Fall Feasts of Israel
Sukkot – Feast of Tabernacles
The Tabernacle in the Wilderness; illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible
public domain: http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart/1890holmanbible/color/thetabernacleinthewilderness.jpg
Scripture added by user
Theme: The Festival of Our Joy
- To remember that man was formed with the image and likeness of God in him and the consequences of our rebellion against God…
- To remember the Way a holy God unfolded His plan of redemption through Israel…
- To remember the tents of Israel in the wilderness…
- To remember the Tabernacle of the Living God dwelling in their midst…
- To remember God’s promises of His everlasting presence and peace…
- To remember Yeshua the Messiah who dwelt among us…
- To remember Yeshua the Messiah who will fulfill Sukkot in glory to come…
That we might see the reason for this feast is thanksgiving and joy for God’s providence and faithfulness to His promises to His people; that we might embrace Him as LORD, celebrate our salvation with joy and thanksgiving; and that our lives in Yeshua might be lampstands of light and wells of living water wherever we “camp” in this wilderness.
My Prayer: Blessed art Thou, O LORD our God, King of the universe! You who pitched Your tent in the midst of your people in the barren wilderness; You who has kept Your people alive, watched over them, and enabled them to reach the land flowing with milk and honey.
As I meditate on the sight of Your glory dwelling in the camp of Israel, what a sight it must have been to awaken to each morning! And when I think of the splendor of Your Temple in Jerusalem, I echo David’s song: “Blessed are those You choose and bring near to live in Your Courts!”
But then, as I behold Jesus in Your Word, the fullness of Your glory bodily dwelling among men, I cry with David: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, my King. My soul thirsts for You in this wilderness!”
While I wait for Your return, teach my heart and my lips to praise and offer psalms of thanksgiving for Your bountiful blessings. Teach me to awake each morning with remembrance that I dwell in Your presence because You chose me and caused me to come near to You—so near, in fact, my body is now Your tabernacle. Teach this child, estranged from this world, to rejoice before You in all the temporal tasks and trials set before me in this wilderness. Teach me to be a vessel overflowing with living water in a dry and parched world. Make my camp radiant with Your Light in this present darkness. Make me know the delight of glorifying You in this dusty tabernacle of mine, and awaiting the Festival of my Joy in the Kingdom of Yeshua, the Messiah, my Lord: who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
The Holydays preceding the Feast of Tabernacles have passed: first came Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets which began the 10 Days of Awe; then came Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The climax of the Holydays comes at the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths (Sukkot). Because the feast occurs at the time of harvest in the land, it is now–as it was in former days–linked to the season of the year and the agricultural cycle.
“Sukkot” is the Hebrew word for “tabernacles” or “booths,” and a “sukkah” is one booth or one tent.
Leviticus 23:33-43 establishes the period of eight full days between 15th and the 22nd days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei as the observance of Sukkot. The first day of the festival was to be a Sabbath and the eighth day of the feast was to be a Sabbath.
Although God gave Israel the instructions for the Feast of Tabernacles while the people were still in the wilderness, the feast of Sukkot was not a wilderness feast. Deuteronomy 12.5-14 tells us that when the people came into the land which God would give them, to the place where He chose from among the tribes for His Name to dwell, there they were to gather for corporate worship, to bring their offerings, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This gathering place became Jerusalem, and in this place they were to dwell in booths for seven days. If you were a foreigner travelling in the vicinity of Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles, on every housetop in Jerusalem and in the places immediately surrounding, you would see booths of all sizes decorated with fruit, where families and friends would take meals and sleep out under the Jerusalem stars.
