The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) is now behind us… and in front of us. Walking with God is a cyclical journey that takes us to places we have visited before, as He teaches us new lessons along the way. So as we move forward, we should not forget to take with us the instruction and correction He brought our way during the important days of Sukkot. Otherwise our loving Father will repeat the lesson that was given to help perfect His Son’s bride.
There is great excitement leading up to Sukkot. People of all ages get pumped up about their favorite aspect of this feast. The Scriptural instructions for how we are to keep Sukkot are few in number. They involve, a nation of people, temporary dwellings, offerings and our Elohim. We are not to leave out the most vulnerable in our midst, as all are to honor these set-apart days. This variety in people, and lack of specific instructions, has indeed led to a plethora of celebration styles, all with exuberant preparation.
Over the years, our family’s Sukkot celebrations have evolved. We started by gathering around a picnic table in our back yard, later slept in an unfinished chicken house, traveled to multiple Sukkot gatherings within a week, and now are hosting a Sukkot site as part of our local assembly. They all have had their highs and lows (like when I fell off the hay bales while sleeping in the chicken house). Each one has been a season of struggle and a time of joy. The variety keeps things lively and the Father keeps things formative. Through them all, the family grows - mine, yours, and His family.
The Feasts of Yahweh are the structure through which the family is built. The appointed times (moedim) provide stability, continuity, and a glimpse of eternity for His people. Sukkot is of particular interest as it is on one hand very prophetic and, on the other hand, very personal. We are comprised of individuals from a wide variety of cultures and beliefs. When they come together in temporary dwellings for eight days, character is built within each person which then makes the whole assembly stronger. Some do not endure until the end, while others persevere and fight their way through the storms – real, imagined, and spiritual. Ultimately, the family is refined, as the dross inside each of us is purged out and replaced by the soothing balm of the Ruach HaKodesh.
Looking forward, we are facing Pesach, but we should not forget the lessons of Sukkot as we move on. Abba wants to teach us something at each moed. That lesson is not to be a momentary enlightenment that fades with time, but a soul correction that becomes part of our spiritual DNA.
Soul corrections are not fun as there is real sacrifice involved. It is actually the correction that produces the eternal joy of Sukkot. It is the pressing that produces the pure oil within us all. As the Feasts of Yahweh become more fashionable within the Body of Believers, it is very easy to treat them lightly, without any sacrifice. For instance, it is easy to turn Sukkot into a camping trip or a stay at a nice beach condo. Let me be clear, Sukkot is not a vacation. Sukkot is a holy convocation. While the Levitical system with its physical animal sacrifices is currently set aside, there are spiritual sacrifices still attached to Sukkot. Those “sacrifices” are part of our gatherings. Sometimes you see them, sometimes you don’t. The sacrifices have a real cost that, in turn, produces the appropriate correction deep within each community member.
Unfortunately, as we head into Sukkot, our abounding anticipation is often our worst obstacle to receiving the correction. Too often, we run into some type of difficulty and then flee, never reaping the eternal benefit of the correction. It is a bit like going to the Doctor, getting diagnosed and a prescription to fix the ailment, but never getting the prescription filled. You have to complete the process if you want the desired result. In this case, when we keep our appointments with the Great Physician, and hang in there through the entire process, we are healed – one ailment at a time. The high energy that we take into Sukkot is at times vanquished when the trial comes as our enthusiasm is diminished as we deal with the present calamity.
During Sukkot, we have the opportunity to face many trials. Not all are of the Father, but not all are from Satan either. When we face an obstacle, let us look to learn from that event. Ask yourself, “What is the Father trying to teach me?” before you ask, “Why is Satan attacking me?” Through rain, wind, cold, mud, heat, lack of sleep, disputes, and even the dreaded Hot Wheels bike on the gravel road right outside our tent at 6am, the Father wants us to grow. The little trials can become great victories when we take a hard look within, make the needed teshuva, and apply the lessons we have learned as we move forward. When we truly face the trials, their number will lessen and the victory will come faster.
We know that Sukkot is in many ways a prophetic picture of the return and rule of our Messiah culminating with the great wedding feast on the Last Great Day. That is the exciting part. That is the part that sells books. That is the part where we actually gain very little eternal value. Scriptures state that our Messiah is coming back after His Bride is prepared: “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). The personal side of Sukkot, the not so fun side, is a time of personal preparation. Sukkot is a time to clean out the deep ugly spots and blemishes within our souls. To get to the Great Wedding Feast, we are going to have to clean up the Bride.
It is hard to hide anything at Sukkot because tent walls are pretty thin. We are to leave openings in the roof of our sukkah so that we can see the stars, and so that we are standing (or sleeping) before Him without any obstacles in between. Years ago, we were camping next to a nice family. During the middle of the night the couple got into an argument. Trying to hush a voice in a tent, to levels that cannot be heard by neighbors, is virtually impossible. Let’s just say that they were both a bit red in the face the next day, once they came out of their tent. The good news is that they came out smiling and learned something along the way, in this case… not to argue in a tent.
