Once again, it’s time to hear from our sister in Jerusalem about what she is witnessing there as a believer in Yeshua. Put your prayer shawls on and pray for Israel and Sister J. Now here she is …
Greetings dearest sisters and brothers with peace and mercy from Him Who alone can pour these out. All glory to God Who gives us all things of Himself richly to enjoy.
With barely the hint of a moment to catch our breath, the third of the fall feasts is upon us. Following Rosh Hashanah (feast of trumpets) and the 10 days of awe leading up to Yom Kippur (the day of atonement) the gears shift dramatically giving an interesting glimpse into the Heart of God: Sukkot (the feast of tabernacles) begins at sundown on a Wednesday night.
*NOTE: It is now the night of Sukkot and we were blessed beyond blessing by our first rain, accompanied by lightening, thunder and rainbows from Haifa to Eilat. We in Jerusalem had a wonderful drenching. Scripturally, the early rains begin during Sukkot. What a symbol of God’s faithfulness.
As you may know, we generally experience NO rain during summer at all and count on the early rains and the latter rains for our yearly water supply and KNOW that it is a blessing from God when they arrive.
Sukkot is undoubtedly my favorite holiday, except for maybe Passover and Yom Kippur and then there is Shavuot (Pentecost). I will just focus on Sukkot right now. I love it.
What does GOD say? Not just say but He COMMANDS all Israel to STOP. But this time, having blown the shofar, having called the people to repentance and set us aside to repent, now we are to quickly build flimsy, temporary huts with leafy branches for the roof so that we can see the stars through them. Then we dwell in them for 8 days, while we rejoice before God, remembering the great deliverance from Egypt and giving thanks for His abundance.
And not only that, but this is one of the 3 pilgrim feasts. Three times a year, all Israeli men are COMMANDED to “come up to Jerusalem to rejoice before Him.” Passover, Shavuot (Pentecost) and Sukkot (feast of tabernacles).
When you read Psalms and see the heading “song of ascents” around Psalm 120 and on, these are the songs that were, and are still, sung as the people went up to Jerusalem.
You can read the scriptures referring to Sukkot in Deuteronomy 16, Leviticus 23, and Nehemiah 8 to see the scriptural background of this feast.
These are but a few of the many times in scripture that Sukkot is referred to. In Zech 14 it says that the saved among the gentiles will come up to Jerusalem to worship during the feast, and oh they do by the thousands from around the world, and the Israelis wait and watch with wonder, awe and appreciation. There are indeed, MANY gatherings, conferences and prayer convocations taking place right now in Jerusalem and throughout the country attended by believers from around the world. The Christians marching and waving flags from their countries are the highlight and delight of the Israelis during the popular Jerusalem march, which is scheduled to take place on Tuesday.
I love watching the city in a happy tizzy, running hither and yon gathering materials to build their sukkas and to gather the necessary ingredients for the holiday. First there are the 4 species: a willow branch, a palm branch, a myrtle branch and an etrog or citron fruit. The three branches are wrapped together and the etrog is held separately and brought as an “offering” of sorts, with prayer, to the western wall and daily to the sukka (market).
There are also the 7 species: Deuteronomy 8:8: “A land of wheat and barley, grapevines, figs and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and dates.” that grace most tables in the sukka. The sukkas are fun and although the different denominations impose different rules concerning what should and shouldn’t be about the sukka, the scriptures give us the liberty to build them with joy and rejoicing and all of the creativity that the Lord placed in us. I love looking at pictures on the web of sukkas in Jerusalem during the 1800s.
And now it is Thursday, the first day of Sukkot. We decided to go to the western wall of the temple in the Old City as in our reading together this morning we were in 1 Kings chapters 5-8. That’s where Solomon completed the first temple and Solomon prayed. And his powerful prayer which he prayed on his knees with his hands in the air has echoed through the ages and truly is more powerful then pogroms, and Hitlers, and replacement theology.
It includes those who come from the nations who are not part of the tribes of Israel. My husband was struck by hearing over and over again, “when the people sin…when they pray toward this place and repent…hear them.”
He showed me a you-tube video of the wall on Yom Kippur with thousands of people there repenting and turning toward that place where The Lord chose to put His Name. Then we talked about why he often sees people on the bus stand and face east (the Temple Mount with the wall being a remnant of the temple) as they pray and others pull over at sunset as they say their prayers and get out of their cars and stand facing the Old City to pray and so forth.
