The Deep Well with Erin Davis Podcast

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Episode 8: The Feast of Booths

Season:  7 Feasts   Buy

Erin Davis: Well, it should have been a yes. I was gathered at a ministry summit, and I want you to have a picture of what was happening. It was a room filled with other Christians. And those Christians would have been thrilled if I made the choice to obey. I didn’t. I chose comfort instead.

The pastor who was leading our time together had just finished preaching on the cost of following Christ. And for the response time he gave us these instructions, stand up right where you are and sing “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” acappella . . . gulp. 

There was no background music playing to soften the mood or to muffle our voices; there was no buffer. He said those words and my heart started to race. I wonder if your heart ever does that when you know God is calling you to obey?

A race had begun in my heart, between choosing to boldly declare my faith and my own comfort, and comfort took an early lead. It was quiet, nobody moved. And finally a single voice started to sing loud and clear, “I have decided to follow Jesus” and then another voice joined, and another voice joined, and another voice joined, and I was still sitting in my seat, literally gripping the edge of my seat afraid to obey such a simple invitation to declare my faith in a room full of fellow Christ followers. 

I did eventually start singing, but I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. If I could not stand for Jesus in a room full of other Christians, how would I ever stand for Him in a world that does not recognize Him? And that was the moment I knew that if I wanted God to use me I had to surrender my constant cravings for comfort.

Dree Hogue: This is The Deep Well with Erin Davis. In this first season of the podcast, Erin’s been helping us explore seven feasts described in Leviticus 23. We are in the final episode of Season One and I am a little sad, Erin.

Erin: Me, too. I have loved spending this time with you and I picture us spending time with many, many women who have dug into Leviticus 23 with us. Dree: It's been great. I have learned so much as we dug through the Seven Feasts. They've pointed us back to the gospel and taught us how they can impact our day-to-day living. I know all of us have stories of moments where we've been asked to do something uncomfortable. In this last feast, the Feast of Booths, we see God's people being asked to do something that makes them uncomfortable.

We’ve been studying the seven feasts of Israel, recorded in Leviticus 23. Today we come to final feast. It’s the Feast of Booths, b-o-o-t-h-s. I’m going to read us the description of that feast; its recorded in Leviticus 23:33–43. 

Now I’ll summarize parts of it. Verse 34 tells us when this feast was on the Israelite calendar and how long it lasted. It says, 

Speak to the people of Israel, saying, "On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the Lord.” 

I hope you’ve noticed to pay attention to the details of these feasts and not just to race past them assuming those details don’t matter. 

This feast lasted an entire week. And if you’ve ever had your feet hurt from the prep required for a single holiday meal, I want you to imagine preparing for a seven-day holiday. 

Now, for several verses this passage goes on to describe how God’s people were to spend these days. The first day was a day of rest, that’s a pattern we see often in the seven feasts. Each day required a food offering, those are outlined in verses 37–38. I hope you’re reading the feasts with us and will spend some time looking at those verses. 

But then we come to verse 40, which describes what was very unique about this final feast, the Feast of Booths. 

“And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.”

So just be imagining lots of branches, lots of leaves, lots of different trees, they’re gathering those things together. 

“You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, hat your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” 

Pay close attention to verse 42, which says “All native Israelites shall dwell in booths.” You need to get the picture. The entire nation of Israel was instructed to take branches from trees and construct little tents or shelters. 

Now, my boys would love this. They’re always creating forts out of sticks, but we don’t move into those forts as a family for seven days. And so all of the Israelite families were to build booths or forts or tents we might call them, and move their families into those booths for a week. 

To get an accurate picture of what this must have been like, we need to do just a little bit of math—I promise it will be relatively painless. Let me read us Exodus 12:37, 

And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 

Six hundred thousand men, this describes the Israelites early on in their journey toward the Promise Land.

So if there’s six hundred thousand men, let's double that number to account for women, and for easy math let's assume that each family had about three children in the mix and that gets us very quickly to a number over two million Israelites.

Now, the second year after they fled, Moses took a census. Scripture tells us this time it was a census of only able bodied men, men who could fight. He noted that their numbers were growing. In just two years, the number of able bodied men (remember that first number was all men) was up to six hundred and three thousand. You add in women and children, men too old or young to fight, excludes the Levites and the entire tribe, Israel, was growing.

