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The Character of God, New Covenant, and the Feast of Tabernacles: Its Origin and Importance

Posted Dec 02, 2016 by in Statutes and Judgements
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Before I dive in to the subject of this article I will briefly share how I came to accept the feasts. If you haven’t already studied the feasts my hope is that my experience will encourage you to study it out for yourself.

In order to accept the feasts I had to address the major objection that I think we are all very familiar with, and that is that the feasts are merely ceremonial and done away with at the cross in 31 AD.

In order to answer this objection I needed to understand the covenants. If you haven’t yet studied this out for yourself I recommend taking a look at Gal 4:22-31. Here Paul tells us that the two covenants are seen in the lives of Abraham and Sarah. How can this be? Didn’t the old covenant begin at Sinai? What if the people’s promises to God at Sinai were the result of a heart condition that has existed since man fell?

Abraham and Sarah’s decision to bring about a son by their own devising through Hagar is the same heart condition that manifested corporately at Sinai when the people promised to do all that the Lord hath said(Ex 19:8,24:7). This is righteousness by works – attempting to please God by our own efforts. This same heart condition exists to this very day, which shows that the old covenant continues after Christ died on the Cross in 31 AD just as the new covenant began before the cross with the promise to Adam and Eve (Gen 3:15). I now could see that the belief that the old covenant ended at the cross and the new covenant began after the cross is unbiblical.

Salvation is an individual matter and this same condition of righteousness by works(old covenant) was manifest in Cain (Gen 4:3-8). It wasn’t until Sinai that this heart condition was manifest corporately and became formalized because until this time the Bible doesn’t indicate that there was a large group of God’s people in one place. They were smaller groups composed of family units and tribes: Noah, Abraham, Jacob, etc.

For further study see:

Calvary at Sinai:

Discarding Augustine’s Covenant Glasses to Receive the Latter Rain:

Showing Respect for Colossians 2:16,17:

The Ceremonial Dividing Line in Adventist History:

I also learned of numerous quotes from Ellen White that said the law of Moses, which includes the statutes and judgments, is to be followed by God’s people in the last days. This is in perfect harmony with a proper understanding of the covenants. Take Malachi 4:4 for example. It says that we are to keep the law of Moses with the statutes and the judgments. This is part of the Elijah message. Lets see what Ellen White has to say about this:

The closing words of Malachi are a prophecy regarding the work that should be done preparatory to the first and the second advent of Christ. This prophecy is introduced with the admonition, “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. {SW March 21, 1905, par. 1}

John, as a prophet, stood forth as God’s representative, to show the connection between the law and the prophets and the Christian dispensation. Like Malachi, he pleaded with the Jews: “Remember ye the law of Moses, ... with all the statutes and judgments.” His work and ministry pointed back to the law and the prophets, while he, at the same time, pointed the people forward to Christ as the Saviour of the world. He called upon them to “behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” {SW March 21, 1905, par. 7}

A proper understanding of the covenants and beautiful quotes like this showed me that the law that Christ gave to Moses on Mount Sinai is just as much for us as it was for the people in the old testament. So what about the feasts? Are they part of the statutes and judgments? The following texts in the Bible answered this question for me:

The entire book of Deuteronomy recounts the moral precepts of the law of Moses and guess what you find right in the middle of this book detailing the moral law? The Feasts. They are the subject of chapter 16 and verse 12 calls them statutes and says that we should observe and do them.

You will also see that Leviticus 23:21,41say that the feasts are statutes forever.

So why are the 10 commandments and the law of Moses with the statutes and judgments important? Have you ever asked this question before? Why does God want us to keep all of the law?

To answer this we now come to the reason for writing this article: The Feast of Tabernacles.

We are about to see that there are tremendous blessings to be received in the feasts, which includes God’s protection as we will see. 

Notice the time when the law was to be read to all the people of Israel: Deut 31:10-12.

So we see there is a connection between the law and the feast of tabernacles. 

