October 14th, 2011
This week we experience a truly special celebration within the Appointed Times of the Almighty Creator; the Festival of Booths, or Feast of Tabernacles (Chag Sukkot). This is a feast that is very dear to me because it represents some very awesome truths within the Kingdom of Heaven that I think is very important for every Believer to understand and internalize.
Prior to Sukkot we have all went through a challenging forty days of repentance leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is a challenging season because when we are focusing on repentance, the Almighty usually takes this opportunity to show us our weaknesses and subsequent sin in our lives, and this isn’t always a very pleasant experience. This year I learned something that I consider to be very significant, and it may you surprise you all at first. This is something that, if you can understand it, you may realize that it is sometimes looked at as a very "Christian concept", and yet, I learned it from a veryu Jewish source. This proves once again that these two supposedly separate faiths aren't so separate after all if you take away all of the man made inessentials. But what I learned this year deals with repentance, and I learned that that repentance… is a trap.
“A trap?!” you say… yes, it’s a dangerous trap, stay far away from it! But then you say to me – “how am I do deal with all this sin in my life?” Well, the sin in our life is like a big gaping black hole. It often consumes those who stick their nose in it and it devours them up. Our Master Yeshua the Mashiyach, He alluded to this when He told us that “a little bit of leaven leavens the whole lump”. Truly, sin can be a dangerous thing in our lives, and it is for this reason that we have to stop and think for a moment. We may realize that we have to repent, that we have to get rid of the sin in our lives; this is very easy for any student of Scripture to know because the Scripture proclaims it so clearly many, many times. But yet, realizing this is simply not enough. A cognitive realization that we have to turn from sin actually does us no good. If we have sin in our lives then we are already leavened, and your sin is going to get the best of you if you tell yourself that YOU in your mighty strength are going to repent.
Let’s back up for a moment and ask ourselves why we sin. What is it that causes us to stumble and sin in our lives? Is it not because we are attaining some sort of pleasure or satisfaction from it? We may feel bad afterwards, but in that moment the sin seems to be the quick fix for our state of being, and helps us to somehow deal with whatever stresses that may be affecting us at that time. So now if you, being the supposedly strong person that you are, think you can turn away from something that gives you pleasure, think again, because you’re not that strong. You may have convinced yourself that you want to repent, but you don’t want to repent, you want a replay!
“A replay?” you say, “what’s a replay?” A replay is where your mind desires to replay the sin that you did because your body associates certain feelings of pleasure or satisfaction with it. Scientifically, we have chemical receptors, hormones, impulses, and other such physiological processes that literally get hard wired to the things that cause those feelings of pleasure and your body will do whatever it can to experience them again. And your mind, being as smart as it is, will do anything it can to get you to replay those thoughts in an effort to experience that pleasure once more, even if it has to convince you that you want to repent. But when you go to repent, you just dwell on what you did wrong, and in dwelling on what you did wrong you either get tempted to do it again or you get discouraged or depressed and that just leads you to doing it again anyway! So in attempting to repent you haven’t really repented at all!
So what’s the solution? The solution is to do teshuvah. But wait, doesn’t teshuvah mean to repent, and you just said that we should stay away from this? No, teshuvah means to return. And you are to return to the light from which you came from. In fact, you are to run towards it, as fast as you possibly can. When we run towards His presence, His light, something very significant happens. We begin to experience the real deal… real pleasure, real joy! You see, by filling our life with His light through following His commandments and experience His joy and His blessing we begin to correct our focus. We start to see light for light and darkness for darkness. Because before that point, we were looking at the darkness as a source of light… a source of pleasure. We weren’t able to truly realize or see the darkness for the garbage that it really is, because on our own, we are powerless to do anything. It is only in the light of His presence that we have the strength to overcome, right? And until we experience true joy and blessing from the Almighty Himself, we can never let go of those past sinful pleasures that have deceived us into stumbling. And not a moment sooner than when we can actually differentiate between true joy and the darkness of sin are we actually able to repent.
Now, as great as this lesson is, what in the world does this have to do with Sukkot?!? All that talk about teshuvah is all about Yom Kippur; Yom Kippur is over now and we’re celebrating Sukkot, so where’s the connection?
