The Feast of Tabernacles is the climax of the biblical festivals. Joy runs sky-high as festive meals, music, dancing, praises to God, and smiling faces light up the atmosphere. Deuteronomy 16:14-15 puts it well:
“You shall rejoice in your feast… For seven days you shall keep the feast to the Lord your God at the place that the Lord will choose, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.”
The Prophet Zachariah says that all this mirth is not reserved for the nation of Israel alone, but that all the nations of the world are invited to come up to Jerusalem and join in the celebration! (Zechariah 14:16-19)
Unfortunately, for the past two years, the borders of Israel have been essentially closed to the nations, and going up to Jerusalem for the feasts of the Lord has been an impossibility. This year, as we celebrate Sukkot, our cup of joy is diminished, knowing that the thousands from the nations who want to come up to Jerusalem are unable to at this time. As Jeremiah said in the book Lamentations 1:4: “The roads to Zion mourn, for none come to the festival.”
Bringing in the harvest is usually a large contributor to the joy levels of this season, as the above verse from Deuteronomy indicates. Due to not being able to bring in volunteers, the vineyard owners have had to resort to using a mechanical harvester. Some of the vineyard owners can’t afford to pay for the machine. For others, the rocky, mountainous terrain in their vineyards isn’t machine-accessible, and they are desperately seeking out local volunteers to help. This year is supposed to be the triple harvest before the shmita/sabbatical year. Many of the farmers are overwhelmed and just trying to make the best of the situation.
On top of these hardships, two of our vineyard-owning friends received court orders declaring that their fields were to be bulldozed before they could even bring in the harvest! Thank God, the demolition order was put off for some months, the harvest was saved, and hopefully, they have enough time to get the order revoked. This court order for demolition is unprecedented in that the area where the vineyards are located is not a contested area. The court ruled that there was insufficient proof of Arab ownership. The plot is also in area “C,” which is, in all other cases, allotted for Jewish development.
One would think that with a right-wing prime minister like Naftali Bennett, Israel would be strong enough to resist the self-destructive tendencies of the left. Unfortunately, because of the many left-leaning and Israel-hating members of Bennett’s coalition, his hands are tied. Just getting a budget approved without the government falling apart was a big success. Moving forward with the biblical mandate to declare sovereignty over and settle Judea and Samaria is not anywhere close to being on the table.
These obstacles and challenges are overwhelming. It could be easy to point fingers at the Israeli government or those people and organizations with left-wing mindsets and talk about how they are to blame for all the craziness. We know that God has a plan, however, and that He orchestrates His plan through those who are willing to follow Him.
God’s people have met with challenges before. Numbers 13 tells the story of the twelve spies going up into the land of Israel. When they came back and were giving their report, it looks like all of them gave the full report – the land and fruit is good, the cities are well fortified, and there are giants (vs. 25-29). Ten of the spies continued with a bad report, declaring that the people of Caanan made them feel like midgets and the land itself would eat the Israelites alive (vs. 32-33). Notice that Joshua and Caleb acknowledged the giants. They weren’t denying that real obstacles existed. But they also said this:
“The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:7-9)
In these verses, we find the path to overcoming our obstacles. We need to:
- Acknowledge that God’s promises are true (“the land is exceedingly good”).
- Acknowledge that God wants to fulfill His will through us (“if the Lord delights in us”).
- Fear God, not the giants (“do not rebel against the Lord and do not fear the people”).
God’s promises are true
If God says that He will do something, then He will do it. It doesn’t matter how big the giants are; if there are pandemics, experimental vaccines, border closures, governmental issues, or all-out war, God will fulfill His word. He does not change and His Word does not return void.
Jerusalem will be a praise in all the earth. The nations will come up to Jerusalem for the feasts, to pray, and to assist with the restoration of Israel.
God wants to fulfill His will through us
God’s faithfulness to His word includes your redemption and enables you to bring His kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. As John Wesley said, “Without God, man cannot. Without man, God will not.” And in the wise words of Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Placing blame on others is not going to build God’s kingdom. Taking responsibility for our own actions, and becoming active and vocal in whatever way we can, is the right thing to do.
Prepare to come to Israel. Join whatever Israel-loving groups there are in your area. Study Israel. Get to know Jewish people. Learn from those who have been in the land. Financially support those who have their boots on the ground. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This is God’s heart, and He will direct you as you seek Him.
Fear God, not the giants
Don’t allow the obstacles to dictate your future. Yes; you may need to wait until the borders open to come to Israel, but if you begin planning and preparing now, God will open the doors in His timing. If we align ourselves with God, loving what He loves, hating what He hates, and accepting His word as the truth, we can expect His Kingdom to start taking shape.
I believe we are on the brink of one of the greatest revivals of all time. After 2000 years of desolation, Israel is being restored – fulfilling 3,000-year-old prophecies to the letter. God has “removed the protection” of the enemies of Israel and is giving miraculous strength to the Jewish people. Archaeological finds in Israel are burying all anti-God claims and confirming the veracity of the Bible. People are realizing that immorality does not bring fulfillment and they are looking for a better way of life.
Looking back throughout history, there have always been great trials just before the great breakthroughs. I believe the corona-virus pandemic is no exception. The struggles, pain, and heartache is a birthing process. Over the past 100 years, we have seen some of the most powerful moves of God in world history.
The low point of the prophesied 2,000 years of Israel’s desolation was the Dark Ages. Israel was utterly wasted and her God-forsakenness reverberated throughout the world, bringing death, destruction, and spiritual darkness with it. Now, in our time, we are seeing the restorative prophecies begin to take place. The Jewish people are returning to their land, Hebrew is being spoken on the streets, the deserts are blooming, and once again the nations are feeling the spiritual ripples. Now is the time of restoration, and who knows what might be next up on God’s redemptive agenda!
So, I encourage you, don’t let the giants scare you. Take heart! Stay connected to Israel. Keep pressing into God’s heart. Take an active role in the revival that is at our doorstep, and embrace what God is doing now. Prepare your heart to witness some of the greatest events of all time!