And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
cf. Psalm 39:12; Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11. The seventh month was a very celebrated one in the Jewish year. It was the sabbatic month, so to speak, when religious services of the most important character took place. The Feast of Trumpets introduced the month, and joyful were the anticipations of blessing. Then on the tenth day, came the great ritual of atonement, with its penitential sadness. Then came, on the fifteenth day, the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles. In the rainless harvest-time the people were expected, even after their settlement in Canaan, to spend a week in booths or tents, and with boughs of goodly trees, with palm branches, and with willows of the brook to rejoice before God. Now this least was -
I. A CELEBRATION OF THE PILGRIMAGE OF THE WILDERNESS. It was "that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt" (verse 43). It is most important to keep a great deliverance in mind. Hence the people were enjoined once a year to become pilgrims again, as their fathers had been. We should never forget how the Lord has led his people in every age out of bondage into pilgrimage and freedom as the avenue to rest.
II. IT WAS A CELEBRATION OF THE DIVINE PROVISION IN THE WILDERNESS. For it was a harvest festival, and the fruits of the earth had been gathered in before the feast began. Before them lay, so to speak, the bounties of God's providence, just as the manna lay morning by morning before their fathers. God was praised, therefore, for crowning the year with his goodness, as their fathers praised him for crowning with his goodness each day. It was consequently a eucharistic service in the highest degree.
III. IT WAS A CELEBRATION OF THE STRANGER AND PILGRIM SPIRIT WHICH GOD FOSTERS IN ALL HIS PEOPLE. The voluntary leaving of their homes for a season to live in a "tented state" was a beautiful embodiment of the stranger and pilgrim spirit to which we are called. God in the wilderness dwelt as the Great Pilgrim in a tent with his pilgrim people; and year by year he enjoined his people in their generations to become literally "strangers with him" (Psalm 39:12), as their fathers had been. And the same danger threatens us, to feel at home in this world and to give up the pilgrimage. Hence the apostle's warning is ever needful: "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11). If the world does not seem strange to us, it is because we are not living as near as we ought to God. The more access we have to him, the greater will be our moral distance from the world.
IV. THE JOY OF THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES WAS ENHANCED BY THE HOME-GOING WHICH LAY BEYOND IT. The "tented state" is not intended to be permanent. Its value lies in its temporary nature. Canaan lay in sunlight beyond the wilderness, and the thought of" home" there encouraged them in their pilgrimage. The week's camping out after Canaan had been reached made them enjoy their home life all the more. In the same way, while we confess like the patriarchs to be "strangers and pilgrims upon the earth," we are seeking, and rejoicing in the prospect of yet reaching, a better country, with a city of God and permanent abodes (Hebrews 11:13-16). The pilgrimage is joyful because it is destined to end in the everlasting home. Perpetual pilgrimage no man could desire, for this would be perpetual exile from legitimate home joys. A long pilgrimage can he welcomed if it lead towards everlasting joy in the Father's house. And is there not an element of triumph associated with such a celebration as this Feast of Tabernacles? It indicates victory over worldly feeling through faith in God. No wonder, then, that palm branches and goodly boughs were waved by joyous ones before the Lord. It is into victorious joy he summons all his people as the earnest of the everlasting joy with which he is yet to crown them. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,