Was surprised on Friday when The Jerusalem Post announced that Israel had received a video tape showing an alive-and-well Gilad Shalit– in exchange for the release of 20 Palestinian women. (Shalit is an Israeli soldier captured in a cross-border raid by Palestinians almost three years ago.
The fact that a much more powerful Israeli government had to release 20 prisoners in exchange for a video, is an indication of the unfulfilled hopes and dreams of the Jewish people as they enter their week long Sukkot/Tabernacles holiday.
One of the holiday’s many features is a decorated “booth” or “hut”— many of which are being displayed this week on Jerusalem roofs, balcony’s, and court yards.These “sukkot” (Hebrew plural for the singular sukkah), are reminders of the days in which Israel lived in temporary shelters, in dependence on the supernatural, daily provisions of the LORD, during her 40 years of living in a barren wilderness.
One provocative theme of the Feast of Tabernacles/Sukkot is that it doesn’t just look back to the days following the Exodus, but also forward to Israel’s anticipated entrance into their promised land.
Now once again in Sukkot 2009, after almost 2000 years of exile, and while living on the most contested piece of real estate in the world, observant Jewish people, together with wary Arab counterparts know that many in Israel and around the world are still waiting for what Jewish prophets predicted would happen at the end of the age.
According to Zechariah, a surviving remnant of Israel will have a national change of heart, when, as the LORD of Israel declares, “They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died.” (Zech 12:10).
Following this, in another amazingly specific prediction, Zechariah goes on to say that the LORD, himself, will go to battle against all of the nations who have come against Jerusalem to destroy her (Zechariah 14:16). The Long awaited King will stand on the Mountain of Olives, and defend his repentant people.
After finally restoring peace to Jerusalem , Zechariah goes on to say, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zech 14:16).
Here though is an important point. What Zechariah describes is similar to what happened when the LORD delivered Israel from Egypt, and what he subsequently did in giving them the Promised Land. These events happened with a supernatural show of miracles that showed clearly that judgment belongs to the LORD– rather than to individual nations who are acting on our own fears and strategies of self-protection.
Anything that the nation of Israel does in violation of its own historic laws, in a self-made effort to protect itself will ultimately fail. In a similar manner the strategies of an international community to harm or destroy the Jewish people in an effort to annul God’s ultimate plan will also ultimately fail. Only when people of all sides are humbled by the King who, in Zechariah’s words, had been suffered at the hands of those who rejected him, will any individual or nation experience real peace and security.
In this respect, in the last days, Israel will be the LORD’s object lesson to the whole world. In Israel, as in all the nations of the world, anyone who attempts to live by their own strength while rejecting the Messiah of God will miss the “eternal harvest festival” that the holiday of Sukkot/Tabernacles anticipates.
In that day Jerusalem will not be burdened by “prisoner symbols of an ongoing conflict.” Going forward there will only be a repentant remnant of Israel that, together with a repentant remnant of the nations, will celebrate in their annual Feast of Tabernacles, the Savior-King and faithful Provider of all who trust him as their only hope of forgiveness, peace, and immortality.