The end of Sukkot (the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles) is upon us. In a few hours Israeli families will be taking down their family sukkah (or makeshift booth), pitching out the palm branches and storing away the linens for another year. Many thousands of Christian pilgrims who flew to Jerusalem from all the nations of the planet and attended colorful conferences will be boarding their jet planes and heading home.
One of the much-loved passages which motivates many of these pilgrims is Zechariah 14:16-19. Verse 16 is the prime focus here: “Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, YHVH of armies, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths.” There are some interesting nuggets in these four verses which may be surprising to some of us. Let’s unpack them now.
Future friends are present enemies
The prophetic context for these wonderful international pilgrimages is actually grim. “For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered…” (Zechariah 14:2).
- In the midst of this intense ‘Lord of the Rings’ battle (described in greater detail in Zechariah 12:1-9), “all the nations of the earth will be gathered against” Jerusalem (12:3).
- God’s purpose for the battle is trumpeted: “In that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (12:9).
- All the nations of the world without exception will attack the Jewish state: “All the nations of the earth will be gathered against” Jerusalem (12:3b).
- God’s sovereign plan will be to break the power of the superpowers: “It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured” (12:3a).
- There will be a unique ‘twilight zone’ – a somber half-light/half-dusk – that will cover the whole earth during that intense battle: “In that day there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle. For it will be a unique day which is known to YHVH, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light” (14:6-7).
- YHVH will actively intervene on behalf of the Jewish people, strengthening them with a victorious warrior anointing for the battle: “In that day YHVH will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the Lord before them” (12:8).
- The God of Jacob will energize the destructive power of the armies of Israel, and will lead them to victory over their belligerent neighbors: “In that day I will make the clans of Judah like a firepot among pieces of wood and a flaming torch among sheaves, so they will consume on the right hand and on the left all the surrounding peoples” (12:6; see also the term “surrounding peoples” in Deuteronomy 25:19; Nehemiah 6:16; Ezekiel 16:57; Joel 3:11-12; Amos 3:11).
- YHVH will “save the tents of Judah, the house of David and … the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (12:7).
- The God of Israel will “pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn” (12:10). This will result in a national spiritual and physical cleansing for the Jewish people, including a repentant recognition and acceptance of Messiah Yeshua: “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity” (13:1).
- YHVH “will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle” (14:3).
- The God of Isaac will personally smite all the nations of the world who will militarily attack the Jewish state: “Now this will be the plague with which YHVH will strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongue will rot in their mouth. It will come about in that day that a great panic from YHVH will fall on them. And they will seize one another’s hand, and the hand of one will be lifted against the hand of another. Judah also will fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the surrounding nations will be gathered, gold and silver and garments in great abundance. So also like this plague will be the plague on the horse, the mule, the camel, the donkey and all the cattle that will be in those camps” (14:12-15).
- A brand new river will gush forth from underneath the Temple Mount, flowing down to the Dead Sea and making it come alive: “And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter” (14:8; see also Ezekiel 47:7-12).
- Messiah Yeshua will personally return as Warrior King, and will rule over the nations from Jerusalem the Jewish world capital: “Then YHVH will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle.In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east… And YHVH will be king over all the earth; in that day YHVH will be the only one, and His name the only one” (14:3-4, 9).
Enemies are crushingly defeated
Zechariah’s prophesy foresees a day when the combined armies of the Arab world will be overwhelmingly defeated. As well, all the armies of the nations will meet the same fate. Those who are not entirely destroyed will submit to Messiah’s Yeshua’s rule, as both Isaiah and Paul prophesy:
- “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself – the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back – that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of Me, ‘Only in YHVH are righteousness and strength.’ Men will come to Him and all who were angry at Him will be put to shame. In YHVH all the offspring of Israel will be justified and will glory” (Isaiah 45:22-25).
- “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Yeshua every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Messiah Yeshua is YHVH (Lord), to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
When Messiah Yeshua sits on David’s throne (see 2 Samuel 3:10; 1 Kings 9:5; Psalm 122:5; Isaiah 9:7; Jeremiah 3:17; 33:17-21; Luke 1:32; Matthew 19:28; Revelation 22:16), the nations will come up to Jerusalem once a year to celebrate the third pilgrim feast (see Exodus 23:17; Ezekiel 44:24; 46:9).
- This is the context of Zechariah’s Tabernacles prophecy: “Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, YHVH of armies, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths” (Zechariah 14:16).
How do you solve a problem like ‘Mizraim’?
