SUKKOT (TABERNACLES 2018)

‘Nations will come to your light’ (Isaiah 60:3)

As Access41 we look upon the feasts of the Old Testament as prophetic declarations of what is to come and has already come. Remember Jesus did it all and He is who we base all our revelations on.

Israel had always to look back on its history in order to understand its future. It’s annual feasts especially were both a remembrance of its past as well as an anticipation of things to come. The feasts are described as ‘signs’ and ‘appointed times’ (Exodus 31:13 ; Leviticus 23:2). ‘Signs’ (אתת) are a visible or present assurance of a future promise, while ‘appointed times’ (מעדים) designate specific events ordained by God in the fulfilment of His prophetic plan (see for example Exodus 9:5 and Hab. 2:3, where the same word is used).

‘Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’
 (Isaiah 46:9-10)

Tabernacles is the last of the appointed feasts and concludes the festive calendar to emphasise perfection and completion, it occurs in the seventh month, lasts for seven days and the number of its sacrifices are divisible by seven. 

Tabernacles is also called ‘the season of our joy’1 the ‘Feast of Ingathering’ (Ex. 23:16), the ‘Feast of YHVH’ (Lev. 23:39) or simply ‘the Feast’ (1 Kings 8:2). All these names add to its significance.

The ‘joy’ was at the ingathering at the end of the harvest season: ‘Sukkot [Tabernacles] is the time when the produce of the field, orchard and vineyard is gathered in. The granaries, threshing floors and wine and olive presses are full to capacity. Weeks and months of toil and sweat put into the soil have finally been amply rewarded. The farmer feels happy and elated. No wonder Sukkot is ‘the Season of Rejoicing’.2

But the Feast really anticipated the time of God’s harvest, when the remnant of Israel and the residue of the nations are reconciled and gathered to Him – the harvest of souls – hence ‘the Feast of YHVH’.

Tabernacles as a memorial of the Exodus

During Tabernacles all Israelites were required to live in tents for seven days, in remembrance of the fact that “I had Israel dwell in tents when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 23:43). God was manifestly present in her midst. In this she was protected and guided: ‘By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people’ (Ex. 13:21-22).

The same manifest presence of God was later concentrated on the the makeshift Temple of the wilderness, which Moses completed according to the Lord’s command: ‘Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out – until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels’ (Exodus 40:34-38).5

With God’s abiding presence and by His leading, Israel entered its Promised Land and conquered Jericho.

Israel marched around the city for seven days, and seven times on the final day. At the blast of trumpets, Israel gave a loud shout and the wall collapsed (Joshua 6:2-5). This event of the Exodus was re-enacted in the Temple during Tabernacles as an part of its celebrations: ‘On every one of the seven days the priests formed a procession, and made the circuit of the altar, singing: ‘O then, now work salvation, YHVH! O YHVH, give prosperity!’ (Ps. 118:25). But on the seventh, ‘that great day of the feast,’ they made the circuit of the altar seven times, remembering how the wall of Jericho had fallen in similar circumstances, and anticipating how, by the direct imposition of God, the wall of heathenism would fall before YHVH, and the land lie open for His people to possess it.’ (Edersheim, Temple, p. 222.)

Water was poured out onto the altar during this ceremony – ‘with loud exclamations of joy’6– symbolising the Holy Spirit,7 and commemorating the victory that is ‘not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord Almighty’ (Zech.4:6).

The conquest of Jericho contains another important link to the theme of ‘ingathering’ – the incorporation of faithful Gentiles into God’s people, and the lineage of Jesus, in the salvation of Rahab and her house. ‘Rahab’ – the Hebrew word for ‘enlarge’ – is used in Isaiah 54:2: ‘Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them extend the curtains of your habitations … for you will break forth on the right hand and on the left; and your seed shall take possession of nations, and make desolate cities to be inhabited.’8

In later history, the seventy bullocks prescribed as sacrifices at Tabernacles9 were offered up at the Feast for the seventy nations of the Gentile world.10

Tabernacles reminded Israel, on the one hand, of their dwelling in booths in the wilderness, while, on the other hand, it pointed to the final harvest when Israel’s mission should be completed, and all nations gathered unto the Lord.’ (Edersheim, Temple, p. 213.)

