Shemini Atzeret's Messianic Taste of Hidden Manna #49
Sukkot is Sublime!
A Long Read that is Worth the Investment of Time
A Holistic Celebratory Holyday Overflowing with Meaning & Significance
Sukkot is a holistic celebratory holyday (see especially Lev 23:34ff.; Deut 16:13ff.; Zech 14:16ff.; John 7 & 12; & Rev 7:9–17) with inextricably linked historical, agricultural, and spiritual meaning & significance in every generation. Please take the time to read all of these passages now. Historically, Sukkot is about God's abiding presence with His People; about memorializing God's presence in the wilderness years and in all subsequent generations up to God's current 21st century history. Agriculturally, Sukkot is about rejoicing in the fall harvest; about waving the 'four species' (the etrog plus the intertwined lulav, aravot, & hadassim) in six directions (north, south, east, west, up & down) to celebrate God's presence everywhere. It has become such a wondrous time of celebration that it is called Z'man Simchateinu (The Season/Time of Our Joy/Rejoicing)!
Spiritually, Sukkot is about appropriating, re-appropriating, and rejoicing in God's presence: past, present, and future! At the center of the celebration for the past twenty centuries now, is the rejoicing in an even greater manifestation of the promise of the presence of God found in the person of Messiah Yeshua. Finally, as awe-inspiring as all of this is, Sukkot ultimately has become all about anticipating the Edenic restoration of the face-to-face 'walking among you' presence of God among His People! Sukkot is sublime! In fact, Sukkot is so sublime that it is referred to as 'the holyday of YHWH' in Lev 23:39 and 'the holyday of YHWH your God' in Deut 16:15 (which as Rubenstein asserts, "suggests that this holyday was special, distinguished from its sister festivals" and clearly preeminent in importance among Temple celebrations. Later, it took on profound eschatological meaning and significance. For a sublime and very scholarly discussion of Sukkot, see Jeffrey L. Rubenstein, The History of Sukkot in the Second Temple and Rabbinic Periods, Brown Judaic Studies No. 302 (Providence: Brown University, 1995).
The Edenic Experience & Later Promise of His Presence
Sukkot is grounded in the Edenic experience of the presence of God—in His daily desire to 'walk among' His People (Gen 3:8). After the exile from Eden, it is grounded in the promise of the presence of God and His desire to dwell with His People. This promise became thematic in the Scriptures and was associated with the tentative tent-like structures of the mishkan (tabernacle) and sukkah (hut)—both of which are translated with the same Greek word (i.e., 'skēnē') in the Greek translation of the Hebrew and Aramaic Scriptures. This promise was also associated with the illusory permanence of the physical temple. A very careful reading of the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, reveals that the 'mishkan', the 'sukkah', and even the 'temple' were all intended to have an impermanence that inspired the longing for a return to the permanent face-to-face experience of the Edenic presence of God. This would come to be understood as the eschatological sukkah of God's permanent and eternal sheltering presence. This wondrous concept of Edenic (i.e., Eden-like) restoration is clearly seen in Isa 51:3 and Ezek 36:35. Moreover, don't be stumbled upon hearing about the impermanence of the physical Temple, but rather rejoice in these wondrous closing words of the New Covenant Scriptures: "I saw no temple in the Holy City New Jerusalem, for the LORD God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb" (Rev 21:22–23).
These great words of Rev 21:22–23 are directly related to the even greater manifestation of the presence of God (which took us one step closer to this Edenic restoration) inaugurated in the first appearing of Messiah Yeshua. He Himself 'sukkahed' among us as the very embodiment of YHWH and His attributes of chesed (covenant loyal lovingkindness) and emet (faithfulness) as clearly seen in John 1:14; and His body was understood as the eschatological temple as clearly seen in John 2:18–22. The consummate expression of this thematic promise of the presence of God is found in the Book of Revelation: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God's skēnē (mishkan, or sukkah, or dwelling) is with humanity, and He will dwell with them (or spread a sukkah over them). They will be His peoples, and God Himself will be with them and will be their God." (Rev 21:1–3)
Sukkot Is to Be Celebrated in Authentic Biblical Remembrance
Sukkot is to be celebrated by authentic Biblical remembrance. This is very clear from the additional passage of the Amidah that is read on this holiday which highlights the Biblical "remembrance of ourselves; remembrance of our forefathers; remembrance of Messiah, Son of David, Your Servant; remembrance of Jerusalem, the City of Your Holiness; remembrance of Your entire people the Family of Israel—before You for deliverance, for goodness, for chesed, for kindness, and for compassion, and for life, and for shalom on this day of the Sukkot Feast". Authentic Biblical remembrance isn't about merely looking back. It is about the past, present, and future! It involves a fresh re-living of the holyday in its threefold (historical, agricultural, and spiritual) meaning and significance. It involves a fresh rejoicing in the holyday according to its present profound realities. It involves a fresh hope in the future ultimate fulfillment of the holyday marked by God's wondrous full presence in the new earth. As Allen Verhey emphasized in his Anchor Bible Dictionary (ABD) entry on 'Remember/Remembrance', Biblical remembrance is constitutive of identity and community, and determinative of character and conduct. As we celebrate Sukkot, we are re-membered as we remember! Our identity and sense of community is re-constituted—and this freshly reconstituted identity determines our character and conduct in the nitty-gritty of daily life!
