The Feast of Tabernacles

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

The Feast of Tabernacles takes place each year beginning five days after Yom Kippur and lasts for over a week. Adherents to tradition make a shelter in their back yard of branches and leaves decorating it with fruit and vegetables to commemorate the time when the Lord dwelt with them in the wilderness. Then they at least take their meals in the shelter and perhaps spend a night or two as well. For this reason Tabernacles is sometimes called the Feast of Booths.

Being a fall feast, Tabernacles also celebrated the harvest in ancient Israel and in fact was the inspiration for the Thanksgiving Day celebrations held in the US and other countries.

Let’s Have A Party

Additionally Tabernacles was the crowning event in the series of fall feasts that began with Rosh Hashanah, or New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. As Yom Kippur was a solemn and awe inspiring day, Tabernacles was a time of celebration and thanksgiving. The Lord had freed their forefathers from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, He had given them a bountiful harvest, and He had accepted their annual sacrifice for the sins of the people. It was time for a party. And what a party it was.

The Israelites came from all over the nation to Jerusalem to celebrate for an entire week. They built their booths on every available piece of ground and the aroma of delicious foods cooking over open fires permeated the whole city. For seven days where ever you went there was an air of joy and festivity as the people remembered El Shaddai (God our Provider) and gave thanks.

You might wonder how they could drop everything and take a whole week off to celebrate. Simple; the Lord picked up the tab. In three passages from Deuteronomy, He explained how He was going to do this, commanding the people to put aside one tenth of their annual production for Him. (Deut. 8:6-18, 12:4-7, 14:22-29). He called it their tithe. Then they were to take the Lord’s tithe to Jerusalem each fall after the harvest and use it for a big feast to celebrate His blessings upon them.

The reason He commanded them to separate the tithe was that He wanted to remind them it was His. Also if He hadn’t required them to do so, most wouldn’t have set anything aside for the feast. It would all have been absorbed into their living costs and they would have missed out on the celebration. Obviously, the Lord didn’t need their money. He only wanted them to remember Who had blessed them. By celebrating, they were reminded. Further, He commanded that the celebration be at His house, not theirs, so they wouldn’t start thinking they had created their own blessings.

What about the Starving Kids in India?

Every third year, instead of celebrating they gave the tithe to the priests in their city to help the poor and indigent, first within the community and then from among their visitors. There was always enough to last until the next contribution three years later.

Because it felt good to obey, they learned the joy of giving. When it came time to donate the tithe to the poor, they did so with a generous spirit, knowing that they were giving away the Lord’s share not theirs. (It’s always easier to be generous with some one else’s money.) Because each community helped its own poor directly everyone got the help they needed, and the people could see the effect of their generosity.

What About Now?

Contrast that with the way of giving today. We no longer believe that one tenth is the Lord’s and we no longer credit Him for our blessings. We think we’re being asked for some of our own money, and we’re not clear about the benefit. We’re told that the Lord’s work will be hindered without our help. He’s portrayed as a cash poor beggar in some circles and as an inflexible creditor in others.

This approach makes us feel bad. We resent being made to feel guilty so we give only as much as is necessary to ease our guilt. No wonder the joy has gone from our giving.

Some “religious” groups even require 10% of their members’ income and conduct periodic audits to make sure they’re getting it all. Some even teach that tithing is evidence of salvation. It’s the most glaring example of man’s religion working at cross-purposes with the intent of God’s laws.

A Blessing or a Curse?

Today, tithing is thought by many to be a curse for believing rather than a celebration for blessing. People go around looking for a church that “doesn’t talk about money all the time.” Because they never learn the true purpose of their giving, they are deprived of the blessings of abundance the Lord promises to those who “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.” (Malachi 3:9-10 & Luke 6:38) For its part, the church merely survives when it should thrive. (The church would actually receive more income and their members would be a lot happier doing things the Lord’s way) And perhaps most sadly, those in need don’t receive the help from the church they could otherwise have … help that could have come in the name of the Lord, and perhaps prompted a life change in the heart of the recipient. Satan wins again.

The Rainmaker

Because it doesn’t rain in Israel from about the end of May till the middle of October, somewhere along the way a Water Libation Ceremony was incorporated into the Feast of Tabernacles celebrations. Each day a contingent of priests all dressed in white would go out from the Temple to the Pool of Siloam and with a silver pitcher would take some water from the pool back to the Temple. There a paving stone beside the altar had been removed just for this event. Arriving at the altar, a priest would pour the water from the silver pitcher upon the ground where the paving stone had been. As the dry ground absorbed the water the priests would pray for rains to moisten the fields in preparation for the fall planting. Thousands of people watching the ceremony would join in, praying and singing praises to God.

On the last day of the Feast, the High Priest Himself would officiate in all his finery, and the entire priesthood would follow him to the pool and back, singing and playing their instruments. On this day the pitcher was golden and the whole nation would be in attendance. Compare it to a sports stadium of today, packed to the rafters with spectators, all watching as the High Priest lifted the golden pitcher high over his head to pour the water into the ground near the altar. And then as with one voice they would break into song praising God and praying for rain. Talk about a joyful noise!

Then one year something happened as the priest was pouring the water that stunned the crowd and literally shocked them into silence. Listen to John’s eyewitness account. “On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘ If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this He meant the Spirit Whom those who believed were later to receive.” (John 7:37-39)

On hearing His words, some of the people said, ” Surely this man is The Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Christ.” (John 7:40) Even the Temple guards were impressed. Being rebuked for letting Jesus disrupt the ceremony, they declared, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.”

