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That Sukkos

by Tim O'Hearn

When he retires from the Air Force, my son plans on being a nomad. He has already bought a large trailer and made a cross country trip towing it. The advantage of the nomadic life is that he can go where he wants and spend as long as he wants when he gets there. He may purchase a permanent residence so that he always has somewhere to go to and where he can get such necessities as mail and banking. It is anybodyís guess how long that lifestyle will last.

The Israelites chose the nomadic lifestyle when they left Egyptian slavery. They didnít have trucks and trailers. They did have tents and wagons, with livestock to tow and carry. They only planned on a two-year trip. It ended up like Gilliganís three-hour tour, lasting forty years instead. They only had themselves to blame, having rejected entry into the Promised Land (Num 13) when they first had the chance. They didnít have a local Allsupís (thatís a New Mexico/West Texas chain of service stations for those that donít know the joy of an Allsupís burrito) or 7/11. They had to rely on Godís manna and quail for their food. They didnít have hook-ups at a KOA campground. On the other hand, they had a cloud for air conditioning every day, a pillar of fire as a night light, and clothes and shoes that never wore out. (Deut 29:5) Still, with a whole generation dying out before their eyes, it could not have been the most pleasant life.

When they entered the land, God provided a reminder of that time. The holiday of Sukkos (also spelled Sukkot) required that the Jewish people live in temporary shelters for one week a year. (Sukkos begins at sunset October 9 in 2022.) This serves to remind them of a couple of things. First, it calls to mind the forty years of unnecessary wandering. They disobeyed God, and suffered for it. Thus, Sukkos reminds them that God is the one to whom to listen.

Also, it reminds them that even when they disobeyed, God provided for them in the wilderness. The sukkah, the temporary dwelling, is to be open to the elements. It could rain (or in some places snow) on them. It could be hot with no air conditioning but the breeze. (Jonah complained of the sun while in his sukkah outside Nineveh. (Jonah 4)). They may have wandered in the wilderness for forty years, but they were fed. They may not have entered the land right away, but when the doubters were all dead they did enter the Promised Land. Sukkos reminds them of Godís goodness.

In his final sermon, Stephen called the Israelites the ďchurch in the wilderness.Ē (Acts 7:38) Christians and Jews alike are still the church in the wilderness. They entered the land, but never fully received the promise. The writer to the Hebrews says of the Messianic Jews of his day, ďhere have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.Ē (Heb 13:14) That still applies today.

We are all nomads. Some may travel better than others. Some may be headed in the wrong direction. But we all are wandering in the wilderness, outside the land of promise. God has prepared us a permanent dwelling.

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (Jn 14:2-3)

In this world we may tow a 48-foot trailer or sleep under the stars. We may live in a house, but even houses are temporary. Just ask the people of Ukraine or the victims of various hurricanes in the Caribbean. Everything we think we own could be taken away in moments. Or we could be taken.

We are the church in the wilderness. We must learn the lessons of Sukkos. Obedience and reliance. Follow God and trust Him. The wilderness is temporary. Nearly a million and a half people died in the wilderness. We could die, too. For them, death was a punishment. For us it is the way home.