Use gorgeous fall-colored leaves when decorating your booth for the Feast of Tabernacles.
After several years of decorating our booth with awesome fall-colored leaves, I came back to this passage which speaks of the time the Hebrews erected the first wilderness tabernacle and the Angel of the Lord came to sit on the mercy seat for the first time:
“And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at evening there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning. So it was always: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. “And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents. At the commandment of the LORD the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the LORD they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents.” (Numbers 9:15-18)
The Feast of Tabernacles and its booth symbolize many things:
- Remembrance of the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness when they lived in temporary housing on their way to the promised land.
- God’s shelter and providence for them as He provided shade and light, water and manna, protection and direction.
- We too are living in temporary housing on our way to a promised land. We should never feel too established here and forget that this world of sin is not our final home.
- Rehearsals for building makeshift shelters as the end-time people flee from the wicked.
- The temporary housing the Israelites lived in when they went up to Jerusalem to keep the Feasts each year.
- We will be visitors, in a foreign land and again dwelling in temporary housing, when we live in Heaven for 1000 years before we come home to the Earth-made-new.
- And someday our little planet will be host to visitors from all over the universe as they come to worship before the Lord who has made our world His dwelling place!
But the most profound symbol of the booth is its reference to the Tabernacle of the Lord. He also lived in temporary housing when He dwelt with us on earth. Jesus was Immanuel, or “God With Us,” for the short time He was on earth. Before that, in the wilderness, when the Children of Israel were led by the Pillar of Cloud and the Pillar of Fire, the linen tabernacle glowed at night as if it were on fire because of Jehovah’s presence within.
The Tabernacle of the Lord here on earth was a model to teach us about the way the Lord is getting rid of sin.
Whether it was the flimsy linen shelter, the magnificent temple of Solomon or the “temple made without hands” in the Heavenly realm (Acts 7:48; Isaiah 66:1; Hebrews 9:1), the temple represents God’s solution to the problem of sin.
He seated Himself in the middle of the Tabernacle on a throne named “Mercy,” with His Law at His feet, and invited us to bring our problems to Him to solve.
Within His presence we can find love, forgiveness, cleansing, healing and shelter from a sinful world that surrounds us. With this mercy comes the extreme joy in knowing that we are loved, safe, wanted and free from guilt.
Peter felt this joy when he stood on the mountain with Moses and Elijah when Jesus was transfigured. Afterwards Peter declared,
“Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” (Mark 9:5)
And King David felt this joy when he said,
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” (Psalm 23:9)
“One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty [or the delight] of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
In the presence of God we find everything our heart could ever desire. There can be no greater love or joy than to be fully wrapped in His loving arms and to hear him say, as Jesus heard, “This is my beloved son [or daughter] in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 17:5)
This is the story that God’s temple tells. It tells of His tender loving care for us. Being inside His tabernacle with Him is like having Him pull us to Him in a tight embrace and weep over us promising, “No one will ever hurt you again, My child.”
And so we should celebrate God’s loving embrace, rejoice over His protection and give thanks for His providence as we construct our booth (or adorn it) with vibrant Fall colors. This will call to mind the glow of the Pillar of Fire that protected the Children of Israel in the wilderness and gave the tabernacle “the appearance of fire.”
Did you know that these brightly-colored branches are actually mentioned in the original Hebrew text? God said,
“Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation.… “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.'” (Leviticus 23:34, 40)
The verse says, “The fruit of beautiful trees.” The word “fruit” means “produce” and can mean “fruit,” “boughs,” “berries” or whatever lovely things the tree produces.
The word translated here in the New King James Version as “beautiful,” and in the King James Version as “goodly,” is the Hebrew word hadar. According to the Strong’s definition, this word connotes “magnificence, that is, ornament or splendor.” And there is hardly anything more ornamental or full of splendor than the magnificent red, burgundy, fuscia, gold, chartreuse and lime green colors on fall branches! And if you have a branch after the harvest that still has fruit on it, why not include one of those too?
Another interesting word in this text is the word “rejoice.” The Hebrew word is samach, which means “to cause to brighten or rejoice.”
“You shall rejoice before Jehovah Elohim.” Now we see that this actually means, “You shall be cheered up,” or “You shall be made glad before the Lord.”
This comes back to the symbolism of the Sanctuary. Within, in the presence of God, you shall find joy. No matter how you come to the Feast, exhausted, harried, burdened (or skeptical maybe?), the bright colors and reminders of God’s goodness should cheer your heart once you begin to celebrate!
Let us Go up and Rejoice!