The feast is to be celebrated remembering how God dwelled among the Israelites in the wilderness after He brought them out of Egypt. The wilderness experience was a time of great awareness of and dependence upon God. For Israel, they were the years when they encamped around the Tabernacle of the Lord in their midst. Those years were hard and stigmatized with the reproach of their rebellion against God; but those years were generously laced with the mercy of a holy God mingled with the trauma of living in so close proximity to His holiness. Even though the wilderness in which Israel dwelt those 40 years did not have the fruits and grains God promised they would have in their new land, they experienced the wonder of camping with the King of the universe. When they would gather in Jerusalem to live in booths or tents for a full week, they were called to remember and forever, faithfully recount to every generation God’s power and mercies in sustaining their lives—even in hardship and chastening, while He dwelled among them.
Numbers 9:15-23 describes the wilderness encampment of the Israelites with the presence of the Tabernacle of God in their midst.
Imagine you are living in a tent out on the desert sands under the sky. There are not any tall trees there, only shrubs and bushes that grow close to the ground. There are no buildings there to get in the way of your vision as you look out the doorway of your tent. There is no electricity and no loud stereo boom box music to fill up your mind with noise. The air is clear and you can see for miles around you when you stand at the edge of the camp beyond the tents. When you look out the door of your tent each desert morning you can see all the tents of your aunts and uncles and cousins and cousins’ cousins to the right of you and to the left of you. But as you gaze toward the center of your camp you can see a strange and wonderful sight: it is the tent where the God of heaven and earth dwells. Every morning when you rise after a night of sleepy dreams under the stars, you run to the door of your tent to see, “Is He still here with us?” As your eyes dart toward the center of the camp, you see it–the sign of His Presence dwelling there with you (Numbers 9:15-16).
The Tabernacle of the Lord was the first architectural structure in which God dwelled on earth with His people Israel. The Lord dwelled in the part of the Tabernacle which was called the Sanctuary. the word “sanctuary” means “most holy place.” You might say, in modern words that God “pitched His tent” or “built His sukkah” among men.
There is a reason for my specifying that this was the first architectural structure in which God dwelled on earth with His people; I will speak of it in more detail hereafter…
There is no fellowship with a Holy God without satisfying His reconciliation requirements in the Covenant established for all men through His relationship with Israel. God Himself established the tradition forever that the Feast of Tabernacles may not be celebrated without the offerings He appointed for that holy festival. The offerings began on the first day of the feast, each combination of offerings for each day for seven days.
Numbers 29.12-34 shows that over the period of the seven days, a total of 70 young bulls, 14 rams (2 each day), and 98 male lambs (14 each day) were to be sacrificed as special festival burnt offerings. A total of seven young male goats (one each day) were to be sacrificed as sin offerings.
The 70 young bulls were offered to remember the 70 nations which must be brought to believe and obey the God of Israel.
The 14 lambs each day were offered (“seven times over”) as an atoning offering both for Israel and for the nations.
Mingled with the blood of the burnt offerings was to be a special measure of fine flour. The flour was to be without leaven. It represented the bread for life provided Israel by God.
A special measure of oil also was mingled with the blood of the burnt offerings and the fine flour. Oil not only added its incendiary qualities to the offering, making it ignite, but oil also represents joy and gladness in the Scriptures and is a picture of the Holy Spirit. These “intercessory” offerings point to the facts that: 1) the God of Israel is King of the Heavens and the earth, and all that are in them; and 2) there is only one way for any person, whether Jew or Gentile, to live at peace with God in His Kingdom.
On the eighth day of the feast, a final offering was to be made. Numbers 29.35-38 sets forth the instructions for the offerings on the eighth day of the Feast. On this Sabbath during a solemn assembly, a special burnt offering is to be made of one young bull, one ram, and seven male lambs accompanied with the grain, oil and wine in their specified measures. This offering is to be followed with the sin offering of a young goat. All the offerings are to be without blemish.
Although it was a trauma and a reminder of the reproach of sin—a sacrifice of tears—the trauma of the sacrifices reminded the people who belong to a holy God that He has provided The Way of reconciliation with Him. It showed them the substitutionary sacrifice in their place for the judgment due them through the blood of the unblemished, innocent animals which bore the judgment for their iniquities.
