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Finding Jesus in Sukkot/The Festival of Booths

In Matthew's Gospel, the author skillfully shows how Jesus fulfills Old Testament prophecies, people, places, geography, and, yes, even Jewish holidays! One women's Bible study group going through the Dusty Sandals: A Woman's Walk Through the Prophecies and Promises of Matthew recently celebrated Sukkot (also called the Festival of Booths or Tabernacles).

The women ate a Sukkot meal and and enacted the customary Festival of Tabernacles traditions, all while seated in their own "sukkah" (meaning booth). As they feasted together, the women learned about how Sukkot connects with Jesus Christ, enhancing their study through the Gospel of Matthew.

In October of this year, Jews all over the world will be celebrating Sukkot. This annual celebration has been taking place for thousands of years by the Jewish people. Sukkot was initiated by the LORD through commandments given to Moses after the Hebrew nation had come out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 23:14-16; Leviticus 23:33-36, 39-43). This Festival of Booths is one of three pilgrimage festivals in which the Lord commanded that all males go up to the temple in Jerusalem to make offerings before the Lord.

For Sukkot, the LORD commanded the Jewish people to dwell in tents (booths, temporary dwellings) for seven days that their generations will remember "when I brought them out of Egypt. I am The LORD your God" (Leviticus 23:43b). God had redeemed them from slavery in Egypt and made them His own special people. Sukkot is additionally called the Festival of Ingathering because the LORD commanded His people to celebrate it at the end of the harvest season when all the crops had been brought in, such as the grain for bread and the grapes for wine (Leviticus 23:39-40). The festival is to be celebrated with great rejoicing (Deuteronomy 16:13-16).

You may be wondering...How does Jesus, our messianic King, tie into Sukkot/the Festival of Ingathering? We have space to talk about one example. In the first-century, during Sukkot, the priests brought water ceremoniously up from the pool of Siloam, blowing the shofar and reciting the great Hallel (Psalms 113-118). The priests would then circle the altar seven times before pouring the water out on the altar in thanks and prayer for the LORD'S provision of life-sustaining water for the land. This ceremony reached its peak on the last day of the Feast of Booths. The Gospel of John gives us the account of Jesus secreting into Jerusalem as "the Feast of Booths was near" (John 7:1-10).

In John 7:37-39, he writes, Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." In the face of the priest's Sukkot water rite, Jesus was proclaiming Himself as the very Source of life-giving water—as God Himself! This water was a picture of the Spirit of God that would be given to those who would believe in Christ providing eternal life. Jesus' proclamation as the giver of living water was also a fulfillment of Isaiah 44:3; 55:1; Revelation 22:17.

"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink."

The Feast of Booths provides for us one of hundreds of Old Testament prophetic fulfillments and allusions showing how Jesus meets the prophetic expectations of the promised messianic King! Study through the Gospel of Matthew and learn more about who Jesus is and how He has called us to follow Him.

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