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.