Sukkot, October 7, 2017
Sukkot, the season of our joy, expresses our joyful hope in the promises of the Messianic kingdom—both in the world to come (olam ha-ba) and this world (olam hazeh). For the Kingdom of our God and His Messiah will come in its fullness when Yeshua returns; meanwhile, His Spirit has already begun the restoration of the world (tikkun olam). V’eemru (and let us say)?
Sukkot looks forward to the Messianic Age, when Messiah will return, to bring an end to all our wars and reign as Sar Shalom, Prince of Peace, in Yerushalayim, City of Shalom.
Zechariah 14:16 foretells that “all the nations that attacked Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, Adonai –Tzva’ot, and to celebrate Sukkot.” Meanwhile, believers from all the nations are coming to pray for the peace of Jerusalem Hallelujah! Avahat Yeshua (a Tikkun International congregation in Jerusalem) hosts twice as many people.
Sukkot gives a positive, hopeful view of the future of humanity. Indeed, Biblical faith is unique in giving a positive, purposeful view of human life and destiny with G-d.
To the left, on the other hand, is a picture of how most religions and philosophies see this world and life: the Ouroboros—a serpent eating its tail. Such images have been found in ancient Egypt, so Moses might have seen it.
It’s also found in Hindu myth; to the right, the tail-eating dragon circles a tortoise which supports the four elephants that carry the world. The serpent surrounding the cosmos, while devouring its own tail is an image of the vicious cycle of pain and suffering—that’s how that ancient serpent, hasatan, deceives humanity into seeing life.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, not even death offers escape—only reincarnation, so the cycle of pain begins again. The Buddhist seeks Nirvana, in which self at last fades into the nothingness of no-self, no soul, no afterlife. Nirvana is nothingness, quite unlike the Kingdom of G-d, where “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).
This ancient eastern pessimism recurs in western modernism and postmodernism, which sees life as without direction or purpose, a heap of reflections in empty repetition. People today fear their own loneliness, or seemingly random acts of terror, or global warming. No self seems inviting.
Quite different from so much existential fear and anxiety is the fear of the LORD, which is surely the beginning of wisdom. V’eemru? This wisdom knows that God is good, that creation is good and humanity made in His image is tov m’od, very good, and that God’s chesed/loving-kindness/mercy endures forever. V’eemru?
Romans 8:19, “For the creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God.” All creation has a purpose and a destiny, together with the revelation of the glory of God and His children.
20, “For the creation was subjected to futility.” The futility or decay of nature is expressed in the physical law of entropy, which dictates that all nature trends from order to disorder, heat dissipated into the universe. It can look pretty grim—unless someone restores order.
Someone does! Our Creator and Redeemer loves to make all things new! 21, “in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” The creation has hope. It will not decay into death, but will be liberated from decay, in the Messianic kingdom, when the children of God are revealed in glory.
Unlike the pessimism of the religions and philosophies of mortals, the Scriptures offer joyful hope. It is the Messianic hope of Sukkot. The sukkah may be fragile and temporary, yet within it dwells the presence of the Eternal One. In His presence is fullness of joy. V’eemru?
Yes, the hope of Sukkot looks forward to the revelation of olam ha-ba, the world to come. Until then, will things get better or will they get worse? Yes, both!
Yet there is also hope for the olam hazeh, this world. We call this hope tikkun olam, restoration or repair of the world. Tikkun olam is both our hope and our responsibility. The Torah commands Israel, in Deuteronomy 16:20, “Justice, justice you must pursue, so that you may live and possess the land that Adonai your God is giving you.” The pursuit of justice and tikkun olam are high, ethical values for Jews—and should be for true followers of Yeshua as well. V’eemru?
Matthew 26:31-32, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory… All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them from one another, just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” By what criteria will the Son of Man, the Messiah King, judge all the nations?
37-40, “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You? Or when did we see You a stranger and invite You in? Or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will say to them, ‘Amen, I tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” How are you doing?