You fast forward an entire generation, and by the time God’s people entered the Promised Land, there would have been many millions of them. We need that number because as you read the Feast of Booths, I don’t want you to think about a few friends around a campfire. That’s not what was happening here. The entire nation of Israel left the comforts of home to dwell in booths. 

Now, for those of us with small children, the idea of observing this feast might be a little anxiety inducing. The logistics of moving my family into a tent for a week makes me so grateful to be a New Testament child of God. 

When we pack for trips, my husband and I work and work. We try to remember everything and then we always look at each other and say this sentence, “There’s going to be a Walmart, right?” Inevitably we have to stop there. But these mommas, these Israelite dads, there was no option. They had to take what they needed, and the whole nation was going to dwell in booths. 

Now, God was not trying to get His children to experience the great outdoors. I don’t believe that’s the heart of this feast. Like the other six feasts we’ve looked at, God was using the Feast of Booths to remind His children of His character and to give them new rhythms for their lives in the Promise Land.

So, let's start with the practical. It’s human nature to crave comfort. I imagine after centuries of slavery followed by decades wandering in the desert, the Israelites just wanted to live comfortable lives. In the Promise Land they likely settled into routines of comfort and convenience.

And the Feast of Booths worked like an annual alarm alerting their hearts of the rhythms of worship. None of us will choose to worship and obey God on our own, we’ll just settle right into what’s comfortable.This was a jarring reminder that they were the children of God, to live set apart for His glory, and often that’s not comfortable. And God calls us to uncomfortable lives too.

Let me read us Jesus’ words found in Luke 9:23–27 

And he said to all [this is Jesus talking], “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” 

Right out of the gate here Jesus hits us with the word “deny,” that’s not a comfortable word, and pick up our cross. 

"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."

Jesus is laying it out so clearly: it will cost you to follow Me. In some ways the Christian life is a very uncomfortable life. It requires us to carry the rough hewn cross on our backs. The cross of self-denial, which never gets easier (it hasn’t for me), the cross of others first living, the cross of sacrifice, the cross of holiness. None of us would choose those on our own. 

We’re comfort-seeking creatures. But Jesus modeled this for us so perfectly, surrendering the comfort He deserved, starting with the manger and all the way through to the cross. He chose our good over His comfort every second that He walked the earth—including the extreme discomfort of the cross.

Jesus’ words are often uncomfortable. If your Bible doesn’t occasionally cause you to squirm, I’m not sure we’re reading the same Bibles. In John 7 we see Jesus preaching. If you’re loving making the connections as much as I am, you’ll notice in John 7 He’s preaching on the Feast of Booths. 

John 7:14–24 records Jesus’ Feast of Booths sermon. My pastor calls this kind of sermon a “squirmon,” which is a sermon that makes you wiggle under the weight of it a little bit. And in fact, Jesus’ sermon was such a “squirmon” that the people listening declared, “You have a demon!” (v. 20). They did not like what Jesus was saying. They were confused and offended by His words and what they wanted was what all of us want in our flesh—we want comfort. We want leaders who will sing us a lullaby.

The teachings of Jesus jolt us awake to our true condition. It is not comfortable to live as Christ calls us to live, and through the seven feasts God was establishing rhythms for the lives of His people. 

God’s Word is like a defibrillator, it shocks our hearts into new rhythms. 

  • We see ourselves one way, and God’s Word shocks our hearts into seeing our true condition. 
  • We see our neighbors one way, and God’ Word shocks our hearts into seeing that they’re the image bearers of God. 
  • We see our life plan one way, and God’s Word shocks our heart into seeing that God’s plan is what matters. 

And we can see those because we are new creations. The rhythm is this, the rhythm that Scripture gives us is this, the rhythm that Jesus modeled is this: deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus. The reason we deny our comfort is not because it’s easy to do—it’s not—but because Christ gave up His comfort for us. 

We surrender our lives and seek to live like our Savior. We lay down our plans for our lives and live out the lives God calls us to. I have a phrase for this kind of living. I call it “the tightrope of terrified obedience.” I spend a lot of my time out there on the “the tightrope of terrified obedience.” 

Here’s how you live on “the tightrope of terrified obedience.” You superglue your eyeballs to Jesus, and you take one uncomfortable step after the next. I’ve learned to love life on “the tightrope of terrified obedience,” because that’s where I’m obeying and listening to the voice of God. 

