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Feast of Tabernacles - Why are We Here, Today?

Greetings and welcome to the 2003 Feast of Tabernacles!

The Feast of Tabernacles is a time where we each come out of our homes and live for eight days in temporary dwellings to commemorate the time when God saved our ancestors from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. They were in Egypt for 430 years and had suffered the rigors of slavery for a good part of that time. Have you thought about that much? In many of the western democracies where we live today, our heritage is rather short lived. The nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries have been times of large movements of peoples and nations. Some have changed their domicile because of the horrors of war. Some have moved because of political or religious persecution. Still others have moved in a quest for a better life and the economic benefits of a freer market economy. Therefore, many of us do not have long historical family roots in the societies where we presently live. In fact, most people regard themselves to have been "native" to their countries after just a generation or two. To have a grandfather or great-grandfather who emigrated to the new country is assumed to have a long native lineage. That's the frame of reference for most of us. We come from nations composed largely of immigrants. Now, let's expand our minds and our perspectives.

Such brevity was not the case with the Israelites in Egypt. Yes, they were immigrants to Egypt but, by the time they left, that immigration under the authority of Joseph had been more than 400 years in the past. Well, that's a nice round number to throw around: 400 years. It shouldn't come as a surprise to us because that's what God told Abram, even before he renamed him Abraham, long before the family of Jacob was forced to leave Israel, due to famine. We can read that for ourselves in Genesis 15:13. God had caused a deep sleep to come upon Abram and, in the darkness, God gave him insight into what would soon happen, both to him and his descendants to come.

(Gen 15:13-16 NASB) And God said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. {14} "But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve; and afterward they will come out with many possessions. {15} "And as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. {16} "Then in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete."

God told Abram that "in the fourth generation they shall return here", [to Israel]. Let's see what actually occurred in the book of Exodus.

(Exo 1:1-6 NASB) Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob; they came each one with his household: {2} Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; {3} Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; {4} Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. {5} And all the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt. {6} And Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation.

So, all the family of Jacob came out of Israel into Egypt to join Joseph. Let's zero in on one family who can give us more insight. The sons of Levi can be found in Exodus 6:16.

(Exo 6:16 NASB) And these are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations: Gershon and Kohath and Merari; and the length of Levi's life was one hundred and thirty-seven years.

Now we gain some perspective because we can see that their generations were not the same as we might see a generation today. Today, we look at a "generation" in much the same way David saw a generation in Psalms 90 when he specified, "As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years," We saw by what we just read in Exodus, however, that a generation in Jacob's day was much longer than even David's more optimistic level of eighty years.

Let's look at the next three generations in Exodus 6:18.

(Exo 6:18 NASB) And the sons of Kohath: Amram and Izhar and Hebron and Uzziel; and the length of Kohath's life was one hundred and thirty-three years.

So, Jacob's grandson, Kohath (the second generation) lasted 135 years. Look at the next generation in Exodus 6:20.

(Exo 6:20 NASB) And Amram married his father's sister Jochebed, and she bore him Aaron and Moses; and the length of Amram's life was one hundred and thirty-seven years.

So, generations one, two, and three were all within two years of being the same length: 135 to 137 years each. The fourth generation that actually left Egypt was the generation of Moses and Aaron but the exodus didn't just happen at the beginning of their lives. No, their lives were substantially spent by the time God took them out of their positions of slavery. We can find that in Exodus 7:7.

(Exo 7:7 NASB) And Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

No, from our perspective, their lives were just about over. They were well into what we would call their "golden years" when we would expect them to have been contemplating retirement and leisurely playing with the grandchildren. We know, from the rest of the story that their lives of leadership were really just beginning. Deuteronomy 34:7 tells us that Moses died when he was 120 years old. So, at the time God led Israel out of Egypt, Moses still had one full third of his life yet ahead of him. Obviously, even with our advances in medicine, their generations were a lot longer than ours today.

