“When you pass through the waters. I will be with you. And through the rivers, they shall not overthrow you.”
This coming week marks a significant celebration for Jews around the world. They will be celebrating the Feast of the Tabernacles, or Feast of Booths. It is the feast that commemorates God’s deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt. It lasts for seven days. A tradition during the feast is the waving of the lulav. The lulav is a cluster of three types of branches – the palm, the myrtle, and the willow. Together, these branches are waved in order to remind the Israelites of God’s mercy to their ancestors as they wandered through the wilderness. Because the palm tree grows in the valleys, it is meant to remind the Israelites how God led them through the valleys after their deliverance. The myrtle grows in the mountains, so it reminds them of God’s protection on them as their ancestors traveled through the mountains. The willow grows by water and brooks. It reminds the Israelites how God provided water for their ancestors through the desert.
The feast may not be significant for us. However, it does remind us of our own spiritual journey through this world. We too have a wilderness we travel through. We live in a world that is full of dry and difficult terrain. A place where we are, but sometimes don’t want to be. A place where it seems at times we don’t live our lives, but our lives live us. The palm tree reminds us that no matter what difficult valley we walk through in this life, we will never be alone because God’s presence is always with us. The myrtle reminds us that in those times when it feels like we are climbing an endless mountain of trials and difficulties, God will keep us from falling. And the willow reminds us that in the dry and empty places of life, God will provide refreshing rivers of cool water for us.
So, as Jews around the world celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles this next week, and God’s goodness to them in the past; let us take the opportunity to celebrate God’s goodness and protection to us in the present as well as the future. And no, we don’t need to go cut down branches from anyone’s tree to use as a lulav. But we should take time each day this next week to raise our hands in praise to the Lord and tell him how grateful we are for his kind mercy and grace.
And never forget – no matter what we go through in this life, it is not the end, only the journey to our destination.