God designed seven annual holidays (holy-days) and commanded His people to celebrate and worship in prescribed ways.
Three of these festivals have been called pilgrim feasts. In the spring, Passover and Pentecost were pilgrim feasts. In the autumn, the last feast on the calendar, the Feast of Tabernacles, was also a pilgrim feast. “Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me.” (Exodus 23:14, ESV). “All your males are to appear three times a year before the Lord your God in the place he chooses: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks, and the Festival of Shelters” (Deuteronomy 16:16, CSB). Three times each year, faithful Hebrews made the journey to Jerusalem to worship.
Joseph and Mary obediently took twelve-year-old Jesus to Jerusalem for the pilgrim feasts. “Every year his parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. When he was twelve years old, they went up according to the custom of the festival” (Luke 2:41-42, CSB).
The seventh annual feast was called The Feast of Tabernacles, The Feast of Booths, or The Feast of Shelters (Leviticus 23:33-43, ESV). The three autumn feasts all occurred in the seventh month... God likes the number seven.
Remember, Passover occurred at the beginning of barley harvest. Pentecost occurred fifty days later at the beginning of wheat harvest. At these feasts the nation asked God to provide an abundant harvest. The Feast of Tabernacles occurred after the harvest was complete. The grains, the olives, and the grapes were gathered! Now, the nation assembled to thank God for His bountiful goodness. The Feast of Tabernacles was the most joyous of all of the annual feasts. Jerusalem was crowded with multitudes of pilgrims who had left their homes to enjoy the national thanksgiving feast.
The thankful nation also looked back to the Exodus. They were reminded that their ancestors had suffered in Egyptian slavery for generations, and that God had intervened to set them free. The nation celebrated their emancipation and worshipped their Deliverer!
Since there was no room left in the inn... since the Holiday Inn was booked... “You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out (Leviticus 23:42-43, ESV). The pilgrims pitched their tents all around the crowded city. They camped out, just like those with Moses fleeing captivity in Egypt.
The God who appeared in the pillar of fire and the pillar clouds, the God who had led the nation through the wilderness, the God who had never left them alone, came to earth as a man. “He became flesh and dwelt (literally tabernacled) among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, ESV).
Every day should be Thanksgiving Day! We should thank Him for His abundant and bountiful blessings. We should thank Him for our freedom and salvation. We should thank Him for dwelling among us.
South Georgia Baptist Church
Mike Martin, Pastor