“Why are you sleeping outside?” one of Kailtyn’s friend asked on Wednesday night. When I explained it to her she just looked at me sort of weird. Like I was the weird one, not her.
Maybe sleeping outside in October isn’t the norm in these parts, though it has been unseasonably warm this week.
I explained that we are celebrating the Sukkot-an Old Testament festival also known as Feast of the Tabernacles, The Festival of Ingathering or the Feast of Booths.
Yes, it’s typically a Jewish Festival, but as a Christian Family who 1) believes in the importance of celebrations, 2) believes the bible is a living, breathing directive for life, and 3) believes in faith tradition-we embrace celebrating biblical feasts and festivals that are part of our faith heritage.
But we get that sleeping on our deck in October might look weird.
From Jews For Jesus: (The Sukkot)…is a joyous harvest festival and a reminder of how God sustained the children of Israel during their wilderness wanderings. The people were to dwell in temporary booths, and to rejoice over God’s provision as well as his presence.
Many years ago I was wandering through a bookstore and came across this book: Celebrating Biblical Feasts in Your Home or Church by Martha Zimmerman. It was a steal of a price so I picked it up, already curious about the subject and already passionate about the importance of eating meals together.
I have since read the book from cover to cover and back again and again hundreds of times. The book takes readers on a journey through the calendar year and explains why and how Christians can and should celebrate these Biblical Feasts. It includes menu and activity ideas, and is loaded with scripture and prayer. It explains how we celebrate a Jewish festival and make Christ the center of them.
The Sukkot is found in both Old Testament and New Testament scriptures.
An Old Testament Directive-Leviticus 23:33-44 (NKJV)
The Feast of Tabernacles
33 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 34 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord. 35 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. 36 Forseven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.
37 ‘These are the feasts of the Lord which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the Lord, a burnt offering and a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, everything on its day— 38 besides the Sabbaths of the Lord, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the Lord.
39 ‘Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord forseven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. 40 And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before theLord your God for seven days. 41 You shall keep it as a feast to the Lordfor seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: Iam the Lord your God.’”
44 So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord.
We catch a glimpse of Jesus celebrating this festival in John Chapter 7. (NIV)
Jesus Goes to the Festival of Tabernacles
7 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want[a] to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
6 Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am not[b] going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.
10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”
12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”
Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.
Jesus Teaches at the Festival
14 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”
16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find outwhether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”
20 “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?”
21 Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. 22 Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. 23 Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”
How we celebrate:
We build a Sukkah (a temporary home, a tent or booth) in our back yard, some years it has been on our deck, other years it has been on the ground. Since Sukkot is a Harvest Festival decorations include pumpkins, apples, corn stalks, flowers, etc. When the girls were little they really did it up with drawings and LOTS of decorations. As they’ve gotten older their decorating has been handed off to Dad and Mom. (Confessionally…this year Mom was having breakfast with a friend and Dad built the Sukkah himself-decorations included. ) We include a short table (old coffee table) for eating meals and pile up sleeping bags and blankets for nighttime.
The first night of the Sukkot includes a blessing of the “tent”, along with many scripture readings before a meal is eaten. During the rest of the week we eat meals in our “tent”, the girls might do some school work, we read, we relax and we sleep. Not every night, but a few nights we’ll sleep outside.
Celebrating the Sukkot offers us a few things: a week’s worth of intentional scripture reading as a family, intentional blessing over our “tent” and our children, an intentional time of rest, and a renewed sense that this world as we know it isn’t our final home, that Jesus is preparing a place for us for eternity, it reminds us that HE is the bread of life, the living water that quenches thirst, that HE is our Provider and our Dwelling Place. This festival reminds us that we while the Egyptians were dessert dwellers God sustained them and He sustains us too. Spending a week considering all of these things, no dwelling on all of these things, is a spiritual renewal for me. It reminds me to dwell with God, that He desires to dwell with us. It reminds me to rest in Him and to once again, be reminded that He takes care of me and my family.
Celebrating the Sukkot is an intentional time out in an otherwise over paced world. I wonder if maybe that was part of God’s design when He nudged us to live in tents for seven days.
I/we encourage you to pick up a copy of Celebrating Biblical Feasts in Your Home or Church and begin reading…letting the Holy Spirit lead you, inspire you and inform you. If not the book, spend some time online researching the topic. Ultimately we want you to know the joy of celebrating this Biblical Feast.
What is Sukkot?
Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles is a week-long fall festival commemorating the 40-year journey of the Israelites in the wilderness. It is one of the three great pilgrimage feasts recorded in the Bible when all Jewish males were required to appear before the Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem. The word Sukkotmeans “booths.” Throughout the holiday, Jews continue to observe this time by building and dwelling in temporary shelters, just like the Hebrew people did while wandering in the desert. This joyous celebration is a reminder of God’s protection, provision, and faithfulness http://christianity.about.com/od/biblefeastsandholidays/p/feastofbooths.htm
Sukkot is an seven-day harvest holiday that arrives during the Hebrew month of Tishrei. It starts four days after Yom Kippur and is followed by Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. Sukkot is also known as the Festival of Booths and the Feast of Tabernacles.
The Origin of Sukkot
Sukkot hearkens back to times in ancient Israel when Jews would build huts near the edges of their fields during the harvest season. One of these dwellings was called a “sukkah” and “sukkot” is the plural form of this Hebrew word. These dwellings not only provided shade but allowed the workers to maximize the amount of time they spent in the fields, harvesting their food more quickly as a result.
Sukkot is also related to the way the Jewish people lived while wandering in the desert for 40 years (Leviticus 23:42-43). As they moved from one place to another they built tents or booths, called sukkot, that gave them temporary shelter in the desert.
Hence, the sukkot (booths) that Jews build during the holiday of Sukkot are reminders both of Israel’s agricultural history and of the Israelite exodus from Egypt.- http://judaism.about.com/od/holidays/a/whatissukkot.htm
Jesus and Sukkot:
During Sukkot, two important ceremonies took place. The Hebrew people carried torches around the temple, illuminating bright candelabrum along the walls of the temple to demonstrate that the Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles. Also, the priest would draw water from the pool of Siloam and carry it to the temple where it was poured into a silver basin beside the altar. The priest would call upon the Lord to provide heavenly water in the form of rain for their supply. During this ceremony the people looked forward to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Some records reference the day spoken of by the prophet Joel.
In the New Testament, Jesus attended the Feast of Tabernacles and spoke these amazing words on the last and greatest day of the Feast: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38 NIV) The next morning, while the torches were still burning Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV) http://christianity.about.com/od/biblefeastsandholidays/p/feastofbooths.htm