What Do Tabernacles Represent and Foreshadow Spiritually?


Eric V. Snow, sermonette, 10-11-08, Ann Arbor, MI, UCG



When we live in temporary dwellings during the Feast of Tabernacles, what do the booths represent according to the Bible?  Why do we perform this physical ceremony?  What should we learn spiritually from doing it?  Could we be mechanically going through the motion of doing a ritual without really understanding what it means spiritually?  In order to learn more spiritually from the Feast of Tabernacles, we should meditate about why we travel long distances in order to live in temporary quarters far from our normal homes.  For true Christians the Feast of Tabernacles shouldn’t be just a vacation designed to entertain ourselves.  Instead, its central ritual should remind us that our true priorities during this life should be the next life.


S.P.S.  The temporary dwellings we live in during the Feast of Tabernacles should remind us of how brief our lives on earth are, which means sacrificing happiness for the next life is more important than enjoying pleasure during this life.  


Have you ever gone camping?  For instance, have you ever set up a tent during our local church camp outs?  How long did it take to set up that tent?  Several days later, how quickly did it come down?  Do we ever think that this physical life is really just “camping” before the real spiritual life begins with the resurrection?  Compare that tent now to the house or building you live in normally:  How well built is it?  How important is it to you to own that tent, and the camping gear in it, compared to owning your house and the furniture, appliances, and other stuff in it?  Likewise, emotionally and psychologically, do we really think that this life is unimportant compared to the next?  Compared to the glory of eternal life in God’s kingdom, do we value our jobs, our houses, our cars, our 401(k) accounts as worth no more than the tents we used during camping trips?  


II Cor. 5:1-9


The earthly tent/tabernacle is our bodies. And out bodies are very temporary.  Therefore, indeed, our priority should be to please God so we can live forever as spirit beings in His kingdom.  “Christian  living” meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles, compare to Days of Unleavened Bread, of living a life without sin.


So when you first arrive and make yourself comfortable in that hotel room, meditate some about the meaning of the ritual involved.  We shouldn’t just go through this process mechanically, without thinking about it.  It’s easy to be distracted from this meaning when we’re tired, the kids are hungry, and lots of stuff has to be unloaded from our cars and carried into our hotel rooms.  But think about it, even consider briefly praying about what staying in that room represents, when you first arrive there, and it’s all new to you and your family. 


Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-26


V. 8:  Somewhat similarly, after God called us, we may have gone to places, such as to far-away Feast sites, that we never would have gone to except because God called us.  But physically this represents the spiritual reality that we now should be living our lives very differently compared to before we were called or compared to uncalled people in the world.


V. 9:  Do look out at the world around us as a spiritually foreign land?  Do we think of ourselves as spiritual aliens while living in the good, old USA?  Despite what our emotions may tell us, are we willing to admit that this presidential election really isn’t all that important in the great scheme of things, from God’s viewpoint?  For the two weeks while I’m gone to Peru, I won’t have to hear much about it.  That’s one way to escape it!


Despite their wealth, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all lived in tents and moved around with their animals.  To watch the “Abraham” video in the church library brings home this reality some when reading about it only doesn’t.  For example, they would have heard the sheep, goats, and/or cows constantly making animal sounds.  To live the life of a shepherd simply isn’t very comfortable even when you own the animals that you care for.


V. 13:  Do we have the faith that they had?  Are we really willing to sacrifice pleasure, comfort, and convenience during this temporary physical life in order to please God and to gain eternal spiritual life?


V.  14-16:  Is our real homeland the kingdom of God?  Or do we emotionally tend to think of ourselves as (say) Americans first, Christians second?  But just as the kingdom of God is much better than ancient great city of Ur that Abraham came from, so is the kingdom of God much greater than the United States of America.


V. 17-19:  If God asked us to give up our most valuable physical possession, could we do it?    Suppose we could actually be tested in this area.  For example, suppose there is a central place of safety during the Great Tribulation to come.  In order to go there, maybe without warning we would suddenly have to abandon our jobs, houses, and cars to go there.  Would we have the faith to do that?  Or would we opt to stay behind, and end up going through the Tribulation.  True, this is speculation, but what if we really do get tested?  Suppose the Beast Power takes over the USA and then insists that we work on the Sabbath and that we rest on Sundays:  Would we resist getting the mark of the Beast?  Babylon’s present financial troubles should remind us that we shouldn’t place our faith in this present system of things.  It’s far wiser to have faith in God’s spiritual promises than in the stock markets’ financial returns.  Yet doesn’t the world foolishly laugh at that reasoning?  But now, who’s really being foolish?


V. 24-26:  Couldn’t Moses have had a much easier life than he had?  Instead of spending his senior years leading a bunch of thankless, griping Israelites through a desolate, treeless, wilderness, he could have sat by the Nile, eaten dates, and watched the dancing girls in Pharaoh’s palace.  He also lived the life of an alien shepherd for decades in Midian after fleeing from Egypt.  (He called his son Gershom because he was a sojourner in a foreign land).  But he had the faith to choose to please God and to gain eternal life instead of pleasing his physical senses at the time.


Conclusion:  The ritual of living in temporary dwellings far from our regular homes during the Feast of Tabernacles teaches us that we should value the next life more than the present life.  Compared to the glory of living eternally in God’s kingdom as part of God’s very Family, our jobs, our houses, our cars, and our bank account balances are of little importance.  So then, can we now apply practically to our present lives the central “Christian living” meaning of the main ritual of the Feast of Tabernacles?  Do we really have the faith to live the Tabernacling life?