We know that the Feast of Tabernacles is a feast preparing us and pointing forward to the time when we shall be united with Y’shua and NO LONGER be sojourners, tent dwellers and temporary residents in this world. That is why this is such a joyful feast. It radiates the kind of joy that belongs to a time of HARVEST. There is a verse in Ps 126 that talks about people who are weeping when they are on their way to plant a seed, but singing for joy when they return for the harvest. It is now the time of the fruit harvest in Israel. Pomegranates, figs, olives, dates, grapes, strawberries, and more kinds of fruits are being harvested. In South Africa, our fruit harvest will be 6 months later. But it is almost as though there is a tangible expectation in the air, here at Yzerfontein, right now. Here we have come towards the end of the feasts for this year. And we are looking forward towards the end of the world as we know it. The end of suffering. The end of disappointment. The end of the seemingly never-ending cycle of ups and downs. The last day of Sukkot is reminding us of the dawning of a new day – the eighth Day, the Day that has no limit and no end. The Day presenting us with uninterrupted communion with Y’shua. The Day bringing us in the very presence of Yahweh, the Creator of heaven and earth.
But let us not get ahead of ourselves. We are not yet in the Eighth Day. We are only getting ready for the Eighth Day. As a matter of fact, even the Feast of Tabernacles was originally a reminder of the WILDERNESS, not a reminder of the WHISPERING of the afterlife. In the words of Leviticus 23:43: the Feast of Tabernacles was included among the feasts, so that all generations may know that Yahweh made the children of Israel to DWELL IN TENTS (in the wilderness) when He brought them out of Egypt. There are scores of chapters in the Bible, telling us what the wilderness was like, what the people of Israel had to endure, how they were tested and how they failed almost every test that came along their way. One of these chapters is Deuteronomy 8. Just for the sake of clarity, this is the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, it is NOT a chapter about the Eighth Day! In the second verse one can already pick up the theme of the wilderness: Deut 8:2 “And you shall remember that Yahweh your Elohim led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, prove you, to know what is in your heart, whether you guard His commands or not.”
So, what else are some of the central themes of this chapter? Let us look at just a few. Firstly, it is a chapter featuring the NAME OF YAHWEH. There are 20 verses in this chapter, and the Name of Yahweh appears 13 times! Not that it is the only chapter in Deuteronomy featuring the Name of Yahweh. The Name Yahweh – not Adonai, not Hashem, not Lord – appears 550 times in the book of Deuteronomy, an average of 16 times per chapter. Why is that? Because Yahweh wanted his people to know that when they were in the wilderness, He did NOT withdraw from them. He was THERE, all the time! In person, and they repeatedly called upon his Name! Therefore, chapter 8 is sayings things like, Yahweh led you all the way; you lived by every word coming from the mouth of Yahweh; Yahweh was the One who disciplined you; Yahweh planned to bring you into a good land and Yahweh did not want you to forget Him. Think of all the times when we have FORGOTTEN Yahweh, when we found ourselves in a wilderness. And we even forget about his Name! Imagine I find myself in one of the most difficult periods of my life and I come across an unknown man, doing at least 20 things to show that he cared and was dedicated to help me out of my crisis, and telling me at least 13 times that his name was Daniel and that he wanted me to call him by his name. IMAGINE how this man must feel if I survive the crisis and turn around and say things like Thank you sir, I appreciate your help my lord, I’ll never forget your kindness, Kevin. This man was with me all the time and he left absolutely no doubt that he simply wanted to be called by name, and that his name was not sir, or lord or Kevin. The fact that I forgot to call upon his name, was pretty much the same as saying that I had forgotten what he had done for me! This feast is a reminder that it was no-one less than YAHWEH who stood by us when we struggled and lost our way. And that this One, YAHWEH, will continue to stand by us in future. Let us not neglect his Name!
The second feature of this chapter about Israel’s time in the wilderness, is the fact that Yahweh spoke to them in HARVEST terms to inspire them towards gratitude and joy. All over the world harvest time is a time of joy! Let me give you a shorter version of VERSES 7 – 10. “Yahweh is bringing you into a good land … a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey, a land in which you … shall eat and be satisfied and shall bless Yahweh for all the good that He has given you.” In all the cultures of the world, it is only natural for the people of the land to be joyful during a time of harvest. This is even MORE TRUE, in the case of people who recognize that Yahweh provided and protected the crop and made the harvest possible. In LEVITICUS 19 the people of Israel are instructed what they should do when they plant fruit trees in a new land. During the first three years these new fruit trees should be “as circumcised” to them – the fruit should not be eaten. In the fourth year, once again, the fruit should not be eaten, but should be DEDICATED to Yahweh (in some way or other) as a form of PRAISE to Yahweh. One translation says, the fruit must be set apart, as an expression of thanks. Another translation says, the fruit shall be set-apart, a subject of praise to Yahweh. Not only praising Yahweh FOR the fruit, but praising Yahweh WITH the fruit. Only in the fifth year was the fruit allowed to be eaten. The harvest itself, and the praise for the harvest (directed to the One who took care of the harvest), were seen as one and the same thing. The gladness over the harvest should naturally overflow into the praising of Yahweh’s Name! He is the One who blessed us. Now it is our turn to bless Him – even with the blessings that He showered upon us!
Let us get to the third and last feature of Deuteronomy 8. I said earlier that I gave you a SHORTER VERSION of verses 7 – 10. Let me give you ANOTHER SHORT VERSION, but still using the very words of this text: Deu 8:7 “Yahweh is bringing you into a good land, a land of streams of water, of fountains and springs … a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you dig copper … and you shall bless Yahweh for all the good that He has given you.” Here is the AFRIKAANS translation: “Yahweh bring jou in ‘n goeie land, ‘n land van waterstrome, fonteine en onderaardse riviere … ‘n land waarvan die klippe yster is, en uit die berge waarvan jy koper sal uitkap … en jy sal Yahweh loof oor die al die goeie wat Hy jou gegee het.” I could not help but noticing the words “yster” and “fonteine” in this text. Can you see that Yzerfontein almost made it into the Bible? Having come here to Yzerfontein for the Feast of Tabernacles in 2004 and 2005, it is some kind of full circle to return here again, 18 years later, and being joined but such a significant number of people from the West Coast – places like Saldanha, Vredenburg and Velddrif – also Darling and Yzerfontein. But what is even more significant to me today, is the fact that when this place was given the name YZERFONTEIN, apparently because of a fountain found here with water that was rich in iron, it was almost like a PROPHETIC NAME, pointing to Deuteronomy 8 and providing us with the reason why we are keeping the Feast of Tabernacles, up to this very day.
We are keeping the feast because Yahweh has always been ready to provide fountains and streams of water, especially when we found ourselves in a wilderness of difficulty and hardship. And He promised that he would make us strong, like iron, and that He would connect us to the MALE CHILD of the vision described in Revelation 12, who was persecuted by the Dragon, but also protected by Yahweh. This very same One, according to Revelation 12, was destined to rule all nations with a rod of iron and was caught up unto Yahweh and to a position right by the throne of Yahweh. This One, of course, is Y’shua the Messiah, the One who once tabernacled among us, but has promised that he would give us a permanent dwelling place in the house of his Father. Nothing can make the Feast of Tabernacles more meaningful, and more joyful, than this promise of Y’shua, our Forerunner, our Saviour and our Master.