My fourth and final point is this, to walk in the light of the Feast of Tabernacles means to discern between the vanity and value of material possessions.
You might think this strange and ask, what are you talking about? I am talking about something very important for you to hear as a Christian, as a follower of Jesus.
Let me begin by reminding you that the three pilgrim festivals in the Five Books of Moses were later linked with an associated reading from Israel's wisdom literature (as were two additional times of remembrance, the Ninth of Av = Lamentations, and Purim = Esther). These five books together are called the Megilloth.
Passover (Pesach) = Song of Songs
Pentecost (Shavuot) = Ruth
Tabernacles (Sukkot) = Ecclesiastes
Reading Ecclesiastes during the Feast of Tabernacles seems a bit contradictory, does it not? Remember, earlier I said that Sukkot is the time of the greatest financial prosperity of the year for Israel. It is a time when your barns are full and your vats are overflowing. It is a time of celebrating a great harvest. God wants to remind you, in the midst of your prosperity, that in the natural it is all vain, empty, meaningless. During your season of rejoicing, it is time to listen afresh to Koheleth (the narrating voice of Ecclesiastes).
I can almost hear you say, "Good grief Dwight, you are a party pooper. We want to dance, sing, and celebrate so don't start teaching us about Ecclesiastes." I have a three-part seminar on it called, Abounding Emptiness, Abundant Living but it does not sell very well. It is one of my personal favorites but it seems nobody wants to listen to it. We do not want anybody to rain on our parade.
What is my answer to that kind of talk? "You are missing the whole truth of Ecclesiastes!" It is not a downer at all. Koheleth reminds us that everything of the natural order under the sun is emptiness if we do not fear and obey God. But as we do he gives us the capacity to enjoy the very things we have in this life as a gift from a loving Father. Nobody can truly celebrate life and appreciate good material things as much as someone who understands that without God, those things are all emptiness and vanity.
The Sages of Israel say that when you come before God for judgment, you not only have to account for all the wrong things that you did, but you also have to give an account to God for all the good things in this life he gave you that you did not enjoy. Too many of us are baptized in prune juice rather than in the Holy Spirit. We think to be spiritual means to be ascetic. Do not misunderstand me, the last thing I want to do is suggest to you that I am a prosperity preacher. No way! In no modern, conventional sense am I a prosperity preacher.
But I am a prosperity teacher in this sense alone, your great Creator desires that you succeed, Ecclesiastes-style.
When you are humble and completely dependent upon him, when you recognize the emptiness of all things apart from him, when what most matters to you is a consuming desire for his will to be done and his glory to be revealed, then you receive from God an ability to truly appreciate his gift of life.
How many of you have ever fasted and come off of that fast by taking a bite of an apple or a peach? It is pure delight. When you come out of your booth—your temporary dwelling—God gives you a joyful taste for living that you did not have before; the beauty of a sunshiny day, the sweetness of a quiet rain, the fragrance of a gentle flower, the tenderness of a loving embrace from your spouse. Walking in the way of Tabernacles teaches us that life is to be enjoyed according to the capacity God gives us to do so.
We must remember the author and source of life and we must be willing to forego our comfort and convenience for his sake. It is really quite simple. Jesus says that what you hold on to, you are going to lose; and what you let go of, for his sake, you will receive. Are you clinging all too tightly to things that are transient, temporary, and empty while all too lightly holding on to things that are substantial, spiritual and eternal? Koheleth teaches us to get our priorities in order.
Praise the Lord, life is to be balanced! There is to be a physical dimension to our faith. Do you hear me? We are an inseparable unity of body, soul, mind, emotions, and will. Biblical faith is very physical; it is not otherworldly or theoretical spirituality. It is not some New Age idea characterized by withdrawing from the body and harnessing the power of the mind to enter the higher chakras of your spiritual being so that you can dwell in pure light. That, my friends, is not what the Bible teaches.
The height of biblical spirituality is when you serve a widow, you give to a poor person, you comfort those who are ailing, you bring good news to the humble, you sacrifice so that others might live. To dwell in the tabernacle is to know the message of Koheleth of Ecclesiastes and to give thanks for our material possessions. It is to guard against covetousness on the one hand and asceticism on the other. Biblically speaking, prosperity is for the generosity of giving, of having a good eye, of sharing our bounty with those in need.
Biblical faith is a religion of life; life is the essence of biblical faith. Jesus came that you may have abundant life. But it is a paradox. If you want to have this fullness of life, you have to be willing to die for it, to say, not my will Lord but yours be done. You have to be willing to give all in utter simplicity to Messiah Jesus.
And remember this crucial point, the life we experience now anticipates the fullness of life to come. The glory set before us is more than sufficient for us to endure whatever sufferings, whatever trials, whatever tribulations may be between here and there. The great Feast of Tabernacles envisioned in Zachariah 14 is an eschatological anticipation of the fullness of God's glory. It speaks not only of the restoration of Israel but of a great celebration that is going to come at the consummation of the Kingdom.
"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." (Zechariah 14:16)
Passover and Pentecost sacrifices have ceased because the Lamb of God is in our very midst and the Spirit of God prevails over all of our lives. But there will always be a need to give thanks and to rejoice in the founder of The Feast!
This devotional study is from a professionally produced transcription
of Dwight's audio message. It is a full and accurate transcript,
formalized and edited for readability and clarity by JC Studies.