Tents of Meeting

This week we’re celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (in Hebrew, “Sukkot”).   A “Sukkah” (Sukkot is plural) is a temporary dwelling constructed to remind of  the 40 years God’s people spent living in the wilderness, sleeping in tents.  My kids call this holiday the Feast of Tents.

Aside from remembering their time in the wilderness, why do we recreate this ancient festival every year?

  • To remind us of what’s temporary, and what’s eternal.
  • To remind us of how God came in the flesh, and “pitched his tent”  on earth.
  • To stir up our desire for the day when his kingdom comes fully  and we celebrate this feast with him.

The Bible calls Sukkot the most joyous holiday season of the year.   In ancient times it was celebrated with feasting, singing, dancing, acrobats, juggling, and of course, camping out in the Sukkah.   We celebrated in a slightly more subdued way, but we did put up 3 different Sukkot.

The first was a group effort.  Some friends hosted a feast for 25, and we needed a big Sukkah to accommodate that many.  We made a rectangular frame entirely out of branches lashed with twine, covered it with smaller branches, and decorated it with colorful foliage and garden produce.  It took a long time to raise the frame, and longer to stabilize it.  Then we ate and drank and talked and sang and basked in the perfect weather.  We watched the full moon rise and make its way across the sky.

The second Sukkah was just for our family.  We built it a secluded spot in the country.  We made a cone shaped structure of branches and sticks that was big enough for all of us to sit on the ground inside.  We ate a few meals,  had a few campfires, and enjoyed stargazing through the gaps in the branches one mild, still evening.

The third Sukkah was a nylon tent we put up in our backyard.  We couldn’t make it to our secluded retreat every day this week, so we needed a more accessible option.  It wasn’t beautiful, and we couldn’t see the stars through the roof, but we did camp out there.

As the week went on, the weather turned cold and the sky became gloomy.  With it, my mood darkened.  I wanted just a few more glorious days of sunshine to celebrate by.  Was that too much to ask?

Maybe.  I wanted to experience God on my terms.  I realized that I could easily worship the symbolism, or the beauty of creation, or the tradition, and still miss the point.

The biblical Tabernacle was also called the “tent of meeting”, the place where God met with people.  God met me in each one of these structures this week.  But none of them was perfect, and they’re all temporary.  No matter where you live, it’s a temporary dwelling.  Even your body is a tent, a Sukkah that will one day be  be cast aside.   We can get so attached to a structure, a tradition, a way of experiencing God, that we miss out on him.

How have you experienced God most powerfully?  What assumptions have you set aside so you can meet with him?

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6 comments

  1. Leanne Richards-Williams

    I worship on the Sabbath and can recall numerous times I felt disconnected from God while sitting in the pew of my traditional church. And realized that the programs have led us to “easily worship the symbolism…the beauty of creation,,,and the tradition” as we “still miss the point” of what it means to truly take a time out with God. In 2012, I decided to break out of this routine and, decided that I would spend 40 days in private devotion with the Lord (so no public devotion: no temple attendance or family devotion!). This was a follow up to what God had done in my life in 2011 when I took a 40-days time out with Him and saw Him help me make life changing decisions in my life. I knew He wouldn’t fail me this time either.

    I felt so urged to do this because I was only displaying a from of worship and denying the power of God in my life. So I spent those 40 days trying to explain to my family and friends my earnest need to connect with God –and He did! I was inspired with so many things to pray about consistently and I communed with Him in a real and better way. It also gave me the courage to take on challenges that I would otherwise think God would not want for me. I now realized how important it was for Christ to go through His wilderness experience and how beneficial it is for me to do so too.

    That was my second wilderness experience, and its nearing the time for me to go on the third one. I wonder what great spiritual developments and revelations are in store for me?!

    Thanks, as always for your timely sharing!

    May you reap many spiritual treasures this Feast of Tents/Tabernacles/Sukkot

    🙂

  2. Stephanie Jans

    It’s certainly not always feasible to take out 40 days to meet in solitude. I can see where it’s a good thing at times to do. Not an easy venture for me as I get somewhat bored and distracted. I have been somewhat “forced” to seclude myself due to my journey with CFS but even in the times when I am alone at home the Lord draws near and can speak clearly to my heart and mind. I don’t think God “forces” anyone to do anything. I am not saying that. It’s just a present state of “being” that can either lend itself to isolation from God or relentless leaning into Him. I wish I could say my ‘quiet times’ are always full of an open and free dialogue. I am thankful for the snippets of time I get where every part of my being is in harmony with Gods rythyms of life. Back to the question…. I experience God most powerfully through photography. It is a wonderful gift from God that I can manage to find the mental and physical stamina to accomplish what I do. Somehow “the same old same old” words I read come alive when there is a photo to go with it. Assumptions??? I guess a big one is HOW I experience the Lord. HOW I experience His unconditional love and support. I have learned to “give up” expectations of others and mostly other Christians. I don’t know why or how this is but it seems it’s easy to have a different set up standards for other Christians. God has met me lately MORE through folks I have no idea of where they are at spiritually. One friend on-line said to me…. ” I HAVE SO MUCH HOPE for you!!!!!! This meant SO much to me. Just a simple phrase. Why do Christians think that ministering to someone has to involve this lengthy prayer or intense counseling session. ……………. Looking for someone else I can say to….. them “I HAVE SO MUCH HOPE for you.” Our circumstances can be tough… we all need to feel the support and strength from another as they hold onto HOPE for us!! Thanks for you post Hannah!! Great idea. I would have loved to join the gang on that night under the Moon. 🙂

  3. Leanne Richards-Williams

    Hi Stephanie Janns. I feel the need to share a bit further lest someone tries what I did without knowing the details.

    So I had a devotional book: 40 Days of Prayer and Devotions to Prepare for the Second Coming by Dennis Smith as my guide. Then, I would be absent from family worship and weekly church attendance for the period (I was at a place where I did not have any devotional at all and I was so fatigued with the routine church service). I was hungry…starving to talk to God and know what it means to be truly loved by Him. Out of that, I became braver about who I am and how God has made me unique with special gifts to offer others in this life.

    It is because of that result, what it has done for me personally and how God has been calling me to be more bold that has led me to make it a periodical effort. It is a special time to retreat with Him alone to face the coming months…years perhaps….in accomplishing tasks for His glory. I want to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ as authentically and I want to be thoroughly prepared.

    In honesty.

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