I’ve been meaning to write this for a while now. It has been more than a month since we returned from our first Feast of Tabernacles celebration, and my intention was to sit down and write about our experience that weekend.
But I guess life got in the way…
Either that, or I just needed some time to reflect and process. (That’s typically how we writers operate.)
Tonight seems like a particularly good time, as I’ve been feeling pretty lonely lately. And with loneliness comes reflection and introspection. If you’re wondering why I’m feeling lonely, then let’s get coffee! It’ll simultaneously answer your question and temporarily cure my loneliness.
Anyway, back to the point: our first Sukkot. But before I go there completely, a little background:
For anyone who was previously unaware, our family began to uncover some truths in Scripture just over one year ago as we were praying and asking the Lord to show us what it really means to love him. One of those truths was that the Biblical holy days and feasts (the Father’s appointed times) were not just given for the people we call “the Jews” today to observe and keep. Actually, those we commonly refer to as “Jews” are primarily made up of two of the twelve tribes of Israel—Judah and Benjamin, or the Southern Kingdom. The other ten tribes (Northern Kingdom) were divorced from God and scattered among the nations (Gentiles) after worshipping other gods and refusing to repent. (I know that sounds complicated, so if you’d like more info, here’s a relatively short article that explains things in more detail.)
There are a total of seven appointed times mentioned in Scripture: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Day of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Yahweh says they are His feasts, not the Jews’ feasts or Israel’s feasts. And even if they are Israel’s feasts, the question then becomes: who exactly is Israel?
“And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” — Galatians 3:29
Again, if you’re confused, check out the article linked above.
Realizing my identity as a grafted-in Hebrew Israelite (by the blood of Yeshua/Jesus) completely shifted my paradigm. Suddenly, most of what I was reading in the Bible began to make sense and come alive. All of the seeming contradictions and conundrums between the “Old Testament God depicted in the writings of Moses” and the “New Testament Jesus depicted in Paul’s letters” disappeared. While there are still many mysteries (as there are some things we simply cannot fully grasp in our fallen state), I believe the Father’s words — particularly His instructions — are truly easy enough for a child to hear, understand, and act upon.
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” — James 1:22
It all starts with knowing who you are — an identity that hinges upon knowing whose you are. I talk more at length about all of that in some of my other posts, so feel free to peruse this site and read at your leisure if you’re curious! I can also point you to some other resources that have been helpful to me along the way.
So, this year, we started learning about and celebrating the Father’s appointed times. Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) is an 8-day celebration that takes place in the great outdoors. We spent the week in a tent on South Mountain, surrounded by our fellowship family. To say I was excited for this week to come is an understatement. I couldn’t wait for our family to spend eight days in the Father’s presence, surrounded by His beautiful creation.
For the record: I do not enjoy camping. I like sleeping on my king-sized memory foam mattress in the comfort of my air-conditioned bedroom, where I can make a simple adjustment to the thermostat anytime I experience the slightest bit of discomfort. I like my stainless-steel refrigerator, electric stove and Ninja coffee bar. I wake up every day and look forward my morning cup of frothy, bulletproof-style coffee, garnished with bourbon vanilla extract and a pinch of cinnamon…
Yeah, go ahead and say what you’re thinking. I’m a spoiled brat. I’ll admit it.
I’m not sure what I was thinking when we were preparing for this trip, but I must have imagined San Diego beach weather. No humidity, beautiful sunshine, breezy mountain air, long relaxing days spent studying Scripture and fellowshipping, followed by cool, crisp nights complete with s’mores and conversations around our neighbor’s campfire. It all sounded so magical in my head.
However, reality looked more like this:
Simply put, it was rough, y’all. I likened the whole experience to having a baby.
Early labor. Things are moving along pretty smoothly. You’re feeling confident and well-rested. You just took a shower, so you’re clean and ready for that birth photographer to show up and snap a few “early labor” photos while you smile between contractions and bounce on your birthing ball. “This is gonna be a breeze,” you tell yourself.
Days 1-2 of Sukkot: We arrived at our campsite and began to admire the setup of those around us. We realized we were a little underprepared, despite our efforts to over-pack. No worries, though. Dollar General was just a few minutes away, and we’d later come to appreciate those trips to the store as mini-escapes from the heat and humidity.
Active labor. A bit more challenging, but still somewhat easy. You’re learning to relax and focus. You get stronger and more confident as things ramp up. You’re beginning to realize how much your body can really handle. “Mama, you’ve got this. You were created for it! The Lord is with you and He has your back. Things are uncomfortable, but not unbearable,” says the voice inside your head.
Days 3-4 of Sukkot: By day 3, I was able to get a shower in. But not before driving all the way back home (approx. 1.5 hours away) to get the shampoo, conditioner, soap, and razor that I had forgotten to pack. Camping with toddlers is harder than I thought it would be. There isn’t much time to get into the Word when you’re chasing your 18-month old down the dirt road. It’s all good though … I finally have some time to enjoy these little blessings He gave me. No computer. Hardly any phone service. Not what I’m used to, but definitely what I needed.
Transition. You start to wonder if you can get through it. The contractions are almost unbearable and you feel like throwing up everything you ate that day. You almost want to rewind the clock and go back to early labor or even active labor at this point … but no, because the thought of having to endure transition—the shortest, yet hardest phase of your entire experience—all over again is worse than the phase itself. If you could just get into the birth tub and surround your belly with warm water, you might be a little more comfortable and able to breathe through the pain more easily.
Days 5-6 of Sukkot: After having been surrounded with tornadoes and hit with a few torrential downpours, which flooded the mountain (and our pastor’s tent), the remaining days were hot, muddy, extremely humid, and bug-infested. I spent quite a few hours in my car with the A/C on full blast, scratching my mosquito-bitten legs to the point of scabbing, crying like a baby, complaining about the heat, thinking about how awesome our bed was gonna feel, and saying things like, “isn’t this supposed to be the most joyous of all the feasts? I really need your help Lord, ’cause I am not experiencing any joy right now. The enemy has straight-up stolen it from me, and I let him do it!”
At one point, Jereme and I were joking about this being the reason why Scripture says to “bring strong drink”…
On day 5, I woke up in the middle of the night and mumbled something about wanting to “go back to Egypt.”
Yes, I actually uttered those words. And it’s sadly not the first time I’ve allowed that whiny little Israelite voice in my head to overtake my thoughts and cause me to say things I don’t mean.
Pushing. You know the baby is coming, and the worst is over! Now you get to meet your little one and welcome him/her into the world. That “ring of fire” is really not so bad in the grand scheme of things…
Days 7-8 of Sukkot: By the final day, I actually didn’t want to leave. All that discomfort was proof of His presence on that mountain. Though it’s somewhat of a blur now, the overall experience taught me more about who I am and who He is, and it’s a beautiful thing.
“Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” —Lev. 23: 39-43
And my kids. I just look at all the pictures of them from Sukkot and feel so incredibly blessed. These are the experiences they crave and need — the joyous occasions they will remember with gratitude through the years to come as they grow to realize the significance of our Heavenly Father’s appointed times. I’m thankful that we have the incredible privilege of teaching our children all about our King and drawing closer to Him through the celebration of His holy days.
Contrary to the idea that this feast (along with the others) is a celebration “just for the Jews who don’t believe in Yeshua/Jesus,” John reminds us of how it actually points to our Messiah:
“And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
In conclusion, I made this cheesy lil’ video slideshow to commemorate our first Sukkot. Please forgive the music choices. When you’re looking for royalty-free tunes, the options are a bit slim. (Music by Apple & HookSounds).