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Quarantine with the King A Brief Overview of Jesus at the Feast of Booths

by Jake Roberts

During this time of national quarantine, have you considered whether your experience change, depending on who you were quarantined with? Christians, of all people on earth, should never feels isolated, however. Those who claim Christ as Lord should be able to be alone with him, to quarantine with the King. Believers should be able to retreat inwards and shelter into a place of peace with Jesus. Ages ago, God commanded a festival for the Hebrew people that symbolized and represented what it means to be sheltered in HIS dwelling, to be “Shut in” with God as it were. That feast was the “Feast of Booths,” otherwise known as the “Feast of Tabernacles.” Jesus, like all Jews was familiar with this feast; with John’s Gospel, we have a record of what Christ did one year at the feast. 

 There are two goals in this survey of the feast. Firstly, to expound the nature of the Feast of Booths, and how it can apply to the 2020 quarantine. Secondly, the goal herein is to study Jesus’ two main teachings at that feast and see what they mean today. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll split our study into 2 main parts; (1) Meaning of the Feast (2) Messiah of the Feast

  1. THE MEANING OF THE FEAST OF BOOTHS

The well-known, ancient historian Josephus called this feast the “Holiest and Greatest” of all Jewish feasts. There’s a good reason for that. This feast was so well-known and widely celebrated that it had several names. It was known as: 

– The Feast of “Booths/Tabernacles” – What God referred to it as when he commanded it:

Leviticus 23:33-36 ESV

33And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 34“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD. 35On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. 36For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.

– The Feast of “Ingathering” – because it involved the gathering of laborers and offerings from all walks of life:

Leviticus 23:39a ESV

On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD

Exodus 23:16b ESV

You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor

Deuteronomy 16:13 ESV

You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress.

– “The Feast” – because it was so well-known. See I Kings 8:2; II Chron. 5:3; 7:8; Neh. 8:14; Isa. 30:29; Ezek. 45:23, 25. 

     The feast began five days after the Day of Atonement. At the beginning of the feast, the fall harvest had just been completed. It was a time of joyous celebration as the Israelites celebrated God’s continued provision for them in the current harvest and remembered His provision and protection during the 40 years in the wilderness.

It was one of the three feasts that all “native born” male Jews were commanded to participate in. As one of the pilgrim feasts (when Jewish males were commanded to go to Jerusalem), it was also the time when they brought their tithes and offerings to the Temple (Deut. 16). With the influx of people coming to Jerusalem at that time, one can only imagine what the scene must have been like.

Yet, the importance of the Feast of Tabernacles can be seen in how many places it is mentioned in Scripture. In the Bible we see many important events that took place at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. It was also at this time that Solomon’s Temple was dedicated to the Lord (I Kings 8:2).  It was also at the Feast of Tabernacles that the Israelites, who had returned to rebuild the temple, gathered together to hear Ezra proclaim the Word of God to them (Nehemiah 8). 

The feast consisted of workers stopping their labor for a set period of time (1 week). It begins and ends with a special Sabbath day of rest. During the days of the feast all native Israelites were “to dwell in booths” (tent-like dwellings) to remind them that God delivered them out of the “land of Egypt” and to look forward to the coming Messiah.

One should know that the feast is still celebrated today, usually occurring in September or October. Also, some scholars believe Jesus was born near or during the feast. In John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… The word for “dwelt” here, used by John, is the word “Tabernacle” (Skenoo/σκηνόω). Therefore, some suppose Jesus’ birth to be around this time.

MOST importantly, in terms of the meaning of the festival is that God wanted his people to look back on how he delivered them, how he provided for them, and how he would continue to deliver and provide. For the Christian, however, there is a Messianic meaning to all Jewish festivals commanded in the OT; in other words, each festival God created for Israel is a foreshadowing, a pre-type of what the Messiah/Christ would do.

IE, the Day of Atonement is a foreshadowing of the events of the cross, and Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice for all sin. The Feast of Booths, on the other hand, is understood to point towards the RETURN of the Messiah. Look to Revelation 21. Apparently, this is a very special feast, for the Bible says we will observe it in the future.

