Every biblical festival given to Israel has these three aspects… Israel was commanded to observe the festival in the present in order to remember something God had done in the past, and because of some future prophetic purpose hidden within each festival.
Passover and Shavout/Pentecost look back on the great Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the law at Sinai, while their hidden prophetic purposes were fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus/Yeshua and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem.
The Feast of Tabernacles /Sukkot, is the third great annual pilgrimage festival when the Jewish people gather together in Jerusalem, not only to remember God’s provision in the wilderness but also to look ahead to that promised Messianic age when all nations will flow to Jerusalem to worship the Messiah King.
A Feast for all People
Tabernacles is unique, however in that the nations were also invited in ancient times to come up to Jerusalem at this season to worship the Lord alongside the Jewish people. This tradition first arose from the command given to Moses that Israel should sacrifice seventy bulls at Sukkot, which were offered for the seventy nations descended from Noah (Numbers 29:12-35)
It is a feast of great joy, celebrating the autumn harvest and the ingathering of the fruit of the land. Thus, Sukkot also serves as a harbinger of the joyous last-days ingathering of the nations.
The Past: Remembering the God of Provision
The most visible symbol of Sukkot is the small sukkah’s which the Israelites were commanded to dwell in for the eight days of the Feast. (Leviticus 23:33-43). Jewish families across Israel build these booths at this time and they eat their meals in them and even sleep in them.
These flimsy booths serve as a reminder to Israel that they once dwelled in makeshift structures during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. It was a harsh environment where they had to totally depend on the Lord for everything they needed and he was faithful to provide for them. He was a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night… their shield and protection
The Present: Celebrating His Presence Today
Indeed He is Jehovah Jireh, the “Lord who Provides”, and we as Christians have reason to celebrate much too! He provided His Son as a sacrifice for our deliverance and He continues to faithfully care and provide for us, as we trust in Him. Just as Sukkot celebrates the ingathering of the physical harvest, we also celebrate the harvest of souls being brought into the Kingdom of God.
Yeshua also celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. (John 7:37-38) On the last “great day of the Feast” He stood in the Temple courts and cried out: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
The Future: Entering the Joy of the Lord
It is also called the Festival of Joy…as God commands His people to rejoice before Him for seven days!
The feast also points us to the future when, at the coming of the Messiah, the world will finally be subject to the Kingdom of God. War will be a thing of the past and the Lord will reign with righteousness and justice from His throne in Jerusalem. The prophet Zechariah foretells of a time when the nations will ascend to Jerusalem from year to year to “worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (14:16).
God not only wants us to see the glorious future ahead, but is commanding us to look back in time as well to see His faithful provision
When Christians come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, it reminds us of the time of the Messiah and there is a tangible expectation of His return. It is a powerful picture which foreshadows the times that the prophets wrote about. I well remember Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat remark at a previous feast celebration “When I see the thousands of Christians from the nations coming up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacle, then I can hear the footsteps of the Messiah”.
The ICEJ has hosted a Feast of Tabernacle celebration since 1980 in Jerusalem with over 5000 people from over 80 nations coming up yearly, to rejoice and worship the King of Kings, in the City of the King!