“Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths.” Zechariah 14:16
While Israel is joyfully celebrating the fall festivals, there doesn’t seem to be much to celebrate in the States these days. Even from halfway around the world, it feels like America is tearing itself apart, with no end in sight.
Speaking of the “end,” we’re in the final portion of our Hebrew scripture reading schedule.¹ And as we approach these remaining chapters in the yearly rotation, we have been going through passages that speak about the Day of the LORD. And because we are nearing the end of our yearly reading, we are also now in the final chapters of Revelation.
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” Revelation 21:3
Here in Israel, almost no one is reading from the New Testament, but those who do read their scriptures are focusing on the OT passages that detail the seven-day celebration of the Feast of Booths, “Sukkot” in Hebrew. It is the last of seven feasts which God commanded the Israelites to celebrate each year; if you aren’t familiar with them, you can find a fairly concise outline in Leviticus 23. Our reading schedule is essentially the same as every synagogue around the world. What that means is that we always are in sync with what our Jewish neighbors are reading. Today’s reading from the OT prophets was Zechariah 14.
I personally love this chapter of the Bible. Among other things, it reminds me of John 1:14 which reads in part, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” This verse can be translated as “the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us…” In other words, when Jesus arrived 2,000 years ago, it was actually God himself who was dwelling with us, not just a man. We are all familiar with the content of the Gospels, and so we know that Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father 40 days after his resurrection. Acts 1:11 tells us that angels told the disciples that Jesus—the one who tabernacled with us—would return in the same way he ascended, i.e. with the clouds and back to the Mt of Olives.
So, what’s the connection? It’s actually quite incredible! In today’s portion in Zechariah, we read some interesting things: It says that the LORD himself will return to the Mt of Olives, and that when his feet touch the mountain, it will split in two, from east to west, and that the halves will move north and south. If you’ve ever been on the Mt of Olives, you can imagine what this might look like, with the resulting wide valley heading down through the wilderness toward the Dead Sea. This is interesting in and of itself, but not nearly so much as what’s coming up.
Shortly after Jesus’ return, as Zechariah’s description continues, the LORD makes war against the nations that come up against Jerusalem; many are slaughtered, but not everyone is killed. Instead, there are survivors of all the nations. That’s not the end of it. Zechariah tells us that the survivors and their progeny must celebrate the Feast of Booths every year in Jerusalem. In other words, the nations (or what is left of them) will celebrate the LORD’s physical presence here on earth—Immanuel.
That means representation from around the world—not just Jews who are in Israel.
I’m curious. Have you ever heard your minister preach/teach on this subject? The passage seems rather simple to understand. I.e. in the future—after Jesus physically returns to begin his reign on earth—Gentiles from every nation will be required to come up to Jerusalem every September/October to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with Jews. Isn’t this part of the Good News?
At Christmas, nearly everyone in America will hear a sermon where Matthew quotes Isaiah, “‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” And they’ll most likely tie that to John 1 as well. So, why not continue the thought, and discuss how God himself will tabernacle physically with us once again—here on earth—in the future?
Most of us have been taught about the future as some sort of ethereal existence in a non-specific place called “heaven.” However, the Bible tells us that we will dwell forever on earth. Not the current fallen world which “has been groaning” together with us for redemption. But an earth that has all of the corruption burned away—a perfect world like God originally created for mankind. Hallelujah!
Interestingly, if we keep reading in Zechariah 14, it seems as though not everyone is glad to have Jesus himself ruling the world from Zion. There are warnings and actual penalties for those nations who don’t celebrate Sukkot/Feast of Booths each year in Jerusalem with the rest of the world. I never hear about that either.
Whether or not your church or adult Bible class addresses this subject, this much is certain: People from around the world will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, here in the Land of Israel, sometime in the future after Jesus physically returns to rule the world.
With all that’s going on in our present world, we know that something much better is coming. And that is something that we can all celebrate.
“…will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people…” Ezekiel 37:27
¹Daily Bread 5778/2017-2018 – One-Year Bible Reading Journal, Ariel Media