The feast of Tabernacles otherwise known as the Feast of
booths or Sukkot in Hebrew is a very joyous time for the Jewish people. In
fact, God commands His people to rejoice during this festival.
Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress. Be joyful at your Feast — you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. For seven days celebrate the Feast to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete. (Deuteronomy 16:13-15 NIV)
God commands all the people, no matter what their station or situation in life may be, to rejoice during the feast, even the fatherless, the widows, the foreigners (non-Jews) who live in the nation. It may seem strange to us that God would command us to be joyful, since we think of joy as an emotion that is dependent on our circumstances, it is not. Our mistake is to equate joy with happiness, which is dependent on circumstances, joy is an attitude of our heart, a choice that we make to respond to God. So even when circumstances are bleak, we can rejoice in God. There are, however, some things that the people could rejoice in, let’s look at these.
This week-long festival was (and is) observed by the building of temporary shelters, this is done to remember the days when the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years. (Leviticus 23:43-44) They lived in temporary shelters, which could be quickly dismantled and reassembled when needed. These were flimsy shelters which did not provide much protection against the extremely hot days and bitter cold nights in the desert. During those days God provided a pillar of cloud and fire for them.
“Then the Lord will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering. And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain.” (Isaiah 4:5-6 NKJV)
For seven days and nights as they lived in the booths meditating upon this fact and teaching their children about how God took care of Israel throughout those years in the wilderness. The booths that they lived in, were frail and very susceptible to the ravages of the weather, but as we see in the scripture above God protected them.
Israel was historically an agrarian society, the Feast of Tabernacles happened during the time of the fruit harvest, so it was a time of thanksgiving for the bounty that God provided for them.
"So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the Lord for seven days” (Leviticus 23:39 NIV)
Israel was therefore to gather before the Lord to give thanks to Him for providing food for them. This took place in autumn when the rainy season begins. One of the ceremonies that took place in the Temple was called the Water Libation Ceremony, wherein the priests would collect water from the pool of Siloam and pour it out at the altar, offering it to the Lord. This was in anticipation that God would provide rain for the year ahead.
It was during this ceremony that Yeshua cried out in a loud voice that rivers of living water would flow from those who believed in Him (John 7:38).
Isaiah said “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation". (Isaiah 12:3 NKJV) The Hebrew word for salvation is Yeshua (Jesus), thus He was referring to Himself as the source of salvation.
God’s desire is to be in fellowship with us, we see this from the Garden of Eden where the Bible tells us during the cool part of the day, God would come into the garden to spend time with Adam and Eve.
1 Kings 8 tells us that Solomon dedicated the Temple during the feast in the seventh month, i.e., Tabernacles when he did this the glory of the Lord fell upon the place such that the priests could no longer stand to minister to the Lord.
In the Gospel of John, it says: "And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth." (John 1:14 Amplified Bible)
The Feast of Tabernacles also gives a prophetic picture of future events; the first is of the millennial reign of Messiah after He returns. (Revelation 20:6) Zechariah prophesies that during this time the nations will go up every year to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles and pay homage to King Yeshua. Those who refuse to do so will be punished by drought. (Zechariah 14:16-19).
The final picture we get is at the end of the Bible, where it says:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:3-4 NIV)
Our Current Situation
We all live in a very difficult situation today, there is much fear and uncertainty, with mixed signals coming from every direction. God’s Word for us today is from Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (NIV).
Apostle Paul wrote these words from prison, in chains, a very dire situation indeed. Yet, he commanded us to rejoice. He knew something about this, Acts 16 tells us that while Paul and Silas were in this same city, Philippi, they had been imprisoned because they had cast out an evil spirit from a slave girl and her slave masters were angry because they lost their source of income, and started an uprising. While locked up in prison that night, these two servants of the Lord did not spend their time in self-pity or questioning God, instead they spent the night in worship and prayer. God worked a miracle for them that night, but when he was imprisoned in Rome, God did not break him out instead God took him home. Yet he commanded us to rejoice.
Some of us may feel imprisoned today with all the restrictions in movement etc. People in the world respond to his by trying to fight the system and venting their anger towards government authorities, these are natural responses of people. This is not how we as God’s people are to respond, we must make a choice to rejoice in our spirits. What to do we have to rejoice about? His protection, His provision and most importantly His presence. At the end of the gospel of Matthew He said that He would be with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20) and in Hebrews the scripture says that He promised to never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
Beloved, let us make the choice to rejoice in the Lord in the face of the dark situation that we are in. I echo the words of scripture “REJOICE AND AGAIN I SAY REJOICE”
May the Lord anoint us with the spirit of joy.
A Suka (Booth) in the wilderness
Sukkot in Jerusalem today
Pillar of Fire and cloud