We finished Yom Truah, the first day of the seventh month, the month of fulfillment, and we blew the shofar, and considered the things that the shofar reminds us of. We searched our deeds and our souls for the Yomim Nora’im – the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Then on Yom Kippur we fasted and prayed. We thanked God for the New Covenant, which is based on the ministry of a better high priest who serves in a superior temple, who offers a better sacrifice, which gives us better access to God. All of this makes full and final and everlasting atonement possible, and therefore eternal life. Now we have come to the last holiday of Tishrei, the seventh month – the Feast of Sukkot – Tabernacles or Booths.
It is the seventh holiday in the seventh month, the holiday and the month of completion and fulfillment. This holiday begins on the fifteenth day of the month, when the moon is at its fullness. It is the fullness of the year, exactly dividing the year in two – six months before Passover, the beginning of the year, and six months after Passover.
According to the Torah, for the third and final time of the year, the Jewish people were required to go up Jerusalem to celebrate the fullness of the harvest; giving thanks to the God of Israel for blessing us this year, for providing for us, for giving us land to grow things, seeds to plant, sun to shine on them, rain to water them, strength to harvest them.
We were commanded to build booths and decorate them with branches and flowers, and the fruits of the harvest, and live in them for seven days. We were required to take willow, palm and myrtle branches and wave them and rejoice before Adonai our God. These impermanent booths that go up one week and come down the next week remind us of the Exodus from Egypt and the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. They remind us that life in this world is temporary. Here we have no permanent home.
But Sukkot also helps us to look forward to a greater Exodus that is to come, an Exodus from those ages of sorrow and pain, of being dominated by the very real forces of Satan, sin and death, and the beginning of of a new age, the golden age of mankind, the Millennial Kingdom, when Messiah Yeshua returns to Planet Earth, to the city of the great king, to Jerusalem His capital, to Zion His dwelling place, and gather the fruit of redeemed humanity into His kingdom, where we will celebrate with Him forever and ever!
Sukkot reminds us that the God of Israel is the kind of God who is not distant from human beings who were made in His image. The Creator wants to gather us into His eternal and very real kingdom. He wants to be close to us, to be with us, to make His home with us, to pitch His tent among us, to build His sukkah, to tabernacle among us.
That’s one of the reasons why the Lord instructed us to build the Mishkan. While the Tent of God’s Dwelling Presence was still under construction, the Lord said: I will live among the sons of Israel and be their God. I am the Lord their God that brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might live among them.
That was why He commanded us to build the Temple in Jerusalem. There, among a holy people, served by a holy priesthood, in the mist of a holy land, in the center of the holy city, there was a holy house, with a holy place, and a most holy place, where the Shechinah, the glorious dwelling presence of God on Earth, continued to be manifested.
That’s why God manifested His presence once again on Planet Earth, and in the greatest way. Immanuel, the One who is truly God With Us, the Son of God who lived with His Father from eternity, came to Earth. Through the Incarnation, He took on a human body. He became the embodiment of the dwelling presence of God. In Him the fullness of God dwelt in human, bodily form. He became incarnate, which means He took on a body, became flesh, and lived among us. In a sense He built a sukkah and tabernacled among us. He was the true Temple of God, the place where God lives in this world. Destroy this Temple, He told a group of Jewish leaders, and in three days I will raise it up… speaking about Himself and His body.
Then 50 days after Messiah died, on another Jewish holiday, Shavuot, the risen Lord poured out His Spirit into those first Messianic Jewish disciples, and they became the dwelling place of God on Earth! Do you not know that you are a Temple of God, Rabbi Paul asked the Corinthians, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? Messianic Jews and Gentiles are being built together into a dwelling where God’s Spirit lives, resides, dwells, makes His home.
The Father and the Son, by means of the Spirit, have taken up residence in us! In his second letter to the Corinthians, Rabbi Paul writes: We are the Temple of the Living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people”.
Closeness to God, intimacy with the Creator is seen in the Mishkan, Temple, Messiah being the Temple and then us becoming the Temple.
One of the themes of Sukkot is God living with us, and us living with God; developing a close, personal relationship with the Supreme Being; developing an intimacy with the Creator that will last forever.
The desire for closeness to God, intimacy with the Creator was encouraged by King David, a man after God’s heart, when he wrote: When You said, “Seek My face” (come close to Me, come into My presence), my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I will seek”.
It is also revealed in the concept that God is our Father, and we are His children. Our Heavenly Father wants us to be close to Him, just like a good father loves his young child, and the young child loves his father, and when he sees him after a long day at work, runs and gives him a huge and sits on his father’s lap.
Closeness to God, intimacy with the Creator is understood by the comparison to sheep and shepherd. The Lord is our shepherd and we are His sheep. God is like a good shepherd who knows and cares for each one of his sheep. We need to be close to Him so that He will protect and provide for us. Messiah declared: My sheep know My voice. We need to know Him well enough to be able to be able to hear His voice and recognize when and what He is communicating with us.
