Michael Boling – Feasts of the Lord: The Fulfillment of the Feast of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)

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“Don’t let yourselves be disturbed. Trust in God and trust in me. In my Father’s house are many places to live. If there weren’t, I would have told you; because I am going there to prepare a place for you. Since I am going and preparing a place for you, I will return to take you with me; so that where I am, you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had passed away, and the sea was no longer there. Also I saw the holy city, New Yerushalayim, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “See! God’s Sh’khinah is with mankind, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and he himself, God-with-them, will be their God.” (Revelation 21:1-3)

“I will put my tabernacle among you, and I will not reject you, but I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” (Leviticus 26:11-12)

In this post, we will take a look at the current and future fulfillment of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. This important feast is pregnant with meaning, specifically the divine plan of God to one day restore that which was impacted by sin, namely God tabernacling and dwelling with His people. Barney Kasdan wisely notes “All the Feasts of the Lord have their own particular lessons to teach. Yet, because of its latter day fulfillment, Sukkot seems to be the apex of all the other appointed times of God. The goal of God’s plan is ultimately the establishment of his kingdom on the earth.”[1]

In order to understand the necessity for the restoration of relationship and fellowship between God and His people, we must first begin in the book of Genesis. Old Testament scholars Keil and Delitzsch note “By sin, men have departed and separated themselves from God; but God, in His infinite mercy, has not cut himself off from men, His creatures. Not only did he announce redemption along with punishment immediately before the fall, but from that time forward He continued to reveal Himself to them, that He might draw them back to Himself, and lead them from the path of destruction to the way of salvation.”[2] So it is clear the Scriptural message from the book of Genesis on is the movement towards restoration and redemption, a return in the future to that which was lost when the sin problem entered the picture.

At various points throughout Scripture, we can see God bringing this ultimate fulfillment of tabernacling with His people slowly but surely to fruition. In stages, God woos His people and at times dwells, albeit only in part in the presence of His people, both in a physical and a spiritual sense. This idea of tabernacling is woven throughout Scripture for a purpose. Bob Alberico comments “The idea of having a redeemer is based upon the premise that the God of creation has a plan to restore all things. Redemption after all, means to buy back. The essential question here is, to buy back from what, and to what? For the Hebrew, to buy back mean to restore in the now what we had in the past; to restore what we lost when we exited the Garden. “ So how does this idea of tabernacling reveal itself in the biblical corpus?

Beyond the Garden of Eden when God walked with Adam and Eve, we see God dwelling with His people, or at least a portion of His glory, in the wilderness tabernacle. In Exodus 40:34 we find “the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of Adonai filled the tabernacle.” So at least in part, God dwelled with His people through the means of the tabernacle. Keep in mind, God can by no means be contained in a dwelling built with human hands as noted in Acts 7:8. With that said, God was at that point in history, establishing the framework for relationship with His people, a relationship and fellowship that would be based on the institution of a series of covenants.

Within the framework of a covenant relationship, God established the means by which He and His creation would begin this journey towards renewal of relationship. Adherence to the stipulations of these covenants resulted in life, disobedience resulted in death. It is important once again to understand what that life and death in adherence to the covenants was all about. Certainly there was a physical element to obedience and disobedience respectively. Israel was told by God that if they obeyed Him, it would go well with them on the earth and if they disobeyed, well, let’s just say things would not go so well. With that said, obedience brought the life of relationship with God and disobedience or rejection of God brought death to that relationship.

We should realize this is really nothing new as God outlined that same reality to Adam and Eve. After all, God told Adam in Genesis 2:16-17, “Adonai, God, gave the person this order: “You may freely eat from every tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You are not to eat from it, because on the day that you eat from it, it will become certain that you will die.” Engagement of the Hebrew in Genesis 2:17 reveals an interesting verb construct which most English translations do not pick up on. It is the double verb muwth muwth which literally means dying you shall die. So physical death began as a process which would ultimately lead to the cessation of physical life and spiritual death resulted from the entrance of sin, thus the need for a Redeemer to fix both problems.

Man, being the wretched sinner that he is, is fully incapable of adhering to the requirements of God’s covenants, in particular the marriage covenant that forms the basis for the entirety of God’s commands to His people throughout Scripture. Again, this was why there was a need for a Redeemer, One who would do on our behalf what we could not do, namely to perfectly obey God’s commands. In doing so, this Redeemer, Jesus the Messiah, died on the cross to restore our broken relationship with our Creator, to make it possible for God to once again tabernacle with His people. The Apostle Paul states in Romans 5:10, “For if we were reconciled with God through his Son’s death when we were enemies, how much more will we be delivered by his life, now that we are reconciled!” Christ gave His life so that we might have restoration of life. His obedience provides the means by which eternal life and the restoration of all things is made possible.

I say all that to provide the background for why the fulfillment of Sukkot is a now but not yet phenomenon. Just like God dwelled in part with His people in the wilderness tabernacle and later in Solomon’s temple, he dwells in part within our lives, at least in the lives of the elect. So what do I mean by He dwells in part in our lives? As we noted at the outset of this post, God is slowly unfolding His plan of redemption and restoration of relationship. It is a return to that which was lost, that dwelling in full of God with His creation that is being accomplished in part at this time in history, with the ultimate and complete fulfillment taking place when Christ returns. Until that time, we await, holding on to the first fruits of the Holy Spirit as a down payment if you will on the future fulfillment of Sukkot. The Holy Spirit resides in our hearts, working in our lives so that we might be that chaste and holy bride, a people who constantly long for the return of the bridegroom. When the bridegroom returns, the glorious event Jesus spoke of in John 14:3 will take place, “I will return to take you with me; so that where I am, you may be also.” When Christ returns for His bride, He will bring her to himself, tabernacling with them in the finality of the betrothal marriage process. What a truly glorious day that will be!

Mitch Glaser aptly notes “Ultimately, the whole earth will become the sukkah booth of God, and He will reign in the presence of His Son for all eternity. This reminds us of Solomon’s prayer, where he understood clearly God’s intention to fill His redeemed earth with His very presence.”[3] When that time comes, we will be in the presence of God forever, dwelling with our bridegroom in a redeemed and restored creation, that return to that which was lost, the completion of God’s buyback program instituted from before the foundation of the world. The sin problem and the impact that sin had on all of creation will be finally and completely dealt with as death will be no more and the sin issue that impacted the dwelling of a holy God with His creation will also be dealt with. The first fruits harvest will become a completed harvest and we will dwell with our God, our Creator, our Redeemer for all eternity.

This is the message of Sukkot. God is moving history towards the time when all things will be made right. God will establish an everlasting sukkah. “How blessed are those who have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19:9)

As we close out this journey through the Feasts of the Lord, let us leave you with the following declaration of the Psalmist:

“Goodness and grace will pursue me every day of my life; and I will live in the house of Adonai for years and years to come.” (Psalm 23:6)

When the Feast of Tabernacles is fulfilled, we will forever dwell in the house of the Lord, we shall see Him face to face, and we shall praise the glorious name of Yahweh for all eternity. May that day come quickly!

References:

[1] ] Barney Kasdan, God’s Appointed Times (Baltimore: Lederer Books, 1993), 100.
[2] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996), 19.
[3] Mitch Glaser, The Fall Feasts of Israel (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1987), 213.

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