If you’ve been walking with Christ longer than a minute, I think you can think of many times when Jesus asked you through His Word or by His Spirit to do something uncomfortable. I wish we could swap those stories. If you’ve only been walking with the Lord a minute, then the memory of surrendering your life to His is fresh, and you know you had to clear the hurdle of your comfort to take that step. There is no bait and switch.

The Bible never calls us to comfortable Christianity, but instead to regular rhythms of sacrifice and surrender and stretching. One of my mentors just turned seventy-six. Nearly every time I talk to her she’ll say, “The Lord’s really stretching me in this area,” or “The Lord’s really stretching me in that area.” On the one hand, I’m encouraged by her obedience, but on the other hand, I think at seventy-six am I still going to be stretched? I think we all will be. And just like the Israelites, we need to be reminded, I need to be reminded, that God is going to cost me.

I should expect it to be uncomfortable. And frankly, I don’t need an annual reminder of that, I need daily reminders of that. So why do it? Why give up our comfort to follow Jesus? For the same reason the Israelites observed the Feast of Booths. One reason we choose to give up our comfort is because He is worthy. He’s worthy. Whatever cost Jesus asks you to pay, pay it, because He’s worthy. 

There’s another lesson in this final feast, and it’s such a fitting way for us to end our time together. I’d like for us to revisit the description of the seven feasts again. I’m going to read us Leviticus 23:40–43, one more time. 

“And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

This is a happy feast. It’s a prolonged celebration. Verse 40 tells us that the tone of this feast is seven days of rejoicing. God chose to end their calendar year with one huge party. Verse 43 tells us why, “that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

God wanted the children, and the grandchildren, and the great-great-grandchildren of the Israelites who first entered the Promised Land to know that He is their God, that He has always cared for them, that He always will.

We have a saying at the Davis house when things get hard, I look at my children and my husband and I say, “Is this going to the time God lets us down?” And my little boys say, “No, Momma.”

How do we know? Honestly, many times it feels like it might be the time God lets us down, so how do we know? Because He’s never failed us yet, and He’s not going to start with whatever it is that feels insurmountable. And this feast is them remembering He was to us in Egypt. Gather, let me tell you He was faithful to us at the Red Sea; He was faithful to us as we wandered in the desert, by the way we weren’t faithful to Him and He was faithful to us. He was faithful to us at Jericho. He is faithful to us! That’s what the Feast of Booths is about.

He wanted them to remember that when they were in the desert and they had nothing, not even roofs over their heads, that He took care of them. The Feasts were God’s way of combating His children’s spiritual amnesia, by reminding them of His faithful care.

They wandered in that desert forty years. They were homeless. They were without a nation or a neighborhood to call their own, but God Himself was their shelter. God Himself was their refuge. God Himself was their mighty fortress. And though forced to live without the comforts of home, they were never forced to live without comfort, because God their Comforter was always with them.

Don’t we naturally think that comforts of home or friends or stable work or a full bank account are the comforts we most need? God ripped His people out of those things for seven days and said celebrate that I’ve always been your Comforter. 

Friends, this is the gift the feasts give, that we’re no longer required to participate in them. You can take that air mattress out of your Amazon account if you were planning to observe the Feast of Booths. But we’re missing something if we skip right over them. Right here right in our Bibles God has given us the feasts.

These descriptions could have been lost with the Israelites, but we have them for us. Why? Because they’re reminders of who He is. They’re reminders of who He’s always been. And they’re reminders of who He will always be, our Comforter.

I’d like to wrap up our time together by reading Psalm 46 as a prayer over you, and I want you to use your imagination as I read it. I want you to picture the multitude of God’s children sitting around the campfire as far as your eyes can see. Yes, we can tell stories of life on “tightrope of terrified obedience” but we cannot tell those stories without telling that God has never let our feet slip. No, not even once. And of the beautiful comforts of love and peace and joy that are ours forever, because of Jesus.

So picture the campfire and the picture the children of God.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Erin Unscripted

Dree: Erin, my friend, I'm so glad that you took this journey yourself and unearthed these treasures from the Old Testament. Thank you so much for sharing them with us.

