In Part ONE of this two-part series we not only explored what Sukkot is, but how and where it is celebrated, along with what the symbolism of the day can mean not only to our Jewish brothers and sisters, but to us as Gentile Believers.
In this final part we will explore the last symbol of Sukkot—the Torah—and discover why Sukkot is important to Jewish and Gentile Believers as we step into its joy.
Symbols of Sukkot:
- Citron/Etrog—a lemon shaped and colored, citrus fruit
- Lulav/Palm Branch
- Hadass/Myrtle Tree Branch
- Aravah/Willow Branch
- And Torah (an indirect symbol because of its celebration immediately following Sukkot)
Of these, the first four are ordained by God to be used during Sukkot (see Leviticus 23:40), and are collectively known as the ‘four species.’ While they themselves perhaps hold the greatest prominence during Sukkot, it is only through the Word that they have meaning. It is only through the Word of God—His Word written down as Torah—that their use was commanded.
“And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.”—Leviticus 23:40
Still, despite the Torah being the heart of the other four symbols, it is not considered a common symbol in the celebration of Sukkot. Yet, the Torah’s importance is found in more than one command from our Father…
The Torah is what reminds us of what God did in the desert, why we are to dwell in sukkahs during Sukkot, and why God Himself dwelt in a temporary dwelling in the desert—the Tabernacle. It connects us to God and His blessings. It is cherished, studied, and celebrated by nearly all believing Jews every day of the year and even more so during holidays.
The Torah is a vital part of Jewish life from the time a person is conceived to after they die. This deep-rooted love of Torah, this special lifetime dedication to the Word is one thing that we, as Gentile Believers, could stand to learn. It is what makes the Torah—the Word of God—a crucial part of Sukkot, even when not visually depicted or associated with it.
“Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.”—Proverbs 30:5
What can we, as Gentile Believers, gain/learn from Sukkot?
As we just discovered, the first thing we could gain from Sukkot is the love and connection with the Word. For in the celebration of Sukkot, as in everyday life, there is a special relationship to God’s Word that those of us, in the Western world particularly, rarely understand…
We may bring out our Bibles to read on our Sabbath Rest—be it Friday, Saturday, or Sunday—perhaps even at a funeral or wedding, but can casually leave it out the other 300 or so days a year. Sadly, we often use it as a tool to “maintain” our redemption or find peace during a major crisis. Instead of daily treasuring the Word… Instead of eagerly pouring over the Word because it is God and we desire to know and be more like Him… Instead of it being our “daily bread” it becomes that vitamin tablet we only remember to bring out when we are feeling under the weather.
“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
By observing Sukkot we are drawn into the Word for seven days. We are immersed in a series of thoughts, habits, and patterns which usher us into remembrance of God and what He has done. It reminds us of the blessings we have been given, of the ones to come, as well as the reality that God is the One in control. The One who protects and keeps us no matter if we are living in a mansion or a tent.
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make His face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
and give you peace.”
When we go from living within four walls and a hopefully leak free roof, to building and residing in a temporary structure where we are meant to see the sun, moon, stars, and clouds overhead and feel the bite of the wind and rain upon our faces… we remember our Father. For by being taken from a familiar, repetitive, safe, and hectic life, to one where we are made quiet and exposed, our minds automatically turn to Him.
There is something about watching the universe pass overhead as we live with only God as our comforter that allows us to feel His presence and love all the more deeply. There is something about dwelling in a temporary dwelling as God Himself did—both in the Tabernacle and in the body of a man—that reminds us not only of our human frailty, but of God’s infinite love! “…the Word become flesh…”
Sukkot is a time where we not only prepare to enter a new season as we remember the old, but one where we give up comfort in order to step into our promise. To remove aspects of the familiar for the joy of the new season.
Every year it seems as if there is something else that we are required to give up. Yet, it is in the giving up that we gain more. It takes our willingness to lay down one thing before God can place something greater into our hand. And when at last we give ourselves wholly to God, we are able to truly find ourselves.
- Ruth had to lay down her old life and god in Moab to follow Naomi into what would be her promise.
- Moses had to lay down his “new life” in Midian so he could return to Egypt and free God’s people—becoming the leader he was born to be.
- Abram had to be willing to lay down his son, Isaac, to enter into his season as Abraham.
- Esther had to be willing to lay down her life to save her people and be the queen God chose her to be.
- David had to lay down his life as a shepherd to become a warrior, a king, and be welcomed into the lineage of Jesus.
- Jesus had to lay down His life so that we could be restored to Him.
Laying things down is not easy. It can be painful and even messy. Yet, by laying down, God can confirm to us our readiness to move into the next season… to learn the joy of walking in our purpose.
So, as we prepare for Sukkot, let us each lay down that which was acceptable or allowed in the old season, but will hinder us in the new. Let us go into Sukkot ready to cross our own Jordan River and enter into our personal Promised Land of going higher—of walking into our new season and purpose with unrivaled joy because we know the One who is leading us. Because we know our Shepherd’s voice and we enter through His door.
To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And… he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”
“And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.”
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”
—John 10:3-5, 9, 16, 27-28
Let us enter through His door this Sukkot.
Let us gladly hear the voice of our Shepherd and follow not another.
Let our following be with joy as we pass through His door and into the land of our promise.