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Messianic Bible Teaching: Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)

Chag Sameach and Shalom, 

The Biblical Holiday of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) starts this evening!

“In sukkot you shall dwell for seven days: all citizens of Israel shall dwellin sukkot.”  (Leviticus 23:42) 

An Orthodox Jew praying toward Jerusalem during Sukkot.  He isholding in his hands the Four Species mentioned in Leviticus.  (Tolearn more about praying toward Jerusalem, see 1 Kings 8:30)

Tonight we begin celebrating Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles/Booths),which completes the cycle of the Biblical Fall Feasts.

Sukkot begins at sunset tonight and lasts for seven days until nightfall onOctober 20.

This is one of three pilgrimage festivals called Shelosh Regalim in which theJewish people were to go up to the Temple in Jerusalem on a national scale.The other two are Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Feast of Weeks).(Deuteronomy 16; Exodus 23: 14-17)

One of the names of Sukkot is the Festival of the Nations.  In Israel,people from all nations of the earth gather in Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot.

According to the prophet Zechariah, this holiday has a prophetic dimensionthat is yet to be fulfilled.  When Messiah returns and establishes HisKingdom, all the nations will be required to keep this holiday by comingup to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot.

“Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will goup year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrateSukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles).  If any of the peoples of the earth donot go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they willhave no rain.”  (Zechariah 14: 16-17)

In that day, Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) will become Israel’s sukkah (tabernacle).His presence will shelter Israel and she will no longer be oppressed by the nations. 

Sukkot (booths) is a Biblical pilgrimage festival that lasts seven days. It’sone of the three major holidays known collectively as the Shalosh Regalim(three pilgrim festivals), when the Jewish populace traveled to the Templein Jerusalem and lived for a week in booths (temporary shelters), such asthe one on this front porch.  Today, Jews still travel to Jerusalem for Sukkot.Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles/Booths)Leviticus 22:26-23:44, Numbers 29:12-16, Zechariah 14:1-24, Revelation 7:1-10

The first day of Sukkot is a Sabbath and most forms of work are prohibited.

The next six days of the holiday are called Chol HaMoed.  During these daysthe workload is reduced and here in Israel many people take the week off as vacation.

After the somber, introspective time of Yom Teruah (Rosh HaShanah)and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Sukkot is a joyous celebration ofrenewed relationship with God following atonement for sin.

During this festive season, we recall how God’s faithfulness provided for ourancestors as they wandered the Sinai Desert wilderness for 40 years beforeentering the Promised Land of Israel. 

“You shall dwell in Sukkot for seven days…  So that your future generationsshall know that I had the children of Israel live in Sukkot when I brought themout of Egypt….”  (Leviticus 23:42-43)

At Sukkot we remember God’s kindness and mercy in leading and guidingIsrael by day with a pillar of cloud and protecting them by night with a pillarof fire, and for providing them with daily manna.  Just as Israel dwelt intemporary shelters called sukkot in Hebrew (sukkah is singular), so are weto dwell in sukkot for this entire week.

Most people in Israel and Jewish people around the world build a temporaryhut or shelter with a covering of branches or palm leaves.  For seven days andnights, we eat in the sukkah and consider it our dwelling; some even live inthe sukkah entirely for the duration of the festival. 

A table set for a Shabbat meal in the sukkahArba Minim: The Four Species

“You shall take for yourselves on the first day [of the festival] the splendidfruit of a tree (etrog), palms of dates (lulav), the branch of the thicklyleafed tree (hadas), and willows (aravot) of the brook…”  (Leviticus 23:40)

Another observance carried out each day of Sukkot, except Shabbat, is theFour Species (Arbah Minim):  an etrog (citron), a lulav (Palm frond), threehadassim (myrtle twigs) and two aravot (willow twigs).  They are boundtogether is such a way that they can be held together easily.

The lulav, hadassim and aravot are first taken up with the right hand and thenthe etrog is taken with the left hand.  A blessing is recited over the Four Species:

“Blessed are You, God… who has sanctified us with His commandmentsand commanded us to take the lulav.”

Facing towards the east where the Temple in Jerusalem once stood, the FourSpecies are then shaken in all six directions:  right, left, forward, up, downand backward. 

Rabbinic tradition explains that the Four Species represent the variouspersonalities that make up the community of Israel.  They are held togetherand a blessing is recited over them to bless the unity of all people, which isemphasized on Sukkot.  

The Arba Minim (Four Species): willow, palm,myrtle and etrog.  

The Season of our Joy

“You shall rejoice before the Lord your God.”  (Leviticus 23:40)

One of the names for Sukkot is Zeman Simchateinu (The Season of our Joy).In Scripture, in fact, the word joy appears several times in connection with Sukkot.

“Be joyful at your Feast—you, your sons and daughters, your menservantsand maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widowswho live in your towns.  … For the Lord your God will bless you in all yourharvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.”(Deuteronomy 16: 13-15)

Since Sukkot is also a harvest festival, we can well imagine that there isgreat reason for joy.  Indeed, one of the other names for the holiday is theFeast of Ingathering.

“…Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gatherin your crops from the field.”  (Exodus 23: 16) 

Harvesting the fruit of the vine in Israel

The joy of this holiday is so singular and complete that many rabbinictexts just refer to it as hachag (the festival).

During ancient times, every day of The Festival, except Shabbat, wascharacterized by music, song and dancing.

Even today, Jewish people gather near the Western (Wailing) Wall to dance,sing and rejoice before the Lord.  People fill the synagogues and streets withsinging and dancing with tremendous joy until the wee hours of the morning.

This in is partial fulfillment of prophecy.  The Prophets tell us that a daywill come when the exiles of Israel return to Zion, her streets will be filledwith the sounds of joyful melodies; and sorrow will disappear.

“The ransomed of the Lord will return.  They will enter Zion with singing;everlasting joy will crown their heads.  Gladness and joy will overtake them,and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”  (Isaiah 51:11)A poolside sukkah may seem unusual, but duringTemple times, water was a key theme duringSukkot for the Water Pouring Ceremony.The Water Libation Ceremony

“With joy you shall draw water out of the wells of salvation.”  (Isaiah 12:3)

During Temple times, a special Water Libation (offering) ceremonytook place every day of Sukkot.

Every day, the priests along with a procession would go down to the Pool ofShiloach (Siloam), which was fed by the Gihon Spring, the original sourceof Jerusalem’s water.  At the pool of natural running water, they would fill agolden flask.

The water was then brought back to the altar in the Temple to accompany themorning sacrifice.  This pouring of the water on the altar is called in Hebrewnishuch hamayim.

This water offering ceremony not only celebrates the hope of winterrains in Israel, but also symbolizes the future Messianic Redemptionwhen the Spirit of God (symbolized by the water) is poured out upon thenation of Israel. 

Praying in the sukkah:  This rabbi is holdingthe Arba Minim (Four Species) in the waythat is prescribed by Jewish tradition.  Yeshua on the Final Day of Sukkot: Hoshana Rabah

“I wash my hands in purity and circle around Your altar, O Lord.”  (Psalm 26:6)

The seventh and final day of sukkot, called Hoshana Rabah (Great Salvation),is marked by special synagogue services. 

In commemoration of the priests circling the altar with palm branches in theirhands once every day of Sukkot, and seven times on the seventh day, on thisday, seven hoshanot (circuits) are made around the synagogue.

On this final day of Sukkot, probably during the water ceremony,Yeshua (Jesus) stood up and proclaimed Himself to be the source ofLiving Water.  He invited all who were thirsty to come and drink, thewater representing the Holy Spirit (Ruach Hakodesh).

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in aloud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoeverbelieves in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow fromwithin them.’  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed inHim were later to receive.”  (John 7:37-39)

Children playing in the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, from whichthe High Priest used to draw the water for the Water Offering inancient times.

Sukkot in the End-Times and the New Jerusalem

“For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle….”  (Zechariah 14:1)

The Haftorah for Sukkot contains a graphic apocalyptic vision of thedestruction of all the nations which attack Jerusalem.

The judgment on the nations is characterized by earthquakes, plagues, heavydarkness, and signs of nuclear destruction, all manifesting God’s personalintervention on behalf of Israel. 

The eyes of the world will be opened and all the nations will see that Israelis the apple of God’s eye.  Woe to those who dare to touch her. 

The Lord declares through the Prophet Zechariah, “It will happen in that day,that I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all the peoples.  All whoburden themselves with it will be severely wounded….”  (Zechariah 12:3)

In those days, all nations will be required to come to Jerusalem to celebrateSukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).  Those who refuse will be cursed with lack ofrain.  (Zechariah 14:16-19)

While many Christians believe that God’s moadim (appointed times of Feastsand Festivals) have been abolished, we see here that this is not true. Today, many Christians from the nations come every year to Jerusalem tocelebrate Sukkot together with Israel in a beautiful foreshadowing of what willtake place after the Lord returns and establishes His Messianic reign on earth.

This Israeli is building the roof of his sukkah.Vegetation such as palm will be lightly woventhrough the beams so that the sky is still visible.

God’s Timeline

“The Kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of HisMessiah, and He will reign forever and ever.”  (Revelation 11:15)

While the spring feasts were fulfilled by the death and resurrection ofYeshua (Jesus), the fall feasts will be fulfilled with His second coming.

Some believe that when Yeshua returns as Messiah King, he will be hailed bythe blast of the shofar on the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah/ Rosh HaShanah).His people will recognize Him as their Messiah and mourn nationally, perhapson Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).

“I will pour on the house of David, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, thespirit of grace and of supplication; and they will look to me whom they havepierced; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, andwill grieve bitterly for him, as one grieves for his firstborn.”  (Zechariah 12: 10)

Then, on Sukkot, on the Feast of Tabernacles, God will finally ‘tabernacle’with His people and dwell among us, establishing His Messianic Kingdomof righteousness. 

“Look!  God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell(tabernacle) with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be withthem and be their God.”  (Revelation 21:3) 

Rabbi inspecting the myrtle and willow

Sukkot reminds us that God has not forgotten Israel. 

Scripture seems to suggest that this is a fabulous time for the nations toremember God’s people and stand with them.  

“I will bless those who bless you.”  (Genesis 12:3)

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  • Weekly Torah Portion: Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles) “And The Word Became Flesh, And Tabernacled With Them” (paradoxparables.wordpress.com)
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