The offerings were not limited to the sacrificial animals and the grain and oil. Leviticus 23.40 tells us that God commanded Israel to include with their sacrifices the sacrifice of praise. The offerings of joyful praise were to be observed by gathering branches four kinds of trees: beautiful trees, palm trees, boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook; and every day of the feast, dwelling in booths decorated and festooned with the branches and boughs of these trees, was to be filled with their rejoicing before God.
I said before that the Tabernacle of the Lord was the first architectural structure on earth where God dwelled among His people. As I reflect on that idea, I think that when God created man in His own image and likeness, His desire then, at first, was to dwell in them in the beauty and goodness of all that He had created, exercising dominion over all of the creation:
Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’.”
But our ancestor Adam and his lovely wife chose to rebel against the God Who gave them everything, except one tree in the garden whose fruit He said they must not eat.
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden”?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die”.’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?’ Then the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.’ And the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate’.”
Here, the Scriptures are saying that It was not the fruit of the tree which gave the knowledge of all that is evil, it was the act of rebellion in eating of the fruit which blinded their eyes to all the good which God had already supplied into their keeping and stewardship. Their eyes were opened to shame and blinded to what was good; and because all of our DNA was swimming around in their loins, now corrupted, every human ushered forth from Adam’s loins ever since bears the genetic marker for rebellion in his/her own DNA.
Now we are unholy people who are walking around and living under the watchful gaze of a holy God. “Unholy,” (and I cannot argue), for all the creation displays the awful consequences of Adam and Eve’s joint rebellion against God.
What Adam and Eve’s Rebellion Caused in Us: Our days began to be numbered; our bodies began to become frail and to decay; we lost our innocence before a holy God; our knowledge of our purpose in life became darkened; our memory that we are created in the image of God became darkened; we became adversaries to God’s plan and His good purposes; we gave up our dominion over Satan who is one of the creation over whom we were meant to rule (Romans 1.18-25)…
What Adam and Eve’s Rebellion Caused in All Creation: All the world began to show its age, to decay and to die (even stars die); many things in the creation which were once harmless to man became dangerous and deadly for man; creation became resistant to man’s dominion over it (animals, the earth, all organisms like bacteria) (Romans 8.18-23)…
… did not vaporize Adam and Eve on the spot. To be sure, they were guilty as sin and deserved to be extinguished; but God had formed them with His own Hands and breathed into their bodies His own Breath. They had been camping with Him for long enough to have enjoyed walking with Him in the cool of the evening. They had been camping with God long enough in that garden to know all that is good, and to have sufficient knowledge upon which to base a better decision to believe Him instead of God’s Adversary. They had an intimate relationship with God and long enough that God was not willing to destroy them.
The comfort and hope for restoration of our dwelling in God comes by realizing that God has not changed His mind about His desire to dwell with us in holiness.
During the days of this festival of our joy, let us remember who God is. Let us remember that in this holy God we live and move and have our being. Let us remember His unchanging plan:
- God did not take away His image from us…
- God provided a covering for our shame; the first animals died in Adam and Eve’s place to cover their shame…
- God promised One—His Son Jesus—who would come to conquer the power of Satan…
- God protected us from living forever in our sinful rebellion by guarding the Tree of Life…
- God did not lose His sovereign power over the fallen creation…
- God did not take away His Spirit to guide, convict, counsel and correct…
- God did not throw away His purposes to govern the fallen creation for His glory…
Why are we talking about this during the Festival of Our Joy? Even in this joyful festival we cannot escape the reality of God’s mercy upon us in our fallen condition—we are numbered with all transgressors, even while we approach a holy God with our worship. The sacrificial offerings are always reminding us of that inescapable truth. We deserve His unbridled justice, yet we enjoy His abundant mercy.
