Without a doubt, Sukkot is the most joyful of the seven God-ordained annual holidays. In my book it’s as much fun as Purim and Chanukkah combined! Now to be honest, you could chalk some of it up to relief at having made it through the repentance and solemnity of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. But the Feast of Tabernacles has elements of so many fun things: camping out, lamb roast, singing and dancing and shmoozing, decorating, pomegranates…
But beyond the great joy that characterizes the holiday, perhaps it is because Sukkot is so comprehensive in its scope, that it came to be known in Israel as HaChag – The Festival and also as Z’man Simchateinu – The Season of Our Rejoicing!
Sukkot requires that we look back and remember. Adonai wanted us to recall how He had us dwell in temporary shelters, sukkas, during our wilderness wandering, and that He had something much better ahead for us – the Land of Promise.
Sukkot, as Jerry has well reminded us, also requires that we look within and reassess, knowing that this world and everything in it, including this sukkah we call the human body, is temporary and will pass away.
I. Forecasting the Nearer Future
But Sukkot also requires that we look up, look ahead and rejoice at what God has planned for redeemed humanity. He wants us to celebrate Sukkot, in part, because through its observance, we learn something of the glorious future awaiting God’s people. We anticipate with joy the World-To-Come, when God will build His great sukkah, His tabernacle in our very midst.
However, as most of you know, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. In fact, things will get much worse. Writing 2,600 years ago, the prophet Zechariah foretold a grim scenario for Israel – what is known elsewhere in Scripture as “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble.” According to this prophecy, found in Zechariah chapter 14, armies representing all the nations of the world will gather and surrounded Israel, intent on annihilating the Jewish people and destroying Jerusalem. Hey, why us? What did we ever do? Don’t bother trying to understand the logic there – it doesn’t exist. The worldwide hatred of Israel and the Jews doesn’t flow from logic. It flows from the pit, and you cannot reason with satanic hatred. But no matter – those armies, according to this prophecy, will be utterly destroyed by no less than Yeshua Himself, who will come – in person – to rescue His people. But don’t take my word for it:
Behold, a day is coming for Adonai when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. “For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city.” Then Adonai will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south… And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter. And Adonai will be king over all the earth; in that day Adonai will be the only one, and His name the only one (Zechariah 14:1-4, 8-9).
But let’s return to the theme of Sukkot and our glorious future. Did you know that in the millennial reign of Messiah the entire world will be celebrating Sukkot? It’s true. Of all the biblical holidays, the Holiday of Tabernacles is the only one specifically named as continuing into the Millennium. In that very same chapter of Zechariah, the prophet describes what will take place after that terrible, final war of this Age, when Israel is rescued from annihilation and Messiah Yeshua takes His rightful place on the throne of David to rule for a thousand years:
Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths (Zechariah 14:16-19).
Three times it’s stated that we’re all going to be celebrating the Holiday of Tabernacles, and three times it’s stated that any nation that refuses to honor this God-ordained Israeli holiday will receive no rain. And from the three-fold reference to Egypt not sending representatives to Jerusalem, it appears that Messiah’s reign will be, at least for a time, met with resistance from some quarters. It is interesting that Egypt is singled out here, and from that we can infer that Egypt will be one of those nations that refuses to get on board with Yeshua and with honoring the God of Israel and observing Sukkot, and as a result, they will get no rain. Imagine a drought in a climate like the Middle East!
I mention this, because there is a corollary prophecy in Isaiah chapter 19, in which Egypt is besieged by oppressors, and in need of rescue, and in that chapter it says that God will send them “a Savior and Champion” after which the Egyptians will be worshiping the God of Israel, speaking Hebrew and joining in fellowship with Israelis and Iraqis to worship together! I’m not making this up – there WILL be peace in the Middle East. And the sukkah – a dwelling place, is the perfect symbol for the unity that will eventually characterize life during Messiah’s Millennial reign.
II. Forecasting the Eternal Future
And Sukkot causes us to look ahead to eternity when God will make His abode in our midst. Listen to these words and rejoice with me at what the John wrote about God’s future dwelling place – His sukkah:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them!” (Rev. 21:1-3).
Everything will be made new!
And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
We’re really supposed to learn this lesson of the temporariness of everything in this Age as we contemplate the fragile nature of the sukkah.
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new!” (Rev. 21:4-5a).
Adonai, the Creator Himself, will build His sukkah, make His tabernacle among us, and He will make all things new – which is why I believe God commanded Sukkot to last seven days plus one. Sukkot is the culmination of God’s commanded biblical holidays. It is the seventh of them and falls in the seventh month, and it lasts seven days. Ah, but there is an eighth day of holding back – we call it Shemini Atzeret. And if seven is the biblical number of perfection and of completion, then what does the number eight represent, but a new beginning. And things will be new even between us!
III. Forecasting the Joyful Unity of that Future
Heenay ma tov, u’manayeem, shevet acheem gam yachad! Behold, how good and how pleasant – how delightful it is, for brothers to dwell together in unity – to live as one (Psalm 133:1)!
One of the things we discover as we study the history of how Israel observed Sukkot in ancient times is that during the week of the holiday, there were seventy sacrifices offered. It began with thirteen sacrifices on the first day, and reduced in number until the seventh day, when seven would be offered, totaling seventy. Why seventy? Because in the ancient world it was thought that there were seventy nations in the world. And so the implication of Sukkot is that men and women from every nation on earth will be welcomed to come, by faith, and dwell with Israel under God’s great sukkah! Jews and Gentiles together! In my book, that’s beautiful!
To be sure, there are many people, and all too many professional clergy, who bristle at the idea of Jews and Gentiles worshiping together. Some have a vested interest in maintaining the divide. But it’s an artificial divide, and the truth of it is that they are fighting against God, who from of ancient times revealed His greater calling for mankind. Consider these powerful words, uttered by the ancient Jewish prophet Isaiah:
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from His people.” Nor let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord, “To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off. Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath and holds fast My covenant; even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, “Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered” (Isaiah 56:3-8).
Yeshua echoed those words when He declared,
“I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:14-16).
So then, it was always God’s intent for Jews and Gentiles to become one flock, one people, in the good care of Yeshua our Messiah and our one Great Shepherd. Some people have attempted to re-erect the dividing wall, but it will not prevail. What Messiah has demolished, let no man rebuild.
For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross (Ephesians 2:14-16a).
That unity is both for now, and for all eternity…
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands (a hint of Sukkot!); and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10).
We’re going to be spending eternity together! And lest anyone think the concept of Jews and Gentiles dwelling and worshiping together was a New Covenant invention, consider just a handful of passages from the Tanakh that affirmed the very same – in come cases almost 1,000 years before Yeshua came into the world. The psalmist and Israel’s prophets affirmed this very thing:
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him
Therefore glorify the Lord in the east, the name of the Lord, the God of Israel in the coastlands of the sea.
The Lord will be awesome to them when he destroys all the gods of the land. The nations on every shore will worship him, every one in its own land.
Forecasting the future from the Sukkah, I’d say we’re in for joy and blessing the likes of which we can’t even begin to imagine! Rabbi Paul, quoting the prophet Isaiah declared, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9). We have a great Sukkot celebration to come!