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The Feast of Tabernacles – Sukkot

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites: On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD’s Festival of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days.  The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work.  For seven days present food offerings to the LORD, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the LORD. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work’” (Leviticus 23:33-36). 

“Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress.  Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. For seven days celebrate the festival to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete” (Deuteronomy 16:13-15).

The Feast of Tabernacles is the last of the seven ‘appointed times’ given to God’s people. In Hebrew, the Feast of Tabernacles is Sukkot meaning ‘shelters,’ sukkah is the singular ‘shelter.’ Sukkot is the eight-day fall Feast that follows the Day of Atonement. It is called the ‘season of our joy’ when everyone dances with lulavs and builds temporary shelters with roofs made from branches of trees. Like the other fall festivals, the Feast of Tabernacles has yet to be fulfilled by Yeshua. Its ‘shadow’ contains the vision of the coming Messianic Era when Yeshua will physically tabernacle with Israel and the nations in Jerusalem. The culmination of the Feast of Tabernacles will occur in eternity when there is a new heavens, new earth, and the New Jerusalem where Adonai Himself will sit on His throne and live with His people.

Hebrew Word Pictures

Booth or Sukkah, the singular of sukkot – סכה

Samech ס – A Prop means ‘to support.’

Kaf כ – An Open Palm means ‘to allow, to open.’

Hey ה – A Window means ‘to behold or reveal.’

The Hebrew word picture for sukkah: To support and allow to reveal.

Abraham’s Faith

Abraham’s Tent

“By faith he [Abraham] made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country;  he lived in tents as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:9-10).

Abraham was called a friend of God because he believed God. Abraham had faith in Adonai’s promise to make him a great nation through a ‘promised seed.’ Though he had to live in a sukkah in this world, he had the hope of an eternal city built by God.

Jacob’s Sukkah

Jacob at Succot

“Jacob went on to Sukkoth, where he built himself a house and put up shelters for his animals.  This is why the place is called Sukkoth (shelters)” (Genesis 33:17).

When the Hebrews left Egypt, their first stop on their way to Mount Sinai was Takut, the Egyptian name for Sukkoth. Hundreds of years earlier, Jacob stopped at this exact place after he reunited with his brother Esau. He built ‘temporary dwellings’ for his family and livestock and named the place Sukkoth.

Sukkot

“You are to live in sukkot for seven days so that generation after generation of you will know that I made the children of Israel live in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 23:42).

In God’s command for the Feast of Tabernacles, the Israelites were to live in sukkot as a reminder of the 40 years they traveled in the wilderness and lived in temporary shelters. Throughout their generations, the nation of Israel (specifically the Jewish people) have built sukkot no matter where they have lived.

Sukkah

A sukkah can be built in a yard, on a porch or a balcony. It generally has three walls with all or part of its roof open to the sky. Any roof covering is usually branches from trees. Lights may be hung in the sukkah along with interior decorations such as pictures, flowers, leaves, and fruit. Some families line the interior walls with white cloth as a reminder of the ‘clouds of Glory’ that appeared over the Israelites like a sukkah as they traveled in the desert. For seven days the sukkah, the personal or family temporary dwelling place, is used for eating, sleeping, and inviting guests to share in the ‘season of joy.’

The Lulav

“On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year” (Leviticus 23:40-42). 

Rejoicing with the Lulav

On the first day of Sukkot, branches from palms, willows, and myrtles along with a large fragrant citrus fruit called an etrog are bound together in what is called the lulav. This leafy bundle represents the nations of the world. On each day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the lulav is waved facing north, south, east, and west while proclaiming the coming Kingdom of God to the nations.

Several symbolic meanings have developed from these four species creating the lulav. Some believe the four species represent the name of God: yod-hey-vav-hey which is why they species are bound together as one. Others believe the fruit and the aroma of the trees relate to different people and how they respond to God’s Torah, very similar to the Parable of the Sower and how different people respond to the Word of God. Still others believe that the branches and the fruit represent the parts of our bodies, our temporary dwellings, that we are to offer to God as “instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:12-13).

The Tabernacle

“On the first day of the first month of the second year, the tabernacle was set up” (Exodus 40:17). 

The Hebrew word for ‘tabernacle’ is mishkan and this is what the Tabernacle or ‘tent of meeting’ was called in the wilderness.    

Hebrew Word Pictures

Tabernacle or Mishkan – משכן

Mem מ – Water means ‘chaos.’