So, by our present perspective, the 430 years spent in Egypt were not really just four generations. They were more like six generations to us. Even a number as large as 430 years may not really have meaning to us in our world, today. It would be the equivalent of us trying to imagine things in the year 1573. Just try to imagine, it was only 51 years since Ferdinand Magellan had completed the first "round the world" sailing voyage. The year 1573 was less than sixty years after Martin Luther's presentation of his 95 theses against the indulgences of the pope that were the first beginnings of the Protestant Reformation. 1573 was only thirteen years after the publication of the Geneva Bible, the first Bible written with separate verses for the common man in the English language. In 1573, it would still be more than thirty years before the King James Version of the Bible would be translated. In North America, it would be almost fifty years before the English established their first American colony at Jamestown. In short, the world was a vastly different place 430 years ago from today. Religious freedom was just awakening from under the centuries' long grip of the Catholic popes. So many of the religious freedoms we take so much for granted today were just in their infancy in the Europe of 430 years ago. It was a vastly different world. So, don't just think of your father or grandfather. If you can imagine it, hink of your great, great, great grandfather. Now that's a long, long time.

What we're trying to do today is to expand our minds and to see time a little more from God's perspective rather than from our limited human perspectives

The Temporary Dwelling

After the sacrifice of the Passover lamb with its blood of atonement protecting the Israelites in their homes, the exodus began a forty year journey back to the land that was promised to Abraham. Numbers 33:3 recounts the beginning of their escape from Egypt.

(Num 33:3-5 NASB) And they journeyed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the next day after the Passover the sons of Israel started out boldly in the sight of all the Egyptians, {4} while the Egyptians were burying all their first-born whom the LORD had struck down among them. The LORD had also executed judgments on their gods. {5} Then the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses, and camped in Succoth.

The town called Succoth is very interesting. Strong's Hebrew Dictionary notes the meaning of number 5523, Sukkowth, meaning booths. It is derived from Strong's number 5526, sakak. That root means to entwine as a screen; to fence in, cover over, or protect.

That is the same name of a place in Israel we can read about in Genesis 33:17, established by Jacob upon his return from Padan-Aram with his wives and sons.

(Gen 33:17 NASB) And Jacob journeyed to Succoth; and built for himself a house, and made booths for his livestock, therefore the place is named Succoth.

It's obvious that Jacob didn't want to live in a temporary dwelling or booth because he "built for himself a house". The booths were built for his animals.

The name of the town in Egypt, however, was to set the scene for the next forty years of wandering through the wilderness because the children of Israel didn't live in permanent structures. They certainly didn't build houses or apartment buildings as they wandered from place to place. God didn't allow them to build any permanent structures. They lived in temporary dwellings. We can see a picture of their accommodations in the blessing given by Balaam when he viewed the full encampment of Israel on the plains of Moab in Numbers 24:2.

(Num 24:2-5 NASB) And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him. {3} And he took up his discourse and said, "The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, And the oracle of the man whose eye is opened; {4} The oracle of him who hears the words of God, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered, {5} How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel!

Earlier, in Numbers 16:23 in the incident of Korah's rebellion, we can see another display, showing that their dwellings were in tents.

(Num 16:23-27 NASB) Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, {24} "Speak to the congregation, saying, 'Get back from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.'" {25} Then Moses arose and went to Dathan and Abiram, with the elders of Israel following him, {26} and he spoke to the congregation, saying, "Depart now from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing that belongs to them, lest you be swept away in all their sin." {27} So they got back from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan and Abiram; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the doorway of their tents, along with their wives and their sons and their little ones.

God's Holy Days

We all know the master chapter that mentions all of God's holy days. It's Leviticus 23. It gives specific directions on keeping the Sabbath Day, the Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, the Wavesheaf Offering, the Feast of Weeks, the Day of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day. Regarding the Feast of Tabernacles, the Israelites were given instructions on how and why to keep the Feast when they re-entered the land promised to Abraham.

They weren't supposed to just have a party. In verse 33, we can see they were to keep the days of the Feast of Tabernacles for a purpose. They were important days to God. They were days to be celebrated with meaning.

Note first, just one little word at the beginning of verse 39. It is the Hebrew word, ak. It is Strong's number 389: 'ak, a particle of affirmation, surely; or only. Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon defines ak as: first (in an emphatic sense) indeed, or surely and, secondly (in a restrictive sense) howbeit, only, but, or yet. The Literal Version of the Bible by Jay P. Green begins verse 39 with the word only. The New American Standard Bible begins verse 39 with the words on exactly.

(Lev 23:39-44 NASB) 'On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. {40} 'Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. {41} 'You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. {42} 'You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, {43} so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.'" {44} So Moses declared to the sons of Israel the appointed times of the LORD.

