JC Studies Blog

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

Series: Sojourning With a Sukkah Consciousness


Exodus 23 and Leviticus 23 talk about Tabernacles (Sūkkōt) as a season of our rejoicing. Remember, the Fall festival symphony begins with repentance (Rosh Hashanah), followed by renewal (Yom Kippur), and then rejoicing (Sukkot). So great is the rejoicing that it takes at least seven days to contain it. Yet, even seven days is not enough. The LORD so loves the rejoicing of his people that he adds an eighth!

In both Testaments, it is called simply the Feast. Although little known to Christians, biblically speaking, it is the Feast above all the feasts. In chapters 7 and 8 of John's Gospel, we read about Jesus being in Jerusalem at the feast of Sukkot. There he took one of the most prominent symbols of that grand celebration and applied it to himself.

The Feast of Tabernacles occurs in the Fall, just before the rainy season begins in Israel. It is a time of the final harvest for the agricultural community. On the seventh and greatest day of The Feast, a magnificent procession goes down to the Pool of Siloam led by the high priest. There he fills a golden pitcher with the living waters before returning up to Jerusalem.

Once in the temple, the high priest goes before the altar in sight of the people and petitions God for a tremendous outpouring of rain. In the time of Jesus, this event had taken on messianic overtones. It was also a petition before God to send his Messiah, inaugurating an outpouring of the Spirit—the true source of living water. 

The high priest stands before the altar with a pitcher of water and a pitcher of wine, which he simultaneously pours on the altar. At that dramatic moment, an itinerant rabbi from Nazareth who has come up to Jerusalem for the Feast stands and boldly declares that he is the Messiah and that God has answered their prayers.

"If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'"


This leads me to the second discipleship principle derived from the Feast of Tabernacles. To sojourn with a sukkah-consciousness, we must let go of what is seemingly substantial in our life to lay hold of what C.S. Lewis called the unseen real. 


To grow and to reach his place of destination for your life, you have got to be willing to let go of those things which seem secure in order to grab ahold of total dependence upon God.

The temporary dwelling, the booth (sukkah), reminds us of the children of Israel living in the wilderness with his presence. It beckons us to leave (at least for a season) the comfortable and secure places we have erected for ourselves. It is a call to come out of our thick-walled homes, where we try to live insulated from hardship, safe from the earth's elements.


What I mean is that we must make ourselves vulnerable and open to trust in and rely on God as our sole source of provision, protection, and guidance. To be willing to live out in the open, in a very fragile kind of existence.


Instinctively we desire just the opposite; that's why we build walls around ourselves and make them as secure as possible. And we build psychological walls to do the same. Instinctively we want to accumulate treasures, create our pension plans, grab power, prestige, and position. We want to cling to created things, attach ourselves to other people, or follow other leaders.

Sukkot challenges the illusions of security for which we all too easily settle.

Sukkot reminds us that living this way (under the sun) is vain, meaningless, empty. It is foolishness bordering on idolatry when we place your security on something other than God. And we all do it.


Sukkot reminds you to examine the foundation of your trust. Real security comes only from God. Life is fragile; don't take it for granted. Outside of God's protective wings, you are so vulnerable. Ask yourself, where is your security? In what are you trusting? What do you fear most?


In Sukkot, our Father says, "I understand your insecurity and misplaced trust. Come to me and let me be your source of living waters in the wilderness. Confront and name your illusions. Learn to trust me as your good shepherd."

If you are like me, we give a lot of lip-service to trust, but Sukkot unrelentingly asks, do you trust God? Are you willing to open yourself up to be vulnerable, fragile, dependent—or are you going to continue operating in your mental, societal, even doctrinal structures?

Please understand me. Sukkot doesn't demand that you renounce worldly wisdom. It doesn't say you should not plan, or build a home, or have insurance.

It does not call for renunciation; that is an oversimplification. What it does call for is to recognize the limits of those things. It calls for an intentional reflection upon what and whom you are worshipping. Where does your security reside?


I believe many of us fail to receive the best from God because we refuse to take on a sukkah-consciousness; we refuse to become open and vulnerable. Some of us are much too comfortable in our traditional structures—religiously speaking. Could it be we are blocking the Spirit's liberating work because we cling to our traditions, experiences, and worldly strengths?


God is pleading with us to make ourselves vulnerable to him so he can come in a cloud, overshadow us, and let the fire of his Holy Spirit warm us. Can we leave those rigid, fixed structures and dwell in something flimsy and fragile like a sukkah?

It grieves me to think about how many of us have the Michal rather than the David experience. Do you remember the story? Michal—King David's wife and Saul's daughter—saw her husband dancing with abandon before the ark and his subjects. She ridiculed him.


Michal was enclosed in the thick walls of both her residence and her mind. She could only look with criticism and contempt at those who were experiencing freedom in the presence of the LORD. Sadly, as a result, she lived a barren life to her death. Don't be barren before the Lord. Come out into a sukkah-consciousness. Come out and join Jesus in the joy of the Holy Spirit as he meets needs, proclaims the kingdom, and makes disciples.

