We Finally Made It!
It took five Eye of Prophecy articles instead of the intended two, but here we are at the seventh and final one: the Festival of Shelters—known in Hebrew as Sukkot. And just in time, because today’s article falls on the 6th day of this delightful celebration, which began this past Monday.
It’s no coincidence that this God-ordained observance is number seven on the list. Seven, the Divine number of finality, wholeness, and consummation of the Lord’s purpose and plan for Israel and for the entire human race.
If you haven’t already, you might want to consider reading one or more (perhaps all four!) of the preceding Eye of Prophecy articles that discuss—from a Biblical, historical, and prophetic viewpoint, each of the first six Festivals—why they are observed and when. All seven feasts were instituted as commemorative examples, representative shadows, and prophetic types of the real object and purpose for each. With the first four completed and perfected by Messiah Jesus upon his first arrival, and the last three to be fulfilled upon his glorious return to Jerusalem to establish the incomparable Kingdom of God on earth.
In review the Festivals are: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and today’s subject, Festival of Shelters or Booths.
I’m sure the Lord loves to see the Jews celebrate Purim and Hanukkah, both of which memorialize deliverance of the Jews from those who sought to destroy them (the wicked Persian official Haman in the 5th century B.C. and the vile Greek/Syrian despot Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the 2nd century B.C). Yet, each of these holidays was established by the Jews long after the time of Moses; not directly by God himself.
Certainly, God miraculously delivered the Jews through Queen Esther and the Jewish leader Mordecai from genocide at the hands of the Persian Empire. Through the Maccabees, the Lord providentially rescued the Jews from a great slaughter initiated by Antiochus IV, and spared the second Temple from further desecration. But unlike the Seven Festivals of the Torah, there is no direct prophetic preview correlation between those two historic Jewish milestones and Messiah.
There is, however, a pattern precursor connection between ancient Persia and modern-day Iran, as Iran is one of the prominent nations that will participate in the massive but ill-fated Gog/Magog invasion of Israel, with the contemptible intent to utterly destroy the Jews and the State of Israel (Ezekiel 38 & 39). Moreover, Antiochus IV was a megalomaniac model of the even more evil and tyrannical ruler (Antichrist Nero) who will seek to crush Israel during the last days of the end times that are nearly upon us (Daniel 11).
(Coin of Antiochus IV Epiphanes … He Even Looked Like Nero)
The Festival of Shelters
As done with the first six Festivals, let’s examine the Biblical record of God’s instructions to Moses and the people. Sukkot is the only one of the individual seven festivals (although Passover and Day of Atonement are explained earlier in the Books of Exodus and Leviticus, respectively, before all seven are listed in Leviticus Chapter 23) for which the Lord reminds his people to keep. Aside from that, there is a collective reminder to keep all seven.
The initial directives began as follows:
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. Begin celebrating the Festival of Shelters on the fifteenth day of the appointed month (seventh month)—five days after the Day of Atonement. This festival to the Lord will last for seven days. On the first day of the festival you must proclaim an official day for holy assembly, when you do no ordinary work. For seven days you must present special gifts to the Lord. The eighth day is another holy day on which you present your special gifts to the Lord. This will be a solemn occasion, and no ordinary work may be done that day” (Leviticus 23:33-36).
That eighth Holy Day is an extra day (called Simchat Torah by the Jews … rejoicing in God’s Law, the Torah) of enthusiastic emphasis on the entire week of Shelters.
Verses 37 and 38 are parenthetically noted in Scripture. With the Lord’s command that all seven festivals must be kept throughout the year at the appointed times in addition to the regular weekly Sabbath days.
Next, is the Lord’s special reminder to keep this Festival … including additional instructions to the people.
“Remember that this seven-day festival to the Lord—the Festival of Shelters—begins on the fifteenth day of the appointed (seventh) month after you have harvested all the produce of the land. The first day and the eighth day of the festival will be days of complete rest. On the first day gather branches from magnificent trees—palm fronds, boughs from leafy trees, and willows that grow by the streams. Then celebrate with joy before the Lord your God for seven days … This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed in the appointed month from generation to generation. For seven days you must live outside in little shelters. All native-born Israelites must live in shelters. This will remind each new generation of Israelites that I made their ancestors live in shelters when I rescued them from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23:39-43).
