Benjamin Wulf
Feast of Tabernacles
 Seaside Oregon
Day 2:  October 02, 2012

The Feast of Tabernacles is a high point every year; and we look forward to it all year long.  We get to meet up with old friends and make new friends. It is a time of rejoicing; and we eagerly anticipate the thrill of it all. 

This is also a time of reflection.  We can reflect on the work that we are given to do; and what it produces.  We can reflect on all of the things we have to be thankful for, including the abundant blessings that God provides for us: both physical and spiritual.  We can reflect on how God is working with each one of us to produce fruit to His glory.  We reflect so that we surely rejoice. 

I thought I might share some thoughts with you today reflecting on possible lessons and meanings that observing the Feast of Tabernacles (or Ingathering) may hold for us right now.  My intent is not necessarily to tell you how it is, or how it should be.  Rather, I hope to inspire some additional thought and further discussion.

Let’s begin by reading Exodus 23, Leviticus 23, and Deuteronomy 16 for instruction regarding the Feast of Tabernacles:

Exodus 23:16:
And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.

Leviticus 23:39:
Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath.

Deuteronomy 16:
13:  Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine 
14:  And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates. 
15:  Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD shall choose: because the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice.

So we see that we are to keep the Feast of Ingathering (or Tabernacles) at the end of the year when we have gathered in the fruit of our labors from the field; when we have gathered in the fruit of the land; when we have gathered from our threshing floor and from our winepress.  We are to keep a sacred feast to the LORD our God in the place that He chooses, because He will bless us in all our produce and in all the work of our hands  so that we surely rejoice. 

Let us reflect for a moment on what we just read in Exodus and Leviticus about gathering in the fruit of our labors from the field and gathering in the fruit of the land.  What are we to labor at, and what are we to gather in? 

In a literal, physical, agrarian setting, our labor would begin early in the year as we prepare the ground and sow the seed.  Then our labors would include tending and keeping the crop as it grew to reach maturity.  Finally, our labors would involve harvesting and preserving that harvest for future use. 

The Feast of Ingathering or Feast of Tabernacles was then to be observed when we had gathered in the fruit of our labors from the field.  In an agrarian setting, this would be when we have gathered in all the harvest from what we tended all summer long. 

The harvest would have been put up to provide for future use in providing us with bread, wine, oil and other kinds of good things to eat as well as seed for future crops.  If we were raising animals, our labors of tending and keeping would produce milk, meat, clothing, and an increase to our flock or herd as well. 

Nowadays, our society is somewhat different, in that we are no longer as agrarian.  A few of us raise back-yard vegetable gardens; and even fewer actually live and work on farms.  But we are still told to keep the Feast of Tabernacles throughout all generations forever.  So, we may still make a case to apply the instructions for keeping the Feast with regards to our physical occupation. 

We prepare ourselves by gaining experience and education for working at our jobs.  We then tend and keep our jobs all year long as we perform the required activities we were hired to carry out.  We then gather in our pay-checks the allegorical fruit of our labors.  Or, if we are self-employed, we gather in from the sale of our goods or services.
Occasionally, promotion or advancement may also be a fruit of our hard work  and of God’s blessing. 

Most receive income throughout the year; and we still focus on observing the Feast of Tabernacles, in the fall of every year, as instructed. We still use our income in providing for our livelihood all year long. We go to the store and buy our bread, wine, oil, meat, and other kinds of good things to eat, and clothing as well.  We also try to set aside funds for future use.

Reflecting on all this labor and what it produces is good for us to consider.  In fact, we are to reflect on all of our labor and what it produces  with a sense of thanksgiving. 

I read in the Expositors Bible Commentary a speculation that the Pilgrims, who held a Thanksgiving Feast that is attributed to have been the forerunner of our modern-day national Thanksgiving holidays in the United States, were possibly inspired to do so from reading the instructions in the Bible for keeping the Feast of Ingathering (or Tabernacles). 

Just considering the name “Feast of Ingathering” seems to imply reflection. We stop and look at all we have gathered in, and reflect on what it took to produce that substance in order to celebrate in thanksgiving.