Zechariah 14:16 ESV [after Jesus’ return/enemies defeated at Armageddon, verse 12-13] Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths.

     You see, this feast points to the future, when God will dwell among us again – when he will tabernacle on earth:

Revelation 21:3-4 ESV

3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place [or TABERNACLE] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,b and God himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

One of the most wonderful things about the study of scripture is the beautiful, remarkable, astonishing line woven throughout every page. The feast is a picture of God delivering his people and how he provided for them in the wilderness, a picture to remind his people his continued provision and protection.

Furthermore, dwelling in a tabernacle/booth/tent was not viewed negatively in this connotation, not at all! While some are going crazy because of a national quarantine, consider what it means to dwell with God, in HIS tent, and quarantine with the KING:

Psalm 27:5 ESV

he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.

Psalm 31:20 ESV

in the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.

Isaiah 4:6 ESV

There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.

     That, dear friend, is the meaning of the Feast of Booths – God’s provision and protection for his people who would trust in him. Jesus, like all Jewish men, would’ve known that very well. Jesus would’ve been raised, like any other Jew, to attend and appreciate the meaning of the feast and festival.  Now, consider:

  1. THE MESSIAH AT THE FEAST OF BOOTHS

     Jesus attended this festival every year of his life, it can be assumed. It is his attendance of the festival in John 7 that presents a unique study; for it is at this festival Jesus announces his messianic mission – to save all those who trust in him from their sin; he declares himself to be the source of eternal life, much to the division of his audience.

John 7:10-15 ESV

10But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. 11The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him. 14About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”

      If you read this chapter in its entirety, you see Jesus saying many things. Yet, many people began to believe in him! But, for our purposes in this pandemic and for the sake of brevity, we want to boil down Jesus’ teachings at the feast into his 2 declarations:

John 7:37-39; 8:12 ESV

37On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

A deeper understanding of the feast (and its additional traditions) presents a deeper understanding of the power of Jesus’ words.

Beyond the established traditions of the feast (moving into booths/worshipping/giving offerings etc.) there was (by Jesus’ day) added traditions into the feast. The two main additions were (1) a “Libation” (ritual water pouring/offering) at the Pool of Siloam and (2) lighting a large candle in the city – these were the contexts of Jesus’ declarations.

It was shortly after the water ritual that Jesus says out of the hearts of those who trust him would flow rivers of living water. The great candle ceremony consisted of lighting a large menorah, and some other special lights. These lights were around 75 feet high and were said to illuminate all of Jerusalem. The light was meant to remind the Jews of how God led their ancestors through the wilderness by a “Light” (pillar of fire) during the night. It is in that context that Jesus says he would not only light Israel’s way but he would illumine all the world!

With all of his miracles, poignant parables and provocative declarations, one can understand John 8:25: “WHO ARE YOU?” they asked.  Jesus was/is the Messiah that was to come; he is the one whom the feast was meant to point to and continues to point to.

As most of us are cooped up in quarantine at this time, consider the Feast of Booths and what it means to “Shelter” in God’s tent. Again, I ask, would it change your experience in the quarantine if you had different people with you? I urge you to build your tabernacle in God’s grace; you will not soon fear what lies outside your doors when you have God with you on the inside.

 

Jacob Roberts is Minister at the  Lecompte Church of Christ.  He is also an Instructor of US History at Ville Platte High School

 

 




3 Responses to “Quarantine with the King A Brief Overview of Jesus at the Feast of Booths”

  1. A.J.Istre says:

    I knew this young man’s grandfather well. He would really be proud of Jake and
    Jake’s father who also preaches.

    • admin says:

      Bro. A. J. Thanks for the comment– I remember Bro. James Roberts also. He was the preacher at lecompte- in 1974- that was the first place I ever preached in Louisiana.

      Larry Miles

  2. David Moldez says:

    Thank you for the article. I like the phrase, Quarantine with the King…



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Romans 14:8