The Feast Of Tabernacles

John 7:1-44

You see the utter darkness in which the Pharisees and all of them were; they said, “He deceiveth the people.” The effect of the presence of Christ is always to produce darkness where faith is not. The Lord had wrought miracles and so on, but the natural heart never can perceive the light, so there is nothing but confusion. There is always positive wilful rejection by the natural man, as there was by the Pharisees; but where Christ is known, there all is light. There is a great deal for us to learn of course, but it is God’s light that we have, and in that light we shall see light. We go on learning truth about God, truth about the world, truth about the vanity that deceives men’s hearts: but grace through the gospel and the testimony is there, speaking of Christ, and, thank God, all in perfect grace. There is the manifestation of what we were: “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye the light in the Lord.” So that though there is much to learn, still I have got now what reveals God’s heart and discerns mine. The Son came to reveal the Father. It does not say grace and truth were revealed: “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”

As we see here, it is a rejected Christ. It is always, “Take up thy cross and follow me.” All the glory becomes a cross in this world. In His humiliation the glory was there: His disciples “beheld His glory,” but still it was rejected; there was always the enmity of man against it. So it is written, “Marvel not if the world hate you.” And He said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” We take up our cross and follow Him. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” So, the Lord says, if you go with me, you must go that road. It was “If it die.” He stopped alone till then; nobody touched Him. His proper work in this world was only at the cross. “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” Born of God was another thing, and they received Him. But by the world He was rejected. Thus we see our place, the Christian’s place, is this: He having been rejected, we have the counterpart of it.

But not only is He the rejected One; He is also the glorified Man in glory. There is one Man where I get life; one Man in whom righteousness is displayed; and that is Christ at the right hand of God. There our hearts must go up and find the only thing to which we belong; though of course our bodies belong to this world. Man took his place in the glory of God consequent on redemption being wrought, and the Holy Ghost was sent down and our bodies become the temples of God. That which characterises the Christian is that the Holy Ghost dwells in him. It is this which the Lord speaks of in the passage we have read—the outflowing of it.

There were three great feasts among the Jews, three very important ones to which all the males had to go up, all gathering round God. The passover, to which they all went, though it had not so much the character of rejoicing, and the feast of weeks, and the feast of ingathering. The passover had not so much the character of rejoicing; it was rather God in His character of Judge passing over them. So the unleavened bread that followed the passover was called the “bread of affliction.” God is the God of holiness, so He must have holiness. So after the passover each person went to his own tent; there was no rejoicing, or anything of that sort.

But in the other two feasts they were to go with an offering in their hands, and to rejoice before the Lord with their sons and their daughters, their manservants and their maid-servants, the Levites, the strangers, the fatherless, and the widows. They were to rejoice in their feast and all others with them. And in this feast which we have in John, when the harvest was over, when the discriminating judgment of God had taken place, they were to dwell in tents, and with the fatherless and the widows they were to rejoice. They were in rest.

The first, the passover, was just escaping out of judgment; the next is the enjoyment of the first-fruits; and then the getting into the rest of God, the full thing; God had blessed them in everything. That is the one that we get here. The Pentecost does not connect itself with this, though of course everything is connected with the passover. Here they are not escaping from the condition they were in, but they are in the living enjoyment of the condition they are brought into, of that which God has brought them into.

This is what we have to look at in our worship: we should be enjoying more what God has brought us into. We have to watch that our worship should not be only the remembrance of what we have been brought out of, but the enjoyment of that into which we have been brought. Here it is all joy, and rest and blessedness. You will find in Leviticus that it is all connected with the people being brought out of the land of Egypt. It is all one thing—the passover, of course, is the foundation of everything; but besides this, I see that man has got into this perfect place of blessing: of our bodies it is not true yet, of course; they belong to this old creation; but in the new man we are connected with Christ up there. And our place down here is that of having the Holy Ghost, who takes of the things of Christ and shews them to us. But it is all connected with the passover, with the feast of unleavened bread, and that was connected with the Sabbath; though it began the evening before the Sabbath, it went on after Satan’s power and death and judgment were all over, passed and gone.

What characterises Christianity is the ministration of the Spirit. The Holy Ghost is here consequent on the exaltation of Christ. In this feast of weeks we get, in a certain sense, the coming of the Holy Ghost. Pentecost came in as a kind of annex to the feast of the firstfruits, only there was leaven. Then after the harvest and after the vintage came the feast of tabernacles, when they were to keep not only seven days but eight; which brings in heavenly things. When Christ comes the Jews will literally get their rest, and they will celebrate the grace which has given them all this blessing.

