This portion of Scripture is a part of God’s instruction for observing the Feast of Succot (sometimes known as the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths). We may question its relevance for 21st century Christians. Let’s unfold its deeper meaning together.
The feasts of the Lord represent various stages on our journey with the Lord, and Passover is the invitation to begin that journey. Everyone has the opportunity to respond to God’s invitation to commit themselves to Him. Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb, sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7). Have you responded?
Passover occurs on the 25th of Nissan, and Succot occurs precisely six months later on the 15th of Tishrei. Passover celebrates the event of freedom from slavery, but Succot tells us about the way of freedom. Passover is a holiday of faith, but Succot is a holiday of faithfulness. Both are important to us.
It’s been said of the children of Israel that it was easier for God to deliver them out of Egypt, and out of slavery, than it was for Him 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 the person requires a process, time, commitment and faithfulness. That’s what Succot is all about: the way toward freedom; toward our destination in God. It reminds us that salvation is a process. It’s not a quick dramatic event.
It took Israel 40 years. All it took for redemption was faith, but a Succot consciousness requires faithfulness. It was only when the Israelites dwelt in their succa that they dwelt in the very presence of God: a pillar of fire and a cloud by day protecting them.
A succa is a frail shelter made of palm branches: a sharp contrast to our comfortable, secure homes. Living in a succa for seven days is making ourselves vulnerable, open, actually putting our trust in God as our source of provision, protection and presence. It’s being willing to live a fragile existence.
It’s only in the succa that we arrive at God’s destination for our lives. We must confront that insecurity we have with the freedom we’re given. Paul wrote, ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free…do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery’ (Galatians 5:1).
One of the Bible readings during Succot is from Solomon: ‘Vanity of vanities. All is vanity’ (Ecclesiastes 12:8). Jesus expressed it this way: ‘What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?’ (Luke 9:25). We need to hold possessions and positions lightly – they’re not our identity.
Another lesson to be learned from Succot is that this world is a place to be enjoyed. ‘Celebrate’ is a command. Succot follows a period of repentance. You’ve fasted, you’ve ‘died’ on Yom Kippur, you’ve denied yourself food, drink and sexual relations – now is the time to enjoy life, to celebrate! There are records of Jewish people in the horror of the Nazi death camps rejoicing at Succot, because God commanded it!
There’ll come a time when there’ll no longer be a need for Passover. Shavuot (Pentecost) will be fulfilled. But there’ll be a continuing need for Succot when Jesus, the Messiah, rules over this planet from Jerusalem. We’ll be rejoicing, as never before. There’ll be worship indescribable. We’ll have arrived!
How is your journey progressing?
Prayer: Almighty God, would You give me a revelation of Your destination for my life. Would You give me that confidence of faith to know I can totally depend upon You in those vulnerable situations of my life. Would You show me what it was like for the children of Israel, as you navigated them through the wilderness. Would You give me that certainty of knowing Your fire and cloud, even though I’m challenged by my surrounding circumstances. I worship You, Father. I worship You, Jesus. I recommit my life today to Your Lordship. Amen.