Succot - Feast of Tabernacles
The consummation of the feasts is the Feast of Tabernacles or booths. The Hebrew title, Succot, means a temporary shelter (hut) which is a reminder of life in the wilderness when they had no permanent homes. During these 40 years, the Hebrew people were totally reliant on God's provision for their daily food and water. Succot occurs on the fifteenth day of the month of Tishri (September/ October). It is the celebration of the ingathering of the fruit harvest (Ex 23:16). This is the end of the agricultural year after the hot dry season and ushers in the rains to soften the earth and prepare for ploughing and sowing. It is a time of rejoicing and thankfulness for the harvest and resting after the labour, and is a seven-day festival (Lev 23:33-36, 39-44).
It is the third pilgrimage festival at which time the people were to assemble in Jerusalem before the Lord (Deut 16:13-17). As with the first two, Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Weeks, we can assume that God has something important to show His people. Every seventh year (sabbatical year), the Law was to be read publicly before the assembly (Deut 31:10-13). Ezra did this in Neh 8:13-18, and the people repented and rededicated themselves to the Lord. It is also the time when Solomon's Temple was dedicated (2 Chron 7:1-10).
During the Succot celebrations in New Testament times, there was a 'water libation' ceremony each morning. The High Priest walked to the pool of Siloam and drew water in a pitcher, which was carried to the altar and poured out before the Lord. This is the background of John chapters 7-9. On the last or great day of the Feast (John 7:37), known as 'Hoshana Rabba' [the great hosanna], the Messianic fervour climaxed, during this ceremony and as the priests chanted the Messianic greeting Ps 118:25 'O Lord do save, we beseech thee, do save we beseech thee, do send prosperity', the congregation waved palm branches. As this is the season for the beginning of the rains, prayers for rains are part of the liturgy for Succot.
In the evening Temple service at Succot, there was a special menorah-lighting ceremony where the large candle-sticks that lit the temple were lit in the central court of the Temple. This was celebrated with great joy, music, singing and dancing. It is in this context that Jesus made some remarkable Messianic claims, which caused tremendous division amongst the religious and lay people (Jn 7:40-53).
"If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me as the Scripture says, From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water'" (Jn 7:37,38).
"I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (Jn 8:12, see also 9:5)
"Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM" (Jn 8:58).
It is small wonder that they wanted to stone Him (Jn 8:59). He then saw a man born blind, sent him to the pool of Siloam, where the water was drawn for the Temple ceremony, and he came back with his sight restored, eventually worshipping His healer as the 'Son of Man'. The blind sinner was given his sight and the seeing Pharisees were declared blind (Jn 9:39).
What a mighty object lesson was taught on those days. Who will you follow? Those who taught from a book, but condemned the life-giver, or the one who can open blind eyes and give living water to the thirsty?
With no temple, the lighting ceremony cannot take place, but a certain group in Israel today are again drawing the water from the pool of Siloam at Succot. All over the world religious Jews still build a little hut in back yards or on verandahs, eat in them, and sometimes sleep in them for 7 days. They are not water-proof as they have to be open to the sky, though they can be thatched. They are decorated with different types of fruit as well as other brightly-coloured decorations.
Leviticus 23:40 mentions four 'species' of vegetation that were to be brought to the Feast of Tabernacles: the fruit of beautiful trees, palm branches, boughs of leafy trees, and willows. The rabbis defined the first and third as an etrog (a citrus like a large lemon) and a myrtle branch. The branches are bound together in a 'lulav' - the date palm branch and waved together before the Lord in the Temple.
On the last day of the Feast today, there is a celebration called 'Simchat Torah', which means 'rejoicing in the Law'. It occurs at the point where the weekly readings from the Torah (Pentateuch) finish and the new cycle begins. It celebrates the joy in the instructions of God given to Moses. The scrolls are paraded around the synagogue and even out into the streets with dancing and singing. This tradition began in the Middle Ages.
