A temporary dwelling under the blood moon

Last night there was a blood moon, a total lunar eclipse. The sun, moon and earth were in perfect alignment causing the earth’s shadow to darken our reigning nightlight and making it appear as if it were temporarily shrouded in blood. We, my family and I, greatly anticipated the event.  As darkness fell and the evening grew late, one by one we carried sleeping bags, blankets and pillows to a favorable viewing site on the grassy hill behind our home. We laid our weary bodies down, snuggled in close to stay warm, and waited with expectation.  It felt like Christmas.  We passed the time intermittently with celestial talk, arguing, silence, and one brief fight over, ‘who gets the best pillow.’

This was also the first night of sukkot. In the scriptures, God refers to this time as, The Feast of Tabernacles or the feast of booths.  He instructs Israel to keep it, as a holy convocation throughout all generations. For seven days, celebrate a feast unto the Lord, in the seventh month on the fifteenth day,

so that your generations know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt.” Leviticus 23:43.

The Feast of booths is the last among a cluster of fall holy days and it marks the gathering in of the harvest.  It also is closely related with the concept of Adonai dwelling with his people. It was during their time in the wilderness, when they were living “in booths”, that the Lord was in their midst.  Sukkah means a temporary dwelling or shelter. Earth is our sukkah, the wilderness places are our sukkah, and even we can be sukkah’s for each other.

In the New Testament, sukkot, is not a foreign concept, after all the apostles were all Jewish. They knew how to connect the dots. The new heaven and new earth is defined with this scripture from revelation,

“Behold the tabernacle of God is among men, and he shall dwell among them and they will be his people and God himself shall be among them. Revelation 21: 3

Jesus dwelt among men for a short period of time, but there will be a day when he tabernacles for eternity among us.

I can remember building a sukkah in my youth.  The smell of the wood and the slow steady pounding of the hammer,  as one piece of smooth, long, pine board, was set into another. Slowly it emerged as a lean-to.  Each year, it improved with practice and experience.  I can remember picking branches and large limbs, taking care to pick only branches which still had leaves hanging on for dear life.  we would place them on the very top which was open, to reveal enough of the sky to see the stars at night.  I can remember the smell of the cool, autumn air weaving through my hair and the sweet , unpicked grapes rotting on the ground, and life all a buzz with excitement of the season.

My mother was especially good at decorating when it came to the Jewish holidays.  We had a table set up inside our sukkah, laden with grapes and bowls of seasonal fruits.  There were folding chairs on unsteady, grassy ground.  We would squish in the first two nights, eating our food with our plates on our laps because there wasn’t a table big enough for us all, then we would retreat to eating in the house, or on blankets outside.  Mostly we had it up for aesthetic purposes.  I remember people from my mothers congregation would take the entire week off work, and bring their tents to our house, and their children, and all their belongings for the week. Pop up tents and small campers were all strewn over the open fields like Woodstock.   On Friday and Saturday there would be a bonfire and we would stand around it in our pajamas and woolen hats, because nights in September and October have started to get cold.

We would always have the best food during that week.  We put a huge metal grate over a make shift fire pit and people would throw on hot dogs and burgers, and steaks. Everyone would share. It was an endless pot luck of community and life. There was laughter and dancing, spontaneous prayer, worship with loud music and loud people. There were so many people with so much joy. Children running around with no shoes on and dirty faces but happy and cared for.  It was a time in my life when I made connections and had divine fellowship.  Friends were more like siblings, they knew me and they cared and I was real and they still liked me.  I feel in some ways I have forgotten, since then, how to be real, how to be liked and enjoyed and how to allow myself to share myself, or my thoughts, and feelings, or even just a blanket in the grass.  I passed through, and now I am here in this place. Perhaps I would call that chapter of my life, which came and went so briefly, authentic joy or true fellowship. The place where, everywhere I looked there was light.

My family and I are not living in sukkahs or tents this week, neither are we Jewish, however, I was raised slightly Jewish.  While we are not dwelling in booths this week as observant Jews and messianic Jews are, I have settled on eating our meals outside. Oh wretched soul that I am…observing the Lord’s feasts with pitiful flesh, slim understanding and insufficient beauty. It’s really just a shadow of consideration.

