Monday, October 5, 2009

Celebrating the Harvest

Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine: And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that [are] within thy gates. Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD shall choose: because the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice. Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty: Deuteronomy 16:13-16 KJV

Growing up in Southern California, I was only familiar with two seasons; warm and hot. It took a move to the Pacific Northwest to experience what four seasons was really all about, and actually having four choices as to which one I enjoyed the most. I don’t know about any of you, but my favorite has always been the fall. Just to experience the relief from the long, hot summer, feel the weather changing to cooler, and doing yard work as the leaves change color and then fall, and looking forward to taking it a little easier in the winter all bring me a sense of enjoyment. I suppose it also brings me a sense of anticipation too as I enjoy listening to it rain, then slowly turn to snow as I am big on winter recreation. (I traded my surfboard for skis)

The Feast of Tabernacles is the last of the seven feasts appointed by the Lord for the nation of Israel. It occurs in the fall between the 15th and the 21st of the month of Tishri, which usually occurs in late September and early October. It is also known by other names as well, some of these being Sukkot, The Season of Our Joy, and The Feast of Ingathering. It is the last of the three holidays in which all Jewish males were required to make the pilgrimage to the temple, yet as opposed to the others, the word joy (simchah) is used several times to describe it. I want to look at just a few reasons why this holiday is known as the “Season of Our Joy”, and consider the possibility it might prove to be a time we as believers need to “watch” with special anticipation.

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and [then] cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. John 4:35 KJV

Also known as the Feast of Ingathering, the Feast of Tabernacles celebrates the last harvest in Israel for the year. Traditionally there are three harvests, these being the barley harvest, wheat harvest, and fruit harvest. In the fall, after these three were completed, you would celebrate the finish of your labors for the year. Obviously it was a time of celebration for your work was done, and you could look at the results sitting in your storehouse. How often did Jesus use the illustration of planting and harvesting in His teaching while on this earth? Could the Feast of Ingathering give us a clue as to when Jesus might return for His people?

In my Father's house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also. John 14:2-3 KJV

Known traditionally as the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot, this feast also serves as a reminder of the time the children of Israel dwelt in the wilderness in “temporary” dwellings before they were delivered to the promised land. During this feast Jews will construct “Sukkahs” or temporary shelters and will stay in them to remind them of what the children of Israel went through during their wilderness wanderings. As believers, we know that our time on this earth and in these bodies is but temporary as well. Not only do we have the promise from Jesus that He is building us a new and eternally permanent home, but will at the rapture present us with new and eternal bodies as well. Could this feast again be a foreshadow of that coming time when our hope in Christ will be rewarded?

Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand. John 7:2 KJV

In the last day, that great [day] of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. John 7:37, 38 KJV

One of the more interesting traditions associated with this feast was the drawing of water from the pool of Siloam. Every day a priest would fill a golden vase with water known as the living water (mayim hayim) and take it to the temple where it would be poured out on a corner of the altar. In these verses from John we see that Jesus used this time of celebration to announce to the world that He was, in fact, offering mankind the water of eternal life. John also makes it clear that this occurred on the “last great day” of the feast. This in fact is a reference to the eighth day which is known as Shmini Atzeret. It is not part of the Feast of Tabernacles, but is celebrated the day after and it is then that the people would begin to pray for rain for the coming year. Water has always been at a premium in Israel, and without it the land would become desert. Yet Jesus took this day as an opportunity to announce that He had come to save the world. Is it no wonder this celebration is also referred to as the "Season of Our Joy"?

This last feast seems to be both an end, and a beginning. A celebration of harvest and the end of the year's work, and the beginning of a time of rest to enjoy the fruits of labor. Jesus came to earth to do the "work" it required for us to obtain eternal life. How appropriate would it be for we as believers to experience the rest we so anxiously look forward to at this time of the year? The Feast of Tabernacles began this past Sunday, and will continue until this next Sunday. During this week why don't you join me in being "joyful" as we look back at the past year of hard work and pray for the coming of our Lord and Saviour to take us to our "permanent" home?

Keep watching.