What the unbelieving brethren of Christ sought was that He should shew Himself. He says, I cannot do that; I can die, but I cannot shew myself to the world; my time is not yet come; I cannot keep the feast of tabernacles in any true sense. And so there is no such thing in the present time as keeping the feast of tabernacles; there is no antitype of it. “Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come, but your time is always ready; the world cannot hate you, but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up unto this feast.” That word “yet” should not be there. He just goes up privately afterwards to teach the people. Then on the eighth day He says (for there was an eighth day): “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” This brings in the Spirit. He gives us the Spirit now instead of the feast of tabernacles—a full, flowing stream. This is our portion till He comes.

But now mark, beloved brethren, it is “If any man thirst.” It is not as the Holy Ghost came upon Balaam, and other cases. That might be without any thirsting at all. But it is “If any man thirst.” We get the same thing in Revelation: “Let him that is athirst come.”

Thus we have poor bodies, bodies of humiliation, but we have got the Holy Ghost, and therefore “our conversation is in heaven.” And that word means all the associations, everything belonging to a man; as we say, “That man is a Dublin man”; which means that his family, his business, his belongings are in Dublin; so our place and belongings are in heaven, and we are just looking and waiting for Him to come and take us up there. For the Holy Ghost comes down, not only to associate me with Christ risen, but with Christ glorified. We are not yet in it, but, where the heart thirst, it already gets full satisfaction there; otherwise people are thirsting after other things, and there is a famine in the land. Wherever the flesh works there is thirst; there is no such thing as the new nature thirsting. When a man has once come to Christ and drunk, then “out of his belly flow rivers of living water.”

You see the Holy Ghost is the source of life. We are “born of the Spirit” in chapter 3; in chapter 4 we get the full purpose of the Spirit in worship; and here it is flowing forth from the believer as “rivers of living water.” We have the full power and life and liberty of the Holy Ghost in spite of all that is around us in this world. So we have it instead of the feast of tabernacles. The Jews will have the literal thing soon, but with us it is entirely heavenly.

People sometimes say they will not know till the day of judgment whether they are saved or not. But before the judgment day comes, as all here I trust know, Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, and thence comes the Holy Ghost to be rivers of living water in believers; so that I do not wait until Christ comes out to tell me whether I am saved or not, because He has sent the Holy Ghost already to tell me, and I know it. “Rivers of living water.” All these blessed things flow out. He is the source of refreshment and blessing. I am told in Colossians 3 to “set my affections on things above.” How can I set them if I do not know what they are? Now the Holy Ghost shews us our present relationships. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.” “We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” We have received the Holy Ghost, and what does He do? He tells us about our sins, our failures, most certainly, but He has come to tell us, not of things of this world but of the things that are freely given to us by God; and we do know something of those things. When Moses and Elias came to the Mount of Transfiguration did they not freely talk with the Lord? and does that tell me nothing of what the intimacy up there is? If I am going to walk in white with Him up there—if I am going to have a white stone with a new name in it, the pledge of His secret approval, just as in a family a child has a pet name that has no meaning to strangers—is that nothing? There will be walking on streets of gold—holiness. We get the blessedness up there more and more revealed, the Lord using figurative expressions to let us into it.

And then another thing. Supposing my heart is right with God, what will be my desire for the saints? That every one of them should be exactly what would be to Christ’s glory; that there should not be a single thing in one of them that should not answer to Christ’s desire for them.

These things are spiritually discerned of course. The Holy Ghost comes to take these things that are not seen to reveal them to us. We get these grapes of Eshcol brought into the wilderness for us, the grapes of Canaan, of the land.

Then, in view of all this, what is my responsibility? As to my acceptance, that is not my responsibility.

I was lost, entirely lost, but that has all been settled by God Himself, and now I am in Christ. My responsibility is now that I should represent Christ. He represents me before God, and my responsibility is to represent Him before the world; and that is where failure comes in. That is what I have to look at in every step that I take in this world. I have to ask myself, Shall I be an epistle of Christ or not, in doing this?

“Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water”—out of his inmost affections—out of what a man is in the bottom of his heart, as we say, shall flow streams of refreshment to others; the poor vessel is so full that it overflows. We cannot bring it out as it is in heaven, of course: but we can bring it out as the Holy Ghost brings it in to us here; and then we have the feast of tabernacles. When the Lord comes again the feast will be literally come: there will be the harvest and the vintage, and then the full blessing; but, until it comes, we have the Holy Ghost instead of it, and our place that of waiting for Christ; we are converted to wait for God’s Son from heaven.

Until then what characterises the Christian is that he has the Holy Ghost. God had sealed him by the Holy Ghost, made him know Christ by the Holy Ghost, brought him in spirit and heart into those things where Christ is, with whom God has associated him. If I am careless, of course it is not so, but if I am walking in the Spirit all these things will shine out in me. He has made us the habitation of the Spirit; our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost; so that all that God is, in its right time and place and measure, flows out from us as refreshing streams in a dry and thirsty land where no water is. That is what a Christian is; and may God give us to walk faithfully, and lowly, and humbly with Him in it to His glory. Amen.