Month 7:15, Week 2:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5941:191 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 4 October 2017
Sukkot 2017 I
Finding His Joy in Tribulation
Chag sameach Sukkot and Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and Mishpachah and welcome to the first day of the seven day-long Feast of Tabernacles, also known as the Festival of Ingathering (Ex.23:16; 34:22), which marks the end of the annual festivals and of the three annual pilgrim festivals of Pesach (Passover), Shavu'ot (Weeks) and Sukkot (Tabernacles) .
Synopsis of the Festival
For those of you who are new to the festivals of Messianic Israel, the Feast of Tabernacles - also called Booths - is held after the autumn (fall) harvest (Dt.16:13; Lev.23:39) from the 15th to the 22nd day of the Seventh Biblical Month, which in our Gregorian calendar falls in, or between, September and October (Lev.23:34; Num.29:12-38). It follows closely on the heels of Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets/Shouting) on the first day of the Seventh Month and Yom haKippurim (Day of Atonements) on the 10th day of the Seventh Month, both of which we just celebrated. The reason they are so close together is because there is a close, organic relationship between them.
The Autumn Festivals Complex
At Yom Teruah the Second Coming of Messiah is announced with much fanfare followed 9 days later by Yom haKippurim or the Day of Judgment - a wonderful day for the saved and for faithful malakim (angels), a terrible day for the wicked, for Satan and for all the demonic hosts. Four days later is the great week-long celebration of the Bride of Messiah - an allegorical wedding of the faithful to Yah'shua (Jesus) followed on the 8th day, by a moed (appointment) called Shemini Atseret, which means the 'Last Great Day', which is the day the 1,000 year-long Millennium of peace begins for our world, ending the previous age.
A Time For Celebration
Therefore this is, above all, a time of celebration, fellowship and worship following Teshuvah or Days of Awe, followed the Yammim Nora'im or Days of Awe leading to Yom haKippurim during which we are supposed to get our lives right as a community - the Body of Messiah, starting with our families and local assemblies - before Yom haDin or the Day of Judgment at Yom haKippurim. Sukkot is therefore very good news indeed for good people!
A Struggle for Some Today
With all that's going on in the world currently, the massacre at Las Vegas being the most recent attrocity to fill the news, I realise it may be hard for some to celebrate. Some of you are going through enormously difficult times - health, financial and relationship issues to name but three. Some of you have been made homeless, some have lost electricity and water to their homes, some may have been forced to use up their prepping supplies to see them through a number of emergencies, some are seriously ill, some have lost jobs, and some are having huge family struggles. Many of you are desperate. We empathise with you all, our prayers with you and we will do - and have already done - all we can to help and bless you. So I can understand, from a human perspective, if you don't particularly feel like celebrating anything right now. With my own major health issues, I totally understand. You are not alone there. Nevertheless, Yahweh has a reason for us celebrating now, for which we are supposed to have set aside tithes (a third of the tenth), for we have actually much to celebrate no matter what trials and tribulations we may currently be going through.
Other Elements of Sukkot
Shavu'ot begins and ends on a regular creation sabbath but because they are markers on a festival too, they are sometimes called 'High Sabbaths', to indicate that they have an added significance. With the work of harvest over, Yahweh's people are supposed to rest for 8 days in total, rejoice (Lev.23:39-40) and to eat and drink. This is supposed to be a good time, a time to use the Festival Tithe taken from the annual crops or their monetary equivalent. Most people remember Sukkot by the temporary shelters , 'tabernacles' or 'booths' in which Yahweh's people were supposed to eat and sleep during the feast (Neh.8:14-17). In colder climates like our own here in Sweden, we erect tents or shelters indoors usually, and it is left up to individual families how to arrange their eating and sleeping practice. We have experimented with all kinds of different things.
A Reminder That Yahweh Protects
At any rate, the principle reason for building them is to remind us of Yahweh's protection during the wilderness wanderings (Lev.23:42-43). Our ancestors survived 40 years of living like that, and though it is true they grumbled and sometimes rebelled, as we often do when things aren't going so well for us, when they were true and faithful they were never left unprotected or unprovided for and indeed experienced miraculous things like clothes anmd shoes never wearing out and food provided in the form of manna from the sky. Now, more than ever, and doubtless even more so in the immediate future as the collapse gets underway, many of our people may be forced to live like this again, devoid of the comforts of the Babylonian system which, like ancient Egypt, both provides for and enslaves us. And some of you may be in such circumstances already. So I hope that the better off among you will embrace the less fortunate materially and include them in your family or congregational celebrations at this time.