The little shelter is called a sukkah in Hebrew, which means a makeshift hut. In English, we might also use the word shack. Sukkot is the plural … shelters.
Until the recent series of Eye of Prophecy articles on the Festivals, I had not written about them exclusively, with one exception … The Festival of Shelters (Tabernacles or Booths).
(Festival of Booths … A Modern-Day Sukkah)
An entire Eye of Prophecy article was devoted to this one Festival; entitled, Festival of Tabernacles … Part I, published 10-18-14. Followed by a sequel mostly on that subject, Let’s Celebrate … Forever! Posted 10-25-14. *Note: There was a reason I chose not to entitle the sequel as Part II. I just can’t remember what it was!
Since it’s been almost two years to the day when Festival of Tabernacles was posted and readership of Eye of Prophecy posts has increased considerably in the last 1 ½ years or so with most visitors to the website reading more recent articles (logically), I’d like to quote in some length from that older article.
As follows, in italics:
Jews all over Israel and in many countries of the world construct their own version of a temporary sukkot booth or hut in their backyard or on balconies or in open fields. There, for a week, they eat (mostly evening) meals, relax, sing songs, and entertain family and friends; some go so far as to actually sleep in the makeshift shelter at night. Included in their ceremonies are times of prayers and waving a bouquet—a collection of mostly leafy branches from the etrog (citrus type tree), palm and willow branches, and myrtle (boughs of thicker branched trees).
In addition to the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—before and during the great trek through the wilderness—the Psalms and many other Old Testament books frequently refer to the miraculous delivery of the Hebrews from Egypt after the fact. And there are several review type references in the New Testament. Through all of these passages we can vividly see two distinct reasons why God wanted his people to keep this Festival for all time: To remember God’s faithful Protection of and Provisions for his people.
Through a warm-hearted invitation from Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, children throughout Israel helped him furnish his own sukkah. The youngsters hung decorations, all the while singing holiday songs. Although the Israeli office of President is mostly ceremonial (the Prime Minister is the actual head of government), this presidential interaction with Israeli children and citizens was truly remarkable.
I suppose it would be equivalent to the US President inviting a sampling of children in America to decorate his Christmas tree; to truly remember that Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus Christ, the divine light that shines brilliantly in a dark world. Do you suppose our President would ever do such a thing!? Or for the President to summon a cross-section of America to wave sparklers and flags at an Independence Day festival in front of the White House, in remembrance of our deliverance from a tyrannical English king? Personally, I think it would be a great tradition for the next President to institute.
Listen to the words of President Rivlin: “Dear children, you are fulfilling an important task by decorating our sukkah. It’s important that everyone who comes to the president’s sukkah feels he is at home, a home which is a symbol. We have disagreements, but we are one nation and celebrate the holidays together.” Then he continued, “The sukkah symbolizes what we were before we became a nation. We are now celebrating to remember our exodus from Egypt; that we were slaves but now we have a country of our own, and that we must not treat others like we were treated in Egypt.”
Then later in that article (3rd paragraph below), the two primary purposes for Sukkot are reiterated (did you catch them in one of the above paragraphs?), which will be placed in bold font for purpose of today’s article.
Because the adults who were delivered from Egypt disobeyed God and refused out of doubt, fear, and lack of trust to enter Canaan, only those less than twenty years began the 40-year passage. When they finally arrived at the threshold of Canaan, here is what Moses reminded them, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. And you must always obey the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).
The Bible’s inherent definition and meaning of fear of the Lord is not running scared or being frightened. Rather it means reverent respect and deep awe that leads to worship. It also implies complete trust in the Lord … that he is who he says he is and does what he says he will do.
Included in the Lord’s commands would be, of course, to celebrate the Festival of Shelters—which above all the other festivals depicted the awesome protection and provision God lavished on his people, even though they didn’t deserve it and certainly didn’t earn it. The Feast of Tabernacles would remind them of God’s faithfulness to protect and provide; that he could and should be trusted at all times, for all things, no matter what.
“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
The all-inclusive lesson(s) to be learned by the ancient Israelites regarding the unnecessary generation they spent in the wilderness and how this is part and parcel of the need to always remember what happened, and this remembrance should be summoned at least once a year by observing the Feast of Tabernacles, is powerfully expressed in Psalms Chapter 78.
