The people had been in captivity a long time and now that they had completed the work of rebuilding the temple, they were remembering God and all that he had done.
Celebrating the Feast of Booths was part of that. Not being sure what the Feast of Booths was I went looking for information on it. I found it here. Also called Sukkot.
This is Israel’s Thanksgiving feast in which they acknowledge the Fall harvest and God’s provision for them. It is happy celebration and a time of joy and rejoicing.
This feast also remembers Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and their subsequent wandering in the wilderness for forty years. During this time Israel lived in tents and worshiped at the Tabernacle which was also a tent. To remember this time the Jews build small tabernacles or booths which walls of plaited branches and thatched roofs as God instructed in Leviticus 23:42. Today to fulfill the commandment, sekhakh (booth) is still constructed. It must be made of something that grew from the ground and was cut off, such as tree branches, corn stalks, bamboo reeds, sticks, or two-by-fours and constructed so it will not blow away in the wind. The Sekhakh roof must be left loose, not tied together or tied down. Sekhakh must be placed sparsely enough that rain can get in, and preferably sparsely enough that the stars can be seen, but not so sparsely that more than ten inches is open at any point or that there is more light than shade.
For seven days they were to live in these booths as a vivid reminder of the days in the wilderness living in tents. Further when the came to the Temple they would be carrying an etrog, which was a citrus fruit, which symbolized the fruit of the Promised Land. The Jews also used a lulaw, which was made of the branches of palm trees, myrtles and willows tied together with a golden thread. During the celebration in the Temple these lulaw would be waved at certain times during the service.
This all happened over the period of a couple days.
As I read this passage I am struck by a couple different things.
One: the people worshipped God as the law was read to them. They worshiped him with their faces down to the ground (as in they bowed down). I try to imagine holding that position from morning to afternoon. But perhaps it wasn't that long as for a while they were standing to. BUT the fact is they worshipped God as the law read and explained to them.
I am guessing that it grieved their hearts though, as both Nehemiah and the priests needed to reassure the people that this was a time of rejoicing and celebration, not a time of grief. 9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.
How often do we truly worship when God's word is read to us? I know for myself it's so easy to just sit back and listen. To not actually pay attention to what I am hearing. But to feel like I am actually worshiping God? Not normally. So I read these words and I stand convicted of my laziness. God and his words to us are a pivotal part of my life, and so often I act so hum-drum about it. God calls me to more, and through these words he challenges me to more.
The Second thing that grabs my attention is their eagerness to celebrate. They had this whole time of celebration. EIGHT days of it! They lived in rough built huts, and they celebrated all that God had done for them. How often do we take that much time to celebrate all that God has done in our lives? To pay him the accord that he is due??
Just makes a body think you know?
God did so much for us, and still does so much for us. And it's just so easy to sit back and accept it. I don't want to do that any more. I want to praise God for who he is and what he does and just stop being so lazy about it all. God calls me to so much more. he calls YOU to so much more. Shall we as believers go out and do so much more together???