Chapter 14:16-19 (ESV) - 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.
Question to consider: Why did the Lord command the people to rejoice in this celebration year after year?
The Feast of Booths was established by God in Leviticus 23:33-44 and occurs at the end of the agricultural season. The people would create temporary shelters with thatched roofs made with palm fronds. It is a joyous occasion that celebrates the provision of God to the Israelites in the desert after being freed from Egypt. Families will decorate their shelters to fit their personalities and live in them for a week giving food offerings to God in celebration for a fruitful harvest. This practice not only connects the Jews with their ancient ancestors, but it serves as an annual reminder that our successes in life are not a result of our own efforts but of the grace and mercy of God.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that this celebration is the last of the feast days and occurs five days after Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), for if it was not for the atonement given to us by Christ, we would have nothing to celebrate. The image in Zechariah’s oracle comes after God has sent His savior – the King, the Lord of hosts. The unique image of this celebration having participants from survivors of judgment from all the nations points to the gospel and is reflected in the communion meal in which people from all over the world gather together to receive from our Lord.
So this points to both our present reality and our ultimate relationship with Christ in heaven. When Zechariah writes about drought, plagues and punishment for not joining in the celebration, he is emphasizing the faithfulness of God’s people in heaven. Those absent from this scene would be those that have rejected Christ’s free gift of salvation and are not welcomed into the kingdom of God. For them is the expectation of judgment. As the writer of Hebrews said, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)
When Peter, James and John witnessed the transfiguration of Christ, Peter blurted out that he thought they should build booths for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Although Peter admitted to speaking out of fear in Mark 9:6 (since Mark wrote down the testimony of Peter), I think his statement was based on today’s passage. He saw they were on a mountain and miraculously in the presence of Elijah and Moses, and his gut reaction was to get ready for the end times Feast of Booths. Of course, in hindsight, I’m sure Peter realized that Christ’s atonement for our sins had not yet occurred so his notion was foolish. Tomorrow we will wrap up the book of Zechariah.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for giving us such a great salvation in Christ. Let us not take it for granted but be willing to sacrifice our own comfort for the sake of the gospel. Give those who are reading this today a desire to love and serve You and celebrate with Your people. Amen.