Num. 29:12 On the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. You shall celebrate a festival to the LORD seven days.
The people of God were instructed to celebrate his intervention in their lives. These festivals were to be lived out, or acted out among the people. All work was to stop and the focus was to be upon God’s provision in their lives. In this case, the Festival of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles, as this event was named, was to last for seven days.
Our precious Messiah celebrated these festivals as he grew up. They were a part of his life and activity with the family, helping to shape his humanity. Work was to cease and God was to be celebrated for seven days.
It’s been a long time since I’ve gone camping. When I was a little girl our family would go camping on vacation. I’m quite certain that it was probably the only way in which we could have afforded to go on vacation because we lived in Europe. I have fond memories of the different places that we camped. One year we headed down to Yugoslavia and ended up on the Adriatic sea. Along the way we stayed in a camp with gypsies and I was fascinated for I had never been around this group of people before. We all set up our tents and made ourselves at home for the time that we were there. My mother cooked for us on a small propane burner and we children ran around, played and went swimming. It was a great time and a fun memory, although it was nearly 50 years ago.
There was something special about camping with the family. We were disconnected from the world and we had to do some work along the way. The tent had to be taken down and put up as we journeyed. Food had to be prepared in ways that were more of a challenge than at home. The days were filled with being and playing outdoors. I remember laying on the ground and watching the fluffy clouds go by and imagining all the shapes that God was creating. It was a time of slowing down and being in the moment.
The Feasts that God required of his people were not a punishment, they were to be a complete change of pace from their daily lives. They were to go camping for a week and remember what it must have been like for the Israelites who wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. It was through this physical act that they could slow down and see the hand of God at work.
Something about this festival sounds appealing to me. I’m afraid that we don’t take many moments to put aside the world and simply remember and focus on God. We can hardly set aside Sunday mornings to go to church, let alone an entire week away from work, while camping and thinking about God’s provision.
What challenges me today is to imagine what would happen if we became intentional again about creating space for prolonged emphasis on God. What would happen if we took the time to make God such a priority that our children would take a break from the world and realize that God is real and has been at work in our lives?
For some within our ‘holiness’ tradition it’s interesting that camping was a part of our history. People began gathering at camps to hear messages preached and there was a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit and spiritual renewal that occurred in those places. Today the camping and/or campmeeting experience is becoming a thing of the past. As I reflect on this scripture today I’m wondering if we may be missing something significant. Instead of seeing the need for camp to be great entertainment, could it possibly be the place where we return to our roots and we celebrate, remembering what God has done in the past and in doing so anchor our children to a future?
It seems that too much tradition is being done away with as we embrace this new world of electronics and busyness. Technology was to give us more free time, it’s simply sped up our lives in a way that makes us think we have to accomplish even more and yet we are reaching a limit of human capacity. We are on the brink of burning out as we try to keep up, but at the same time, losing the traditions which may provide some grounding.
God planned for the Festival of Tabernacles to be an intentional time of remembering what he had done for his people in the wilderness. We must be intentional about shutting off the world and celebrating what God has done. We need to find our way to “go camping” so that the memory of Christ’s intervention our lives is not lost on ourselves or future generations.
Lord, than you for a reminder today to slow down and celebrate your work in my life and others. Amen.