Now lets see this beautiful account from Ellen White of the preparation of the people in order that they may enter in and possess the land of Canaan:

Before taking possession of their inheritance, they must renew their covenant of loyalty to God. In the last instructions of Moses, direction had been twice given for a convocation of the tribes upon Mounts Ebal and Gerizim, at Shechem, for the solemn recognition of the law of God. In obedience to these injunctions the whole people, not only men, but “the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them” left their camp at Gilgal, and marched through the country of their enemies, to the vale of Shechem, near the center of the land. Though surrounded by unconquered foes, they were safe under the protection of God as long as they were faithful to Him. Now, as in the days of Jacob, “the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them” (Genesis 35:5), and the Hebrews were unmolested. {PP 499.3}

The place appointed for this solemn service was one already sacred from its association with the history of their fathers. It was here that Abraham raised his first altar to Jehovah in the land of Canaan. Here both Abraham and Jacob had pitched their tents. Here the latter bought the field in which the tribes were to bury the body of Joseph. Here also was the well that Jacob had dug, and the oak under which he had buried the idolatrous images of his household. {PP 499.4}

According to the directions given by Moses, a monument of great stones was erected upon Mount Ebal. Upon these stones, previously prepared by a covering of plaster, the law was inscribed—not only the ten precepts spoken from Sinai and engraved on the tables of stone, but the laws communicated to Moses, and by him written in a book. Beside this monument was built an altar of unhewn stone, upon which sacrifices were offered unto the Lord. The fact that the altar was set up on Mount Ebal, the mountain upon which the curse was put, was significant, denoting that because of their transgressions of God’s law, Israel had justly incurred His wrath, and that it would be at once visited, but for the atonement of Christ, represented by the altar of sacrifice. {PP 500.2}

Six of the tribes—all descended from Leah and Rachel—were stationed upon Mount Gerizim; while those that descended from the handmaids, together with Reuben and Zebulun, took their position on Ebal, the priests with the ark occupying the valley between them. Silence was proclaimed by the sound of the signal trumpet; and then in the deep stillness, and in the presence of this vast assembly, Joshua, standing beside the sacred ark, read the blessings that were to follow obedience to God’s law. All the tribes on Gerizim responded by an Amen. He then read the curses, and the tribes on Ebal in like manner gave their assent, thousands upon thousands of voices uniting as the voice of one man in the solemn response. Following this came the reading of the law of God, together with the statutes and judgments that had been delivered to them by Moses. {PP 500.3}

Israel had received the law directly from the mouth of God at Sinai; and its sacred precepts, written by His own hand, were still preserved in the ark. Now it had been again written where all could read it. All had the privilege of seeing for themselves the conditions of the covenant under which they were to hold possession of Canaan. All were to signify their acceptance of the terms of the covenant and give their assent to the blessings or curses for its observance or neglect. The law was not only written upon the memorial stones, but was read by Joshua himself in the hearing of all Israel. It had not been many weeks since Moses gave the whole book of Deuteronomy in discourses to the people, yet now Joshua read the law again. {PP 500.4}

Not alone the men of Israel, but “all the women and the little ones” listened to the reading of the law; for it was important that they also should know and do their duty. God had commanded Israel concerning His statutes: “Therefore shall ye lay up these My words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, ... that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.” Deuteronomy 11:18-21.{PP 503.1}

Every seventh year the whole law was to be read in the assembly of all Israel, as Moses commanded: “At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, when all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: and that their children, which have not known anything, may hear, and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.” Deuteronomy 31:10-13. {PP 503.2}

Satan is ever at work endeavoring to pervert what God has spoken, to blind the mind and darken the understanding, and thus lead men into sin. This is why the Lord is so explicit, making His requirements so very plain that none need err. God is constantly seeking to draw men close under His protection, that Satan may not practice his cruel, deceptive power upon them. He has condescended to speak to them with His own voice, to write with His own hand the living oracles. And these blessed words, all instinct with life and luminous with truth, are committed to men as a perfect guide. Because Satan is so ready to catch away the mind and divert the affections from the Lord’s promises and requirements, the greater diligence is needed to fix them in the mind and impress them upon the heart. {PP 503.3}

Why was the law including the law of Moses so important that it was to be read upon entry into Canaan by Joshua and again every 7 years at the Feast of Tabernacles?

It is inseparable from the New Covenant. In order for the people to receive the full protection of God, which would allow them to retain their inheritance of Canaan and to prosper, a renewing of the new covenant and obedience to God’s law including the statutes and the judgments was a required. And how do we manifest perfect obedience to the law? There is only oneway: through the faith of Jesus working in us.

So I learned that the feast of tabernacles was an essential part of this new covenant experience. 

I wonder if this entry into Canaan happened on a 7th year? Or even on a jubilee or perhaps during the time of the feast of tabernacles in the 7th month? I think one or several of these times are plausible as our God is a God of order and has written His patterns through His Son into all of creation. We are already aware of many significant events in the history of the Apostolic and Adventist churches as well as our own individual experiences falling within this pattern of 7’s. I think this event would certainly qualify.

