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The Feast of Tabernacles

This is a post in a series of posts titled Types and Shadows. You may want to start at the FIRST post of the series, or see the PREVIOUS post, before reading this one.

This post in this series-within-a-series is over the last major festival in the Jewish religious year – The Feast of Tabernacles. As we discuss in the first post, the Feast of Tabernacles was actually made up of 3 sub-feasts spread out over many days. These include:

The Feast of Trumpets (see Leviticus 23:23-25; Numbers 29:1-6)

The Feast of Trumpets was actually just one day, the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish religious calendar. It was a special Sabbath, where the Israelites were not allowed to do any work. They would come together in a “sacred assembly”, where a special burnt offering would be made, and trumpets would be sounded as a call to prepare for the upcoming Day of Atonement.  For those who might have heard of it before, this is the day known as Rosh Hashanah.

In Scripture, the sounding of trumpets represented the voice of prophets, calling out the Word of the Lord. In the case of the Feast of Trumpets, the trumpet blasts were used to call Israel to awaken, to repent, and to prepare for the Day of Atonement. In fact, the 10 days between this day and the Day of Atonement were often called “the ten days of awe,” and were intended for the Israelites to spend time in self-inspection and repentance.

The Day of Atonement (see Leviticus 23:26-32; Leviticus 16)

On the tenth day of the month the Israelites held their most holy day of the year – the Day of Atonement (also known as Yom Kippur). It was also a special Sabbath, and the Israelites were not allowed to work, but beyond that, they were also required to fast (“deny themselves”). On this day, special burnt offerings were made for the people, and even more intense rituals were carried out. For instance, part of the ceremony involved 2 goats. The priest would cast lots for the goats, and one goat would be sacrificed, while the other would be released into the wilderness. Prior to it’s release, the High Priest would lay his hands on the second goat – called the scapegoat, or Azezel (meaning “an entire removal”) – effectively transferring the sin of the nation of Israel to it. When the goat was released, it symbolized the total removal of sin from the nation. After this part of the ceremony, the High Priest would continue by cleansing the sanctuary by the sprinkling of blood, and would enter the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle (or later, the Temple). This was the only day of the year that anyone was allowed to enter this inner part, as God promised that any other time of the year, the person would die.

The Feast of Tabernacles (see Leviticus 23:33-44; Deuteronomy 16:13-17; Numbers 29:12-35)

During this time of year, the nation of Israel would begin it’s fruit harvest, reaping grapes and olives (except on the regular and special sabbath days). On the 15th day of the month, the actual Feast of Tabernacles would begin, as a celebration of the “gathering of the produce of [their] threshing floor and winepress.” The festival lasted 7 days, with the first day being a special Sabbath. No work was performed that day, and a “sacred assembly” came together make burnt offerings and to present the “choice fruit” before the Lord. For 7 days, the whole nation would live in booths (small tabernacles or tents), which is why the feast is also sometimes called the Feast of Booths.  On the last day, the day after the 7 day festival, another special Sabbath was held and no work was to be done.

New Testament Application

The Feast of Trumpets served as a heralding of the judgment of God. One source I read said,

The massive blowing of the shofar (trumpet) on the first day of the seventh month was understood by the Jews as the beginning of their trial before the heavenly court where books would be opened and the destiny of each individual would be decided. The trial lasted ten days until the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) when God would dispose of their sins in a permanent way.

In this perspective, it’s not hard to see the parallel between the trumpets sounding here and the trumpets mentioned in the book of Revelation 8. Here, in the last days, trumpets also sound as a heralding of the judgments of God. The final judgment is described in Revelation 11:18:

The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

Interestingly, just like during this Feast, where the Day of Atonement followed the judgment of God, similar events are described in the end times. Right after describing the final trumpet judgment in Revelation 11, it says “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.”  Just as the Israelites had their sin removed on the Day of Atonement (the day the High Priest entered the Most Holy Place in the presence of the ark of the conventant), we too have had our sins removed by the sacrifice of Christ.

Finally, the Feast of Tabernacles commemorated for the nation of Israel how they lived in booths (tents) in the wilderness, and how God dwelt with them in the Tabernacle of Moses. It also reminds us of how God dwells with us through Jesus (“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. – John 1:14), and through the Holy Spirit within us.  Also, just as the Feast of Tabernacles was to be a time of joy, so shall we be joyful in the New Heaven, after the judgments and atonement has been realized at the end of the age.

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The Sacrificial System

This is a post in a series of posts titled Types and Shadows. You may want to start at the FIRST post of the series, or see the PREVIOUS post, before reading this one.

