Posted by: Heather | September 24, 2010

The Sukkah: God’s Dwelling Place

 

Leviticus 23:39-44 (NIV) – ‘So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the Lord for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day is a day of rest.  40  On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.  41  Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year.  This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month.  42  Live in booths for seven days:  All native-born Israelites are to live in booths  43  so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt.  I am the Lord your God.’  44  So Moses announced to the Israelites the appointed feasts of the Lord.

The feast of Tabernacles is the most joyous festival celebrated by God’s people.  (You may read the introduction to this series here.)  It commemorates the days of God’s protection and provision as the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years immediately after their exodus from Egypt.  During these years, they lived in tents (called ‘booths’ in scripture).  When the people came into their promised land, they were then able to live in permanent homes, leaving behind the temporary homes they had lived in for so long.

Every year, as a remembrance of this time, each family builds what is called a ‘sukkah’ (soo’-kuh), which is a temporary dwelling in which they live (as much as possible) for 7 days.  It can be as large or as small as the family chooses to build.  It should traditionally have at least 3 walls built with a temporary frame.  The frame can be wood, latticework, or anything that can make a ‘hut’ that will stand for 7 days.  It is meant to be open to the outside.  The roof is not solid.  It can be a frame or open at the top.  Branches are then laid over the top of the sukkah as a kind of roof.  The branches provide shade, but should not cover the entire top.  Starry skies should be visible when inside the sukkah. Fruits of the harvest would then be used to decorate the outside of the booth, reminding us of the blessings of God and the provision of the harvest.

During the course of the festival outside of the times of the corporate celebrations, they spend as much time in the sukkah as possible…eating meals, visiting one another, and studying the lives of important biblical figures.  They are able to go inside their permanent home if it rains.  Basically, the idea is to spend time and enjoy those that you love while celebrating God’s blessings in your life.

One of the primary vehicles parents use to teach their children about the great acts of God is through the feasts.  They are such a vivid picture of the wonderful works of God, they lend themselves to family bonding and intimacy.  When Jews teach their children about these feasts, they teach them as if they themselves experienced the original event.  As I began to think about this, I started visualizing the lessons that could easily take place under the cover of the family sukkah:

1 – What it must have been like to see the visible presence of God everywhere they went.  Think about it…you can see outside your family sukkah, and during the time of the wilderness period, all of those tents were encamped around the tabernacle, where the visible presence of God was always in view.  His presence is always with us if we’ll just take the time to look.  Not only that, when He comes again to ‘tabernacle’ with us during the millennial reign, we will again be in His constant, visible presence.

2 – Just like the sukkah, greenery and fruit, our lives are temporary, fragile, and have a time limit.  We live in just a temporary body, but one day we will be with Jesus in our permanent promised home.

3 – Our security lies in God, not in material things.  By viewing the night sky and the sun in the daylight hours through the open roof, we’re reminded our focus is on heaven, and not on the things of this earth.

4 – Life is a journey.  It’s about who we can touch and how we can help others and serve God while we’re here.  We’re constantly traveling…just a ‘pilgrim passing through’ as the old saying goes.  The idea of their constant traveling from place to place in the wilderness is an overwhelming one.  This was not a family camping trip that lasted a week.  Scholars estimate anywhere between 2 and 5 million people contained in that group of travelers!  It was no small task to pack everything up, move and set up camp again.  This world is not our home!  We constantly move from place to place, and situation to situation, learning new lessons along the way that will be a road map for others to follow.

Just as this feast is in remembrance of the wilderness journey, it is also a rehearsal for the time Jesus comes back to a new earth to live with His people.  But, in the meantime, God has provided Himself with His own sukkah…us!  We are the dwelling place of the most High!  Even in our changing circumstances, He is never changing, and our security is in Him.  We think about seeing the light of day and the stars coming into the sukkah, but there is also light going out from inside for others to see.  As God lights our way, His light shines forth in us as we lead others to become a new ‘sukkah’ for Him to dwell in.

Next time, we’ll talk about another important aspect in the celebration of this feast and what it means to us as children of God.  I hope you have a wonderfully blessed day!

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Responses

  1. Great stuff, Heather! Thanks for sharing. The Feast of Tabernacles is such a beautiful time on the Jewish calendar, and… also very significant. According to historians (Josephus) as well as the information in Matthew and Luke, and astrology, we are told that the birth of Jesus was most likely sometime between August 27 and Sept. 9 of 5BC (shortly before the death of Herod the Great). In other words during the Feast of Tabernacles. So appropriate given that the word “tabernacle” litererally means “to pitch your tent.” Christ came the first time and “pitched His tent” amongst men, and will return the second time (many scholars believe) during the Feast of Trumpets. Pretty exciting study! Thanks so much!
    Jeanette

    • Yes Jeanette, it is very exciting! My family has been learning about the feasts for a few years now, and is very excited to be learning more and more. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading, and for your comment!

      • You are so welcome. Bless you for all you do! I hope to see you again soon in October at the bible study!

  2. Heather, thanks for making me hunger and thirst to celebrate the feasts of the Lord. My sister, Darlene and her husband has built a sukkah for almost twenty years and they practically live in it. I wanted to celebrate this year by building a sukkah, but did not do it, (my loss). God bless you for your words or rather for His Word.

    • I know exactly what you mean Judy! It seems like things always get by me, and we haven’t done it. We didn’t build a sukkah this year either. But, Lord willing, I really want to next year. At least we’re planning to go to the celebration in the mountains since we have someone to come and take care of Margaret for us! 🙂 The more I study, the more I want to jump right in and do it all!

  3. Good morning Heather,

    Thank you for writing these words. They are always filling, but today, they have that warm, fuzzy, full feeling from God.

    May you be blessed today,

    • You’re welcome Glenda…thanks so much for reading!


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