We are to reflect on the fact that God is the One who blesses us and provides us with all that we need  and so much more, for all time.  We can be thankful for the blessings that we receive now and those that we look forward to receiving in the future. 

The Feast of Tabernacles is a prime time for specifically reflecting on how God leads us throughout the year, and how He provides all our sustenance.

This reflection should produce a deep sense of thanksgiving in us as we realize the source of all our prosperity.  To attribute our prosperity to any other source is idolatry.  Now this is a serious reflection to consider.  If we do not attribute our prosperity all that we enjoy from day to day, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the homes that we live in to God’s providential care for us, we are in danger of attributing prosperity to another source. 

Often it can be ourselves  our own sense of accomplishment or skills.  Or we may unwittingly attribute our prosperity to our connections.  We may have a good job, a good family – even a wealthy family.  Or we may enjoy the "good fortune" of living in relatively wealthy nations and nicer areas of them.

There are plenty of possibilities to potentially attribute our successes and well-being to other sources, causing us to lose sight of God and forget Him.

This is exactly what Israel did.  They forgot that God was the One who provided all their increase; and they attributed their successes to their own abilities and connections with others:

Hosea 2:
2:  "Bring charges against your mother, bring charges; for she is not My wife, nor am I her Husband!  Let her put away her harlotries from her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts; 
3:  Lest I strip her naked and expose her, as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst. 
4:  "I will not have mercy on her children, for they are the children of harlotry. 
5:  For their mother has played the harlot; she who conceived them has behaved shamefully.  For she said, ’I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.’ 
6:  "Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, and wall her in, so that she cannot find her paths. 
7:  She will chase her lovers, But not overtake them; yes, she will seek them, but not find them.  Then she will say, ’I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now.’ 
8:  For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold — which they prepared for Baal. 
9:  "Therefore I will return and take away My grain in its time and My new wine in its season, and will take back My wool and My linen, given to cover her nakedness. 
10:  Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall deliver her from My hand. 
11:  I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her New Moons, her Sabbaths — all her appointed feasts. 
12:  "And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, of which she has said, ’These are my wages that my lovers have given me.’  So I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. 
13:  I will punish her for the days of the Baals to which she burned incense.  She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, and went after her lovers; but Me she forgot," says the LORD.

We see that Israel was observing appointed feast days and Sabbaths.  However, she forgot God and attributed her prosperity to other sources.  God indicated that He would remove His blessings of prosperity, and that He would cause her celebrations to cease. 

So it is very important that we reflect on how God is the source of all our prosperity and all our blessings, with an attitude of thanksgiving.  The Feast of Tabernacles is a time of rejoicing, and what better reason to rejoice than in reflection of all that God has provided for us throughout the year. 

Many times we may step back and reflect that we have experienced a lot of difficulties throughout the year.  It may seem hard to feel blessed.  No doubt about it, we all have had our challenges.  Some have had very difficult years.  I don’t want, for one second, to trivialize what anyone may have gone through, or maybe still is going through.  I would just like to help frame our perspective for rejoicing at the Feast of Tabernacles with a reminder that God, in His loving mercy, does not allow us to go through more than we can bear. 

When you get the chance, I strongly recommend that you read through the book of Deuteronomy and reflect on how God leads us, provides for us and goes before us all the way, to bring us to the place that He promises us.  As you reflect, consider how Israel struggled to trust in God; but allowed their hearts to be discouraged by fear and anticipation of what they might have to face.  We need to reflect on how God promises to fight for us; and that He will never, ever leave us. 

I personally believe that we go through our various experiences to bring us closer to the reality of who God is and of what we are to become.  If we keep our focus on the end goal; the fact that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ; that He is very merciful and compassionate; and that He is working in us to produce something according to His purpose; it does help.

Furthermore, as we learn and grow from our experiences, we begin to bear the fruit of godly character. 

It is interesting that any kind of “bearing fruit” involves some form of labor, regardless of the fruit being borne.  Bearing healthy fruit of any kind also requires appropriate food to sustain the work of producing the fruit.

