Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, brings closure to the annual festival cycle. This is a season of rejoicing; a time of enjoying nature and an excuse for eating great tasting food.
We spend time with family and friends in the sukkah (tabernacle) at our home. We schmooze, snooze, learn Torah, fellowship and you guessed it – eat. However, Sukkot along with the other festivals is more than that: the festivals are a “timeout” for us. The festivals draw us out of life’s normal grind and give us a safe space to reflect on our life’s direction and priorities. Sukkot is an end of the cycle of learning about Messiah and ourselves. I would like to share three thoughts with you that have challenged me during this season.
The first lesson we can learn from Sukkot is that we must invest in the eternal. My family and I celebrated our first Sukkot while living in New Mexico. I decided that our family sukkah would be a home-made reusable type. I researched to find a good design, purchased the material and our family assisted in assembling the structure. The S’chach (roof) materials for this sukkah were freshly cut pine branches from the nearby mountains. As we sat in the sukkah smelling the pine scent, enjoying the shade it made me feel good to complete this family project. We were fulfilling a mitzvah. Then a thought struck me – in the midst of this wonderful setting I was surrounded by things that were dead and slowly decaying. In spite of all our efforts, the wonderful sukkah we constructed was temporary and would eventually be thrown away or burned. The sukkah is a metaphor for life. Life on earth is temporary. We may put our sweat and blood in to working hard to “build” a life. But one day it will fade away, just like the sukkah. We must set eternity in our hearts and not the things of earth. I realized that in the sukkah dwelt something lasting, something eternal. It was my family. When we invest our time in others, we make an eternal investment. Value and esteem the people in your life by giving them priority with your time. It is an investment that will last forever.
The next lesson Sukkot can teach us is to remember HaShem cares for us. One cool New Mexico night, I sat alone in our sukkah looking through the S’chach (roof), up to the sky. The stars sparkled in the clear crisp sky. The Milky Way with its starry wonder gracefully wisped across the heavens. I felt I could see forever. The words I heard once from a preacher raced across my mind – “the earth is a mere grain of sand in the seashore of GOD’s starry universe.” I felt small and insignificant. The sweet Psalmist of Israel said it like this, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained. What is man that You take thought of him and the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalms 8:3, 4). HaShem cares for us even though we are so small compared to the universe. The manifestation of HaShem’s care for us is that he became flesh and tabernacled with us. He did not send an emissary or an angel. This was something only He could do. He is not distant, like the stars, but He is with us, so close to us. He understands the pain we feel. He connects with the problems of our circumstances. He knows what it means to be hated, despised and rejected. Yet in all this, He provides us a way of life and acceptance that is greater than the universe. He is Immanuel. GOD with us!
The final lesson we must remember is Messiah is coming to take us home. Sukkot is called the Feast of the Nations. It is a time for people from different backgrounds and experiences to worship HaShem together. During Sukkot, the emphasis is on commonality while respecting and enjoying the variety each person and culture brings. After moving to Oklahoma City and becoming a part of the community at Rosh Pinah, I experienced two joint Sukkot services with Covenant Life Church and Mount Gilead. It was wonderful to fellowship with believers at their congregational home during the joint services. We are welcomed guests, warmly accepted and asked to enjoy their culinary delights. We worshiped, studied, shared ministry ideas, exchanged recipes, laughed together, danced and froze together. The key word was together. The only sad part is that it ended and we went to our individual homes. These joint celebrations of Sukkot are a foretaste of Messiah’s return. He will gather all his family, living in heaven and earth together. We will be united together with Messiah and it will never end. No more death, pain or sorrow. No separation from those we love; Messiah is coming to take us home. Yeshua said it this way, “I am going there to prepare a place for you. Since I am going and preparing a place for you, I will return to take you with me; so that where I am, you may be also.” (Yochanan14:2, 3) It is an exciting thought that HaShem likes to be with us even to the point of preparing a place for us. Then we the children of GOD, from every tribe, nation and people will with one mighty voice cry out in praise to the One who is the beginning and the ending, and the first and the last. We will never separate again, for we all will be home!
Hoshana Rabbah is the climax of Sukkot. During the Second Temple period it was a time of great rejoicing, dancing, singing and music in the Temple area. It was during this time that Yeshua said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!” (Yochanan 7:38). Yeshua was speaking of the promise of the Spirit. We now live in the period of the Renewed Covenant and our worship involves both the word and Spirit of GOD. Sukkot reminds us to be open and filled with the Ruach HaKodesh. The joy of Sukkot is the joy of reconciliation and reconnection with both HaShem and those around us. Setting eternity in your heart will make your joy of Sukkot last forever! "Chag Sameyach" – a joyous Sukkot holiday to you and yours.