Two Generations, Two Eras
So we build shelters to remind us that Yahweh will protect the faithful. That does not mean there will not be difficulties as the wilderness wandering was hardly difficulty-free, was it? Indeed, it was filled with challenges, permitted by Yahweh to build emunah (faith) and character, and cultivate obedience and dependence on Him. The fruit of that struggle was the second generation of Exoduseers, just as the struggle now is produce a generation of Second or Last Exoduseers.
Under the Old Covenant at this time of year, the cohenim (priests) offered special sacrifices, including a unique one of a descending number of bulls each day, beginning with 13 the first day and concluding with 7 on the final day, a total of 71 (Num.29:13-38). And every 7th or sabbatical year during Sukkot, the entire Torah (Law) was to be read (Dt.31:10-11).
The Rabbis Add More Ceremonies
After the Bablonian exile, all sorts of extra obervances were added by the rabbis including the lighting of a giant menorah in the temple courtyard, all-night dancing to flutes by torchlight, dawn processions ending with libations of water and wine at the bronze altar, prayers for rain and resurrection of the dead, the cohenim (priests) marching around the altar and the people carrying fruit and waving palm branches.
When the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) Alexander Jannaeus (~100 BC) refused to offer these additional ceremonial libations 'properly', the Jerusalem crowd pelted him with citrons while he officiated. He responded by massacring 6,000 people , which led to open rebellion in 94 BC leading to a 6 year-long civil war during which 50,000 Judeans were killed. I will spare you further gruesome details and only mention this to illustrate what happens when you add to Torah.
Yah'shua, the Modified Sukkot and Hanukkah
By all accounts the additions were very spectacular and beautiful to which the people became inordinately attached, leading to the bloodbath that followed when they didn't get what they expected. When Yah'shua (Jesus) was alive the dramatic and colourful additions had been restored, so popular were they. The fact that Yah'shua (Jesus) did nothing to correct them, indeed using the dawn water libations as an illustration for Himself as the "living water" (Jn.7:2), has led most Messianics to uncritically accept them. Such a utilisation for illustrative purposes is not without precendent, though, and by no means indicates Yah'shua's (Jesus') approval of the Rabbinical additions to which the people had become idolatrously attached, much as they did to the fake Talmudic Hanukkah festival which had originally been a late Sukkot but had become changed into something else, with the lies of the Pharisees mixed in that included made-up miracles. Yahweh does not need man to change His ordinances, let alone 'improve' upon them.
Not a Nationalistic Festival
In those years of Pharisaic hegemony, the festival of Sukkot as a whole began to be tied to hopes both for a Davidic Messiah and for national independence, first, from the Greeks and, then later from the Romans, for which it had not been designed or given. As I mentioned, Judas Maccabee used Sukkot as a model for his celebration of the rededication of the Jerusalem temple's altar in 164 BC (1 Macc.4:54-59) which evolved into Hanukkah (2 Macc.1:1-36). Yah'shua (Jesus) used elements of the modified Sukkot celebration in his triumphal entry and crucifixion (Mk.11:1-11), meeting the people where they were, with their longing for independence and transferring it to Himself for those who would be saved. However, Sukkot was never intended to be a nationalistic festival, pointing as it does to a Wedding Celebration - that of Messiah to His Bride, the Body of the Redeemed Overcomers.
The fact that the leaders of both Jewish revolts against Rome (66-67 and 132-135 AD) used symbols from Sukkot is neither here nor there as politicians in all ages have not been slow to recruit religion for their own agendas. The atheistic communist leader, Joseph Stalin, was more than happy to employ Russian nationalism and Orthodox Christianity in his cause when the going was bad in the Second World War, only to discard them later once his cynical use of them was no longer needed. The likes of Judas Iscariot and Barabbas were no different, and monarchs and presidents continue to do the same today. Many a Messianic Jew has been seduced back into Judaism because they missed all the beautiful ceremonies, such as those added by the Rabbis to Sukkot after the Exile. So be warned - do not add to Yahweh's moedim (appointments) by adding new ones or changing existing ones. You have seen what happens when carnal men get inordinately attached to man-made sense-pleasing ceremonies and rituals.
A Renewed Covenant on the First Yom haKippurim
But let us retrace our steps back to the First Exodus because there is an association between these temporary dwelling places of sukkot and the very first Divine Tabernacle or Mishkan (Ex.25:9) - Israel's portable temple. Tradition has it that when Moses went up Mt.Sinai for the second time to get a second set of the Ten Commandments he descended on the first Yom haKippurim. This time the Two Tablets of Stone were a sign of Yahweh's forgiveness of the nation for the sin of the Golden Calf - a Judgment in their favour as the result of Moses' pleading, for you will remember Yahweh that wanted to wipe the whole camp out and start again with Moses' own family (Levi), and doubtless with the families of the faithful Joshua (Ephraim) and Caleb (Judah-adopted Edom) - two of the original 12 tribes! But that didn't happen and the Two Tablets became the outward sign or symbol of the renewed covenant between Israel and Yahweh (Ex.23:12-18; 34:1-2; 27-28).