Many Scriptures such as Hosea 6:11, Joel 3:12-16, Matt 13:37-39, Rev 14:14-20 attest to a final harvest at the end of the age. The parable of the tares and the wheat is a good example. It tells of a field sown with wheat into which the enemy sowed tares (weeds) while the men were sleeping. The tares were allowed to grow alongside the wheat until harvest time, then the tares were gathered and destroyed in the fire and wheat gathered into the barns. Jesus explained that
"the harvest is the end of the age…the Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His Kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him here"(Matt 13:39, 41-43).
The harvest is good news for the righteous, but very bad news for those who are not in right relationship with the Father. Those who are rebellious against Him or oppose His purposes will find they will have eternity to regret their choices, while those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour will be rejoicing in His presence. When the reapers come, the wrath of God will be poured out.
After the harvest, the Lord will build His tabernacle (Succah) amongst His people and dwell in their midst and tabernacle amongst them for 1,000 years (Rev 19:11-16,20:1-6). Under His succah, there is no shortage of supply for it is truly a divine feast!
"Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready…blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev 19:7).
Succot is also called "the time of our joy", and at this marriage banquet there will be unspeakable joy, even in Jewish terms! Jewish weddings are renowned for an abundance of food and happiness.
During Jesus' 1,000-year reign on earth, the nations of the world will come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with the Jewish people.
"Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem (before the Lord intervened and battled for Israel then planted His feet on the Mt of Olives, together with His holy ones - Zech 14: 2-5) will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths" (Zech 14:16 - brackets added). If the nations do perfect high priest of a different order (Melchizedek), his sacrifice has done away with the need for further sacrifices. When we believe on Him and make Him our Lord, our sins are blotted out of the records forever and we are FREE. We can now have assurance of eternal life and not wonder if we may make it to heaven.
In the rabbinic commentary, the Talmud, it records in Yoma 39A:
"Throughout the days of Simeon the Righteous (High Priest in 3BCE) the scarlet cloth would turn white…from then on it sometimes turned white and sometimes not…throughout the last 40 years before the temple was destroyed, it never turned white".
That means that from the death of Jesus in 30 CE, there was no forgiveness for the sin of the people through animal sacrifice. It was no longer necessary.
Prophetically, Yom Kippur foreshadows the time when God the Father will:
"pour out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born" (Zech 12:10).
This is the day when the Lord God will:
"sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean, I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you; and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances" (Ezek 36:25-27).
What a glorious day that will be - a day of national repentance and rebirth, as Israel recognises her Messiah. This may be a future event, but the seeds of it are already occurring in Israel as many are receiving revelation as to the identity of the Messiah, often in supernatural ways. We do not have to wait for that day, we can pray now for an increase in the harvest for those working in the field of Jewish evangelism.
This King has already visited planet earth, and His name is Yeshua.
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14).
He has already come as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, but will come again to take up His reign, and when He does, living water will flow out of Jerusalem and the city will be lit by His glory.
"And it will come about in that day that there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle. For it will be a unique day which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night; but it will come about that at evening time where will be light. And it will come about in that day that living water will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter. And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day, the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one" (Zech 14:6-9).
His glory will return to His temple once more, as in the days of Solomon, as the prophet predicted,
"And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate facing east. And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house…And He said to me, 'Son of Man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet; where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever" (Ezek 43:4,5,7a).
When that day comes, we will all be on our faces before His glory (2 Chron 5:14).
"At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, those who are in heaven and one earth, and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Yeshua the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:10,11).
We can choose to worship Him now, or we will worship Him at some time in the future, so why not make the decision to do it now?
Heavenly Father, you are the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. I confess that I am a sinner in need of redemption. I ask your forgiveness and choose to humble my heart before you now. Accept me as your child. I accept you as My Father and accept the sacrifice of Your Son, Yeshua, for my sin. Fill me now with your Holy Spirit and purify my heart so I can live all the days of my life in service to you. Lead me, teach me and guide me into Your perfect plans for my life in the coming days. In the name of Yeshua, I pray. Amen.