will increase His Church through us. Simply enough, right?
But now that we know why we are supposed to rejoice, the question is… how are we supposed to rejoice? And we’ll cover that in the next video.
Thanks for watching, and remember, you’re greater than you realize.