The history of Thanksgiving we observe today is reported as beginning in 1621, in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
However, many scholars believe Thanksgiving may be based on the the Bible autumn harvest festival Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles. Sukkoth commemorates the temporary shelters used by the Jews during their wandering in the wilderness.
The devoted pilgrims refused to celebrate holidays not in the Bible (they rejected Christmas and Easter). It’s very possible that when they were trying to find a way to express their thanks for their survival and for the harvest, they looked to the Bible for an appropriate way of celebrating and found Sukkot (Lev. 23:39)
For this celebration the Hebrews made temporary dwellings, a hut with branches and foliage. Inside the huts are hung fruits and vegetables, including apples, grapes, corn and pomegranates. On the first two nights of Sukkoth, families eat their meals in the huts beneath the evening sky.
The Jewish Journal Reports
“The pilgrims based their customs on the Bible,” said Gloria Kaufer Greene, author of the “New Jewish Holiday Cookbook” (Times Books, 1999). “They knew that Sukkot was an autumn harvest festival, and there is evidence that they fashioned the first Thanksgiving after the Jewish custom of celebrating the success of the year’s crops.” Read the rest of this article here.
Spiritual Lessons from the Feast of Tabernacles
God is Our Shelter
The temporary dwellings, booths made of boughs of trees and branches of palm trees (Lev. 23:42) remind us not to hold too tightly to material things. We live in a very materialistic age. When the Israelites were wanderers in the desert, they all lived in tents–rich and poor alike.
Material possessions can control and manipulate us; they become gods, or idols, over us. We must remember that this life is only temporary. We are also on a pilgrimage to a Promised Land in eternity. We need to seek God’s kingdom, not earthly comfort. As we seek first the Kingdom of God (Luke 12:31), God is our shelter. For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall (Isa. 25:4).
Jesus is Preparing Our Permanent Home
These physical bodies we now occupy are only temporary dwelling places. Our bodies are frail, and will eventually begin to deteriorate. Life is short. Our hope is not in what the world has to offer, but in what God has already provided for us for eternity. Our permanent home is being prepared for us in eternity. Jesus said in John 14:2-3, In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
As the Israelites Left Bondage,
We Leave the Bondage of Sin
God brought the Children of Israel out of the bondage of their Egyptian taskmasters into freedom. For Christians, we can celebrate that God redeemed us from a life of bondage to sin and brought us into His freedom in the Kingdom of God.
Water was an important part of the Feast of Tabernacles. Before the festival, the Rabbis taught on every passage in Scripture dealing with water. In Old Testament Biblical times, gold pitchers of water were brought from the pool of Siloam to the temple. The Priest would pour out the water over the altar to signify Israel’s gratitude for the rain that had produced the harvest, and would pray for rain in the next year. The priest would recite Isaiah 12:1-3.
Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.
Jesus is the Living Water
Our spiritual thirst cannot be quenched with anything less than Christ. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14).
Jesus Washes Away Our Sins
Jesus is the true living water cleansing us from sin through His blood. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 9:13-14).
Jesus is the Light of the World
The light from the Feast of Tabernacles lamps illuminated the whole city. Scholars suggest that Jesus referred to this custom when he spoke those well-known words, “I am the light of the world…” (John 8:12) Also see John 1:1-9 and John 9:5.
Read more about the Feast of Tabernacles here.
A New Tradition for Our Family
Regardless of the history of this holiday it is time to give thanks to God. Our family decided to adopt a growing popular tradition in Christian Thanksgiving this year.
The tradition is to pass out five kernels of corn (or popcorn) to each member of the family then take turns going around the table, sharing one thing for each kernel we are thankful for from the past year.
God bless your holiday as you count your blessings.
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