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The Harvest Feast

by Tim O'Hearn

After the Days of Awe (September in 2012) comes the celebration known as Succos, or the Feast of Booths. It is described in Leviticus 23:39-43.

Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Since verses 33-36 describe the Feast of Booths, some have said that this passage describes a second festival that runs concurrently with Succos. The latter part of the passage may suggest otherwise. Either way, a festival that starts on the fifteenth day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar (October 1-6 in 2012) is clearly described as a harvest festival. It comes after gathering in the fruit of the land, and includes the “taking” of four species of plants.

Every major Jewish holiday speaks to a Messianic theme. Passover (Pesach) speaks to the separation of God’s people from the world. Pentecost (Shavuos) is about the giving of the Law and speaks to the beginning of the church. Rosh HaShanah is a day of blowing trumpets as a reminder of judgement to come, and reminds us that there will be a judgement after the last shofar is blown. That judgement is pictured in the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The writer of Hebrews reminds us that sabbath pictures our final rest. (Heb 4) So what may we take from Succos?

The obvious lesson is that we are wanderers on this earth, living in a temporary dwelling as we wait for the rest to come. Much has been written and will be written on that theme. Since one of the feasts that begins on the same day is primarily a harvest festival, perhaps there is another lesson.

The holiday comes at the beginning of the holiday year, notwithstanding the holidays of judgement that immediately precede it. While it clearly was a holiday after the ingathering of the crops, maybe we can turn it just slightly and point it toward the other holidays. Rather than celebrating the ingathering, perhaps we can look at Succos as looking forward to the next year’s crops. But how does that relate to the Messianic faith?

Yeshua (Jesus) told his disciples, “I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.” (Jn 4:35-36) He further pointed out, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” (Matt 9:37-38)

Those who are seeking to harvest the fruit of the gospel may be few. Even in the new year, the fields are already ripe for the harvest. While one person may plant and another water, nevertheless it is God that gives the increase. (1 Cor 3:6-7) That does not absolve each of us from participating in the harvest. God has chosen human teaching as the means of planting his word in the hearts of other people. (1 Cor 1:21) Any farmer knows that the planting is followed by a long period of care. Even the ingathering takes time.

May Succos remind us that there is still a harvest, and we need to bring it in before the trumpet sounds and the opportunity for harvest is over.