by Sue Towne
For more than a month we have been looking at the customs associated with the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), one of the biblical festivals that occurs in the autumn.
Remember that early on I talked about these festivals as mo’edim, divine appointments with God. We saw that in the gospel of John several chapters were given over to what Yeshua did during one particular Feast of Tabernacles.
And we saw a tie-in between the pouring of the water and wine (blood) over the dead sacrifice in the Temple during Sukkot and John’s account of “water and blood” flowing from the side of Yeshua from the cross after He had died.
But as believers in Yeshua, living in the 21st century since He was born into the earth, why should we be interested in the observance of Sukkot even in our day? Why are a number of churches celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles each year?
I’m glad you asked that question.
Let’s look at the gospel of John again, where we will find some more connection with the Feast of Tabernacles in the very first chapter.
John’s account of the birth of Yeshua into the earth is not like the accounts in Matthew and Luke. John describes it in a kind of “cosmic” or “strategic” sense.
John 1:14 says that “The word became flesh and dwelt among us....” This is talking about the Incarnation--the Son of God coming to dwell among us as a human being.
But the word translated “dwelt” here is literally in Greek the word for “tabernacle”. So the verse literally says, “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.”
A tabernacle is a temporary shelter. So we could say that by becoming flesh, the Lord Yeshua put on an earthly tabernacle like ours.
The idea of our physical human bodies being tabernacles is also expressed by Paul (II Cor. 5:1) and by Peter (II Pet. 1:13-14).
Could it be that it is no coincidence that John uses the Greek word for “tabernacle” to describe the coming of the Lord into the world? Is it possible that Yeshua was born during the Feast of Tabernacles?
We know that the traditional celebration of His birth in December (or January in the case of Orthodox churches) is neither scriptural nor historical. In the gospel account in Luke we know that sheep were out on the Judean hills at night, and sheep are not out at night in December or January in Israel because it is too cold. So Yeshua could not have been born in either December or January.
I want to preface what I am about to say by emphasizing that the written Word of God does not give us an exact date for the birth of Yeshua into the earth. But we do have some tantalizing clues--that point to a “certain festival.”
In Luke’s gospel you remember the story of Zecharias and Elizabeth. Zecharias was a levitical priest who Luke says was of the order of Abijah. This is an important detail, because each order of priests was assigned to Temple service for a particular period in the Hebrew calendar.
From I Chronicles 24 we know that the priests of the order of Abijah were assigned to Temple service between the 12-18th days of the month of Sivan.
Now it was during his time of service in the Temple, in the week of the 12-18th day of Sivan, that Zecharias was told by an angel that his wife Elizabeth would have a son.
Luke says that Zecharias went home and that Elizabeth conceived. We don’t know exactly when this conception took place. But let’s say that within a week of Zecharias’s temple service ending, she did conceive--around Sivan 25.
If so, Zecharias’ son, who was later known as John the Baptist, would probably have been born on or about Nisan 15, which is the Feast of Passover, 285 days later. Two hundred and eighty five days is the normal human gestation period.
Remember that the gospels say that John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah. In John’s time the Jewish people were looking for Elijah to come as a forerunner to Messiah, and they expected Elijah to come at Passover.
So if John the Baptist, the “Elijah” to come, was born on Passover, he literally fulfilled this expectation.
(By the way, those of you who have been to a Passover seder know that Elijah is still expected to come at Passover.)
Now IF this is true about when John was conceived and born, let’s consider Mary (Miriam), the mother of Yeshua.
According to Luke, the angel Gabriel visited Mary in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. The sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy would have begun on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, which just happens to be the first day of Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication.
Hanukkah is the feast that celebrates a great miracle, when the Temple was being rededicated in 164 BC after being desecrated by a foreign king. Interestingly, it was on that day that tradition held that both the original temple of Solomon and the temple constructed by Ezra had been dedicated.
Hanukkah is an eight-day feast commemorating the miracle of the temple oil burning for eight nights when there was only enough for one day.
So if we place the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary during the Feast of Hanukkah, possibly Yeshua was conceived in Mary’s womb during that very feast. Another interesting tie-in to Yeshua: eight is the number traditionally associated with Messiah, and of course light is the major symbol for the Feast of Hanukkah.
Now 285 days from the first day of Hanukkah is Tisri 15, the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. So if Yeshua was actually conceived during the Feast of Hanukkah, He would have been born during--the Feast of Tabernacles!
IF this is true, it ties up some loose ends, festival-wise.
In the events of His First Coming, Yeshua literally fulfilled the spring festivals of Passover, Firstfruits, Unleavened Bread and Pentecost. Some students of Bible prophecy say that Yeshua will fulfill the fall feasts of Trumpets, Yom Kippur and Tabernacles at His Second Coming.
Old covenant prophecy in Zechariah 14 says that the Lord of Hosts Himself will come to the earth during a battle of the nations of the world against Jerusalem. This prophecy describes the Lord’s landing at that time as having such force that He will split the Mount of Olives in two.
Then after dealing with the enemies of Israel, He will remain on earth as the King.
And every nation shall go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, and keep the Feast of Tabernacles with Him--or they will have no rain for the coming year. (Zech. 14:17). The Feast of Tabernacles becomes the pre-eminent feast for His reign on earth.
So if Yeshua was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, we could say He came and tabernacled with us. At His Second Coming we will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with Him every year because He has come again to tabernacle with humankind.
It’s kind of like tying two ends together to make a circle.
And why not? The original reason for celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles was not merely to remember that Israel lived in tents in the desert for 40 years. It was to celebrate that GOD lived in the desert with them for 40 years, manifesting as the Cloud by day and the Pillar by night--over the Tabernacle sanctuary.
Not only will God come again to tabernacle with us for 1,000 years. But we know from the books of Revelation and II Peter that God will create a new heaven and earth--so even the millennial reign of Messiah is just one more age and stage for God’s kingdom manifesting here.
And after that? Only God knows. But concerning that time Revelation 21:3 says, “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men.” A tabernacle is only a temporary shelter, a temporary resting place.
That tells me that there will always be more, more, more with God. He will always be on the move to new adventures--with us, His children.