In their Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, the authors Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown state the following about the Feast of Booths:

"This festival, which was instituted in grateful commemoration of the Israelites having securely dwelt in booths or tabernacles in the wilderness, was the third of the three great annual festivals... It began on the fifteenth day of the month... The Jews were commanded during the whole period of the festival to dwell in booths, which were erected on the flat roofs of houses, in the streets or fields; and the trees made use of are by some stated to be the citron, the palm, the myrtle, and the willow... It was a season of great rejoicing."

When the exiled Jews returned from seventy years' captivity in Babylon, they re-instituted the celebrations of the Feast of Booths, as we can read in Nehemiah 8:14. This time, however, they kept it with even greater gusto than their ancestors.

(Neh 8:14-18 NASB) And they found written in the law how the LORD had commanded through Moses that the sons of Israel should live in booths during the feast of the seventh month. {15} So they proclaimed and circulated a proclamation in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, "Go out to the hills, and bring olive branches, and wild olive branches, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of other leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written." {16} So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate, and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. {17} And the entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them. The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing. {18} And he read from the book of the law of God daily, from the first day to the last day. And they celebrated the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly according to the ordinance.

Why are We Here?

Have you asked yourself, "why are we here"? What was it the exiles found written in the law? Just what was the ordinance commanding a solemn assembly? It was Leviticus 23 that we just read. Let's read it again and, this time, see if you don't notice things you didn't see the first time.

(Lev 23:39-44 NASB) 'On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. {40} 'Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. {41} 'You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. {42} 'You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, {43} so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.'" {44} So Moses declared to the sons of Israel the appointed times of the LORD.

Yes, it says, "on exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month..." and "it shall be a perpetual statue throughout your generations..." Why was it so important to God that he demanded they keep it forever, beginning on exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month? The answer is in verse 43: "so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt." The temporary dwellings of tents that Israel lived in for forty years in the wilderness were symbolic of the temporary dwellings of tents lived in by their forefathers, the Patriarchs. We can see that for ourselves in several places in the book of Genesis.

(Gen 9:20-21 NASB) Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. {21} And he drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent.
(Gen 12:7-9 NASB) And the LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him. {8} Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. {9} And Abram journeyed on, continuing toward the Negev.
(Gen 13:2-4 NASB) Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. {3} And he went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, {4} to the place of the altar, which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.
(Gen 13:5 NASB) Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents.
(Gen 13:12 NASB) Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom.
(Gen 18:1-2 NASB) Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. {2} And when he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth,
(Gen 18:6 NASB) So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, "Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it, and make bread cakes."
(Gen 24:67 NASB) Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.
(Gen 25:27 NASB) When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents.

So, we can plainly see that virtually all the Patriarchs from Noah through Jacob lived in tents, but why? Earlier we read that Jacob built a house after he returned from Padam-Aram. So, it certainly wasn't an impossibility for them to choose to live in permanent structures. There was more to it than that. There was a spiritual meaning which we can find in Hebrews 11. It had to do with faith and trust in God.

(Heb 11:8-16 NASB) By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. {9} By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; {10} for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. {11} By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised; {12} therefore, also, there was born of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE. {13} All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. {14} For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. {15} And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. {16} But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

You see, by their actions, they confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth who desired a better country. Likewise, for forty years, God led the Israelites throughout the wilderness to testify that they were strangers and exiles on the earth who desire a better country. While the Patriarchs had faith to believe that the better country was, ultimately, to come to earth from heaven, the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness were testifying that they sought a better physical country promised and prepared for them by God.

Holy to God

In that same vein, we strive for that better country today. Remember how the High Priest Aaron had garments made especially for him to wear in the performance of his duties in the tabernacle. We can read that again in Exodus 28:2.

(Exo 28:2 NASB) "And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.

It wasn't for Aaron's personal glory or beauty. It was to show the people God's glory and God's beauty, so that when they saw Aaron, they might give the honor to God. Skip down to verse four.

(Exo 28:4 NASB) "And these are the garments which they shall make: a breastpiece and an ephod and a robe and a tunic of checkered work, a turban and a sash, and they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister as priest to Me.

There was one piece, however, that set off the whole wardrobe and, above all else, marked the High Priest as someone of special stature in the eyes of God. It was a sign. Look at verse 36.

