Do you know of a holiday that celebrated the Fall harvest and took time to thank God for providing for the people as they settled in a new land? This holiday is introduced in Leviticus 23:39-44. It was not celebrated on the third Thursday of November but on the 15th day of the 7th month (approx. late September). It was not celebrated by Pilgrims arriving in the New World, but by the Jews arriving in the Promised Land. This Holiday is called Succoth. We refer to it as the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths.
Was the similarity between Succoth and Thanksgiving simply a co-incidence? Probably not. It is widely known that the Puritans were great scholars of the Old Testament, that their lives were deeply immersed in the overarching story of the Scriptures, and that they identified strongly with Israel’s trek to the Promised Land. So it is not only possible but even probable that they would use Sukkot as a model for their Thanksgiving celebration.
Both Thanksgiving and Sukkot are reminders that we need to rely upon God to care for every need in our earthly sojourn. They stop us and help us to see and commemorate the fact that God has been with us. Looking at Thanksgiving through the lens of Sukkot calls us to look further ahead as well. As the Feast of Tabernacles, it looks forward to the day when the “Tabernacle of God is with humanity” (see Zechariah 14:16 and Revelation 21:3). In the coming day, not only will God be with us, but we will be with Him. Then our thanks, our worship, and our praise will be even stronger and sweeter.