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THE FEAST OF BOOTHS
(Remember GOD’s providence and provisions in your wilderness experience)
(Leviticus 23:33-44 & Nehemiah 8)
In Leviticus 23, verses 33-44, the LORD instructs Moses to tell the Israelites to begin observing a “Festival of Shelters” or, “Festival of Tabernacles” (also known as the “Festival of Booth”), on the fifth day following the “Day of Atonement”. It was to last for seven days, and was to remind the Israelites of how their ancestors had to camp outside in tents for forty years after they were released from captivity in Egypt, because of their rebellious sin against GOD in the wilderness.
The Feast of Booths begins with a sacred assembly on the first day, and all regular work must be suspended on that day. On each of the seven days, sacred offerings must be presented up to the LORD by fire. On the eighth day, the people would again gather in a sacred assembly and present another sacred offering to the LORD by fire. It would be a solemn closing ceremony, and again, no regular work can be done on this day.
During this seven-day period, a time when the fall harvests are complete, the Israelites are to gather the fruit that came from the citrus trees, along with palm fronds and other leafy branches from the willows that grow by the streams, and rejoice in the LORD throughout. All who are Israelites by birth must live in tents for the duration of the festival.
Several hundred years later, in chapter 8 of the book of Nehemiah, after the Israelites had been released from captivity in Babylon, we see a revival of this holiday by Ezra the Scribe. On that occasion, a week after the construction of the walls of Jerusalem were completed, all of the people of Israel re-assembled on the square, just inside the “Water Gate” on the east wall of the city. They asked Ezra, their High Priest, teacher, and scribe, to bring out the book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had given for Israel to obey.
It was now mid-autumn, during the Jewish month of “Tishri” (the seventh month on the Jewish calendar), and the people of Israel, which numbered between thirty and fifty thousand, needed “a fresh infusion of commitment”, or “spiritual revival” to “re-fuel them” following their exhausting task of finishing the wall around Jerusalem.
There Ezra brings the scroll of the Law of Moses before the sacred assembly of men, women, and those children who were old enough to understand, and began to read aloud to them from the Law. The people stood on their feet and praised the LORD, just as Ezra and all the priests and Levites did, and they all raised their hands toward Heaven. Then they bowed down with their faces to the ground and worshiped GOD some more.
Afterwards, the thirteen Levite priests who were present, along with Ezra, and Nehemiah the governor, instructed the people, as they interpreted and translated the Scripture from “Hebrew” to “Aramaic”. Most of the people could not speak or read in the ancient Hebrew tongue that was widely used before their “Babylonian captivity”. The majority of them now spoke in the “Aramaic tongue of Babylon”, which was a “Semitic language” that was actually widely used, even by non-Aramean people like the Jews, from circa 7 B.C. to A.D. 7. In fact, it is also the language that JESUS HIMSELF communicated in, while here on HIS earthbound mission.
Here in this chapter, we see three very positive responses to the Word of GOD;
· An “Intellectual Response” (Vs.1-8) - The Israelites had an overwhelming desire to know
what GOD’s plan for them was, and, just how GOD wished for them to live their lives.
· An “Emotional Response” (Vs.9-12) – The Israelites experienced a “conviction” by
GOD’s Word that is associated with the “joy” of knowing of GOD’s forgiveness. The
association of these two things (conviction and joy) may seem strange on the surface,
however, the more we become aware of the extent of our sins, the greater our joy will be
in GOD’s forgiveness of those sins.
· A “Volitional Response” (Vs.13-18) – The family leaders, and the priests and Levites, met
with Ezra to go over the details of the Law of Moses, the man of GOD, more closely. A
they studied, they discovered that the LORD had commanded that the Israelites should
live in shelters during the upcoming “Festival of the Tabernacles”, or, “Festival of
Booths”. The people were to go to the hills and get branches from olive, myrtle, palm, and
fig trees, and use them to make “shelters” or “booths” in which they could live during the
seven days of the festival. And so all of the people who had returned from captivity in
Babylon, “willingly and voluntarily” went out and cut and gathered the branches, and
built their shelters to dwell in during the festival week.
The Israelites had not celebrated this way since the days of Joshua, and Ezra read to them from the Scriptures on each of the seven days. On the 15th day of the month, they held a solemn assembly, just as the Law of Moses required.
This harvest-time festival had previously always been a time of great rejoicing and celebration. However, this particular Feast of Tabernacles was marked with exceptional joy, because now, once again, GOD had defeated the Israelites enemies, and Jerusalem was, now, once again, “a walled city”.
The “revival” that followed was not unlike what our modern-day revivals should be like. It should be “a self-humbling experience” that is expressed in “fasting”, “earnest repent”, “confession of sins”, and “an eagerness to study GOD’s Word”.
History teaches us that GOD is faithful, and, that HE remains faithful to HIS commitment to us, even today. And we should show praises to GOD because HIS grace and mercy has remained upon us, as HE patiently waits on us to return to HIM and accept HIS offer to us, of “eternal life”, through CHRIST JESUS.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website