A number of years ago - on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles I was sitting in a chair in a large convention center in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My wife, two boys, and I were there to observe the Feast of Tabernacles along with probably 10,000 other people. As was the custom, on the “Holy Days” we would have two services, the first one usually beginning at 10:00 in the morning. After the music and short “sermonette”, the main speaker would come up to the podium and you could almost always predict the first words that would come out of his mouth . . . “Why are we here?”
Though we were in Saint Petersburg, we could have been in any of a number of festival sites scattered throughout this country and would have probably heard the same thing . . . “Why are we here”? This was almost always asked because it was important back then that the people knew why they were observing the festivals. It was also important to know how this festival – the Feast of Tabernacles – fit into God’s overall plan of salvation.
Looking back over the past 16 years and seeing how we at SOOJ have been observing the Feast of Tabernacles, I believe we may have missed the point of this awesome festival at times by focusing on topics that – though they were interesting and beneficial – may not have been what God really intended the festival to be about. I remember us teaching about “Yeshuic Halacha”, or “The Judah-Tamar Prophecy”, “Retro-Translating the New Testament”, or even one of my favorite topics “ Who is the House of Jacob?. All were topics that addressed the questions and needs of a fledgling movement called “Hebrew Roots”, but were they really what this festival is about? I would have to say that they probably were not.
What then is the topic of the Feast of Tabernacles, and why are we here? Are we here just to attend another seminar? Are we here to sell our wares, or make new contacts? Are we here because it looks “Jewish” and we want to show God our “love for Israel”?
Or are we here because God instructed us in His Word to make a pilgrimage journey once every year to rehearse our part in the goal of all God’s creation – the coming Kingdom of God?
The Kingdom of God is why I’m here. This festival pictures that Kingdom. It looks back on the time when Israel dwelt safely in booths for 40 years, and it looks forward to a time when this world will finally experience universal peace.
David and the prophets wrote extensively about God’s Kingdom –
Psalm 145:10-13 10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you! 11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, 12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.
The theme of Yeshua’s ministry was the Kingdom of God. It is mentioned at least 99 times in the New Testament – 82 times in the gospels alone 1. When asked by His disciples to show them how to pray, Yeshua responded by saying –
NKJ Matthew 6:9-10 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come . . .
You’ll notice that in this “model” prayer, Yeshua first request was for the return of the kingdom. And since he was teaching them how to pray, He implied that it should be their first request as well.
The Kingdom of God was foremost on Yeshua’s mind, as it was for many of those living in Judea. The scripture records that right after haSatan’s attempt to make Yeshua part of his kingdom, He began to teach about God’s Kingdom -
Matthew 4:17 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
. . . and as he gathered disciples, He would travel throughout Galilee preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom in all the synagogues –
ESV Matthew 4:23 23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
And when He was able to rest with His disciples, he would teach them the wonderful things of the kingdom -
ESV Matthew 5:1 . . . when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
After Yeshua was killed and later resurrected, He spent 40 days with His disciples teaching them the things they must do in order to get the “gospel message” out to the world. Though we have few details of what was actually taught, we know that His focus was the Kingdom of God –
ESV Acts 1:3 To them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
He probably spent a lot of that time giving them more and more details of The Kingdom and how He was going to bring it about, and as they saw the Feast of Weeks quickly approaching – the day that Israel first became a kingdom – they probably thought Yeshua would reveal Himself as Israel’s new King on that day. So when He announced that He was leaving and that they should remain in Jerusalem, it was only natural that they would ask this one last question –
ESV Acts 1:6 . . . "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"
It’s quite clear – the disciples thought that Yeshua was going to return quickly to set on the throne of His father – King David.
Notice again what they said. They said “will you RESTORE the kingdom”? They did not ask if He would begin the kingdom, but instead, they asked when it would be restored. So what does that mean? You cannot restore something that has never been. Thus it can only means one thing . . . they thought the Kingdom had been on earth before, and that the Messianic kingdom would simply be a restoration of that Kingdom. So if that’s the case, if there was a previous Messianic Kingdom – the Kingdom of God on Earth – what was it, and more importantly – how will it be established again?
I’m a rather simple person. Though I did graduate from high school, I only spent one semester in college. I never went to a Bible college or seminary and never studied under a rabbi. Up until about 20 years ago, about all I knew of the Bible is what I absorbed in church (I never really studied). But for the past 20 years, I’ve read through the Torah 18 times and have come to see that what’s important to God, He repeats over and over again. I’ve also come to believe that when God inspired the wisest man who had ever lived up to that point say –
ESV Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? It has been already in the ages before us.
- He meant it!
Therefore, I believe that if we want to know how the 2nd Exodus will come about, all we have to do is look at the 1st Exodus; and if we want to know about the God’s kingdom to come, all we have to do is study what has come before.
