The wheels on the bus go round and round…


Just about 10 minutes from our home, there is a national park with a beautiful (if steep) hike down to waterfalls and rapids, which originate from fresh springs bubbling out of the ground just about half a mile away at ancient Caesarea Philippi. We try to do an early morning hike (to avoid the heat) once a week just to get in some exercise, but also to enjoy the beauty.

The refreshing spring water reminds me of something that happened on the final day of Sukkot—the Feast of Booths—about 2,000 years ago. Since the final day of this year’s Sukkot occurred earlier this week, it seems like an appropriate time to discuss something that happened on that long-ago day.

But first, we need to set the stage.

During this weeklong feast, the priests would set up four huge menorahs in the courtyard of the temple, with each branch of the menorah being the size of a large torch. It must have been an amazing thing to see, with the courtyard full of people from around the known world, as this was one of the three annual feasts during which the Israelites were required to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate.

At the beginning of the celebration, the priests walked from the temple in Jerusalem down to the pool of Siloam in order to fill up a golden container with water from the natural spring which filled it. As they returned, ascending the long path from the pool up to the temple (which is probably the same road that one walks up today after hiking through Hezekiah’s tunnel), the shofar was blown, and the people waved their palm fronds along the route reciting portions of the Psalms of Ascent (chapters 120-134). After returning to the temple, the priest on duty would pour out a bit of the collected water each day as a libation to the LORD. It was a way of beseeching God for abundant rain in the upcoming rainy (winter) season.

On the last great day of the feast, the priests would circle the altar seven times and then pour out the remaining water from the golden pitcher onto the base of the altar. This was called the Hoshana Rabbah, which is translated, “the great save us now.” Water in this region was—and still is—scarce. So this was a great plea from the people for God to send plenty of rain in the upcoming winter season, because without water to replenish the rivers and the natural underground springs, the people could not survive.

The apostle John tells us that on the last day of the Feast of Booths, Jesus, who initially told his family that he wasn’t going up to Jerusalem for this feast, did indeed go to Jerusalem, where he stood up–and with a very loud voice–said to everyone there in the temple area, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” One can easily imagine that he made this pronouncement immediately followed the pouring of the Hoshana Rabbah water libation.

Imagine the controversy this would have started! The priests had just poured out the final water libation to the God of the universe asking for water, and Jesus was the one who immediately answered them. It was as if God spoke in a loud voice saying, “I hear you!” In fact, it actually was the Creator speaking to them.

From this point, we see the argument among the people and the priests and Pharisees. They wanted to arrest him. After all, Jesus was proclaiming himself to be the one who could quench their spiritual thirst.

Interestingly—especially considering the controversies in our country right now—one of the Pharisees, a man named Nicodemus, asked those who wanted to arrest Jesus, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?

And then, the other leaders threw Nicodemus under the bus for upholding the law, saying, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.The contempt bleeds through the text.

It seems as though the more things change, the more they stay the same. The wheels on the bus go…

Something to Celebrate


“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 worldnot 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