Shin ש – A Tooth means ‘consume.’

Kaf  כ – A Palm or Wing means ‘cover or allow.’

Nun נ – A Fish means ‘ action and life.’

The Hebrew word picture for mishkan: Chaos consumed to allow life.

After the Hebrews were delivered from Egypt, they ended up at Mount Sinai where Moses received God’s instructions for constructing the mishkan. It took a long time for all of its posts, curtains, and holy articles to be made. Gold, silver, and bronze objects that were taken from Egypt had to be melted down, beaten, and formed into shapes. Acacia wood had to be gathered, cut, and built into boxes. Animals had to be slaughtered for their skins unique skins. Fabric had to be spun from flax and wool.

Tabernacle in the Wilderness

Eventually the gold, silver, and bronze became the Altar of Sacrifice, the Menorah, the Altar of Incense, the Table of Presence, and the Ark of the Covenant. Mirrors collected from the women covered the Bronze Laver for priestly washing and purification. Tabernacle coverings were stitched together and mounted on the posts. Curtains from finely twisted linen with blue, purple, and scarlet yarn were hung in the Holy Place. By the two-year anniversary of the exodus from Egypt, the mishkan was set up and the glory of God filled it with a cloud. Adonai had His ‘temporary dwelling’ that could be transported when He moved His people.

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  Moses was unable to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud remained on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  Whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel continued with all their travels.  But if the cloud was not taken up, they did not travel onward until the day with it was taken up.  For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle during the day, and the fire was (in the cloud) at night, so that all the house of Israel could see it throughout all their travels” (Exodus 40:34-38).

The Living Tabernacle

Sukkah for Yeshua’s Birth

Yeshua is the living Tabernacle of God’s divine presence. According to the details given in the first two chapters of Luke, it can be determined that Yeshua was born on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. In a ‘temporary dwelling’ outside the town of Bethlehem, the Word became flesh and was placed in a sukkah. The angels in heaven, the shepherds watching their flocks, his mother Mary, and his earthly father Joseph celebrated the birth of God’s Son. While all Israel gathered to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, Yeshua became the reason for the ‘season of joy!’

“The Word became flesh and tabernacled with us, we saw his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth … for it pleased God to have his full being live in His Son…” (John 1:14, Colossians 1:19).

Yeshua celebrates Feast of Tabernacles in John chapter 7, though he didn’t go to Jerusalem until the Feast was half over. When he arrived and began to teach in the Temple, the people were astonished and wondered how he knew so much. He gave credit to his Father who had sent him to find the ‘lost sheep of the house of Israel’ and told them to search the Scriptures to know if his teachings were from God or himself (Matthew 15:24).

“So Yeshua gave them an answer: ‘My teaching is not my own, it comes from the one who sent me.  If anyone wants to do his will, he will know whether my teaching is from God or I speak on my own.  A person who speaks on his own is trying to win praise for himself; but a person who tries to win praise for the one who sent him is honest, there is nothing false about him” (John 7:16-18). 

Streams of Living Water

Pool of Siloam

The Levitical priesthood officiated the sacrifices in the Temple during the Feasts of the LORD and led other traditions honoring in the ‘appointed times.’ The highlight each day of the Feast of Tabernacles was the Water Pouring Ceremony. A white-robed priest carrying a golden pitcher would lead a joyful procession of people to the Water Gate and the Pool of Siloam where he filled the pitcher with water. He would return to the Temple with the filled pitcher along with worshipers singing, waving their lulavs, and dancing. When the priest arrived at the Altar, he would pour out the water. As he poured the water from the golden pitcher, he would cry out in a loud voice words from the prophet Isaiah, “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).

The multitude of people who gathered in Jerusalem for Sukkot would respond to his words with: “LORD, save us! LORD, grant us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you” (Psalm 118).

The last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles was called Hoshana Rabbah meaning ‘The Great Salvation.‘ It was the culmination of the week-long festival and was a prophetic vision of the restoration of the Kingdom of God.

Living Water

It was on Hoshana Rabbah that Yeshua responds to his nation’s cry for ‘salvation.’ As the ‘great salvation,’ he delivered a message of freedom and fullness of life in the Spirit. If the nation would repent, come to him for forgiveness, and put their faith in him, the God’s Spirit would be poured out and their spiritual thirst would be quenched. Living waters would flow from within them and they would indeed receive ‘Great Salvation.’

