chapter is based on Leviticus 23.]
were three annual assemblies of all Israel for worship at the sanctuary.
Exodus 23:14-16. Shiloh was for a time the place of these gatherings; but
Jerusalem afterward became the center of the nation's worship, and here
the tribes convened for the solemn feasts.
were surrounded by fierce, warlike tribes, that were eager to seize upon
their lands; yet three times every year all the able-bodied men and all
the people who could make the journey were directed to leave their homes
and repair to the place of assembly, near the center of the land. What was
to hinder their enemies from sweeping down upon those unprotected
households, to lay them waste with fire and sword? What was to prevent an
invasion of the land, that would bring Israel into captivity to some
foreign foe? God had promised to be the protector of His people. "The
angel of Jehovah encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth
them." Psalm 34:7. While the Israelites went up to worship, divine
power would place a restraint upon their enemies. God's promise was,
"I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders:
neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear
before the Lord thy God thrice in the year." Exodus 34:24.
The first of
these festivals, the Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, occurred in
Abib, the first month of the Jewish year, corresponding to the last of
March and the beginning of April. The cold of winter was past, the latter
rain had ended, and all nature rejoiced in the freshness and beauty of the
springtime. The grass was green on the hills and valleys, and wild flowers
everywhere brightened the fields. The moon, now approaching the full, made
the evenings delightful. It was the season so beautifully pictured by the
winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
The fig tree ripeneth her green figs,
And the vines are in blossom,
They give forth their fragrance." Song of Solomon 2:11-13, R.V.
the land bands of pilgrims were making their way toward Jerusalem. The
shepherds from their flocks, the herdsmen from the mountains, fishers from
the Sea of Galilee, the husbandmen from their fields, and sons of the
prophets from the sacred schools--all turned their steps toward the place
where God's presence was revealed. They journeyed by short stages, for
many went on foot. The caravans were constantly receiving accessions, and
often became very large before reaching the Holy City.
gladness awakened joy in the hearts of Israel and gratitude to the Giver
of all good. The grand Hebrew psalms were chanted, exalting the glory and
majesty of Jehovah. At the sound of the signal trumpet, with the music of
cymbals, the chorus of thanksgiving arose, swelled by hundreds of voices:
glad when they said unto me,
Let us go unto the house of the Lord.
Our feet are standing
Within thy gates, O Jerusalem. . . .
Whither the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord, . .
To give thanks unto the name of Jehovah. . . .
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
They shall prosper that love thee." Psalm 122:1-6, R.V.
As they saw
around them the hills where the heathen had been wont to kindle their
altar fires, the children of Israel sang:
lift up mine eyes to the hills?
Whence should my help come?
My help cometh from Jehovah,
Which made heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1, 2 (margin).
that trust in the Lord
Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abideth forever.
As the mountains are round about Jerusalem,
So the Lord is round about His people,
From this time forth and forevermore." Psalm 125:1, 2, R.V.
the hills in view of the Holy City, they looked with reverent awe upon the
throngs of worshipers wending their way to the temple. They saw the smoke
of the incense ascending, and as they heard the trumpets of the Levites
heralding the sacred service, they caught the inspiration of the hour, and
is the Lord, and greatly to be praised
In the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness.
Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth,
Is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north,
The city of the great King."
Psalm 48:1, 2.
be within thy walls,
And prosperity within thy palaces."
"Open to me the gates of righteousness:
I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord."
"I will pay my vows unto the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people,
In the courts of the Lord's house,
In the midst of thee, O Jerusalem,
Praise ye the Lord."
Psalm 122:7; 118:19; 116:18, 19.
houses in Jerusalem were thrown open to the pilgrims, and rooms were
furnished free; but this was not sufficient for the vast assembly, and
tents were pitched in every available space in the city and upon the
fourteenth day of the month, at even, the Passover was celebrated, its
solemn, impressive ceremonies commemorating the deliverance from bondage
in Egypt, and pointing forward to the sacrifice that should deliver from
the bondage of sin. When the Saviour yielded up His life on Calvary, the
significance of the Passover ceased, and the ordinance of the Lord's
Supper was instituted as a memorial of the same event of which the
Passover had been a type.
was followed by the seven day's feast of unleavened bread. The first and
the seventh day were days of holy convocation, when no servile work was to
be performed. On the second day of the feast, the first fruits of the
year's harvest were presented before God. Barley was the earliest grain in
Palestine, and at the opening of the feast it was beginning to ripen. A
sheaf of this grain was waved by the priest before the altar of God, as an
acknowledgment that all was His. Not until this ceremony had been
performed was the harvest to be gathered.
