Shalom, and welcome back for our third and final installment in our Sukkot series. May you be encouraged in your faith and get inspired to greater devotion to the King of Kings, Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah).
The Incarnation of Yeshua
We have previously noted that, according to many Biblical scholars, Yeshua was likely born in Bethlehem during this Fall Holiday season. More specifically, it is widely held that Yeshua’s birth took place during Sukkot--even on the first day of the Festival.
Moreover, Yeshua’s “beloved disciple” Yochanan (John), provides us with some profound clues as to the timing of Yeshua’s arrival:
The Word became a human being and lived with us, and we saw his Sh’khinah, The Sh’khinah of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth (John 1:14, CJB).
This “Word,” Yochanan explains, was God Himself, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. And it was He who came to “dwell” among His people:
The Word “dwelt” among his people. The Greek word Skene is a rich word derived from “tabernacle.” In other words, as John sought to describe the Messiah’s first coming to his people, the most obvious picture was the holy day Sukkot [aka “The Feast of Tabernacles”], the holy day that celebrates the dwelling of God. (Barney Kasdan, God’s Appointed Times]
Profoundly, Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Law), which takes place at the Festival’s end, takes on a whole new depth of meaning when celebrated in light of this truth: Yeshua, the Word of God, the agent of creation and the author of salvation, is truly the Word we celebrate in this season.
Yeshua the Servant to the Circumcised
If Yeshua was indeed born on Day One of Sukkot--and there is compelling evidence leading us to believe so--then Shmeni Atzeret, or the “Eighth Day of Assembly” becomes all the richer in meaning.
Yeshua, as with any observant Jew, was required to take upon Himself the sign of the covenant for all Jewish boys: circumcision (brit-milah). And, as Torah mandates, He would have done so on His eighth day of life. Furthermore, we are told in Luke’s account of the gospel that not only was Yeshua circumcised on His eighth day, but this was the very day on which He took His name:
On the eighth day, when it was time for his brit-milah, he was given the name Yeshua, which is what the angel had called him before his conception. (Luke 2:21, CJB)
In that Yeshua was circumcised, we see His clear identification with the “house of Israel,” the very people for whom He initially came (see Matthew 15:24). The Apostle Paul notes the following in his letter to the Romans:
“For I say that the Messiah became a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises to the fathers…” (Rom. 15:8, HCSB).
Yeshua Offers Living Water
In Yeshua’s day, a common practice during the seven days of Sukkot was that of a Nisuch Ha-Mayim (Water Ceremony). The custom consisted of the High Priest “[leading] a procession to the pool of Shiloach (Siloam) where he would fill a golden pitcher with water and then return to the courtyard of the Temple” (John Parsons, Hebrew for Christians). The High Priest would then proceed to “pour out the water,” and as he did so the people would “wave their lulavot” as they sang from Psalm 118: “Save now, I pray O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity” (v. 25).
Let us observe two fulfillments made by Yeshua in regards to this ceremony:
1) At Yeshua’s triumphal entry (see Matt. 21:8-9; Luke 19:38; John 12:13) we witness the Messiah being greeted in Jerusalem with shouts of “Hosanna!” (Save us!) accompanied by the waving of the crowd’s lulavot.
2) Yeshua famously cried out, in John 7, the following plea: “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking. Whoever puts his trust is me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being” (vv. 37-38). John goes on to explain that Yeshua here spoke of the Holy Spirit, who “had not yet been given,” but who would soon come to inhabit believers in Yeshua. But what is most striking about all of this is that these words of Yeshua came “on the last and most important day of the festival,” (v. 37, HCSB) that is, Hoshana Rabbah.
Imagine the setting! Sukkot was in full swing. The joy of the first six days was exuberant. On the great final day...the crowds were filled with expectation for the Messiah and the Holy Spirit he would bring [see Isaiah 12:3]. At the very time of the water drawing ceremony, Yeshua made a bold proclamation: Do you truly want the living waters of the Holy Spirit? Does anyone understand the true significance of this ceremony? If anyone desires what [the ceremony] symbolizes, let him believe in Me. I am the Messiah who will pour out the Holy Spirit on Israel! (Kasdan)
As with each of the other Fall Holy Days, with Sukkot we look forward with eager anticipation to the future fulfillment of this Feast.
A) Yeshua’s Second Coming
As we observed earlier, the Apostle Yochanan opened his account of the Gospel by stating that the Word who was active at Creation--God Himself--had come to dwell, or tabernacle, among His people at Yeshua’s first advent. You’ll remember that Yochanan seemed to intentionally use the language of Sukkot, perhaps suggesting Yeshua’s birth during this Holy Day.
While exiled on the island of Patmos, the aged apostle Yochanan received the following revelation about the age of come:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. Also I saw the holy city, New Yerusahalayim, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “See, God’s Sh’khinah is with mankind, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and he himself, God-with-them, will be their God. (Rev. 21:1-3, CJB)
When this occurs, the Holy Day of Sukkot will have reached its ultimate fulfillment, when “God himself will finally dwell with his people in all his fullness. The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua dwells as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!” (Kasdan)
B) A Day of Ingathering
You’ll recall from Part 1 of this series that Sukkot was instituted as a harvest feast, to celebrate the fruit crops for which the Israeli farmers had long awaited.
We too, as disciples of Messiah, long for that Day when at long last the harvest of the Jewish people and the Nations will have reached its glorious fulfillment.
We see from the prophetic writings that there awaits a day “when it will no longer be said, ‘As the LORD lives who brought the Israelites from the land of Egypt,’but, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the land of the north and from all the other countries where I [God] had banished them.’ They will dwell once more in their own land” (Jer. 23:7-8, HSCB). Isaiah, in the 27th chapter of his book, describes this as the day when “you Israelites will be gathered one by one” (v. 12), the end of which will be their “worship [of] the LORD at Jerusalem on the holy mountain” (v. 13).
Therefore, Sukkot, “as the ‘Day of Ingathering’ of the harvest...prefigures the gathering together of the Jewish people in the days of the Messiah’s reign on earth” (Parsons).
However, it will be not only the Jewish people who congregate at Jerusalem to worship the Lord in the age to come. Take note of these words from the prophet Zechariah:
Then all the survivors from the nations that came against Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of Hosts, and to celebrate the Festival of Booths [Sukkot]. Should any of the families of the earth not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of Hosts, rain will not fall on them. (Zech. 14:16-17)
In this glorious kingdom-to-come, the prophet says, both Jew and non-Jew alike--even many from the nations who had once contended with Jerusalem--will come and worship the King, Yeshua, in the Holy City. Sukkot, one of the three pilgrimage feasts that has been observed by Jews and God-fearing Gentiles for millennia (see Deut. 16), will on that Day be a joyful celebration commemorated by all of God’s redeemed from one end of the earth to the other.
• Now this I pray, that your love might overflow still more and more in knowledge and depth of discernment, in order to approve what is excellent—so that in the Day of Messiah you may be sincere and blameless, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Yeshua the Messiah, to the glory and praise of God. (Philemon. 1:9-11, TLV)
• Now may the God of shalom Himself make you completely holy; and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept complete, blameless at the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. (1 Thessalonians. 5:23)
• Now to the One who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Yeshua the Messiah our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time, both now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)