Other lessons are a bit more valuable and probably a lot more painful; the bigger the lesson the bigger the sacrifice. Your sacrifice might be in time, anguish, prayer, praise, or a number of other expressions. For instance, you may get into a dispute with a brother at Sukkot on the day of the big praise and worship event. Of course, then this verse pops into your head: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).
So, you go and repent, make peace, and have the most amazing time of worship of your life. Sacrifice made and lesson learned. There are many such examples that I could make up, however, what is your example from this last Sukkot? What lessons did you learn, and what lessons did you miss?
Can you imagine how our Bridegroom must feel after waiting 2000 years for His Bride to get ready? Sometimes husbands get annoyed over waiting for the wife to get ready for ten minutes. Imagine 2000 years! Sukkot, and all His appointed times, are times of preparation. When we miss the intended correction, we extend the preparation time. Consider all the little bumps you encountered during Sukkot. What was He trying teach you? Perhaps all the little bumps are connected to a larger issue that needs to be developed in your life - like patience, kindness, or faith. Could it be that Abba just wants you to learn how to repent? Maybe you came away from Sukkot frustrated because no one received your latest teaching. Perhaps the Father wants to let it mature within you, rather than just allowing you to learn and regurgitate something you just came to understand. He is teaching you patience, kindness, meekness, and a bit of long-suffering too.
You remember that child who was camping near you and got on your nerves? What was Yahweh trying to teach you in those moments of testing? Did you lose it or remain in control? Was the fruit of the Spirit evident, or the fruit of unrighteousness? While you were snorting, Abba may have been chuckling, and our Bridegroom twitching. Each experience in a holy convocation should be treated in a holy manner. Yes, we can have fun, but remember why you are there. See beyond yourself and look into His eyes. Next time, hug the child – it may be the only one he gets that day. Let him see the Yeshua in you.
There is now a break in His calendar, until Pesach, or is there? The cyclical nature of the moedim makes it impossible to take a break. The days are flying by as we head towards the Biblical New Year and Pesach, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits. The cycle continues. It is up to you and me to determine if we are going to have to repeat the instruction of last year, or move forward into deeper waters with our Creator. There is no time to rest, no time for slackers, we must press on. Breaks are for sissies.
Take these days to take a look back at the last feast cycle. Make some notes about your journey. Draw three columns on a pad of paper (low tech). In the first column jot down the situations you encountered and see if a pattern emerges. Ask Abba to show you what He was wanting to teach you. Pray for His guidance and you will receive it. The picture that Yahweh wants to reveal to you will indeed emerge as you consider His times and your significant moments therein.
Then, in the second column on your note paper write down how you responded to the lessons. Did you even notice the lesson when it was presented, or is it only clear in retrospect? Sometimes a bit of depth perception clarifies an otherwise murky situation. When confronted with an issue we often get emotionally entangled, which further clouds the picture. Now, a bit removed, you can perhaps see the picture. What is the common thread and how was your response?
In the third column, jot down some notes concerning what lessons you can take forward. Is there some type of behavior modification needed based upon the lessons of the last feast cycle? What can you change so that you can move forward with God? Keep these points in front of you. Pray about them daily and let His Spirit guide you as you implement the new behavior. They may be large or small lessons, size is not the point. The point is to move forward.
Immediately in front of us are five months prior to Passover. Rather than mentally disconnect from His calendar cycle during these months, let us use them for introspection and preparation. The cycle is still intact and is there as our pattern for continual development. We can use these next few months in spiritual preparation for Passover, as His seasons are unending and ever-present. Press in and make the needed corrections, as the Spirit and Word lead you, so that the former ways are renewed by a higher way. Let’s stay tuned in to God, through the cycle of His moedim, all year long.
There is indeed sacrifice required to keep His feasts. Not the sacrifice of bulls and goats, but the sacrifice of you and me. Our flesh must be placed upon His purifying altar. The cleansing must be from the inside out. Each feast requires a different sacrifice, but Sukkot requires the largest. Why? Because, Sukkot represents the last chance we have to get right with Yahweh and man before the Great Wedding Feast. Then, mercifully, Abba gives us another year and another cycle and yet another chance to get things right. Our personal sacrifice has a cost, but the reward is great as Yahweh continues to perfect His people.
While returning Israel celebrated Sukkot in a variety of styles and geographic locations this year, we share at least one thing in common – no one knew everything that would happen at Sukkot. We entered in with great anticipation and came out changed. Hopefully, we came through Sukkot wiser and stronger than we entered. That is what we can celebrate. That is where we find our joy. Yes, the music, campfires, and food were awesome and the fellowship was sweet. But that all fades, and we are left with you and me – and another cycle of feasts before us. Let us learn our lessons well, praising Him along the journey. May next year be even more significant that this, so that at last His bride will be ready for the great feast to come.