“Yet they kept on sinning against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. They stubbornly tested God in their hearts, demanding the foods they craved. They even spoke against God himself, saying, ‘God can’t give us food in the wilderness. Yes, he can strike a rock so water gushes out, but he can’t give his people bread and meat.’ When the Lord heard them, he was furious. The fire of his wrath burned against Jacob. Yes, his anger rose against Israel” (Psalms 78: 17-21).
And what exactly was it that made God angry, the opposite of which is the very thing that pleases God? The very next verse in this chapter answers that question and provides a succinct summary of just how the Lord places all of the things we do or don’t do in a box (so to speak). And this box has a label with but two words: Trust Me.
The Lord’s anger rose against Israel because, “…they did not believe God or trust him to care for them” (Psalms 78:22).
Sukkot Will Be Mandatory in the Kingdom of God
The final Old Testament reference to the Festival of Shelters tells us in commanding and convincing fashion that it will be celebrated forever in the final Kingdom of God on earth … the only Festival that the Lord requires to be observed by all nations.
“In the end, the enemies of Jerusalem who survive the plague will go up to Jerusalem each year to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and to celebrate the Festival of Shelters. Any nation in the world that refuses to come to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will have no rain. If the people of Egypt refuse to attend the festival, the Lord will punish them with the same plague that he sends on the other nations who refuse to go. Egypt and the other nations will all be punished if they don’t go to celebrate the Festival of Shelters” (Zechariah 14:16-19).
Later, we’ll learn more as to why Sukkot is the only Festival mandated by the Lord to be celebrated perpetually. Although some of the other six festivals were to be kept as “a permanent law … observed from generation to generation” (see Leviticus 23:21 as an example), this commandment from the Lord applied only while the Mosaic Covenant was still in effect. When the New Covenant replaced the Old Covenant, keeping of the Jewish Festivals became optional. But as stressed in last week’s article and several others, the very essence of not just Passover and the Day of Atonement, but all festivals, was the sacrificial offering of innocent animals. However, the entire Levitical Sacrificial System ended with the destruction of the 2nd Temple.
The Majestic Kingdom of God
Let’s examine one of many passages in the Old Testament that dramatically describes both the glorious Kingdom of God and extraordinary events leading to and taking place in the Millennium (1000 year reign of Messiah). Nearly all of these passages speak of Israel in fulfillment of her destiny to be the very center of the Lord’s government on earth. It will be a Divine Monarchy, with Messiah Jesus as King of all kings, and Lord of all lords. We’ll also see why a (truly) divine monarchy is, by far, the best form of government.
“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you. Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you. All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance. Look and see, for everyone is coming home! Your sons are coming from distant lands; your little daughters will be carried home. Your eyes will shine, and your heart will thrill with joy, for merchants from around the world will come to you. They will bring you the wealth of many lands” (Isaiah 60:1-5).
Continuing in Isaiah Chapter 60 including a phenomenal prophetic description of airplanes some 2,600 years before they were invented, we read:
“And what do I see flying like clouds to Israel, like doves to their nests? They are ships from the ends of the earth, from lands that trust in me … They are bringing the people of Israel home from far away, carrying their silver and gold. They will honor the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has filled you with splendor. Foreigners will come to rebuild your towns, and their kings will serve you … The kings of the world will be led as captives in a victory procession. For the nations that refuse to serve you will be destroyed” (Isaiah 60:8-12).
Later in this chapter:
“Though you were once despised and hated, with no one traveling through you, I will make you beautiful forever, a joy to all generations. Powerful kings and mighty nations will satisfy your every need, as though you were a child nursing at the breast of a queen. You will know at last that I, the Lord, am your Savior and Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel … I will make peace your leader and righteousness your ruler. Violence will disappear from your land; the desolation and destruction of war will end. Salvation will surround you like city walls, and praise will be on the lips of all who enter there” (Verses 15-18).
Here is an excerpt from the Eye of Prophecy article, Kingdom of God (posted 1-17-15) to illustrate that God and His Messiah’s Divine Monarchy surpasses all forms of human government:
Paul proceeds to tell us more about God’s splendid plan for the human race. In fact he calls it a mystery, because at the time that God gave it to him even the new Christians didn’t completely understand the eternal implications of what Christ would achieve at his first coming and would continue at his second coming. Listen to these extraordinary words:
“God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth” (Ephesians 1:9-10).