And so on the Feast of Tabernacles, it’s fitting that we remember Jesus, the God Who dwells within us, the Giver of every good and perfect gift, and the Source of living water. O Lord, save us! O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord. From the House of the Lord we bless you. (Psalm 118:25-26)

The Daniel Story

“Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding… for you are highly esteemed.”
-Daniel 9:23
(All 12 parts in one)

Continue reading…

The Coming Temple

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

According to Prophecies in Daniel 9:27, Matt 24:15 and 2 Thes 2:4, a Temple will exist in Israel at the beginning of the Great Tribulation. This is confirmed by Revelation 11:1 which describes John measuring a Temple during the Tribulation. Its location is the “Holy City.” Chapter 11 also introduces the 2 witnesses who preach in the “Great City” and are ultimately killed there, their bodies left lying in the street. The Great City is identified as the place where the Lord was crucified: Jerusalem. But is Jerusalem also the Holy City?

Continue reading…

The 144,000 of Rev 7 and 14

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

In Revelation 7:3-8 a group numbering 144,000 is introduced as the servants of our God. They are given the Seal of the Living God in their foreheads to protect them from the judgments coming on the earth against the land, the sea, and the trees.

This group is clearly identified as being from among the Jewish population, with 12,000 coming from each of 12 named tribes. There is no good reason to read this passage other than literally. There is too much of a specific nature to suggest a symbolic interpretation; the missing tribes, for example.

How Many Tribes Are There, Anyway?

Good question. There were originally 12 but after the reunion in Egypt Jacob adopted the two sons of Joseph and split his tribe between them. So counting Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph’s sons, there are actually 14 names to choose from. If you want the original 12 count Joseph. If you want to leave out Levi because you’re going to war and Levi is exempt split Joseph in half and call one half Ephraim and the other Manasseh. In Revelation 7 the Lord wanted to avoid mentioning Dan and Ephraim so He included Levi and split Joseph with Manasseh.

Why Dan and Ephraim?

In 1 Kings 12:12-33 the City of Dan is identified as the location where one of two golden calves was set up for worshiping. The other was in Bethel in the region of Ephraim. Bethel actually became the center of religious worship for the Northern Kingdom before the temple was built in Samaria. Beth-El means house of God. Mind you this all took place nearly 300 years after the escape from Egypt. When they were dedicated, the pagan priest actually quoted the words Aaron spoke at the original introduction of the golden calf at Mt. Sinai, saying “These are your gods, Israel, that brought you up out of Egypt.” Incredible. Once or twice the Lord used the name Ephraim to address all the Northern Kingdom.

The placement of golden calves in these two cities marked the beginning of idol worship in Israel. It was the reason for all the faithful of all the tribes moving south (2 Chron 11:16 … so no lost ten tribes after all), and the subsequent destruction of the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians.

2 Kings 10:29 explains that those calves were still being worshiped in Dan 100 years later. Perhaps this is why the Tribe of Dan is not mentioned at all and Ephraim is only included by inference. (Joseph and Manasseh are included in the list, and of course when you subtract Manasseh from Joseph you’re left with Ephraim.)

When Plain Sense Makes Common Sense, Seek no Other Sense

So it makes sense to view the 144,000 of Rev. 7 just as they’re described … Messianic Jews called by the Lord to witness to the world after the church is gone. They are the end times fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 43:10, being witnesses for the Lord to the heathen nations of Earth.

Then Who Are These Guys?

The group identified in Rev 14:1-5 is substantially different. This group is standing on Mt. Zion (the one in Heaven, Hebrews 12:22-24)  and they have the names of both the Father and the Son written on their foreheads. They are described as having been redeemed from the earth and are before the Throne of God singing a new song, a song only they can sing. (Notice the 24 elders and 4 living creatures are there, too.  They only appear around the throne in Heaven.)  They are pure and blameless, a phrase used only in reference to the church (Ephes. 5:25-27).  They’ve been purchased from among men (Rev. 5:9), and are offered as first fruits to God and the Lamb.  The phrase “did not defile themselves with women”  means they’re virgins, another reference to the church (2 Cor. 11:2). These 144,000 were found to be totally blameless, further evidence that they’re the redeemed in Heaven.  No human on Earth is blameless.

A Beautiful Description

Hebrews 12:22-24 provides a beautiful description of this group. “But you have come to Mt. Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the Living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the Church of the Firstborn whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of a new covenant and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

The similarity is unmistakable. By their location (heaven) and their spiritual state (pure and blameless) they are reminiscent of a group first seen in Rev 5 and described as Kings and Priests. Only one group fits that description … the Church. In their case the number  144,000 is symbolic, a multiple of 12, the number of governmental perfection.  They’re a sampling of the redeemed, brought to heaven in the rapture of Rev 4, and presented as the first fruits of the harvest.

Proving the Existence of Jesus

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

Know and understand this. From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until The Anointed One the ruler comes there will be seven sevens and sixty two sevens. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench but in times of trouble. After the sixty two sevens the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. (Daniel 9:25-26a) Continue reading…

Proving the Existence of God

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

When asked how he could be so certain that God exists, one great theologian responded with a 2 word answer, “The Jew.” The continued survival of the Jewish people in spite of numerous and concerted efforts to exterminate them unequivocally demonstrates God’s existence, His presence in the world and His involvement in the affairs of man. Continue reading…