Shabbat Shalom at this Moadim L'Simcha (Appointed Times for Joy),
This weekend ends the weeklong festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), so I thought to include somethings about it rather than the regular weekly Torah / Bible study. Sukkot represents the sheltering presence of God and we shall be reading Exodus 33:12–34:26; Ezekiel 38:18–39:16; Revelation 21:1–22:21
“Behold, I make a covenant: before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Yahweh: for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you” (Exodus 34:10).
What is Sukkot?
Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, is a week-long feast during which the Jewish community builds temporary shelters (sukkot means “booths” in Hebrew) to remind each generation that our forefathers lived as nomads, wandering in the desert for forty years (Lev. 23:42-43). The Bible also refers to this holiday as the Feast of Ingathering, which celebrates the final reaping of the crops at the end of the harvest (Ex. 23:16). Throughout the holiday it is customary to wave the Lulav and Etrog, or the four species (date palm, myrtle, willow, citron), representing thankfulness and joy for the present harvest, along with hope for winter rains to ensure an abundant harvest the following spring (Lev 23:40). The waving of the Lulav and Etrog also represents God’s pervasive presence.
Anticipation for the Messiah
Anticipation for the arrival of the Messiah reaches its height during Sukkot. The prophet Zechariah speaks of a time when God will fight and defend His people when the nations gather against Israel (Zech. 14:1-9). After God establishes peace, all the nations will then travel to Jerusalem to worship God during Sukkot (Zech. 14:16). God promises to withhold rain from those countries that do not honour Him in Jerusalem (14:17-19). Sukkot thus looks forward to the day when God will establish His Kingdom and all nations will join together to worship Him.
Sukkot in the New Testament
Sukkot also looks forward to the day when God will dwell in the midst of His people. When John introduced Yahshua as the Messiah, he said, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The word “dwelt” can also be translated “took up temporary residence.”
When Yahshua revealed His glory to Peter, James and John on the top of a mountain, Peter asked to build three temporary dwellings (sukkot), one each for Yahshua, Moses and Elijah (Matt. 17:1-13). Peter’s desire to build temporary dwellings is an allusion to Sukkot and represents a request for Yahshua to establish His Messianic Kingdom. Later, while Yahshua rode into Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover, crowds gathered placing palm branches along the road, proclaiming, “Lord save us,” and “Blessed is the King of Israel,” a direct Messianic title. The crowds used palm branches as an allusion to Sukkot, expressing their hope for the coming Messianic Kingdom.
After forty days of fasting in his tent of meeting, Moses began to negotiate with God. Ever since the sin of the golden calf, Yahweh had not referred to Israel as His people. Rather, they were Moses’ people: “Your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 32:7). As I have said numerous times, it was Jews by birth and gentiles who came out of Egypt as “Israel” and God called “my people”. Thus any obedient person can be “Israel” and God’s “my people”. However, as 32:7 shows, those who disobey and do not keep His commandments (inclusive of correct holy days) are not part the “my people” until repent, cease disobedient action!
In this special Sukkot reading, Moses asks that God’s presence would go with Israel and God agrees.
Moses, on the other hand, remained in God’s favour. As he negotiated for forgiveness and atonement, he banked heavily on God’s favour for him. He complained that, although he remained in God’s favour, he felt disfavoured because he was told to lead the people without God’s presence.
The Hebrew word translated as “favour (chen, חן)” can also be translated as “grace” or “mercy”. Thus Moses argued for mercy and forgiveness on the basis of God’s favour toward him.
You have said, “I have known you by name, and you have also found favour in My sight.” If I have found favour in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favour in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people. (Exodus 33:12-13)
On the basis of Moses’ complaint, Yahweh relented ever so slightly. Whereas previously He had declared that He would not go with Israel as they went up from Sinai, now He conceded that He would go with Moses. He said to Moses, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). Note that the pronoun “you” appears is in the singular form. Yahweh only promised to go with Moses and give Moses rest. He did not say so regarding Israel, nor did He acknowledge them as His people. We must remember to whom God or Yahshua speaks in the bible and not claim things that are not ours, a common trend today. Moses rejected the offer. Speaking in the first-person plural form, he said, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). It was not adequate for God to accompany Moses, He needed to accompany the whole people. Moses deliberately identified himself with the people. It was as if Moses said, “If you want to show me favour and go with me, you need to show us all favour and go with all of us, because I am with the people.” Moses would accept nothing less than grace for the whole nation. He knew that he enjoyed the favour of Yahweh; he sought to include the nation in the merit of God’s favour for him:
For how then can it be known that I have found favour in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth? (Exodus 33:16)
Moses deliberately identified himself with the people, saying “us,” “we,” and, “I and Your people.” He no longer appealed to the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He no longer appealed to the “what will the Egyptians think” argument. He appealed merely to God’s expressed favour for him. On his own merit in God’s eyes, Moses hoped to atone for the entire nation. It was the only thing he had left with which to negotiate. Yahweh conceded again and responded, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favour in My sight and I have known you by name” (Exodus 33:17). God agreed to forgive the nation, go with them, and acknowledge them as His people on the basis of His favour for Moses.