Sukkot occurs in a season where most people are beginning to leave the outdoors as the weather begins to get cooler, and they enter into the comfort and warmth of their homes. And it is the season in which we are commanded to leave the comfort of our homes and dwell in temporary booths, or tabernacles, out in the cool air of the fall. It is a celebration to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt where the children of Israel temporarily dwelled out in the wilderness of the Sinai desert. In the same way, we too are temporarily dwelling in the wilderness of a fallen world, and this season is to remind us that this world is not our permanent home. We are in Messiah, we are born of the Spirit from the beginning, and we are no longer of this world, but yet, we still dwell in it.
Now this is very interesting because when we think about this, sometimes the feelings that come are not the most pleasurable. When we think about dwelling in the wilderness of a fallen world, we once again have those reminders of sin; sin that causes pain, and suffering. I say this is interesting because we read in Leviticus 23 concerning the Festival of Sukkot that we are to REJOICE before the Almighty! Yes, in the midst of this wilderness, we are to rejoice before Him. And the Jews take this very seriously and have made Sukkot one of the most JOYOUS festivals of all the Moedim (or appointed times), and there is a very important lesson in this that we need to understand.
Earlier, when I was talking about repentance, I said that we are to run towards the light. When is it that we get there? I think it’s very significant that Sukkot occurs just mere days following Yom Kippur, because Sukkot teaches us all about that light which we are to run towards. The true joy that helps us to see our sin for what it truly is, it is revealed so clearly within this awesome festival.
When the children of Israel where amidst the Sinai desert where there is no food, no water, sparse shelter from the sun, no markets to go buy new clothes or shoes… it was in that situation where the Almighty in His awesome power provided for them food, water, shelter, and clothing that never wore out. He protected them from the sun and every other trap which came their way as they were enclosed by His presence and the sheltering cover of His wings. Sukkot commemorates this in that the walls of the Sukka remind us of His presence around us, and the Sukka is also to be made in such a way that you can see the stars of heaven, reminding us that there is no barrier between Him and us. The only barrier is our sin which was that certificate of debt that Messiah nailed to the cross, and so we are truly able to experience His presence like never before. And this is the true source of joy. Yes, we still live in the wilderness, but as King David says in Psalm 23 “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
But the punch line is still yet to come, because it was at this time and in this season that “good news of great joy” was revealed to some Shepherds staying out at night, watching the flocks. When we put together some of the chronology revealed in Scripture, we see that the true light, the Messiah Himself, was in fact made flesh and tabernacled amongst us in this very season! Literally, a literal translation of John 1:14 states that the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us!
At the end of the first day of Sukkot, there is a ceremony in which the Menorah at the temple was lit, and it was at this ceremony where Yeshua proclaimed “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” Earlier I alluded to how sin is that darkness in our life, and it is only by running towards the light that we are able to walk free from the darkness because once again it is in His joy and His presence that we can see that darkness for the garbage it truly is and have the strength to cast it off. But it is only through HIM that we can do that, as Paul said to the Philippians – “I can do all things through the Mashiyach who gives me strength”.
Sukkot reminds us that we are still in the wilderness, but it also reminds us that Messiah, the light of the world, has come to bring deliverance to all of mankind. Not just salvation for the world to come, but deliverance here and now from the bondage of sin in our life. In Him we are to be overcomers so that those around us can see the light of Messiah working in and through us. While Messiah is not here in the flesh anymore, what did He say to the disciples prior to His departure? “Go and make disciples of all the nations in my name and lo, I will be with you always, even unto the end of age.” Sukkot therefore is a season to tell us that the light is already here, surrounding us, enveloping us, and giving us the strength to overcome the things of this world. It is by our faith… our faith in Him and what He has done for us throughout the ages and through Messiah, with a love-inspired obedience to His commandments that all this joy is made possible. As it says in 1 John 5:3-4, “For this is the love of G-d, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of G-d overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” Amen.
So it is my prayer that in this season you all would be able to tabernacle with that light and have a most joyous celebration in His presence, for truly He is with us always while we sojourn in the wilderness of this world.