Since we are out camping, I thought it might be appropriate to think about this passage. This passage describes for us one of the main Jewish festivals. There were three main Jewish festivals: the Passover, Pentecost, and the one we just read about (the feast of booths, or sometimes called the feast of ingathering). And I picked this one because it’s all about camping.
And since we are camping it would be fun to think about some of the lessons that God would have been teaching the Israelite’s in their annual camping excursion.
As you think about this feast, I want you to understand that it was a time of contemplation, a time of exultation, and a time of preparation.
The first, and perhaps the most obvious thing about the feast of booths was that it was a time of contemplation.
I. Time of contemplation
This feast would kind of correspond to our Thanksgiving. During this feast they were to reflect on God’s amazing provision.
Down in verse 42-43 it says that the people were to live in these tents in order to remember the 40 years they spent in the wilderness after God brought them out of Egypt. During that 40 years they lived as nomads, and they had to keep things mobile because they never knew when they were going to move to the next campsite.
And during that time God provided for them in amazing ways. They never lacked food because every day God gave them manna and he gave them the quail too. The Scripture also says that during those 40 years their sandals never wore out and their clothes never got raggedy.
Imagine never having to buy a pair of shoes! (some of you ladies might think that sounds more like a nightmare than a miracle!). But imagine your Nike’s lasting almost your whole life. They say you are to replace your shoes every 3-4 months, right? Imagine having the most comfortable walking shoes and never having even a shoe string break.
This feast was also a harvest feast—that’s why it is also called the feast of Ingathering. Our text says in verse 39 and 41 that this feast is supposed to be celebrated on the 15th day of the 7th month, which would be around September or October on our calendar. So it would be celebrated after all your crops were harvested. And as such, it was a good time to remember how God had provided for you that year.
That’s what we do at our Thanksgiving, right? We remember how God has brought us through another year and satisfied all our needs. We reflect on how he has provided us with work and a steady income. We think about the fact that we’ve had plenty of food and all our material needs have been taken care of.
That’s really the main point of this feast. It was a time to remember that God was in control of all our daily affairs. It is a time to contemplate how God sustains us and is the giver of all good gifts. It is good to pause and reflect on that. Because it is too easy for us to think that we are responsible for our daily bread. But ultimately, it’s not by our hands alone that we are fed & provided for, is it? It is God who gives it to us. Even though we might not realize it; even though he works through secondary causes, God is our provider. And it’s important that we pause to celebrate his generosity from time to time.
And what a better time to do that when you are out camping, right? I mean, when you are camping you appreciate a little more of what you have—mainly because you don’t have it! I don’t know about you, but right now, I’m thankful for flush toilets… and refrigeration…and warm showers! I’m more grateful because I don’t have them at the moment.
But not only was the feast of booths a time of contemplation; it was also a time of exultation.
II. Time of Exultation
Look at the end of verse 40. What were they commanded to do? It says that they were to rejoice before the Lord 7 days.
Now, it makes sense that they were to do this because they were at a festival and God had provided for them. It only stands to reason that they should be a little exuberant.
But I want you to understand that this was to be a major part of the festival life. The word celebrate even means “to be giddy.” These people were commanded to be happy. They were to celebrate and kick up their heels and exult in their God.
I think that during this celebration they were to remember what they were created to be. Their disposition was to be cheerful and reflective of how it was originally supposed to be.
I like what the children’s catechism says. It asks the question, “How did God make Adam & Eve?” And it answers by saying, “He made them holy and happy.”
And when these people came to their celebrations, they were to reflect something of that original happiness.
You know, this kind of reminds me of how in the book of Philippians we are commanded to rejoice. Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and I will say it again: Rejoice!” Have you ever thought about that? This is something that we are to force ourselves to do.
We are to remember that we were not made to be dower people. We were created to be holy and happy. We have the duty then to cast off the sour-puss attitude that we naturally tend towards and we are to force ourselves to smile and be happy.
Charles H. Spurgeon, instructing a group of seminary students on sermon delivery, said, “When you speak of heaven, let your face light up with a heavenly gleam. Let your eyes shine with reflected glory. And when you speak of hell–well, then your usual face will do.”
The same really goes for us. You can’t walk about looking like the Grim Reaper and say, “I’m really joyful deep down.” That doesn’t make sense.
Now, I’ve heard the expression: “Joy does not equal happiness.” And I’ve also heard people say, “You can be joyful even when you are sad.” Okay. I think I understand what you are trying to say. But come on! Joy involves a little bit of expression. Joy might not be the same as happiness, but I think there is at least a little bit of overlap.
You can’t use those expressions as an excuse to be morose and sullen looking. We are commanded to be rejoice in the Lord. We are to put on as much heaven as we can in this earthly life. And that means flexing our smile muscles and trying to show off those pearly whites.
To put it another way: we are to celebrate—we are to strive as much as we can to be giddy because God is our constant provider.
So this festival was to be a time of exaltation as much as it was to be a time of contemplation. But if we think a little more about this festival, we’ll understand that it was also a time of preparation.
III. Time of preparation
By preparation I mean that this festival pointed forward to the end times. It pointed forward to the resurrection and the time when Christ would come again.
Remember that this festival is found in the OT era. As such it belongs to the shadows, and it points forward to a greater reality.
As I mentioned earlier, there were 3 great Jewish festivals. There were more than that, of course. But there were 3 big ones: the Passover, The feast of Firstfruits (otherwise known as Pentecost), this feast (the Feast of Booths, otherwise known as the Feast of Ingathering or the Feast of Harvest).
Now, you know that Jesus fulfilled the Passover in his sacrificial death. He was the Lamb who was slain. And you are likely familiar with how the feast of Pentecost was fulfilled. Pentecost was also called the feast of firstfruits, and it was fulfilled in Acts 2 when the Spirit was poured out upon the Apostles. The apostles were the firstfruits of Christ’s salvation.
Well, then you come to the feast of Ingathering/Booths. This one is yet to be fulfilled. It looks forward to the time when Christ will come again and gather together all his people. There will be a harvest, of sorts, the Lord gathers us together from all ends of the earth and from out of our graves.
You know, Scripture tells us that the second coming of Christ is going to be like a harvest. Jesus tells us the parable of the Wheat and the Tares. Jesus said that a sower went out and put his seed in the ground. Then his enemy came along and sowed tares into his garden. The two were to grow together until the time of the harvest. Then as everything was gathered in, the two could be separated.
That was told in reference to the believers and the unbelievers living together in this world. At the resurrection, the two would be separated; one going to everlasting life, the other to everlasting death.
So you can kind of see how this feast has an eschatological dimension.
What’s more, this feast reminds us that we are not home yet. As the people camped out in their little booths, they would be reminded not only of the Exodus, but they would be reminded of our present condition. They would be reminded that we are still looking forward to the completion of our redemption. As they laid down in their tents God would be hinting at the fact that we are still looking forward to our eternal dwelling.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a camper. I’m looking forward to getting home. I am looking forward to the luxuries that I have there. I don’t like sleeping on the ground. I can’t wait to have a real bed.
That was the feeling that these Israelites would have too. And that feeling was one of the lessons God was using to prepare his people for what he would one day do in the future.
Can you imagine the luxuries that we will have their? We will have no more sin. We will have perfect relationships. Most of all, we will have Jesus—the One who not only provided our meals all through the year, but the one who provided for our salvation through his sacrificial death.
And really, that’s the supreme reason for our joy and exultation. God’s provision comes to its fullest expression in his provision of salvation.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.