The Hebrew word for Egypt in the Bible is Mizraim (pronounced Mitz-rah-yim). Egypt was the country chosen by God within which Israel would take shelter in Joseph’s day. It was there in the Land of Ham (see Psalm 105:23, 27) that the Jewish people increased from 70 (Genesis 46:27; Deuteronomy 10:22) to over three million (based on Numbers 2:32-33).
Egypt was the first nation which tried to commit genocide against the Jewish people (Exodus 1:22). It is described in the Bible as “the House of slavery” (Exodus 13:3) and was known for harsh and abusive treatment of Israel (Deuteronomy 26:6). It would be the country to which Israel would again be exiled in slavery (Deuteronomy 28:68), and event amazingly fulfilled in 70 A.D. It was a country steeped in idolatry, and the Ten Plagues were targeted by YHVH as a divine take-down of different Egyptian demonic powers (Exodus 12:12). It was known as a land of “harmful diseases” (Deuteronomy 7:15; 28:27). It was listed as a country of abominations along with the ten other nations of Genesis 15:19-21 (Ezra 9:1).
Egypt was also known as a country with a high state of wisdom and scientific achievement (1 Kings 4:30).
Nowhere in the Bible does the God of Israel classify Egypt as a Semitic country or as an Abrahamic country. Instead, it is a country which considered the Jewish people as aliens (Deuteronomy 23:7). Egypt’s forefather was not Shem but Ham (Genesis 10:6). The context for the “Isaiah 19 Highway” is not three Abrahamic nations or three Semitic nations. The only Abrahamic nation in Isaiah 19:24-25 is Israel.
Future Middle Eastern war
Isaiah prophesies of future battles between Egypt and the Jewish state. “The land of Judah will become a terror to Egypt. Everyone to whom it is mentioned will be in dread of it, because of the purpose of YHVH or armies which He is purposing against them” (Isaiah 19:17). Egypt will commemorate their own defeat and will even have five cities where Hebrew will be spoken. One of these cities will commemorate these destructive battles. “In that day five cities in the land of Egypt will be speaking the language of Canaan and swearing allegiance to YHVH of armies.” One will be called ‘the City of Destruction’” (Isaiah 19:18).
In light of this continuing enmity in many Egyptian hearts toward the Jewish people, Zechariah points out how this will play itself out even in the Days of Messiah.
- “Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, YHVH of armies, and to celebrate the Feast of Sukkot. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, YHVH of armies, there will be no rain on them. If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them. It will be the plague with which YHVH smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Sukkot. This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Sukkot” (Zechariah 14:16-19).
From this passage it is instructive that Egypt is used as an example of a recalcitrant nation, one who has not exactly repented of its anti-Jewish heart. “This will be the punishment of Egypt” is the prophetic declaration, and it leaves room for other specific but unnamed nations in that future roster.
- The solution to Egypt’s anti-Jewish heart comes through a combination of military defeat/destruction and a heart-felt repentance toward YHVH the God of the Hebrews. This principle can be applied to all nations in the world, especially to those in the Middle East. It should guide us as we intercede for the Jewish people and their surrounding neighbors.
- Today and in the immediate future, the nations are turning against Israel. We are not yet at the point where the nations have repented and have embraced God’s heart for Israel and His restoration of the Jewish people
Balancing our Tabernacles vision
As all followers of Messiah Yeshua rejoice in the coming fulfilment of prophecy – especially as it applies to Sukkot/Tabernacles – we also accept the sobering context and process which will lead to that fulfilment. Not a Middle-East peace process, but a Middle-East war process. Not a ‘World Union’ or ‘United International States.’ Not a ‘Two State solution’ or ‘Oslo solution’ or ‘UN solution.’ Not a jihadi solution or a Shi’ite Crescent solution. Only through the decisive and divine defeat of Israel’s enemies, and the destruction of every weapon raised up against us will there be peace. It is within this prophetic context that the mighty Ezekiel 37 army (Ezekiel 37:9-11) will fulfil its long awaited calling.
The spiritual zenith of this glorious process will be when Israel opens her arms to Messiah Yeshua our Deliverer, Rescuer and Atonement.
How should we then pray?
- Pray for the Jewish people to receive and embrace Messiah Yeshua as our Atonement and Protector
- Pray for the people of Egypt to call upon the God of Israel and repent for their centuries-long hatred of Israel
- Pray for the leaders of your country – that they would receive a revelation of these realities and respond in obedience
- Pray for believers everywhere to receive biblical and Spirit-breathed revelation about these matters
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s army speedily and in our day
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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