When God’s Son Shakes Up the Feast

When God's Son Shakes Up the Feast

The Pharisees staged a Feast about “God With Us”—and He showed up!
Dramatic ways Jesus owned it at the Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles). Because He is all that!

This is it—the feast that “hooked” me. Learning about the Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles or Booths) added so much dimension to my understanding of John 7-9, which takes place against the backdrop of the Great Feast, that I got excited to learn about the other Feasts as well. And I haven’t been disappointed!

This Divine Appointments series explores messages the Jewish calendar holds for today’s followers of Messiah. Nothing in the Bible is “old news.”

There’s so much to talk about related to Yeshua at the Great Feast that I’m going to break it into two posts. I have a great guest post tee’d up for next week, but my next post on this subject will also kick off a new series I’ve been eager to tackle for months–a series on the “I Am’s” of Jesus. Please watch this space!

In this week’s post on the Feast of Tabernacles, I’ll lay out the story largely in the words of others–because I’m not sure you’d believe me otherwise.

There is a quick transition from the somber time of the Jewish High Holidays (Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur) to the week-long festival of Sukkot (i.e., “Tabernacles”). If the High Holidays focus on the Lord as our Creator, our Judge, and the One who atones for our sins, then Sukkot is the time when we joyously celebrate all that He has done for us. Prophetically understood, the seven days of Sukkot picture olam haba, the world to come, and the Millennial Kingdom… In ancient Israel, the joy of Sukkot was so great that it became known simply as “the Feast” (1 Kings 12:32). Later it was known as z’man simchateinu, the “Season of our Joy.”

– John J. Parsons, Hebrew4Christians.com

You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your towns. Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful. (Deut 16:14-15)

The feast is also called “the Feast of Ingathering,” since it celebrates the fruit harvest, the third and final harvest of the year. (Ex 23:16; 34:22)

It fell on a time of year when the hearts of the people would naturally be full of thankfulness, gladness, and expectancy. All the crops had been long stored; and now all fruits were also gathered, the vintage past, and the land only awaited the softening and refreshment of the ‘latter rain,’ to prepare it for a new crop.

– Alfred Edersheim, The Temple–Its Ministry and Services

Sukkot is the seventh and final Feast of the Lord given in the Mosaic Law. It lasts seven days, with the first day designated as a “Shabbaton,” a day of rest. (It’s followed by an eighth day, another day of rest, but that isn’t technically part of Tabernacles and dwelling in booths is not required.)

In eschatology, the three Fall Feasts furnish a fascinating picture of end-time events as many students of prophecy understand them.

  • The Feast of Trumpets on Tishri 1 appears to be a picture of the “snatching away” of the Bride
  • The Day of Atonement on Tishri 10 is a picture of Messiah’s Second Coming
  • The Feast of Tabernacles which starts on Tishri 15 is a picture of Messiah’s Millennial Kingdom, when He will dwell or “tabernacle” with His Bride

On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days… You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Lev 23:39-44)

Sukkah in Wilderness (Neot Kedomim)

Sukkot was one of the three “pilgrim festivals” which all Jewish males were required to attend in Jerusalem (Deut 16:16). While only males were required to come, entire families would often travel from great distances and arrive days or weeks early to prepare, to fulfill the central commandment to “dwell in booths.”

Colorful booths made of olive, myrtle, palm and other branches (Neh. 8:15) filled every available space on the streets and roofs of Jerusalem.  A family would construct its booth then move into it on the first day. They would hang out there for the duration of the feast, eating and entertaining and, weather permitting, sleeping.

You’ll find a slideshow of modern sukkot here, if you’re curious. And rabbinical standards related to sukkot explained here.

Sukkot in Israel

Sukkot in Israel
Photo credit: Yoninah via Wikimedia

This was the Feast Yeshua’s brothers urged Him to go up to:

Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” (John 7:3-4)

Having said these things to them, He stayed in Galilee. But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as if, in secret. So the Jews were seeking Him at the feast and were saying, “Where is He?” (John 7:8-11)

In addition to the booths, the Feast had a number of other unique features.


