The Feast of Tabernacles marked the very end of the harvest season, and was a seven-day extravaganza of sacrifices and other celebrations. It was the end of the agricultural year; all the crops were gathered in, and the people had time for an extended holiday to celebrate God’s continued goodness. For the whole of that week they walked around waving freshly cut palm branches, and lived outdoors in tents and temporary shelters. This was to remind them of their nomadic origins and of their ongoing dependence on God. He had provided for their needs in the past, and would continue to do so.
We too have to be regularly reminded that we are a pilgrim people. It is otherwise all too easy to ‘settle down’, to become complacent, and to believe that we have ‘arrived’. But at the same time, it is appropriate for us to rejoice in what God has already done for us.
“His grace has brought us safe thus far,
and grace will lead us home.” (John Newton)
There is something very special about the Feast of Tabernacles: of all the festivals, it is the only one that will be observed in the age to come (Zechariah 14:16). For it will celebrate the final harvest: the triumphant gathering of all God’s people into His eternal Kingdom. “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
‘Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne.
and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9)