One of the most interesting festivals celebrated in the Old Testament is the Feast of Tabernacles.  It’s also called the Feast of Booths.  There are several Old Testament references to the festival, and one main reference is found in Leviticus 23:34-43.  Here’s a snippet from that passage:

You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Lev 23.42-43; NASB)

Let’s be honest, that sounds like a strange command.  Basically, God wanted the people to spend a week in pup-tents out in their front yard.  But interestingly, along with this, came a great feast.  The festival came just after the fall harvest was collected, so they didn’t just pass the time in their little homemade huts, they actually had festive meals and an abundance of food for a week.  So, while living in fragile booths, which were the opposite of opulent, inside they had all the abundance they needed, and were humbled by what they had. 

The original purpose of this festival was to be a yearly reminder of the time of the Exodus.  In that time, the Israelite people had nothing to lean on but God.  So out in the bare wilderness, they experienced an abundance of God’s presence and care.  It might not have been an easy time, but God was certainly working amongst them.  So, in remembrance of this, every year they would celebrate the harvest in booths like the ones made during the Exodus, and they would remember how God was faithful and how abundance is measured by God’s love, not material things.  They would also be humbled by those who went before in faith who had nearly nothing of earthly abundance.  So, during this festival, not only would the people be reminded of God’s presence as abundant, but they would also be humbled by the provision of the season’s harvest, and reminded of those who had little or nothing. 

We need those reminders.  We need to be reminded of how in our part of the world, the majority of us have our basic needs met, and we have a fair amount of comforts.  We need to be reminded and humbled by that because it’s easy to forget.  And when we forget that, we become entitled and out of touch with God.

It’s easy to fall into a mindset, where our use of resources and possessions is like a kid with a water hose.  Near my house, the neighbor kid will literally spray the water hose for hours.  He’ll spray it up into the air, against the fence, through the trees, into the other yards.  I’ll go back into the house or run some errands and come back out and he’s still spraying water.  Now, please here me- I’m NOT judging the kid.  I totally get that he’s just a kid and hasn’t developed a world-view and logical reasoning and all that.  I’m surprised his parents haven’t wondered about the water bill, but the kid just couldn’t know any better.  But the problem is, while he doesn’t know any better, I do.  And the other day I accidentally left the sprinklers on way too long.  It’s easy to become naïve to wastefulness and numb to the abundance all around us.  We get stuck in our own little backyard worlds where the dire straits of people elsewhere on the planet are forgotten.  We live in a country where every block or so there’s an “all you can eat” restaurant.  He has an excuse because he’s just a kid.  We don’t have an excuse, yet in some ways we don’t act much differently.    

The Feast of Tabernacles is a brilliant concept.  Step outside of the day to day, and actually realize the abundance around you.  Humbly celebrate what you have, and be convicted to pray for, give towards, and be actively concerned for those who have much, much less.  And be reminded that God’s desire for his creation is for it to know him and praise him.  And how do we know that is God’s heart?  Well, he celebrated a Feast of Tabernacles of his own.  In the first chapter of the book of Colossians, Paul tells us that God’s fullness dwelt in Christ.[1]  And In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, the text tells us that Jesus came and “dwelt” among us[2]. So, God’s abundance came here amongst us in Jesus Christ.  The word “dwelt” in the Gospel of John verse literally means to put up a tent or to tabernacle.  So then, God put his abundance in a humble, human, fragile form in Jesus- God’s abundance in an earthly dwelling.  It’s a perfectly divine Feast of Tabernacles.

God showed to the world that he is concerned for his creation.  He is abundant with love and grace for his creation.  He is a God who desires his abundance to be seen in his people- not merely by material things and by ease and comforts but shown humbly and powerfully through compassion, grace, love, and truth- a holy abundance.    

[1] Colossians 1.19
[2] John 1.14

Guiding real people to embrace a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