Shabbat Shalom! This morning we have heard from Rabbi Glenn about the meaning of Sukkot as a joyful celebration in our past and its importance still today. So now, Lord willing, I will try and pick up from where he left off and share with you some thoughts about Sukkot, for us in the present but also in the future.
I feel like Sukkot can get overlooked compared to Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. While I don’t have any scientific figures, most non-Orthodox Jews I’ve known never seemed to celebrate or care about Sukkot the same way they did about the other two holidays. If I am being honest I would include myself among them. We see people turn out for these other fall holidays but during Sukkot many disappear. For whatever reason Sukkot doesn’t seem to have the same importance.
Yet in the Tanakh Sukkot is considered the most important holiday, so important that it is simply referred to as The Holiday in 1 Kings 8:2. Sukkot is also known as Z’man Simchateinu, the season of our rejoicing. It was commanded by the Lord that we be full of joy during this time, especially needed I think after the somber nature of Yom Kippur. Sukkot teaches us the source of real joy in this life, a joy beyond our circumstances, found in the Lord and the wonderful future He has promised those who believe in Him through Messiah Yeshua.
But the command to be joyful can be hard for many of us. There are many things in this world that make it difficult to have joy. For some of us it is not having enough money to meet our basic needs. For others it is in our relationships with friends and family. Beyond our own homes there is stress and darkness in the world around us, in our cities, countries, and the world in general. I could keep going but I am sure plenty of things have already popped into your head. None of these things are really new, we’ve been struggling with them since our parents Adam and Eve were kicked out of the wonderful Garden of Eden. But many studies have shown that depression, loneliness, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts are on the rise among people.
This isn’t something just found in the culture around us, but within Messiah’s Community of Jews and Gentiles as well. I’ve seen people be surprised that joy is considered a spiritual discipline. Or the fact that joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is sometimes glossed over for other fruits. So, the idea of having a holiday dedicated to Godly joy can be a very foreign concept to many.
That joy can be so foreign, even in Messiah’s Community, is because we too often think about our faith and our relationship with Adonai as one of just atonement and somberness. There is a dangerous type of thinking that equates feeling bad with being pious. That the more bad we feel, the more we beat ourselves up, the more righteous we are. We are commanded to mourn our sin, to atone and repent, but our relationship with God is more than just sorrow and suffering. We are commanded to be joyful during Sukkot, to celebrate this feast with overwhelming joy with others. Adonai wants us to be happy, there is a time for sadness but there is also a time for joy.
In fact, we find this same command for joy in Sukkot echoed even more strongly in the New Testament. As Rabbi Paul wrote in Philippians 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” It is not a call to rejoice sometimes, or to rejoice when everything is just going well, but to have joy always.
But how can we have joy beyond our current circumstances? There are a couple answers offered to this question. First, we have the answer of our culture. We live in a society that very effectively tries to convince us that stuff, all sorts of stuff, will fix our problems. Whether it is in the form of a pill, or outfit, or piece of technology, we are promised this new thing will fix everything wrong! It just turns us into consumers, we consume stuff and hope through that consumption all the deep and complex problems of our lives are fixed through our own work and power. That we will finally be happy, and everything will be okay. It is the belief that humanity can give itself real joy and solve the problems of suffering and darkness around us. We don’t need anyone but ourselves! This isn’t just the answer our culture provides but one that unfortunately modern Judaism offers as well. Growing up I was raised going to Shema but also attending Reformed Hebrew school.
At Hebrew school I was taught that there would never be a personal Messiah, but rather the Messianic Age would only come about from people creating it. We had to be the ones to make it happen, we had to fix the world.
This quote from Reformjudaism.org on their belief in a Messiah really summarizes their thinking. “In the 19th century, the earliest Reform Rabbis rejected all of the “end of days” beliefs as superstitious and anti-intellectual. They made a radical change: instead of praying for a Messiah, we now pray for a Messianic Age.” Believing in a future joy through the Messiah and the Day of the Lord is “superstitious and anti-intellectual”!
Here is the truth though, we cannot save ourselves. We cannot, through our own power fix the world. For all our technology and advancements, we live in a time where people feel sadder and more alone than ever. This is because we live in a world covered in deep darkness, we are separated from our Creator because of sin and there is a huge distance between us here right now and heaven where Adonai dwells.
He no longer walks this Earth the same way He did in the Garden of Eden. He is everywhere on this planet, but we cannot talk to Him face to face on our own like Adam did. We cannot live with the Lord like we did in Eden and there is no way for us to repair this through our own power. The solution is not found in intellectual human progress or consumerism, but in the simple and flimsy Sukkah.