“If Anyone Is Thirsty”

Throughout the seven days of Sukkot a special cohen [priest]… carried water in a gold pitcher from the Pool of Shiloach (Siloam) to be poured into a basin at the foot of the altar by the cohen hagadol [High Priest]. It symbolized prayer for rain… and it also pointed toward the outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh [Holy Spirit] on the people of Israel. The rabbis associated the custom with Isaiah 12:3, “With joy shall you draw water from the wells of salvation.”…

On the seventh day the water pouring was accompanied by [priests] blowing gold trumpets, [Levites] singing sacred songs, and ordinary people waving their lulavs and chanting the [Messianic] Hallel (Psalms 113-118), which includes in its closing verses:

Adonai, please save us! [Hebrew: Hoshia’ na or Hoshana]
Adonai, please prosper us!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of Adonai!
We have blessed you out of the house of Adonai.
God is Adonai, and He has given us light.” (Psalm 118:25-27)

The words, “Please save us!” led to the day’s being called Hoshana Rabbah, the Great Hosanna.

– David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary

Talmud recorded that “one who had never witnessed the Rejoicing at the Place of the Water Drawing had never seen true joy in his life.”

– The Water-Drawing Festival, myjewishlearning.com

Water Drawing Reenactment

Water Drawing Festival reenacted (on Youtube)

The second half of John 7 takes place as the festivities of the Week of Tabernacles drew to a close.

‘It was the last day, that great day of the feast.’ … It was on that day, after the priest had returned from Siloam with his golden pitcher, and for the last time poured its contents to the base of the altar; after the ‘Hallel’ had been sung to the sound of the flute, the people responding and worshipping as the priests three times drew the threefold blasts from their silver trumpets—just when the interest of the people had been raised to its highest pitch, that, from amidst the mass of worshippers, who were waving towards the altar quite a forest of leafy branches as the last words of Psalm 118 were chanted—a voice was raised which resounded through the temple, startled the multitude, and carried fear and hatred to the hearts of their leaders.

– Alfred Edersheim, The Temple–Its Ministry and Services

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

It was in the midst of this water pouring, trumpet blasting, palm waving, psalm chanting and ecstatic joy on the part of people seeking forgiveness—and in the presence of all twenty-four divisions of the priesthood (Luke 1:5)—that Yeshua cried out in the Temple courts, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! Whoever trusts in me, as the Tanakh says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!”… In effect Yeshua was declaring, “I am the answer to your prayers.”

– David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary

The impact on the people was profound.

Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet.” Others were saying, “This is the Christ.” (John 7:37-41, referencing the Prophet like Moses from Deut 18:18)


Why Believe Such Claims?

As Jesus left the temple after this discussion, He encountered the man born blind. He uttered the claim, “I am the Light of the World” (John 9:5), then applied a mud-and-spit mask to the man’s eyes. Jesus sent him to wash at the Pool of Siloam, specifically—the very pool from which the priests drew water for their ritual the night before. The man “went away and washed, and came back seeing” (John 9:7).

Yeshua demonstrated the truth of His claims by using the WATER of the same sacred pool to give LIGHT to the eyes of a man born blind!

“Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.” (John 9:32)

Yet the Pharisees reviled the man who’d received his sight, saying, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.” (John 9:28-29)

But… didn’t Moses tell them to look for another Prophet like himself? (Deut 18:18)

So. Here’s another radical claim Jesus made that day.

Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death. (John 8:51)

These people had just spent seven days observing every minute detail Moses captured about Sukkot. Down to what they were supposed to carry. (The specified fruit–a lemon-like citrus called an etrog–and branches–palm and myrtle–arranged according to rabbinic specifications into a lulav). And quite a few rules they made up just for good measure, such as exactly how they were supposed to wave the lulav while rejoicing.

 

Sukkot In The Synagogue. Leopold Pilichowski (1869-1933). Oil On Canvas.

Sukkot In The Synagogue. Leopold Pilichowski (1869-1933).
Via Wikimedia.

Has their elaborate Sukkot ritual saved anyone from death? No.
Has it given anyone back his sight? No.

No wonder the Pharisees were torqued at Jesus. And afraid. And no wonder “the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.” (John 9:22)

Sadly for them, His indisputable proof of His claims made their position untenable!

It appears Jesus remained around Jerusalem through Hanukah (the Feast of Dedication referenced in John 10:22). I hope it doesn’t shock anyone reading this that Yeshua is recorded celebrating Hanukah and not Christmas! It often surprises people I talk with who haven’t looked into these things.

