The Old Testament of the book of Ecclesiastes contains a message vital to the Feast of Tabernacles and your salvation.
Wealthy. Wise. Well thought of. These positive words describe ancient Israel’s King Solomon. Yet Solomon wasn’t satisfied with life; he was filled with depression and despair. Why? And what does it have to do with the Feast of Tabernacles? And how does it apply to your life?
God gave the Feast of Tabernacles to Israel as a seven-day festival to be held every autumn, celebrating the fall agricultural harvest in the Northern Hemisphere. Temporary dwellings (a tabernacle is a temporary dwelling) were constructed to remind the Israelites of their journeys in the wilderness before they entered the Promised Land (Lev. 23:1-2, 34, 39-43).
Contrary to what many believe today, this Festival is still to be kept!
Christ showed that the law that includes the annual festivals remains in effect for us (Matt. 5:17-18). Both He and the early New Testament Church kept the festivals (John 5:1; 7:2; Acts 2:1, 18:21). In the Millennium, all nations will keep the Feast of Tabernacles (Zech. 14:16).
The symbolic meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles goes far beyond what most people realize. Celebrating the physical harvest as it occurred in the area of Israel pictured the Millennium, the 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ on earth (Rev. 20:6) when we will “harvest” the billions of humanity who will enter God’s Family!
The Millennium will be a time of global prosperity, peace and obedience to God’s law. Staying in temporary dwellings portrays our own pilgrimage in the present evil world, and the fact that all during the Millennium will understand that they are pilgrims in their physical lives (Isa. 11:9, 25:6-9 and I Peter 2:11).
With this in mind, let’s consider the life of Solomon. He inherited the throne of Israel from his father, David. Sometime after his coronation, Solomon went to offer sacrifices at Gibeon, where God appeared to him in a dream and asked him what he desired.
Solomon’s answer: “An understanding heart to judge Your people” (I Kings 3:9). This reply pleased God, who fulfilled his request and also gave him riches and honor (vs. 10-13).Through the years, Solomon acquired and enjoyed wisdom, land, ships fine buildings, gardens, mines. Skilled craftsmen, animals, money, a strong government, fame and secure borders. Solomon seemingly had it all, riches, wisdom, power and fame. But something was missing, something that caused Solomon to hate life.
This brings us to Ecclesiastes, the book Solomon wrote. The theme of Ecclesiastes is vanity, Solomon wrote: “Vanity of vanity,” says the Preacher; Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2). The word vanity means “worthless, empty, fruitless, and transient. What caused Solomon to look at life this way?
Despite his accomplishments, Solomon could see that life is filled with sorrow (Eccl. 2:22-23). And, ironically, as he learned more about the world around him, he grew even more sorrowful (Eccl. 1:18). He saw rampant injustice (Eccl. 4:1) – problems that defy solution (Eccl. 1:15) desires that remain unfulfilled (Eccl. 1:18) terrible tragedies (Eccl. 6:2) bitter envy and strife all around (Eccl. 4:4).
Beyond these debacles, Solomon saw death, which so deeply disturbed him that he came to hate life: “Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind” (Eccl. 2:17).
Here was a man who possessed and enjoyed all the things that so many people are striving for, and yet he said it was all worthless.
Before you conclude that Solomon was completely wrong, consider this: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (I Corth. 15:19).These words, written by the apostle Paul, are so true! Hope that ends in the grave is insufficient. It leaves you wanting more, craving more. This is the position Solomon found himself in, facing death and desiring more, wondering that there wasn’t something else, asking, “Is this all there is?”
But there wasn’t any more. Solomon’s understanding and wisdom were limited to this present life. Unlike David, his father, his eyes were apparently blinded to the time of the resurrection. Why? Solomon became a victim of sin, which limits spiritual understanding (I Kings 11:4, and Eph. 4:17-19).
As Christians, we have hope, awesome hope: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (I Cor. 15:51-52).
Solomon finally realized, in old age, the value of building a right relationship with God, even though he failed to do so during the rest of his life. At the end of Ecclesiastes he wrote: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil” (Eccl 12:13-14).
How deeply Solomon came to understand God’s judgment is certain. From some of his comments, it could appear that he only saw God’s purpose in light of physical blessings and cursings. As Christians, we understand that God’s judgment involves our fate for all eternity (Matt. 25:31-46).
What does all this have to do with the Feast of Tabernacles? And what does it have to do with you? Plenty. The Feast pictures the time when God will establish His Kingdom, when the members of His immortal, ruling Family will rule over humans who will also have the opportunity to become literal, born children of God.
Those preparing for birth into God’s Family must see the vanity, the futility, of living in the flesh, striving only for material success. Each must become in the flesh a pilgrim, a temporary sojourner whose ultimate purpose is to be born into God’s Family.
This does not mean that all physical pleasures and pursuits are wrong, not at all! But we must see them for what they are and rightly use them. Those entering God’s kingdom must build the right relationship with God. Such a relationship requires fearing God, standing in awe of Him, responding to his authority. As Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments.
So you see several parallels between the messages of the Feast of Tabernacles and the book of Ecclesiastes, coming out of vanity, rejoicing and fearing God. All are essential for your salvation.
Reject the vanity, the shallowness, the emptiness, and the temporary and transient values of this world. Completely come out of the world and its evil way of life (Rev. 18:4). Forsake materialism (Matt. 6:31-34).Don’t strive for personal glory, temporary acclaim and adulation from other people (Phil. 2:3, Gal. 5:26). Put your eyes on God’s Kingdom (Col. 3:1-2).
During the Feast you’ll hear sermons that will help you do this. You will also be separating yourself from the world by fellowshipping with spiritually minded brethren.
Learn to rejoice and enjoy fine meals and exciting activities with your family and friends, using your second tithe. Rejoice in living God’s way of life and knowing His wonderful plan of salvation: “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation” (Ps. 32:11, 35:9).
The rewards for deeply respecting and revering God are many. You will avoid the wrong way of life (Prov. 16:6). Your wisdom will increase (Prov. 15:33). Your blessings will abound (Ps. 145:19). Your destructive fears will be replaced by godly confidence (Ps. 118:6, Prov. 14:26). Most importantly, God will give you eternal life as a glorified member of His own Family (Ps. 16:11)!
Don’t be deceived by the wealth and fame of those around you. It is only temporary. Soon it will pass away. David wrote: “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. For evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the Lord shall inherit the earth” (Ps. 37:7-9).
Think about that, someday you can inherit the earth, Someday you can enjoy life as God enjoys life. As you await that glorious day, now soon to come, learn the vital lessons taught by the Feast of Tabernacles and the book of Ecclesiastes. By doing so, you will be learning how to become a member of God’s Family!