As I laid outside well past our meal, wondering, thinking and dreaming, my mind began to rotate around one thought in particular; like a broken record.  Feast of tabernacles. Why? why a rare blood moon of the first night of sukkot?

Those who observed this holy day as commanded by God were likely to see this moon, on this night! Not because they are good or holy or perfect, but because they were there; where God told them to be. This blood moon would be on the radar, with or without news stories, and scientists, prophecies or documentaries.  This moon was observed by the observant.  When we live in obedience to God’s ways, we don’t need channel 7 to tell us what to do and where to be.  The moon cannot be fiddled or tampered with or manipulated by man, perhaps the celestial host  is the only unadulterated piece of earth left. It is ultimately God’s channel to man, his signs and communication to his people. What is he saying?

I kept thinking of the verse, “You also are but aliens and sojourners”. The Israelites lived in booths following their beautiful and fierce exodus from Egypt, the land of oppression and slavery. God swooped down and plucked them out of a furnace.  Forty years they lived in the wilderness, in an undesirable and trying place, where they could not settle, where they could not have their hearts deepest desire, where they failed over and over again. It was a graveyard to some, a springboard for others, but for none was it to be the land of promise.

Being a sojourner is temporary when you trust God.    God brought them out and had Israel live in temporary booths, in the wilderness. Perhaps to remind them they were sojourners, strangers, just passing through the wilderness, the dry, hot, dirty, dessert where water is scarce and death reigns. Where they move frequently and rely on God’s provision and a mediator to intercede for them.

The moon would have been seen by anyone and everyone last night keeping the commands, but because of the rumors, even those who were not Jews observing sukkot, were observing the moon last night. God’s mercy to the gentiles is that he reaches out and he communicates to all who are willing to listen.

“It is too small a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will also make you a light of the nation’s so that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6

As I lay there under the open sky, I thought of passing through.As the earth passed between the moon and the sun and all was dark and foreboding for a moment in time; I remembered that we too, the earth, Adam, we are all simply passing through.  Passing through between two powerful sources of light and government.

This earth at times is like the wilderness and yet we are only momentary. Last night I felt like God wanted to remind his people of that. As they looked up in the night sky, stationed exactly where he instructed them to be, he sent out his signal: There is darkness, but it is passing and the light will emerge once again as the shadow dissipates and we move to the Promised Land and covenant places and our permanent homes.

The Lord had Israel living in booths so they would remember, even after 40 years, the wilderness was not their home, this barren thirsty valley of death and doubt, suffering and disobedience, is not where they would stay and it’s not where we will stay.

Many people thought, the world would end. My question to them all week was what does the end look like? What does that mean? The end of what? The end of the world? The end of peace? The end of the beginning? ? I don’t claim to know, although I’ll be honest it crossed my mind…not that the world would end, but that Jesus might come, or at least I hoped.  but, we don’t know, it says in the bible he will come like a thief in the night. This leaves us with expectations of a secret stealth mission to quietly surprise us, but then it also says there will be trumpets to announce his presence and the dead in Christ shall rise…it’s hard to believe that could be done without us knowing. We just can’t know exactly what it will all look like, but we can trust Him. We can keep watching, keep aligning ourselves with God’s appointed times, keeping seeking him through prayer and keep listening for his voice. It is in the appointed times, he is closest, he reveals himself.  His word brings us hope and life and whether we know dates and times or seasons, the goal is to know Him, whether he comes like a thief or with trumpets. He is our goal, not how he comes.

The goal of the appointed times is for God to draw near to his children, and his children to draw near to Him.  The earth is full of bloodshed in as much as the moon appeared shrouded in the earth’s shadow, but God has not left us.  He will come near again.    His light will come, and Jesus will one day appear ; his presence will wash the sin and bloodshed from the earth and make it new again.

Perhaps the blood moon wasn’t really about the moon at all. Perhaps it was really all about the earth, our sukkah, and about us, those living in eager expectation under the blood moon.

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