Now let us look at the applications and parallels of this preparation required of Israel to enter into Canaan with that of God’s people today who are being prepared to enter into the heavenly Canaan.

Here we see the laws of God’s kingdom written out for the first time in history of the earth. These laws have moved from the invisible to the visible. Today, God’s people are repeating the experience of those on the borders of the earthly Canaan as we have rediscovered the law of Moses and including the feasts. In other words they have become visible again. The sanctuary message of 1844 allowed us to see what had been “invisible” because of our darkened understanding. Our pioneers discovered that not only the 10 commandments were contained in the most holy place but also the law of Moses, which was located on the side of the ark of the covenant. In this way we rediscovered what had been lost.

Lets examine another fascinating parallel between God’s people today and those on the borders of the earthly Canaan. It seems yet again history is being repeated. The same heart condition exists in God’s church today as it did then. Check out Deut 8: 2,3,5 and 9:7.

Notice especially Deut 8:5:

Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the lord thy God chasteneth thee.

Lets take a look at Rev 3:18,19. Do you see the same theme? The language of verse 19 is virtually identical to that of Deut 8:5:

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefor, and repent.

The greek word for “love” in verse 19 is “phileo”. This means love as between friends or brotherly love.

Now let’s look at Peter’s ladder. 2 Peter 1:7 reads:

and to godliness brotherly kindness(Greek word is philadelphia) and to brotherly kindness charity(Greek word is agape).

Notice that Philadelphia is the 6th church and also the 6th rung on Peter’s ladder. If we stop here we do not receive the full blessings of our heavenly Father. We cannot be fully sanctified. Why? Lets take a look at Rev 3:8 which is referring to the church of Philadelphia:

I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it….

This door is referring to the most holy place which Christ entered on Oct 22nd 1844. We must walk through the door and follow Christ into the most Holy Place by faith. And what’s in the most holy place? We find the law, including the book of the law with the statutes and the judgments. And what happens when we behold the law? We receive the straight testimony, which convicts us of our wretchedness and thus we become the church of Laodicea.

If we don’t behold the law then we don’t enter into the Laodicean church and we can not be convicted of the fullness of our sin in order to receive the latter rain –the agape of our heavenly Father (Gal 3:24).

Christ was bringing Israel through this same process preparing them to receive their inheritance of the earthly Canaan.

The origin of Feast of Tabernacles

So now that we looked at the similarities between Israel on the borders of Canaan and God’s people in these last days on the borders of heavenly Canaan let’s bring our focus again to the feast of tabernacles and see what its origin is.

Have a look at Exodus 12:31-34,37 and then this quote from Ellen White:

When Israel marched out of Egypt, they made their first encampment under the shelter of green boughs at Succoth. And for more than fifteen hundred years the Hebrew nation by the command of God left their houses, and dwelt one whole week in tabernacles of green boughs, to commemorate the encampment of their fathers under the palm branches of Succoth. These seasons of sacred recreation were fraught with both physical and spiritual blessings to Israel.{ST February 2, 1882, Art. B, par. 10}

So the feast of tabernacles originated at the time that Israel came out of Egypt when they made their first camp in Succoth. Now is where it starts to get very interesting. Take a look at Ex 12:39-41.

They baked unleavened cakes at Succoth, their 1st encampment because they didn’t have time to leaven their dough. The Bible tells us that this was the commemoration of the Passover and feast of unleavened bread. So Passover, unleavened bread, and tabernacles are all connected to the redemption of Israel out of bondage.

Now let’s look at verse 41. Tt says this was the self same day or the anniversary of an event 430 years earlier. And what was this event? Genesis 15: 13-18 tells us what this event was. It was the renewing of the everlasting covenant with Abraham. So the feast of tabernacles along with Passover and the feast of unleavened bread are memorials of the new covenant. When I saw this connection I became very excited!

What does Succoth mean?

In the Strong’s Concordance Succoth is H5523, which means booths, tents, or tabernacles. This is the plural form of a feminine word whose root or origin is the Hebrew word sakak (H5526), which means to protect, cover, or hedge in.

