Biblical Audio Commentary – Wandering in Darkness
Pilgrimages are part of many religions. As our exposure to the religion of Islam grew in the early 2000s, we learned about the Muslim obligation to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a believer’s life. This is called the Hajj, and is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is necessary to wipe clean past sins and to gain a fresh start in life.
God decreed to the Israelites that they were to observe seven feasts during the year in His honor. Three of those feasts required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This was described in Exodus 23:14-17 in which God said:
“Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty-handed. You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord God.
From gotquestions.org here is the initial description of this feast:
The Feast of Tabernacles, also known as the Feast of Booths and Sukkot [and Ingathering], is the seventh and last feast that the Lord commanded Israel to observe and one of the three feasts that Jews were to observe each year by going to “appear before the Lord your God in the place which He shall choose” (Deuteronomy 16:16). The importance of the Feast of Tabernacles can be seen in how many places it is mentioned in Scripture. In the Bible we see many important events that took place at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. For one thing, it was at this time that Solomon’s Temple was dedicated to the Lord (1 Kings 8:2).
It was a time of joyous celebration as the Israelites celebrated God’s continued provision for them in the current harvest and remembered His provision and protection during the 40 years in the wilderness.
This is the key for our Commentary today: The pilgrimage for and celebration of this feast was to remember His provision and protection during the 40 years in the wilderness.
Although God was with the Jews, those 40 years were a mixed bag. They had to learn who He was and how to obey Him. He gave them every opportunity, but they didn’t do so well. For their pagan actions that emulated what they’d lived and absorbed in Egypt, the Lord punished them numerous times with plagues and death. God had to get their attention to the fact that He would not allow them to worship any god but Him, nor to fashion idols and bow down before them. They were to be different from all other nations because the Lord was their God. The 40 years were a trying time for the Israelites as they desired all too often to walk in darkness rather than light. When God finally determined they’d learned the lesson, He brought them into the Promised Land of Canaan that became Israel. Of course, this required for an entire generation to die out so that only their children crossed the Jordan – the exception being the two faithful older men: Joshua and Caleb.
Upon stepping into the land, God required them to remember all that He’d done to provide for and to protect them. This was accomplished in this Feast of Booths, or Sukkoth. Every year the Jews came up to Jerusalem joyously commemorating the incredible love and mercy of God.
Following the 7-year Tribulation that will devastate the earth and also sift those who will finally choose to revere God versus those who will continue to reject Him, God will restore the world, and the Lord Jesus Christ will sit on the throne in Jerusalem to rule and reign for 1000 years. The remnant of Jews, who haven’t died in their sins or already believed in Jesus as Messiah and were martyred, will enter the Millennium in their human bodies. There will also be some number of Gentiles populating nations around the world who will likewise come into the Millennial period in the flesh, but who have become believers in Christ just as their Jewish counterparts.
Now, consider Zechariah 14:16-19:
Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up and present themselves, then on them there shall be no rain; there shall be the plague with which the Lord afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths. This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths.
Isn’t this interesting and incredible? Previously it was the Jews whom God required to make this yearly pilgrimage. During Christ’s Millennial reign, the peoples of the nations must do so. If they don’t, bad things happen.
So, the question is: Why would God oblige people to travel to Jerusalem every year for this feast of Sukkoth? (An even more intriguing question that we won’t pursue is how they all get there.)
As far as I know, Scripture doesn’t explain why, but I have a theory.
Just as the Jews wandered in the wilderness for 40 years in chaos and darkness before they learned their lesson allowing them to enter Israel, so too did the nations of the earth live in that same darkness until their remnant likewise turn to the Lord as their deliverer as seen and acknowledged in the Millennium. I think God is setting up an analogous requirement for the Gentiles as He did with the Jews. When Israelites traveled to Jerusalem, recall that they did so to remember God’s provision and protection. By God having the nations come to Jerusalem each year, He is trying to instill a permanent remembrance of Him in the same manner.
For many, this trip will do the trick and keep people rooted in Christ Jesus as their Savior. However, we know that over the generations to come, many will forget and choose not to make Jesus their Lord and Savior.
Here is one other factor adding to my hypothesis, also from the same Got Questions page as quoted above:
There are also some who believe that it was likely during the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus was born. While we celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25, most scholars acknowledge that this tradition was begun in the fourth century AD by the Roman Catholic Church and that the exact day of Jesus’ birth is unknown. Some of the evidence that Jesus might have been born earlier in the year during the Feast of the Tabernacles includes the fact that it would be unlikely for shepherds to still be in the field with their sheep in December, which is in the middle of the winter, but it would have been likely they were in the fields tending sheep at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. The strong possibility that Jesus was born at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles is also seen in the words John wrote in John 1:14. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The word John chose to speak of Jesus “dwelling” among us is the word tabernacle, which simply means to “dwell in a tent.”
Thus, this requirement of the nations to travel yearly to Israel may also be linked to the true birthdate of Jesus, which will presumably be known for sure at that time.
God brought the Light of the World as Emmanuel – God with us – so that all peoples in all nations could choose to spend eternity in His presence. What a fitting way during the Millennium for all to celebrate this marvelous gift by having everyone gather together to worship the King of kings and Lord of lords.