This story illustrates the Chasidic concept of tzaddikism where the merit and favour of a single righteous person can be extended to others. On the basis of God’s gracious favour for one man, the entire nation received the forgiveness of sin and a restoration of relationship with the Almighty. On the merit of one righteous man’s standing with God, all Israel is granted standing with God. These are the mechanics of the gospel. The ultimate redeemer is like the first redeemer, making atonement for the entire nation on the basis of His merit alone. The story also illustrates the meaning of the word grace. Christian teachers sometimes define “grace” as God’s unmerited favour. On the contrary, grace (chen, חן) implies merited favour. Someone did merit it. Our righteous Messiah merited God’s favour and He identified Himself with us so that we might share in that favour. There are times however, when God says event the merit favour of others He will not accept to save sinners Eze 14:20 Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness. Heb 10:26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,. Exo 32:33 And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will Iblot out of my book. As also said once, received is to have been told regardless of if you accept. Just like a letter in your letter box. My last point on how to get God’s mercy are these two scriptures Exo 33:19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. Exo 20:6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Neh 1:5 And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
Encouraged by Yahweh’s positive response, Moses also asks to see God’s glory. Once again, God graciously agrees to his request and invites Moses to ascend Mount Sinai with two newly hewn stone tablets so that He can re-carve the instructions of the first. Many think they contained what is called the Ten Commandments; but I suggest you read what comes between Ex 24:12 -31:18 to decide what God wrote. Also the study “What was on the Stones” from www.forwardtoyahweh.com.
On the mountain, God reveals His glory to Moses in such a fearsome spectacle of power that God must protect Moses from being destroyed by it.
"There is a place near Me where you can stand on a rock. When My glory passes by, I will put you in an opening in the rock. I will cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove My hand. You will see My back. But My face must not be seen." (Exodus 33:21–23)
It's clear that Moses, having experienced the power of the presence of God, understands that His presence is more than sufficient against any threat Israel might encounter inside or outside of the Promised Land.
Gog and Magog: Challenging the Restoration of Israel.
“This is what will happen in that day: When Gog attacks the land of Israel, My hot anger will be aroused.” (Ezekiel 38:18)
In the prophetic portion for this Shabbat study of “Chol Hamoed” (intermediate day of the festival) of Sukkot, the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel describes an end-time scenario in which formidable armies from the north, under the leadership of Gog, will challenge the restoration of Israel. Gog is a chief prince living in the land of Magog (Ezekiel 38:2). Many scholars believe Magog refers to Russia. The invading land of Gomer is often believed to be Germany. Again scholars say several lands in the coalition army are easily identifiable: Iran (Persia), Northern Sudan (ancient Ethiopia or Cush), Libya (Put), and Turkey (Togarmah).
Last year at this time, Russia made significant moves into the Middle East, reportedly to fight against ISIS. Last week, however, it negotiated its first "permanent" air base in the region at Khmeimim, Syria and its naval base in Tartus, Syria will soon become "permanent" as well. Russia also recently installed its S-300 surface-to-air missile defence system in Syria and completed the transfer of the system to Iran last month. In effect, Russia has become a major military broker in the region. It is right now on the doorstep of Israel and it plans to stay. The nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38 will unite and come upon Israel "like a cloud that covers the land" for the purpose of looting the wealth that she has amassed in what was a desolate land only seventy years ago.
Yet scripture says God will not abandon His People. If scholars are right, God will utterly destroy the coalition forces of Gog so that all nations will come to know the holiness of Yahweh (Ezekiel 38:18–23). The forces that come against Israel will be so large in their day of defeat that Gog’s weaponry will provide fuel for Israel for seven years (Ezekiel 39:9).
"They will not need to gather wood from the fields or cut it from the forests, because they will use the weapons for fuel. And they will plunder those who plundered them and loot those who looted them, declares the Sovereign LORD." (Ezekiel 39:10)
Moreover, so many soldiers will die in this battle that it will take seven months for Israel to bury them all and cleanse their land (Ezekiel 39:12).
Sukkot and the Protective Covering of God.
Why do we read about this end-time battle during Sukkot? According to Rabbinic tradition, this war will be waged during the month of Tishri, the month in which the holiday of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) falls. Interestingly enough, the war that is described in Ezekiel is similar to the war described in the 14th chapter of Zechariah, the prophetic (Haftarah) reading on the first day of Sukkot. Also in Zechariah we learn that the Gentiles who survive the war against Israel will be required to keep Sukkot annually by coming up to the Holy City of Jerusalem to worship Yahweh.
"Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, Yahweh Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles [Sukkot]. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, Yahweh Almighty, they will have no rain." (Zechariah 14:16–17)
Sukkot at the Western (Wailing) Wall.
Psalm 27 presents a clear connection between Sukkot and God’s protection of Israel and those who trust in Him: “For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle [sukkah]; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.” (Psalm 27:5)
The word translated here as tabernacle is the Hebrew word sukkah (סכה). When evil threatens God’s people, He will hide them in His sukkah, inaccessible from the enemy on the rock of His presence. Now that is a promise in which we can trust during these last days!
The Battle of Armageddon.
“When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison, and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle.” (Revelation 20:7–8). Gog and Magog are also mentioned in the New Testament in connection with Armageddon and the final battle between the forces of good and evil. This war with Gog and Magog is not the same war described in Ezekiel 38 but a final end-time battle after the thousand-year reign of Yahshua HaMashiach (the Messiah). The Son of David, Yahshua, will come again this time as a conquering Messiah to defeat the invading forces forever. All who have met the criteria (keeping the commandments of Yahweh AND believed in the Saviour, Yahshua, will inherit eternity in the New Jerusalem (Rev14:12, 22:140 a revived Garden of Eden complete with trees of life and pure living water that will be good to eat and drink forever.
Armageddon is mentioned only once in the New Testament in chapter 16 of the Book of Revelation.
"They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.... Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon." (Revelation 16:14, 16)
The word Armageddon is derived from Har Magedon (meaning mountain of Megiddo) and is mentioned many times in the Tanakh (Old Testament). Megiddo is derived from the Hebrew word gadad, meaning to penetrate, muster troops together, perhaps even invade. In this end-time invasion, we once again see Israel’s enemies mounting a war against Jerusalem. This time, however, we see the spiritual forces behind the rebellion against God: “They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.” (Revelation 9:11)
The words Abaddon and Apollyon mean Destroyer. This time, God pours out on the Destroyer and all rebels the full extent of His judgment, including everlasting torment for Satan, the beast and the false prophet.
“They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city He loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And Satan, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever" (Revelation 20:9–10). A warning to those who hold signs and miracles of false pastors who teach against keeping the holy days of Yahweh high.
With an Outstretched Arm.
As we read how God will hurl His fury against Gog with pestilence and with blood, floods, giant hailstones, fire and brimstone, it's easy to see from this Haftarah portion that God is furious with those who come against the Land of Israel (Ezekiel 38:22). In fact, there are several parallels between God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt long ago and His future deliverance of Israel from Gog in the end times. In both, we see that God saves and rescues Israel with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm. The phrase with a strong hand and an outstretched arm (בְּיָ֣ד חֲ֭זָקָה וּבִזְר֣וֹעַ נְטוּיָ֑ה) has special meaning in Jewish tradition. It represents God using His power on behalf of His people. The "arm of Yahweh" also represents His salvation, which in Hebrew is Yahshua.
“You brought your people Israel out of Egypt with signs and wonders, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror.” (Jeremiah 32:21, see also Deuteronomy 4:34; 26:8; Exodus 6:6)
Again if the scholars have correctly identified the enemy, as Russia expands its influence in the region and neighbouring nations plot to annihilate Israel, there is certainly evidence that Ezekiel 38 is on the horizon. Yet, this Sukkot study section reveals that God’s Divine Sheltering Presence over Israel has not ended but will continue past the end of this age. God is not finished with the Jewish People and Israel. This is plainly evident when we consider how Bible Prophecy concerning Israel is being fulfilled during these end times before our very eyes. Both the Old and New Testaments also tells us that God’s plan to reach out to the nations through Israel did not end with the death and resurrection of Messiah, but continues to this day and will in the world to come: “For if their casting Yahshua aside means reconciliation for the world, what will their accepting Him mean? It will be life from the dead!” (Romans 11:15).
The Book of Romans promises that when the unbelieving part of the Jewish People (i.e Orthodox Jews not Messianic) come to know Yahshua, it will be like life from the dead for the world. Before this can happen, however, they must first hear the Good News of Yahshua!
"How can they call on Him unless they believe in Him? How can they believe in Him unless they hear about Him? How can they hear about Him unless someone preaches to them? … Rom 10:17 So then faith (in Yahshua) cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. " (Romans 10:14-17). The Word of God is the Old Testament in particular the Law and prophets which points to and proves Yahshua to be who He is. It is what Yahshua used as proof (Luk 24:44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me), the apostles recognised as proof (Joh 1:45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph), and what they used and recommended to learn about Yahshua (Act 28:23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening; 2Ti 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.).
"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." (Leviticus 23:40).
Some other scriptures to note: Exo 34:15 … and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; 34:21-25
Shalom and hope you enjoyed your holiday.