As I sit here on the second day of the week long festival of shelters I can’t sit here and recount God’s instruction without recognizing the parallel that so many of you are living in today. When God delivered the children of Jacob out from under the slavery of Pharaoh, he led them to a desert. He didn’t take them to the Mediterranean, or the Red Sea. They didn’t camp on tropical waters reclining with their feet up with God. He meant business with their hearts, he wanted relationship.
And in their new year with him, there’s this festival he wants them to celebrate before they’ve really ever had the experience of the next forty years; originally they were only going to be in the desert for something like eight days until their journey brought them to the promised land. During this time, in this place, God was interested in one thing: worship. He wanted not their riches, or their children, or their wives, or their land; he was after their hearts.
We all know how the story plays out. God sent these new displaced people, that had suffered great persecution and oppression, and God’s next plan for them was to stare new, unknown enemies in the face–and with God on their side–overcome them. He wanted to give them so much more than they had ever hoped for in Egypt.
During slavery their only hope was freedom, but when they were given that, what was next for them? God wanted to show them his ways, introduce himself to a nation, speak with them, be their strong tower, be their king, and show himself near on their behalf. Ultimately God wanted to show them through his love, that he was worthy of theirs.
They didn’t believe he was that good and they feared this new unknown land, and these new unknown enemies. They couldn’t see the goodness awaiting them past all the fears that stood in their way. And so they continued in tents. A new generation grew up as a people who were tied to God more than land, a people who didn’t find their strength in the size of their homes and estates, a people who were transient, a people who God was raising up to be tied to Him more than anything else.
Right now I look into faces of children refugees who have lost their toys, their bedrooms, their transportation, their towns, everything that was familiar to them. They are encountering unfamiliar languages, unfamiliar people, and enduring unanswered questions. Where are we going to live? Where is home? Who are we without money? Without jobs? These are all very scary prospects; especially for well-meaning adults and loving parents.
But inside, despite all the ciaos I see around me in the lives I people, I carry hope. As we celebrate the second day of a week of God commanding people to live in tents, he is saying, “Remember.” “Remember this road I walked with you, remember this place of your complete dependency upon me. Remember when I led you apart from you knowing where you were going. Remember when I fed you supernaturally everyday by my own hand. Remember when you weren’t tied to a land. Remember when you were mine, and I was yours.”
Some of you, thousands of you, not by choice know all too well the feeling of when God led his people, by his wisdom and foresight, into a desolate place, into a land where they could depend on nothing by their own hands for survival. There is a reality to God and a vastness to him that many never see or experience because they never venture further than the control of their own two hands, but it is here you have been forced, and it is here you will find him. This week as God has called people to remember when he dwelt among his people in tents; I will remember him now as He is dwelling among you.