(Exo 28:36-38 NASB) "You shall also make a plate of pure gold and shall engrave on it, like the engravings of a seal, 'Holy to the LORD.' {37} "And you shall fasten it on a blue cord, and it shall be on the turban; it shall be at the front of the turban. {38} "And it shall be on Aaron's forehead, and Aaron shall take away the iniquity of the holy things which the sons of Israel consecrate, with regard to all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.

Look at the end of verse 38 again. The duties of the High Priest were not just for his own self or just for his own family. It says, "that they may be accepted before the Lord." His ministry of service was for the congregation of Israel. He was to be God's holy representative to the children of Israel, God's chosen nation. If you have any doubt, look at Exodus 19:3.

(Exo 19:3-6 NASB) And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: {4} 'You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself. {5} 'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; {6} and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. 'These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."

Wow, that sure sounds familiar to me. Doesn't it remind you of something in Revelation? Look at chapter one and verse six.

(Rev 1:6 KJV) And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

To be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation was the intention of God for his chosen people Israel. In their day, they failed to measure up to the task before them. It is now another time and another chance has been extended by God, a calling not according to a physical bloodline but according to the unity of the spirit of God. Our great Father, God Most High, extends to us the same honor and privilege: to be kings and priests unto God. Just think of it! What a great opportunity!

In 1 Peter 2:5, the apostle Peter saw the great potential before us. He wrote and spoke directly to the saints. He understood the greatness of God's gift to his chosen people.

(1 Pet 2:5-10 NASB) you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. {6} For this is contained in Scripture: "BEHOLD I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." {7} This precious value, then, is for you who believe. But for those who disbelieve, "THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone," {8} and, "A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. {9} But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; {10} for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.

Look at that again, closely. You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession. The saints come from all walks of life. We are black, white, yellow, brown. We're not necessarily of one blood as were the Levites and the sons of Aaron, yet we are all of one spirit and are all bound together by that great gift of God's spirit.

Look at verse ten again. "For you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God, you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." When we were living our separate lives, we were apart from God. We didn't know God. We didn't know his righteousness. In fact, some of us did our best to run far from God, living lives of rebellion in opposition to every virtuous standard we saw. Things became different, though, when God touched each one of us. Our minds were opened. Our attitudes were softened. Our rebellion was calmed and we made peace with God's standards of righteousness and our own frail abilities to measure up to those standards on our own. God chose us and called us into a new way of life, not living by our own standards but by God's standards. Look around you. Today, you're not surrounded by great academics or great statesmen or politicians or men and women of renown. We're a collection of nobody's. Just remember 1 Corintians 1:26. That's the way Paul said it would be. That's the way God designed it.

(1 Cor 1:26-29 NASB) For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; {27} but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, {28} and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, {29} that no man should boast before God.

Elijah's Example

So great is the power and plan of God that it reminds me of God's chosen, protected people in the time of Elijah. Look at the whole story in 1 Kings 19, beginning in verse one.

(1 Ki 19:1-18 NASB) Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. {2} Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time." {3} And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. {4} But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, "It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers." {5} And he lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, "Arise, eat." {6} Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. {7} And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, "Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you." {8} So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. {9} Then he came there to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" {10} And he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." {11} So He said, "Go forth, and stand on the mountain before the LORD." And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. {12} And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. {13} And it came about when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" {14} Then he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." {15} And the LORD said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; {16} and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. {17} "And it shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. {18} "Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him."

We said earlier our purpose today is to expand our minds and to see things a little more from God's perspective. That's true today but we can see it's also what Elijah needed in his day. Surely, you'd be depressed, too, if what you saw around you on a daily basis was governmental and political corruption, religious corruption, nationwide corruption and even personal persecution to the extent your own life was in jeopardy. Wait a minute. That sounds an awful lot like our nations today. So, Elijah had good cause to be depressed but look at the result of his doubt. God revealed to Elijah that, no matter how dim things might appear from man's perspective, God is still in control. God would take care of the governmental and political corruption. God would take care of the religious corruption. God would even take care of the personal persecution. God showed Elijah that when all hope appeared to be lost, God was still in control and had reserved to himself 7,000 people who had not corrupted themselves with the worship of false gods.

