Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why I Love Sukkot: The Festival of Tabernacles

Today is the 7th day of Sukkot, one of my favorite Biblical Holidays. Sukkot is also called the Feast of Tabernacles, Festival of Booths, and the Feast of Ingathering. It is a week long, joyous, harvest-time festival, appointed by God for his people to celebrate and be thankful. You can find it mentioned throughout the Bible. Here are some reasons why I love it:

I love the history of Sukkot.

During the time in history when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, Sukkot was one of the festivals when all of the men of Israel traveled to Jerusalem to keep this special appointment with God. There was music and dancing, ceremonies and sacrifices. Everyone stayed in temporary shelters for the duration of the festival, as a reminder of the years spent in the wilderness in temporary dwellings. At the Temple there were giant candelabra that lit up the city and could be seen from miles away. This festival was an expression of thankfulness for the harvest and the rain; a joyous celebration of God's provision.

I love building and "dwelling" in a sukkah.

One of the ways we celebrate Sukkot today is by building a sukkah. A sukkah is a temporary dwelling, like a little hut. It has at least three walls, is built mostly out of natural materials, and has a roof made of branches that you can see the stars through.  A sukkah is a place to eat, read, pray, and spend time with family and friends. Some people even sleep out in their sukkah. Sometimes our family goes camping in a tent during Sukkot.  When we can't go camping, we build a sukkah in our back yard. Time spent in the sukkah reminds us what is important in life. Material things are only temporary. God is our shelter and our provider!
Our little sukkah last year

I love that Jesus was born during Sukkot!

The Bible doesn't mention specifically when Yeshua was born, but it can be figured out if we do the math. (Note: if you are new to my blog, I use the names "Jesus" and "Yeshua" interchangeably. Yeshua is His name in Hebrew.) Zechariah, the father of Yeshua's cousin John (Yochanan "the Immerser") heard from God that he would have a son while he was ministering in the Temple during the week on the Hebrew calendar of Sivan 12 to 18.  John was born around the time of Passover. We know that Mary (Miriam) conceived Jesus six months after John's conception, which would mean Jesus was conceived during Hannukah. The Light of the World conceived during the Festival of Lights! Forty weeks later is....guess what? Sukkot!  And does a sukkah look vaguely familiar to you?

It is very likely that Yeshua was born in a sukkah! There was no room in the inn because the census was taking place during the festival. The temporary shelters called sukkot were also often built to house animals out in the fields (the Hebrew word for "stable" is succoth!). Yeshua came to dwell or "tabernacle" with us during the Feast of Tabernacles! This makes the festival even more meaningful for us as believers in Yeshua! It's a perfect time to sing all of those songs that I love, like "Away in a Manger", "O Holy Night", and "Silent Night".

I love that we can clearly see Yeshua the Messiah in Sukkot!

An important part of Sukkot is water. During Temple times, a water ceremony was performed during Sukkot to thank God for the rains he had provided for the harvest, and to pray and thank God in advance for rain for the next harvest. A gold pitcher was brought out with water from the pool of Siloam. The priest poured out the water onto the altar and would recite Isaiah 12:1-3.

"Then you will say on that day,I will give thanks to You, O Lord
For although You were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away,
And You comfort me.
“Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.”
Therefore you will joyously draw water
From the springs of salvation.

Do you know what the Hebrew word for "salvation" is? Yeshua!!! And it was at this specific time that Jesus said these famous words in John 7:37-38:

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water."

Only the Messiah himself could make such a bold statement!

I love that Sukkot is a "dress rehearsal" for the future.

Prophecy tells us that, in the future, all nations will gather in Jerusalem and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles! (Zechariah 8:22 and 14:16) Revelation 21:3 says:

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

Sukkot makes us think of the future; of the day when we will all gather in Jerusalem and celebrate with Yeshua!

I love that the first Thanksgiving was inspired by Sukkot!

Here in the U.S.A. we celebrate Thanksgiving every year in November.  Many experts and scholars agree that the pilgrims looked to the Bible to find a way to thank God for the harvest and for His provision, and modeled their feast after Sukkot.  (Try an internet search of "Thanksgiving and Sukkot" for more information on this).

Can you see why I love Sukkot? It is a joyous, exciting time: a time for remembering that God is our shelter, a time to be thankful for His provision, a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and a time to look toward the future when we will all celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with Him!