Thursday, September 19, 2013

Happy Sukkot to you...

Today is the first day of Sukkot, also called Feast of Tabernacles, Feast of Booths, or Feast of Ingathering.  Sukkot is the seventh and final Biblical feast (literally "appointed time.").   It is a festival of great joy!

Preparing for Sukkot in Mea Shearim, and ultra-orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem

The ancient fulfillment of Sukkot occurred in the wilderness, when the Israelites dwelt in tents.  Today, people build temporary shelters to remind them of that time when God actually tabernacled (dwelt) with them in the wilderness.

There is a future fulfillment of Sukkot coming, too.  So many elements of Sukkot parallel the ancient Jewish seven-day wedding feast.  I believe that there is a Sukkot coming, in the not too distant future, when Jewish and Gentile believers will be celebrating the Wedding Supper of the Lamb after the Messiah returns as the Conquering King. 

A Jewish wedding chuppah - could the canopy foreshadow the sukkah?

There is also Biblical evidence demonstrating that Yeshua entered the world at the Feast of Sukkot. John 1:14 says, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.  The Greek word for dwelt, skenoo, literally means to pitch a tent.  Some translations even use the word tabernacled.  The Hebrew word Sukkot included animal shelters... Genesis 33:17 says And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, built himself a house, and made booths for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.

A study of the time of the conception of John the Baptist reveals he was conceived about Sivan 30, the eleventh week. When Zechariah was ministering in the temple, he received an announcement from God of a coming son. The eighth course of Abijah (Luke 1:5), when Zechariah was ministering, was the week of Sivan 12 to 18, according to the Talmud. Adding forty weeks for a normal pregnancy reveals that John the Baptist was born on or about Passover (Nisan 14).

We know six months after John’s conception, Mary conceived Jesus (Luke 1:26-33). Therefore, Jesus would have been conceived six months later in the month of Kislev. Kislev 25 is Hanukkah.  What?  The Light of the World conceived at the Festival of Lights?

Starting at Hanukkah, which begins on Kislev 25 and continues for eight days, and counting through the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy, one arrives at the approximate time of the birth of Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles (the early fall of the year).

During the Feast of Tabernacles, God required all male Jews to come to Jerusalem. The many pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the festivals would spill over to the surrounding towns (Bethlehem is about five miles from Jerusalem). Joseph and Mary were unable to find a room at the inn because of the influx of so many pilgrims. They may have been given shelter in a sukkah, which is built during a seven-day period each year accompanying the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Due to the difficulties during travel, it was common for the officials to declare tax time during a temple Feast (Luke 2:1).

Even though the Bible does not specifically say the date of Yeshua's birth, we know it was not during the winter months because the sheep were in the pasture. Round the clock shepherding would especially take place during a pilgrimage festival, where there would be great need of many animals for sacrifices.  

God does things with such precision!  If Yeshua was born on the first day of Sukkot, His circumcision would have been on the day after Sukkot ended, itself also a Biblical celebration.  Leviticus 23:36 tells us, For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.  This is the day that Yeshua would have been given His name and entered into the Abrahamic covenant through circumcision.  (Luke 2:21)

Here's another thought: priests began their service at age 30.  We know that Yeshua, our high priest, began His ministry at that same age. It makes sense that he turned 30 at Sukkot and immediately began His ministry.  He served for 3 1/2 years and then died and rose at the time of Passover (which is a half year away from Sukkot).  I also don't think it is any mistake that His first miracle was at a wedding - another foreshadowing of Feast of Tabernacles and the Wedding of the Lamb.