What a holy God accepted in place of Adam and Eve’s death as an atonement for their rebellion (for they were now corrupted by sin) was the blood of innocent animals in their place (Genesis 3.21). The first animals died at the hands of a holy God—in place of Adam and Eve—to cover their shame. God did not accept the work of Adam’s own hands—the cloaks which Adam and Eve sewed together from the botanicals in the garden. God ordained that the Way of atonement and peace with Him is by the blood of an unblemished animal sacrificed in His presence by a sanctified mediator on man’s behalf. In Adam and Eve’s case the Mediator was God Himself.
And God went further…
So the LORD God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel’.”
Ages later, descendants of Adam through the line of faith from Seth to Jacob and the 12 tribes of Israel, God brought into sharper focus the memorial of this Genesis event by His First Covenant through the blood of the lambs on the altar of sacrifice offered by the priestly mediators from the line of Aaron. This was only the shadow of the fulfillment of God’s promise in the Garden to crush the power of Satan.
In Jewish tradition, when the sun sets on Yom Kippur, plans begin for the building of the family sukkah four days later. Israeli farmers lived in little sukkot (huts) built in the fields during the harvest of their crops, but God called all Israel to live in sukkot built outside for this festival. The sukkot were not to be too sturdy; they were to represent the temporary houses Israel hastily erected and moved from place to place in the wilderness. The light of the full harvest moon should shine through the roof; and the wind should shake it a bit.
Just a thought: If all our high-tech stuff failed, we would soon remember how earthly our “tents” are and how our lives depend upon the mercies of God in the seasons of the year and the agricultural cycle. God has promised that springtime and harvest will not fail. He has made no such promise about our high-tech wizardry.
While the Temple stood in Jerusalem, the celebrants at the Feast of Tabernacles were surrounded with a full sensory experience accompanied by the imagery of water and light and peace. Three elements of celebration, even as the sacrificial altar was laid with its offerings every day, reminded the people of God and of the abundant mercies attendant to those who trust in Him.
During the days of the Temple, the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles included a procession from the Pool of Siloam to the basin in the Temple. This was the day of Hoshanah Rabbah, the day of the Great Hosanna (the cry for so great a salvation). The Temple was lit up with all the lampstands burning brightly. The procession would begin at the Temple with the priest carrying the silver pitcher. The Levites would follow praising and sounding the trumpets. The faithful would follow with lulav and etrog in hand. At the Pool of Siloam, the golden pitcher would be filled with the water coming from the spring of Gihon which fed it. This water spring was associated with Israel’s Messiah, since the spring ran directly under the Temple Sanctuary on Mt. Zion. The procession would return to the basin at the Temple where the water from the spring would be poured out till it overflowed upon the ground.
This ceremony is significant because water–more specifically, rain–is very important during the Feast of Tabernacles. The fall planting season is soon to begin, and the spring harvest season depends upon the blessings of rain. The ceremony is a prayer to God for that rain, and for the coming of Messiah. In the Scriptures, the outpouring of the Spirit of God is likened to rain:
Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth.”
The prophet Isaiah saw the coming of the One who would satisfy the yearnings of his own people crying in the Great Hoshanah:
Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you—the sure mercies of David. Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, a leader and commander for the people.”
The prophet Isaiah also declared that God Himself is our salvation. How very extraordinary that in the very God who judges our sin we would find through and by Him, the Way of salvation from the full debt we owe Him for our rebellion against Him.
Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation. Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
The golden lampstand in the Tabernacle and, later in the Temple, was fashioned from pure, solid gold, beaten into the design ordained by God. It was to be permanently housed in the Holy Place, supplied with pure oil, groomed lamp wicks and always kindled with the light. The pure gold of the lampstand was a visual image of the purity and holiness of God. The pure oil and the light were visuals of the power of the Holy Spirit, and a reminder to Israel that God would light their way in all their wilderness.
At the Feast of Tabernacles in the Temple a tradition arose to illuminate the Temple Court of the Women with four enormous lampstands. Each one was 75 feet high and all were kept ablaze throughout the night during the Feast of Tabernacles to remind Israel of God’s Shekinah Glory dwelling in their midst when they were in the wilderness.
