It shall be on that day that God comes against the soil of Israel – the word of the Lord Hashem/Elohim – My raging anger will flare up; for in My vengefulness, in the fire of My fury, I have spoken: [I swear] that on that day a great earthquake will take place upon the soil of Israel. They will quake before Me – the fish of the sea, the bird of the heavens, the beast of the field, every creeping thing that creeps on the ground and every human being that is on the face of the earth; the mountains will be broken apart and the cliffs will topple, and every wall will topple to the ground. I will summon the sword against him to all My mountains – the Word of Lord Hashem/Elohim – each man’s sword will be against his brother. I will punish him with pestilence and with blood; torrential rain and hailstones, fire and sulfur will I rain down upon him and upon his cohorts and upon the many peoples who are with him. I will be exalted and I will be sanctified, and I will make Myself known before the eyes of many nations; then they will know that I am Hashem.
I will make My holy Name known among My people Israel, and I will not desecrate My holy Name any longer; then the nations will know that I am Hashem, the Holy One in Israel.
–Ezekiel 38:18-23, 39:7 (The Kestenbaun Edition Tikkun)
This is part of the Haftarah reading for Sukkot Shabbat Chol Hamoed which was read yesterday in synagogues all over the world. Although I attend no synagogue or other congregation where the Torah is read on Shabbat, I privately read and study each week’s Torah portion, including the Prophets, Psalms, and if applicable, the writings of the Apostles.
Although I rarely (if ever) write or teach from the Haftarah portion, I was rather struck by the words of the prophet Ezekiel and by the choice of this passage for the Shabbat that occurs during Sukkot. The words of the prophet seem rather harsh for this season of joy, relating the events of the war of Gog and Magog at the end of time, according to the commentary I found in the Tikkun. And yet there is an important reminder to attend to in this lesson.
God speaks of making His holy Name known, both among the nations and in Israel, and that His holy Name will not be desecrated any longer. In fact, He says, through the prophet, two rather interesting things:
I will not desecrate My holy Name any longer.
Then the nations will know that I am Hashem, the Holy One in Israel.
I quoted from the passage above generally to illustrate that both in most of modern Israel and in most of the rest of the world, the holy Name of God is not recognized, acknowledged, esteemed, or given any honor at all. Most of humanity does not know that “God is Hashem” (Heb. literally, “the Name”). I even mentioned recently that among many religious people, the Name of God is desecrated and not sanctified due to their (our) rude and hostile attitudes when we’re communicating with each other online. Relative to the population of our planet, only a tiny fraction of humanity currently cares about God and His Name at all.
But what peculiar things did God say in the passage from Ezekiel? He said that He will no longer desecrate His own Name. Really? I thought that we human beings were doing the desecrating, not God. The commentary for Ezekiel 39:7 in the Stone Edition Tanakh says that God will no longer desecrate His own Name by “allowing” His “people to be subjugated and humiliated.” That is very interesting because it points to the thought that by subjugating and humiliating the Jewish people (and within the context of this verse, there can be no other people group being addressed), we among the nations (including Christians) are desecrating the holy Name of God.
That’s a rather interesting thought. It goes along with this:
I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.
–Genesis 12:3 (Stone Edition Chumash)
To bless Israel is to be blessed and to curse Israel is to be cursed. Furthermore, all of the families, the nations of the earth will bless themselves by you, by Israel.
This tells us something I’ve said on numerous occasions in other blog posts, that we Christians are only connected to God and we only receive the blessings of God through Israel, and specifically through Israel’s “firstborn son,” the Messiah, the King, Jesus Christ.
Every time we throw a Jew under a bus, so to speak, or insult, denigrate, or attack Israel in any way, we are causing God to curse us and canceling our ability to bless ourselves by Israel.
It has been said that during the festival of Sukkot, during the days of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, that the priests would sacrifice seventy bulls, representing the nations of the earth, in order to atone for our sins. It is also said that if the Romans, representing the nations of the earth, had realized the importance of the Temple in atoning for them, for us, they (we) would never have leveled the Temple (which to this day, has not been rebuilt) and sent the vast majority of the Jews out from their land for nearly 2,000 years.
That leads us to the second rather compelling thing God said through Ezekiel: “Then the nations will know that I am Hashem, the Holy One in Israel.”
