The Israelites were commanded to celebrate Shukkot (The Festival of Booths), the period after harvest when Jews live (or symbolically live) in outdoor huts made of branches. This reminds participants of God’s provision of shelter when the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. In the Bible, trees are mentioned frequently as they are in Leviticus 23. During Sukkot, the branches of trees from a forest are used to worship God. In Isaiah 44:22-23, forests and trees themselves praise God.
"I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. Sing for joy, you heavens, for the LORD has done this; shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the LORD has redeemed Jacob; he displays his glory in Israel." Isaiah 44:22-23
March 21 is the United Nations International Day of Forests. Forests moderate temperature, store water, take up carbon dioxide and provide wood and fruit. Many forests are cut down, and others planted. The new plantings do not do all of the functions of fully grown, old forest. We should both plant forest but also protect the forests we already have, as one of the largest aids in the process of carbon storage.
Although the Jewish celebration of Sukkot occurs in the fall, we can rejoice in God’s provision of forests at anytime. Let’s rejoice March 21!
Lord, we are grateful for the forests of the world. The dark green boreal forests, the temperate deciduous forest, the rich wildness of rainforests, the dry scattered savannah- we praise you for each of them. Each protect and provide for the people around them. We pray that our minds will be full of gratefulness and that we will be supportive of efforts to protect forests.
We repent wasting resources, and pray that you would lead us in your will as we work as stewards. Let us reflect your light as we work with our neighbors who may not know you but who care as we do about the ecosystems you created, that we might be a testimony to your love. We pray for those who are so poor and who rely more than others on forest products. Help us to change the world in good ways so that they are better cared for.
In Jesus' Name, Amen.