Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Which Would You Rather Have?

I live in Minnesota and it's state motto is "Land of 10,000 Lakes". So one could say that we have an abundance of water in our state. However in Israel, they aren't so fortunate as there aren't many lakes or streams for them to get water from. On top of that it only rains for approx 3 months out of the year. Back in biblical times, people stored their water in what was known as a cistern. A cistern is a pit that is dug out of a rock and is plastered to prevent leakage. Now the photo below shows you what a 'cistern" looks like and to me it doesn't look much better than the basement of an old house I used to own.

Much like our houses of today where gutters drain the water off the roof during the rainy season, their houses had gutters also but these were used to channel the water into the cistern for storage. Now they had a lot of problems with this system, the cisterns had to be kept cleaned and plastered and they had to keep the stagnant water from getting diseases. The water itself was dirty as it flowed off the roofs or streets in to the cistern. It was also not very dependable as sometimes it might not rain during the season or the cistern might leak and all the water would seep out. The other problem they had was the water was considered "ritually impure" and was not used for religious ceremonies.

Running water, especially spring water, was different. It stayed fresh and clean. And most springs were dependable, providing water year round. This constant fresh source of water was called "living water," probably portraying its life-giving qualities as well as its constant freshness. God provides (and is described as) "living water". Living water is cleansing, The ritual bath of Jesus' day, "the mikveh" used before coming into the presence of God at the Temple or to the synagogue worship service?contained flowing water, or living water. John the Baptist's choice of the Jordan River for his symbolic cleansing likely was based on the need for fresh, moving water to symbolize cleansing. Near the shores of the Dead Sea, deep in the Judean Wilderness, fresh water gushes out of the desert floor creating an oasis called En Gedi. It was here that David hid from Saul and it is likely one of the places of inspiration for the king-poet, David. The water that brings forth life at En Gedi is a picture of how God meets his children's thirst in the desert.

Jesus described himself as living water (John 4:13-14, 7:37-38), and the people of his day understood the meaning. Only God could provide living water. It would not fail to satisfy any thirst. But it was the connection between living water and the feast of Sukkot that gave Jesus' image of living water the clearest meaning. He chose that feast day to reveal that he was living water. So my question for you is, which would you rather have?

Thanks to John Ferret for the photos and for Ray Vanderlann whose articles on Living Water and En Geddi were used for parts of this

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Feast of Tabernacles - Sukkot

The Feast of Tabernacles is the culmination of all the appointed times. It is to the other festivals what the Sabbath is to the other six days of the week. It is a prophetic picture of the coming kingdom. It foreshadows the great celebration when the entire world will live in peace and brotherhood under the reign and rule of the righteous Messiah King. sukkot: Camping Out with God

Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, "On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths for seven days to the LORD." (Leviticus 16:34)

Five days after the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles begins. It is seven days long. The first day is a special Sabbath. The Hebrew name of the festival is sukkot (סוכות, pronounced "sue coat"), a word that means "shelters, stables or huts." The same word is often translated into English as "tabernacles" or "booths." The name is derived from the commandment for all Jews to dwell in temporary shelters for the seven days of the festival as a reminder of the post-exodus years when Israel lived in huts and booths, following God in the wilderness:

You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths. (Leviticus 23:42)

The temporary shelter is referred to as a sukkah (סוכה), which is the singular form of the plural word sukkot. A traditional sukkah must have at least two and a half walls made from virtually any material. The walls don't have to be solid. They could be plywood, canvas, latticework or just about anything. One wall can be part of a permanent structure. For example, the wall of a garage would work. The rest of the booth has to be temporary and disassembled after the festival.

The sukkah booth can be any size, so long as it is large enough for the family to eat and sleep in. The roof of the sukkah is supposed to be covered with some sort of foliage or vegetation that grows from the ground: tree branches, cornstalks, bamboo reeds, sticks or even lumber. The roof material has to provide adequate shade yet be sparse enough so rain can get in and stars can be seen through it. The sukkah should leave a person vulnerable to the elements.

The process of building and living in a sukkah is a great adventure for children. It's like building a fort and camping out in the backyard. People commonly decorate their sukkot. It's fun for the kids, often more fun than decorating a Christmas tree. Families hang harvest decorations and handmade artwork from the walls.

During the course of the seven days of sukkot, it is appropriate to eat one's meals in the sukkah, and if the climate permits, to sleep at night inside the sukkah. Hosting guests in the sukkah for special holiday meals is a big part of the festival. It's a great time of fellowship.

Check out these photos for some examples of a sukaah.


The sukkot is a time of joy and celebration, a time to celebrate the harvest and revel in God's goodness. The festival of sukkot comes at harvest time. The joyous mood of sukkot is a dramatic shift from the solemn and austere tone of the high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The celebration of sukkot is so joyous that Jewish liturgy often refers to it as "the season of our rejoicing." The commandment to move outside of one's comfortable zone and live in a booth is meant to remind us that God is our provider, sustainer and protector. On the cycle of sanctification, sukkot is an annual opportunity to revel in God's goodness and take delight in our redemption.

Thanks to the folks at FFOZ for this article.