What’s So Bad About That? (Sukkot,The Last Fall Festival)

Posted: September 23, 2020 in Christian Living, Holidays, Music & Videos
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“In sukkot you shall dwell for seven days: all citizens of Israel shall dwell in sukkot.”  (Leviticus 23:42) 

October 2nd— October 9th, 2020 the Biblical Holiday of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles / Booths) begins. This wonderful holiday lasts for a full seven days and completes the cycle of the Fall Feasts. This is is my favorite of all the fall festivals because it points to God’s promise that Messiah will tabernacle with his people when he returns to set up God’s kingdom here on earth. (Micah 4:1-7; Isaiah 9:7; Zechariah 8:3; Luke 1:32,33)

After the somber time of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Sukkot is a joyous celebration of a renewed relationship with God and His atonement for sin. The Feast of Tabernacles is a special time for all believers to come together and be a blessing to the needy by presenting our financial gifts to God’s people—and God has promised a blessing for doing this! Even the Apostle Paul and the early Church who we know was in Jerusalem for these Feasts (Acts 20:16), must have presented the gifts he collected from the churches across Greece and countries in Asia to assist the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.

Just as the Israelites dwelt in temporary shelters called a sukkah, we are also to dwell in a sukkah for this entire week. “On the first day you are to gather the fruit of majestic trees, the branches of palm trees, and the boughs of leafy trees and of willows of the brook. And you are to rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.” (Leviticus 23:40,41) 

For seven days and nights, we eat in the sukkah and consider it our dwelling. Some live in the sukkah entirely for the duration of the festival—even sleeping in it through all kinds of weather. The sukkah is made with 3 sides with an opening in the front and the roof is made in such a way that the moon and the stars are visible as we remember the promise God made to Abraham that his descendants  would be more numerous than the stars. (Genesis 22:17)

During this festive season, we also recall how God’s faithfulness provided for our ancestors as they wandered the Sinai Desert wilderness for 40 years before entering the Promised Land of Israel. “You shall dwell in sukkot for seven days…that your future generations shall know that I had the children of Israel live in sukkot when I brought them out of Egypt.”  (Leviticus 23:42–43)  

Another observance carried out each day of Sukkot  is the Four Species: an etrog (citron), a lulav (palm frond), three hadassim (myrtle twigs) and two aravot (willow twigs).  They are bound together in such a way that they can be held together easily. Then the four species are taken up with the right hand and the etrog is taken with the left hand. A blessing is recited over the Four Species: “Blessed are You, Lord God, king of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to take the lulav.” Facing the direction where the Temple in Jerusalem once stood, the Four Species are then shaken in all six directions: right, left, forward, up, down and backward. This may seem strange to most Christians today, but is it any more strange than churches’ order of worship service—stand up, sit down, kneel, or the time when worship services begin? I am of the opinion that if God told us to perform all these things while sitting cross legged in a lotus position, I would gladly comply. 

Rabbinic tradition explains that the Four Species represent the various personalities that make up the community of Israel.  They are held together while a blessing is recited over them to bless the unity of all people, which is emphasized on Sukkot. But another reason for this strange commandment may be that the four species represents all the people whom God had dispersed to the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11:12; Mark 13:27) We move the Four Species three times in each of six directions immediately after reciting the blessing. We do this by extending the Four Species in each direction: eastward, southward, westward and northward, upwards and downwards. After each movement, the lulav and etrog are brought towards the heart. We do this to possibly remind ourselves that omnipresent God is everywhere—and in our hearts.

One of the names for Sukkot is ‘The Season of Our Joy’.  In fact, in Scripture the word “joy” appears several times in connection with Sukkot. “Be joyful at your Feast—you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.…For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.”  (Deuteronomy 16:13–15) Did you miss that? God said it was a joyful celebration for everyone—including the aliens, or non-Jews! (See Exodus 12:49 and Numbers 15:15) Since Sukkot is also a harvest festival, we can well imagine that there is great reason for joy.

Eating and drinking during Sukkot? 

“You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.” (Deuteronomy 14:22-27) 

Did you see that? God tells us to “spend the money for whatever we desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves.” But let me repeat this because most Christians don’t understand this. God tells us to eat, drink and be merry before Him! We are commanded to have a good time at the feast! So much for the teaching that strong drink and wine are forbidden by Scripture. Many may misinterpret this Scripture to mean that God commands us to get drunk. This could not be further from the truth! Scripture is clear that getting drunk is forbidden. (Proverbs 20:1; Leviticus 10:9; Romans 13:13; Ephesians 5:18)  A person should only drink if it will lead to positive spiritual results. (e.g. under the loosening affect of alcohol, having a greater awareness of the love for God and His word and the people around you found deep in the heart.

The whole point of God’s feasts is to allow us to be joyful before the Lord and to worship Him for all the good things He has given us. So eat, drink and be merry for all of God’s many blessings!

What’s so bad about that? 

“Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths.” (Zechariah 14:16)

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