Last month, we celebrated the Feast of Sukkot with our Jewish friends and family members. One of my favorite things about the holiday is building and decorating a Sukkah or booth on our back deck. First, we constructed a frame out of two-by-fours then enclosed three of the sides using tarps. Next comes the fun part—decorating it with natural materials such as cornstalks, cat-tails, and pine boughs. We had cuttings of mint and Russian sage from our garden this year, which made the inside smell wonderful! Last came the homey touches—adding a tablecloth and napkins, candles, hanging lanterns, even pictures. This year the weather cooperated and we were able to eat all our meals in this outdoor booth without getting rained on or bundling up in countless sweaters.
The Jewish people live in booths to remember how God watched over them and protected them and provided all their needs while they wandered in the wilderness for forty years. And so one of the “rules” for creating an authentic sukkah is that the roof cannot be totally enclosed. You’re supposed to be able to see the sky and the stars overhead when you look up, and remember that God is watching over you. He’s got you covered.
The Feast of Sukkot (sometimes called the Feast of Tabernacles) is one of the three yearly feasts that the Jewish people were commanded by God to celebrate. It comes at the end of the agricultural year and, like our Thanksgiving Day, celebrates the harvest. We know from the Gospel of John chapter 7 that Jesus obeyed the commandment and went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast with His disciples.
I find it interesting that God made celebrating Sukkot a commandment. That’s how important He thought it was that His people take time to stop and remember everything He has done for us. To remember how He has provided everything we need—including a bountiful harvest. In the description of the feast in Leviticus God says several times to cease working! This is a day of rest! You shall do no work! It’s an act of trust. We can stop working—He has us covered.
As the Feast of Sukkot approached this year, I was already behind on writing my latest novel. I couldn’t afford to stop working for the holiday. Besides, I’m no longer bound by the Old Testament Law, am I? Yet I really wanted to spend time with my family and friends! In my daily devotions, I happened to be reading the book Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World by Shelly Miller. She teaches that one of the reasons we stop work and rest as God commanded is as an act of trust. We need to remind ourselves that the world won’t stop spinning if we take a day of rest from our work. God has everything under control. In other words, instead of looking frantically around at all the things we need to do, we need to look up! There is no limit on His ability to supply all of our needs if we simply trust and obey—the way the Israelites did when they lived in tents in the wilderness. I can rest and trust. So I turned off my computer for five days while our family was here, and I celebrated this feast of joy. And guess what? When I added up my page count at the end of the month, I had completed even more pages than the quota I had assigned myself.
I wonder what would happen if I lived each day of the year this way? If, instead of trying to keep all of my many plates spinning like a circus juggler, I remembered that God commands me to rest for my own good. He offers rest as a precious gift. I can almost imagine Jesus sitting in a sukkah with His disciples, looking up at the open sky and saying, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!”