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!
Yom Kippur. What does it mean to you? The resounding answer would probably be, "Some Jewish day on the Hebrew calendar." Perhaps some know that it's one of the Feasts of the LORD, celebrated by the Jews (and some of us Messianic believers).
As for me, I have kept this feast day for at least fifteen years now, but this year it was as if my heart was aching for more understanding. Since all of the Fall Feasts are as of yet unfulfilled, it's sometimes hard to know how we really are to observe them. What does GOD want us to do on this day? Is it relevant for Christian believers in Messiah Jesus/Yeshua?
In Leviticus 23:27 the LORD said to Moses, "The tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny ourselves, and present an offering to the LORD made by fire. Do no work on that day because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you by the LORD your God." So, over the years I have faithfully kept this day by fasting and prayer, and gathering with others in a sacred assembly of worship. Yet this year, as this holy Day approaches, I felt there must be more meaning that I have not yet received. How blessed I was today by listening to some teaching by Pastor Marty Gale and Rabbi Jonathan Cahn. They both offered profound understanding that gave powerful meaning to this day that the Jewish people call "the holiest day of the year."
Pastor Marty gave new meaning to the familiar story we all know about King David bringing the ark into Jerusalem. In 2 Samuel Chapter 6 we see King David "dancing before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets." They sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and David was wearing an ephod, the vestment of the High Priest. Where was he taking the ark and why? Marty illustrated the prophetic picture of Messiah Yeshua that David was painting, as he brought the ark and many sacrifices into the Temple of the LORD. Acting in the roles of both Priest and King, he was bringing offerings to God with vibrant, passionate worship.
In the same way, Hebrews 9:24-28 speaks of Yeshua, our Priest and King:
For the Messiah has entered a Holiest Place which is not man-made and merely a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, in order to appear now on our behalf in the very presence of God. Further, he did not enter heaven to offer himself over and over again, like the High Priest who enters the Holiest Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer death many times — from the founding of the universe on. But as it is, he has appeared once at the end of the ages in order to do away with sin through the sacrifice of himself. Just as human beings have to die once, but after this comes judgment, so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to deliver those who are eagerly waiting for him.
This entire passage is speaking of Yom Kippur. And though the Hebrew word kippur means covering, we can glean from the passage above that our Messiah Yeshua does not merely cover sin - he REMOVES IT! He "does away with it!" And He delivers those who are eagerly waiting for Him.
Jonathan Cahn's message really went even further to help us understand who are "those who are eagerly waiting for Him." Yes, that includes you and me and people worldwide who believe He is returning to take us to be with Him forever; but also included here are the Jewish people. Jonathan asked an important question: "What happens on Yom Kippur at the end?" Here is the thrilling answer to that question, in Zechariah 12:9-10 and Zechariah 13:2:
On that day I wil set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem.
And I will pour out on the house of David and on those living in Jerusalem
a spirit of grace and prayer; and they will look to me, whom they pierced.”
They will mourn for him as one mourns for an only son;
they will be in bitterness on his behalf like the bitterness for a firstborn son.
On that day, a spring will be opened up for the house of David and the people living in Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and impurity. “When that day comes,” says Adonai-Tzva’ot, “I will cut off the very names of the idols from the land, so that no one even remembers them any more. I will also expel the [false] prophets and the spirit of uncleanness from the land.
ON THAT DAY! It is Judgment Day! IT IS YOM KIPPUR IN ITS FINAL FULFILLMENT! The Remnant of the Jewish people who are alive will see Him face to face, and they will mourn because they had not believed. They will mourn in deep repentance and they will come to faith and belief in the One who was pierced for their sin. ON THAT DAY they will weep bitterly as they confess their sins, and then, as Paul tells us in Romans 11:26-27: "And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written, 'The Deliverer will come from Zion; He will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them when I take away their sins.'" (Isa. 59:20-21, 27:9).
Oh, my friends, I look forward more than ever to the keeping of this great and holy day! On the Hebrew calendar it will come in on Sept 24 at sundown and last until Sept 25 at sundown. Religious Jews in Israel will "deny themselves" with fasting and go to their synagogues for prayers. Some of the Orthodox will twirl a slaughtered chicken over their heads, hoping to receive atonement for sin through the sprinkling of the chicken's blood. Extra police and I.D.F. soldiers are even now preparing to surround synagogues to protect worshipers from terrorist attacks.
PLEASE PRAY. Pray that the Ruach haKodesh, the Holy Spirit, will lift the veil and open their hearts to see and believe in Messiah Yeshua. Pray for protection over families, and especially children and the elderly. Our Lord, speaking to the Jews, says "You will not see Me again until you say, "Baruch haba b'shem Adonai (Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD)." May we hear these words from the lips of our Jewish brothers and sisters, even in our day! But as we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may we rend our own hearts as we confess the sins of America, and pray for repentance to sweep over this land as well.
Pray that God would hasten the Day - the final YOM KIPPUR, the day we dress all in white, to symbolize the Bride that eagerly awaits the coming of her Bridegroom. The day that ushers in the Wedding Supper of the Lamb (at the Feast of Tabernacles) with a procession of Davidic dance, and shouting and the sound of trumpets! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the LORD! Amen.
Kelly Ferrari Mills