Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sept. 19 – The survival festival

Guest blogger, Stan Nussbaum, takes us on a journey through the messianic year calendar.

Welcome to the journey of our Messiah through the year with Dr. Hussbaum.

“You must live in temporary shelters for seven days . . . so that your future generations may know that I made the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out from the land of Egypt.” Lev. 23:42-43 (NLT)

As the Jewish year transitions from the Day of Atonement to the Feast of Tabernacles (or Feast of Booths or Shelters), we transition from the Season of Forgiveness to the Season of Shelter. The focus of the season is on the Messiah as the one who gives shelter and provision so his people can survive the journey he is leading them on.

The Jewish festival, Sept. 22-29 this year, involves living for a week in makeshift booths, huts, or shelters as reminders of the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. The roofs have to be made from branches cut from trees, and the sky has to be visible through the roof somewhere.

The point of a flimsy shelter is clear. “We should not have survived that journey under those awful conditions, but by the grace of God we did! Praise him!” The God of Israel wants to be remembered and honored as the God who takes his people places and who gets them there even if the journey is impossible.

The theme of shelter was associated with the theme of provision, since the Feast of Shelters occurred at the end of the summer fruit harvest. The experience of remembering the journey by roughing it for a week was supposed to counteract the temptation to take God’s gifts for granted once the people got settled in the Promised Land.

How well we know that temptation! Our American culture today has gone a step beyond taking God’s shelter and provision for granted. Though we would not say it this way (because then the blasphemy would be obvious even to us), we often react to life’s difficulties as if we somehow have a human right to be exempt from them. Are we assuming God owes us at least 80 years of life? He owes us decent health, as well as our children? He owes us accident protection? He owes us reliable employment with a good retirement plan? He owes us the air we breathe? Or at least he owes us as much of all these things as the people around us have?

When he provides for us, is he is just doing his job? And if he does not do it as well as we expect, do our heads quickly fill with questions like, Why is he not giving us our rights? How could he shortchange us? How could he let that calamity hit us? Why is he so unfair?

There is a sinful tendency in all of us to start down this presumptuous road. Gratitude prevents it. The more grateful we are for what God gives us, the less upset we will be about what he does not give. The more we shout, “Thank God!” the less we shout, “Unfair.”

So let our whole Season of Shelter be a gradual crescendo leading up to the climax on Thanksgiving Day. Find some creative ways to counter your tendency to take things for granted. Camp out, fast or simplify your diet, switch off the computer or the hot water heater for a while. This is not persecuting yourself. It is persecuting your presumptuousness so your gratitude can thrive.

There is nothing glum about the Feast of Shelters. In fact, to this day Jews celebrate it as a feast of unbelievable joy. Their focus is not on how uncomfortable life is in a temporary shelter. It is on how reliable God is to help us survive and how much he blesses us once the journey is over.

Welcome: Jesus, reliable Son of the reliable Father, you are welcome to lead us out of our comfort zones because you are our comfort zone.

Affirmation: On the journey we are taking with the Messiah to his new world, I can survive anything. He will personally see to it.



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