Just think of that! So often in the recent history of the Church of God, the cloud of doom, despair, and persecution has hung over us and sorely influenced our thinking. It has shrunk our perspective and our outlook of the world around us. Surely, we had sufficient cause to feel the way we did but it wasn't warranted. In fact, it was a little bit arrogant, both for us as well as for Elijah, to think we were the only ones. We were too limited. Our perspective was not God's perspective.

Look all around us today. We are very small and scattered. Well, we're scattered, for sure but we're not as small as you might think. Just as God had scattered, protected, and reserved for himself throughout Israel thousands of uncorrupted people in Elijah's day, so he's done today. In more than just the last two years, we've come in contact with individuals and small groups of obedient believers scattered all around the world. In countries ranging from Canada to the Bahamas, to Serbia in Europe, to Ghana and Benin in West Africa, to South Africa and Mauritius, to various parts of India, to Australia and Singapore in the South Pacific, God has reserved to himself thousands of hidden people.

Just think about what we read of Elijah. Even the most important prophet in all the nation of Israel didn't know that God had saved other believers for himself. He thought he was virtually alone. He underestimated the power of God. If Elijah didn't know, who are we to think we are the only ones today. No, God is doing a great work encompassing the whole world but it is his work, not ours. We may have the opportunity to lift up our voices here and there but regardless of our meager efforts, the job will be done and it will be done in the way God wants it done.

Remember, we're not alone. Even Paul made mention of Elijah's experience in Romans 11:2. He knew there was a former fulfillment and a latter fulfillment.

(Rom 11:2-5 NASB) God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? {3} "Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED THY PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN THINE ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE." {4} But what is the divine response to him? "I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL." {5} In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice.

Not only has God called each of us out of our individual circumstances, he has bound us together as one through his spirit and has put us into the body of Christ where it pleased him. In 1 Corinthians 12:12, Paul emphasizes that.

(1 Cor 12:12-27 NASB) For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. {13} For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. {14} For the body is not one member, but many. {15} If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. {16} And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. {17} If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? {18} But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. {19} And if they were all one member, where would the body be? {20} But now there are many members, but one body. {21} And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." {22} On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; {23} and those members of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness, {24} whereas our seemly members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, {25} that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. {26} And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. {27} Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it.

Paul makes it abundantly clear that every part of the body of Christ is essential. If I physically left my foot in Australia and my hand in India and my ear in South Africa and my eye in Canada, I would learn firsthand how essential each of those parts is. I'd be a wreak without them and they would die without being attached to my body. Look at it today, though. We do have toes and arms and legs and eyes and ears and noses scattered all over the world but God knows them all. God Most High, El Elyon, is supremely in charge and he has put each one of those members precisely where he wants it to be. Our great Father binds together all those parts of the body of Christ through the power of his own holy spirit.

In Romans 12:1, this time in the Darby translation, listen to the words of Paul and think of it from God's point of view.

(Romans 12:1-5 Darby) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the compassions of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your intelligent service. (2) And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (3) For I say, through the grace which has been given to me, to every one that is among you, not to have high thoughts above what he should think; but to think so as to be wise, as God has dealt to each a measure of faith. (4) For, as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office; (5) thus we, being many, are one body in Christ, and each one members one of the other.

Yes, we're scattered but we are all tied together in the one body of Christ as God saw fit. Look at Ephesians 2:18.

(Ephesians 2:18-22 MKJV) For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. (19) Now therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, (20) and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, (21) in whom every building having been fitly framed together, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord; (22) in whom you also are built together for a dwelling place of God through the Spirit.

The Difference

You bet God is dwelling in us, if we have his spirit and are being led daily by his spirit. Earlier, I asked "why are we here." We've already answered the most obvious part of that question, the "why." We are here because God commanded that we keep the Feast of Tabernacles forever. God commanded that it's a "perpetual statute." That's what we've heard preached before in many sermons at the Feast of Tabernacles. The key question that's seldom addressed really just needs the addition of one word: "why are we here today? While most of the world doesn't celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles at all, there are hundreds of thousands, if not even millions, of people around the world, both Jews and Gentiles, who do celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. What's the difference? The difference is, they're not doing it today. They're starting it tomorrow.

