Celebrating Desert Wanderings

I don’t do very well with in-between times. I don’t like waiting, especially after sensing God’s leading in a certain direction. It doesn’t make sense to me why sometimes God doesn’t speed up the process. His timing is, so often, not mine.

I have been reading through the book of Exodus with my children this year. We’ve studied the miraculous saving of the baby Moses, his own exile to the desert, his encounter with the Great I Am, his return to Egypt and then we read about the plagues, the Passover and Israel’s final departure from Egypt.

But we realized that God doesn’t lead his people straight to the Promised Land. As if reading this for the first time, I stumbled out loud over Exodus 13:17-18.

 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, for that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.

God leads his people to the desert because they weren’t yet ready for war. They had a lot to learn before they marched around the walls of Jericho with Joshua some forty years later. They needed to understand the nature of this God who led them with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. They needed to trust in God’s provision of food and water for them daily. And they needed to receive his law in order to know the holiness of God and just what he required of his people.

During this time in the desert the Israelites did not settle down in order to live there permanently, but lived in tents, or booths. It was a time of in-betweens where God’s people were already delivered (from Egypt) but not yet living where God intended them to (The Promised Land of Israel).

One of the commands given to Moses by God (yes there were more commands than just ten) was to celebrate a yearly feast to the LORD called the Feast of Booths, which celebrated the LORD’s provision for and presence among the Israelites during their desert wanderings. (See Leviticus 23)

Starting on the fifteenth day of the Jewish month of Tishri, many Jews and some Christians will celebrate the Feast of Sukkot, or Booths. This is the final festival in the seventh month of Tishri, preceded by the Feast of Trumpets and the solemn Day of Atonement. Sukkot is a joyful time, celebrating the autumn harvest of grapes, figs and olives in Israel and commemorating Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness for forty years. There are differing opinions on when this feast begins, but many will begin their celebration on sundown of September 27 by constructing sukkah, or tabernacles, to remember how the LORD provided for the Israelites during their wandering in the desert.

I am intrigued by the Jewish Festivals, but especially by the Fall Festivals. Jesus, through his death, resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit, has already fulfilled the Spring Festivals. The Fall Festivals of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot look forward to the things that have not yet been fulfilled through Jesus Messiah. We look forward to the return of Christ and to his setting up of his kingdom on this earth. We look forward to his conquering of our enemies and doing away, once and for all, of the curse of sin and death. We look forward to his actual, physical presence! I believe that this Feast of Sukkot looks forward to the time when we will be forever with the LORD.

I want to learn about this feast and try to celebrate it as best as I can, not because I am under compulsion to do so, for I am not bound to the Law as those who were under the Old Covenant. No, I want to celebrate because I want to look forward to the day when we will feast with Jesus and remember his faithfulness to us during our own desert wanderings on this earth. Our own time of already but not yet. For now we see as in a mirror and are looking forward to that time when we shall see face to face!

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4


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