We are celebrating Sukkot, and so let’s read from the Torah, from Leviticus 23:33-43: Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths for seven days to the Lord. On the first day is a holy gathering; you shall do no regular work of any kind. For seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy gathering and present an offering by fire to the Lord; it is an assembly. You shall do no regular work … 39 On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.'”
Sukkot Is About Obedience to the Lord’s Commands It is the Lord our God, the Supreme Being who commanded Israel to celebrate this holiday. Five times the Lord says that the things that are part of this holiday are to be observed “Lah-Adonai – to the Lord, or for the Lord.” We celebrate this holiday because the Almighty commanded it. Of course, the Lord has the right to command us to set apart special times to observe. The Lord has the right to command us to set apart all kinds of things that we are to do, even if they are not convenient for us. All Jewish men were required to travel to Jerusalem and live outdoors in booths for seven days and observe this time. Even if we didn’t feel like traveling to Jerusalem, which for some could be a four or five day journey each way, and then building a little shack outdoors, and living with the whole family in this little shack, which may not have protected everyone from the elements, we were required to do so anyway. Sukkot reminds us that serving the Lord is not about our convenience. It is about submitting ourselves, our lives, to the commands of the King of kings. We must obey His commands that apply to us. Do you? We must fear the Lord. If not, why not?
Sukkot Is About Fulfilment The God of Israel, the Creator of the universe, is a God of wisdom, and counsel. He is a God of plan and order. He plans and He fulfills. We want to make sure that we are included in His plans, and take part in their fulfillment. Sukkot is very much about plans and fulfillment. This holiday begins on the fifteenth of this seventh month, in the very middle of the month, when the moon is full. It occurs in the very middle of the year. It exactly divides the calendar, occurring six months after Passover, and six months before Passover. The Lord tells us to set apart not just one day, but seven days, to celebrate this very important holiday. It is a full week in which we are refreshed physically and spiritually. It is a full week of celebration, eating and drinking, of rest, of sacrifice, of worship, of thanksgiving, of happiness. It is a whole week to be with friends and family. It is a complete week to draw closer to God. It is the seventh holiday and it takes place in the seventh month. The number seven communicates completion. This holiday completes all the other holidays. Passover instructs us to place our faith in Yeshua, the Passover Lamb who died for our sins. The holiday of Matzah teaches us that Messiah Himself is sinless, like the pure unleavened bread. The One who is fully God and fully man is the fulfillment of the Feast of First Fruits. He is the first human being to be raised from the dead. The Sinless One overcame our two greatest enemies – sin and death, and if we believe in Him, we will enable us to overcome sin and death so that we can live forever! In fulfillment of Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks), God the Father and Messiah the Son sent the Holy Spirit to the community of believers, to forever connect us to God, and make us the Temple of God, so that God forever dwells in us, and give us new spiritual life, and empower us to live our lives in a way that are pleasing to God. On Yom Truah, the first day of the seventh month, we blow the shofar, and consider the things that the shofar reminds us of, especially our need to be prepared to meet the Holy King who is coming for us. We searched our souls for the Yomim Nora’eem – the 10 Days of Awe between Yom Truah and Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur reminds us of judgment, so on Yom Kippur we fasted and prayed and turned to the Lord. The seventh holiday – the Feast of Sukkot, is the culmination of all the holidays. All those who have been reconciled to the God of Israel, by trusting and following the wonderful Messiah who He sent, will be gathered and welcomed into His glorious and eternal His Kingdom, and be covered with His covering of everlasting peace and protection, and reign with Him forever and ever! God has a great plan to save humanity that is revealed in these holidays. Sukkot is the fulfillment of them all. We must make sure that we are part of this great plan. Are you?
