Tonight we head into a week-long celebration called Feast of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot in Hebrew). This is a commandment found in Leviticus 23:33-43. The holiday commemorates how God saved the Hebrews from slavery and then the forty years they wandered the desert before reaching the promised land. It is the last of the fall feasts and is set as a perpetual reminder of the blessings and sovereignty of Yahweh (God’s sacred name).
As with all feasts and Sabbaths, there are stipulations Yah (shortened form of Yahweh) requires. We must do no work in our occupations as it is a complete rest. However, as this is a week-long festival there is a bit more to it. Leviticus 23:35-36 tells us, “The first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. Seven days you shall present the Lord’s offerings by fire; on the eighth day you shall observe a holy convocation and present the Lord’s offerings by fire; it is a solemn assembly; you shall not work at your occupations.” We are to begin and end the celebration with a Sabbath rest. However, please note, that Yeshua Hamashiach (Jesus Christ) was the final offering/sacrifice so we are not bound by those instructions. He fulfilled those requirements.
Now, as it is a celebration we see more details about the rejoicing aspect outlined in Leviticus 23:40-43, “On the first day you shall take the fruit of majestic trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a festival to the Lord lasting seven days in the year; you shall keep it in the seventh month as a statute forever throughout your generations. You shall live in booths for seven days; all who are native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I made the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” There is quite a bit to unpack in these verses. The first item is the fruit of the majestic trees, according to Biblical hermeneutics, has traditionally been taken to be the citron (ʾetrog). However, that is a much later addition to the Sukkot celebration. The fruit in question is much more likely from the date palm which could have been cultivated in that region while the traditional citron was foreign. The other item to look at is the verses telling us to take branches and fruit to rejoice. Some take this to mean we are to decorate our tents or booths with these items. While others claim we are to parade around with them. Either interpretation could be accurate.
As we come into this holy week let us remember why we celebrate, Yahweh is the REASON we have our blessings. He is the reason the Hebrews escaped the Egyptian overlords and into the promised land. He is the reason we have salvation. We celebrate this week by giving up the comforts of our homes to live in tents. It reminds us that to be with the Holy Father we must surrender even if that means we lose our comforts in this world.
-Rev. Alex Burchnell, Senior Pastor
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