Preparation for the First Sukkot
The next day Yahweh gave the instructions for the construction of the Mishkan or Portable Temple which we know as the 'Tabernacle', the word mishkan meaning 'dwelling place'. Material for this structure was collected in the 5 days immediately before the first Sukkot and work on it started (Ex.35; 36:1-7). Why was the Mishkan built? We are told:
Purpose of the Mishkan or Tabernacle
"Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them" (Ex.25:8, NKJV).
The Mishkan, Portable Temple or Tabernacle was made to establish a relationship between Yahweh (the prospective allegorical Bridegroom) and Israel (the prospective allegorical Bride). They had been betrothed at the first Shavu'ot (Weeks, what we erroneously call 'Pentecost') and now they were getting ready, ceremonially and symbolically at least, for their Full Marriage at the first Sukkot - the Feast of Tabernacles. Notice that this is not called Sukkah or a singular 'tabernacle' but the plural Sukkot, many 'tabernacles'. The main Sukkah or Mishkan was the Immortal Wedding Tent for the Married Couple, and the little sukkot or tabernacles were the temporary, mortal tents or coverings for the plural Bride awaiting her full marriage day. They are our mortal bodies which cannot dwell in the presence of Elohim (God) whereas the Mishkan represents the immortal body of Messiah united with His resurrected, immortal Bride, glorified to live in the presence of Elohim (God). And the journey through the Sinai desert represents each of our individual, family and congregational journeys through life.
The Journeying Covenant Family
Picture an encampment of Israel in the desert, in one of the few oases that dotted the landscape in that mercilessly hot environment with savage Amalekite tribesman tracking them to pick off stragglers. This is a picture of life on this world, of this mortal probation. Satan uses many deceived and wicked people to try and bring us down. But we who trust in Elohim (God) are not alone for the camp of Israel, when it is on the move, is led by a supernatural cloud of the Divine Presence by day and a supernatural pillar of fire by night. Those who remain together in the Covenant Family, travelling as a single Body, united under one Heavenly King, see with their own spiritual eyes and experience it in their own living out of the Besorah (Gospel), that special divine protection. And we experience that cloud and pillar in so many different ways - in good times (represented by the daytime) and in bad times (represented by the nighttime). In the latter especially we see and experience Him all the more dramatically because a fiery pillar at night is more noticeable than a comparitively plain-looking cloud by day. It is often in the times of our fiery trials that we draw the closest to Him and grow all the more spiritually.
So there are two sukkot or sukkah's - there is the main Mishkan where we are to go to be with our Husband-King and there are the sukkot which are our mortal bodies. To learn about, commune with and obtain the simcha or joy of our allegorical Bridegroom we must dwell in His house, His bayit (or beit). We are brought there by the Ruach (Spirit). In a mystical way - because of the two tabernacles - His and ours - we become echad or one. It is our sacred task and imperative to seek that Mishkan, Sanctuary or Holy Place at all times. Sukkot is also called 'The Season of Our Joy' because it is within the Mishkan or Divine Sukkah that this Simcha or Joy is to be found.
The Season of Our Joy
Sukkot, then, is our time of simcha (joy). That is its theme, after the season of teshuvah (repentance) which we stimulate and aid through the self-affliction of fasting and of careful self-examination in the light of Emet (Truth). The simcha (joy), specifically, comes in knowing that our sins are forgiven both individually and as a community (the latter can obviously only proceed out of the former), in knowing Elohim (God), and in being obedient to Him.
Leaving the House of Bondage
Notice that the first Festival of Sukkot commemorates the coming out from the House of Bondage in Egypt and into the desert. Had Israel trusted only in her flesh, she would have perished in that wilderness - it is unlikely she would have lasted one year, let alone 40. And she survived, and thrived, only because of Yahweh's supernatural protection and provision. Sukkot teaches us the simcha (joy) of walking in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Kingdom life even though that Kingdom is surrounded by the hostile wilderness of the fallen world. In this walk we are being prepared for full life in the Eternal Kingdom, when this world is no longer governed by evil power, and when the curse imposed on it by Adam and Eve's rebellion is lifted. We still await Paraside. We are not supposed to be in Paradise yet but we are supposed to be daily partaking of it - tasting it - in the meantime.