Sukkot Is a Time for Extra Rest The Lord, in His wisdom, commanded us to set aside the first and eighth days of Sukkot for rest. All during the year, we worked hard. We raised the animals, we kept up our homes, we raised the children, we prepared the ground to plant, we planted our seeds, we pulled the weeds, we kept the animals away from the crops, we harvested the crops. Now the Lord insists that we take extra time to rest. He wants us to cease from our labors, and rest, and think about Him. The Almighty God wants us to understand that apart from His work, our labors will accomplish nothing. Apart from God’s work, there would be no harvest. There would be no fertile land to grow things on, no seeds to plant, no sun to shine on the growing plants, no rain to water them, no strength to harvest them. The Lord wants us to understand that we can only do so much. The universe won’t fall apart if we are not working all the time. He wants us to trust Him to provide. Are you a workaholic? Are you getting enough rest in your life? Are you trusting in the Lord to provide? This principle of rest also applies to the work of salvation. None of our efforts, our work, no matter how hard we exert ourselves, none of our strivings can bring about atonement. There are not enough good deeds that we can accomplish, commandments that we can fulfill, religious obligations that we can do, purity that we can achieve, that will save us. We must cease from trying to save ourselves. Instead, we must recognize that God and Messiah have done the hard work of salvation for us. God sent the Messiah, who lived a perfect life, and then died for us, and rose again for us. All we have to do is thank God for sending the Messiah, trust God and Messiah, believe in God and Messiah, follow God and Messiah. Apart from the work of God, there is no salvation, no fulfilment, no hope, no everlasting kingdom to enjoy. Are you resting from your own efforts to attain salvation, and instead, trusting in what God and Messiah ave already worked on your behalf?
Sukkot Is a Time for Extra Sacrifices The korbanot – the sacrifices, enabled the men and women of Israel who had true faith in God to draw closer to God. We always want to be close to God, and we try to draw near to Him during our regular lives, but the Lord encouraged us to have special times, more intense times, to draw even closer to Him. During the seven days of Sukkot, special sacrifices were offered – sin offerings to atone for our sins, and help us get rid of anything that would interfere with our relationship to God. We want a clear channel of communication between us and God, and a clean conscience, and the sin offerings helped us achieve that. We also offered extra burnt offerings, which expressed our love and dedication to the Lord. How is your relationship to the Living God? Is there sin in your life? Are you devoted to the Lord, dedicated to Him? Are you loving Him with all your heart, soul and mind? Let’s turn away from our sins, and love the Lord, and zealously serve Him.
Sukkot Is a Time for Extra Worship The first and eighth days are set apart to be special holy gatherings. On those two days we are not to do regular work of any kind. Instead we must worship. There weren’t required gatherings for the whole community during most of the week. You could stay in your sukkah, eating and drinking and welcoming visitors. Or, you could visit others in their sukkot. Or, you could wander around Jerusalem, maybe climb the Mount of Olives, and see the sights. Maybe you could do engage in a little work and pick up a little extra money. You could do what you wanted. But not during the first and eighth days – you had to assemble with everyone – I assume at the Temple, and participate in the songs and prayers and sacrifices that took place there. God has always been seeking worshipers, who worship Him in spirit and in truth – in spirit, as opposed to worship by ritual, worship that is based on ceremonies, and not worship that comes from a heart that really knows and loves the Lord; worship that is based on the truth, not on error or the traditions of men. Are you one of the Lord’s worshipers? Are you worshiping Him in spirit and in truth?
Sukkot Is a Time for Extra Joy During this holiday we are to rejoice before the Lord our God for seven days. God’s people are to be a happy people, a joyous people. Our source of happiness is the Lord Himself, and not our circumstances. Our source of joy is in the Lord, more than in our successes, our money, our accomplishments. We are happy because the Lord is our God, and we are His people. He is so great, greater than the universe, and yet he knows us and loves us, and is committed to take care of us – physically and spiritually. We are rejoicing in the God of our salvation, delighted to know Him and be known by Him, to love Him and be loved by Him. We are joyously drawing water from the wells of salvation. We are saved, and know it. We are headed to Heaven and sure of it! We will live forever with God and Messiah, filled with the Holy Spirit of God and Messiah, and we are ecstatic by our knowledge of it! This is the source of our joy.