So was there a previous kingdom that the 1st century Jewish people longed for, and if there was, how will it be restored? I believe there was, and I believe we can get a pretty good grasp on the future kingdom by comparing it to what has come before. So let’s discover the former Kingdom of God; let’s see how it come into being, what it was like, whether or not Bible prophecy indicates that it might be restored the same way, and finally – our role in that restoration.
What constitutes a kingdom? According to the web site “KingdomCitizen’s.org”
“A kingdom is a governing impact of a king's will over a territory or domain; his influence over a people . . . a government led by a king”
So a “kingdom” must have a king, land or geographic area, and subjects, i.e. – people who must submit to the king. Are there any “kingdom scenarios” in the scripture? Yes, there are. So let’s take a brief look at them.
The first kingdom would have obviously been the Garden of Eden, a time when man lived at peace. During that time, God was the king, and He had three earthly subjects - the two humans (Adam and Eve) and a serpent. The geographic area of the Kingdom was the Garden, and all went well in the kingdom until Adam allowed the serpent into the Garden. We know how that turned out, so let’s move to the next.
The second was the 40 year wilderness journey of the Israelites. During that time, YHVH walked in their midst 2 and his presence was evident by the fire and the cloud 3 which according to the prophets, are both signs of the Messianic Kingdom 4. What’s more, Israel ate spiritual food and drank spiritual water every single day, and even though the people continued to age, it appears that time “stood still” in regards to their clothing and shoes 5.
So the wilderness journey is a type of the Messianic Kingdom, but with one big exception – the people dwelt in booths and God lived in a tent – in other words, the kingdom was temporary – it was not their permanent residence. This is the picture we see as Israel is camped around Mount Sinai – longing to go into the promised land. It’s the picture we are to remember as we observe this festival.
ESV Leviticus 23:33-34; 42-43 33 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 34 "Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD . . . 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God."
Today at this festival, we too are staying in temporary residences awaiting the fullness of the kingdom. Though we have chosen Messiah Yeshua to be our King, He has yet to set up His throne on earth.
The third manifestation of the Messianic Kingdom was Israel under the reign of King David and his son Solomon. To get a grasp of how Israel became a kingdom, we need to rehearse a little Biblical history –
After the death of Joshua, the 13 Israelite tribes were somewhat autonomous and YHVH was their king. But after about 400 years, the people requested a human king, and Saul – from the tribe of Benjamin – became their king. During his reign the tribes seem to have drifted apart in their allegiance to Saul, so that by the time he died, the nation was split between north and south, with the southern kingdom of Judah anointing David as king, while the northern tribes (who adopted the name “Israel”) anointed Ishbosheth (one of Saul’s remaining sons) as king.
David reigned over Judah for seven years during which time there were many wars between Israel and Judah. Seeing that the northern kingdom of Israel would never prevail over David’s army, Abner - Ishbosheth’s general – attempted to join Israel to Judah, but David’s general – Joab – thought it was a trick and killed Abner. Never-the-less, the leaders of Israel continued to form an alliance with David and later officially adopted him as king, thus making the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah one nation under one king –
ESV 2 Samuel 5:1 Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, "Behold, we are your bone and flesh. 2 In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD said to you, 'You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.'" 3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel.
After David united the two Hebrew peoples and became king over all Israel, he attacked the Jebusite city of Jerusalem and established it as the capital of Israel, then for the next 33 years set out to conquer the nations around him. He started with the Philistines (2 Sam 5:17-24;8:1), then the Moabites (2 Sam. 8:2), followed by the Syrians (2 Sam. 8:3-6), and the Ammonites (2 Sam.10:1-19).
So David built his kingdom by first uniting Judah and Israel together as a people, setting up his throne in Jerusalem, then defeating the nations around him. By the time Solomon became king, Israel was at peace with the nations, thus the scriptures say that Solomon’s kingdom was “firmly established” 6 – a term that means “exceedingly stable”. This allowed Solomon to begin to usher in a new age for Israel. Solomon, by the way, means “peace” in Hebrew and in fact, Solomon enjoyed peace for his entire 40 year reign as King. Thus it could be said that David’s son would be called “the Prince of Peace”
Because Solomon did not have to deal with war, he focused his attention on building Israel into an economic superpower and properly judging his people. So when Solomon prayed to YHVH for wisdom to properly judge this great kingdom that David had built, YHVH answered by saying -
ESV 1 Kings 3:11-13 11 . . . "Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.
And YHVH did just that. He showered Solomon and Israel with blessings. They became the “superpower of superpowers” you might say. According to 1st Kings –
ESV 1 Kings 4:21-25 21 Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life. 22 Solomon's provision for one day was thirty cors of fine flour and sixty cors of meal, 23 ten fat oxen, and twenty pasture-fed cattle, a hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fattened fowl. 24 For he had dominion over all the region west of the Euphrates from Tiphsah to Gaza, over all the kings west of the Euphrates. And he had peace on all sides around him. 25 And Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon.