“Now on the last day and greatest day of the festival, Hoshana Rabbah, Yeshua stood and cried out, ‘If a man is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drink!  Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being.’”  (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who trusted in him were to receive later.  The Spirit had not yet been given, because Yeshua had not yet been glorified”) (John 7:37-39).

Our Earthly Sukkah

“I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Messiah Yeshua has made clear to me” (2 Peter 1:13).

While we live on the earth, we live in an earth suit. Peter and Paul called it our earthly ‘tent.’ Our earthly ‘tent’ is mortal, decaying, and dying. It is only a temporary physical dwelling for our spirits and will one day be destroyed through death. We will return to the dust of the ground from which we came. While we live in our mortal sukkah, we know that we are naked and unclothed in the eyes of God. We cry out in our sufferings and affliction while we wait for the redemption of our bodies and receive our immortal clothes.

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 5:1-5).

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 16:19-20).

Once we are born again into God’s Kingdom, our earth ‘tent’ becomes the dwelling place for God’s Spirit. He seals us with His Spirit as a guarantee that we will be released from our mortal ‘tent’ and given heavenly, glorified bodies that will never decay because they are eternal. Until that day arrives, we live in our ‘tent’ bodies by faith just as Abraham who looked forward to what is coming.

Feast of Ingathering

“Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field” (Exodus 23:16).

The Feast of Tabernacles is also called the Feast of Ingathering. This ‘appointed time’ foreshadows the time when the House of Judah and the House of Israel are gathered from the nations back to the Promised Land. The Ingathering of God’s chosen people will be so divinely inspired that it will be remembered as a ‘greater exodus’ than when the Hebrews left Egypt. The Feast of Ingathering has only just begun with a modern-day movement of Jewish people returning to the land of Israel from all the nations of the world. It is known as aliyah and means ‘going up.’

“‘Therefore,’ says The LORD, ‘the day will come when people will not longer swear, “As The LORD lives, who brought the nation of Israel out of the land of Egypt,” but, ‘As The LORD lives, who brought the people of Israel out of the land to the north and all the countries where he drove them,’ for I will bring them back to their own land which I gave their ancestors’” (Jeremiah 16:14-15).

“They found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month  and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make temporary shelters”—as it is written” (Nehemiah 8:14-15).

When Israel returned from Babylonian captivity in the days of Nehemiah, they found the book of Torah that commanded collecting branches to make their sukkot. In addition to branches from palms, willows, and myrtles, they also collected branches from “olive and wild olive” trees (Nehemiah 8:14-15). Because the Feast of Ingathering occurs during the olive harvest, it also becomes a ‘shadow’ of fulfillment of the natural olives and wild olives becoming the complete Olive Tree of Israel.

The first mention of the olive tree is when Noah sends out a dove from the ark and it brings back an olive leaf, a symbol of new life (Genesis 8:8). Pure olive oil is one of the ingredients for the anointing oil (Exodus 30:22-23). The land flowing with milk and honey also flowed with olive oil indicating the abundance of provision in the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 8:8). The doors of Solomon’s Temple were made from olive wood on which were carved the cherubim that guarded the entrance to the Garden of Eden (1 Kings 6:32). David says children are like olive shoots blessing a man’s table (Psalm 128:8). The prophets Jeremiah and Hosea call Israel “a thriving olive tree with great splendor” (Jeremiah 11:16, Hosea 14:6).

When Paul discusses the ‘Olive Tree of Israel’ in Romans 11, he sees natural olive branches and wild olive branches attached to the same tree. He tells the gentiles that they are the wild olive branches which have been grafted into the olive tree along with the natural branches of the Jewish people. When a branch is grafted into a tree, it gets its nourishment from the roots and sap of the tree. It will still bear olives, but only through its dependence on the natural tree. If the grafting doesn’t take and the branch doesn’t get its nourishment, it will die and fall off the tree.

Paul reminds the gentiles that as wild olive branches they can be cut off the olive tree if they become arrogant over the natural branches. They are to remember that the living water of the Spirit comes from the root of David, and the nourishing sap of the Hebrew Scriptures supports them both by faith. Though some of the natural branches may have been broken off due to a lack of faith, they can be easily grafted back into their own olive tree (Romans 11:13-24). 