Read that last part again. “…the Holy One in Israel,” not the Holy One of Israel. This paints a picture not of possession but of belonging and of unity. God is not just the God of the Jewish people, but He resides in Israel. He has belonging in Israel. He is united with Israel.
Particularly during this time of year, the statement of God in Israel is punctuated by the following:
It shall be that all who are left over from all the nations who had invaded Jerusalem will come up every year to worship the King Hashem, Master of Legions, and to celebrate the festival of Succos. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the land does not go up to Jerusalem to bow down before the King, Hashem, Master of Legions, there will be no rain upon them. But if it is the family of Egypt that does not go up and does not come [to Jerusalem], there will be no [water] for them; the same plague will come to pass with which Hashem will strike the nations that do not go up to celebrate the festival of Succos. This will be the punishment of the Egyptians and the punishment of all the nations that will not go up to celebrate the festival of Succos.
–Zechariah 14:16-19 (Stone Edition Tanakh)
In other words, after the end of all things, when God once more establishes His rule over all the world from Israel and in Holy Jerusalem, if the rest of us, all of us, want to go and properly worship the God of Israel, we will need to go and worship our God in Israel.
Really everyone, I’m not making this stuff up. It’s not some arcane and esoteric commentary from the medieval Jewish sages. It’s right there in your Bibles. Look it up if you don’t believe me. As Christians, we may not be commanded to celebrate Sukkot or any of the other festivals, either in our own lands or in Jerusalem, but the day is coming when we will be compelled to send representatives from every nation, people, and tongue, to go up to Jerusalem and pay homage to the King, and to celebrate the festival of booths with our brothers and our mentors, the Jewish people.
But after all, that’s rather appropriate I think, given what was said by James, the brother of the Master:
After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
“‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
I will rebuild its ruins,
and I will restore it,
that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’”
–Acts 15:13-18 (ESV)
James is quoting the prophet Amos (Amos 9:11-12) in regards to “David’s fallen booth,” which we might render as “sukkah,” when describing how the Gentiles will also come to worship the God of Israel. Boaz Michael, President and Founder of the educational ministry First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) referred specifically to this teaching in the Introduction of an early manuscript of his forthcoming book (of which I’ve read an advanced copy), Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile:
The Tent of David is a reference to the Davidic kingdom, which Amos envisions will encompass even the Gentiles, non-Jews who attach themselves to Israel and to Israel’s Messiah. James reckoned that the believing Gentiles of his day were the first fruits of the fulfillment of Amos’ prophecy.
The concept of the Tent of David, central as it is to the identity of the church and the Messianic Gentile, is seriously underappreciated. The prophets envisioned a kingdom that brought myriads of Gentiles to the knowledge of the Messiah and submission to his rule. Isaiah (2:2) prophesied that people from all nations—Gentiles—would flow to Jerusalem and worship there. Later in Isaiah (11:10–12), Messiah is said to inspire Gentiles to come to him as well as regather the scattered Jewish people. Isaiah 49:6; Micah 4:2; and Zechariah 8:22–23 contain similar prophecies.
The Lord’s brother saw the potential and the prophetic necessity for Yeshua-believing Gentiles and Jews to partner in making the prophets’ vision a reality. The Messiah had come and Gentiles were coming to him in droves. Paul’s ministry was devoted to making the “obedience of faith” a reality in the Gentile community, connecting his Gentile believers to Israel and teaching them how to properly submit to the rule of King Messiah. (Mark Nanos, The Mystery of Romans (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 166–238.)
Not only must we cease to desecrate God’s holy Name by desecrating His holy people, the Jewish people, we must bless them in order to receive the blessings that God has reserved for us. Part of those blessings is a commandment to worship God in Jerusalem once the Messianic reign of Jesus is fully established. Part of our role as recipients of those blessings is to support Israel so that David’s “fallen booth” can once more be built up. Boaz Michael says it this way:
Gentile believers had a unique and vital role, using their numbers and resources to empower and bless the Jewish community and spread the message of the kingdom in their own culture.
I believe that remains our role in the world and in relation to the Jewish community. We must bless them and build them up, support them in returning to Torah and in re-claiming the Messiah as their own. This is what it is to rebuild the fallen sukkah of David, so that one day, Jews, Christians, and all of the world will gather together in Jerusalem and worship under the shelter of God.