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Walking In the Light of Tabernacles (Part 1 of 4)

In Judaism, there is a great triad represented by the three pilgrim festivals in the five books of Moses (Torah). This three-fold theme of redemption, revelation, and responsibility runs throughout the Bible of Jesus, our so-called Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures). These motifs are critical to understanding the Jewish way of thinking in the time of Jesus and the early church. Each one of these three pilgrim feasts corresponds to one of those themes

  • Passover, the great salvation from Pharaoh and Egypt, corresponds with redemption.

  • Pentecost corresponds with revelation, because according to the sages it was fifty days after their Exodus from Egypt that God came down on Sinai.

  • Tabernacles corresponds to the third motif, responsibility, which is our subject. The concept here is that they a re to re-enact their journey through the wilderness.

There is an interesting parallel between Passover and Tabernacles. Tabernacles is exactly six months after Passover. Both festivals last seven days. Passover starts on the 15th of Nisan, Tabernacles on the 15th of Tishrei. Passover celebrates the event of liberation, Tabernacles celebrates the way of liberation. Passover is the holiday of faith, Tabernacles is the holiday of faithfulness. So how do we walk in the light of Tabernacles? Let me draw some essential principles to inspire your own faithfulness. First, to walk in the light of Tabernacles is to walk in the insecurity of our freedom. What do I mean by that? Many have observed that it was easier to take Israel out of slavery than it was to take slavery out of Israel. That adage is painfully true in all of our experience; it is easier to get a person out of slavery than to get that slavery mindset out of the person. Part of what Tabernacles teaches us, as the people of God, is that salvation is an ongoing process. Our salvation is a journey, a pilgrimage. It has a definitive beginning, God's saving act of grace and our reception and responding to it. But that is just the beginning! Ours is a journey that if we want to walk in freedom, it requires our participation in walking in the way of freedom. It is a process of maturing. Think about Israel's experience. After Egypt and Mt. Sinai, they journeyed forty years, had over 40,000 meals and followed the cloud of God's glory for over 14,000 days. This is their reality of dwelling in temporary dwellings, little tabernacles or booths (sukkah). I don't know if you have ever thought about this but God could have taken them to the promised land very quickly. That's right, geographically there was a direct route right along the Mediterranean Sea by way of Gaza. It was possible to travel from Egypt to the Canaan in a matter of weeks but God took them a different route. Why? Because there were lessons that they needed to learn and, the heart of the holy is that of a Father. YHWH is a Teacher. And foremost among those lessons is the need to learn to walk the way of freedom in order to get to a place to freedom. There are many obstacles and challenges that you face in the desert. The way of freedom—the way of Tabernacle— is the way of expanding knowledge of the faithfulness of him who leads you. I suggest as Christians, too many of us want our Passover experience, we delight in crossing the Red Sea in our baptism, but if we are really honest, we are not very happy about having to endure the tabernacle experience. We do not want to experience living in temporary dwellings—dependent wholly upon God's provision. We do not want to walk in the arduous way of faithfulness, of going through trials and journeys in order to get to the appointed place of promise and productivity known as the promised land. But consider this, only in the sukkah can we truly experience the glory of God's presence. Only when they were living in these booths and totally dependent upon his provision, like manna for food, was their focus drawn to God's direction and leading, displayed in a cloud by day and a luminescent fire by night. There is something so powerful and yet difficult to explain about going the way of the tabernacle, the temporary dwelling. Indeed it is essential and ultimately the only way to arrive at God's destination for our lives. Remember, if we go by way of redemption and revelation, then we must press on in the way of responsibility; walking in the light of our newfound freedom.

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