Chag Sameach Sukkot
“For I proclaim the name of the Lord: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect” (Deuteronomy 32:3-4 NKJV)
In preparation for the children to enter and take the Land given them by God, Moses gathered the people together and recounted the things God did for them. This is recorded as the book of Deuteronomy. The word “Deuteronomy” means “second law”. In this book in chapter 32, Moses describes God as a rock. This describes the steadfastness and dependability of God. He, like a rock never changes. In Hebrew it is “YAHWEH Hatzur”.
In the wanderings of Israel we see another aspect of the rock. In Exodus 17, we see the account of the time when the Israelites were thirsty for water, so much so, that were ready to stone Moses. Moses brought their case to God and God told him to go with the elders to a rock and strike it and God would provide water for the people (Exodus 17:5-6). Moses’ mistake was that he took the glory for himself when he said “must we bring water for you out of this rock”. He took the glory that belonged to God, and God said because Moses had not revered Him in the sight of the people, he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. God provided water for His people from the most unlikely of places.
Today is the last day of Sukkot and the gospel of John records an event that took place on this day.
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "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." But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39 NKJV)
While watching the Water Libation Ceremony at the Temple, Yeshua raised His voice and cried out proclaiming that He had living water to give to those who would come to Him. He also told the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well that anyone who drank the water, would never thirst again (John 4:13).
The first lesson we learn here is; Jesus is the source of Living Water. He is the one who can quench the thirst that every person feels in the spirit. People (including Christians) feel thirsty in their spirits but too often instead of going to the one, who has the true refreshing water, we go other sources, all these sources will quench our thirst for a time, but eventually we will get thirsty again. Until and unless we go to the source of the true water, the water of life, we will always be thirsty in our spirits.
The second lesson is; the water that God gives us, the Holy Spirit, is not meant to be contained in us, Yeshua means for the spirit to flow out of us. Too many of us only allow the Spirit to flow out of us within the walls of the church, to people who are already full of water. God desire is for us to release that water in places and to people who are dry and thirsty. Many people are like the ancient mariner who said:
Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.
(Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
People are surrounded by all kinds of things that promise to quench their thirst, but nothing this world has to offer can really satisfy the thirsty soul. Only the Living Water that comes from our God the Rock and we are the vessels He chose to pour that water on this thirsty world. So beloved let it flow, let it flow.
Chag Sameach Sukkot
On this the sixth day of Sukkot we see God showing Himself to Israel as the God who heals, YAHWEH Rapha.
So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them, and said, "If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you." (Exodus 15:25-26 NKJV)
This incident took place just after they passed through the Red Sea; the people were thirsty because they had not had water for three days. They came to an oasis called Marah which means “bitter”. The water was undrinkable so Moses pleaded with God and He instructed Moses to pick up a particular tree and throw it into the water. Moses did as instructed and the water was healed.
God then made a promise to them that if they obeyed Him none of the diseases that He brought upon the Egyptians would come upon them because His character, His heart is for His people to be healthy. God said that none of the diseases He brought upon the Egyptians, this did not simply mean sicknesses in their body. Among the ten plagues that God afflicted the Egyptians with, were plagues that affected their livelihood; when their livestock and crops were destroyed by hail. God’s healing affects every aspect of our lives but it comes with a condition, just as all His promises. Obedience is the key that unlocks the promises of God in our lives. Obedience is a key element of faith, believing in our heart is not enough there must a corresponding action.
The Apostle James (actually Jacob) addressed this issue: Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:17-18 NKJV)
In Numbers 21, we see the account of how God sent poisonous snakes into the Israelite camp because they had sinned against God. He told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole and those who looked at it were healed. We must understand that it was neither the tree at Marah nor the bronze serpent that had the power to heal, the power was God’s but it was released when the people acted in obedience to God’s command.
We face all kinds of affliction in this world, whether it be a sickness of the body or problems in other areas of our lives. We have a healer, His name is Yeshua. He was like that bronze snake, He was lifted up on a pole and on that pole, He secured our healing. We need to walk in obedience to His Word, He said that we show our love for Him by obeying Him (John 14:15 and 21). Walking in obedience brings healing to our lives.
Chag Sameach Sukkot
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12 NKJV)
I am sure this passage of scripture is familiar to most of us yet, most would be unaware of the audience that Peter or rather Shimon Kefah was writing to. In verse 12 he tells them to conduct themselves honourably among the Gentiles. Our modern mindset immediately interprets this as “non", or "pre-believers". Literally, Peter meant Gentiles i.e. non-Jewish people. His epistles were written to Jewish people, particularly Jewish believers in Yeshua. He speaks to them as sojourners and pilgrims, i.e. travelers. He is reflecting on their ancestors’ journey through the wilderness which they remember every year at Sukkot. So this passage is very relevant for this season.
