One glimpse of the camp of the Hebrews on the first day of Sukkot left the beholder nothing short of speechless.
The Tabernacle itself was always breathtaking; the tapestries and the gold and the sacrifices were beautiful. But the presence of God was the most stunning feature. To see the cloud of glory hovering over the Tabernacle instilled fear in any who saw it. This same pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night that had guided the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through the Red Sea on dry land, was a symbol of protection to the Hebrews and terror to their enemies.
But during Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles – the camp became something straight out of fantasy. Every year during the forty years of wandering in the desert, the camp of Israel was transformed into a paradise. Each dwelling was covered with palm fronds, willow and myrtle branches, and fruit. And since the people dwelt encircling the Tabernacle – with God, Himself, in the center – it was simply amazing to see.
Don’t miss the imagery here. The Hebrews are in the wilderness. It’s dry; dusty; brown; barren. And there are around two million former slaves encamping there, with the glory of God in the middle of them. And then each one of these two million people’s tents is now overflowing with greenery and fruit and life. What is God trying to teach them?
Walk with me through what we’ve already seen in this series. The world was created perfectly. There was a garden with life and relationship with God. But man’s sin changed all of that. So God had to send His only Son as the Passover Lamb to take away the sins of the world. Jesus’ perfect body was broken as the Unleavened Bread. He rose as the First Fruits. His Spirit was sent on Shavuot to write the Torah on the hearts of mankind. He will return at Yom Teruah – the Feast of Trumpets and judge the world shortly thereafter on Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. The only feast left is Sukkot , the feast that celebrates God dwelling among His people.
And that is the picture we seen in the wilderness. We see a multitude of God’s chosen people dwelling in a beautiful paradise with God dwelling in the center of them. The picture of Sukkot is a reminder of the Garden of Eden. Sukkot is Paradise Restored.
But it isn’t really restored, is it? The feast lasts eight days. By the time the feast is completed, the greenery has become brown and brittle. Sukkot is a reminder not only of Paradise, but that we are not there yet. There is more that needs to happen first.
This is why the prophet, Zechariah, declares that during the reign of the Messiah, all mankind will be required to observe this feast (Zechariah 14:16-19). Jesus will already have returned in power and glory; He will have judged the earth. But mankind’s time on earth isn’t finished. The world will still be broken. Yes, Jesus will be ruling and reigning and it will be a wonderful time of peace, but the end of the 1,000 years sees rebellion and war again.