The Mystery and Meaning Sukkot: Feast of Tabernacles
The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD’s Festival of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. For seven days present food offerings to the LORD, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the LORD. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work.’”
Sukkot celebrates God tabernacling among the children of Israel during their forty years in the wilderness as His presence led them as a cloud of smoke by day and as a pillar of fire by night. In light of this, there is a heightened theological significance of John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” I believe Yeshua-Jesus was born on Sukkot, for He is Emmanuel, God among us, the presence of the Lord dwelling among His people once again like He did in the desert.
Rejoicing is the fundamental word that summarizes Sukkot. In Hebrew, Sukkot means “the time of our rejoicing.” Jewish tradition says that if you did not have the opportunity to go to Jerusalem during Sukkot in the days when the temple stood, you have never seen true rejoicing. It was not material pleasures but a pure spiritual joy that illuminated the people and the city for eight days and nights—a true celestial celebration. What was the reason for the season?
The Jewish people remember. We remember to learn from, honor, and celebrate what God has done for us in the past. We also remember to anticipate and get excited about what God is going to do for us in the future. Sukkot is the party that recalls God’s presence, protection, and provision when our ancestors exited Egypt and wandered the desert for forty years. What better reason to rejoice?
Don’t forget: what God did in the past He will do again in the future. He is the unchanging, unwavering Abba (Papa God) and lover of our souls. Because of this awareness, the Jewish people live in an environment of expectation. Maybe that is why they are so successful. As a people and nation, they are small. However, their accomplishments per capita are off the charts. Why? They know they are blessed, and because of this, they are expectant of good.
It is impossible to separate God’s presence from His protection. The manifest presence of God was the glory that led the Jews during the desert days, forming a canopy of clouds over them. The presence of God enclosed Israel on all six sides—top, bottom, north, south, east, and west. His presence formed a cocoon of protection from all the natural threats of the wilderness—sun, sandstorms, scorpions, and snakes. By night, He shielded them against the cold and lit their way as a column of fire.
Sukkot, or sukkah (singular), that observant Jews construct during the holiday are temporary shelters. Each has a roof and at least three walls that are made of plywood or canvas. These shelters represent the canopy of clouds of glory that sheltered God’s people during their forty years in the wilderness. Sukkot is symbolic of His tangible presence.
God not only was present and protected the children of Israel, the Bible says that neither the Israelites’ clothes nor their shoes wore out for forty years (Deut. 8:4). The harsh conditions would have ruined those items in forty days had it not been for God’s covering. He also turned a stone into a spring. Additionally, Abba/Father gave them the provision of bread from heaven. God meant for the manna in the wilderness to not only feed their bellies but also test their faith. There was only enough manna for each day. Every morning, they had to go out and collect it. If they tried to accumulate manna for multiple days, it would spoil. Only on Shabbat were they able to collect for two days without spoilage to observe the Sabbath. Part of the lesson to Israel was that they had to trust Him every day for their provision. In the Lord’s Prayer, Yeshua asks, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11/NIV). Not this week, month, or year. Today. We have to trust him daily.
We remember the past; we thank God for the past. However, we have to trust Him for His daily presence, protection, and provision here and NOW.
This commentary is an excerpt from my latest book, Aligning with God’s Appointed Times: Discover the Prophetic and Spiritual Meaning of the Biblical Holidays, now available from our FusionGlobal.org website.