John 6:
27: "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him." 
28:  Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" 
29:  Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent"...
32:  Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 
33:  For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world”... 
35: And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

Here we see Christ’s instruction to labor for the food which endures to everlasting life.  The crowd seemed to catch on, for they asked about working the works of God.  Notice Christ’s response from verse 29: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

Although it seems simple at first glance, believing is our major work.  I am not talking about merely believing that there is a God.  Rather, I am talking about believing in the personal involvement He is calling each one of us to. 

We do not choose God.  He chooses us and then instructs us to trust in Him for all our needs.  This is a daily exercise and should not be taken for granted.  A truly humble person is one who recognizes the reality of that relationship.  God provides, and we believe and trust in Him. 

Recall how God instructed Abraham to walk before Him and to be blameless.  Abraham believed and acted in accordance with his faith in God.

Likewise, what we believe also determines our actions.  If we believe, we will seek out the relationship we were called to; and in so doing, we will come to do the things that reflect God’s nature and His indwelling.  We call this "walking by faith"; and we understand from Hebrews 11 that: “without faith it is impossible to please God.” 

Faith is believing with confidence, trust, and assurance that what God has said, He will perform.  Belief then reacts in accordance with reverence for God because, if we truly love Him with all our heart, mind, and strength, we will yield to Him in belief. 

Remember that Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. We will not seek to establish our own righteousness or trust in the works of our own hands if we believe.  Our priority, as Christ instructs in Matthew 6, will be to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. 

What makes believing such a challenge is that, by our very nature, we are accustomed to taking care of ourselves.  Our world praises men who pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and accomplish great things for themselves and for others.  By nature, we seek to establish our own righteousness by working hard – very hard – at what we perceive is the right thing to do.  Where is there room for trusting God when we place so much trust in our own abilities?  The natural man will always seek to gain the advantage and come out on top.  It becomes a matter of competitive survival and we are steeped in this mind-set everywhere.  The natural focus is to walk by sight, trusting in numbers or physical evidence.

In diametric contrast to the natural, carnal mind which is enmity with God, our calling demands that we walk by faith.  This is where we come to the point where we cry out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).  Our confidence then is not in ourselves and our own perceived ability, either to obey God or to take care of ourselves.  Yes, we still work, but our work becomes a result of our faith in God.  Our work is no longer a contrived effort that produces self-righteousness.

Matthew 19:
16:  Now, behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” 
17:  So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good?  No one is good but One, that is, God.  But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 
18:  He said to Him, “Which ones?”  Jesus said, “'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 
19:  'Honor your father and mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” 
20:  The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth.  What do I still lack?” 
21:  Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 
22:  But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 
23:  Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24:  And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 
25:  When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 
26:  But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

When I read this story, the rich young ruler almost seems to me to be comparable with what we call a "ladder-climber."  He is after something for his own gain.  He looks really good and comes in with flattery.  When that doesn’t appear to work, he tries to impress by his perceived accomplishments.  Jesus responds to him by putting the focus back on God as the One who is good; and then He lays it out plain:  “You go and get rid of everything you have accomplished; everything you might boast about;  everything you have accumulated.  Give those things to those who might benefit from them.  Stop living for yourself and what you can do; and come, follow Me and live for what I will do in you.”

The disciples’ reaction shows that it was plainly understood what Christ was getting at.  Physical riches were not the problem.  A self-perception of being rich was at the heart and core of the matter.  We are all very familiar with concepts of self-sufficiency.  Our countries and corporations are rife with self-made businessmen who always seem to get the advantage in a deal. Competition has become an obsession.  Most love to brag about their exploits and accomplishments.  We even see this mindset in churches, where the organization will boast of its numbers, its income, its expansion, its outreach and its perceived accomplishments in what that organization believes is its God-given work.  All this has an appearance of blessings and even righteousness; but it is basically walking by sight. 

Mathew 19 (Message Bible): 
25:   The disciples were staggered. "Then who has any chance at all?"
26:  Jesus looked hard at them and said, "No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself.  Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it."