At the time Jesus attended the Feast,13 it was customary to light massive lamp-stands in the Temple courts during the seven days of Tabernacles. This was done in remembrance of the shechinah of former times, but arguably also in an attempt to emulate it through human effort. Edersheim describes the magnificent effect of these illuminations: ‘Four golden candelabras were there, each with four golden bowls, and against them rested four ladders, and youths of priestly descent held, each a pitcher of oil, capable of holding one hundred and twenty log, from which the filled each bowl. The old, worn out breeches and girdles of the priests served for wicks to these lamps. There was not a court in Jerusalem that was not lit up by the light of ‘the house of water pouring’. The ‘Chassidim’ and ‘the men of Deed’ danced before the people with flaming torches in their hands, and sang before them hymns and songs of praise.’ (Temple, pp. 224-225.)

Also at that time, pilgrims came to the Feast in Jerusalem from all over the world: ‘this was pre-eminently the Feast for foreign pilgrims, coming from the farthest distance, whose Temple-contributions were then received and counted. Despite the strange costumes of Media, Arabia, Persia, or India, and even further; or the Western speech and bearing of the pilgrims from Italy, Spain, the modern Crimea, and the banks of the Danube, if not from more strange and barbarous lands, it would not be difficult to recognize the lineaments of the Jew … They would come at this season of the year – not during the winter for the Passover, not yet quite so readily in summer’s heat for Pentecost. But now, in the delicious cool of early autumn, when all the harvest-operations, the gathering in of luscious fruit and the vintage were past, and the first streaks of gold were tinting the foliage, strangers from afar off, the countrymen of Judaea, Paraea, and Gililee, would mingle in the streets of Jerusalem, under the ever present shadow of that glorious sanctuary of marble, cedar-wood and gold … ‘ (Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, p.576).

The true light by which the nations would be attracted was not however the opulence and wealth of Herod’s Temple, nor the grandeur and excesses of Solomon, nor even any re-enactment or return of the shechina, but the light of God’s holiness, an emanation of God’s divine nature through a manifestation of His own being. Nor would the ingathering of the nations be into a defined physical locality, but rather into the Kingdom of God which Jesus had then declared to be ‘at hand’. Nor would the wealth and tribute flowing into Jerusalem be of the kind of silver and gold, but rather the fruits of the faith which are to God more precious than any metal (1 Pet. 1:7).

Messiah would thus come as ‘the radiance of YHVH’s glory’ – full of grace and truth.14Nations would either come to this light, or be condemned by it – for this is the verdict: ‘Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God’ (John 3:19-21).

(The above all from Edersheim’s book)

Sukkot is about JOY

Are we full of JOY as followers of Jesus? When a friend was asked this question, her reply was “I’m happy, living a relaxed life, doing what I want, but I am not joyful.”

Clearly there’s a difference between happiness and joy. Author Oswald Chambers offers this explanation: “Joy is different from happiness, because happiness depends on what happens. There are elements in our circumstances we cannot help; joy is independent of them all.”

So where can we find joy? In Pappa!

The numerous commands to rejoice in Him (Psalm 5:11Psalm 9:2Psalm 32:11Psalm 40:16Philippians 3:14:4) show that it’s possible for all believers to experience the joy of the Lord. And because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, we can rejoice in who He is as well as His actions during good days and bad days.

Psalm 43:1-5

Look at what the psalmist did to find joy again: First, he spoke to God about his circumstances (Psalm 43:1-2). He not only spoke but wailed, bleated, complained and maybe even beat his breast!! But more than simply asking God for help, he asked for light and truth that would guide him to God and His exceeding joy. He spoke to his soul (Psalm 43:5). Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? We partner with our doubts, circumstances and fears. Speak hope to your soul when your circumstances are speaking of desperation. Tell yourself: “Hope in God,” “praise Him again,” for He is “my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 43:5).

“The kingdom of God is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17).

“Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, you righteous: and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart” (Psalm 32:11).

“Everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee” (Isaiah 35:10).

“Break forth into joy, sing together, For the Lord has comforted His people” (Isaiah 52:9).

“Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy” (Isaiah 60:5).

“Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).

“Thou hast put gladness in my heart” (Psalm 4:7).

“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

False expectations will steal your joy. If you expect Jesus to make you always healthy, wealthy, and happy, these are false expectations and a deadly set up.

Forgetfulness will steal your joy. It’s really good to just remember and remember and remember and remember the history of God’s goodness throughout redemptive history as well as throughout your life because it helps you draw from the well of joy.

Self-absorption will steal your joy. If you start worrying about all the little things in life that aren’t the way we want them that will steal your joy. Narcissistic self-centeredness and self-analysis, getting all caught up in trying to interpret every little thing in your life – that will steal it.

Being ruled by your feelings will steal your joy. Instead let truth control you and your feelings. Fact vs Truth.

Written by Claudia Purser

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