The prophet Isaiah also spoke of the light which would shine among the people of Israel:
Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk on it: ‘I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles’.”
…in Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”
A Talmudic tradition arose surrounding the gathering of branches from the four kinds of trees in Leviticus 23.40. Rabbis interpreting the passage specified that one of the four kinds should be an etrog, which is a citron, a native fruit grown in the land of Israel. The rabbis directed that the branches of the trees should be bound together to form a lulav, a bundle which assumes the name lulav from the ripe, green closed frond of a native date palm. 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 the priest also carried 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 words of a traditional blessing. As he recites the blessing, he shakes the lulav three times in each direction, in succession: to the East; to the South; to the West; and to the North. He concludes his blessing with the lulav held in front of him, raising it and lowering it. It is said that this tradition signifies the presence of God in all the earth, acknowledging the blessing of His presence in all of life in this wilderness.
One Jewish tradition in the Midrash explains that the palm, myrtle, willow and etrog symbolize four parts of the human body: the palm representing the spine; the myrtle representing the eye; the willow signifying the mouth; and the etrog representing the heart. The binding of these together signifies the desire of a Jew to offer their entire being to serve God (Vayikrah Rabbah 30.14).
Another Jewish tradition in the Midrash explains that the myrtle, palm, willow and fragrant etrog symbolize four kinds of Jews whom rabbis desire, by the binding of these four species, to unite into service to God (Vayikrah Rabbah 30.12):
The lulav (the palm frond) has taste but no fragrance, symbolizing men who study Torah but do not possess works of righteousness.
The myrtle has fragrance but no taste, symbolizing men who have works of righteousness but do not study Torah.
The willow has neither fragrance nor taste, symbolizing men who lack both Torah and works of righteousness.
The etrog has both fragrance and taste, symbolizing men who have both Torah and works of righteousness.
Even in the rabbinic traditions a man cannot escape the reality that in his fallen condition, he cannot attain to the righteousness of God by his knowledge of Torah or his well-intended works of righteousness. Fourteen generations after Abraham, psalmists from among the surviving sons of Korah wrote of the fragrance and righteousness of the One who is eternal with God whom God would anoint above all men:
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.”
The Psalm describes the only Jew who literally “possessed” both Torah in all its fullness and the Righteousness of God Himself.
Bound up in both of these bundles of tradition is the longing for all Jews to be restored to peace with God as once existed before Adam and Eve rebelled against Him. Bound up in these bundles of tradition is the darkened understanding of man—whether Jew or non-Jew—that he may obtain shalom with God by his own attempts at meritorious works…
THE SPIRIT OF GOD
In all of the sensory experience of pageantry and tradition, we can forget the purpose of the Feast of Tabernacles: to remember the Dwelling Place of God among men; it was this one place where God chose for His Name to dwell; it was to this one place on this planet where all men must resort with their offerings and petitions for forgiveness and reconciliation with a holy God.
Twenty-one generations after the prophet Isaiah, in the fullness of time, in the times of the Temple, when Yeshua was dwelling among the people of Israel, He celebrated with Israel at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. It was on the last great day of the Feast, against the backdrop of this great cry for salvation among the throngs of pilgrim celebrants that Jesus stood up in the Temple and said:
If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
What does this mean? In the Scriptures, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of God—is like water and rain. For the disciples of Messiah Jesus, this is a reminder that Messiah has dwelt among us and that His Spirit dwells in all who believe that Jesus is Lord. For a fallen image bearer of God the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for faith in the Lord Jesus brings the rain from Heaven which washes over and regenerates that soul to eternal life, even while his earthen vessel crumbles into dust. By the grace of a holy God through faith in the Lord Jesus, that believer becomes a forever temple of the Spirit of God. He dwells in the Lord and the Lord dwells in Him. God has him and he has God through the faith in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Out of such a heart quickened from its fallen hardness as petrified as a rock toward the things of God will come the same kind of living water to wash over another fallen image bearer whose soul thirsts for LIFE (Isaiah 55.1-4; John 3.5-8; 2 Corinthians 6.16).
