Leviticus 23: 33-44
There is something special about the feast of tabernacles, which is that it has no antitype.
There were three great feasts - the Passover, Pentecost, and the Tabernacles - when every Israelite had to present himself before God in Jerusalem. Christ is our Passover, the Holy Spirit our Pentecost; the feast of tabernacles is not yet come and nothing in the history of God’s people answers to it yet. This feast took place after the harvest and after the grape harvest. The harvest is “the completion of the age” (Matt 13: 39); the harvest, the judgment when God distinguishes the good grain from the darnel and separates them, Matt 13: 24-30, 36-43. The grape harvest is the pure vengeance and indignation of God against the vine of the earth, of which the grapes are ripe to be trodden down in the winepress of God’s wrath.
The feast of tabernacles can only be celebrated when Israel is on the earth after the time of the wilderness. It is in memory of that time that the people passed seven days in tents.
We find here the “joy” of God’s people when all is over, when they enjoy the full accomplishment of the promises. It is not only the joy of salvation in the heart. God, who would have His people around Him, draws them through grace, presented in the sacrifice of Christ (the Passover), gathers them by the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) and, after having judged evil and delivered the people, puts them in possession of the joy tasted in the accomplishment of the promises (the feast of tabernacles).
Deuteronomy 16: 1-17 also presents these three great feasts to us, but the moral centre is different, v 5, 7. There is in the Passover, in one sense, the joy of no longer being a slave in Egypt any more, but there is the bread of affliction at the same time, v 3. The means whereby God delivers us are an infinitely precious thing, but the idea that we have been slaves in Egypt is attached to that. The leavened bread which had to be removed from their houses recalls what was forbidden; they had to make haste to remove it. There is deliverance, but after having enjoyed it as an extraordinary deliverance, Israel hastens to return to their tents, v 7.
Pentecost (v 9-12) went a bit further. The dominant thought here is joy, not repentance; the presence of the Holy Spirit bringing fellowship, joy and grace which extend even to the stranger, the orphan and the widow, v 11. The name of Jehovah becomes the centre of the joy of the people who surround Him. In all this rejoicing, the people remember that they are no longer slaves; this answers for us to what is said to us: “Walk in the Spirit” Gal 5: 16.
In verses 13-15 - the feast of tabernacles - it is no longer even commanded to keep these statutes. It is pure joy; it is really a commandment to rejoice. When God will have finished all His work to gather His people, that they may rejoice in everything, that Satan bound will no longer be able to hinder the joy of any more, it will be without mixture, without fear and without end. At the Passover, there was the “bread of affliction”, and at Pentecost, they still had to take care in a world of sin to “keep the statutes”; but when all are gathered around God, in definitive possession of the promises, the only commandment is, “Thou shalt be wholly joyful”, v 15.
It is the same for the child of God today: he is still in the position of remembering his bondage in Egypt, he sighs for the time of full blessing, and much more than that, for better understanding of the things which God has prepared for those that He loves. In resurrection, the more we let our hearts go, the more we will glorify the Lord. Joy now always leaves a door open to some fall, as soon as we do not remember the deliverance from Egypt or we do not watch to walk by the Spirit while we are still in this world.
Revelation 14: 15-20 speaks of the harvest and the grape harvest on the earth. In Matthew 13: 39, the harvest is the completion of the age; it is not a simple judgment for there is a harvest of good grain and a separation of the darnel. The grape harvest takes place when all that remains is evil and unmixed. God tramples it in the winepress of His indignation and wrath.
After the execution of this judgment, we find the full joy of God’s people, the evil which was hindering us from enjoying His goodness being destroyed.
The feast of tabernacles is made up of two parts: earthly glory and heavenly glory. It will be become Israel then to remember that they have been in the wilderness, where their sin held them during forty years, away from the blessing. Even so, they will fully enjoy the latter; they will keep the memorial of having been in the wilderness.
As to ourselves, it is not on account of our sins that we have been kept in the wilderness, for this latter is our part as being conformed to the sufferings and the death of Christ. When the glory comes to pass for us, there will be only joy. Having found, as being faithful, that the world is a wilderness, and having passed through it faithfully, we shall have only joy at the end of our course. Such is our own position, [as] Christians; it is why an eighth day is added to the feast of tabernacles, the beginning of a new week into which one can only enter through resurrection. It is the great day of the feast: everything is found there. This day exceeds the seven days; everything that God gave His people on the earth belongs to a state of things into which only resurrection brings us. John 7 gives the description of it. In verse 8, it was not yet the time for Christ to show Himself to the world. That will happen when He will appear in the true feast of tabernacles. The Lord’s brethren represent the unbelieving Jews here. Later (v 9-10), Jesus goes up to the feast in secret; but on the eighth day, the great day, He shows Himself publicly, a figure of what must happen through His death and resurrection. He announces the rivers of living water for those who shall believe on Him, grace to whosoever thirsts, the Holy Spirit who will be the earnest of the heavenly glory into which Jesus was going to enter. The Holy Spirit is the testimony to the glory of the Son of man in our hearts, the seal, the earnest of the inheritance. He is given to us while awaiting the full manifestation of the glory. It is not only the Holy Spirit as a principle of life, but a river which overflows and flows out from us because we have the knowledge of the glory and the joy which belongs to us. This makes us long for the time when this will come to pass and when we will enjoy in liberty all the results of grace!