And because Solomon followed God (at least for much of his reign), the people were happy.
ESV 1 Kings 4:20 20 Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy.
The happiness of those in Solomon’s Kingdom even exceeded the expectation of those who had heard of Solomon’s greatness.
NKJ 2 Chronicles 9:3-7 3 And when the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, 4 the food on his table, the seating of his servants, the service of his waiters and their apparel, his cupbearers and their apparel, and his entryway by which he went up to the house of the LORD, there was no more spirit (breath) in her. 5 Then she said to the king: "It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. 6 "However I did not believe their words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me. You exceed the fame of which I heard. 7 "Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom!
The hallmark of Solomon’s Kingdom was peace. David’s zeal for God and the promises God made to Abraham combined with his trust in YHVH enable him to subdue the nations around him. As King David neared the end of his life, David wrote a song that is recorded in 2nd Samuel 22. He spoke of the mercy YHVH had shown him and the many times YHVH had delivered his enemies into his hands. David then went on proclaim how that would pay off in regards to the future of his nation. In the later part of verse 44 he said –
2 Samuel 22:44-46 44 " . . . You have kept me as the head of the nations. A people I have not known shall serve me. 45 The foreigners submit to me; As soon as they hear, they obey me. 46 The foreigners fade away, And come frightened from their hideouts.
David knew that his fame had spread throughout the nations. He knew that the nations had no desire to make war with him, that Israel – under King David – was a nation that could not be defeated or overthrown. Thus when he turned the kingdom over to his son, all Solomon had to do was to continue in God’s ways, and as long as he did, his fame would increase and the leaders of other nations would want to be associated with Israel. It’s quite possible that if he and his sons had done so, they might have been able to bring about “world peace”.
Solomon’s kingdom was (in my opinion) the first truly established Kingdom of God. It’s interesting to note that the pinnacle of Solomon’s many achievements was the Temple in Jerusalem, the dedication of which took place during the Feast of Tabernacles. I suspect that 1000 years later, as the Jewish people made their yearly pilgrimages to Jerusalem to pay their taxes and observe the festivals; they would look upon the Temple that was standing in their day and think about how it might be if Solomon and his sons had followed God, and if Israel had retained its greatness. If their forefathers had followed God’s instructions, it’s quite possible that instead of them being subjects of Rome, the Romans would be their subjects and would be paying taxes to Jerusalem.
So when a young Jewish rabbi came on the scene preaching “the kingdom of God is at hand”, the people stood up and took notice. They were well aware of the many prophecies of a messianic figure that would come in the spirit of their hero – King David – the conquering king.
NKJ Jeremiah 23:5-6 5 " Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. 6 In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely . . .
But Yeshua did not become that conquering king – at least not at His first coming - and as a result, many of the Jewish people became discouraged and refused to follow him. If they had remembered their history, things may have been much different. Apparently they had forgotten that David’s greatest victories did not come at the beginning of his reign, but only after he had successfully united the two Hebrew peoples – Israel and Judah. But Yeshua did remember, so instead of preparing for war, He did as David did and set out to bring peace between Israel and Judah. And that’s just what the prophets said should have happened.
ESV Isaiah 11:10-13 10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples- of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. 11 In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. 12 He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. 13 The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart, and those who harass Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim.
In His day, Yeshua did not focus on removing the occupying army of Rome or the illegitimate king Herod. He did not surround Himself with military leaders. Instead, he chose fishermen and tax collectors to carry His message. He spoke of “loving your brother” and returning to the walk God had given Israel. He said –
NKJ John 18:36 . . . "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight . . . “
Just like David was anointed king many years before he actually began to reign as king, King Yeshua would wait before He began to reign as well. For if Yeshua had begun His kingdom 2000 years ago, he, like David, would have reigned over less than half his people, for He was only the “King of the Jews”, and the rest of His people – the northern kingdom of Israel, was scattered to the four winds. But Yeshua was not anointed to rule just half a kingdom. He, like David, was anointed to rule over all Israel. Therefore it was imperative that He begin the process of reconciliation between Israel and Judah, thus He said -
NKJ Matthew 15:24 “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
and . . .
ESV John 10:16 “. . . I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
So Yeshua – like David – will restore Israel as one people. Though the process began 2000 years ago, it is far from being accomplished even today. I’ll discuss this more as we finish up.
Once peace between God’s people has been established, Yeshua – like His father David - will set out to retake Jerusalem and set up His throne.
ESV Zechariah 12:6 "On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a blazing pot in the midst of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves. And they shall devour to the right and to the left all the surrounding peoples, while Jerusalem shall again be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem.
