Our group of friends reunited for a long weekend together on the shores of a beautiful lake. The days were spent playing in the water and sharing meals, but it was the evening conversations I treasured the most. As darkness fell, our hearts opened to one another with uncommon depth and vulnerability, sharing the pains of faltering marriages and the aftermath of trauma some of our children were enduring. Without glossing over the brokenness of our realities, we pointed one another to God and His faithfulness throughout such extreme difficulties. Those evenings are among the most sacred in my life.
I imagine those nights are similar to what God intended when He instructed His people to gather each year for the Festival of Tabernacles. This feast, like many others, required the Israelites to travel to Jerusalem. Once they arrived, God instructed His people to gather together in worship and to “do no regular work” for the duration of the feast—about a week! (Leviticus 23:35). The Festival of Tabernacles celebrated God’s provision and commemorated their time in the wilderness after leaving Egypt (vv. 42–43).
This gathering cemented the Israelites’ sense of identity as God’s people and proclaimed His goodness despite their collective and individual hardships. When we gather with those we love to recall God’s provision and presence in our lives, we too are strengthened in faith.
Leviticus 23 outlines the eight festivals in the Jewish religious calendar (including the Sabbath day of rest mentioned in verse 3). God instituted each of these festivals for the benefit and enjoyment of His people. Consider how the Festival of Tabernacles (v. 34) would have looked as it unfolded. The people constructed shelters from branches and foliage and then lived in the rudimentary structures. Although a solemn occasion, the festival was essentially a campout; hence, a time of great joy. How like our infinitely creative God to implement fun into worship and holy remembrance!