Sukkot — the Jewish Festival of Booths

picture by Kim Marsch

The exodus from Egypt was critical to the identity of the Israelites, but their lack of faith and obedience caused God to punish them and keep them from entering the promised land of Canaan for forty years.  During those years, God led them, protected them, and fed them as they traveled through the wilderness.  Knowing the importance of remembrance and sacrifice, God told Moses to give the people instructions about the Feast of Booths so that they would remember their years of wandering and humble living in the desert.  God’s instructions given through Moses are found in Leviticus 23:33-43.

Can you imagine what it would be like if you built a small hut for your family to live in for the next seven days?  Comforts and conveniences would surely be sacrificed.  Life would be disrupted, and most of us do not like to be inconvenienced by uncomfortable disruptions.  Apparently the Israelites did not want to be inconvenienced, either, because they ignored this festival for generations, according to Nehemiah 8:14-18.

It is remarkable that hundreds and hundreds of years passed without remembering and celebrating the Feast of Booths.  This was supposed to be a great time of rejoicing for everyone in the community.  The festival occurred at the end of the autumn harvest, and people would celebrate the feast with their families, servants, priests, and those who experienced discomfort more than just seven days a year—the sojourners, the orphans, and the widows.

So why did they fail for generations to celebrate this feast?  I don’t know.  Why do any of us fail to be the people God wants us to be and do the things God teaches us to do?  We all have to examine ourselves to see the specific sins that keep us from celebrating the blessings of God.

It is true that we do not have to live in handmade huts for a week each year, but maybe it would not be such a bad idea if we tried it.  A week without TV?  A week without air-conditioning?  A week without soft beds and all sorts of conveniences?  I know this does not paint a picture of celebration for most of us, and maybe that is part of the problem.  The things we celebrate and rely on are things that only bring temporary comfort and joy.  Through the festival of Sukkot, God reminds His people of a time when He provided them with food and drink and shelter.  Whether we recognize it or not, God still provides all these things and more.

“On the last day of the feast [of Booths], the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'”” (John 7:37-38, ESV).

Let the festival begin,

Patrick Barber


About PatrickBarber

Preaching Minister East Point Church of Christ Wichita, Kansas
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