This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice. Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore his audio seminars.

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

Series: Sojourning With a Sukkah Consciousness


The Fall Feasts are something I've been studying for many years. The richness of the meaning and beauty of this season never ceases to amaze me. From beginning to end, it is a magnificent orchestration featuring various theological refrains running through a period of days, culminating in a grand crescendo of celebration called Tabernacles (Sūkkōt)—the season of joy and rejoicing.


It is a spiritual symphony composed by God.

I want to do two things. First, set the stage by reviewing the stirring score of this God-ordained symphony so that you can more fully appreciate its finale in Sukkot. Second, I want to share three principles of what it might mean to live in, sojourn with, a sukkah consciousness—a tabernacles state-of-mind.

All of the festivals in this Fall season occur in the Hebrew month of Tishrei, beginning on Tishrei 1 with the Feast of Trumpets (Yom T'ruah), known in Jewish tradition as Rosh Hashanah. But the whole twenty-nine day period before that (the month of Elul) is a time of tuning our ears and preparing our hearts to hear what God has to say during the month of Tishrei.

The sequence of events is as follows:

  • Tishrei starts with the piercing call and haunting refrains of the shofar blown on the month's first and second days.

  • The Jewish New Year inaugurated ten days of awe (yamim noraim), also called ten days of repentance.

  • These culminate on Tishrei 10, with the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

  • On Tishrei 15 begins the festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles, Booths). It is a seven days festival which runs through Tishrei 21.

  • The seventh day of this festival is an exceptional one. It is called the Great Hosanna (Hoshannah Rabbah).

  • On the eighth day (Tishrei 22) comes the concluding day of assembly (Shmini Atzeret), which in Israel is also Simchat-Torah, a day of rejoicing and celebrating in the Word of God.

Tishrei 1 to 22 is a magnificent symphony with various movements, refrains, emotions, and paces. But the point I want to make is that they all build up to a crescendo of rejoicing and celebration in our great Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The very one Jesus taught us to call Father!

Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of the birthday of the world; it is the anniversary of the world's creation by God. Leviticus 23 speaks of the Feast of Trumpets. In this text, trumpet is the word for shofar, which is the ram's horn, the chief symbol of Rosh Hashanah. Unlike pagan ways of celebrating the new year, the Jewish new year is a time of soberness, reflection, and introspection.


It is a season to remember that God is Creator and to prepare for judgment.

These ten days of repentance are a time for turning from selfishness—from sin and mistakes, done wilfully or in error—to getting back on track with God. It is a time for seeking out forgiveness from others you may have offended. It is a time for extending forgiveness to those who have repented and asked for it.

Properly handled, it culminates in the holiest day of the biblical calendar called the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It is the day on which Israel collectively confesses her sins before Almighty God. For this solemn occasion, the Jewish liturgy includes forty-four statements of confession, two confessions for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

So you have this wonderful scenario of repentance, renewal, and rebirth. Four days later comes Sukkot, the season for rejoicing. You see, true rejoicing only comes after there has been genuine repentance and forgiveness.


There is a fascinating correlation between Passover and Tabernacles.

Passover occurs on Nissan 15 and Tabernacles Tishrei 15, precisely six months later. So twice a year, you enter into this detailed remembrance of God's character evidenced by the events of redemption, revelation, protection, and guidance.

I believe there is an even deeper connection. Passover symbolizes the very event of liberation, while Tabernacles tells us about the way of freedom. Passover is a holiday of faith, while Tabernacles is a holiday of faithfulness—both are necessary reminders.

Here is my first principle derived from this study. To develop and live out of a sukkah consciousness, we must confront the insecurity of our freedom.

I suspect it is far easier for God to take a person out of slavery than to take slavery out of a person. It was far easier to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt than it was to keep them faithful to him in the desert.

You can take a person out of slavery by a decisive act of liberation and redemption, but to take slavery out of a person requires a process—it takes time, commitment, faithfulness. That is what Tabernacles is all about; it is the way toward liberation, toward our destination in God.

Sukkot reminds us that salvation is a process, not a one-time dramatic event.

There is no quick cure for the slave mentality that we all have, the old man in each of us. Sukkot teaches us that the way to freedom is the way of freedom. It is a process of maturing, it takes time, and you will encounter difficulties.

Can you remember when you were born again, immersed in the Spirit? What a blessed event! God dramatically reached into your life and saved you from the domain of darkness, from the power of sin, and from yourself. What was your part in all this? You simply yielded to God's grace by faith.

But after that event, you may have found that things became difficult, quickly. Just like the Israelites, you ran into Amalekites in your spiritual journey. You discovered that people are not dependable. You found yourselves in a desert, hungry and thirsty.

