This Monday evening marks the beginning of the Jewish festival, the Feast of Tabernacles. The Hebrew name is Sukkot or booths.
Lasting a full week, this is when Jewish people all around the world build little booths outside their houses. They are called by God to live in these temporary shelters for one week in order to remember the faithfulness of God in leading Israel through the wilderness. Leviticus 23:42–43 says, “You must live in temporary shelters for seven days; every native citizen in Israel must live in temporary shelters, so that your future generations may know that I made the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”
Today Jewish people don’t actually live in their little booths, but they do eat in them. I will never forget being invited by an Orthodox Jewish family to eat a Sukkot dinner in their little tent off the side of their house in Brooklyn, New York. It was close quarters, but tons of fun!
God wanted the Israelites to get back in those little booths so they could show future generations how His presence led them through the wilderness. How His presence provided for them and clothed them.
God’s real and present reality in our lives should change the way we think about everything.
The presence of God was a real and present reality in Israel’s life when they left Egypt. He wasn’t a distant ethereal divinity who only lived in the heavens; God was Israel’s true source of life in the wilderness. The Lord walked with Israel through the desert. He saved them from their enemies, fed them when they were hungry, housed them in the wilderness, and quenched their thirst when they were thirsty. The Feast of Tabernacles was designed to be a time to remind Israel to focus on this truth: No matter where they are, God’s presence is a real and present reality.
The presence of God today is a real and present reality in the lives those who believe in Jesus, too! In fact, it’s even more real than the experience the Israelites had. For an Israelite, God lived externally in a cloud by day and fire by night or sometimes in the Tabernacle or Temple; but for a Christian, the presence of God dwells within! You are like a little tabernacle for God to dwell in. And while God is dwelling in us, He should be changing things around in our hearts, rearranging the spiritual layout of our hearts.
God’s real and present reality in our lives should change the way we think about everything. It should alter the relationships we have with others and it should provide fruit in us that is consistent with His goodness and character.
But do you know what is really amazing? The Feast of Tabernacles is also a harvest time in the Jewish calendar. It’s not just any harvest, it’s the harvest everyone gets excited about: the best harvest. All the other harvests center around wheat or barley for the bread that sustains life. But the harvest during the Feast of Tabernacles is when grapes for wine and eating are picked. It’s the time olives, pomegranates, and figs are harvested. It’s the sweet time of the year. That’s why this time of the year is also called the Feast of the Ingathering. God’s real and present reality provided those sweet fruits during harvest for the Israelites to enjoy all throughout the year.
My prayer during the Feast of Tabernacles is that we as the church would realize the real and present reality of God’s presence in our lives. When we get our minds and hearts wrapped around that truth, God’s presence will produce a sweet harvest of the best of His character in our lives and that people will see God dwelling in us!