Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always. But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the Lord your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the Lord will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the Lord your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice. (Deuteronomy 14:22-26)
In many ways the Feast of Tabernacles was the best time of the whole year in Israel. It began 5 days after Yom Kippur and lasted an entire week. The harvest was in, the people had been forgiven all their sins and it was a time of national celebration; like Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one.
From all over Israel, the people packed up their tithes and came to Jerusalem, which is the place the Lord had chosen as the dwelling for His name. (2 Chronicles 6:5-6) On every available piece of land they built temporary shelters (called tabernacles or booths) and lived in them to remind themselves of the time their ancestors had spent in the wilderness. For seven days and seven nights (later expanded to 8) they gave thanks to God in a huge celebration of His Goodness. They cooked and ate the tithes they had been storing up all year. Wherever you went, the smell of delicious food and drink and the sound of laughter filled the air. Any guilt they had felt for the sins of the past year had been taken away five days earlier, and the realization that another bountiful harvest was in the storage barns only added to their feelings feeling of great satisfaction and contentment. All was right with the world.
The Best Of The Best
I’m guessing that the very best of these celebrations happened during the reign of King Solomon. It was then that the people of Israel reached the zenith of their abundance and their influence in the world, an example for all the nations to behold. They were blessed beyond measure; tangible evidence of the tremendous benefits a relationship with the Lord could bring.
Everyone who visited Israel was awestruck, from the most ordinary traveler to kings and dignitaries with wealth we can only imagine. All the neighboring nations eagerly formed alliances with Israel during that time, wanting the benefits of being a friend to the friend of God. Kings sought the advice of Solomon, a man gifted by God with supernatural wisdom, and went to extremes in their efforts to gain favor with him. There was peace and prosperity of a magnitude unknown before or since.
The land flourished, as it always did when the Lord’s people were at peace with Him, and crops were ever more abundant. Every fruit and vegetable you can name, and field after field of grains and grasses. Livestock bore their young in season without danger or deformity, and families were blessed with happy healthy children. There was no disease to speak of, and no armed conflict to steal away the best of their youth. This was a fulfillment of Deuteronomy 28:1-14:
“Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God:
“Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
“Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.
“Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
“Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
“The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.
“The Lord will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
“The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you.
And the Lord will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand.
You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them. So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them.
Those forty brief years were as close as mankind has ever come to experiencing heaven on earth (so far) and the Feast of Tabernacles was the best of the best. In order to get a look at what the millennium will be like for Israel, we need only look back to that period in their history. What a remarkable contrast to our time, with their enemies hemming them in on every side, their streets filled with violence and death, and their friends in the world few and far between.
It Isn’t Over Till It’s Over
But second only to the promise of the Lord’s return is the promise of Israel’s restoration. Once again her people will be the envy of all the earth. Once again they’ll live in peace with no one to subjugate or enslave them. Once again poverty and disease will be unknown to them, the days of their lives numbered as the days of a tree. This will be the prophetic fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles.
“I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands.” (Isaiah 65:19-22)
The nations will again delight in Jerusalem and consider its people a joy. “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you‘ ” (Zechariah 8:23). And the Lord has promised, “See, I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders.” (Isaiah 49:22) The world will once again strive to become a friend of the friend of God.
Even the land will rejoice. “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12)
What glorious days those will be. After reading our recent headlines, it’s hard to see how such an enormous turn about could come to pass. But “Do not be afraid, O little Israel, for I myself will help you,” declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 41:14) For “If you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.” (Nehemiah 1:9) “Return to me,” declares the LORD Almighty, “and I will return to you.” (Zechariah 1:3)
“So do not fear, O Jacob my servant; do not be dismayed, O Israel,” declares the LORD. “I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile. Jacob will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid” (Jeremiah 30:10).
For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream …” (Isaiah 66:12).
“I will bring health and healing to Jerusalem; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before” (Jeremiah 33:6-7).
I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever (Ezekiel 37:26).
Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace! Celebrate your festivals, O Judah, and fulfill your vows. No more will the wicked invade you; they will be completely destroyed. (Nahum 1:15)
And so Israel, at this time of celebration through out your land, may there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels (Psalm 122:7). And may the LORD hasten the day of your restoration. Shalom