To have the first day of Sukkot coinciding with the weekly Shabbat, is the most excellent kind of double blessing that one can imagine. It is like receiving a tray with two plates covered with lids, so that you can’t see what is inside. When you open the one lid, you find the most delicious meal, exquisitely and carefully prepared, exactly to your own taste. And when you open the other lid, you find a precious and shiny bright diamond, worth tens of thousands of rands and accompanied by a small note: This is for you!!
On its own, the Shabbat is filled with meaning and blessing. Isaiah 58 says it is a day of delight – not just delight in anything but delight in Yahweh. It is a day to be esteemed because on this day even the Creator of all things and all creatures, rested from his work. It is a day to be kept set-apart for Yahweh because, among other things, it was given as a sign of recognition for the followers of Yahweh, so that the people outside may know and say to one another: Look at these people – they are keeping the seventh day set-apart – they must be a special kind of people!
Now today, on top of that, it is also the first day of the feast of Sukkot. And we are instructed in Scriptures to set aside the first day of Sukkot. We should not be engaged in servile work. That is: work related to our occupation or source of income – or any kind of work that has the potential of keeping us away from the feast, or causing us to cut short on the feast, and everything that goes along with the feast. I have an idea that there are still people – even among ourselves – who still believe silently that the feast days are a convenient optional, a nice-to-have, definitely not a commandment, in the strict sense of the word. This, I have to say, is not the truth. Keepings the feasts is a full blooded Scriptural commandment. And it is not even a commandment given by a man. It is a commandment given by no one less than Yahweh, the Almighty. This is the primary motivation for us to keep the feasts. But there is an even bigger and much more rewarding motivation: The motivation that Yahweh has instituted these feasts as his appointments with mankind and that His appointment will never lead to disappointment! Listen to this again: His appointment will never lead to disappointment! He has set his mind upon blessing us during this feast. The only question is whether we are here to receive his blessing!
On this day, Scriptures are telling us, we should be glad and cheerful and exited – on this day especially, but also for the next seven days. The question is why? Why is there such a huge emphasis on joyfulness when this feast of Sukkot comes into the picture? Scriptures give us a twofold reason: Our gladness is based upon what Yahweh had done to us, and spoken to us, and given to us, BEFORE the feast. Remember, this is one of the harvest feasts. We are here to bless and acknowledge Yahweh for his provision, for the fruit of our labours and for the abundance out of his hand – even if there were times, leading up to this feast, when we had suffered – not only financially, but also in other areas. Look, we are here today! We are sitting among others in this house or some place else in front of a computer or a cell phone and we are taking part in this service. We are alive! We are taken care of! We are filled with expectation. We are filled with the completeness of the words of Scriptures. Isn’t that all Yahweh’s doing? Are his blessings and his gifts and his answers to prayer over the past few months not more than enough reason to rejoice on this day?
But the second reason for rejoicing, apart from what happened in the months leading up to this feast, are the things that are still to take place – the things that have not yet happened – things of the future. Just listen to these words from Deuteronomy 16:13-15 “Perform the Festival of Sukkot for seven days after the ingathering from your threshing-floor and from your winepress, and you shall rejoice in your festival, you and your son and your daughter, and your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates. For seven days you shall celebrate to Yahweh your Elohim in the place which Yahweh chooses, because Yahweh your Elohim will bless you in all your increase and (He will bless you) in all the work of your hands, and you shall be only rejoicing!”
During the days of Sukkot, and especially on this important first day, we rejoice together over that which Yahweh had done in the past, up to this day, and that which He is going to do in the future. Just as He has taken care of us up till this day, He is going to take care of us in the days to come. Elohim WILL bless you in all your increase! Elohim WILL bless you in all the work of your hands! The word “increase” here is not telling the full story. It comes from a word meaning to go or come, to apply, to attain, to bring forth, to come up against, to befall and to enter. Our gladness today is based upon the certainty that where ever we may come or go, whatever the work of our hands may bring forth, whatever we may receive or attain, whoever we may come up against, where ever we may dare to enter, what ever kind of good things and bad things may befall us, YAHWEH WILL SURELY BLESS US! And the fact is, He has already blessed us far more than what we deserve. He sent his Son to dwell among us – so we read in John 1:14. The word for “dwell” in that verse is, quite literally, “tabernacle”. Yahweh sent his Son to TABERNACLE among us. He made his Son experience the temporariness of this life, so we may one day experience the eternity of the life that He had given us as an inheritance! If that is not a reason for us to rejoice abundantly, there is nothing else left in this world to be glad about!