So the very name of place where the feast of tabernacles began represents God’s character. To say that this was merely a ceremonial day that was done away with denies the connection between God’s protection and His law, which includes the feasts. The feasts are a critical component of God’s protection. For more on this subject check out this article:

Now to my amazement, while at the Feast of Tabernacles, I found the following statement. This passage from sister White illustrates the connection between the new covenant, the law, the feast of tabernacles and the character of God. It is referring to Ezra’s reformation and restoration of the feasts in Israel. Just as our pioneers rediscovered the law including the law of Moses, so too did Israel through the leadership of Ezra:

“And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he [Ezra] read in the book of the law of God.” {ST January 10, 1884, par. 8}

When this festival was past, one day only having intervened, the children of Israel kept a solemn fast. This was held not merely at the command of the rulers, but by the desire of the people. As they had from day to day listened to the words of the law, they had been deeply convicted of their own transgressions, and also of the sins of their nation in past generations. They saw that it was because of their departure from God that his protecting care had been withdrawn from them, and they had been scattered in foreign lands. And they now determined to seek God’s mercy, and to pledge themselves to walk hereafter in his commandments. {ST January 10, 1884, par. 9}

Before entering upon the services of the day, they carefully separated themselves from the heathen who were intermingled with them. This being done, “they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the Lord their God one-fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshiped the Lord their God.” {ST January 10, 1884, par. 10}

The people prostrated themselves before the Lord, humbly confessing their sins and pleading for mercy and pardon, each for himself individually and for the entire congregation. Then their leaders encouraged them to believe that God, according to his promise, had heard their prayers. They showed them that they were not only to mourn and weep and repent of their transgressions, but to trust that God had pardoned them, and to evince their faith by recounting his mercies and praising him for his goodness. Said these teachers, “Stand up and bless the Lord your God forever and ever.” {ST January 10, 1884, par. 11}

In this portion of sacred history is a precious lesson of faith for all who are convicted of sin, and weighed down with a sense of their unworthiness. When they compare their characters with God’s great standard of right, they see themselves condemned as transgressors. There is no power in law to free them from their guilt. But as they confess their sins, they can find pardon through Christ. From him flows the cleansing stream that can wash away the stains of sin. When the sinner has come to Christ with contrition of soul, confessing his transgressions, it is then his duty to appropriate to himself the Saviour’s promise of pardon to the repentant and believing. He who seeks to find goodness and cause for rejoicing in himself, will always be in despair; but he who looks to Jesus, the author and finisher of his faith, can say with confidence, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” {ST January 10, 1884, par. 13}

Following the song of praise, the leaders of the congregation presented the history of Israel, showing God’s great benefits and their ingratitude. Tracing the record from the days of Abraham, they called attention to God’s design to preserve his name upon the earth by preserving for himself a people pure amid the general corruption; they recounted the mighty manifestations of his power in their deliverance from bondage in Egypt, and showed also how backsliding and apostasy had caused the blessing of the Lord to be withdrawn from Israel. {ST January 10, 1884, par. 14}

Then the whole congregation entered into a covenant to keep all the commandments of God; and that the transaction might be as effectual as possible, this covenant was written out, and those who were thoroughly in earnest in the work of reformation, affixed their names and seals. They wished to preserve for future reference a memorial of the obligation they had just taken upon themselves, as a reminder of duty and a barrier against temptation. Thus it was that the people took a solemn oath to “walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes.” The oath taken also included a promise not to intermarry with “the people of the land.” This had often been done by the people; and sometimes the rulers, as Solomon and Ahab, had formed such unions; and these marriages, by introducing idolatry, had resulted in the ruin of thousands. {ST January 10, 1884, par. 15}

Is this not an amazing statement?! The feasts were renewed and at the feast of tabernacles the law was read. The people saw that they were taken into bondage because they abhorred the law of God and in so doing they could not receive His protection, so He was forced to withdraw His Spirit. God is not the one who brought suffering, death, and destruction upon them. This is the work of Satan. The reading of the law including the statutes and judgments convicted them of sin, which drove them to Christ. The New Covenant was renewed in the hearts of the people and God’s protection was restored. I have one word for this process. Beautiful.

I would like to end with the following quote from sister White. She is encouraging God’s people to have a feast of tabernacles, gives recommendations as to how to celebrate it, the blessings that will attend it, and finally she esteems the foundations of our faith:

Well would it be for us to have a feast of tabernacles, a joyous commemoration of the blessings of God to us as a people. As the children of Israel celebrated the deliverance that God wrought for their fathers, and his miraculous preservation of them during their journeyings from Egypt to the promised land, so should the people of God at the present time gratefully call to mind the various ways he has devised to bring them out from the world, out from the darkness of error, into the precious light of truth. We should often bring to remembrance the dependence upon God of those who first led out in this work. We should gratefully regard the old way-marks, and refresh our souls with memories of the loving-kindness of our gracious Benefactor. {RH November 17, 1885, par. 14}

May this be a blessing to all who read it.