We began learning about Sukkot last time on Foundations. Sukkot is the last or final feasts that the Lord deemed to be mandatory, annual celebrations. It’s also known as the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths. It’s also an agricultural celebration, a time of thanksgiving to God for His constant provision and care for His people.
The purpose of the living and eating in the booths or sukkah’s for seven days is to remember the days when their ancestors were wandering in the wilderness living in temporary dwellings as God provided for them for 40 years. The booths or sukkah’s had to have ceilings that are made of vegetation like branches or palm fronts that they can see the sky through.
There is also a bouquet of four species that God said were to be presented as a wave offering to him, it’s called a lulav and is made up of myrtle, willow, palm and an Etrog fruit which is a citrus type of fruit.
We finished off last time mentioning that a water offering was also part of the temple celebrations of Sukkot, when the High Priest would make his way to the Pool of Siloam, fill a golden vessel from the temple and after making his way back to the Temple itself, he would pour it out as an offering before the people. At that point the lulav would be waved and the people would sing together a portion of Psalm 118, the words being about the Messiah. They’re the same words the people sang when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and the religious leaders promptly got upset because they realised immediately that the people were declaring Jesus to be the Messiah.
During Temple times, the priests would light four enormous Menorahs and put on a bit of a light show with torch dances while the Levites provided the music and singing. These were wonderful times of enjoyment and celebration. Again, the significance of this is that Jesus declared Himself to be the Light of the World. (John 8:12) In John 9:5-11, Jesus used the waters in the Pool of Siloam to heal the man who had been born blind and this resulted in his miraculous healing which enabled him to see the Light of the World face to face – the very One who gave him the living water of Salvation!
Sukkot is a feast of great celebration and joy as God’s people remember how He led them out of bondage in Egypt and sustained them throughout their wanderings; He provided for them daily, their clothing never wore out, their shoes never wore out, He provided them with food and water; He was visibly present with them day and night leading and directing them until He finally led them into their Promised Land. As mentioned before, it’s also a celebration of the harvest, a time to thank God for His blessing on the land and His provision through His creation toward His people. (Deut 8:4, 29:5; Neh 9:21; Exo 13:21-22, 14:19, 16:35; 1 Cor 10:4)
Prior to Sukkot the Jews celebrate their new year and new beginnings with Rosh Hashanah and their expectation is high as they await their Messiah, their King and His coronation, with the attitude of repentant hearts, and Rosh Hashanah begins the Days of Awe that are ten days of repentance and preparation for Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement when a ‘scapegoat’ symbolically took their sin away after another goat gave its life as a substitute on behalf of the people. The substitute pays the penalty of sin, the scapegoat bears the burden of sin and carries it away, and the people are delivered and redeemed from the judgement of God, and are numbered in the book of life.
Sukkot occurs immediately after Yom Kippur and it is a time of absolute joy, great rejoicing because the people have recognised their sin, returned to the Lord, repented with sincere grief and remorse and judgement has been removed. Now the time of celebrating their restored fellowship to God has come, they express their love, devotion and gratitude for His on-going provision, protection and sustaining of His people. I kind of liken this – almost – to a wedding celebration – maybe a marriage supper of the Lamb…that’s just my own personal thoughts however.
During their wilderness wanderings, God’s house was the Tabernacle and He dwelt in the midst of His people in that Tabernacle. He wanted to be among them. Later, the Temple was built as a permanent structure. When Jesus was born, we read in John 1:14, that He became flesh and ‘dwelt among us’ and the word ‘dwelt’ means to ‘have one’s tabernacle’ or ‘abide or live in a tabernacle’. Jesus Himself was the tabernacle of God who came to live among us. In fact, every element and piece of furniture in the actual Tabernacle and Temple are symbolic of Jesus and His mission of redemption.
There is a very important future fulfilment of Sukkot that we can’t ignore. Sukkot remembers God’s protection in the wilderness and His dwelling among them in His Tabernacle and it’s also the ingathering of the harvests as He sustains them. Jesus tabernacled among us when He came to earth to live with us and His Gospel has spread throughout the whole earth. There is a future harvest yet to come and it will fulfil the promise God made to His people Israel.
When the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus the first time around, it opened the door for the Gentile world to come to faith in Him and be grafted in to the Commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12), but according to His promise to His people, the future in-gathering (harvest) of the Jewish people is absolutely assured. (Rom 11:25-29)
Sukkot is not only a celebration of past events in Israel’s history, it’s also a pre-celebration of the final and complete redemption and ingathering of Israel yet to come.
Today, the days of celebrating Sukkot have been extended to 9 days for the following reasons. The two days following Sukkot have been included and the ‘8th day’ is called Shemini Atzeret, because God mentions this 8th day in Numbers 9:35, so it became the day of final assembly to close out the Sukkot celebration.
The 9th day is Simchat Torah. I’ll tell you about that when that time comes around.