Israel's journey of living in booths (sukkot) took forty years. That represents fourteen-thousand days. Maturation is a process that requires time and perseverance. The way to freedom is the way of faithfulness. There are many obstacles.

All it takes for redemption is faith, but what it takes for discipleship is faithfulness—what I'm calling a sukkot-consciousness. I find that too many Christians are quite willing to experience Passover and be baptized through the Red Sea. But very few are ready to make the long journey through the wilderness in the seeming insecurity of a temporary dwelling.

We all want Passover, but how many of you are willing to journey to God's appointed place, his destination in your life?

You say, "it is too difficult." Consider this, the children of Israel were not alone in the wilderness because their Savior tabernacled among them. Only when they dwelt in their booths did they experienced the very presence (Shekhinah) of God as a pillar of fire by night and a cloud of glory by day: protecting, providing, and guiding them.

Only by way of the wilderness do you arrive at God's destination for your life, and that for me is the first principle of sojourning with a sukkah consciousness. We must confront the insecurity we have about the freedom we are given instead of always looking back, constantly considering alternate routes.

My brothers and sisters, hear the Word of the Lord as the sound of the shofar, "For freedom Messiah has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."

This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice. Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore his audio seminars.

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

Series: Todah Living: The Transforming Power of Thanksgiving

The transforming power of thanksgiving is that it puts God at the center of everything. It is the difference between a God-centered or self-centered way of life. Said another way, praise trains you to look to the Son, rather than to the self.

The transforming power of thanksgiving carries us away from ourselves regarding what we have achieved or what we have failed to achieve. It turns us toward God's goodness, mercy, and love, which is abundantly embodied in the person of Jesus.

Thanksgiving has the power to transform because it is an act of repentance. It is a persistent turning from self to God, continually reminding yourself by declaring, praising, proclaiming, and confessing both who he is and what he has done. It puts God at the center of your existence.

Consistently giving thanks to God counters and overcomes this self-centered existence to which our hearts bend and culture reinforces.

If we focus on ourselves and our own efforts, typically one of two things will happen.

  • On the one hand, we become puffed up in pride regarding our abilities, accomplishments, and successes.

  • On the other hand, we become engulfed with an acute awareness of our failures, toiling under nebulous guilt that hangs over us like a cloud. We can be paralyzed by a sense of inadequacy and inability, bent down under the oppression of it all.

Can you relate? In both cases, we act out of self-centeredness—preoccupied either with our failures or successes, guilty of blocking God's grace. Both are sin, in need of confession, repentance, and forgiveness.

In thanksgiving, praise, and worship, we move the attention off of ourselves and onto God. It focuses on who he is, not on who I am. It focuses on what he has done, not on what I can or can't do. He is able, and we need to acknowledge that, persistently and consistently.

Thanksgiving and praise are fundamental to a mature overcoming life in Messiah Jesus; it is as simple as that. If you want to grow and mature, learn the power of thanksgiving and praise—get your mind off yourself, and get your mind onto the Father and the Son. Find ways to continually praise, celebrate, proclaim, and affirm their majesty.

I need to pause here and talk about a heinous sin that permeates and enervates the Christian world, especially in the West.

I am speaking of the sin of introspection. We are consumed with turning in and analyzing ourselves: our thoughts, our actions, our motives, our inabilities. You know what I mean, that nagging tendency to think about how we have failed, how we should have done this or should not have done that.

The sin of introspection is practicing the presence of self rather than the presence of God.

If introspection is left to run rampant, it can lead to mental instability. Mental hospitals are full of people who do nothing but introspect continuously. To be absorbed in oneself is a type of insanity. Yet you and I can practice a version of this which destroys spontaneous praise and worship.

Many people will go to the altar to confess and repent of sin, and God will touch them. But before they even get back to their seat, they have already destroyed that touch from God. Why? Because on the way back from the altar, they are introspecting on what just happened.

In her book, The Healing Presence, Leanne Payne tells the story of a professor who would illustrate this principle. He said to his students at the seminary, "Do you realize that you cannot kiss your girlfriend or boyfriend and think about the kiss at the same time. If you are in the act of kissing and you are thinking about the kiss, then you are missing out on the experience of kissing.

When we give in to unhealthy introspection, we do the same thing, and I see this continuously in faith communities. Christians are so hamstrung, laboring under guilt, condemnation, and a continuous sense of anxiety that they are robbed of spontaneity to be the person Jesus died to recreate. Why? Because they are too busy over-analyzing their every word and deed. Think about it. What we say about ourselves becomes more important than what God says about who we are in Jesus.

Biblical praise is a remedy for introspection.

Praise liberates us to the full expression and creativity that God has for us because it gets us up out of ourselves and onto him. Rather than leading into yourself like introspection, praise is just the opposite—it leads out of self. It empowers you to go out to the world, taking the kingdom with you. In other words, it leads to serving others.

This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice. Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore his audio seminars.

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