Sukkot and the Joy of the Water-Drawing Ceremony
The scholarly consensus regarding Sukkah 5:1 in the Mishnah is that it is about a water-drawing ceremony. It was stated that the one who has never seen the joy of the water-drawing has not seen joy in their whole lifetime! According to Sukkah 4:9, the High Priest led a procession of priests from the Temple to the Pool of Shiloach (Siloam). There he filled a golden jug with water from the Pool of Shiloach and the priests returned in procession to the Temple. When they reached the Water Gate, a sustained blast of the shofar was blown, which was followed by a quivering blast and then a final sustained blast. One tradition in the Talmud links the water-drawing ceremony to the words of Isaiah 12:3 "Therefore with joy shall you draw water from the springs of salvation"! Be sure to read Isaiah 12:1–6 to feel the full impact! It was in this context of the Feast of Sukkot that Yeshua stood up and shouted, "If anyone is thirsty, let that person come to me and drink. Whoever trusts in Me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of their innermost being will flow rivers of living water'" (John 7:37–38). This is part of what was said earlier about rejoicing in a greater fulfillment of the promise of the presence of God found in the person of Messiah Yeshua. And, note that both the GOOD NEWS according to John and the Talmud connect the water-drawing ceremony with the future promise of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), which was poured out in the inauguration of the Kingdom of God in Messiah in the first century! This was the foretaste of the coming fullness of the Ruach HaKodesh that we will experience upon the reappearance of Yeshua Messiah!
Sukkot and the Lights of the Water-Drawing Ceremony
Sukkah 5:2–4 also tells us about four giant golden lampstands (estimated at about 75 ft. tall), with four golden oil bowls on the top that were lit at night. Ladders were used to reach the bowls, and the worn-out pants of the priests were used as wicks. It was said that there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that did not reflect the light of the water-drawing ceremony. It was also said that the occasion was marked by men of piety and good works dancing before the crowds with torches, songs, and praises. And the Levites played on harps, lyres, cymbals, shofarim, and innumerable other instruments on the fifteen steps which led down from the Court of the Israelites to the Court of the Women, corresponding to the Fifteen Songs of Ascents in the Psalms (Psalms 120–134). It was in this context of light on the Feast of Sukkot in the record of the GOOD NEWS according to John that Yeshua is cited as saying: "I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). Again, this is part of what was said earlier about rejoicing in a greater fulfillment of the promise of the presence of God found in the person of Messiah Yeshua.
The Ultimate Fulfillment of Sukkot is Yet to Come!
All of this should lead us to exuberant rejoicing! However, the ultimate fulfillment of Sukkot is yet to come! The most striking passage about this in the New Covenant Scriptures, as noted above, is Revelation 21:1–3, which is grounded at the very least in Isaiah 52, 61, 62, 65, 66; Ezekiel 37, 40–48; and Zechariah 2:10–11 (English): "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God's skēnē (mishkan, or sukkah, or dwelling) is with humanity, and He will dwell with them (or spread a sukkah over them). They will be His peoples, and God Himself will be with them and will be their God" (Rev 21:1–3).
Oh That the Temporary Sukkah Would Give Way to the Permanent Sheltering Presence of God!
Ultimately, the promise of the restored face-to-face presence of God will come to fruition! Today, of all days, we should anticipate the coming restoration to the bliss of the Edenic, face-to-face, "walking among you” presence of God! Oh, that the temporary nature of Sukkot would give way to the permanent abiding and sheltering presence of God and His Messiah! Until then, may we experience the richest measure of the fulfillment (fill-fullment) of the promise of the presence of God in Sukkot, in Messiah Yeshua! May it transform our thinking, being, speaking, doing, and living!
May our rich appropriation of Sukkot lead us to abundantly share the gushing rivers of living water and the Light of life with everyone possible!
In your service always, Henri Louis Goulet