Twenty-one generations after the prophet Isaiah spoke of the great light to come from among Galilee of the nations; in the fullness of time, in the days of the Temple, Yeshua astonished the scribes and the Pharisees when they put His righteous judgment to the test. Against the backdrop of the blazing lampstands perched in the Court of the Women, the Pharisees brought to Him for judgment a woman caught in adultery. They were not prepared for what the light of Jesus’ understanding exposed in them:
…They said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’ And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last…”
To the Pharisees and the people who remained after watching the dismissal of those who were so very enlightened, yet shared in the same guilt of which they accused the woman, Jesus again addressed them. There, in the Court of the Women in the Temple, against the backdrop of the blazing lampstands and the sounds of celebration:
…Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life’.”
What does this mean? If we remember that we are fallen image bearers of God, we must also remember that in the rebellion against Him we lost our innocence. The knowledge of our purpose in life became darkened and we became blinded by our lust that we are created in the image of God. The lampstand in the Temple was there for a purpose: to be the light in the Sanctuary; there was no other light. The tradition of lighting four enormous lampstands in the Court of the Women at the Feast of Tabernacles was a grand idea; the brilliance was a sensory thrill. However, Jesus’ encounter with the adulteress and the Pharisees packed a sensation greater than the backdrop of the blazing lampstands. The issue raised by the Pharisees (the righteous ones) was to test Jesus’ knowledge and understanding of Torah (the Law of Moses). Jesus lit up the darkness of their hearts by His understanding and knowledge. Because Jesus is the Living Tabernacle, the place where God chose for His Name to abide, His mind was not blinded and His understanding was not darkened as the fallenness of man. The Light to which the people in that courtyard were exposed revealed to them their need for restoration and forgiveness before a holy God. For them, this encounter with the light from Jesus was not a “feel good” experience. Jesus is the only Jew who literally “possessed” both Torah in all its fullness and the Righteousness of God Himself.
For a fallen image bearer of God faith in the Lord Jesus brings light from Heaven which illumines the understanding and mind of that soul. Even while his heart is grieved by sin in a crumbling vessel, walking in the light of Christ will expose his need for forgiveness and lead him to understand and trust the Lord Jesus’ righteous work of atonement for sin. Even while living with a mind beset with fears and temptations and puzzlements, Jesus promises to be the Light of Life for the soul who believes Him. Jesus does not promise contentment with one’s self esteem; but Jesus does promise the “light of life” to show the truth that he is created in the image of God. In Christ the purpose which was once darkened is redeemed from the deadly blindness of the fall. In Christ the light is rekindled in a darkened mind to love righteousness and hate wickedness (Psalm 45.7). In Christ the light is rekindled in a darkened soul to walk in His Light and not to hide from Him (Genesis 3.10; 1 John 1.1-7). And the light of Christ in one who believes Him is forever; it is never extinguished in living temples—temples of the living God (2 Corinthians 6.16).
The traditions in the Feast of Tabernacles incite intentions and much purposing of works of righteousness in the observance. In fast pedaling to accomplish them, we can forget that we cannot attain to the righteousness of a holy God. When we fall short of His righteousness, as we all do, there remains one single and exquisite Way of restoration of peace with God. There is no other work which can be offered for peace in relationship with God, and no one may make the offering but the priestly mediator of God’s own choosing on the people’s behalf before God in His Dwelling Place. This is essential to life lived in the presence of God. And without peace with God, His judgment weighs heavily and fearfully over the life of a man.
With the Temple in Jerusalem gone, and the sacrificial altar gone, and the Holy of Holies gone—all gone–the nagging question emerges: Where can such a Sanctuary be found: that Dwelling Place of God which was promised to be among His people forever? How can anyone, Jew or non-Jew—find atonement for sin and hope for any reconciliation to a holy God?
