Sukkot, the holiday that celebrates God’s faithfulness to his people and the Jewish nation-state, is in full swing.
This year the weeklong festival began on Sunday evening as people worldwide and in Israel experienced a full lunar eclipse and the resultant blood moon. Some have contemplated what this heavenly sign may mean in the outworking of God’s purposes.
Neither sporadic rioting on the Temple Mount nor occasional rock or firebomb attacks in Jerusalem’s predominantly Arab neighborhoods appear to have dampened people’s holiday spirits.
Rather, on rooftops, porches, yards and even city sidewalks, colorful temporary dwellings made of wood, cloth and palm fronds — called asukka in Hebrew — can be seen everywhere as Jews throughout Israel seek to obey the biblical commandment to dwell in booths and invite friends, neighbors and even strangers to join them in rejoicing in God and his abundant provision.
“You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress. And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant and the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, who are within your gates.
Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice.” (Deut. 16:13-15)
Sukkot celebrates God’s faithfulness to the Jewish people from ancient times to the present. It’s reminiscent of the Israelites’ long trek across the desert, living in temporary dwellings and eventually crossing over the Jordan River into the land promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
It’s one of three biblical pilgrim festivals, which includes Passover and Shavuot in the spring, when all Israel would come up to Jerusalem, bringing the fruits of the harvest with them to worship and thank God for his abundant provision.
Today, in the midst of all that’s going on in Israel and around the world, the spirit of thanksgiving and rejoicing still permeate the festival of Sukkot. For seven days and evenings, families, friends and neighbors sit together in temporary dwellings, enjoying good food and fellowship while contemplating the multifaceted meanings of this special holiday.
It’s a time to remember God’s provision over the past year, how He sustained families in times of hardship and blessing, and to look forward to what He has purposed in the coming year.
It’s a time to rejoice in God’s faithfulness to Israel throughout its long history — both ancient and modern — and to look forward to the fulfillment of all the good He has purposed for his covenant people.
For many it’s a time to meditate on what it means to tabernacle with God, to abide with Him.
Moses, the man God chose to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, writes, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations,” and then, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 90:1; Psalm 91:1).
Abiding in God is the essence of the Feast of Booths, to dwell with Him now in our temporary bodies and ultimately for all eternity through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Israel’s Messiah.
“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
No more shall every man teach his neighbor and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-35).
This article was originally published on CBN News, September 29, 2015.