Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) – Part 3
Camping with God
in the Wilderness:
Blessing, Water and Light…
I did not intend to leave everyone with their teeth on edge as I concluded Part 2 of Camping with God in the wilderness. The imagery of the fire, blood and smoke of the sacrifices in the Temple is not a welcome picture in our day. To be sure, it was not a welcome image in any time in history. Although the graphic reminder of judgment on sin points the world to the suffering and death of the Lord Yeshua on the cross, the concept of the need for a substitutionary sacrifice is always difficult to embrace for the human spirit. God knows it is. He is not without comprehension of the human heart, its needs and deep longings, its attempts to find what it thinks is a kinder and gentler way to mend the wide breach between its own independence and the God who has formed it to trust depending on Him. But where would be the cry for the grace of God in the absence of acknowledgment of rebellion against Him?
With that question in mind, come sit with me in my little camp in this part of the planet; hear of the majesty and beauty of God behind the veil of odors and clouds which mercifully kept us all from being devoured by the unveiled sight of His glory…
For the celebrants of the Feast of Tabernacles upon entering the land of Israel, there was also the imagery of blessing, water, and light. Three elements of celebration, even as the sacrificial altar is laid with its offerings everyday, remind the people of God of the abundant mercies attendant to those who trust in Him…
Leviticus 23.40 includes the branches of myrtle, palm and willow and the fruit of the fragrant etrog (a citron grown in Israel) as elements of the festival of Sukkot. Traditionally, the myrtle, palm and willow are bound together with a gold thread to form a lulav. In the days of the Temple in Jerusalem and nowadays in the synagogue, the etrog and lulav are carried during the reading of the Great Hallel which are songs and psalms of praise from Psalms 113-118. In the Temple days as now, the priest/rabbi also carries these items while singing special passages called Hoshanot (prayers for salvation) each day of the week of Sukkot. The lulav is also used in blessing the family sukkah. The father stands before the sukkah with the lulav raised, and turning to face toward Jerusalem, prays the blessing:
Blessed art Thou, O LORD, our God, King of the universe! Who has sanctified us by Your commandments and commands us to take up the lulav.”
As he recites the blessing, he shakes the lulav three times in each direction, in succession, as follows:
- pointed ahead of him to the East;
- to his right side to the South;
- behind him over his right shoulder to the West; and
- to his left to the North.
He finally concludes his blessing with the lulav held in front of him, raising it and lowering it. This signifies the presence of God in all the earth, acknowledging the blessing of His presence in our lives.
In Jewish tradition the myrtle, palm, willow and fragrant etrog symbolize four virtues of man. For disciples of the Messiah Jesus, the fragrance of the etrog and beautiful branches of palm, willow and myrtle are foreshadows of the beauty and character of Messiah Jesus, the King, as described in Psalm 45:
You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions. All Your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made You glad. Kings’ daughters are among Your honorable women; at Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.”
In another place in Scripture, the people of Israel used the palm branches to acknowledge their recognition of the One they expected would answer their prayers for salvation–the prayers they sang at the Great Hoshanah six months before Jesus entered Jerusalem to observe His last Passover meal on the earth:
Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord has need of them,” and immediately he will send them.’ All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Hosanna in the highest!’ And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, ‘Who is this?’ So the multitudes said, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee…’ Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ They were indignant and said to Him, ‘Do You hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes. Have you never read, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise”?’
Continued on Page 2…