The best answer to that question is another question: How big is your God?
And another: Would a holy God be so perverse and hateful as to take away man’s only means of atonement without providing him with the Everlasting Atonement in through the righteous life and sacrificial death of Messiah Jesus?
There is no rejoicing in a god who would do anything less than the sovereign, holy God has done for us fallen image bearers, rebels and adversaries of a sovereign, holy God.
Ages after God’s act of mercy for Adam and Eve, He described the Promised One–the Holy One—to the prophet Isaiah in greater detail. This One would accomplish the promise spoken to the arch-Adversary of God in the Garden (Genesis 3.14-15) with Adam and Eve as witnesses:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”
Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men; so shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; for what had not been told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider. Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Six generations after Isaiah, God explained to the prophet Ezekiel about restoring His Dwelling Place, His Sanctuary among His people. This message came to Ezekiel while in captivity in Babylon; but here is God’s mercy in the midst of His judgment upon sinners:
I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put My sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be My people. Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when My sanctuary is among them forever.”
Fourteen generations after the Babylonian captivity, and out of a 400-year prophetic silence after Malachi warned of the coming of the Lord, in the fullness of time, the Word of God came once again to Israel on this earth:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth…Messiah came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the New Covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”
What does this mean? If we remember that we are fallen image bearers of God, we must also remember that in the rebellion against Him we became adversaries to God’s plan and His good purposes; we gave up our birthright and our dominion over Satan who is one of the creation over whom we were meant to rule. In that condition, we not only lost our innocence before God, but we also lost all ability to attain to the required righteousness before Him. Our adversarial posture toward God was a declaration of war, and by nature, no inclination to establish peace with Him resides in us. Nothing short of a peace initiative from God Himself would open the way for restoration of peace between a holy God and His fallen image bearers—the ones in whom He had breathed His own breath of life. This peace initiative from God was the Covenant of Redemption which God unfolded in His Dwelling Place among the people of Israel—for fallen image bearers, both Jew and non-Jew; Jesus became the Dwelling Place of God, the living Tabernacle, the “place” from among all the tribes of Israel where the Name of God abides (Exodus 3.14; Deuteronomy 16.11; John 8.58).
Jesus is the only Jew (begotten of the Father) who literally “possessed” both pure innocence—as a Lamb led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53.7)—and the Righteousness of God Himself demonstrated actively in His perfect life. What Jesus accomplished in His righteous life and His unblemished sacrificial death was greater than a restoration to innocence for fallen image bearers. For a fallen image bearer to enjoy the promises of the eternal inheritance spoken in John 1.12 and Hebrew 9.15, he needs more than the innocence which Adam and Eve once possessed. A fallen image bearer must also possess the righteousness of the Lord Jesus which God imparts (or imputes) by His grace to all who believe in Him (Genesis 15.6; Romans 4.11). At the cross, as repugnant as it is to our myopic thinking, our sin and rebellion was put upon Him: “for He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth” (Isaiah 53.9) and His pure righteousness was put upon us who believe in Him (Isaiah 53.11; Romans 4.11; 2 Corinthians 5.17). This inheritance is eternal, and it restores everlasting peace with God for all fallen image bearers who believe in the righteous life of Christ and His perfect sacrificial death.
God testified to His full acceptance of Jesus sacrificial death by raising Him from the grave on the third day of the days of Unleavened Bread (the Day of the Firstborn/Firstfruits) (Exodus 13.1-2,11-12,14,16; Leviticus 23.9-14; Acts 17.31; 1 Corinthians 15.3-8). The climax of this redemptive event revealed Jesus’ power not only to fulfill God’s promises in the Garden, and to be the full, holy embodiment of both the prophecy of Isaiah and the prophecy of Ezekiel, but also to fulfill all the righteousness of the Law of God Himself. God has provided both the Way of everlasting atonement and the promised eternal Tabernacle among us through the pure life and atoning sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah.