Place yourself for a moment in the position of the disciples, with Jesus looking hard right at you.  Just let that scenario sink in for a moment.  The thought alone of Christ looking hard at us ought to send chills up and down every single spine.  When Christ looks hard at you, there is a serious point to be made.  The question is: “Are we getting the point and do we trust God to see us through to where He is leading us and to cover us with His righteousness?”  Or, are we striving to establish our own righteousness according to our own interpretations?  Are we seeking to head in a direction that God is not leading us?

Just suppose for a moment
– and this is pure speculation – that this rich, young ruler was actually Saul, who later became the apostle Paul.  He was quite accomplished as a young man; and look what his own efforts produced: violence against the called of God!  We read in Philippians 3:7 that Paul calls all those things that he formerly regarded important as complete rubbish, that he might gain Christ. 

Like everyone else that God works with, Paul had to go through what we commonly call "the conversion process."  Here we see the explanation of the Parable of the Sower:

Matthew 13:
18:  Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 
19:  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.  This is he who received seed by the wayside. 
20:  But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 
21:  Yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while.  For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.  
22:  Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 
23:  But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

When I read these verses explaining the Parable of the Sower, I looked at them as different types of reactions to God’s Word.  But I wonder, could it possibly be that this parable is actually describing the conversion process?

There was a time when we did not understand the Word of God; and may even have been hostile towards it.  Then there came a time when something clicked and we received it with joy; but we trusted in ourselves and our own ability to obey God.  We are to be rooted in Jesus Christ, not in ourselves, not in another person, not in any religious organization.  

At this stage, if and when we feel that everything is going fine, we may only endure for a while.  After all, our faith is still developing.  Trusting in our own ability will have a  similar effect, as we cannot produce fruit of and by ourselves. 

When we trust in ourselves
– in our own ability to be righteous and produce fruit – we become rich, especially in our own eyes.  What is actually produced is self-righteousness, hypocrisy and oppression.  Self-deception occurs as we become blinded to our true spiritual state, and we become choked by the cares of this world (self-preservation and self-gratification) and the deceitfulness of riches (self-accomplishment and self-sufficiency).

Remember what we read in Hosea: that God was the One who hedged Israel in with thorns.  He does this in merciful, loving kindness, in order to bring a person to the place where he or she recognizes the futility of trusting in ourselves, or sources other than Him.

We have to come to the place where we recognize our true spiritual state.  We come to realize that we don’t have all of the answers and that we can’t do this on our own.  We become poor in spirit when we realize the spiritual poverty in ourselves
– the absolute need for Christ and the Father to dwell in us.  Then, when we cry out in hunger and thirst for His righteousness and not our own, this is when we realize that the only thing that we can do is to believe, turn and yield to God.  That is when God is able to work in us and we can produce fruit.  And we know beyond the shadow of a doubt, that it is not of and by ourselves. 

We are assured in Matthew 5 that the poor in spirit will inherit the Kingdom of God; also that they that hunger and thirst for righteousness shall be filled.  I am not sure if the points listed in Matthew 5 are given in any specific progression, but I find it interesting to consider the order in which they are listed. 

First, Christ speaks of the poor in spirit; then of those who mourn; followed by those who are meek; those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; then the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted.  I wonder if we can really have one quality without the preceding quality or qualities.  I wonder if we can actually have any of these qualities without being poor in spirit.  This is something to think about.

John 15:
1:  I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser...
4:  Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 
5:  I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing... 
16: You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. 

We are, by God’s calling, to bear fruit.  But notice, bearing fruit is not something that we can do just by ourselves.  We can do nothing of and by ourselves; even as Christ stated that He could do nothing of and by Himself.  It was the Father who dwelt in Him who did the works; and it must be the same for us as well. 

The apostle Paul writes that no flesh will glory in His presence, and also that God works in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure.  He also writes that we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.  That is where we work to believe and to draw near to God, submitting every thought.  

Our thoughts will produce action.  If our thoughts are God’s thoughts, we will produce according to His way.  All this is made possible through our New Covenant relationship with Jesus Christ and the Father.

Deuteronomy 16:13:
You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress. 

Now isn’t it interesting that here we read a specific mention of gathering from our threshing floor and our winepress?  What were threshing floors and winepresses used for?