from the offering of first fruits, came the Pentecost, called also the
feast of harvest and the feast of weeks. As an expression of gratitude for
the grain prepared as food, two loaves baked with leaven were presented
before God. The Pentecost occupied but one day, which was devoted to
seventh month came the Feast of Tabernacles, or of ingathering. This feast
acknowledged God's bounty in the products of the orchard, the olive grove,
and the vineyard. It was the crowning festal gathering of the year. The
land had yielded its increase, the harvests had been gathered into the
granaries, the fruits, the oil, and the wine had been stored, the first
fruits had been reserved, and now the people came with their tributes of
thanksgiving to God, who had thus richly blessed them.
was to be pre-eminently an occasion of rejoicing. It occurred just after
the great Day of Atonement, when the assurance had been given that their
iniquity should be remembered no more. At peace with God, they now came
before Him to acknowledge His goodness and to praise Him for His mercy.
The labors of the harvest being ended, and the toils of the new year not
yet begun, the people were free from care, and could give themselves up to
the sacred, joyous influences of the hour. Though only the fathers and
sons were commanded to appear at the feasts, yet, so far as possible, all
the household were to attend them, and to their hospitality the servants,
the Levites, the stranger, and the poor were made welcome.
Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles was commemorative. In memory of their
pilgrim life in the wilderness the people were now to leave their houses
and dwell in booths, or arbors, formed from the green branches "of
goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and
willows of the brook." Leviticus 23:40, 42, 43.
The first day
was a holy convocation, and to the seven days of the feast an eighth day
was added, which was observed in like manner.
yearly assemblies the hearts of old and young would be encouraged in the
service of God, while the association of the people from the different
quarters of the land would strengthen the ties that bound them to God and
to one another. Well would it be for the people of God at the present time
to have a Feast of
Tabernacles--a joyous commemoration of the blessings of
God to them. As the children of Israel celebrated the deliverance that God
had wrought for their fathers, and His miraculous preservation of them
during their journeyings from Egypt, so should we gratefully call to mind
the various ways He has devised for bringing us out from the world, and
from the darkness of error, into the precious light of His grace and
who lived at a distance from the tabernacle, more than a month of every
year must have been occupied in attendance upon the annual feasts. This
example of devotion to God should emphasize the importance of religious
worship and the necessity of subordinating our selfish, worldly interests
to those that are spiritual and eternal. We sustain a loss when we neglect
the privilege of associating together to strengthen and encourage one
another in the service of God. The truths of His word lose their vividness
and importance in our minds. Our hearts cease to be enlightened and
aroused by the sanctifying influence, and we decline in spirituality. In
our intercourse as Christians we lose much by lack of sympathy with one
another. He who shuts himself up to himself is not filling the position
that God designed he should. We are all children of one Father, dependent
upon one another for happiness. The claims of God and of humanity are upon
us. It is the proper cultivation of the social elements of our nature that
brings us into sympathy with our brethren and affords us happiness in our
efforts to bless others.
The Feast of
Tabernacles was not only commemorative but typical. It not only pointed
back to the wilderness sojourn, but, as the feast of harvest, it
celebrated the ingathering of the fruits of the earth, and pointed forward
to the great day of final ingathering, when the Lord of the harvest shall
send forth His reapers to gather the tares together in bundles for the
fire, and to gather the wheat into His garner. At that time the wicked
will all be destroyed. They will become "as though they had not
been." Obadiah 16. And every voice in the whole universe will unite
in joyful praise to God. Says the revelator, "Every creature which is
in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the
sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and
glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the
Lamb forever and ever." Revelation 5:13.
The people of
Israel praised God at the Feast of Tabernacles, as they called to mind His
mercy in their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt and His tender care
for them during their pilgrim life in the wilderness. They rejoiced also
in the consciousness of pardon and acceptance, through the service of the
day of atonement, just ended. But when the ransomed of the Lord shall have
been safely gathered into the heavenly Canaan, forever delivered from the
bondage of the curse, under which "the whole creation groaneth and
travaileth in pain together until now" (Romans 8:22), they will
rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Christ's great work of
atonement for men will then have been completed, and their sins will have
been forever blotted out.
wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them;
And the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing:
The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it,
The excellency of Carmel and Sharon;
They shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.
the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then shall the lame man leap as an hart,
And the tongue of the dumb sing:
"For in the wilderness shall waters break out,
And streams in the desert.
And the parched ground shall become a pool,
And the thirsty land springs of water: . . .
"And an highway shall be there, and a way,
And it shall be called The way of holiness;
The unclean shall not pass over it;
But it shall be for those:
The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
shall be there,
Nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon,
It shall not be found there;
But the redeemed shall walk there:
"And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
And come to Zion with songs
And everlasting joy upon their heads:
They shall obtain joy and gladness,
And sorrow and sighing shall flee away."
Isaiah 35:1, 2, 5-10.