Tabernacles (Sukkot in Hebrew) begins exactly six months after the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Unleavened Bread commemorates the day that Israel began her journey from Egypt to the Promised Land.  What was meant to take less than a month, took forty years because of the people’s disobedience. The Feast of Tabernacles remembers that forty year journey, more specifically God’s faithful presence through it all. Take a moment to consider the challenges of the journey. The desert has limited vegetation.  Its landscape is sand, and sand is small particles of rock.  There is nothing soft about rocks or sand.  They walked on sand. They sat down to eat on sand. They slept on sand.  They made and had babies on sand. The itinerary was a mystery, designed in the heart of God.  “Are we there yet?” must have been a continuous question not only by the children, but also the adults. Every day, was an adventure.  Even where they would sleep at night was unknown.  Their steps were led by the hand of God as they followed His cloud:

At the command of the LORD the children of Israel would journey, and at the command of the LORD they would camp; as long as the cloud stayed above the tabernacle they remained encamped. Even when the cloud continued long, many days above the tabernacle, the children of Israel kept the charge of the LORD and did not journey.  So it was, when the cloud was above the tabernacle a few days: according to the command of the LORD they would remain encamped, and according to the command of the LORD they would journey.  So it was, when the cloud remained only from evening until morning: when the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they would journey; whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud was taken up, they would journey.  Whether it was two days, a month, or a year that the cloud remained above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would remain encamped and not journey; but when it was taken up, they would journey. (Numbers 9:18-22)

Did you hear that? Whether it was two days or a month or a year, their movements were ordained by God.  That means that they might stop, unpack, set up camp and then do the reverse within 48 hours! When was the last time you moved?  How long did it take you to pack, move and then settle into your new home?  I am sure it took longer than 48 hours. The there was the issue of food.  Yes there were flocks of sheep, cows, bulls and goats.  But the animals were for sacrifices to God.  The people’s diet was manna.  Manna is literally translated as “What is it?” After a while, the people grew tired of manna and craved meat.  God obliged by sending quail.  And more quail. And still more quail.

Now a wind went out from the LORD, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground.  And the people stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers); and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp.  But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was aroused against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very great plague. (Numbers 11:31-33)

[Ed: Do not satisfy the flesh and starve the spirit.] What about water? After all, they were in a desert.  No problem for the One who created water, He simply brought water forth from a rock! Clothes?  Shoes?  No problem:

[Moses said} And I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet. (Dt 29:5)

Yes the journey was fraught with challenges.  But God’s presence and purpose never failed them:

  • These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.  Deut 2:7
  • To you (Israel) it was shown that you might know that the Lord Himself is God; there is none other besides Him. (Deut 4:35)
  • And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.  So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.  You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you – to do you good in the end— (Deut 8:2-5, 16)

To do us good in the end. Today we have trouble with our vision.  Sometimes we’re so focused on where we’ve been that we get stuck in the past.  Other times we’re so focused on the goal that we lose sight of what’s happening in the present. Let us not be so consumed with either the past or the future that we miss God’s hand during the journey of life. There will be many challenges…but every challenge is for a purpose, to prepare us for the future. The good news is that we are never alone on our journey.  God’s love, His provision and His protection surround us.  The Psalmist reminds us that there is no place that we can run from His presence. So if it feels that you are sleeping on rocks, eating a never ending diet of manna and going around in circles, turn your eyes to Jesus, the Good Shepherd who leads us and has promised to never leave or forsake us.  He has promised:

  • That goodness and mercy will chase after us ALL the days of our lives
  • To lead us by still water and restore our souls
  • To bind up the broken hearted
  • To set the prisoner free
  • To transform us into His image
  • To prepare a place for us that we might spend eternity with Him
  • Heal all our dis-eases and comfort us with His peace and joy

The list is endless.  We have much to celebrate and rejoice as we continue our journey of life. [Excerpted from Celebrate Jesus! The Christian Perspective of the Biblical Feasts]

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