The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery explains that:

Threshing was so much part of the process of producing food that, along with the winepress, the threshing floor summed up harvest and therefore God’s provision for His people.”  

It also adds that, 

“Threshing floors could be used for other purposes, the most famous being the site of the Jerusalem temple.”

The threshing floor and winepress were vital in the preparation of grain for bread and grapes for wine.  The Feast of Ingathering (or Tabernacles) is to be observed when we have gathered in from our threshing floor and from our winepress.  So we gather grain to make bread, and grapes to make new wine. 
One more statement from the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, this time regarding wine, grain and oil: 

Due to its close relationship to the ongoing life of the community, wine becomes, in association with grain and oil, a technical term for the covenant blessings promised by God to Israel for obedience and withheld by God for disobedience.

In Hosea 9, God indicates that for Israel’s harlotry against Him:

The threshing floor and the winepress shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her.

Let us take our thoughts of bread and wine to a higher level.  Please remember that we read earlier that we are to labor for the food which endures to everlasting life, which Jesus Christ and the Father give us. 

John 6:
47:  Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. 
48:  I am the bread of life. 
49:  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 
50:  This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 
51:  I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world”... 
53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 
54:  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 
55:  For My flesh is food indeed [true food], and My blood is drink indeed
[true drink]. 
56:  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 
57:  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 
58:  This is the bread which came down from heaven – not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead.  He who eats this bread will live forever.

Symbolically, we take in the flesh and blood of Christ every year at Passover by taking in bread and wine during the service.  Not only is this renewing our covenant relationship with Jesus Christ; but we become part of the Body of Christ, with His blood in us.  

My Dad used to tell my sister and I, when we were young and had been fighting, that of all the people on the face of the earth, we share a bond that no one else has.  We have the same physical blood flowing through our veins.  Not even he and our Mom shared that commonality.  So it is with our spiritual family.  We share a bond unlike anyone else if we truly have Christ in us, and we are in Him.  Our focus becomes one of obedience and serving; and that service begins within our eternal family.

Now we see that abiding in Christ and Him in us produces fruit.  It begins with His sacrifice.  We then eat of His flesh and drink of His blood so that we abide in Him.  If we abide in Him, we bear much fruit.  It is of prime importance to note that Jesus Christ made it plain that He could, of and by Himself, do nothing.  It was the Father who dwelt in Him who did the works.  Even so, Jesus instructs us that we can do nothing without Him.  In order to produce fruit, it is essential that we abide in Him.  Our work then is to believe and yield ourselves to God; not seeking our own will.  We must be seeing His will, His righteousness and His Kingdom.  As we believe and yield ourselves to God, abiding in Him, we will begin to produce fruit. 

So, in conclusion, we keep the Feast of Ingathering (or Tabernacles) when we have gathered in the fruit of our labors from the field; when we have gathered in the fruit of the land; when we have gathered in from our threshing floor and from our winepress.  Whether literally, metaphorically or spiritually, this is a time for reflecting on the abundant blessings that God provides for us especially the spiritual blessings of our New Covenant relationship. 

As we yield to God, dwelling in us through faith, our work is to believe and to labor for the true food that endures to everlasting life.  This food is Christ – seeking Him in a close relationship in understanding His Word and doing His will in yielding to His leadership.  As we yield to God dwelling in us, and as we take in the food that God provides for us, we abide in Him, and we bear fruit to His glory.

Deuteronomy 16:15 indicates that we are to keep a sacred feast to the LORD our God for seven days in the place which He chooses, because “…the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands so that you surely rejoice.”

By reflecting on how God blesses and provides for us all year long, we shall surely rejoice in the knowledge and understanding of what He is working out. 

How does God bless us in spiritual produce?  How does He bless the work of our hands in a spiritual sense so that we surely rejoice?  

As illustrated, we cannot work of and by ourselves.  Not even Jesus Christ could do that.  It was the Father who dwelt in Him – and us – that does the works. 

What then are we to gather in, spiritually? 

I’ll leave that question for further discussion!