Speak to the children of Israel, saying…
s: — This festival derived its name from the fact that during the first seven days for which it lasted, the children of Israel went out of their habitations, and dwelt in booths or tabernacles, until the eighth day, when they returned unto their houses. It was also called the Feast of Ingathering, because it was celebrated after all the fruits of the land were gathered in, as we ;learn in the thirty-ninth verse of the chapter before us. This festival, like the rest, was partly commemorative, and partly prophetical or typical; like them we shall find that it exhibits things past, present, and to come.
I. IT HAD A COMMEMORATIVE OR EUCHARISTIC MEANING; IT WAS DESIGNED TO CELEBRATE THE MERCY OF THE LORD IN BRINGING THE NATION SAFELY THROUGH THE WILDERNESS, AND GIVING THEM POSSESSION OF THE PROMISED LAND. The journey through the wilderness was celebrated when they went out of their habitations, and the whole nation, leaving their settled dwelling-places, dwelt in tents or tabernacles throughout the land. And the happy termination of their wanderings was also celebrated in this festival, for on the eighth day, when they returned to their habitations, they were to have "an holy convocation," "they were to do no servile work therein," but they were to keep "a Sabbath unto the Lord" (vers. 36, 39). It was a season of national rejoicing, as the ordinance that preceded it had been one of humiliation and mourning. Such was the eucharistic bearing of this ordinance, upon which we need not farther dwell; I will only observe, that in this view of its import we can see a propriety in the season at which it was celebrated — after they had gathered in all the fruits of the earth; a suitable occasion this on which to commemorate the goodness of the Lord.
II. But I believe the Jewish application of this feast is not only retrospective, BUT PROSPECTIVE ALSO — THAT IT WAS DESIGNED TO EXHIBIT IN TYPICAL REPRESENTATION THAT WHICH WE SO OFTEN READ OF IN ORAL PREDICTIONS, THEIR FINAL SETTLEMENT IN THE PROMISED LAND, AND COMPLETE CONVERSION UNTO GOD. We are led to expect such a reference from the analogy of the two preceding festivals of this month — the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement-both of which refer to God's purposes of future mercy to the Jewish nation. The Feast of Trumpets referred more particularly to their gathering together from all the countries in which they are scattered, and their restoration to the land of Israel. The Day of Atonement exhibited their conversion unto God after their restoration, when He shall "take away the stony heart, and give them hearts of flesh," and "they shall look upon Him whom they bare pierced and mourn for Him." And now we have the Feast of Tabernacles which crowns the whole, and represents, as I believe, their final settlement in the peaceful and happy enjoyment of the land of promise. It would appear that the Jews themselves had some idea that this festival was designed to set forth the future mercies which the nation were to receive at the hands of the promised Messiah. It was customary at the celebration of it to make the compass of the sacrifices, bearing the branches of palm-trees and ether goodly trees in their hands; and as they thus went on in joyful procession, they sang the twenty-fifth verse of the hundred and eighteenth Psalm, "Save now [Hosanna], I beseech Thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech Thee, send now prosperity"; and on the seventh day they compassed the altar seven times, singing in like manner, and this was called the Great Hosanna.
III. But the typical import of this festival belongs not merely to the Jews; it also, in common with the rest, APPLIES UNTO THE CHURCH OF THIS DISPENSATION, BOTH IN ITS PRESENT CHARACTER AND FUTURE GLORY. The eighth day, which, as we have seen, shadows forth the time of Judah's salvation, and of consequent earthly blessedness, refers also to heavenly and eternal things. It is the first day of a new week, and therefore reminds us of resurrection; and coming at the end of the complete period of seven days, it brings us to the day when "time shall be no longer" — the eternal day of resurrection glory. And to the Church this day shall commence when the kingdom of God is established in the world. Let us endeavour, then, to trace the type in the several particulars of its application; and —
1. On the first day there was a holy convocation, and the children of Israel went forth from their houses, and made them tents to dwell in. Just realise the scene; all the families of Israel leaving their houses, giving up their employments, and devoting themselves to the service of the Lord. So it is with the Church of Christ, the heir of promised glory. Beloved, the gospel calls us out from this evil world, and makes us strangers and pilgrims here. The gospel finds our intellects clogged with the filth of earthliness, our mind and thought concentrated upon the pursuits and occupations of this life — "the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things"; and it disentangles us from the meshes of worldliness; it fills them with the glorious realities of eternity. It assembles us, as it were, in holy convocation, to offer sacrifices unto the Lord. Just as the children of Israel dwelt in tabernacles during seven days, looking forward to the eighth day when they were to enter into rest, so it is with the Israel of God; the Church is a stranger here, looking forward to the day of coming rest.
2. But this was a feast of joy; when the children of Israel throughout the land were to "rejoice before the Lord" they cut down the branches of palm-trees, and of other goodly trees, and carried them throughout all their coasts, in token of triumphant joy. And so with those whom God has called "out of their habitations," they are called to rejoice before the Lord. If the gospel has called us out from this world, it is that it may open to us springs of never-failing joy of which the world knows nothing, which it can never give, and can never take away. They do greatly err who imagine that religion cuts off all our present happiness. But mark, if we would taste the joy we must come "out of our habitations": if we would wave the palm of triumph in the land, we must dwell as strangers there. This joy is not "as the world gives," nor is it founded upon earthly things, and therefore if we keep the feast, it must be the Feast of Tabernacles; if we would rejoice before the Lord, it must be in the position of those who are looking forward to their rest. Observe, too, these palms are the emblems of victory — the symbols of triumphant joy. The rejoicing Christian will ever be in the attitude of the conqueror, always conflicting indeed, but not overcome in the conflict against "the devil, the world and the flesh." The character of the Christian, as described in Scripture, is that of the victor — of one who is evermore victorious, overcoming "by the blood of the Lamb."
3. But the great day of the feast was the eighth day, the type of rest in resurrection glory. On this day the children of Israel struck their tents, and rested again in their habitations; on this day they drew the water from Siloam, and watered therewith the sacrifices, with songs of joy; on this day the priests made the compass of the altar seven times, bearing with them the branches of palm-trees, and of other goodly trees, and singing as they went, "Hosanna in the highest." So shall it be with the Church of Christ in that great day — the sun whereof shall never set in darkness — the everlasting day. Then "the tabernacle of God shall be with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God." Then the mystery of the water which was poured upon the sacrifices shall be fulfilled., when He who is the Alpha and the Omega, shall proclaim, "It is done. I will give to him that is athirst to drink of the water of life freely." Then He who at the Feast of Tabernacles invited sinners to come to Him and drink, shall lead His redeemed people by living fountains of waters, and make them drink of the river of His pleasures. Then, too, the symbol of the palm branches shall be accomplished in the final victory of the redeemed over Death and Hades; and they shall realise the blessed fulfilment of the promise, "He that overcometh shall inherit all things."
(J. B. Lowe, . B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD.