by Dr. Greg Stone, Associate Pastor of Jewish Ministries at Gateway Church
What’s the biggest holiday of your year? Your anniversary? A birthday? In the Bible, it is Tabernacles (Sukkot) which is often just called “The Feast.” How big is it? More animals were sacrificed on Sukkot than on all the other Feasts combined and tripled!
Sukkot is the Feast that joyfully celebrates Israel’s humble beginnings with the promise of a glorious hope.
Israel’s Humble Past
God gave Sukkot to Israel so that she would always remember that God carried her through the 40 years in the desert. Sukkot is a 7-day feast that has an 8th day for a “closing assembly.” The 8th day reminds us that God promises an end to hard times.
God told Israel to live in booths (sukkot) for seven days every year as reminder of the 40 years (Lev. 23:41-43). Sukkot were shaky, temporary booths. The roofs were made of slats that were placed closely to one another and thatched with branches. Sunlight and rain peaked through, but the roof provided more shelter than sky. The occupant could look up through the slatted roof toward the One who provided protection and stability that a temporary sukkah could not provide. As they looked up through the roof at the clouds in the sky, Israel would be reminded of the glory cloud that led Israel through the wilderness. Jews still build sukkot today.
Yeshua’s Humble Past
Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness. Similarly, Yeshua fasted 40 days in the wilderness. Before those 40 days, Yeshua submitted Himself to a greater humbling. He left the throne in heaven. “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” (Jn. 1:14, ISV).
Paul describes it. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8, NKJV).
Your Humble Past
Sukkot reminds you that God has carried you through the challenges of your past, and He will continue to carry you. He works all things together for your good (Rom. 8:28), and for the good of those that you can reach for Him (2 Cor. 1:4).
The Lord can even use the sin of your past to propel you. When I was young, I dropped out of college because of a drug addiction. Then I joined the military. It was there that I met Yeshua and my wife. Today, we have five children and 11 grandchildren. God also restored my educational pursuits beyond my imagination. None of that would have happened had I not become an addict. He used my past. He will use yours, too.
“Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2, NKJV).
Israel’s Festival of Joy
Israel calls Sukkot “the season of our joy.” The work of the harvest was over. The celebration included a Levitical procession with singing, torches and dancing. Four candelabras stood 75-feet lighting up Jerusalem. It was during Sukkot that Yeshua proclaimed, “I am the light of the world.” (Jn. 8:12). Israel had a joyful water ceremony. The Talmud says, “Who has not seen the rejoicing at the place of the water-drawing has never seen rejoicing in his life.” It was at the water ceremony that Yeshua challenged all who were thirsty to come to Him (Jn. 7:37-39).
Israel poured water out rejoicing in their deliverance from 40 years of a dry desert for they were now in the Promised Land. Sukkot is God’s big party! It reminds us to take time to celebrate the goodness of God for He has brought us out of our desert experiences. What has God brought you out of? What can you celebrate today?
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to give God thanks “in all circumstances.” Beyond that, Ephesians 5:20 challenges us to give God thanks “for all things.” Yeshua modeled thankfulness when He gave thanks over the bread saying, “This is my body broken for you.” How will God use your suffering to bless your future?
Recently, I was challenged to be thankful when I tore my rotator cuff in a painful accident requiring surgery. Simultaneously, someone I love was also suffering from another malady. We reminded each other to not wish the hard days away, for Moses described the person who is under a curse as always wishing that the present be put behind them: “In the morning you will say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and in the evening, ‘If only it were morning!’” (Deut. 28:67). That is living under the curse!
No matter what you are struggling with today, recognize that you will only live so many days. Wise people know this (Ps. 90:12). If you trust God, you will make the most of every day and set yourself up for the most joyful future.
Sukkot has the promise of a glorious future. The Bible shows this by the sacrifices. Bulls are sacrificed in a countdown fashion: thirteen on the first day, twelve on the second day…until the seventh day when seven were offered. A total of seventy bulls were offered over the seven days representing the 70 nations in the Table of Nations (Gen. 10). Sukkotpoints to the final harvest of the nations. On the Closing Eighth Day, one bull was sacrificed pointing to the fulfillment of God’s plan for the ages. Israel will have completed her mission to be a light to the nations (Isa. 60:1-6).
One day you will have completed your mission. You will leave the shaky tabernacle called a “human body.” You will enter God’s eternal Tabernacle. And, you will look upon the face of God.
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. …They shall see His face” (Rev. 21:3 & 22:4, NKJV).
Just imagine that day when God and you tabernacle together! What do think that first moment will be like? If there were one thing you wanted to do before you saw God face-to-face, what would it be? Why not get started today?
Dr. Greg Stone serves Gateway Church as the Associate Pastor of Jewish Ministries. Raised as a Conservative Jew, he received Yeshua as Israel’s promised Messiah when he was 24 years old. After pastoring for 20 years, he received a Doctorate in Messianic Leadership from The King’s University.