In the providence of God, the Promised Land of Israel was located on one of the busiest trading routes in the ancient world. Many thousands of traders would travel through the narrow strip of fertile land between the great desert of the east and the Mediterranean on the West on their journeys between Africa and Arabia in the south, and Syria, Asia Minor, and other regions to the north and east.
As they did so, they must have noticed the peculiar habits of the people of Israel. Unlike other ancient peoples, these Israelites didn’t have multitudes of temples to many gods; their town squares weren’t littered with hundreds of shrines to dozens of idols. (At least, they weren’t supposed to be.) No, they worshipped one God, whom they insisted was the LORD not just of Israel but of the whole world.
But if they had happened to be passing through the Land of Israel in the seventh month – the month the Israelites called Tishri – they would have noticed something else too. On the fifteenth day of this month, the Israelites held a festival called the Feast of Tabernacles. It was like a giant nation-wide camping holiday – all the people would live in little home-made shelters for a week, recalling their 40-year journey through the wilderness in the days of Moses.
These traders would have hoped that their travels brought them to Israel at this time. For the Feast of Tabernacles was (as the name suggests) a time of feasting, of celebrating, of banquets and parties and food and drink. And it was a time when everyone was welcome – the Levite and the widow, the servant and the orphan, and of course the sojourner. Any foreigner who happened to be travelling through the land of Israel during the Feast of Tabernacles would be invited to eat and drink with the people of God.
For the LORD who rules over the whole all also offers blessing to the whole world – blessing pictured in the rich culinary delights the Israelites offered to all who passed by. The people have God have always been people of feasting, who share God’s good gifts with the world around them.
Next Sunday is Big Sunday Lunch at Emmanuel. Don’t miss out.