The Feast of Tabernacles not only remembers God’s Presence with His people in the wilderness, but it also anticipates God’s full disclosure of His sovereign, everlasting government to everyone, without exception. At that day, the Christ—the Messiah—of God will establish His kingdom, during which the entire world system will be subject to His righteous rule and judgment and peace.
Questions which beg answers include these: How could the suffering and humiliating death of Jesus authenticate His title as Messiah, Prince of Peace? Why would the Messiah have to die before His kingdom would be established upon the earth?
Here is the reality: If Messiah had not first come to be the Holy One, the Lamb of God who takes away sin and imparts His righteousness to all who embrace Him, we would never have peace in any kingdom—neither with each other, nor with a holy God.
Another question for all of us to consider: Who would want an everlasting kingdom where those who live and rule with Messiah are continually inclined to rebellion against Him?
Read what the Scriptures speak of Messiah’s coming reign of peace and justice on this planet:
Zechariah 14.16-19 tells about: a) whom the nations will worship; b) the world capital where all the nations will worship; c) how the nations will worship; and d) the penalty for refusing to worship Messiah in the world capital…
Psalm 2.8-9 tells about: a) how Messiah will rule over the nations; and b) the evidences of rebellion against Messiah’s government upon the earth…
Revelation 19.11-16 describes Jesus’ coming appearing as King over all His inheritance…
Revelation 20.1-4 describes the Government benefits for those who serve Jesus…
Revelation 20.8-9 describes the ultimate victory Jesus will win over the deception which wars with the Truth in this world…
Revelation 21.3-6 tells about the quality of life and employment for those who live with Messiah in the world capital…
While we earnestly desire it and all creation groans for it, all who believe in the Lord Jesus and all that He has accomplished for us fallen image bearers of God, need not be impatient for the Lord Jesus’ return. Remembering the truth of the Feast of Tabernacles, let us remember to live as though we can see Messiah dwelling among us all the time. All who believe in Jesus enjoy the certainty that the Spirit of God is dwelling inside their earthly bodies. All who are in Messiah Jesus, the one whose name is Immanuel—God with us—enjoy the unshakeable certainty and peace that He reigns sovereign over all we see unfolding in the wilderness of a fallen creation…
“Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit…Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me…surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 32.2; 23.4,6)
Is Christ’s Kingdom and Government increasing in your heart and life?
A Closing Prayer…
For the Jewish people worldwide as they look back at the year which has passed and look forward to the year to come: that the echoes of the eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles will arouse awesome remembrance of the majesty and faithfulness of a holy God, recognition of the Holy One, and the fervent expectation of His coming—the King of kings and Lord of lords of whom the Law, the prophets and the psalms speak…
For all who struggle with the illusion of life’s purposelessness under the darkness of alienation from the God who created them to bear His image: Will you give your life back to God at this Feast of Tabernacles? Jesus lived to demonstrate the full presence of the righteousness of God in Himself; Jesus died to bear the judgment of your sin laid upon Him and to impart to you His righteousness. Believe in the Lord Jesus and the life God breathed into you will become alive and new again, a living tabernacle of the Lord, at peace with a holy God, “that we…might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life” (Luke 1.74-75).
L’Chaim b’Yeshua! To LIFE in Jesus!
Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces.’ For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, ‘Peace be within you.’ Because of the House of the LORD our God I will seek your good.”
*NOTE: In the right hand column of my site, there is a link to Bible Gateway, which provides excellent, free, online access to multiple translations of the Bible. There is easy access with search windows to find passages either by a word or phrase or by the Bible reference itself. Enjoy discovering the Word of God online.
High Holydays—A Season of Remembrance, Awe and Rejoicing, from DISCIPLING THE MESSIANIC BELIEVER, first edition pp. 389-436, ©1990 & 1991, Revised 1995, 2003, Patricia Stachew, Stillwaters Publications, Reston, VA. All new content and revisions ©2018, Patricia Stachew, Stillwaters Publications, Reston, VA.