Erin: It's been such an honor. If the Lord only drew my own heart to Leviticus 23, that would be significant. But I feel so privileged that He would let me share my love and my passion for His Word with each of you. 

Dree: Season One of The Deep Well has been about the Old Testament feasts from Leviticus 23. Even more than that, they've been about how those feasts point us to the gospel. Sadly, Season One is coming to an end today.

Erin: It is, but our study of God's Word certainly isn’t, and I have loved spending this much time with you, Dree. I love you. 

Dree: I love you too, Erin. Each of these episodes has been based on a chapter from the Bible study that Erin wrote called, Seven Feasts: Discovering Christ in the Sacred Celebrations of the Old Testament. I know many listeners have been going through the study with us, or maybe your appetite has been awakened to learn more about the Seven Feasts. 

If you haven't gotten a copy yet, please take the time to go find a copy. You can find it at ReviveOurHearts.com/TheDeepWell. Again, that's ReviveOurHearts.com/TheDeepWell. You can get a copy for a family member or a friend, or you could go through the study in a community. 

As a former homeschool mom, I think it would be a great study for a homeschool class or family on that kind of journey together. It is very well worth your time in a really well-written Bible study that is a good curriculum to use. Again, you can find it at ReviveOurHearts.com/TheDeepWell.

Erin: Dree, one of my favorite stories that’s come out of the Seven Feasts, so far, is a group of military wives who are scattered across different military bases around the world. They've been getting together in Zoom and walking through the Seven Feasts. I've had the privilege of joining them a couple times. I would be so thrilled if the Lord would do that in many different ways: military wives and neighbors and women who go to church together and women who don't, sisters and mamas and friends who will find ways to gather together and go through this study.

Dree: I love that. As I've been on my own journey of learning through this, I find myself talking about it. It's interesting because you know that the Word of God is living and active, right? That's what Hebrews 4 tells us—it's living and active. Every time I mention it, it piques their interest because it is powerful. It's powerful that the Old Testament speaks to the New Testament like this. This feast that we're studying today is no different. The Feast of Booths takes us to a very unconventional place, as you've taught us. It takes us to a place of temporary discomfort. I actually found myself really engaging with that truth, that we are called to discomfort, to temporary discomfort, in our identity in Christ.

Erin: The longer I live, the more I realize that discomfort isn't temporary, at least here on Earth. There's just one discomfort after another discomfort. Something's always making me uncomfortable. But the Feast of Booths is a reminder that, ultimately, all discomfort is temporary discomfort for the people of God. And that's a comforting thought.

Dree: One of the things that struck me was the togetherness of the moment—all of the people, all of the families. I formerly lived in Central Pennsylvania, and they have this thing every year, called the Grange Fair, where people live in tents, much like the Feast of Booths. They do it for a week and the school system schedules around it. People literally move from their house. The Grange Fair backs up to their backyard, and they move into this temporary housing. It is the biggest community thing. 

When we first moved there, we were like, “What do people do?” It made no sense to us. Then once we experienced it, we realized what a rich, deep tradition and community it was, and why people would do it. Having experienced the families I knew and did life with do that, I sort of put that onto this Feast of Booths. It struck me how it wasn't, “Just the men go.” The women and children were there, and they had to function for all of that time in their little palm tree houses. 

Erin: I think we might be tempted to romanticize this one. But anybody who has children, knows this would be a hard feast to observe because they are all living, all of them—the entire nation of Israel—in these temporary structures that they built. The Grange Fair is a version of this, but with really good, fair food.

Dree: They do have good fair food in their tents.

Erin: But also, you're uncomfortable, no matter where you camp. And the Israelites were very uncomfortable for this final feast.

Dree: And the weather was not promised, right? They had no weather app on their phone to see what tomorrow would bring and how to prepare for it. It just was what it was.

Erin: I'm sure there were years where you were like, “You remember that Feast of Booths? Where it rained the whole time and it was flooded in our shelters?” There's nothing in Scripture that indicates that the Lord parted the skies and made everything easy for them. That wasn't the point of this. 

Dree: As far as I could tell, as far as the community aspect, it wasn't like, “These people have this section of land that makes it easier and they get the best palm branches, and these people . . ..” There was no favoritism in it. 

