Yeshua and the Feast of Tabernacles: Part Three
By Sue Towne
We have been looking at the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) for the purpose of connecting it to the life of Yeshua. As we make this connection, we will see why this particular biblical festival should be important in the lives of believers in Yeshua today.
Let’s pick up from where we left off last week. Remember I said that thanksgiving and harvest were important themes at Sukkot? Sukkot is a time of thanking God for this year’s harvest but also for looking ahead to the next year’s harvest.
When we stopped last week we were about to look at the daily Temple ritual performed during Sukkot.
Picture this then. White-robed priests, choirs and trumpeters fill the Temple court where sacrifices were performed. Men dance with joy as the choir and the worshippers waving tree branches sing the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 113-118).
The Temple court is crowded with worshippers and with musicians, playing stringed instruments, drums, cymbals and flutes. After singing the other Psalms of Ascent, the Temple choir finally sings this from Psalm 118:
We beseech Thee O LORD, save now!
We beseech Thee, O LORD, make us now to prosper.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
This psalm is a prayer for prosperity. Now in an agricultural society, prosperity is measured by abundant crops. What brings abundant crop yields? In large measure, it’s the result of receiving proper rainfall during the agricultural year.
So prayers for rain are central to the celebration of Sukkot–hence this daily water ritual that I am describing for you. But notice that in this ritual God is communicating something even greater than physical prosperity to His people.
While these psalms were being sung in the Temple court each morning of the festival, a priest would lead a procession of worshippers to the pool of Siloam where he filled a gold pitcher with water.
Remember that the passage in Leviticus 23 about Sukkot says that the worshippers were supposed to bring tree branches to the festival? Well, each morning the worshippers in this procession to the pool would wave their tree branches and sing and dance in the streets of Jerusalem, as the priest filled his golden pitcher and returned to the Temple.
Meanwhile back at the Temple, other priests had sacrificed an animal and had laid it on the altar. Its blood was then poured out at the base of the altar, to make atonement for sin.
The priest carrying the water from the pool of Siloam would come into the Temple court at the same time as another priest, who was carrying a golden pitcher of wine. The two of them together would mount the ramp to the platform that held the altar of burnt offering where the sacrifice lay.
The two priests would separate and stand by the sides of the altar itself, one priest on each side. Then simultaneously, as the crowd stood silently, each one would pour the contents of his pitcher down huge silver funnels that emptied at the base of the altar where the blood from the sacrifice had been poured earlier.
Are you picturing this? WATER AND WINE WERE POURED OVER A SACRIFICE. Everyone in the crowd saw this, as the priests poured into the funnels.
At this point the choir and the worshippers would continue with Psalm 118, shaking bundles of tree branches toward the altar and singing “O work then now salvation, LORD.”
And then they would sing this from Isaiah 12:
Behold, GOD IS MY SALVATION
I will trust and will not be afraid
For the LORD my God is my strength and my song
HE ALSO HAS BECOME MY SALVATION
(I keep using bold type for you, because I just want to SHOUT it!)
Then the worshippers and choir would sing the next verse from Isaiah 12, which says
Therefore with JOY you will draw WATER from the WELLS OF SALVATION
THE WORD “SALVATION” HERE IN HEBREW IS “YESHUAH”! This is the word from which our Lord took His name in the earth, “Yeshua.” (I feel like jumping up and down right now as I am writing this!)
Now here’s something interesting. In the Talmud (a body of Jewish writings that include commentary on scripture) the ancient rabbis said that this water ritual at Sukkot indeed had something to do with asking God for rain for the coming year.
But, the rabbis said, the main point of the ritual was to picture the future outpouring of the Holy Spirit which Isaiah spoke of in Isaiah 12:3, which was sung every morning of Sukkot at the water ritual we just described. I think they were on to something!
I would so like to run right ahead here and connect this to the time described in the gospel of John when Yeshua attended this water ritual in the Temple and—
But, I’ll have to continue this next week.