Every year in Israel during the autumn fall season, there is a major feast called Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles. In the Bible, the LORD speaks of these feasts. These feasts are eternal and are appointed by the Lord. He says in Leviticus 23:2, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.”
Leviticus 23:34, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD.”
It begins on the 15th day of Tishri, goes for seven days, and starts with a full moon. The Jewish calendar is based on the phases of the moon. It occurs after Yom Kippur, which is called The Day of Atonement. It falls this year on October 2-9, 2020. It engenders a spirit of joy, gladness, and celebration, in stark contrast to the somber, introspective High Holy Days that directly precede it. This gathering with the Jewish people is to remember how the Lord brought them out of Egypt and for 40 years kept them in tents or tabernacles while they were going through the wilderness on their way to the promised land. The Lord brought the Jewish people out of Egypt, out of bondage from Pharoah, and on a journey to come to know Him and have a relationship with Him. Those are the literal, physical events of what happened, but there is a spiritual, deeper understanding that the Lord wants us to see as well.
This festival is also known as the Holiday of Shelters. The Hebrew meaning of Sukkot is “booths” or “shelters.” According to Jewish law and tradition, these shelters carried the clouds of glory that encompassed the entire nation during their 40-year journey through the Sinai desert. “The Festival of Gathering” is when farmers would gather the crops that had been drying and were ready for harvesting. It was a joyous time, and it became known as “The Time of Our Rejoicing.”
One of the observances during this festival is the Celebration of the Water-Drawing. Water was poured over the altar by priests in a special ceremony that was celebrated with music, dancing, and singing all night long.
During the duration of Sukkot, the sukkah – a structure covered with greenery, bamboo or any other material that was harvested from the ground – becomes their home. Meals are eaten here, and studying and sleeping are down here in these booths under the wide, open sky. Modern-day Jews do this in remembrance of the Jews who were in the desert.
We can see that the literal meaning of Sukkot/The Feast of Tabernacles is a man-made shelter where the people lived in the wilderness. Tabernacle in Hebrew means a residence, dwelling place, habitation, tent. In the spiritual, the Father wants to come and dwell inside us and live through us. We are the “booth”s or “shelters” that He wants to fill with His glory.
Revelation 21:3 says, “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, God Himself will be with them and be their God.’ ”
We are joyful and we rejoice in the gathering of the crops the harvest of the souls that will come in, so we give praise. Sukkot is a joyous holiday.
In scripture, we see that the Lord did not just want these feasts for the Jewish people but for all people. The Jewish people did not create these feasts – the LORD did. To get a deeper understanding, let us look at the word “Feast.” In the English dictionary, it is an elaborate and usually abundant meal accompanied by a ceremony or entertainment, something that gives unusual or abundant enjoyment . Looking at the Hebrew understanding, we see it is an appointment, a fixed time or season, an assembly, congregation.
Romans 2:28-29, “For he is not a [real] Jew who is only one outwardly, nor is [true] circumcision something external and physical. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and [true] circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the [fulfillment of] the letter [of the Law]. His praise is not from men, but from God.
“Jew” in Hebrew is “Judah,” which means “a worshipper.” So, anyone who worships the Lord is a Jew. We can see here that once we get a deeper understanding of the Word, when we are able to see with our spiritual eyes, we are cutting off the fat – that carnal fleshly word – from our heart and are seeing the Word in the spirit.
We know that the Lord literally brought the Jews out of Egypt, which means they came out of a place that limited God. They were released from under the bondage of Pharaoh, and with that, we know “Pharaoh” means “double-straits” (or double minded) so they were not in a stable place.
In John 7-9 we read that Jesus also celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. John 7 verse 2 says, “Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacle was at hand,” and continues in verse 14 to say, “Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.”
Each day the feast began with a water-drawing ritual. A priest would take a golden pitcher and lead a musical procession to the pool of Siloam where he plunged the pitcher into the waters reciting, “Therefore, with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). Jerusalem’s sole water supply was from this pool and the Gihon Spring that feeds it. Therefore, water was precious. Water also is revelation. So, drinking in the deeper understanding of scriptures produced a well of living water to come forth out of oneself.
The priest returned to the temple with the golden pitcher of water and began to pour it out over the altar while reciting. “Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity,” (Psalm 118:25). The pouring of the water symbolized the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and was followed by a great silence that descended on the sanctuary as the people reflected upon the Holy Spirit – the only true refreshment for their thirsty souls. This ritual took place every day, but on the seventh day it took on an intensity filled with excitement and anticipation. It was on that day that Jesus “stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me, and drink’ ” (John 7:37). In this context it was clear to the people that He was inviting them to accept Him as the One who would give them the “living waters” of salvation (John 4:10) .
Another fascinating ceremony associated with the Feast of Tabernacles involved lights. Each afternoon, four huge menorahs illuminated the court of the Temple and the pious men would dance before the lamps with burning torches in their hands. It is said that the light from these menorahs was so bright it penetrated every courtyard in Jerusalem. This festivity would last all night until dawn.
The light of the menorahs had two meanings: the first was symbolizing the glory of God that had filled the first temple (I Kings 8:10-11). The second was anticipating the “Great Light” who would soon come and bring light to those who were spiritually dead and dwelling in darkness (Isaiah 9:2) .
Perhaps it was during the light celebration or when the lights were extinguished on the eighth day that Jesus said for all to hear, “I am the light of the world; He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life” (John 8:12). The crowd understood that Jesus was proclaiming that He is the Great Light, who Isaiah said would come, and is God in the flesh – the glory of the Temple (John 1:14)..
The eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles was called the “Last Good Day.” It was a Sabbath day, designed for rest and reflection on all that had been celebrated during the previous seven-day festival. On this day Jesus came to the temple and healed a blind man by anointing his eyes with clay and then sending him to the pool of Siloam to wash (John 9:7).
With this miracle, Jesus validated everything He had said and done during the Feast. By doing the impossible, He proved He was God in the flesh – the true dispenser of the Holy Spirit and the only source of light and life . John 8:12 says, “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’ “
In Exodus 25:9, the Lord instructs Moses about the building of the tabernacle. It reads, “According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.”
The Lord wants to come and live in us; we are his tabernacles. Jesus was His tabernacle; He lived in him. The Lord never changes. Malachi 3:6 says, “For I am the LORD, I do not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
All Scripture references are from the NKJV or AMP Bible Versions.
1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary