Archive for October 12th, 2011
“Three times a year you shall make a festival to Me.” Exodus 23:14 (J. Green)
Festival – Tonight as the sun goes down the worldwide Jewish community will begin the festival of Sukkot. For the next few days, people who honor this commandment will live outside in shelters. This experience is a remembrance of the time in the wilderness when God delivered His people from the hand of bondage in Egypt. This festival is thousands of years old. It recalls God’s faithfulness, compassion, reliability and provision.
While Judaism has celebrated this festival as long as historical memory can recall, many Gentiles who have been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel are only recently discovering the power in this memorial. Its biblical authority rests on texts like Leviticus 23:35, 40 and 42 and Deuteronomy 16:14. Sukkot begins on the 15th day of Tishri, the 5th day after Yom Kippur. It is the last of the three pilgrim feasts, the other two being Passover and Shavu’ot. Sukkot is the Hebrew word that means “booths.” These are the temporary shelters (singular: Sukkah) constructed according to tradition as memorials to the days of wandering in the desert. The mistaken English translation “feast of Tabernacles” suggests that this festival is connected to the Tabernacle. A Sukkah is not like the Tabernacle. It is designed to be temporary while the Tabernacle was the permanent place of God’s presence.
There is a rich history and tradition accompanying Sukkot, but the most important part of this festival is its emotional tone. This is a time of rejoicing in God’s goodness during the years of wandering. It is a time of undoing the bitterness and complaints of the actual wanderers by reflecting on God’s provision and unwavering grace in our lives and in the lives of those who have come before us. While Israel exhibited a lack of gratefulness in those forty years, Sukkot today is a time of great thanksgiving when the community as a whole honors God’s fulfillment of His promises and looks forward to the completion of His redemptive purpose. But more than anything, Sukkot is a festival!
The Hebrew word is hag from the verb hagag (to feast). It involves dancing, celebrating, eating, leaping, feeling giddy and making a pilgrimage. Imagine the joyous activity that occurs on this evening and the days to come. Did you realize that God commands us to celebrate, to dance, to revel in His goodness, to jump up and down with joy. Don’t be afraid you Baptists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians. Let a bit of Pentecostal revelry into your life. The children of Israel have known about this for millennia. So hold hands with those you love. Sing a song of praise to God. Let yourself move. Feel the breeze and the fleeting warmth of the sun. And enjoy Him!
Topical Index: Sukkot, Sukkah, festival, hag, Exodus 23:14