By Jaime Sherman
According to instructions in Leviticus 23, the Israelites were to celebrate the final yearly feast — the Feast of Booths — for eight days as they camped out in booths made from the branches of leafy trees. The feast, which was bookended with sabbaths, reminded the ever-forgetful people how God had rescued them from Egyptian slavery and provided their every need. He was their covering and their comforter, and He would do it again and again and again!
According to God’s directions to Moses and detailed for us in Leviticus 23:33-43, the Feast of Booths was pretty straightforward:
Render food offerings to the LORD.
Rejoice before Him.
Reside in outdoor shelters constructed from leafy trees.
“You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 23:42-43).
Simple enough, right?
Yes, mama had to do a lot to prepare for this campout, but in the work, she was reminded that sacrifice is always part of following God’s best. And at the campfire, she had the joy of remembering with her family how God had been faithful and could be trusted to provide for them in the year ahead.
Like so many religious leaders before and after them, Jewish priests added to this simple feast, creating rituals God never outlined in His Word, and by the Second Temple period, the Feast of Booths included a water pouring ceremony. Each day of the feast, a lineup of white-robed priests walked along a rocky foot path to the eastern slope of the city of Jerusalem and filled a golden container from the Temple with water from the pool of Siloam.
For thousands of years, the intermittent Gihon Spring provided the freshwater for the City of David. The water was so important to the community’s survival that during his reign as king of Judah (c. 715-686 B.C.), Hezekiah directed workers to cut through the rock beneath the city to redirect the water of the spring from a cave along the city’s eastern slope, through an S-curve and eventually into the pool of Siloam. This was the same pool that was part of the blind man’s healing by Jesus in John 9.
With sounding shofar and waving date palms, the pilgrims who were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths watched the priests march back to the Temple and pour out the water and some wine upon the altar with prayers for rain to fall upon the nation’s crops in the coming year. John records that in the midst of this feast week, Jesus went up to Jerusalem and began teaching inside the Temple complex. You can read the full account and the variety of responses from the religious leaders and people in John 7:1-36.
On the final day of the feast that year, a day known as the Great Hosanna, Jesus slipped into the crowd at the temple as the priests circled the altar seven times in memory of the march around Jericho and poured out the fresh water to the cries of “Hosanna!” or “Save Now!”
In the midst of this ritual, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38).
His words brought a variety of responses — awe and wonder, belief in Him as the Christ, doubt, and anger, especially from the religious leaders who were intent on having Jesus arrested (John 7:40-52). But their plan was thwarted for the time as Jesus declared that water from a spring won’t satisfy. A water pouring ceremony won’t satisfy. Only the Son of God can meet one’s deepest longings and pour out His Spirit upon all who believe in Him.
As John wrote, “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).
Here was a man declaring that He could provide them with a never-ending spring of water for their parched souls, and for His disciples, this declaration harkened back to His words to the woman at the well in Samaria:
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).
And of Jesus’ words after feeding the 5,000:
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
Those who trust in Jesus Christ, in whom the Spirit has been given, will never long for something more, something better. Yes, they will still wrestle with life on this sin-scared, thirsty world, but they will be eternally content, satisfied, and whole in Jesus. John describes this beautiful reality in Revelation 21:1-6:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment…”
As many of us enter a 24-hour fast at sundown tonight (Thursday) and pause at set times throughout Good Friday to read Scripture and to pray, may we cling to this truth that Jesus quenches us without payment and declare together, “Hallelujah!”
UFC Women’s fast guide is available here.