“Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.” Zechariah 14:16
|Dancing on the opening night|
Entering Jerusalem’s International Convention Center during the annual biblical festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), it is clear one is among the nations, people from every corner of the earth come up to the holy city for a single purpose: to take part in the fulfillment of that ancient prophecy.
Hosted by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, the Christian Feast of Tabernacles is a gala event. And with 2010 marking the 30th anniversary of the ICEJ (the ministry was actually born out of the inaugural Feast of Tabernacles celebration in 1980), this year’s event was even that much more spectacular.
“We know that God is present here because he has promised to meet his people here in Zion during the Feast of Tabernacles,” declared ICEJ Executive Director, the Rev. Malcome Hedding.
ICEJ International Director, Jürgen Bühler, added that what the 5,000 participants who recently filled the International Convention Center in Jerusalem to overflowing were doing “has been going on for 3000 years. For 3000 years the Jews have been obeying God’s command to come up to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot.”
|Blowing of the shofar|
The opening night started in dramatic fashion with an impressive shofar blast and the sound of various international voices reading from Isaiah chapter 62:
“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch… You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her a praise in the earth.”
Following was a brief but powerful musical and dance performance accompanied by the images of past and present events that have formed the modern State of Israel – with a poignant reminder that God has vowed to one day make Jerusalem a praise in all the earth. In today’s tense political atmosphere, where Jerusalem represents one of the thorniest issues standing in the way of peace, that may seem like a wishful thinking.
|Parade of the nations|
But the ICEJ is standing firm on that divine promise.
“Given that the issue of Jerusalem has again come to the fore, this year’s Feast is dedicated to reaffirming global Christian support for a United Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, a message that will be reinforced at several events during the festivities,” said ICEJ Media Director, David Parsons.
That message clearly touched Israelis, all the way up to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, in a pre-recorded video greeting, told the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles participants:
“Three decades ago when some countries decided to move their embassies out of Jerusalem, you decided to come to Jerusalem. At first you came by the dozens, then you came by the hundreds; now you come by the thousands.
“Year after year you come from over a hundred countries to march through the streets of Jerusalem; and in doing so; you remind the people of Israel that we are not alone. You remind us that there are people across the world who recognize that in returning to Zion, the Jewish people have returned home.
“So on behalf of my country, and on behalf of my people, I say thank you. Thank you for your moral clarity. Thank you for your solidarity. Thank you for supporting the one and only Jewish State. Thank you.”
Minister of Tourism, Stas Misezhnikov, addressed the gathering in person, adding to Netanyahu’s greeting by noting that Jerusalem is also “the spiritual capital for people of faith all over the world.”
“Welome to Israel, the land of God; welcome to Jerusalem, the city of King David, the eternal and undivided capital of Israel,” said Misezhnikov. “Welcome home!”
The welcome messages were followed by what is in some ways the most dramatic element of the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles – the Procession of the Nations.
During the procession, the flags of most of the 100 nations represented at the Feast were paraded across the stage. There was the expected representation from Christian-dominated Western countries. As has been the case for years already, the Brazilian contingent in the auditorium was huge, dwarfing even the American representation.
For first-timers at the Feast, there were also some surprises during the procession, as the flags of the Muslim nations of Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as just about every poor and impoverished African and southeast Asian country made their way across the stage.
The presence of these nations at the Feast made the event real, and put it beyond being merely a colorful and dynamic display of solidarity. It is clear that for a great many Christians around the world, the life-changing experience of being in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles in accordance with God’s Word is an opportunity worth stretching their meager means or risking further social rejection to be a part of.
But in the end, it was Israel, the host nation, that won the most thunderous applause, as the Feast participants loudly and passionately reaffirmed their love of and commitment to the Jewish state.
The ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles is a production with tremendous impact that is easily on par musically and in terms of presentation with anything Broadway has to offer. Only this is not entertainment. It is a sincere and powerful expression of faith in God and His Word by the hundreds who put on the Feast and the thousands who attend and participate in it.