Around this time in Israel each year, a flurry of building takes place across the country. What are they making? Sukkahs (booths) of course! Many Jews—not only in Israel but around the world—will spend a week living in these temporary structures, eating, resting, fellowshipping, and rejoicing throughout, in accordance with God’s commands.
But the holiday of Sukkot is a significant time for non-Jews as well, marking Israel’s biggest tourism event of the year. Thousands of Christians, in particular, will be celebrating this week-long festival.
If you’ve never been part of, or witnessed a Sukkot celebration, you might be asking, why should Christians care about Sukkot? And what can Christians learn from this festival that’s been around for millennia?
A Time to Rejoice
In Deuteronomy 16 Israel is commanded to rejoice!
“For seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you… so that you will be altogether joyful.”
This joy is nowhere more apparent than in the Land of Israel and especially Jerusalem! The city is filled with shouts of rejoicing, singing, dancing, feasting, fellowshipping, and any number of holy joyful activities. Sukkahs are filled with guests, and each day the Jewish People invite one of the supernal guests, the seven “shepherds of Israel” (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David) to grace their Sukkah. Israel is also commanded to rejoice before God with four species: “the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook.” Walking through Jerusalem, these species are frequently encountered as they are waved before the Lord each day of the festival.
I believe there is much for Christians to gain by drawing near to the Jewish People during this time. In this distracted digital age especially, we can all use set apart times to fellowship with God and the people around us. In a world where it’s easy to get caught up in the mundane, Sukkot presents an opportunity for a reset, as we dedicate time to experience the joy of the Lord. Sukkot is celebrated with meaningful traditions and observances meant to fulfill the commandments and bring God’s people near to him. This holiday is a prime example that the Torah is not a burden to the Jews, but instead it shows that observing it brings life, blessing, and happiness
Sukkot During the Time of Jesus
Sukkot is also a great time to reflect on our heritage as Christians. In John 7 we read about Jesus going up to Jerusalem for Sukkot—in secret, until the last day of the festival when he made His powerful invitation for all to come to him for living water. Christians can look to Sukkot as a time of renewal, of reminding ourselves of the source of our strength and sustenance.
Sukkot is also a time of leaving comfort zones—forsaking the security of houses for a temporary thatch roof hut for a week. In the same spirit, we can look at Sukkot as a time to step out of our personal comfort zones to make a difference in the world.
Celebrating Sukkot is Prophetic
Sukkot also has prophetic significance for those in the nations. Zechariah 14 foretells a day when the nations will come up to Jerusalem or be punished! Isaiah 56 speaks of foreigners coming to the Holy City. And Sukkot is also a foretaste of the day when we will be gathered in a united Jerusalem forever, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” Revelation 21:3
Sukkot is a time we can draw close to the Jewish People and be enriched by a joyous festival they have faithfully kept for thousands of years. It’s a time we can look to our roots for encouragement and strength as we dedicate time to fellowship and joy. And it’s a time to look at what God is doing in the world today—restoring Israel and gathering his people from the ends of the earth to worship him in Jerusalem. He desires to dwell among us. Will we welcome him into our midst?
May you experience great joy and beautiful fellowship with God and others this Sukkot!