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The True “Spirit” of Tabernacles

by David Palmer

Every year we attend the Feast of Tabernacles with great enthusiasm and in accordance with God’s command. We listen to inspiring messages, enjoy good food and fellowship with old friends and new. This is as it should be. God wants us to enjoy ourselves to the fullest as we celebrate with Him (Deuteronomy 14:22-26). But there is a powerful statement regarding the Feast we should not overlook: “Learn to fear the LORD our God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23).

How often at the fall Festival, when we are getting together with friends or taking in the variety of activities, do we pause and reflect on the real spiritual meaning of the Feast and why we attend every year?

Sometimes we forget that everything God created is but a clay model of God’s real world. He is the Master Potter. We are the clay! The spiritual realm is true reality. The physical is just a reflection of that reality. We are but a shadow.

Remember what the apostle Paul told the Church at Rome: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20).

God is molding a new heaven, a new earth – and a new you! The Feast of Tabernacles is a very important ingredient to that overall plan!

In a subtle way God gave us spiritual insight into the Holy Days, including the Feast of Tabernacles. God said, “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall you make it” (Exodus 25:8-9).

Israel was to construct a physical sanctuary, and God tabernacled among His people.

Then in the New Testament writings of the apostle John we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made (built) flesh, and dwelt (tabernacled) among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:1,14).

Unlike the physical sanctuary of ancient Israel, the new sanctuary was built of flesh. Notice what Christ told His disciples: “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).

The word abode can be literally translated to mean “dwelling place,” the place where God lives, where He tabernacles.

So while the Festival is a wonderful time for friends, fellowship and fun activities, it is also a time to reflect on the words of our personal Savior. We read in John’s gospel that the Jews demanded a sign of authority from Jesus after He had cleared the temple of the moneychangers. Jesus’ answer surprised them. Notice: “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, ‘What sign do you show unto us, seeing that you do these things?’ Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Then said the Jews, ‘Forty and six years was this temple in building, and will you rear it up in three days?’ But he spoke of the temple of his body” (John 2:18-21).

Jesus Christ is the true Tabernacle of God, the focus of the Feast. The location is merely “the place where God shall choose to place His name.” God is there in spirit, but the Feast of Tabernacles is not about a building or a location.

One of the things we need to recognize when we prepare each year to attend the Feast is that we are on a spiritual journey, not just a physical one!

Notice these powerful analogies in the book of Hebrews: “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum:We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” (Hebrews 8:1-2). “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building” (Hebrews 9:11).

The tabernacle is Jesus Christ, and by analogy the Church which is called the Body of Christ. “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man (Jesus) was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who has builded the house has more honour than the house. [Jesus is the contractor, the builder.] For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses truly was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; (tabernacle) whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Hebrews 3:1-6).

The apostle Peter explains it this way: “You also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). Peter also wrote: “Yes I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle [this body] to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ has showed me. [Referring to the death he would face.] Moreover I will endeavour that you may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance” (2 Peter 1:13-15).

But while our bodies may be likened to temporary booths, God intends the structure to become permanent. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

In his earlier letter to Corinth, Paul wrote “What? Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Of course we love the physical things at the Feast (Deuteronomy 14:22-26), but let us also recognize that Jesus Christ is the true spirit of the Feast. Paul writes, “Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom you also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19-22).

We need to realize that without thousands who have lived and died “in Christ,” the building would be nothing more than a foundation. It is God’s intention, however, to have a complete building, a beautiful new perfectly built tabernacle. He is molding, polishing, refining, those whom He has called, getting them prepared.

Jesus gave us an interesting parable recorded in Mark’s gospel account: “For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.” The man who took the journey is Jesus Christ, and we are to be faithful servants to the true tabernacle, the house that Jesus built with His own blood! “Watch ye therefore: for you know not when the master of the house comes, at even, or at midnight, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mark 13-34-37).

We don’t know when Christ is coming back, but we do know that when He does He will reclaim the house/tabernacle that belongs to Him – His Church! So this year when you observe the Feast, enjoy good food, fine wine, good friends and lots of activity, or “whatever your soul desires.” However, keep in mind that there is a spirit to the Feast of Tabernacles, and that spirit is the spirit of Jesus Christ.

© 1995- United Church of God-Canada

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