Closeness to God, intimacy with the Creator is seen in the illustration of husband and wife. The husband-wife relationship is one of the closest, most intimate kinds of relationships. That is the kind of close, personal, intimate relationship the Living God wants with each one of us. Messiah is to be like our groom and we are to be His bride.
The need for closeness to God, intimacy with the Creator was taught by Rabbi Yeshua when He used the analogy of vine and branches. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who lives in Me and I live in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. To have a successful life, we need to be connected to, and drawing life and energy from the Son of God, who is connected to the Father and the Spirit.
The need for closeness to God, intimacy with the Creator is described by hunger and food. We are spiritually needy and the Son of God is the Bread of Life who is the source of spiritual nourishment. We need to be close to Him so that we absorb and are nourished by His life and power and teachings.
The need for closeness to God, intimacy with the Creator is found in the need for thirsty people to drink water. We are thirsty, spiritually needy and empty, and Immanuel is like Living Water. We need to be joined to Him so that our need for God, for truth, for meaning, for purpose, for eternal life can be satisfied.
The need for closeness to God, intimacy with the Creator is pictured by the human body. Messiah is the head who gives us direction and leadership and wisdom and knowledge and we are like the parts of His body who carry out His will. Each one of us needs to be firmly connected to, attached, joined to our Head.
The need for closeness to God, intimacy with the Creator is taught in the simple and often repeated phrase – “in Messiah”. Being in Messiah means being close to Messiah, joined to Messiah, connected to the Son of God.
If anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17).
By God’s doing you are in Messiah Yeshua (1 Corinthians 1:30).
From this union, this closeness, this intimacy comes life, purpose, happiness, power, holiness, strength to endure. It is so important, so beneficial, to get close to and stay close to the Three-in-One God!
How can we develop intimacy with God? By doing three things:
1. Come to God on His terms. Don’t assume that you are close to the Lord if you haven’t come to Him on His terms – which is faith in, confidence in, loyalty to the Three-In-One God.
2. Don’t sin. Don’t do the wrong things. Sin and disobedience ruin closeness to God. Obedience creates intimacy with God. If anyone loves Me, Messiah promised, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. Don’t sin! Be obedient!
3. Practice the spiritual disciplines, good spiritual habits and practices that will maintain your closeness to God.
One of the most important of the spiritual practices is the discipline of taking in God’s Word. We take in God’s Word by hearing or reading it taught by a qualified teacher, and by reading and studying God’s Word on our own.
Another spiritual discipline that will keep us close to God is learning how to see God in creation. God reveals Himself through the Written Word – the Word of God. He also reveals much about Himself in the Book of Creation, the World of God. We should make an effort to thoughtfully observe and learn about this amazing, God-designed universe. As we become better observers of nature, we will learn more about greatness and the power and the wisdom and the love of God, and we will have greater appreciation for, and be drawn closer to our great Creator.
Another spiritual discipline that will keep us close to God is prayer. Train yourself to talk to God all the time, but try to cultivate special periods of time alone talking to the Lord.
Another spiritual discipline that will keep us close to God is worship – declaring God’s worthiness. It is important to praise the Lord for who He is and great things He has doing, is doing and will do. We habituate ourselves to do this individually and as a community.
Giving is part of worship. Giving is a responsibility and should be planned and systematic, not just a spur of the moment thing based on an appeal by some ministry or charity. Develop the discipline of giving your God the firstfruits, the beginning and the best of your time, talent and treasure – not the leftovers.
Fasting is a voluntary abstinence from food or water. It is a spiritual discipline that can help us get close to and stay close to God. Fasting can strengthens our prayers. Fasting can help humble us. It reminds us that we are weak creatures, totally dependent on the great Creator. Fasting can help with repentance and returning to God. Fasting can help us overcome temptation. Fasting can be done simply to express love for God – that He is more important to us than our daily bread.
The disciplines of silence and solitude can help us get closer to God. When we are alone and silent, we can better hear the still small voice of God speaking to us. Be still and you may be better able to know that He is God.
Develop the discipline of serving the Lord within our community. Don’t just come and sit and hear and then leave. Giving money is important, but merely coming and giving money is not enough to fulfill your duty to serve the Lord. Do something to help, even if it is seemingly small, insignificant or unimportant.
Sharing the Good News about salvation and eternal life made possible by the Three-In-One God of Israel is a spiritual discipline. Prepare yourself to be able to give a decent answer for the hope that you have. Then, take the initiative and go and make witnessing opportunities happen! Make evangelism a habit.
One of the themes of Sukkot is God living with us, and us living with God; developing a close, personal relationship with the Living God; developing an intimacy with the Creator that will last forever. It is so important, so beneficial, to get close to and stay close to the Three-in-One God! Come to God on His terms, be obedient, practice your spiritual disciplines, and you will enjoy the presence of the living God forever and ever!