Jewish High Holy Days and their relevance for disciples of Jesus
Part 3: The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)
Editors Note: to see part 1 click Part 1
To see Part 2 click Part 2
While several stores are already gearing up for Halloween, there are some holidays during this time of year that God’s word speaks about that often get overlooked by disciples. For those interested in understanding the messianic significance of the Jewish festivals, they should take note that all three of the fall holy days in 2010 take place during September. We learned that Sept 8-9 (1st of Tishri) marked the Feast of Trumpets (referred to by the rabbis as Rosh HaShanah), continuing ten days later with Yom Kippur and concluding with the Feast of Tabernacles, also known as Sukkot, for seven days. They are described in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 29.
Although gentile believers (non Jews) are not bound to observe these feasts, there remains, however a richness in understanding the meaning of these feasts which God appointed for the Israelites so long ago and are still observed. God’s appointed feasts focus around an agricultural cycle of events which would be a constant reminder of God’s purpose and provisions and an opportunity to both depend upon and demonstrate the power of the God of Israel.
As disciples there are several benefits in understanding the significance of these appointed times on the Jewish calendar year.. First of all, the festivals are beautiful shadows of the Messiah (Colossians 2:16-17). They foreshadow Gods plan of salvation in several ways. Once we understand how they correspond with the Messiah and his kingdom( I Corinthians 5:7) they can build our faith as we see how the scriptures (both OT and NT) are so wondrously inter woven. Another benefit of knowing about the festivals involves our ability to show consideration to Jewish neighbors and coworkers. For those reaching out to Jewish friends it is extremely helpful in our efforts to lovingly relate to them (I Corinthians 9:20-22) and let them know we appreciate the true Jewish heritage of Christianity. They also make for great conversation starters with Jewish coworkers. Another benefit is the lessons that are contained in these feasts. Although our Messiah fulfilled the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17) their lessons still have great relevance to our lives. In addition, Paul's said those things that were written down in the Hebrew Scriptures ages ago were intended to encourage us today(Romans 15:4). With this in mind let us consider how understanding the Feast of Tabernacles can be so enriching.
September 22-30: Five days after Yom Kippur brings us to the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33, Num 29:12-37). This is a time around the coming of Fall, that involves seven days of celebration and of dwelling in "sukkahs" (booths, or tabernacles). This festival is a reminder of the time during the 40 year wilderness wandering when God dwelt among His people in the wilderness and provided for them in amazing ways. This was an extended “camping trip” for over three million people enroute to the promised land. The recounting of the wondrous ways that God provided for the Israelites is beautifully and poetically described in Psalm 78.
He did miracles in the sight of their fathers in the land of Egypt…
He divided the sea and led them through
He made the water stand firm like a wall…
He guided them with the cloud by day and with light from the fire at night.
He split the rocks in the desert and gave them water as abundant as the seas
Traditionally Jews celebrate this joyful holiday by building small temporary shelters or booths, in which they spend time living in. What greater way to pass on the lessons of how God worked in the wilderness than to sit in a small dwelling with ones children recounting the stories of Gods mighty deeds among His people? The memories of traveling through the desert and witnessing how God took care of all the needs of His people were powerful history lessons of God’s kindness and power. The fact that the Jewish people passed on these stories to the younger generation is one explanation for their continual survival as a people.
What we have heard and known,
What our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power, and the wonders he has done.
This is actually one of the most joyful of all the Jewish holidays and is oftentimes called the Jewish Thanksgiving. In fact it is believed by many historians that the traditional American Thanksgiving has its roots and origin in this Jewish festival of Sukkot. Can you imagine seven days of Thanksgiving? Truly God’s people knew how to party with a week of festive activities! Even in Israel today, the celebrations are taking place with countless parades and parties in backyards, on roof tops, and balconies.
Tabernacle means “a tent” or “a dwelling. Based on the memory of Gods dwelling with the Israelites, it also points to the coming of Messiah, the time when the Creator would come to dwell with us in the person of Jesus Christ. As John wrote, “And the Word was God” and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). In other words He tabernacled with us.
John 7 records how Jesus observed that feast. Two thousand years ago, on the last day of Sukkot, a festival that was marked at that time by a water-drawing procession from the pool of Siloam to the Temple altar, Yeshua cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, “out of his heart will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37-38). In the wilderness He provided over a two million Israelites with water in the desert. In our wilderness today Jesus offers to provide us with living water and the bread of life. Let us pray that the Jewish people would find these rivers of living water for themselves!.
As this season is intended to focus on soul-searching and repentance among many Jews, let us pray for the Spirit of God to draw His ancient people to Himself, showing them the reality of their sin, their need for forgiveness, and revealing to them that true atonement is only found in Jesus the Messiah.
During this season, we as believers would benefit from seeing these feasts as an opportunity for great spiritual renewal. Let us seize the moment and let it draw us nearer to God. May the hope and sweetness contained in these fall feasts overtake you with thanksgiving and awe. Let us pick up a cue from the wisdom of the Torah and as Israel was commanded to do in Deuteronomy 6:1-9,s use these appointed times to sit down with our children and share the record of how God has worked in history and our personal lives. These appointed time can be opportunities to build great memories with friends and family while building faith in God. By observing such feasts we show respect for our Jewish roots no matter our ethnic background. We also open the door for great conversations that lead us to proclaim that the promised coming One, the Messiah, has arrived and fulfilled each and every one of those feasts.
Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture will praise you forever
from generation to generation we will recount your praise. (Psalm 79:13)
posted by Jerry Maday, Worcester, MA