He will then (according to the scripture) take on the enemies of Israel in much the same order as did David –
ESV Isaiah 11:14 14 But they shall swoop down on the shoulder of the Philistines in the west, and together they shall plunder the people of the east. They shall put out their hand against Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites shall obey them.
Yeshua likewise, when He has subdued the nations – will no longer have to fight the enemies of God. He – like David’s son - will then be able to turn His attention toward making peace. He will then become known as “Sar Shalom” – the Prince of Peace, and as the prophet said –
NKJ Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever . . .
At that time, Yeshua’s kingdom will be “firmly established”, just as Solomon’s kingdom had become –
Psalm 96:9-13 9 Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. 10 Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns; The world also is firmly established, It shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples righteously." 11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; 12 Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the LORD. 13 For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with His truth.
But this is not all going to happen overnight. The nations of the world, though they might fear Israel and her King Yeshua, will not necessarily want to be like her – at least not right away. It’s going to take some time.
After Yeshua had been criticized by the Jewish leaders for healing a woman on the Sabbath, the scriptures say that “all his adversaries were put to shame” 7. He then went on to teach them about the Kingdom of God saying –
NKJ Luke 13:18-21 "What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 "It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches." 20 And again He said, "To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21 "It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened."
The Kingdom of God is going to start out small. We should not think that once the Messiah returns, the whole world is going to turn and follow him. Nor should we think Yeshua’s going to force it upon them. God doesn’t want a bunch of “mindless robots” to use a favorite term of Rush Limbaugh. He wants people who want to follow Him because it’s the right thing to do.
So just like Solomon, who took Israel from being a small agrarian people and built her into an economic superpower, Yeshua will do the same thing; and how will he do it, by turning Israel back to YHVH and his ways –
NKJ Psalm 112:1 Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who delights greatly in His commandments. 2 His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed. 3 Wealth and riches will be in his house, And his righteousness endures forever.
So with peace all around, Yeshua will be able to direct Israel’s teachers - the priests 8 - toward their primary goal of teaching the proper application of God’s Torah. He will be able to re-establish the judges and teach them how to properly judge His people. The land will enjoy its Sabbaths, and will yield it’s fruit in abundance. Economic laws will be properly observed, and the nations will begin to take note of what’s happening in this tiny country called Israel. Then, like it was in Solomon’s day, the nations will begin to inquire as to what’s going on in Israel. As the prophet said -
ESV Micah 4:1 . . . many nations shall come, and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 3 He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; 4 but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.
Though much more could be said about God’s coming kingdom, I hope we can see that His kingdom is very real. It’s a kingdom where real people do real things. Jerusalem will be a real city with a real king. The people will do real work, planting, harvesting, and teaching the nations the real truth about God’s laws. And Israel will again be a real nation. A nation that’s not divide, but a nation that’s dedicated to walking in God’s ways and teaching the truth.
Though Yeshua is the one who is primarily responsible for establishing the Kingdom, we have a part as well. Let me explain . . .
Like I mentioned before, David was thirty years old when he began to reign as king over Judah and he ruled Judah for seven years 9. During those seven years, Judah and Israel were at war with each other, but sometime during those seven years, Abner turned his allegiance to David and made an attempt to unite Israel to Judah and to David, and at 37 years old, David became King of all Israel.
Yeshua was 30 years old when he began his ministry 10, but He was killed when He was 33 ½ years old. Before He died, Yeshua attested to the fact that He was indeed the “King of the Jews”. All four gospel writers record Him saying that. Yeshua didn’t say that He was King over all Israel, He said “King of the Jews” – and Yeshua knew the difference.
Though Yeshua died, He sent His disciples out with the message of reconciliation to the northern tribes, but the tribes – Christianity and Judaism – have continued to war with one another. But for the past 80 or so years, that message of reconciliation has begun to be spoken again.
Yeshua – when He returns – will still be 33 ½ years old, and if the pattern holds true, He will still have another 3 ½ years to bring Israel and Judah together so that when He is 37 years old, He – like David will be ruling over a united Israel. Could it be that during those 3 ½ years, we – like Abner – will be the ones who hang up our grievances with Judah and convince our Israelite brothers to turn away from the son of Saul and turn to the truly anointed King of Israel?
Yeshua is wanting his people to come together as one. We must become like Abner who saw the need for the two Hebrew peoples – Israel and Judah to become one. We must continue the job Yeshua started 2000 years ago and make every attempt to help bring about this unification. But before we do that, we – Israel – must first become a people ourselves – a people dedicated to the walk of God and dedicated to the mission of coming together.
That’s my hope and my mission . . . and I know we can do it. How do I know? Because it has happened before, and there is “no new thing under the sun”.
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