Sukkot, Part 4: The Holy One Provides for His Bride

Under the chuppah [Jan 2]
Image by santheo via Flickr

The second theme of Sukkot is God’s provision for His people. The ceremony of the water-drawing was done in anticipation of God providing the winter rains, but this theme is exemplified in the command to live in booths, “that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” The people of Israel were to live in booths to partake of the time when God showed His love for their ancestors by taking them out into the wilderness, where He provided fresh water, manna, and quail for their sustenance.

In the Second Coming, both themes (as well as the third, as we will see) are brought together, as we see in the following passage:

In that day, the LORD’s Branch (the Messiah) will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the beauty and glory of the survivors of Israel. It will happen, that he who is left in Zion, and he who remains in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even everyone who is written among the living in Jerusalem; when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from its midst, by the spirit of justice, and by the spirit of burning. The LORD will create over the whole habitation of Mount Zion, and over her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy. There will be a pavilion for a shade in the daytime from the heat, and for a refuge and for a shelter from storm and from rain. (Isa. 4:2-6)

In this passage, Isaiah is describing the visible Glory of God as both a chupah (חפה), a wedding canopy, and a sukkah. Jewish tradition, whether drawing from this verse or being referred to by this verse, regards the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night which led the people of Israel through the wilderness (Exo. 13:21) as being the chupah beneath which the Holy One drew up His ketubah, the wedding covenant with Israel in the form of the Torah. When Israel agreed to keep the Torah, it was equivalent to accepting the marriage. This is why, in speaking of the New Covenant, the Eternal One calls the Old (Mosaic) “My covenant [which] they broke, although I was a husband to them” (Jer. 31:32).

Yet even though Israel consistently rejected God by our disobedience, “God didn’t reject his people, which He foreknew” (Rom. 11:2).  Though all the curses described in the Torah, including exile from the Land, have come to pass, and though Israel has long existed “many days without king, and without prince, and without sacrifice, and without sacred stone, and without ephod or idols,” yet God has still preserved us so that, “Afterward the children of Israel shall return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and shall come with trembling to the LORD and to His blessings in the last days” (Hos. 3:4-5).  Deprived of a Land that would make the Jewish people a proper nation, still we have remained a nation united by language (through the Hebrew liturgy and Scriptures) and culture (through the Torah and traditions) and blood. But more than all those things, we have survived because of the hidden hand of the Eternal One, who does not lie or repent of His promises (Num. 23:19).

Just as God commanded Israel to dwell in booths, in temporary structures, in remembrance of the time when He guided and protected Israel through the wilderness (Lev. 23:42-43)—an exile which was extended by forty years because of Israel’s disobedience—so the eschatological Sukkot will be kept to remember the two thousand years in which God protected Israel in the Diaspora, in the Wilderness of the Nations as it were.

One custom that sheds insight into this final fulfillment of this feast is the singing of the Hallel (“praise”), which is comprised of Psalms 113-118. In the first Psalm of this group, the Father “raises up the poor out of the dust. Lifts up the needy from the ash heap; that He may set him with princes, even with the princes of His people.” This looks forward to a time when Israel will be seated with the Twelve Apostles, whom Messiah set apart as rulers over the twelve tribes (Mat. 19:28). Likewise, in Psalm 114, we find the shaking of the earth that will accompany the Lord Yeshua as He gathers His people from Jordan and marches on Jerusalem described.

In Psalm 115, we read that the idols, the images of the Beast that the False Prophet was able to give “breath” and the ability to kill are made silent, blind, deaf, and helpless. After that is a call for Israel to trust the Lord and a very special declaration: “The heavens are the heavens of the LORD; but the earth has He given to the children of men.” The earth that Satan usurped from Adam will be given to Adam’s children again, with the Son of Man ruling from His throne in Jerusalem.

In Psalm 116, the people of Israel praise God for delivering their souls from death, after which they “will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the LORD” (cf. Joel 2:32), and swear themselves into His service willingly.

Psalm 117 is the shortest of all the Psalms, but it significant in that it calls not just the Jews, but the Gentiles to praise God for His mercy, kindness, and truth. As we will see, there will be Gentiles who were not in the Ekklesia, but who will survive the Day of the Lord and come to Israel to worship the King.

And finally, in Psa. 118:26, we find the very words that Yeshua declared must be said by Israel and Jerusalem before they saw His face again (Mat. 23:39, cf. Hos. 5:15), “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD.” In fact, Van Kampen suggests that the “new song” that the 144,000 sing at the fulfillment of Sukkot will be Psalm 118. While the fact that the song sung is a “new song” would seem to rule this out, there is no doubt that Psalm 118 will be sung by all Israel in that day.

Looking back, we see that the Divine decree to dwell in Sukkot for this week was in remembrance of both the exodus and the coming of God to “tabernacle” with us, but that’s not the whole reason. All of the feasts have both a historical and a prophetic meaning. Passover, for example, both celebrated the deliverance from Egypt and our deliverance from sin by the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. So the fact that this feast demands “camping out” suggests that in its fulfillment, Israel will once again go into the wilderness, if only for a short time. And indeed, we see just such a self-imposed and temporary exile prophesied by Zechariah:

His feet will stand in that day on the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in two, from east to west, making a very great valley. Half of the mountain will move toward the north, and half of it toward the south. You shall flee by the valley of My mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azel; yes, you shall flee, just like you fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. The LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with You. (Zec. 14:4-5)

It is interesting that just a few paragraphs later (v. 16), Zechariah announces that after the final battle, all the nations that survive will be compelled to come to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot. This proximity reinforces the idea that this event will occur in conjunction with the Feast, and that the Feast will celebrate that victory. Not only will the world come in celebration of the Messiah’s birthday, but to celebrate the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. It will be a perpetual reminder to those whose nations once persecuted the Jews and claimed that the children of Israel had forfeited their covenants with the Lord that God fulfills all of His promises despite us.

Micah suggests that the Man of Sin will attempt to besiege and destroy them in Jerusalem before they can escape, but he will of course not be successful:

I will surely assemble, Jacob, all of you;
I will surely gather the remnant of Israel;
I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah,
as a flock in the midst of their pasture;
they will swarm with people.

He who breaks open the way goes up before them.
They break through the gate, and go out.
And their king passes on before them,
with the LORD at their head.(Mic. 2:12-13)

Israel is taken to a place called Azal, which means “taken” or “reserved,” so as to be protected during the final judgments and battle. Rev. 14 seems to imply that this place will be in heaven, “before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders.” The wedding feast which begins under the chupah on the earthly Mount Zion, where Israel will re-enter her wedding contract, her ketubah, with the Eternal One in the Person of the Messiah Yeshua, will proceed in a royal procession into the true, heavenly Mount Zion of which Jerusalem on earth is but a type. Just as the bride and bridegroom vanished into their bedchamber after the wedding feast, so will Israel disappear into her King’s house.

One of the great controversies in Christianity is how to reconcile the prophecies that call Israel the Bride with those which call the Ekklesia the Bride.  Some (Replacement Theology) suppose this to mean that the Church has replaced Israel as the Bride.  Others (Dispensationalism) see two Brides and two Bridegrooms, with Israel marrying the Father and the Church marrying the Son.  Both are incorrect.  It is the intention of the Eternal One to make “one new man,” one body, out of both Jew and Gentile, not replacing the Jewish people, but instead adding to them.  When that End Time Sukkot arrives, that union will be made complete, with both Israel and the Ekklesia being the Bride, and our King being our Bridegroom.

Maranatha and Shalom!

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