Jews have pursued justice in civil rights alongside Christian African-Americans. Christians have built hospitals, orphanages, schools and colleges. How many of you are glad? Messianic Jews and Christians have partnered in the Joseph Project, bringing humanitarian aid to poor Israelis & Palestinians. Together with Israeli Flying Aid, the Joseph Project recently delivered America medical supplies to Syrians injured over the border from the Golan Heights.
People should do these things because of the just and positive world view of the Scriptures. V’eemru?
It makes a difference! People need to know that God cares about them—through those called by His name.
The Spirit of God is working through history to bring about the restoration of all things.
500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses, arguing that the practice of buying indulgences led Christians to avoid true repentance from sin, and discourage them from giving to the poor and doing other acts of mercy, believing that indulgence certificates were more spiritually valuable. The early Reformation restored emphasis on faith in God’s grace as well as translating and reading Scriptures in one’s own language rather than the Latin Vulgate.
To be sure, the Reformation neglected to break the link between the Church and state power, leading to centuries of religious wars and other violence that our Master would never have condoned. For Yeshua said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Surely “the King of the Jews” wouldn’t condone the vitriolic anti-Semitism of Luther near the end of his life.
William Penn launched a “holy experiment” proclaiming religious toleration in Pennsylvania.
Count Von Zinzendorf led a Moravian revival that sent the first Protestant missionaries and built community houses all over the world, notably the woods of Bethlehem, PA, where Native Americans are buried alongside European Moravians. Such unity in prayer and dwelling together is our heritage—or as Nancy prophesied to us years ago, a well for us to re-dig and restore. V’eemru?
Inspired by the Moravians, William Carey began a mission to Calcutta in 1793, then American missionaries went to Burma, Korea, Africa. Hudson Taylor founded the China Inland Mission, and said, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s provision.” V’eemru? These faith missions sowed seeds that produced a great harvest in our time, with hundreds of millions of believers in Yeshua all over the world, Spirit-filled and friends of Israel.
Some Christians, reading their Bibles carefully, also understood they had a role to play in helping to restore Jews to their Promised Land, in preparation for the return of the King of the Jews. President John Adams wrote in 1818, “I really wish the Jews again in Judea were an independent nation.” Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, wrote a poem declaring, “Hebrew seers announce in time / the return of Judah to her prime; Christians deemed it at hand /to help reinstate the Holy Land.”
English clergyman William Hechler was a close friend and diplomatic aide of Theodor Herzl—
the Father of modern Zionism—so that Hechler is credited as the father of Christian Zionism.
Shortly after Lord Balfour issued a letter, on behalf of his majesty’s government, in favor of a Jewish homeland, General Allenby captured Jerusalem from the Turks—both near the end of in 1917.
Other Christians helped Jews move to the land & fought alongside Jews in the War of Independence.
In Acts 3:21, Peter says, “Heaven must receive [Messiah Yeshua], until the time of the restoration of all the things that God spoke about long ago through the mouth of His holy prophets.” Tikkun olam! The time of the restoration of all things is now… and also to come.
The kingdom of heaven is at hand, available now … and its fullness is yet to come.
Sukkot is zeman simchateinu—the season of our joy—now, when we dwell in the sukkah, smelling the presence of HaShem in the savor of the etrog—and the fullness of our joy will come, when Messiah the Son of Man comes in His glory to Jerusalem. V’eemru?
So we pray through the ancient K’dooshah, “When will you reign in Zion? Soon, even in our days, may You dwell there forever and ever. Yes, may You be exalted and sanctified within Jerusalem Your city, from generation to generation and for all eternity.” Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Let us go out to the sukkah, across the street on the property where we hope to build our Synagogue and Community House—soon, even in our days—with great joy and expectation!
This sermon and questions may not to be reprinted in whole or in part without the express written consent of Messianic Rabbi Glenn D. Blank of Beit Simcha. Your generous support for our ministry and building project is appreciated!
Scripture references are mostly from The Tree of Life Version (TLV) though occasionally other versions. Verse citations provide Jewish numbering, with Christian numbering in parentheses.