The Sukkah points us back and points us forward. It points us back to our ancestors wandering in the wilderness, living in tents like the Sukkah. They found their joy not in the barren wilderness, but looking forward to a promised future joy, in a promised land. They dwelled in the wilderness, but their eyes and hearts were looking to Israel, to a wonderful land of God’s blessing.
This kind of joy, a joy looking to the future, was not just in the generations in the wilderness, it was in the great Patriarchs of our people. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were promised by God the land of Israel. Yet they wandered in temporary shelters, in tents as strangers.
The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that while they did not experience God’s promises in this life they looked forward to it in the future. They were longing for an even better country that the one they were in, a heavenly one, looking to a city made by the hands of God. They experienced great suffering in their lives, but their joy was found in their future, in their eternal destination:
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
The source of their faith was in the promises of God, and through that faith they experienced joy beyond their present circumstances. This was something the Lord created, while they trusted and obeyed. So, the sukkah points us forward to future joy in being with the Lord, in tabernacling with Him forever in a city He has created for us.
This promise of the Lord dwelling with us again with sin, darkness, and sadness being overthrown, is found throughout God’s Word. We are promised that one will come greater than Moses, a Messiah, an anointed king, who will suffer and die for our sins. He will produce salvation for all through being the perfect and sinless sacrifice for our sins. Because of His sinlessness He will rise from the dead and ascend to heaven. All these things were accomplished through Messiah Yeshua, the sinless Son of God. We are promised that one day He will return to this suffering planet in a great blast of God’s Shofar, judge all peoples, and bring us to a city and world that is new and full of perfect joy.
The great day of the Lord, promised throughout the Tanakh and New Testament is not a superstition or anti-intellectual. It is a reasonable and true faith based on all the other wonderful promises of God we have seen fulfilled in our people’s history. It is not the Lord who has lost faith in His promises but us.
We have the promise of eternal life with Adonai and Messiah Yeshua. We can trust that this promise is real and that there is a future joy that can never be taken away. The down payment for this promise is in the Holy Spirit, who fills the hearts of each of us when we turn back to Adonai through Messiah Yeshua. We can trust that one day God will tabernacle with us again and we will be restored to how things were before sinful darkness covered the Earth. Our future joy is found in this promise in Revelation 21:
“Then 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 will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new!” And he said, “Write: for these words are faithful and true!””
When the Day of the Lord comes God will tabernacle among us again. All of us, Jews and Gentiles, who believe in God and His Son will be brought into His sukkah, into the permanent dwelling place of the Lord, the New Jerusalem. A city crafted by the hands of God, a better city that our ancestors looked forward to just as we do now. There will be no more death or suffering, just peace and joy without limits that we could never accomplish on our own.
In the wonderful kingdom of Messiah Yeshua, we all will experience overwhelming joy and we will celebrate Sukkot as God always intended, dwelling in His house forever. Every nation will be required to celebrate Sukkot with us too, we read this promise in Zechariah 14:16-19:
“Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The Lord will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.”
The season of our rejoicing will be one commanded for all nations to celebrate as well after the great day of the Lord. These words we are told are trustworthy and true, they are true because Adonai cannot lie, and His words never come back empty.
We can have hope in this future joy even if we currently dwell in temporary Sukkahs that can easily be destroyed. This world may currently be filled with suffering and darkness, but a great light is coming to banish them away forever.
We do not have to bring about these changes ourselves, only believe and welcome them as the Lord accomplishes His promises to us. We have this promise from Messiah Yeshua at the end of God’s Word:
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
So this year let us celebrate the feast with overwhelming joy, rejoicing in the Lord because the war is already won and He will tabernacle among us again. And let us also have unity in our dwellings, because God will gather us to His city as one people, one flock with one Shepard, made up of Jews and Gentiles.
If you do not know the Lord and Messiah Yeshua, if you do not know the wonderful future waiting all those who trust in Him then I pray that you would ask the Lord if these things are trustworthy and true.
That you would know the answers for all the problems in this world are not found in us, but in Him. There will be a real Messianic age, with a real and personal Messiah. As Rabbi Paul declares, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him (Messiah Yeshua). That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”
I’ll conclude this morning with a prayer I hope you all share with me. A prayer for Messiah Yeshua to soon return, Speedily and in our days, bringing with Him His eternal kingdom on Earth. This is the prayer of the Apostle John, through the Holy Spirit, prays as we close out God’s Word. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Yeshua. The grace of the Lord Yeshua be with God’s people. Amen.