Last night after I tucked John into bed, I tiptoed out the front door and down the sidewalk until I found a clear view of the stunning, rising Feast of Tabernacles moon. I never cease to wonder in amazement how that huge, full moon appears every single year on the day the Hebrew calendar brings in this feast! It proves God's unending faithfulness and total dependability.
Sukkot, as this feast is known in Hebrew, is given the title "Season of Our Joy." This year I really had to contemplate that. If I am not in a very good place emotionally when Sukkot rolls around, how do I “manufacture” this joy? One can’t really pretend to be in joy when there is sickness, or recent passing of a loved one, or a split-apart marriage. Many people are going through extremely tough times right now, and so for me, it really begged the question: “How DO we enter into this season of joy?
Curiously there are a few Scriptures where our Lord literally COMMANDS us to have joy! I decided to give those a deeper look.
Philippians 4:1-4: Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Paul is asking his companions to "help these women who have contended in the cause of the Gospel." That word contended stuck out to me. Were these women weary on the journey, as some of us are? Nevertheless, Paul exhorts them "REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS AND AGAIN I SAY REJOICE!"
Interesting that Paul mentions that his co-workers are all those “whose names are in the Book of Life.” Perhaps we can follow a thread here. Sukkot is preceded by Yom Teruah (the Feast of Trumpets), and then the ten days of self-examination and repentance; and then the Day of Atonement, the day of Divine Judgment, when someday in the future, we will stand before Yeshua, our Righteous Judge, and give an account of our lives. All those feast days are HOLY and they are HEAVY, as we genuinely seek to draw near to God and go through times of cleansing from sin and re-aligning with His Word. BUT THEN THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES BEGINS, AND WE REJOICE GREATLY BECAUSE OUR NAMES HAVE BEEN PERMANTLY, PERPETUALLY WRITTEN IN THE LAMB’S BOOK OF LIFE! We don’t have to earn that privilege and blessing each year by trying to be good enough or somber enough or doing enough good deeds to please our Father!
As the Feast of Tabernacles comes in, we are literally dwelling in tents or booths or even a room in our homes, at the invitation of our Bridegroom Yeshua/Jesus. We are not just remembering how the Israelites dwelt in tents or booths in the wilderness. In the intimacy of dwelling or tabernacling in God’s presence, we are seeking to engage with the joy of HIS heart!! HE imparts HIS JOY to us! Psalm 16:11 says “IN YOUR PRESENCE IS FULLNESS OF JOY!”
I just want to be real with you. When I got up this morning, knowing it would be another day of care-giving, whether a feast day or not, I did not feel joy. I heaved a great sigh as I put my bath robe on to get coffee and cook breakfast and get John his meds and his clothing, just like any other day. But then I put on a live-stream Sukkot service where the sounds of worship were ascending, the people were dancing, and their joy was bursting through the TV screen. I knew I needed to stop everything else and just press in with them, giving God praise. As I said earlier, we can’t try to muster up our own joy in the flesh. That’s not PURE JOY. We access HIS joy when we align with HIS heart rather than muster up our own sense of merriment. Entering into praise and thanksgiving helps us to revive and sustain that joy.
The other scripture in which we are commanded to have joy is John 15:9-11.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
Aha! So another key to finding JOY, is to remain in His love and to keep His commands. Sukkot, for me, has always been a special time I can set aside to stop all the busyness of regular work and life, and SPEND TIME WITH THE LORD IN HIS WORD. Sukkot is Yah’s appointed time to release a special joy to those with faith to receive it. This joy STRENGTHENS US FOR THE SEASON AHEAD.
I have a profound example of how I experienced this in the first Sukkot John and I shared as a married couple. We were gathered with about 30 other people in a remote Nevada desert campground where we had erected a tabernacle with beautiful linen fabrics. John and I went in together, into the place that had been cordoned off as the “Most Holy Place.” We kept silence before the Lord in this place for about 30 minutes, waiting on whatever God might want to do or say, as we came into His Presence. Eventually I heard Him say, “Take good care of your husband.” I was genuinely confused. “I do, Lord!” I thought in my heart. I could not understand why I was being told this. We had been married one year and I had been blessing my new husband and taking exceedingly good care of him. Then the very next morning, while I was leading morning worship for the people, John left the gathering and headed up to the campground restroom. When he did not come back, one of the men went to check on him, and then my hands flew off the piano when I was told, "John is having a heart attack." Two men went with me as we drove John to the nearest small town with an Urgent Care (about 30 miles away), and they put him on a helicopter to Reno. I remained in Yeshua's love and experienced perfect peace, singing the psalms over John all the way. I look back on that Sukkot with awe and an inner joy, at how specifically the Holy Spirit prepared me for what I was about to go through. I knew John was going to make it - why else would the Spirit have told me to take good care of him?
We have had some glorious Sukkots together, sleeping out under the stars on our back deck, the lattice roof covered in grape vines, and traveling to many locations to celebrate the Feast with others across the U.S. Now we are much older and John is suffering in body and mind. We won’t be out on our back deck. But here’s the great part: we WILL find JOY! We will feast on the Word of God together, we will enjoy special meals with friends, but best of all, we will press into the Spirit for a release of HIS SPECIAL JOY, meditating on the Scriptures in Revelation about His soon return, and the Wedding Supper of the Lamb! Finally! That WILL be our TRUE SEASON OF JOY!
REJOICE - AND AGAIN I SAY - REJOICE!
Kelly Ferrari Mills