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Parasha Sukkot: The Sheltering Presence of God

During the weeklong festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), the regular Parasha (Torah portion) for Shabbat is suspended, and a special Parasha pertaining to the holiday is read in synagogues around the world.

Please read along with us and learn how Sukkot represents the sheltering presence of God.   We know you will be blessed, especially in light of current events!

Sukkot Shabbat Chol Hamoed
Exodus 33:12–34:26; Ezekiel 38:18–39:16; Revelation 21:1–22:21

“Behold, I make a covenant: before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord: for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.”  (Exodus 34:10) 

arba miniim, four species, sukkah

A Jewish man shakes the lulav and etrog in a sukkah decorated with colorful shiny streamers and fruit.

In this special Sukkot reading, Moses asks that God’s presence would go with Israel, and God agrees.

Encouraged by this positive response, Moses also asks to see God’s glory.  Once again, God graciously complies with his request and invites Moses to ascend Mount Sinai with two newly hewn stone tablets so that He can re-carve the Ten Commandments.

On the mountain, God reveals His glory to Moses in such a fearsome spectacle of power that God must protect Moses from being destroyed by it.

“There is a place near Me where you can stand on a rock.  When My glory passes by, I will put you in an opening in the rock.  I will cover you with My hand until I have passed by.  Then I will remove My hand.  You will see My back.  But My face must not be seen.”  (Exodus 33:21–23)

It’s clear that Moses, having experienced the power of the presence of God, understands that His presence is more than sufficient against any threat Israel might encounter inside or outside of the Promised Land.

Four Kinds-Sukkot-Jewish prayer

A Jewish man with his tallit (prayer shawl) pulled over his head prays with the Arba Minim (Four Species).  (Leviticus 23:40)

Gog and Magog: Challenging the Restoration of Israel

“This is what will happen in that day:  When Gog attacks the land of Israel, My hot anger will be aroused.”  (Ezekiel 38:18)

In the Haftarah (prophetic portion) for this Shabbat Chol Hamoed (intermediate day of the festival) of Sukkot, the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel describes an end-time scenario in which formidable armies from the north, under the leadership of Gog, will challenge the restoration of Israel.

Gog is a chief prince living in the land of Magog (Ezekiel 38:2).  Many scholars believe Magog refers to Russia.  The invading land of Gomer is often believed to be Germany.

Several lands in the coalition army are easily identifiable: Iran (Persia), Northern Sudan (ancient Ethiopia or Cush), Libya (Put), and Turkey (Togarmah).

Today, Russia has a “permanent” air base in Syria at Khmeimim and leases the naval base in Tartus.

Iran not only has military bases in Iraq and Lebanon, its radical regime has invested up to $100 billion in infrastructure and military operations in Syria over the last several years, even building missile manufacturing plants there, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Russia and Iran would like to stay in Syria, but at what cost to Israel?  We know, of course, that Iran is readying itself for an all out invasion and annihilation of Israel at any chance they get.

Middle-East-map-Africa

Map of the Middle East

The nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38 will unite and come upon Israel “like a cloud that covers the land” for the purpose of looting the wealth that she has amassed in what was a desolate land only seventy years ago.

Yet, God will not abandon His People.  He will utterly destroy the coalition forces of Gog so that all nations will come to know the holiness of the Lord (Ezekiel 38:18–23).

The forces that come against Israel will be so large in their day of defeat that Gog’s weaponry will provide fuel for Israel for seven years (Ezekiel 39:9).

“They will not need to gather wood from the fields or cut it from the forests, because they will use the weapons for fuel.  And they will plunder those who plundered them and loot those who looted them, declares the Sovereign LORD.”  (Ezekiel 39:10)

Moreover, so many soldiers will die in this battle that it will take seven months for Israel to bury them all and cleanse their land (Ezekiel 39:12).

Kotel-crowds-Jewish prayer-Jerusalem-Sefer Torah

A man carries a Torah scroll that is protected by a silver Torah tik (case) during Sukkot at the Western Wall.

Sukkot and the Protective Covering of God

Why do we read about this end-time battle during Sukkot?

According to Rabbinic tradition, this war will be waged during the month of Tishri, the month in which the holiday of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) falls.

Interestingly enough, the war that is described in Ezekiel is similar to the war described in the 14th chapter of Zechariah, the Haftarah reading on the first day of Sukkot.  And in Zechariah we learn that the Gentiles who survive the war against Israel will be required to keep Sukkot annually by coming up to the Holy City of Jerusalem to worship the Lord.

“Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles [Sukkot].  If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain.”  (Zechariah 14:16–17)

Kotel-crowds-Jewish prayer-Jerusalem

Sukkot at the Western (Wailing) Wall.

Psalm 27 presents a clear connection between Sukkot and God’s protection of Israel and those who trust in Him:

“For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle [sukkah]; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.”  (Psalm 27:5)

The word translated here as tabernacle is the Hebrew word sukkah (סכה).  When evil threatens God’s people, He will hide them in His sukkah, inaccessible from the enemy on the rock of His presence.

Now that is a promise we can trust in during these last days!

Kotel-Jewish Prayer-Sukkot-Arba Minim-Four Species

A Jewish man prays at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem.

The Battle of Armageddon

“When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison, and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth — Gog and Magog — to gather them for battle.”  (Revelation 20:7–8)

Gog and Magog are also mentioned in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) in connection with Armageddon and the final battle between the forces of good and evil.

This war with Gog and Magog is not the same war described in Ezekiel 38 but a final end-time battle after the thousand year reign of Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah).

The Son of David, Yeshua, will come again, this time as our conquering Messiah to defeat the invading forces forever.  All who have believed in their Savior, Yeshua, will inherit eternity in the New Jerusalem — a revived Garden of Eden complete with trees of life and pure living water that will be good to eat and drink forever.

Tel Meggido-Armageddon-Israel-ruins

Ancient ruins atop Har Meggido in Israel

Armageddon is mentioned only once in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) in chapter 16 of the Book of Revelation.

“They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty….  Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.”  (Revelation 16:14, 16)

The word Armageddon is derived from Har Magedon (meaning mountain of Megiddo) and is mentioned many times in the Tanakh (Old Testament).

Megiddo is derived from the Hebrew word gadad, meaning to penetrate, muster troops together, perhaps even invade.

In this end-time invasion, we once again see Israel’s enemies mounting a war against Jerusalem.  This time, however, we see the spiritual forces behind the rebellion against God:

“They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.”  (Revelation 9:11)

The words Abaddon and Apollyon mean Destroyer.

And this time, God pours out on all rebels the full extent of His judgment, including everlasting torment for Satan, the beast and the false prophet.

“They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city He loves.  But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.  And Satan, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.  They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”  (Revelation 20:9–10)

abstrac Ezekiel 39-39 rainbow

With an Outstretched Arm

As we read how God will hurl His fury against Gog with pestilence and with blood, floods, giant hailstones, fire and brimstone, it’s easy to see from this Haftarah portion that God is furious with those who come against the Land of Israel (Ezekiel 38:22).

In fact, there are several parallels between God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt long ago and His future deliverance of Israel from Gog in the end times.  In both, we see that God saves and rescues Israel with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm.

The phrase with a strong hand and an outstretched arm (בְּיָ֣ד חֲ֭זָקָה וּבִזְר֣וֹעַ נְטוּיָ֑ה) has special meaning in Jewish tradition.  It represents God using His power on behalf of His people.  The “arm of the Lord” also represents His salvation, which in Hebrew is Yeshua.

“You brought your people Israel out of Egypt with signs and wonders, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror.”  (Jeremiah 32:21, see also Deuteronomy 4:34; 26:8; Exodus 6:6)

Sukkot-sukkah-Arba Minim

A Jewish girl in a sukkah learns how to hold the Four Species.

As Russia continues its influence in the region and as  neighboring nations plot to annihilate Israel, there is certainly evidence that Ezekiel 38 is on the horizon. Yet, this Sukkot Parasha reveals that God’s Divine Sheltering Presence over Israel has not ended but will continue past the end of this age.

God is not finished with the Jewish People and Israel.  This is plainly evident when we consider how Bible Prophecy concerning Israel is being fulfilled during these end times before our very eyes.

The Brit Chadashah (New Covenant) also tells us that God’s plan to reach out to the nations through Israel did not end with the death and resurrection of Messiah, but continues to this day and will in the world to come:

“For if their casting Yeshua [Jesus] aside means reconciliation for the world, what will their accepting Him mean?  It will be life from the dead!”  (Romans 11:15)

The Book of Romans promises that when the Jewish People come to know Yeshua, it will be like life from the dead for the world.

Before this can happen, however, they must first hear the Good News of Yeshua!

“How can they call on Him unless they believe in Him?  How can they believe in Him unless they hear about Him?  How can they hear about Him unless someone preaches to them?”  (Romans 10:14)

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