Does your house or apartment feel ‘homey’ to you – cozy and inviting? It should feel comfortable and familiar, since you chose the furniture and whatever adorns the walls. At our house I’ve got a little study upstairs. It’s only 6’x6’ but it has what I need, and is very cozy, and I get most of my best writing done there. You know, even if you’re just renting a room in a house, usually you get to decide what to put on the walls, and how to configure the furniture. And when you’ve been out for a long day, or even returning home from a trip, don’t you enjoy the feeling of being back home ‘where you belong’?
It was 25 years ago this same weekend, during the Holiday of Tabernacles, that Alexandra and I signed the papers and closed on our house. After nearly four months of frustration trying to find a house, and a few false starts that fell through after inspections, we were starting to wonder if it would ever happen. But it did, and we thought it was fitting that we got the keys to our home, and then headed straight over to Rabbi Loren and Martha’s for the Shema Sukkot Party. Standing under that temporary shelter, we held the keys to our ‘permanent’ shelter. Yet, we know full well it isn’t permanent; that we will leave this house, and this world, behind one day.
Sukkot, the Feast of Booths, or Shelters, not only beckons us to look back, but very much calls on us to look ahead. As pleasant as our house has been, and despite the many and wonderful memories created within its walls, it isn’t our permanent home any more than the Sinai Desert was Israel’s permanent home, though our people dwelt there for 40 years.
The wilderness wandering was judgment for our lack of faith and for disobedience, yet it’s clear that Adonai took good care of us through those years. But imagine the folly of thinking the midbar, the wilderness, was the Land of Promise, or that the tents in which our ancestors dwelt were their permanent homes. They knew better than that, and we need to know better than to think that the years of our sojourn in this fallen and desperately sick world is the sum total of our existence, particularly since the Lord God has promised those who love Him a better country awaiting.
How fiercely should we hold onto this world and the things in it? Look, generally speaking, I enjoy my life, but who am I kidding? The world is desperately sick.
Rabbi Paul wrote, For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time… (Romans 8:22). And it’s all because of sin. Sin has ruined this otherwise magnificent world.
Sin is why you have to lock the door when you leave the house and lock the car when you park in a public place. Sin is why you can’t just walk into a bank and ask to withdraw money from an account without showing ID. Sin is why you need endless and ever-more-complex passwords for your accounts, PIN numbers for the ATM, a 3-digit security code on the back of your credit cards. Sin is why people won’t stop to help someone whose car is broken down on the street, but will slow down grotesquely so they can see how bad an accident was. Sin is why there are hundreds of thousands of laws in countless legal volumes straining the shelves of countless lawyers’ offices. Sin has made necessary all these laws and regulations, as well as police to enforce them. Even traffic lights are essential in a world where self-interest reigns. A lot of people died before we finally got that handled.
Sin accounts for every act of selfishness; for the wanton disregard for the health and safety of others leading to death and destruction, for every theft and form of fraud, for every expression of greed and every act of vandalism; for the callous indifference to the plight of those who are suffering, and for every betrayal of vows and act of violence that has ever taken place on planet earth to this very hour! Do you really want this to be your permanent dwelling? Don’t you yearn for something better?
Hebrews chapter 11 recounts the courageous exploits of the great men and women of faith in biblical history. Many of them suffered greatly for speaking words of righteousness and taking unpopular stands amid a wayward people. They sacrificed much. But the author of the letter wants us to know with certainty that their suffering wasn’t in vain. Listen to what he wrote:
All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously, people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better country, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
Sukkot beckons us to look up, look ahead, and rejoice at what God has planned for redeemed humanity. Something so much better is in store. He wants us to celebrate Sukkot, in part, because through its observance, we learn something of the glorious future awaiting God’s people – all His people, Jews and Gentiles alike. And Jews and Gentiles together! We anticipate with joy the World-To-Come, when God will build His great sukkah, His Tabernacle in our very midst. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the words of John the great Apostle of Messiah Yeshua:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new!” And He said, “Write: for these words are faithful and true!” (Revelation 21:1-5)
For that matter, the Holiday of Tabernacles, by God’s decree, will continue to be celebrated all throughout the 1,000 years of Messiah’s Kingship over the earth, otherwise known as the Millennium. Listen to the words of Zechariah:
Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. (Zechariah 14:16-18).
According to the Word of God, which cannot fail, this seventh and greatest Feast will be the one that all the world celebrates during Messiah’s Millennial reign. And any nation that refuses to send its delegates to Jerusalem to worship King Messiah and participate in Sukkot will have no rain and suffer drought until they repent.
So as bad as it will get on the earth, and Yeshua warned us that it will be very bad, we shouldn’t lose heart or abandon the Faith. Brothers and sisters, by His promise better things are coming. Better things for 1,000 years, and then unimaginably better things for all eternity in the World-To-Come, as the prophet Isaiah wrote, and Rabbi Paul reiterated:
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived of all that God has prepared for those who love Him! (1 Cor. 2:9)
Those of you who love the Lord, and love His Son Messiah Yeshua, have a wondrous eternal destiny awaiting you. This isn’t our home. Our permanent home is in Heaven awaiting us. Yeshua promised that He was going to prepare a place for us, and that He would return to bring us to Himself. So let Sukkot, and the temporariness of our sukkahs, remind you that the hardship and grief we face is also temporary, and will soon fade away, and in its place will be beauty, glory, shalom and rejoicing that lasts forever.
And may the knowledge of these truths cause us to be both grateful to God, to be generous with one another, and to be courageous to speak the truth of the Good News with those we meet. May the Holy Spirit perform this very work in us accomplishing His impeccable ‘interior decorating’ of the soul.