HOW THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES SHOWS THAT THIS LIFE ISN’T IMPORTANT
Sermonette Notes 10-13-01 Ann Arbor, Michigan, UCG
Our minds now are all focused on having gone to the Feast of Tabernacles. We may be thinking of the (perhaps) exotic places we went to, the friends and/or relatives we saw, the sermons we heard, the restaurants we visited, the activities we participated in, etc. You might even be thinking about how your faith in being willing to fly for the first time since the terrorist attacks on September 11 was rewarded. So let’s think some more about what we just did.
But what is primary spiritual lesson for Christians today behind the symbolism that Feast of Tabernacles points to? What was and is the point of dwelling in tents and other temporary shelters after all? How does God use spiritually the brief but enjoyable physical activities we may participate in during the Feast?
One of the leading lessons God wants to learn in this life is that this life isn’t important except as a training ground for the next. We are to learn from experiences in this life so we are suited to eternal life as spirit beings in the kingdom of God.
S.P.S.: The Feast of Tabernacles helps to show us that this life isn’t important except as a preparation for the next life.
As you see, my main point today is something tied to a general Christian principle, not just to a specific Holy Day. We should be willing to learn such general points from them.
One of the greatest challenges we face as Christians is trying to fully realize and internalize such that it affects our daily actions the truth that this life, including the tests, trials, and problems we encounter, is only very temporary. It’s merely a title page to an endless novel to be written when we’re eternal spirit beings born into God’s Family. Of course, we have to get that “title page” written right, which means we have to develop holy righteous character as the Holy Spirit works within us while enduring trials and passing tests with a good attitude. Otherwise, we either might have a lower position in the kingdom of God or we might not end up there at all. A sobering thought indeed!
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived in tents, temporary dwelling places, aliens in the promised land. They knew they were only temporarily on the earth, and had only a relatively short physical existence. So they looked to God to give them meaning in their lives. They knew that this life wasn’t the main thing, and getting physical pleasure from it.
II Pet. 1:13-14
Young’s: Greek Skenoma, tabernacle, dwelling place, translated in my Bible as “earthly dwelling.”
We need to take seriously Peter’s analogy between our physical bodies and tents made from plastic and cloth. People today can put so much effort into trying to fix up and preserve their physical bodies, such as through exercise, drugs, medicine, surgery, herbs, and diet. But all of this is ultimately futile, because we will all die. This battle we’re guaranteed to lose. Death is inescapable physically. Death is an implacable foe. Especially when we’re younger, especially when we’re teenagers, we are apt to have the conceit of thinking we’re immortal, especially if our health is good and we haven’t had a brother or sister or classmate die of a similar age to ours or younger. NW high school situation when one teenager died in a car wreck. So what are we going to do about it? That’s why we turn to God so we can live forever, and live forever happily.
Why do we have these spiritual activities together? Practical cooperation issue: learn things from activities don’t learn from just talking to people after services or even at their homes. Canoe trip example, cooperating with partner in canoe, with others in other canoes, etc. Why staying at home with family not necessarily as spiritually productive since need different experiences to develop spiritually with different people. Hence these social experiences with a different set of people in different physical surroundings help prepare us for eternity.
II Cor. 5:1-8:
Think of our recent church campout. The tents came down so quickly, no matter how nice or impressive they looked. The Martin family’s tent: impressive, but still easily packed in a pickup. Think of the contrast with the houses we live in, which last for decades, even centuries, if they would be maintained carefully. But think how even they fall apart over time if not cared for. Think of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The conceit behind them, admittedly, was that they would stand forever. Who would need to replace them any time soon, especially in the high rent district of lower Manhattan, the hub of not just the American, but the world’s financial system? So even buildings that last for decades, even centuries like the pyramids, are all ultimately temporary like a tent when measured against eternity.
Conclusion: The Feast of Tabernacles implicitly makes a symbolic spiritual comparison between our bodies and physical tents. It shows that this physical world is not our true home. So no matter how luxurious our accommodations may be to where we’re going, or how large and impressive the building we’re staying at is, think about this when we enter first enter that hotel room, and close the door: The purpose of our booth, our tent, our temporary dwelling place, is to remind us that this life of (say) 70 years is really as temporary in the eyes of eternity as the mere 8 or 9 days or so we’ll spend living there.