When I was in college I worked part-time for an attorney’s office. One of my various tasks was to take the law book updates that came in daily and to insert them into the books. It wasn’t a hard task – the pages were numbered systematically, so it was usually as simple as finding the pages by page number, pulling out the old ones, and inserting the new ones.  The hard part came when you had to actually read through a part of a page for some reason. It turns out that law books can be extremely boring reading (at least, for a non-lawyer).   Unfortunately, when it comes to reading the Bible, the Old Testament Law is sometimes the same way. We decide we’re going to read the Bible, we start in Genesis, we do well until the end of Exodus, then we call it off 1 or 2 chapters into Leviticus. Number and Deuteronomy never really had a chance.  Even so, there is a lot of benefit to understanding the Old Testament Law, and by skipping through these few books, we miss out of some of the richest Biblical typology to be found.

Today’s lesson from the Online Bible College was over the Biblical typology of the sacrificial system instituted in the Law of Moses. The lesson starts out by making the point that, regardless of whether you are reading the Old Testament or the New Testament, you will find one common question being answered: How can a sinner live in fellowship with a holy God?  In the very beginning of Genesis, with Adam and Eve, we see sin and death enter the world and the huge divide arise between God and humanity. And from that time, the greatest need of humanity is to find a way back across that divide. But humanity couldn’t ever bridge the gap – only God could do that, and the way He demonstrated is “bridge” was through blood sacrifice.

We see the recurring redemptive act of blood sacrifice throughout Scripture, even before the Mosaic law was put into place. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God clothed them with the skins of animals (requiring the animals’ deaths). When Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to the Lord, Abel’s blood sacrifice of an animal was accepted, while Cain’s offering of “fruits of the soil” were not. When Noah left the ark after the Flood, he built an altar and offered burnt offerings to the Lord. Altars were built and animal sacrifices were offered by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And my lesson points out that, though it is clear that sacrifices “were understood to be required by the Lord, Israel is later explicitly instructed by God to offer blood sacrifices, firstly as a part of the Passover ceremony, and then secondly as part of the code of Mosaic Law.”

Once the Law was handed down from God to Moses, a system was put in place to ensure proper sacrifices were made. There were 5 main sacrifices listed in the Law:

  1. Guilt offering (Leviticus 5:14-19) – a mandatory animal sacrifice to atone for the acts of sin committed by a person
  2. Sin offering (Leviticus 4:1 – 5:13) – a mandatory animal sacrifice to atone for the sinner (the internal, sinful nature of a person)
  3. Fellowship offering (Leviticus 3; 7:11-21) – a voluntary animal sacrifice offered as an expression of thanksgiving to God
  4. Grain offering (Leviticus 2; 6:14-23) – a voluntary offering of the first-fruits of one’s possessions or wealth (not animals)
  5. Burnt offering (Leviticus 1) – a voluntary animal (or grain) sacrifice, as an offering of worship to the Lord

Notice that some of the sacrifices were mandatory, while others were voluntary. The guilt and sin offerings were compulsory because they deal with the sin barrier between a person and God.  Interestingly, these two are not described as producing an “aroma pleasing to the Lord.”  The other 3 sacrifices are all described as “pleasing to the Lord,” and were more positive in nature.

New Testament Fulfillment

As you become more familiar with the sacrifices listed in the Law, it’s not hard to start putting the puzzles pieces together as to how the sacrificial system serves as a Biblical type of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, as well as the daily offerings and sacrifices we are called to give to this day.

The mandatory sacrifices of the guilt offering and the sin offering dealt with sin and sinners. The reason blood sacrifice was required was that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22).  Jesus’ death on the cross also dealt with sin and sinners – his shed blood was better than the shed blood of animals, in that He was a perfect sacrifice, totally without the blemish of sin. “By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14). Because of the perfection of Jesus’ sacrifice, it was a once-for-all sacrifice – we no longer need to make this sacrifice for the atonement of our sin.

The voluntary sacrifices are repeated continuously under the New Covenant. Today, these would include:

  • Praise and thanksgiving (the fellowship offering) – “let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.” (Hebrews 13:15)
  • Tithing and give money (the grain offering) – Paul speaks of this kind of offering when he said “I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18)
  • Our whole lives (the burnt offering) – Paul tells us what this looks like in Ephesians 5:1-2: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

As you can see, the New Testament does not do away with the need for the Old Testament. Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. In Christ, the sacrifices required to be made have already been made. And in Him, we can continue to live in a way that offers the sacrifices God truly wants from us even today.

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