That plan is none other than: THE KINGDOM OF GOD (on earth). Revealed by Messiah Jesus himself as recorded in the Gospels; and consolidated into the everlasting tenets of the Christian faith by the authors of the epistles and Revelation.
Jesus spoke often of the Kingdom of God; for example, comparing it to a mustard seed … the smallest of seeds that when planted grows into an enormous tree. Which is exactly what has happened to the body of Christ; an exponential growth down through the ages, to now consist of believers from virtually every nation and language on earth. It is the Kingdom of Heaven in the hearts and minds of those who have been redeemed by the shed blood of Christ. Next, will come the final physical Kingdom of God on this earth; at which time all people, all governments, all nations will be brought under the authority of God’s magnificent Son. He will rule the nations with firmness, but fairness.
Isn’t that what most people want? They want: law, order, equality, safety, peace. And they want someone who has the kind of authority to realize those dreams, but also someone who is kind and considerate with that authority. One who truly cares about people and what’s best for them; who can rule and judge with impartiality and kindness. A truly wise and benevolent King whose attributes perfectly reflect who and what he is: Love, Truth, Justice, Mercy.
Speaking of kingdoms and kings, listen to this powerful prophecy of Daniel who refers to the four mighty empires of the past (Daniel’s future) and the coalition of nations currently being assembled in our generation in preparation for the Day of the Lord:
“During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).
A Person Is the Final Purpose for Celebrating the Festival of Booths
More than any other festival, the Festival of Shelters was a joyful reminder of God’s protection, provisions, and also presence (Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle). Israel’s triumphant entrance into the Promised Land of Israel in Moses time; the resolute return of God’s people and remarkable restoration of the Promised Land in our time; and the regal reign of Messiah from this same Promised Land in the near future has as much or more meaning through Sukkot than any other festival.
Although all the festivals were types and shadows of the Pre-Incarnate and then Incarnate Messiah, none more so that Sukkot. For unless the Lord God had been with them through the ages (even during the Lord’s severe discipline of his people) and had given the remnant among them shelter from their enemies and from the storms of life, they would never have made it to the Promised Land. Not the first time with Moses and Joshua, nor the second time with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Ezra, and Nehemiah; nor the third time led by the likes of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, Theodore Herzl, and David Ben-Gurion—each of whom burned with passion to restore the Hebrew language, revive Zionism, and reinstate the sovereign State of Israel (respectively).
They and others longing for Israel’s final renewal believed their Scriptures when God said to his chosen people: “…For though I have destroyed you in my anger, I will now have mercy on you through my grace” (Isaiah 60:10).
Tabernacles was the last of the seven festivals for a reason. To be observed after the FINAL harvest of the year in the land promised to their patriarchal fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and to remember their arduous journey through the wilderness while sheltered by the Lord, literally and figuratively … physically and spiritually.
Sukkot has been described by the Jews as “The Season of Our Joy” (Zeman Simchatenu). It is the most joyful time of celebration in Israel. During this time more than any other, Jews would search the heavens for signs of Messiah’s coming. Alas, if they had only believed their Scriptures, especially Daniel’s astonishing prophecy that Messiah would come before the second Temple would be destroyed. Then there’s the Star of Bethlehem that only Gentile (perhaps one or two were Jews) wise men from the east believed would lead them to the Christ-child … the Savior (then) and King (soon to come) of Israel and the whole world.
The final harvest commemorated by the Festival of Shelters will be accomplished by Messiah Yeshua’s glorious return. Jesus referred to this final harvest of souls redeemed by his New Covenant substitutionary sacrifice as the Son of God, Son of David, and Son of Man (Matthew 13:39). And the conclusive ingathering of all his chosen ones (Jew and Gentile alike) who turn to him during the great Tribulation (Matthew 24:31).
Thus, Sukkot will be celebrated by both Jew and Gentile throughout eternity. Here again is the ultimate reason that all nations (perhaps delegations from those countries) will to travel to Jerusalem after the Kingdom of God is established:
“…to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and to celebrate the Festival of Shelters” (Zechariah 14:16).