Self-Sufficient and -Reliant?
Since our biological sukkah is mortal, very clearly we must depend on Yahweh. The sukkah is supposed to remind us of that. This is not a negative dependence but one that brings simcha (joy). Independence, such as the world speaks of, does not bring simcha (joy). We are to be Yahweh-reliant and Yahweh-sufficient rather than self-reliant and self-sufficient. This is, however, not the same as being Egypt-reliant and Egypt-sufficient. The system may provide certain staples but always at a fearful price, and that price is enslavement of the soul. So at Sukkot we are reminded both to be independent of Egypt or Babylon but to be dependent on Yahweh as individuals and as worshipping communities.
The Word and Its Substitutes
The Davar Elohim - the Word of God - is essential manna in our journey. We neglect it at our peril, leaving our spirits to starve and to seek nourishment in alternative, usually forbidden and enslaving, places to fill the vacuum. Many are the substitutes of the Davar (Word) - the ideas, philosophies, politics and all the carnal disposition of men. These come in infinite varities, each bringing a different flavoured enslavement, but enslavement nonetheless.
Commanded to Celebrate
We are not just told to have a good time of fellowship with Yahweh and each other but are commanded to do so at Sukkot. That may seem, at first sight, rather strange, even contradictory. He is not, of course, pointing a gun at us and ordering us, like a prison camp commandant, to have a good time on practically nothing. There is actually plenty to be thankful about, grateful for and joyful over. Praise Yahweh - if you have authentically left it - that you are not a slave of Egypt - of the system! And if you have not left it, use the next year to get out of it more and, if at all possible, altogether. Is it possible? Of course it it. Yahweh does not command us to to the impossible. What He commands is possible and the only limiting factor is our emunah (faith) or lack thereof.
Hardship Caused by Remaining in Egypt
I mentioned at the beginning of my address to you today that there are many who are currently experiencing great hardships. Some of these hardships are caused by a failure to get out of Egypt - out of the system and dependency on the system. Everybody should be growing their own food, or learning to. You learn as you go along. In the wilderness of Sinai, Israel had none of the dainties or fancy foods of the Egyptian cities. They subsisted on manna and complained. We have got to learn to make our needs simple. We have to simplify our lives. You can't enjoy the dainties of Egypt and Kingdom Food which alone is available in the wilderness. You have to make a choice. The system has its claws in us in more ways than one. Our children are being mentally poisoned in Egypt's schools - we're supposed to be homeschooling them either ourselves or cooperatively with others. We are being literally poisoned by GMOs and additives in foods. The longer we stay rooted in Egypt, the harder it will be to leave.
Why We Cannot Stay in Egypt
Yahweh, in His mercy, has provided us with stepping stones - sometimes major bridges. I think the Creation Calendar is one of them because of its sabbaths which fall on different Gregorian days each month, making finding work really hard in the world system. I believe, as I have said many times before, that there is a reason Yahweh has restored this Divine Calendar now - it is to make living in Egypt (or Babylon) impossible for those who love all of Yahweh's ways. It's His way of saying that it's time to leave, not make long-term plans to stay, make compromises, be enslaved and be poisoned to death. It's part of the Second Exodus. You can't be a part of the Remnant and remain in Egypt/Babylon - it's impossible! That is why Yahweh has given time to the people to make preparations to leave in advance before 21st century Pharaohs start pursuing us with murderous intent. In some places they already have. It will get harder and harder to leave later, and far more risky.
We have a week ahead of us, brethren and sisters - let us make the best of it. Let us be open to new possibilities, new directions and new instructions from Elohim (God). I myself have made some major choices this year and I hope you will have the courage to do the same. I do not know what the consequences or results of these choices will be - I am walking in emunah (faith). Today we can choose to rejoice or be glum. Today we can choose to look at the desert, the marauding Amalekites, the scorpions, the snakes and the bland (yet totally adequate) manna or we can fix our eyes on the cloud by day and the fiery pillar by night because of the One who dwells in it. That's the choice. There are plenty of scary things out in the desert, plenty of things to worry or fret over, plenty of uncertainties and unknowns. But there is also the Creator of the Universe above us, around us and within us in the Mishkan. Though I can't promise to be perfect in this Sukkot endeavous by any means, I am going to make a conscious effort to find the Simcha (Joy) in the Divine Fire. I hope you will join me. Amen.
Continued in Part 2
 Exodus 23:14-19; 34:22-24; Leviticus 23:33-36,39-43; Numbers 29:12-38; Deuteronomy 16:16-17; 31:9-13
 Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 13.372-373