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Feast of Tabernacles

This week (October 11-19) marks the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, also known as Booths (or Sukkoth in Hebrew). It is still celebrated today by Jews and messianic Christian congregations.

But most believers are unaware of its beautiful symbolism.

In the Old Testament, this weeklong festival served as both a holiday of remembrance and an autumn harvest celebration. (Thus, it has yet another name, Feast of Ingathering.)

It was the last and most important holiday of the Jewish year. Poised to begin five days after the Day of Atonement, the most somber of Jewish holidays, those days were used to build booths, temporary shelters made of boughs and other natural materials.

The people of Israel lived in those booths throughout the festival, a reminder of the nation’s 40-year period of dwelling in tents in the wilderness.

For seven days, priests filled golden vessels with water from the pool of Siloam or the Brook Kidron and carried them to the temple to be poured out before the worshipers as they sang the words of Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (NIV).

On the eighth day there was no procession of priests or carrying of gold. They recognized they were no longer in physical need in the wilderness, but the great promise of spiritual refreshing had not yet been fulfilled.

It was on this eighth and “greatest” day that the New Testament recounts that Jesus did something bold and unusual. Rabbis usually sat when they taught. But Jesus “stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink’ ” (John 7:37). This was a momentous announcement. The spiritual water for which they had longed had finally come.

“Whoever believes in me,” Jesus continued, “as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (v. 38).

This is the living water He had offered privately to Nicodemus and the woman at the well. Now, He announces it for all.

This is a season for celebration. Christ has brought us out of a spiritual wilderness and given us this promise: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

Ken Horn

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