In the book of Genesis, after God prevented Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, God provided a substitute, a ram that was stuck in the bushes. Abraham then called God by His most famous title “YAHWEH YIREH” (Jehovah Jireh).
And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, "In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided." (Gen 22:14 NKJV)
During their journey in the wilderness, God proved this characteristic of Himself to His people. He provided manna for them to eat every day, even when they complained and demanded meat, He provided for them, although it must be said that they suffered the consequences of their grumbling. He also provided clothing for them; the Bible tells us that their clothes and sandals did not wear out for forty years (Deuteronomy 29:5-6). He also provided water for them from a rock (Exodus 17).
He also provided shelter for His people in the form of the pillar of cloud and fire. The cloud provided shelter from the searing desert sun in the day and the fire provided warmth in the night. It also acted as a defence against wild animal at night.
In fact, God’s provision for His people began even before they left Egypt; God instructed Moses to tell the people to ask their Egyptian neighbours to give them material goods and they gave abundantly (Exodus 11:2, 12:35-36)
God is the shepherd and Israel is His flock, as a shepherd He has a responsibility to take care of His flock; to provide food, water, and shelter. He is a responsible shepherd and Father since He referred to Israel as his firstborn son (Exodus 4:22)
In John 10:16 Yeshua said that there was another flock that He had which He had to bring into the sheepfold, He was referring here to us Gentiles. In the book of Ephesians, we learn that we have been adopted in God’s family and share together with the first-born children in all the promises and blessings that the Father has given them.
Therefore we too can be confident that our Father and Shepherd will carry out His responsibility to take care of our needs. He is a good Father and Shepherd, He will not neglect us.
Chag Sameach Sukkot
When Moses met God at the burning, he asked God what His name was and what he should say to the Israelites when they asked him about God (Exodus 3:14). At that point Israel did not know God, they had spent four hundred years as slaves in Egypt, they had no laws or religion of their own. They would probably have heard about their forefathers worshipping an unseen God but did not have a real understanding much less a relationship with Him. At that time they would probably have been worshipping the Egyptian gods that they grew up with.
In the wilderness, God began to show them different aspects of Himself so they would know Him better. One aspect of Himself that He showed them was that of a shepherd. A shepherd leads his sheep and takes them to places where they can find food and water. In Genesis God is described as the shepherd of Israel:
But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel (Gen 49:24 NIV)
It was God who set Israel on the journey through the wilderness albeit due to their lack of faith and failure to enter the Promised Land, yet God never left His people. At one point God was so angry with them that He threatened to leave them but Moses pleaded with Him not to leave and God relented (Exodus 33:1-15). God’s presence with His people at that time was manifest in the cloud that rested over the Tabernacle, God led through the wilderness by this cloud.
Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. (Exodus 40:36-38 NKJV)
God was showed Himself as the shepherd of His people, leading them throughout their journey even though they rebelled and were disobedient.
Israel’s journey is also our journey, we are traveling through this wilderness called life, making our way to the Promised Land in God’s presence. Like Israel, we too can be stubborn and stiff-necked and often try to go our own way, Isaiah compares us to sheep wanting to go our own way (Isaiah 53:6). We too have a shepherd, His name is Yeshua, He said that He is the good shepherd (John 10:11).
Even if we like Israel are stubborn and stiff-necked and disobedient, we can still return to our Good Shepherd and He will lead us. We no longer have a pillar of cloud and fire, but we do have the Holy Spirit who is constantly with us and taking care of us. As we go through this wilderness let’s keep our eyes on our Good Shepherd.
Chag Sameach Sukkot
Once again, the Feast of Tabernacles recalls the time when Israel lived in temporary shelters as they wandered through the wilderness. God brought them out of Egypt by the blood of the lamb, as they left Egypt God brought them through the waters of the Red Sea and brought them to Mount Sinai. At Mount Sinai, God declared His purpose for the fledgling nation. He said “Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5-6 NKJV) His purpose was to make this group of ex-slaves into His special nation, a nation that He could use to make Himself known all the other nations of the world. For this to happen, He needed to set them apart, a process we call “sanctification”.
One name by which God is known is YAHWEH M’kaddesh, pronounced “mi-kadesh”. The word kaddesh comes from “kadosh” which means “holy”. So this name describes God as the one who makes us holy, who sets us apart or sanctifies us. We see this name in Leviticus 20:7-8.
Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the Lord who sanctifies you. (NKJV)
The question is; how did He sanctify them? In Exodus 19:5 God said that if they would keep His covenant and obey Him they would become this special kingdom. When we speak of the covenant here we must not mistake it with the covenant that God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In that covenant Abraham had no responsibility, in fact, God single-handedly ratified that covenant while Abraham was asleep (Genesis 15).
At Mount Sinai, God gave Israel the Torah, what English translators call the Law. The Torah contains God’s instructions as to how they should live as His sanctified people. After He gave Moses the Torah, Moses went down from the mountain and gathered the people together and read the Words of God to them then the people responded, God actually gave them a choice as to whether or not to accept the covenant.
“Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, "All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient." And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, "This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words." (Exodus 24:7-8 NKJV)
Israel’s journey is a foreshadow of us; the “ekklesia” of God, Like Israel, we have been called out of the world and brought into God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13) when we chose to believe in Yeshua (Jesus). We affirmed this choice by going through water baptism, a type of Red Sea experience. And God sanctifies us with His Word. Ephesians 5:25-26, tells us that God sanctifies His people by washing them with His Word, this is similar to what He did with Israel at Mt. Sinai.
Sanctification is not a religious ceremony or sacrament that we go through, rather it a lifestyle choice. We choose every day to live as a sanctified person, according to Word of God, to do this we must fill ourselves with the Word of God.
In this week of Sukkot, may we remember that we are a people who were sanctified but also are being sanctified and live according to His Word.
Chag Sameach Sukkot
The Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot in Hebrew is also variously spelled as Succoth etc. There is no right or wrong way to spell it as it is a Hebrew word that is transliterated into English and spelled the way it sounds.
This holiday which lasts for a week was given to Israel to help them remember how God took care of them during when they wandered in the wilderness for forty years and as a lesson for their children and grandchildren. It is, in fact, a multi-sensory experience, since God commanded the people to live in temporary shelters for a week so they could experience what it was like for the ancestors when they lived in the wilderness.
In the Bible, God has many names, each one of these was given at a time when God showed an aspect of Himself that the people had not known before. One of these experiences happened when they were faced with a great battle and won.
Then the Lord said to Moses,
"Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of
Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under
heaven." And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-Lord-Is-My-Banner; (Exodus 17:14-15 NKJV)
In Hebrew, it is YAHWEH NISSI.
This name was given after the Israelites defeated the Amalekites at Rephidim; the epic battle where Moses sat on a high place and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, because when his hands drooped the Israelites began to lose but as long as his hands were raised they were winning. Eventually, they defeated the Amalekites and it was as if Moses himself was raising a banner that encouraged the army of Israel and strengthened them in the battle. This is how military colours worked in the past, today they are just symbolic and ceremonial.
Throughout their journey, Israel fought many battles and most of the time they won. What we don’t realize is that Israel at that time had no professional army. These were people who had been slaves in Egypt for four hundred years. Slaves are not trained to use weapons and military tactics. Yet they fought against soldiers who were well trained and well armed and they came out victorious. Their secret was God being their banner and leading them to victory.
The journey of the Israelites reflects our lives, as Israel journeyed to the Promised Land in Canaan, we likewise are journeying to our Promised Land in heaven. Along the way we have to fight many battles; trials and tribulations of all kinds that the enemy will use to try to stop us from reaching our destination. Often we feel inadequate or unprepared to face these trials. The promise of God is that He is our banner of victory, He is waving our regimental colours and if we keep our focus on Him we will overcome and be victorious.
It also reminds us that Yeshua (Jesus) is our banner of victory; He was lifted up on the cross and by so doing he destroyed the works of the enemy of our soul (1 John 3:8). When we keep our eyes on Him we will experience victory.
So beloved lift up your head and see the banner waving, calling us forward to greater and greater victory.
Day 1, God our Strong Tower
Chag Sameach Sukkot
Today is the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, one of the feasts that God commanded in Leviticus 23 for His people to keep. We whilst many in regard them as Jewish feasts (which they are), they are also for all of God’s people since He said these are “the feasts of the Lord” and “His feasts” (Leviticus 23).
In Leviticus 23:42&43 God commanded His people to observe this feast for a week and during this time they were commanded to live in booths or temporary shelters to remind themselves and their children of how He had taken care of them for forty years while they wandered through the wilderness.
If you go to Israel during this week you will see many such temporary shelters everywhere, most would enter these shelters with their families at night to have a meal together and to pray, some would even go out into the wilderness and build shelters and live in them for the week. All this to re-enact as it were the time of their ancestors wanderings and to remember the goodness of God during that time. When He watched over them with the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire.
Proverbs 18:11 says “The rich man's wealth is his strong city, And like a high wall in his own esteem.” (NKJV). Wealth is a source of security for many people and they feel safe by amassing wealth. The lesson we learn from the Feast of Tabernacles is that our true source of security is the Lord himself; wealth, human power and ability can all disappear in an instant, God wants His people to trust in Him. The preceding verse says: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe.”
It is God who can keep us safe no matter what the circumstance.
We must ask ourselves what we are trusting to keep us safe. Are we truly trusting in the Lord? In times of trouble where is the first place we go to? Our bank account or to the Lord? The Lord is a place of safety for those He has made righteous through the blood of His Son.
Run to the Lord today, He is our strong tower who will keep us safe in the day of trouble.