The Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot as it’s known in Hebrew, is a God-ordained feast with a fantastic point behind it. Or perhaps a range of very meaningful points. There’s the mysterious command of the four species of plant required, the aspect of inviting guests (ushpizin) into your sukkah, the harvest festival of rejoicing or the water libation ceremony to name a few. But here we’re going to look at one aspect in particular: those ramshackle little dwelling places – the sukkot themselves.
He tabernacled among us
‘Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will live among you’—it is a declaration of Adonai. ‘In that day many nations will join themselves to Adonai and they will be My people and I will dwell among you.’ Then you will know that Adonai-Tzva’ot [the Lord of Hosts] has sent me to you. (Zechariah 2:10-11)
God, THE LORD, says He’s coming to live among His people. And that God sent Him, if you can get your head around that. And like all of His words, it all came to pass exactly as He said.
And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Jesus, who was God incarnate, came to live on earth with us… and was sent by God.
This word incarnate means He in carne, meat, or flesh… God clothed in human skin.
Paul the apostle talks about our life in the flesh like this:
For we know that if the tent, our earthly home, is torn down, we have a building from God—a home not made with human hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, after we have put it on, we will not be found naked. For we groan while we are in this tent—burdened because we don’t want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5:1-4)
Our earthly life in the flesh is likened to living in tents. So Jesus descended from glory to live in an earthly “tent” of human flesh.
But surely that’s not what Sukkot is all about? Isn’t it to do with remembering the time of the desert wanderings after the Exodus from Egypt, on the way to the Promised Land? Aren’t these temporary dwellings to remind us of the fragility and transience of this life? That’s certainly the impression you get from the instructions in Leviticus 23 at any rate:
You are to live in sukkot for seven days. All the native-born in Israel are to live in sukkot, so that your generations may know that I had Bnei-Yisrael to dwell in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am Adonai your God. (Leviticus 23:42-43)
In Jeremiah 2, God talks about this time of desert wandering with the Israelites as a honeymoon period, after the official betrothal ceremony of the Sinai covenant. It was a seminal time in Israel’s story, and a part of the journey God doesn’t want us to forget.
The building of temporary shelters is a very practical reminder.
Not only were the children of Israel tent dwellers at that point, but their God also dwelt in a tent: the tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting. God had been very clear and specific about how His tent should be, according to the heavenly pattern, which He showed to Moses on Mount Sinai.
But interestingly, the writer of Hebrews refers to this tabernacle as
“the first tent”.
In Hebrews 9:8 we are told that:
“the way into the Holies has not yet been revealed while the first tent is still standing.”
Initially God’s presence was housed in the desert tabernacle, by God’s own initiative. Later, King David would build the temple for God, but this was David’s initiative, not God’s. However, that same Shekinah glory would later dwell in the earthly tent of flesh – flesh from the house of David, no less. David really did help make a suitable home for God in more ways than one.
Why is it the first tent? Because others followed it.
Yeshua the Messiah, the Nazarene from the line of Judah, would be the THE LORD Himself tabernacling among us in a tent of human flesh.
But there’s more! There are more than two tents. Before ascending again to the Father, Yeshua promised not to leave us as orphans but to send that same Holy Spirit, the Shekinah, to dwell in US! Yes – WE are now the tents, the tabernacles of the Lord.
And Paul was a tent-maker.
Like so many other key figures in the Bible (Gideon, David, Peter, and Jesus, to name a few) Paul’s profession was no accident.
His income may have come from constructing tents in the natural, but spiritually, his job was to make people into spiritual “tents” too. Everyone he brought to faith becomes a miniature tabernacle, purified by the sacrificial blood of Messiah and made worthy of hosting the Lord of Hosts.
The Shekinah, the very Spirit of the Lord, tabernacles in us today. As born-again believers we have all become miniature tabernacles, carrying the presence of God wherever we go. And one day we will tabernacle with Him in glory in the permanent home He has prepared for us.
Watch Dr Seth Postell from our Bible College explain how the Messiah is God Himself in flesh – according to the Hebrew Scriptures!