Sukkot Is a Time to Live in Booths The Lord tells us that all native-born Jews are to live in shacks for seven days. He gives us the primary reason: so that all of our people, throughout our generations, may know that the Eternal God had the sons of Israel live in booths when He brought us out from the land of Egypt. Living in these small shacks remind us of the Y’tzee-at Mitzraim, the Exodus from Egypt, and our 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Living in booths reminds us that God brought us out of Egypt. He is a real God, who is able to act powerfully in this world. He talked to Moses, He did miracles, He sent plagues and judgments on those who opposed Him. Living in booths reminds us that the Lord is a God who chooses. He chose Israel, not Egypt. He chooses those who come to faith in Yeshua, and not those who follow some other religious leader. Living in booths reminds us that the Lord is a God who saves – who frees a nation of slaves from bitter oppression. He brought us out of the mighty Egyptian empire, and parted the Red Sea and delivered us to freedom. Living in booths reminds us that the Lord is a God who gives laws – like He did at Sinai. Living in booths reminds us that the Lord is a God who provides. He fed millions of people and animals in a desert. He brings water from rock, and manna from Heaven. Living in booths reminds us that the Lord is a God who spreads His protective covering over us. He protected Israel with a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night. When we were faithful and obedient, His protective covering shielded Israel from the Egyptians. And, His protective covering will shield you, if you are faithful to God and Messiah, so that you are brought safely to the goal, to your final destination. Living in booths reminds us that the Lord is a God who dwells in humble circumstances with us. While we dwelt in booths, the Lord Himself dwelt in a moveable tent. God dwelt in a temporary building with us – the Ohel Moed – the Tent of Meeting, the Tabernacle. Is it that surprising that the One is rightly is called Immanuel – God with us, was born into a humbled people, a poor family, and placed in a feeding trough for animals when He was born? Is it out of character that the exalted Son of God, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a frail humanity, and humbled Himself even further by dying on a cross? Living in booths reminds us that the Lord is a God who travels with us. We travel in a difficult place, but the Lord with us. We journeyed through a wilderness, but God journeyed with us. We traveled through a desert, but our God was in the desert with us. And, as you travel through difficult and hard places, remember that the Lord is with you, traveling with you, and will help you though those difficult places. Living in booths reminds us that the Lord is a God who will allow a faithless generation to die in the wilderness, and raise up a new generation that will be faithful to Him. He is a God of righteousness and judgment, but also a God of grace, mercy and forgiveness. Living in booths reminds us that the Lord is a God who is bringing us to a better place, from slavery and oppression in Egypt, from hardship in the wilderness, to the promised Land, flowing with milk and honey, rest and prosperity. And, He is bringing us from domination by the dominion of darkness, to the kingdom of God, from life in a world of sin and suffering, to a world of everlasting life and fulness of peace and rest and joy, where suffering, sorrow, pain and tears are unknown. Living in booths reminds us our lives are so short. This world is not our ultimate home. We are just visitors, strangers, wanderers, pilgrims traveling through. Like father Abraham, we look for another city in another world. We look for our permanent homes on the New Earth, in the New Jerusalem. Therefore our priorities are not about money and things and success in this world, but we pour our time and energy into evangelism, and building up the community of believers. Living in booths reminds us that the God of Israel is the kind of God who wants to make His home with us, to pitch His tent among us, to build His Sukkah, to tabernacle among us.
He is not the kind of God who wants to be distant from his creation, aloof from mankind, but rather He wants to draw near to us, and have us get closer to Him. Therefore is it all that surprising when God, who dwelt in a tent with us in the wilderness, 1500 years later came among us and dwelt in a human body? If God can dwell in a tent, can’t He tabernacle among us, and dwell in a human, who is made in His image? These commands to observe Sukkot are perpetual statutes that are to be observed throughout our generations. Israel is to observe these things every year. But, even if we build sukkot, and wave our lulovs and etrogs, and rest on the first and eighth days, are we really observing Sukkot if we don’t go up to Jerusalem, and if the required sacrifices are not offered? No. Today there is only an incomplete Sukkot, an unfulfilled Sukkot, an inadequate Sukkot. But, thanks be to God that although we can’t fully observe Sukkot right now, Christians and Messianic Jews are part of the New Covenant, brought about by God and the Messiah, where we are complete, and forgiven, and are given hope and a future! Therefore we rejoice in the God who still dwells among us, the Messiah who tabernacles with us, the Holy Spirit who indwells us. We are confident that we will take part in the fulfillment of all things – including the fulfillment of Sukkot! Fill us with your joy, our Lord our God. Help us to be genuinely happy. Draw us closer to Yourself! Enable us to be forgiven from all of our sins, have a clean conscience, be filled with the Spirit, filled with love for God and man, zealous to obey, resting in the work of God and Messiah!