Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

September 23, 1897

At the Feast of Tabernacles

Three times a year the Jews were required to assemble at Jerusalem for religious purposes. Enshrouded in the pillar of cloud, Israel's invisible Leader had given the directions in regard to these gatherings. During the captivity of the Jews, they could not be observed; but when the people were restored to their own land, the observance of these memorials was once more commenced. It was God's design that these anniversaries should call him to the minds of the people. But with few exceptions, the priests and leaders of the nation had lost sight of this purpose. He who had ordained these national assemblies and understood their significance, witnessed their perversion.

The Feast of Tabernacles was the closing gathering of the year. It was God's design that at this time the people should reflect on his goodness and mercy. The whole land had been under his guidance, receiving his blessing. Day and night his watchcare had continued. The sun and rain had caused the earth to produce her fruits. From the valleys and plains of Palestine the harvest had been gathered for future use. The olive berries had been picked, and the precious oil stored in bottles. The palm had yielded her store. The purple clusters of the vine had been trodden in the wine-press.

This feast continued for seven days, and for its celebration, the inhabitants of Palestine, with many from other lands, left their homes, and came to Jerusalem. From far and near the people came, bearing in their hands a token of rejoicing. Old and young, rich and poor, all brought some gift as a tribute of thanksgiving to Him who had crowned the year with His goodness, and made His paths drop fatness. Everything that could please the eye, and give expression to the universal joy, was brought from the woods; the city bore the appearance of a beautiful forest. Booths or tabernacles of boughs were erected in the streets, in the courts of the temple, or on the housetops. The hills and valleys surrounding Jerusalem were also dotted with these leafy dwellings, and seemed to be alive with people.

With sacred song and thanksgiving the worshipers celebrated this occasion. “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever,” arose triumphantly, while all kinds of music accompanied the united singing. The hills were made vocal, as the vast multitude, waving their branches of palm or myrtle, took up the strain and echoed the chorus.

At the first dawn of day, the priests sounded a long, shrill blast upon their silver trumpets, and the answering trumpets, and the glad shouts of the people from their booths, echoing over hill and valley, welcomed the festal day. Then the priest dipped from the flowing waters of the Kedron a flagon of water, and, lifting it on high, while the trumpets were sounding, he ascended the broad steps of the temple, keeping time to the music with slow and measured tread, chanting meanwhile, “Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.” He bore the flagon to the altar, which occupied a central position in the temple court. Here were two silver basins, with a priest standing at each one. The flagon of water was poured into one, and a flagon of wine into the other; and the contents of both flowed into a pipe which communicated with the Kedron, and was conducted to the Dead Sea. This display of the consecrated water represented the fountain that at the command of God had gushed from the granite rock to quench the thirst of the children of Israel. Then the jubilant strains rang forth, “The Lord Jehovah is my strength and song;” “therefore with joy shall we draw water out of the wells of salvation.”

As the sons of Joseph made preparation to attend the Feast of Tabernacles, they saw that Christ made no movement signifying his intention of attending. They watched him with anxiety. Tho they did not rank themselves with his disciples, yet they were impressed by his works, and they hoped that he would give an evidence of his power that would lead the Pharisees to see that he was what he claimed to be. What if he were the Messiah, the Prince of Israel! They cherished this thought with proud satisfaction.

So anxious were they about this that they urged Christ to go to Jerusalem. “Depart hence,” they said, “and go into Judea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth anything in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, show thyself to the world.” They had witnessed his works, and when it was rumored that he spent his night in prayer, after working all day, they with his mother came to him, thinking to compel him to cease from so continually taxing his strength. Now they said, “If thou do these things, show thyself to the world.” The “if” expressed doubt and unbelief. They attributed cowardice and weakness to him. If he knew that he was the Messiah, if he really possessed such power, why not go boldly to Jerusalem, and assert his claims? Why not perform in Jerusalem the wonderful works reported of him in Galilee?

They reasoned from the selfish motives often found in the hearts of those ambitious for display. This spirit was the ruling spirit of the world. They were offended because, instead of seeking a temporal throne, Christ declared himself to be the Bread of Life. When he made this declaration, many of his disciples forsook him, and John says, “Neither did his brethren believe in him.” They turned from him to escape the cross of acknowledging what his works revealed,—that he was the Sent of God.

Not Seeking the World

“Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come; but your time is alway ready. The world can not 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 yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come. When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.” His brethren had spoken to him in a tone of authority, prescribing the course he should pursue. He cast their rebuke back to them, classing them not with his self-denying disciples, but with the world. “The world can not hate you,” he said; “but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” The world does not hate those who are like it in spirit; it loves them as its own.

The world was not a place of ease and self-aggrandizement for Christ. He was not watching for an opportunity to seize its power or its glory. It held out no such prize for him. It was the place into which his Father had sent him. He had been given for the life of the world, to work out the great plan of redemption. He was accomplishing his work for the fallen race; but he was not to be presumptuous, not to rush into danger, not to hasten a crisis. Each event in his work had its appointed hour. He must wait patiently. He knew that he was to receive the world's hatred; he knew that his work would result in his death; but to prematurely expose himself would not be the will of his Father.

“When his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.” In the midst of the feast, when the excitement concerning him was at its height, he entered the court of the temple, in the presence of the multitude. Because of his absence from the feast, it had been urged that he dared not place himself in the power of the priests and rulers. All were surprised at his presence.

Standing thus, the center of attraction to that vast throng, Jesus addressed them as no man had ever done. His words were most clear and convincing, and again, as at Capernaum, the people were astonished at his teaching; “for his word was with power.”

The feast was drawing to a close. The morning of the last crowning day found the people wearied from the long season of festivity. Suddenly Jesus lifted up his voice in tones that rang through the courts of the temple: “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.” The condition of the people made this appeal very forcible. They had been engaged in a continued scene of pomp and festivity; their eyes had been dazzled with light and color, and their ears regaled with the richest music; but there had been nothing to meet the wants of the spirit, nothing to satisfy the thirst of the soul for that which perishes not. Jesus invited them to come and drink of the fountain of life, of that which should be in them a well of water, springing up into everlasting life.

The priest had that morning performed the imposing ceremony which represented the smiting of the rock in the wilderness. That rock was a symbol of Him who by his death would cause living streams of salvation to flow to all who are athirst. Christ's words were the water of life. There in the presence of the assembled multitude, he set himself apart to be smitten, that the water of life might flow to the world. In smiting Christ, Satan thought to destroy the Prince of life, but from the smitten rock there flowed living water. As Jesus thus spoke to the people, their hearts thrilled with a strange awe, and many were ready to exclaim with the woman of Samaria, “Give me of this water, that I thirst not.”

The cry of Christ to the thirsty soul is still going forth, and it appeals to us with even greater power than it did to those who heard it in the temple on that last day of the feast. The fountain is open for all. The weary and exhausted are offered the refreshing draught of eternal life. Jesus is still crying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Mrs. E. G. White

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