The following is an excerpt from the aforementioned Eye of Prophecy article, Let’s Celebrate … Forever!
What makes this celebration so different from all other holidays, both Jewish and Gentile, different even from the contemporary observance of Tabernacles? The Answer: Messiah Jesus, himself, will be there! It’s all about Jesus! As well it should be. For he is our Way, our Truth, and our Life. (John 14:6). Once again, the purpose for keeping the Feast of Shelters by traveling directly to Jerusalem during the Millennium is to, Worship the King.
The Festival of Shelters will be celebrated not just in remembrance of the past, but also in reverence of the present and in anticipation of the ongoing glorious future of God’s people. And what does that future presence hold? Just like the small shelters (sukkah) constructed for the Feast of Shelters symbolize God’s sovereign protection and provisions, the Cloud by Day, Pillar of Fire by night, the Tabernacle, and later the Temple contained the very divine presence and glory of God … the Shekinah glory.
This same glory—the very essence of God—visited the human race through … a Child born to us and a Son given to us (Isaiah 9:6) prophesied by Isaiah; fulfilled when the angel confidently announced to Joseph: “…do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means God is with us.” (Matthew 1:20-23).
Upon his glorious reappearance, Jesus of Nazareth will once again be among us on earth and then in the New Jerusalem forever and ever. IMMANUEL! God with us!
Yes, one day soon will see the once-for-all permanent fulfillment of the Immanuel prophecy, God with us, take place when Christ returns to Israel. The nations will travel to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles and to worship the King who first came as a child to Bethlehem to tabernacle (live) among us. But his sojourn was all too brief … only thirty-three years. But, oh what a visit! When he ascended to heaven after he arose from the grave, he left God’s mighty plan of salvation on the earth, available to all who call upon the name of the Lord.
Yes, Messiah will return for all time as Immanuel. This is why so many will gladly make this wonderful pilgrimage to Jerusalem: to show their eternal gratitude that God is with us.
“I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever’” (Revelation 21:3-4).
“And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city” (Revelation 21:26).
Things to Ponder
Hallelujah! Messiah is soon to come!
Jewish rabbis, observant Jews, and even the secular among them long for and are convinced of that Biblical fact … Messiah will arrive any day. And so are Messianic Jews and we Gentile Christians brimming with anticipation over his arrival. In fact, the New Testament is where you’ll find the concept of Messiah’s imminent return … meaning any day after he ascended back to heaven.
Yet, based on Scripture, as explained in a few prior Eye of Prophecy articles, particularly Where is Messiah … Is He Already Here (posted 6-25-16), their climatic last day’s repentance will be that of only one thing: Severe sorrow that they could not and would not see Yeshua as Messiah. Not just when he came to Israel 2,000 years ago, but deep regret of rebuffing him to the very moment when he delivers them from destruction by their enemies.
Yet, their intense bereavement will turn into great rejoicing when they realize that (most of all) Messiah Yeshua will bring final deliverance from themselves … from their transgressions.
Says the Messiah:
“Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died … All Israel will mourn, each clan by itself, and with the husbands separate from their wives…” (Zechariah 12:10-12).
Their remorse will be so soul-searchingly strong, that wives and husbands won’t be able to bear grieving together. They’ll have to grieve alone. This anguish will not just come from deep distress over their past denial that Jesus is Messiah, but also fear over what Messiah might do to them.
However, those who embrace Yeshua as Messiah—to realize that he returned because of his and his Father’s great love for them—will be saved from their sins and from their enemies.
“On that day a fountain will be opened for the dynasty of David and for the people of Jerusalem, a fountain to cleanse them from all their sins and impurity” (Zechariah 13:1).
“And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say, ‘The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness. And this is my covenant with them, that I will take away their sins’” (Romans 11:26, quoting the New Covenant announcement in Jeremiah 31:31-34).
“And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day, there will be one Lord—his name alone will be worshipped” (Zechariah 14:9).
Through the 3rd Person of the Triune God—the Holy Spirit poured out on them—they will honor and praise God the Father and His magnificent Son Messiah Jesus.
From that time on God’s people, indeed, all peoples, will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.
They will come to: Worship the King!