39 “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. 40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. 41 You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month.42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
Leviticus is a book that deals with a lot of the worship and ceremony laws of God’s people, and here in chapter 23 are the details of a particular festival, known as the Festival of Booths or Tabernacles (or Sukkot). I loved reading this one, and the timing in which it came up. Last weekend I was at a Pastoral Leadership Institute retreat that is held each year for all of us wives. The focus of the retreat was joy, which hooked my intention instantly. And the central story was in the book of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah is set during the time that Israel was in exile. A man (Nehemiah) learned of the destruction of Jerusalem, and took a group back with the permission of the king to start rebuilding the wall around the city. Anyway, at one point in the book they happen upon the book of the law and start reading about a festival. This festival of booths. They may have even been reading from Leviticus itself! I love it!
Anyway, back to the original passage. Essentially this is a harvest festival, to remember the time in the wilderness and to give thanks to God for His provision. It paints a very different picture from our American Thanksgiving holiday! We feast for one day, then go shopping and watch football. The people of God spent seven days feasting and living in tents. And they rejoiced! Thanksgiving and joy are closely connected, and from what I read here I believe that they knew a lot more about giving thanks and about living in joy than I ever have.
But I am going to keep on learning, and I don’t think I have to set up a tent for a week to do it!