The Feast of Booths—When You Want Heaven Now

(And why your road to glory has splinters.)

The Feast of Booths, or Sukkot, provided a time to remember how God had delivered His people from bondage and how He had provided for them in the wilderness. It looked back at deliverance, but it also looked forward to something else—to Messiah.

The Feast of Booths—When You Want Heaven Now

(Photo: Crowds at the Western Wall at Sukkot, the Feast of Booths. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Building tabernacles or “booths” (Hebrew sukkot) was nothing new for the Jews (Lev. 23:34, 42-43). The act served as a mandatory memorial of God’s faithfulness in the wilderness. At Sukkot, every seven years on the sabbatical year, the Law was read in the hearing of all Israel (Deut. 31:10-11).

The Bible refers to the holiday by several other names:

  • The Feast of the Harvest (Exod. 23:16)
  • The Feast of Ingathering (Exod. 34:22)
  • The feast of the Lord (Lev. 23:39)
  • The feast (1 Ki. 8:2; 2 Chron. 7:8-9; John 7:37)

In light of the world’s ugliness, it’s tempting to hole up on some mountain and just wait for God to come get us. In fact, it was the Feast of Booths Peter had in mind when he made exactly that request to Jesus.

We may not know it, but we often ask for the same thing.

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What You Must Have Before You’ll Have Success

Jesus spoke words of encouragement for moments just like these.

Most of us Christians have experienced those incredible moments of intimacy with God when we have no yearning for any earthly success, much less for sin. Christ becomes our entire desire.

What You Must Have Before You'll Have Success

(Photo courtesy of

In those times, we make impassioned commitments of absolute dedication. We really believe we have turned a corner in our spiritual lives.

But for some reason . . . it doesn’t last.

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How To Abandon Selfishness without Abandoning Yourself

Jesus models 3 surprising solutions.

You and I suffer from a malady common to everyone. It’s the number one reason we hurt each another. It’s why children grab, pull, and scream. And, ironically, it’s often why we hurt ourselves. Selfishness.

3 Surprising Solutions for Your Selfishness

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In Jesus’ day, people wore sandals, and the dusty roads produced dirty feet. When they entered a house, a servant customarily washed their filthy feet—a task akin to scrubbing toilets. When Jesus and His disciples came to the Upper Room, they came to the large upstairs room of a furnished home.

But when they arrived, no house servant washed their feet. I think Jesus arranged it that way.

Here’s why.

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Hope from the Upper Room and David’s Tomb

How events of history and tradition combine to offer an answer to David’s prayer.

One of King David’s most poignant prayers came after one of his greatest mistakes. “Do not cast me away from Your presence,” he prayed, “and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).

Hope from the Upper Room and David Tomb

(Photo: Upper Room Interior. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

At the traditional site of the Upper Room, pieces of Hebrew and Christian scripture come together in an ancient building. Here, on Jerusalem’s Western Hill, events of history and tradition combine to offer the ultimate answer to David’s prayer.

In fact, the place offers hope for all of us.

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Listening to Well-Timed Words of Warning

One other person struggled the night Jesus prayed in Gethsemane.

Dark shadows had fallen over Jerusalem. A lone figure knelt, weeping, agonizing in prayer, as eleven men slumbered nearby. While Jerusalem slept, the Lord Jesus endured anguish in the darkness of Gethsemane. But He did not suffer alone that night.

Listening to Well-Timed Warnings

(Photo: The Citadel served as the residence of Pilate and his wife. Courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.)

On the other side of Jerusalem in the luxuriant palace of the governor—perhaps even during the hours of Jesus’s agony in the garden—another figure writhed in agony.

The content of her nightmare was about Jesus. It caused her to arrive at a firm conclusion.

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How Jesus Determined His Priorities

And what we can do when choices toss us a live grenade.

Scripture has always taught God’s people to pursue God’s priorities. But over time, opinions differed on those priorities. No one’s opinion was conclusive. There were no guardrails on truth.

How Jesus Determined His Priorities

(Photo courtesy of

Religious leaders in Jesus’ day debated on the separation of the important commandments from the less-important ones. One day when Jesus was teaching in the temple, a scribe tossed this live grenade in front of Jesus to see where He stood in the debate:

What commandment is the foremost of all? —Mark 12:28

Jesus’ answer did more than weigh in on the longstanding disagreement.

It helped us understand how to balance our priorities.

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Geographic Ironies of Jesus and Herod the Great

The Places Associated with Herod's Death Speak with a Twist

The Bible loves poetic irony. Think of Joseph’s brothers, hat in hand before the brother they betrayed. Or Haman—hanged on his own gallows. But one of my favorites has to do with the geographic ironies surrounding the death of Herod the Great.

Geographic Ironies of Jesus and Herod the Great

(Photo: The Herodium where Herod the Great was buried. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Like an ugly cover on a great book, the places of Herod’s death bookend the life of Jesus.

They give lasting lessons to us who walk through them.

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A Lesson on Holiness from the Western Wall Tunnel

Why God's Holiness Doesn't Hide Underground

Most of Jerusalem’s Western Wall lies underground today, accessible only through the Western Wall Tunnel in which we walked. A spry Jewish woman in her 20s led our group through the tunnel.

Western Wall place closest to Holy of Holies

(Photo: Western Wall place closest to Holy of Holies. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After moving some distance north along a small hallway, with the Western Wall’s massive, dressed stones to our right, we stopped about halfway down at an alcove with a single light bulb. We huddled in close.

This niche represented, the young guide explained, the closest that we can get to where the Holy of Holies resided on the Temple Mount.

But what she said next caused a few biblical penalty flags to go off in my head.

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When You Become God’s Surprise Witness

How Matthias reveals our insignificance is seen by God.

Sometimes God surprises us with opportunities we never sought, never expected, and never even imagined. Often these moments come in the middle of our ho-hum lives.

When You Become God's Surprise Witness

(Photo by Photodune)

It happened with Matthias.

Ever since John the Baptist had prepared the way for the Messiah, Matthias 
had followed. He had walked in Jesus’ footsteps from the Jordan River to the rugged hills of Galilee. He had followed the Savior with passion and persuasion—and without recognition.

Matthias was a willing unknown.

Then one day it all changed.

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Kursi—Choosing Between People, Pigs, and Priorities

Why is it sometimes we regret the wrong things?

Sometimes in the swell of our emotions, we make promises we don’t mean. On one occasion, two individuals approached Jesus and declared they would follow Him wherever He went.

Kursi—Choosing Between People, Pigs, and Priorities

(Photo: The steep slope at Kursi beside the Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But Jesus’ response to them indicated that their hearts were more devoted to comfort and to family than to Him (Matt. 8:19-22). It happened in Jesus’ day, and it happens in ours.

We’ve all done it. Sometimes we’ll express our spiritual desires in terms that really boil down to boasts:

  • I’ll have my quiet time every morning for the rest of my life.
  • I’m willing to follow God wherever He leads me.
  • I will love people more and need them less.

Overwhelmed by the moment, we’ll express our feelings in terms of commitments we’d like to do. But often, we come to regret our words.

The problem is we’re regretting the wrong thing.

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