But what struck us most was that Solomon’s prayer for the dedication of the temple and the people TOOK PLACE ON SUKKOT. (the feast of the 7th month) and after he blessed all of the people they rejoiced for 7 days here in Jerusalem and round about and then returned home to rejoice for another 7.
So off we went to the wall to look at some of those stones shaped in the quarries so that “no sound of a tool would be heard in the temple.” And surely we are being shaped that way, or at least I am and I suspect that you are too. Hammered away on, shaped and chipped out in a pit somewhere and THEN coming together to be part of His temple, the body, growing, knit and joined to bless and reflect HIM.
And that is why this letter is so late.
I don’t dare write if there is something wrong with my spirit that I’m aware of and there was. I really really enjoy sukkot. I get to sit outside in my sukka with earth and plants around me and it feels simple and rural. I was born in NYC but have always been very much a rural person.
When I left NY permanently at around 20 years old I swore that I would NEVER again live in a city. (I also fully believed that I would not live past 30, but that’s a different story.) BUT GOD Who answers prayer has heard the DEEPEST cries of my heart: “I WANT TO KNOW YOU! I WANT TO DIE TO MYSELF AND BE CONFORMED TO YOUR IMAGE! I WANT YOUR BEST FOR ME NO MATTER WHAT! YOUR WILL AND NOT MINE BE DONE! OVERRULE THIS WILL AND FLESH OF MINE AND LET ME BECOME NOTHING BUT A SIGNPOST TO YOU!“
Your heart too, right? Ouch! Some of us are more stubborn and self-willed then others perhaps. At any rate, He Who knows our hearts better then we ourselves do must lead us all on His path to Himself. Mine includes living in the nosiest part of the CITY with difficult neighbor and being told by my husband this year that we were NOT BUILDING A SUKKA.
Talk about a pouting, rebellious wife…oy!
That is NO way to approach the command of The Lord to rejoice before Him. To compound that, the police again contacted me that the neighbor complained that we were making too much noise – while we were sleeping.
“But Lord! I want to describe the joys of Sukkot to my sisters and brothers abroad and to send them happy photos of us in our sukkah! Wahhhh!” Temper tantrum… temper tantrum.
So I had to work late, forgot to take chicken out of the freezer for dinner which I didn’t want to cook anyway and there was NO fresh chicken to buy at the shuk by the time I was on my way home. There to find out that my husband had invited a guest, a brother in The Lord.
Hum! I defrosted some chicken in a bowl of salt water and sukkot came, ready or not.
BUT, as with Solomon’s prayer and countless others through out history, He heard my prayer: “Lord! Be a sukka unto me and over this black self-willed heart of mine and change my hard heart and exchange it for your soft one.”
“Wow! Looks like GOD built you a sukka this year,” Bob said.
I was shocked. He continued, “With that tree right over this merapeset and all of these flowers around that you planted, I feel as if I’m in HIS sukka, the best one ever.”
My husband beamed and I broke through to a repentant heart.
Thank You Lord for Your Holy Spirit, Your faithfulness, Your quarry in which You pound away at our misshapen surfaces, and Your incredible patience. Thank You Lord for the glimpses of Your Heart and Character that we glean through scripture, through Your holidays and even Your law as well as Your grace. Thank You that we are changed into Your image even from glory to glory although we still see through a glass darkly. And thank You that as You command the children of Israel to sit in flimsy dwellings where we are and where we can see the sky and remember that IT IS YOU WHO BROUGHT US UP FROM EGYPT, WHO DELIVERED US FROM SLAVERY AND DO YET DELIVER US ALL FROM THE HOUSE OF BONDAGE THROUGH YOUR SON YESHUA. IT IS ALWAYS YOU AND YOUR STRENGTH. NEVER OURS.”
And THIS is the message of Sukkot. We rejoice before our Father Who know that we are but dust. Yet He remembers our frame and we too must remember that we really aren’t very strong and powerful. And yet precious to Him. This is the message of Sukkot!.
Come and join in. I will, Lord willing, write more about what I see, hear and smell AND taste, during this time. BLESSINGS to you sisters and brothers!