“Live in booths for 7 days.” Leviticus 23v42
Our church has a long history of camping. YP camps date back over 50 years, and we’ve been arranging informal camping weekends on and off for at least 30 years.
There have been many times when these little holidays have reminded me of the Feast of Tabernacles celebrated every year by the Israelites. For them it was to be a time of great joy as they remembered what God had done for them.
It was a Feast. The food they ate would remind them of the manna and quail that God provided for them while they journeyed for 40 years in the desert and it also reminded them of God’s ongoing provision of food. After the captivity in Babylon it seems that a ceremony of water-pouring was added to remind them of their dependence on God to send rain each year. This probably explains John 7v37…
On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”
…and we are reminded again that that we have been given fullness in Christ (Colossians 2v10). His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1v3).
They were to live in booths or tabernacles (or tents!) The children must have loved it – 8 days of celebration and 7 nights in a tent made of branches and palm leaves – fantastic! We can’t quite create the basic conditions enjoyed by the Israelites – even at YP camp. Some of us even take the microwave. But just for a few days, those that are able have the privilege of taking time out from our frantic lives to enjoy fellowship with each other and with God. Some have even said that it is a little foretaste of heaven. (But to be fair, others would take a lot of convincing – YP camp is still pretty basic!)
199 animals had to be sacrificed. It was also a solemn time. Amidst all of the celebration and joy that God commanded, they were also to remember why it was that they had to wander for 40 years in the desert. They could have entered the promised land in just a few months, if it had not been for their rebellious, sinful hearts. The wages of sin is death… (Romans 6v23a) and the daily slaughter of bulls and rams and goats would be a graphic reminder of the deadly effects of sin.
…but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6v23b). The Feast was to be a time of celebration and joy, and must have been a whole lot of fun. It was also to be a time of great seriousness. We must never forget the awfulness and deadliness of sin. But this is all the more reason for us to be joyful in the completed work of Jesus.