Daily Devotions


Day 106

The Feast of Tabernacles

Text: John 7 : 11-43


The celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles could be traced all the way back to the days of Moses. The Lord had given a specific commandment to Israel to remember the days when the nation lived in tents in the wilderness. The Feast of Tabernacles was well celebrated in Jerusalem. Thousands flocked into the holy city to celebrate this Feast. Jesus was one of many who came to celebrate The Feast of Tabernacles (Hebrew – Succoth).

As Feasts go, traditions changed with the passing of the years. A special tradition had developed with reference to the celebration of the Feast of Succoth. On the last day of the Feast, a special event took place. Well over a century before the days of Jesus, there arose a tradition involving the High Priest on the last day of this great Feast.

Succoth was also the celebration of the autumn harvest for the summer crops. Traditionally, the harvest was celebrated with great joy and thanksgiving. One modern writer of the ancient customs of Israel in the days of Jesus wrote:

“The altar of sacrifice was decorated with willow branches.
Processions of worshippers circuited the altar waving
willow branches while choirs of Levites sang psalms to
instrumental accompaniment….
On the final day, called the day of the Great Hoshana,
the procession circled the altar seven times. John rightly
referred to it as ‘the last day of the feast, the great day.”
(Anne Punton, ‘The World Jesus Knew, p. 159)


John sought to draw attention to the dramatic words that Jesus spoke on the last day of the great feast of Succoth.

“On the last day, that great day of the feast,
Jesus stood and cried out, saying,
‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.'”
John 7:37

Punton’s book sheds some light as to what Jesus said when He spoke as He did on the last day of the Feast.

“The water libations reached a climax on the day of
the Great Hoshana. Happy crowds surrounded the Temple
hoping to see the high priest as, in a procession of song
and instrument, he wound his way down the steep hillside
to the pool of Siloam. There he filled a golden flagon of
about two pints’ capacity and carried the water back
to the Temple. In a symbolic gesture, he poured
it out at the base of the great altar.
Was it at that climactic moment that a voice
cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me?'”
(Punton, ‘The World Jesus Knew’ p. 160)

The wilderness journey was a difficult one. Not only did ancient Israel live in tents, the people also learned what it meant to depend upon God for the provision of water. That the celebration of this great Feast involved water libation should not surprise us at all, for water was a vital symbol well known to Israel.

Water was needed for survival in the days of the wilderness. Water represented rain that the crops would need. Soon, the farmers would need rain to fall if they were to sow their seeds for the next season.

However, Jesus saw even greater meaning behind the ceremony of water libation. The greatest need was not physical, though that was not unimportant in itself. Surely the greatest need was to have the spiritual thirst slaked and satisfied!

Jesus went on to add these famous words of invitation to believe in Him.

” ‘He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said,
out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’
But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those
believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit
was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
John 7:38-39

What portion of Scripture did Jesus refer to? Though Jesus mentioned “The Scriptures” He did not confine Himself necessarily to a specific text. Two references were probably in mind here. Firstly, there was the reference to “water”. Secondly there was the reference to the Holy Spirit.

Could Jesus have in mind this passage from the Book of Isaiah?

“For I will pour water on him who is thirsty,
And floods on the dry ground;
I will pour My Spirit on your descendants,
And My blessing on your offspring.”
Isaiah 44:3

This prophecy of Isaiah foretold a day when God would visit His people with special blessings. He would pour out His Spirit on His people as never before. The outpouring of the Spirit was well symbolized as “water… and floods”. The outpouring of the Spirit as God’s blessing upon Israel, however, was not a theme well understood or expounded by the scholars of Israel.

John understood what Jesus said and meant. He interpreted what Jesus was trying to say to the pilgrims who gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Succoth. Were the people spiritually thirsty? They should do more than just be emotionally moved as they watched the procession of water libation led by the high priest. That moment of elation would not last very long. If they were to turn to Him in faith, He would give them “rivers of living water flowing from their hearts”. He would pour out the Holy Spirit into their lives in due time – after His resurrection from the dead!