Then Yeshua retired to the Jordan wilderness to escape the Pharisaical manhunt. When He returned to Jerusalem again, it was for the next “pilgrim feast”: Passover.

Did the people remember His dramatic claims at Sukkot?

Absolutely they did. Which is why, when He reentered Jerusalem a few months later, they greeted Him with waving palm fronds and the very same Messianic hymn they sang at the Feast of Tabernacles:

On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” (John 12:12-13)

Of course, by that time Jesus had another extreme miracle to His credit. He’d raised Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:43) No wonder the Pharisees felt threatened! And no wonder Caiaphas stated prophetically,

“It is expedient for us that one man should die…” (John 11:49-51)


Sukkot: The Season of Our Joy

Summing it up….

At Sukkot, the Jewish people celebrate the “Season of Our Joy.” In Yeshua’s day they did so with elaborate light shows and water ceremonies. Yeshua demonstrated He is the focus of that joy!

He who believes in Me,… ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38)

I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)
(I’ll talk more about this statement in my upcoming series on Yeshua’s “I Am’s”)

They also celebrate God’s sheltering presence–past, present and future.

The Lord Himself sheltered the Jews with Clouds of Glory and supernaturally provided for them during the forty years of wandering in the desert…. The purpose of the sukkah [booths] is to remind us of the type of huts the ancient Israelites dwelt in as they made their trek through the dangers of the desert…. The sukkah is meant to remind us of the Clouds of Glory that protected the Jewish people while they sojourned.

– John J. Parsons, Hebrew4Christians.com

Yeshua is that “Sheltering Presence.”

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” (Matt 1:22-23)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… (John 1:14)

The word for “dwelt” here is σκηνόω, skenoo, which is the verb form of σκηνος, skenos, a tent or tabernacle! The same word appears in Rev 21:3: “… the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell (σκηνόω) among them…” So according to John 1:14, in Yeshua the word became flesh and “tabernacled” among us!

It’s even likely Yeshua was born during Sukkot.

The Feast of Tabernacles has abundant prophetic significance:

He attended the festival but did so “secretly” (John 7:8-10); when He comes again… it will be openly, with the “Clouds of Glory” (Matt 24:30, Rev 1:7)… He will once again “tabernacle” with Israel in Jerusalem (Ezek 37:27-28, Rev 21:3). The visible manifestation of the Lord, the Shekinah glory, will be seen as a shining fire over all of Mount Zion (Is 60:1,19, Zech 2:5) and all of the nations of the earth will journey there to celebrate Sukkot (Zech 14:16-19, Is 4:5).

– John J. Parsons, Hebrew4Christians.com

Finally, Sukkot reminds us that we are sojourners, too, just passing through… Like father Abraham, we live in a foreign land as “strangers and sojourners,” looking forward to the City of God (Heb 11:9-10). We do not need the so-called securities that this world can offer us… to be happy and provided for, chaverim—not if we truly understand we are surrounded by God’s sheltering Presence.

– John J. Parsons, Hebrew4Christians.com

 

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven… Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. (2 Cor 4:17-5:2,6-8)

 

Brothers and sisters, when you are “absent from the body,” will YOU be “at home with the Lord”? God’s “Ingathering” is coming. You want to be in the barn!

If you’ve never opened God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus (Rom 3:23, 6:23), please please please be persuaded to do it now! It’s simple. Just tell God from your heart that you admit you’re a sinner that needs a Savior (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23) that you’re done running your own life, and that you’re ready to make Jesus Lord of your life.

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Rom 10:9-11)

The decision that saves you is that simple!

Simple… But no one said living it out will be easy. Especially now.

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5 Comments

  1. Edith says:

    This is good. I can now understand why the people came out to receive Jesus with palm fronds. Thank you for making the Bible stories come alive. Remain blessed.

  2. Manjula J Klavara says:

    Beautifully written Linda. I love how you weave in and out of the Old and new testament, the present celebration innovations, smoothly tying it in together with the implications and applications. Insightful. I am blessed. Thank you again.

  3. Cindie Haese says:

    Powerful, concise and full of hope for what is yet to come. God is always right on time and keeps His Word to fulfill it. I appreciate this inspiring teaching! Thank you.

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