Many people would say, "Aw, one day's as good as another." That's a legitimate question, "Is one day just as good as another to God?" Well, you need to ask yourself, if one day is just as good as another to God, why not keep the weekly Sabbath on Sunday? The reason we keep the Sabbath on Saturday instead of Sunday is because God said to keep the Sabbath on the seventh day, not on the first day of the week. Likewise, we keep the Feast of Tabernacles beginning on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, not beginning on the sixteenth day, just because we might think it's more convenient to move God's Holy Days around in order to avoid a few back-to-back Sabbaths. Just remember, from start to finish, scripture shows us that the right day makes a big, big, big difference to God.

Let's go back to the instruction book to see again what God has to say about the importance of timing on his holy days. Let's look, for comparison, at another holy day in Leviticus 23; this time look at one of supreme importance to God. First of all, notice how Leviticus 23 begins in the New American Standard version.

(Lev 23:1-2 NASB) The LORD spoke again to Moses, saying, {2} "Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, 'The LORD'S appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations-- My appointed times are these:

Notice, God doesn't say "my preferred times are these." He doesn't say "my approximate times are these." He said "my appointed times are these." These times are specific times. They are our appointments with God. If I don't keep the appointment for a train or an airplane at the right time, it's gone. If I show up on the wrong date, it doesn't matter what I do. I've missed it. So it is with God. Do you really expect God to be among us if God says to begin on the fifteen of the seventh month but, because the fifteenth may be inconvenient, we decide to begin on the sixteenth. That sounds a little bit like rebellion to me and you know already what God said about rebellion through the words of the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 15:23. I'm sure we can all recite that one by heart.

(1 Sam 15:23 KJV) For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

Most would admit that probably the holiest day of the year to God is the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. That day is just one day. It's not a whole week like the Feast of Tabernacles. It's just one day but does just one day make a difference to God? Look at Leviticus 23:27.

(Lev 23:27-32 NASB) "On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the LORD. {28} "Neither shall you do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the LORD your God. {29} "If there is any person who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people. {30} "As for any person who does any work on this same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. {31} "You shall do no work at all. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. {32} "It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath."

Notice what we just read. Not only did God say it was to be kept on exactly the tenth day of the seventh month (just like the instructions for Tabernacles said "on exactly the fifteenth day"), God even gave a specific definition of when that tenth day was to be kept. He said "on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening to evening you shall keep your sabbath." How plain can you be? God didn't say, "Well, if it falls on a Friday or a Sunday, you can move it because I wouldn't want you to be inconvenienced by having two Sabbaths, back-to-back." He didn't say, "Well, if you have to move the Day of Atonement, I guess you can move all of my other appointed times." He said "on exactly" or "only" the tenth day of the seventh month.

Signs in the Heavens

Now, God didn't leave us without hope or without direction. We don't have to guess or make up our own rules to determine when God wants us to keep his holy days. God gave us specific directions and those directions stare us in the face every evening or every morning whenever we look into the sky. Notice those specific directions in Genesis 1:14, this time from the TANAKH by the Jewish Publication Society.

(Gen 1:14 TANAKH) God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate day from night; they shall serve as signs for the set times - the days and the years;"

God gave us specific signs in the sky to show us his set times. The Hebrew word is mo'ed and it means "appointed times." The moon marks the days of the month through its phases, so all we have to do is count. We know when the first of the month is. It's not when the moon is full, at varying times in different places around the world. It's not when the moon shows its first thin sliver, which also occurs at varying times in different places around the world. It's at the dark of the moon, when the moon is new, at the point of conjunction. It's the point that's the same precise instant all around the world. The great God Most High who created all the vast universe and the precision of time regulated by the planets is not an imprecise God. When he sets his appointments, we had better be there and we had better be on time.

We're here to learn more about God's better way of life. We're here for education. We're here for renewal. Paul explained it in Ephesians 4:24.

(Eph 4:24-25 KJV) And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. {25} Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

We're not just supposed to put on any man. We're supposed to put on the new man. It's the new man patterned after God. How, you might ask? The new man is to be patterned after God in righteousness and true holiness. That means sanctified or set apart. We are to be patterned after God and set apart by God's standard of righteousness.

So, welcome and enjoy your opportunity of discovery at the Feast. Drink in the words of life and put on the new man. Put on Christ.

Sermon given by Philip Edwards
October 10, 2003
Copyright 2003, Philip Edwards