Erin: Everybody was in it together. I can imagine that maybe they compared shelters or learned from one another, but I think, often in our uncomfortable situations, we're tempted to compare ourselves to what somebody else is suffering through. I do this all the time. I think, why do I have to go through this when somebody else has this other thing that seems easier for them to deal with than the thing I'm dealing with? Or, they never have to suffer. Their life is smooth sailing all the time. Which we know can't be true.

Dree: Right. I think that evil genius of comparison leads us to a bad spot. Instead, in the gospel, we realize that we are all in the same boat. We all need the forgiveness of Jesus. We all have resurrection life and power through the Spirit. We all have the promise of Him returning. 

In this, we are all in the temporary. We're all in the temporary. A dear friend of mine often talks about how this is a moment. When we're going through hard things, Erin, I know you in your life, right now, are enduring some hard things. I've been enduring some hard things. We need to remind ourselves: this is a moment.

Erin: I don't even think it's as long as a moment in the span of eternity. I think it's a blip. I think it's going to be over before we can imagine. That doesn't feel that way, of course. I would never trivialize the suffering that many of us are going through, especially longsuffering. There's just something so hard about when the suffering goes on for days or weeks or years or decades. 

But the reality is, it's like those temporary shelters that the Israelites moved into. They looked forward to the day they got to sleep in their own beds again, right? 

That’s how it'll be with us. There's going to be a moment where all of this makes a good bonfire. What lasts forever will be ours forever. That perspective really does help.

Dree: I was thinking about last episode, when we were talking about the Mercy Seat of Christ, the Day of Atonement points us to. We spoke a little bit about the urgency it gives you to share the gospel with others, to share the good news of Jesus' rescue. I think about our identity in Christ, and we are called to discomfort. Our life as followers of Jesus will not fit into this world. It will be uncomfortable.

Erin: No matter how hard we try. We keep being like, “Why is this a square peg in a round hole? Why can’t I fit the Christian life into life in this fallen world?” Well, you can't because they're separate. That reality helps me face my days, too. I can stop being surprised by how challenging it is to walk out my faith in a world that doesn't recognize Jesus.

Dree: The way that we do that, the way that we celebrate the understanding of the discomfort, might actually point others to Jesus. What if we handled it differently than the world does, without the complaining and arguing? That's my favorite Scripture for my children, Philippians 2: “Do all things without complaining or arguing…”

Erin: It's a good one for parenting.

Dree: It’s a great one, but I say it to myself anytime I say it to them as well. I think we do have an opportunity to live different. When we read the Feast of Booths, we can only imagine how the Israelites did that, but they were obedient to it. They did it. It was part of the rhythm that was created for them. They are helping us, through that rhythm, see Jesus. How can we, through the rhythm of how we face displacement and discomfort, point people to the gospel? 

Erin: It was a way for them to be set apart. There were times in Israel's history where millions of them—millions—would have camped in these temporary shelters, surrounded by nations whose God was not Jehovah. 

You know that those nations went, “What are they doing down there? Why are they all in tents? What would compel them to do that?” I love that you took us there, Dree. That feels like a great way to end this season of The Deep Well. When we live as the Bible calls us to live, which means living in the reality of the Seven Feasts, those who don't know Jesus will notice and pay attention. Jesus is so compelling. We don't have to spin Him or sell Him at all. When people are drawn to Jesus, it changes them; it changes all of us.

Dree: I'm really grateful for the deepening of my understanding of the purpose behind the gospel story, the narrative that is displayed over and over again in these Seven Feasts. Even here at the end, as we look at the Feast of Booths, I'm just reminded that it's a good story to tell. It's a true story to tell. Even in the mysterious things, of the things that have not yet happened, I want to be bold. I want to share all the parts of the story in the way that I tell it, in the way that I live it, and in the way that I study it.

Erin: Me, too. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.

I’m so grateful to be reminded of those truths. I have loved being with you on Season One of The Deep Well. The next season is coming out in the spring, and we're going to be talking about our relationships. Now, I'm a Bible teacher, not a relationship expert, so we're going to be looking at our relationships with each other, specifically with each other in the body of Christ, through the lens of God's Word. Between now and then we may release some bonus episodes.

Dree: That is fantastic. I am looking forward to that. Remember, God's word is a deep well. You can drop down your bucket and pull up truth every single time.

The Deep Well is a production of Revive Our Hearts, calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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About the Teacher

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.