Festivals that Teach
Exodus 23:16, 34:22
The Old Testament presents 3 festivals per year that required all adult males Jews to sojourn to the temple in Jerusalem to praise and worship the Lord. Passover is the first, followed by Shavuot and then Sukkot. Sukkot was instituted by God through Moses in Exodus 23:16, somewhere between 1450-1410 BC. Sukkot is translated as the Festival of Booths or Tabernacles. The booth of Sukkot is called a sukkah, and the blessing recited at each meal is: "Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who has sanctified us with commandments, and commanded us to dwell in the sukkah." To learn more about Sukkot, just type it into your search engine and you’ll find bunches of information about the festival.
I bring up this festival of Sukkot, because the Israelites had all but forgotten about this commandment of God to the people of Israel. If you’re not Israeli Sukkot doesn’t apply to you, but it fascinates me that the Israelites forgot. According to Nehemiah the festival had not been enforced or celebrated since the time of Joshua, son of Nun, in other words, about 1,000 years. The scripture, Torah was there during the conquest of the Holy Land, available to the first King, Saul and available to all the kings of Judah up until the Babylonian captivity and it was still protected by priests during the captivity and then revealed to Israel when they were rebuilding the city of Jerusalem and its walls and gates. Nehemiah the governor and Ezra the priest along with other officials, priests and Levites gathered all the people and read, and interpreted the Torah to them from morning until noon on the first day. The day after this 4-5 hour long marathon reading of the Torah (first 5 books of our Bible) Nehemiah and the others realized that they were not following the will of God as directed within His Holy Word. So, they sent out a proclamation throughout the land and restarted the tradition of Sukkot – the Festival of Booths, or Festival of Tabernacles.
This is the amazing thing about Israelites (Jews), even if they stumble and fall, even if they forget or neglect, there is always a remnant that maintain the Law and traditions of Judaism. Through the dedicated steadfastness of Queen Eater, Ezra, Nehemiah, and others, God through these amazing Jews has preserved the Old Testament for both Jews and Christians. These traditions and commandments from God have been kept since then by many Jews. Jesus himself attended Sukkot, and at this Feast of Tabernacles he spoke these amazing words on the last and greatest day of the Feast: “…If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38 The next morning, while the fires were still burning Jesus said, “…I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12 Sukkot has a water drawing ceremony, in which they daily celebrate with singing, blowing the shofar horns and draw water for the Temple, the Simchat Beit Hashoavah: the Rejoicing (Simchat) at the Place of (Beit) the Water Drawing (Hashoavah). They also celebrated with sacrifices of fire and feasting during the 7 day Sukkot festival in autumn. This sheds some light on what Jesus was talking about.
We would not even know what Jesus was referring to without the knowledge, information and wisdom preserved for us in the Old Testament. Through Jesus we have no need to draw water, because if we accept Him as Lord and Savior, He will provide rivers of living water flowing from us (the Gospel) that we are to share with all people. Jesus is the light of the world and also makes us lights in the world, showing the world what a Christ dedicated; Holy Spirit led Christian is all about. We can understand Jesus’ comments much more clearly in the light of the Old Testament, lovingly preserved for us by God through His people, the Jews. Praise the Lord!
If you want a firmer grasp of the knowledge and wisdom of God, read the full counsel of God – the entire Bible.