The addition of “olive and wild olive branches” to the sukkah in Nehemiah’s time suggests that the Ingathering of Israel will not only include the natural olive branches of Israel, but also the wild olive branches of the nations who have embraced the covenant that Adonai made with Israel. When both branches of olives live by faith in Yeshua, trusting in him as the root of the tree, living water will bring nourishing sap to both branches. They will thrive with splendor as God intended for the ‘Olive Tree of Israel.’

The Millennial Kingdom

“In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken” (Micah 4:1, 3).

Ezekiel’s Millennial Temple

Yeshua’s teachings focused on the Kingdom of God which is the same as the Kingdom of Heaven. Though the Kingdom was near, it had not yet fully arrived and will not arrive until Yeshua has been glorified and crowned King of Kings. During a 1000 year ‘season of our joy,’ the nations of the world will come to the mountain of God in Jerusalem. Yeshua will sit on his throne in the Temple and judge the nations. The Messianic Era will join the present world and mortal men with immortal men in a unique time in history. With an iron scepter, he will rule the earth and prepare its people for his Father’s eternal Kingdom.

“After six days Yeshua took Peter, James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain privately.  As they watched, he began to change form – his face shone like the sun, and his clothing became as white as light.  Then they looked and saw Moses and Elijah speaking with him.   Peter said to Yeshua, ‘It’s good that we’re here, Lord.  I’ll put up three sukkot [temporary dwellings]  if you want – one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’  While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them; and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him’! (Matthew 17:1-5).

Just days before this event, Yeshua told his disciples that some of them would not die until they saw the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom (Matthew 16:28). They waited eagerly for this Kingdom to arrive. Six days later Yeshua took Peter, James, and John up a mountain.

The three disciples watched as Yeshua transformed into his glory in front of them. They saw him speaking with Moses and Elijah. They didn’t realize they were receiving only a glimpse at the coming Kingdom, but believed that Yeshua was establishing his Kingdom rule on earth at that moment in time –– at the ‘appointed time’ of Sukkot. They sincerely believed that Yeshua was going to take up his throne in Jerusalem and reign as King of Kings. They knew the prophecies and had listened to Yeshua teach. Peter responded with great faith in Yeshua’s words about the Kingdom of God when he offered to build Moses, Elijah, and Yeshua ‘shelters’ –– sukkot.

The Eternal Tabernacle

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place (the Mishkan) is now among the people, and he will dwell (tabernacle) with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3 NIV and Orthodox Jewish Bible).

The New Jerusalem Descends

At the end of Yeshua’s Messianic reign, a new heaven and a new earth will be created. Everything from the old heaven and earth that has been decaying will pass away. The New Jerusalem will come down out of the renewed heaven and descend to the renewed earth. The New Jerusalem won’t have a Temple because Adonai will be the Temple. There will be no sun or moon to shine on it because the His glory gives it its light; its lamp will be Yeshua.

The river of the water of life will flow from the throne of God producing monthly fruit and healing leaves for the nations. The servants of God will worship Him on His throne in the city. The eternally redeemed will see His face and His name will be written on their foreheads. They will reign as kings forever and ever. When the New Jerusalem descends from heaven, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh will Tabernacle forever with His people.

“All of these people kept on trusting until they died, without receiving what had been promised.  They had only seen it and welcomed it from a distance, while acknowledging that they were aliens and temporary residents on the earth.  As it is, they aspire to a better homeland, a heavenly one.  This is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city”  (Hebrews 11:13-15).

Abraham lived in a tent. As Abraham’s children of faith and heirs to the same promises, we also live in earth ‘tents’ like he did. Until the day of our complete redemption, we will live as strangers and foreigners on this earth. We celebrate Sukkot with the vision of our future glory by building a sukkah. As we feast in our ‘temporary dwelling,’ we identify with the children of Israel who lived in tents with the Mishkan of Adonai in their midst.

Yeshua took on the ‘tent’ of a human body to live with us. As Messiah of Israel, he will soon return to Jerusalem as King and prepare the nations for the eternal Kingdom of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. When we keep our eyes on the promises of God and the New Jerusalem, we will understand the ‘season of our joy’ and appreciate the prophetic vision of another ‘appointed time’ –– The Feast of Tabernacles.

 For more about Yeshua fullfilling the ‘appointed times,’ purchase Yeshua in His Father’s Feasts.

©2011 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article,  please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.  To learn more about the Feasts of the LORD, purchase Yeshua in His Father’s Feasts study guide and/or leader’s guide for group learning.