COMMENTS CONCERNING THE FEAST OF SHELTERS/INGATHERING
THE READING OF THE LAW
"Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the Feast of Shelters, When all of Israel appears before the Lord your God in the place which he shall choose, you shall read this law before all Israel. Gather the people together, men and women, children and stranger that is within your land, 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" (Deut.31:10-12 Para.).
In this command, Moses specifically notes that the Feast of Shelters that occurred during the Year of Release was the time to review the entire law contained in the covenant that God made with Israel. Why did Moses refer to the seven-day feast of the seventh month as the Feast of Shelters and not the Feast of Ingathering, and why was it necessary for the Israelites to read the entire law during this festival every seventh year, which is the Year of Release?
Moses most likely used the name Feast of Shelters because this was the time that the Israelites were to remember that it was through the overshadowing power of God's presence in the cloud and fire that provided them protection from their enemies. Additionally, it was only through their adherence to the law contained within the covenant that God's blessings, care, and protection could be maintained.
Because the law was to be read every seventh year, the number of the year and the occasion of the year must have a significant meaning. The number seven is symbolic of termination, being complete, absolute perfection, finality, and bringing to an end. It was during the years of release that all debts were forgiven, and indentured or purchased servants were freed from their debt and servitude. Although the announcement of the Year of Release was made every seventh year on the Day of Atonement, the law was to be read 5 days later during the Feast of Shelters. The number 5 is symbolic of God's grace.
When these facts are looked at together, it seems that the reason the law was to be read during the Feast of Shelters in the seventh Year of Release was to show the absolute perfection and freedom expressed in the law of God and God's great favor, grace, concern , compassion, and mercy for the people of Israel.
DWELLING IN BOOTHS
There are basically three schools of thought as to the physical observance of the Feast of Shelters and Ingathering:
1. Some feel that it should be observed by dwelling in shelters made from tree branches or similar vegetation, just as God instructed ancient Israel to do.
2. Some feel that any temporary dwelling place, such as a tent or other temporary lodging away from one's permanent residence, fulfills the intent of the instruction to dwell in shelters.
3. Others feel that the human body fulfills the meaning of dwelling in shelters because it is a temporary housing for one's spirit until one is transformed into a spirit-being with a glorified spirit-body at Christ's coming.
There are several very important things that need to be understood in reference to the physical observance of this festival that will help clarify the issue of dwelling in temporary shelters during this festival.
"And you shall take on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days" (v40 KJV).
The instruction to dwell in shelters was given to the Israelites who were to make a pilgrimage to the place where God had placed his name and observe the festival there.
"And you shall keep it a feast to the Lord seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: you shall celebrate it in the seventh month" (v41 KJV).
When God said, 'your generations', he meant the generations of national Israel with whom he had made a covenant.
"You shall live in shelters seven days; all who are home-born in Israel shall live in shelters" (v42 Para.).
Verse 42 clearly defines that it was national Israel who was to dwell in shelters made from tree branches. But, why were they to dwell in shelters?
"So that your generations shall know that I caused the sons of Israel to live in shelters, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God" (v43 Para.).
Ancient Israel was required to live in shelters as a remembrance of being brought out of Egypt by God.
When the sacrificial system of worship is instituted before the return of Christ, all of national Israel and others who want to observe the sacrificial system of worship as set forth under the Sinai Covenant will be obligated to travel to Jerusalem and dwell in shelters during this festival.
There are no mentions or inferences of temporary shelters made from tree branches being a part of the symbolic or literal meaning of this festival.
This festival has nothing to do with temporary dwellings or the temporary nature of life. The transient quality of a shelter of any kind is not an issue in sorting out the meaning of the Feast of Shelters or its physical observance. This festival is symbolic and prophetic of God's sheltering care and protection of his people.
It is not understanding the temporary nature of the dwelling place of people that impacts one's salvation, it is the concept and reality of being sheltered by God that is important.
The Elect of God
The elect of God who live during the gospel age before Christ's return are a temple of God. This is the place where God has chosen to place his name and presence and meet with his people before the return of Jesus Christ.
