By Chris Suitt
Every year during the summer my family and I take a two-week vacation to Mammoth Lakes, California. This city is located in the Eastern Sierra Mountain range about 5 hours from my house. In this area, we stay at a 1910 Ranch house that was used by cowboys taking care of cattle in the surrounding fields.
This “house” is located in a grove of Aspen trees about 2 miles off the highway. The only time you can see it from the road is if you catch a glimpse of the sun hitting off the metal roof. It’s that isolated. The house has no running water, except for a stream that comes from the north of it and breaks off into 3 brooks that water the meadow to the south of the cabin. It has neither electricity nor indoor plumbing. It has a true Icebox, where we put a 6 pound block of ice in the top portion of the fridge that keeps the food below it cool. It has a two-seater out house (bathroom) about 20 yards from the house. Its walls are 1×10 pine boards with black paper in between them. The only creature comfort is the stove and oven that run off propane.
It’s a great place to hang out in the summer time. There are no other houses or camping spots within miles. All you hear is the wind blowing through the Aspens and the brooks running down towards the meadow. It’s as quiet and relaxing as one could ever imagine. It’s a great place for me to get away and relax.
It’s not a great place to be, however, in the winter. It takes a snow mobile to even get to it! And once you get to the area of the house, you have dig it out to even get inside where you’ll find a huge wood burning stove in the dining room that literally heats up the entire house. This is after you get the wood out of the shed and get the fire going. There are no thermostats here.
Having said all this, I love being in this place during the summer and late fall, but forget the winter. I’m not into cold weather all that much. In fact, I am a t-shirt and shorts type of guy. Putting on a sweatshirt is about as far as I want to go. This house is home away from home type place for me. It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there full time.
This is one meaning behind the Fall Jewish Feast of Sukkot or Tabernacles. It is a Feast that reminds us that this world is only our home away from home. We literally are just passing through. In celebrating Sukkot, Jewish people are to live in a sukkah – a temporary dwelling – outside their homes each year to remember when the children of Israel lived in tents as they left Egypt on their way to the Promised Land.
Once they arrived in the Land, they would inherit cities and build their own cities and homes from the ground up. But these homes in the Land of Israel were like the above house I lived in during the summer. It’s a home away from home. It’s not the final destination so don’t get too attached to it nor make getting it the center of your life.
In order to help them remember this truth, the sukkahs were to have holes in the roof so the people living inside could see the stars. It was a way of reminding them that they are in relationship with the One True God who was above them. It allowed those inside the sukkah to focus on where their real home was – heaven.
While camping out in this sukkah, we are reminded that all the things that we think that are important and permanent are in fact just the opposite. Our stuff, our toys, our homes, our lives on this planet are temporary, but our relationship with God is crucial. By living in a Sukkah, something that would be torn down after 8 days, you learn that stuff is not all that big a deal. All of life can be done with stuff or without stuff because you have a relationship with the living God.
To further drive this point home, in Exodus 23:14-17, Moses tells the children of Israel that they were to come to Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:16 – ‘the place He will choose”) three times a year to celebrate Passover, Shavuot/Pentecost and Sukkot/Tabernacles. They were to leave their towns, their homes, their stuff and head up to Jerusalem to celebrate this Feast. This was trust! Who would watch over your fields, barns and houses while you were gone? Where was your trust – your stuff or your God? This world or heaven?
I also find it interesting that Sukkot changes during the time that Yeshua reigns on this planet from David’s throne in Jerusalem. Moses said all Israelites were to go Jerusalem for Sukkot. Yet in Zechariah 14:16-19, something changes about Sukkot. Zechariah records that Gentiles were now supposed to come up to Jerusalem for Sukkot. If they don’t God would not send rain upon their land and the send a plague on them. Wow, this is a big time change. The question that naturally arises is this, “Why?”
For the same reason that Sukkot is celebrated today; this world is not all there is. We are just passing through. Think about it for a second. When Yeshua reigns from Jerusalem the lion will lie down with the lamb, weapons will be turned into farming tools, people who die before they turn 100 will thought to have been young, peace and prosperity will be the norm. Who would want to leave that lifestyle? Sukkot is a reminder that no matter how good you think you have it here on earth, being in heaven is even better. Even during a time of unprecedented peace, living on this planet is still like my Mammoth retreat – a home away from home. Sukkot reminds us that to be home in God’s presence is so much better than to be here on the planet, no matter how good we have it.
There are three thoughts I want to leave you with. One, Paul tells the believer in Yeshua in Philippians 3:20 that our citizenship is heaven and no to get too attached to the passport you hold here on earth. No matter where or how you live today, this planet is not home. It is our home away from home. Yes, you are a (fill in your country), but if you have put your faith in the truth that Yeshua died and rose again for you (1 Corinthians 15:1-8) you have a passport that is even better – we are citizens of heaven!
Second, if you are at home right now or if not do it when you get home, look around your property and ask yourself one question, “What can I take home with me?” Sukkot forces you to think about this while living in your Sukkah. There are only two things that will go with you to heaven – your Messiah-like character (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) and people. That’s all folks, nothing more, nothing less. So now ask yourself another question, “Where have I been investing all my time – on things that will last or things that will be left behind?
Third, Paul tells us in the same passage of our where our citizenship is that he is on a journey to know Messiah (Philippians 3:7-4:1). He has good days and bad in the process. He says that he has learned to “forget what lies behind and strains toward what is ahead”. He is letting yesterday go and focused on today being like Messiah. The only time we are to remember the past is to not repeat past mistakes in the present or when God has given us victories we can trust Him in the present to do it again. Other than that, we are not supposed to keep looking back.
It’s like the front windshield and rear-view mirror in your car. The rear-view mirror is small for a reason. You’re supposed to be looking forward not behind! If you look back too long, you’ll get into an accident. Look forward and see all that God has for you today, not what happened yesterday.
On the property of the house is a tree that started off crooked, but straightened out as it got taller. As one who has come through Yom Kippur and has been forgiven, let the past go and look forward to Yeshua straightening out your life in the future. And remember, your current situation is only temporary. This world is a home away from home. You’re just passing through.
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