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.