And on the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have an holy convocation; you shall do no servile work…
It is called the Feast of Tabernacles because during the days of this feast they were to live in tents or tabernacles, it being a memorial of God's preserving of them in the wilderness where was no house for them in which to rest. This was a most holy feast to remember them when they had no dwellings, and therefore Moses doth so largely dwell upon the solemnities of it ; then they were especially enjoined to read the Law at this feast, when all Israel was to appear before the Lord (Deuteronomy 31:10; 2 Chronicles 8:13; Ezra 3:4; Nehemiah 8:14, 15; John 7:2). This feast is now abrogated, and belonged not to the Gentiles that were converted to the faith, after the passion and ascension of Christ (Colossians 2:17; Acts 15:10; Hebrews 10:1). Notwithstanding we must consider the inward signification of this ceremony, and see what uses remain thereof to ourselves. And therefore the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 14:16), describing the calling of the Gentiles to the true God, and their gathering into the true Church, setteth it forth according to the manner of God's service used in the law, that they should go up from year to year to worship the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles: alluding to the ceremony of the law, as our Saviour doth (Matthew 5:23, 24), meaning that they should worship God according to His commandments, and not after their own fancies.
1. First, we learn hereby that it is a duty belonging to all to remember the days of their troubles and afflictions, from which God in great mercy hath delivered us. We ought also to consider what we have been in regard of temporal deliverances, and in regard of spiritual deliverances from the bondage of sin (Ephesians 2:1-4, 11-13), for their deliverance from the slavery of Egypt did figure out our deliverance by Christ from the bondage of sin, Satan, and hell itself.
2. Secondly, observe from this feast that God evermore preserveth His Church, even when it is oppressed with greatest dangers and troubles, nay, then His power and mercy is made most manifest; His power shineth brightest in our weakness, and His mercy appeareth most of all in our misery.
3. Thirdly, though the Feast of Tabernacles be not any longer in use, that we should be bound to the keeping of it, yet the doctrine arising from it concerneth us as much as ever it did the Jews. Our keeping of this feast must not be for a week or twain, but all our life, so long as we live upon the earth. We must acknowledge that we are pilgrims in this world (Hebrews 11:16), and if we be not strangers in this present world we have no part in the kingdom of heaven. If, then, we will have God to accept us for His children, we must assure ourselves that this life is nothing to us but a way, or rather, indeed, a race, toward our heavenly country. It is not enough for us to go fair and softly, but we must always run apace, pressing forward with all our strength and force, holding on our way, and straining ourselves to attain to the end of our course.
4. Lastly, we are hereby put in mind of the shortness of this life; we are here for a season, and by and by gone. And albeit we make our houses never so strong, and build them up with brick and stone to continue, yet our bodies are all as tabernacles, always decaying. Let us therefore learn the doctrine of the apostle (2 Corinthians 5:1), If our outward man decay we have a building prepared for us in heaven. And we must say with Peter, "I must shortly put off this my tabernacle, as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me" (2 Peter 1:14). When this lodging of ours shall decay we shall dwell in an house incorruptible. Our bodies are but as arbours made of green leaves, which are of no continuance, one blast of wind is strong enough to blow them away (Isaiah 40:6). Every man hath some disease or other about him that will not suffer him to endure long. And if he had no disease or distemper, yet wait but a while, and age itself will be a disease, and as the messenger of death unto him, that even without sickness he slideth away, as the fruit of a tree, when it is ripe, falleth down of itself, though there be no hand to pluck it, or wind to shake it, or thief to steal it, or tempest to drive it. When we diligently consider this, then we have indeed learned to keep this Feast of the Tabernacles spiritually. To conclude, therefore, let every man beware that he seek not his own ease over much. This is one rule, that we do not pamper our own flesh in the lusts thereof (Romans 13:14). Secondly, such as are planted commodiously in this world must beware that they do not forget the world to come; and they that enjoy the earth at will must remember the kingdom of heaven, wherein they must only place the top of their happiness. If we seek heaven upon earth we shall never find it in the next life. Thirdly, let us use this world as though we used it not; rejoice as though we rejoice not, and weep as though we weep not, considering that the fashion of this world vanisheth away (1 Corinthians 7:30, 31).
Parallel VersesKJV: And on the fifteenth day of the seventh month ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work, and ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: