This week we are looking deeper at Deuteronomy 16: 13-17, specifically at the concept of the Festival of the Booths (or Tabernacles) and the giving that is associated with it and other festivals. Today we’re going to look at the World of the Text. What is happening within the words on the paper.
First, we talked yesterday about the many festivals of the Jewish tradition. These festivals were things that marked them, that shaped their life. As Christians, we know that our primary marking is grace, and that grace shows itself in the living of the greatest commandment, loving our God and loving our neighbor. And yes, we have our “festivals” – Easter, Christmas, other days, but for most of us, our days are not marked by the same routines as the Jewish people. And while it is freeing to not have to live under a heavy burden of the Law, we are too often guided by convenience or by what we want to do or live.
For the Jewish people, it was of the utmost importance to keep these festivals given in scripture. This week we are looking at the Festival of Booths. The original giving of this Festival was in Leviticus 23: 33-44. This festival was about thanking God for provision during the Harvest but also about remembering the time in the wilderness. These two concepts, remembering the struggle along with the thanking for the provision are so interlinked within Judaism. There are tough times, but God always provides. Even though the people wandered for 40 years God provided and God did not leave them. The people were called to remember and to celebrate God’s goodness. They were to build booths to living in for a period of time to remember how they slept under the stars for those many years.
But that isn’t the only action they are called to do. They are called to give. No one shall come before the Lord empty-handed, they are all to give, in the way that they can. One of the things that we keep talking about during our Rooted in Christ campaign here at St. Matthew’s is this, not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice. Everyone can give something, and every gift, while different, is significant and valuable to God and to the person giving.
We have much to be thankful for. We have much to thank God for. And out of all that God has given us, we are to give back as we are able. That marked the Jewish people. May it mark us as well.
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