By virtue of being the temple of God on earth under the continual protective care of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and their angelic servants, there is no compelling reason for the children of God during the gospel age to observe this festival by dwelling in shelters made from tree branches or in any other temporary lodging.
The children of God are an extension of God's sheltering care, concern, and protection for humanity. Notice what Jesus said about the great tribulation and the salvation of humanity that will come through the elect of God:
"For there will be great affliction, such as has not happened from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever will be. And except those days are cut short, no flesh would be saved: but on account of the elect, those days will be shortened" (Matt.24:21-22 Para.).
THE INSTRUCTION TO REJOICE
The general instructions for the observance of festivals are given in Deuteronomy chapters 14 and 16:
Deuteronomy 14:22-26 Paraphrased
"You shall truly tithe all the increase of your seed, that the field brings forth year by year. And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name, the tithe of your corn, wine, and oil, and the first of your herds and flocks; that you may learn to always fear the Lord your God" (vs.22-23).
"And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry your goods; or if the place be too far from you, where the Lord your God shall choose to set his name, when the Lord your God has blessed you: Then you shall turn it into money, and bind up the money in your hand, and you shall go to the place which the Lord your God shall choose" (vs.24-25).
"And you shall use that money for whatsoever you strongly desire, for oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or for whatsoever you desire: and you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you, and your household" (v26).
Historically, the Feast of Shelters/Ingathering was traditionally the major festival of the year, after the Passover Observance and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. This was the time of year when whole families would travel to Jerusalem (the place where God had placed his name and presence) to bring their tithes and offerings, perform personal sacrifices, worship God, and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Today the spiritual children of God are under no obligation to travel to any certain location in order to worship God and observe a festival. Each child of God is a holy vessel where God has placed his name and presence through the power of his holy spirit and they worship God in spirit and truth. See Jn.4:21-24.
"And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you, and your son, daughter, manservant, maidservant, the Levite that is within your land, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place where the Lord your God has chosen to place his name. And you shall remember that you were a bondman in Egypt: and you shall observe and do these statutes" (vs.11-12).
"You shall observe the feast of shelters seven days, after you have gathered in your corn and your wine: And you shall rejoice in your feast, you, and your son, daughter, manservant, maidservant, the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that are within your land" (vs.13-14).
"Seven days shall you keep a solemn feast to the Lord your God in the place where the Lord shall choose: because the Lord your God shall bless you in all your increase, and in all the works of your hands, therefore you shall surely rejoice. Three times in a year shall all your males appear before the Lord your God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of shelters: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty" (vs.15-16).
A Festival of Joy
"You shall observe the feast of shelters seven days and you shall rejoice in your feast seven days shall you keep a solemn feast to the Lord; therefore, you shall surely rejoice" (Deut.16:13-15).
The English word 'solemn' is a poor translation of the Hebrew word 'kaw-gag', which can mean 'to circle', 'to march in a sacred procession', 'to observe a festival', and by implication, 'to celebrate', 'to dance', and 'to feast'. A more appropriate translation of 'kaw-gag' is 'joyous'.
It is commanded to celebrate and enjoy this seven-day feast of the seventh month. The Feast of Shelters/Ingathering should be one of the most joyous and happy festivals of the year, because it is a time to look forward in joyous anticipation to the time in the future when God's plan for the salvation of humanity is finished.
PRIMARY FESTIVAL MESSAGES
The following are two primary messages of the seven-day feast of the seventh month:
1. God the Father is the protector of his people (past, present, and future), and this care, concern, and protection for his people will culminate in their being brought into his Family and Kingdom for all eternity.
2. At some time in the future, there will be a great celebration to commemorate the end of the harvest of humanity into the Family and Kingdom of God.
THE EIGHTH DAY
"Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep a feast to the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath" (Lev.23:39 KJV).
The eighth day is not actually a part of the Feast of Shelters/Ingathering. The Eighth Day is a separate festival with a separate meaning within the plan of God. See our studies about the Feast of the Eighth Day for a detailed explanation.
By B. L. Cocherell, file b5w68