As the children of Nehemiah’s Israel stood to hear and to understand from the Book of the Law of the Lord, they heard it was time to celebrate. God had given Moses instructions to feast and how to do it. In fact, God set in place feasts to be held not only once a year, but actually several times over the year. One of them was the Feast of Tabernacles which was to be held on the 15th day of the 7th month of their calendar. It was celebrated after harvest and was to last for seven days. This was to be the first time since the days of Joshua, that they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. Now, however, God had used Nehemiah to restore His people and the time of celebration had arrived. The Feast of Tabernacles was a time to celebrate through worship, feasting, remembering and rejoicing.
The grand purpose of the celebration was to worship God. This happened when they put aside their regular work schedules and made offerings to the Lord. The first and the eighth day they were to rest. This feast was a time to fulfill their vows, and to bring their gifts to Him. They were to put aside regular routines and practices. God was to be their focus. So, Ezra read the Book of the Law, and they worshiped. For, once more, God had delivered and restored His people.
First of all it was a feast to be held for seven days. The feast was to the Lord and to be built into their culture. The Israelite people of Nehemiah’s day celebrated the feast for seven days. They made their booths and sat in them on their roofs, their courtyards, the courts of the Lord’s house and in the open squares of the gates.
One component of the feast was remembrance. God did not want His people to forget what He had done for them after the great deliverance from Egypt. He wanted the generations to know that He had made them to live in booths at that time. God wanted the feast to be celebrated down through the life and culture of the Israelite people as a means of remembering the God who was their deliverer and provider. It was to be an integral part of their heritage.
In addition to remembering, the feast was to be a time of rejoicing before the Lord for seven days. We are told there was great gladness among the people.
How does it apply to us? During the times of focusing on God, the mind is purified and exalted. As well, the body is refreshed from not working. During feasting the grip of worry and anxiety over lack is reduced. In remembering the work of God in each of our lives, strength anew is found and we see the places where we developed spiritual muscle. In rejoicing, there is renewed power over the temptation to despair. We, His church, need these times of refreshing; times of worship, feasting, remembering and rejoicing.