Sukkot: Feast of Tabernacles



Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) remembers God’s goodness to the fledgling nation of Israel as they journeyed through the wilderness for 40 years to the promised land. Without a permanent home, they depended on God to provide for all their needs. Sukkot is a Hebrew word meaning huts or temporary shelters. During this Feast, households construct a Sukkah outside with palm branches for the roof and spend as much time as possible in it, eating meals and inviting friends and family to come and enjoy the Feast with them. The insides of  the Sukkot are decorated with twinkling lights and garlands, with fruit (especially pomegranates) and scriptures. 

Sukkot also celebrates with thanksgiving the ingathering of the autumn harvest at the end of the year which includes wheat, olives, grapes, dates, figs and pomegranates

During the times of the Temple in Jerusalem, Sukkot was one of the three pilgrimage feasts during which the people of Israel went up to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple and present their offerings to the Lord. 

"Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread [Passover], the Festival of Weeks [Pentecost] and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the Lord empty-handed: each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you."  - Deuteronomy 16:16

The Gospel of John mentions the Feast of Tabernacles in chapter 7. It records Jesus travelling up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast and mentions him teaching in the Temple courts. It describes how “On the last and greatest day of the feast Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

At that time there was a Sukkot tradition of drawing water from the pool of Siloam. Everyday of the feast the priests would collect the spring water in a golden pitcher amidst much celebration, singing and dancing. Returning to the Temple, the priest would pour out the precious water near the altar. An expression of dependence on God to send the much needed rain after the long, dry summer and of the cleansing of sins. 

Comparing physical thirst to spiritual thirst, Jesus offered the promised Holy Spirit to anyone who would believe in Him. The people had sung the words of Isaiah 12:3: “Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.” Jesus declared himself at that moment to be the source of that life-giving salvation. In response some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Messiah.”



The following excerpt is from: God’s Goodness Through The Biblical Holidays by Melanie Moscovich. Life Publications, 2020 https://mmmoscovich.wixsite.com/book

“The holiday is also called Festival of Ingathering, Hag ha Asif.  Part of the prophetic message of Sukkot is about people from every nation worshipping God and that there will be a full ingathering of people from all nations coming into his Kingdom.  During Temple times sacrifices were made on behalf of the nations for people to know God. In the New Testament the message of the Gospel going worldwide to all peoples is given. People from all over the world worship and follow Jesus and we look forward to a great harvest and ingathering of souls from every nation...

“Each of the three pilgrimage holidays, Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot, required the Jewish people to go up to Jerusalem. Each of these holidays represents a significant spiritual event of God’s plan revealed to mankind in his word. Pesach - Passover with the death of Jesus as the sacrificial Passover lamb making a way for the forgiveness of sin and a restored relationship with God.  
Shavuot - Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit  so people can lead lives following God, have both been fulfilled. 

“The only pilgrimage holiday that has not been fulfilled is Sukkot. The Feast of Tabernacles prophesies the full ingathering of souls from all nations worshipping God. This is significant and something about which we should have knowledge in order to pray for the full meaning of this holiday to come to pass, in the way the other two have been fulfilled. 

“There are already signs of this future promise as every year Christians from all over the world gather in Jerusalem for an event during the Feast of Tabernacles to worship the Lord.”

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IN THE BIBLE
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... 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; the first day is a day of sabbath rest, and the eighth day also is a day of sabbath rest. On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’”    - Leviticus 23:33-43

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SUGGESTIONS FOR CELEBRATING

>> It’s really fun to have a go at building your own Sukkah. Create a temporary booth outside that you can decorate with fruit, vegetables and flowers. Print out or paint some scriptures that remind you of God’s provision and goodness. Add a table and chairs and some decorative lights to make it pretty! 

>> Gather friends and family for a special meal. Spend time sharing stories about God’s care and provision in your lives.

>> Make a model of a Sukkah for your table centrepiece and surround it with encouraging scriptures.

>> Make an arrangement for your home of flowers and some of the fruit gathered in at the time of Sukkot in Israel e.g. pomegranates, grapes, figs, olives, dates. Add some bread to represent the wheat. Thank God for his abundance and variety. 

>> Read through the Hallel (Psalms 113-118 ) which are read in the synagogues and also Zechariah 14 which prophecies that people from all nations will go up to Jerusalem each year to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).