I was a Girl Scout in junior high school when I joined my first off-campus camping trip in the mountains of Tanay, Rizal. Hiking was arduous, survival training was challenging, and of course we slept in tents at the end of the day.
We were all exhausted from the hours we trekked the mountains and very hungry because we failed to keep a fire going, thus rendering our lunch of rice and fish half-cooked. So much for survival training. Luckily, dinner was a boxed meal by the camp caterers. By the time lights off was called, we were ready to knock off for the night. Our tent snugly fit four people. It was cramped - four girls with sleeping bags, gear, shoes, and troop flag stuffed together. Just as we started to settle in our sleeping bags we heard light tapping on our tent. Rain had started to fall in trickles which quickly became a heavy downpour. We got up and checked for leaks and became worried of water possibly coming in from the sides of the tent. We were on a slight incline so the water was flowing fast. Luckily, the trench we dug around the tent earlier held up as water poured into it and down the hill away from us. It was enough excitement for the day and soon four sweaty, bone-tired girls fell asleep.
40 years in a sukka
Two nights in a stuffy tent were enough for me to swear off camping - unless it's glamping. Don't get me wrong. I love the outdoors and nature but I love to sleep in comfort knowing I'm protected from the elements and creatures. If you're familiar with the movie "The Ten Commandments" you'll remember that the Israelites lived in tents or sukkas in the desert for 40 years. I can't imagine living in a temporary shelter that long! No wonder the Israelites grumbled and complained a lot. It was troublesome moving from place to place setting up and taking down the camp each time.
Despite their nomadic lifestyle, God provided them food and water. He also protected them from the attacks of neighboring lands. What really amazed me was during that entire period their clothes and shoes never wore out (Deuteronomy 29:5). God made sure that their every need was met. He was also with them every step of the way dwelling in a tent or tabernacle in the middle of their camp the entire 40 years. It was here where people worshipped, made sacrifices and offerings, and where God spoke with Moses who in turn spoke to the Israelites.
Before the Israelites entered the promised land, God commanded them to hold a feast while living in tents in commemoration of their time in the desert. It was to be observed yearly for seven days with celebration and feasting. It is called Sukkot or the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles and takes place this year from the evening of October 2 to the evening of the 9th . For traditional Jews and all those who celebrate the feasts of God, it will be a little different as countries are in different stages of lockdown or quarantine while dealing with the pandemic.
Commemorating the Feast of Tabernacles points us to God who is our shelter and strong tower. I am so glad though that God does not dwell in a temporary encampment anymore and that we do not need to live in tents. When we join ourselves to God by putting our faith and trust in Jesus, making Him our Lord and Savior, His Spirit starts living in us. We become the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).
We know that one day soon we'll stay in our permanent home with Him. When Jesus was here on earth He said, "In my Father’s house are many places to live. If there weren’t, I would have told you; because I am going there to prepare a place for you (John 14:2, CJB)."
Sukkot reminds us that the earth is our temporary residence. When Jesus returns He will take us to the Father who is our forever home.
While waiting, we can use this time to prepare ourselves for His return. We can accomplish what He has put in our hearts to do. Love one another and encourage each other to endure until He comes. We can also take part in the ministry of reconciliation by working on our relationships that need to be mended and by telling people about His love so they can be reconciled to Him. The most important thing of all is that we make time to be intimate with God so we can know Him more. After all, we're spending eternity with Him! Quiet your heart and listen to what He wants to say. Read the Bible to know Him and His ways. Just like a bride before her wedding day, we wait with joyful anticipation till we are united with our Bridegroom and finally be home with Him and the Father.
I was about to post this when I was reminded that going home to the Father means a grand reunion with all His sons and daughters here on earth and those who've already gone ahead (See you soon, Papa!). What a great day that will be! So we say, "Amen! Yes, come, Lord Jesus!"