When the phrase “alternative living” is mentioned, many people instantly imagine the Hippies of the 1960s, or the Roma and their Gypsy Wagons in Europe. I have received a few snide remarks myself regarding living in a school bus that has been converted to a motorhome, or riding my recumbent trike into town to do my grocery shopping. I am not bothered by such comments. In truth, I receive far more positive responses and genuine interest than criticism. Yet I am aware that very few people would consider adopting the alternative lifestyle choices that I have been led to embrace.
The Bible is filled with examples of men and women of God who adopted what were considered in their day to be alternative lifestyles. It did not take very long for mankind to begin building cities, and constructing permanent dwellings of wood, stone, brick, or other materials. This quickly became the predominant form of living. Yet God was constantly calling people out of this mold to adopt a very different pattern. At the heart of the divine call is an understanding that this world is not our home, and this present life is not all there is. God’s people are to see themselves as aliens and strangers passing through this world, experiencing various trials and difficulties while being brought to a conformity to Christ that they might one day share an inheritance with Him.
One of the first calls Yahweh gave to a man to come out of a common life experience and to adopt an alternative lifestyle was when He appeared to Abram as he dwelt with his father and extended family in Ur, one of the chief cities of Mesopotamia.
Now Yahweh said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went forth as Yahweh had spoken to him, and Lot went with him.
Abram became a nomad. He dwelt in tents all his life, as did his son Isaac, and his grandson Jacob. It was not until Abraham’s descendants went down to Egypt to dwell that they began to live in houses again. Egypt is a symbol of the world, and in Egypt the people of God adopted many worldly habits and values. Significantly, on the very night that Israel departed Egypt (400 years after Abraham), they returned to the alternative lifestyle of their forebear. Israel dwelt in tents all the years they journeyed in the wilderness. The Festival of Booths commemorates this.
You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt.
The Hebrew word translated as “booths” is “sukkot.” The singular form of this word is “sukkah.” This is why the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles is often referred to as Sukkot. This word describes dwelling that are temporary, and is at times translated as “tents.”
II Samuel 11:11
And Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents (sukkot), and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.”
There is little doubt in my mind that these words of faithful Uriah were used of God as a rebuke to David. David was doing the very thing Uriah would not do. He was living in his palace in Jerusalem when all his army was camped in tents in the field. While these men were fighting the Lord’s battles, David was at ease in Zion. His ease gave rise to temptation, and temptation to sin. David committed adultery with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba and then had this faithful man murdered to hide what he had done.
An argument can be made that settled living in a permanent dwelling can lead a man to fall away from God. I do not give this as an universal rule, and would not condemn anyone for living in a home or apartment (both of which I have done during periods of my life). However, the relationship between conformity to this world’s adopted form of living and a person’s closeness to, or separation from, Yahweh is something to be considered. David walked very closely to God in his early years, a time in which he was a shepherd of the field and later a leader of Saul’s army where he dwelt in tents. He continued his nomadic lifestyle as he fled from Saul and in the early years of his reign, King David accompanied his army into all their battles. It was when he left off doing so that he fell into sin.
Another example of tragedy befalling a man when he took up a permanent residence after having lived a nomadic life is observed in Lot. Lot left Ur of the Chaldees along with his uncle Abraham. For years he dwelt in tents, but Lot set his eyes on the fertile plains of Sodom and relocated there. Before long he had abandoned his tent dwelling and had moved into a house in the city. This is where the angels of the Lord found him dwelling when they visited Sodom. When the judgment of Yahweh fell upon the city, Lot and his daughters escaped with their lives, but nothing more. They lost everything. Had they remained dwelling in tents they could easily have removed themselves and all their possessions out of harm’s way. One cannot uproot a house and all its furnishings in the same way.
Moving forward in the historic account of Scriptures we eventually come to the life of the Son of God, Yahshua the Messiah. A very interesting thing is brought to mind as one looks at a lesser known, yet highly meritable, understanding of Yahshua’s birth. It is believed by many (myself included) that the Son of God was born during the Feast of Booths. In the writing titled Divorced From Truth – Part 6, I shared the following.
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Rome was a well ordered empire, and would not unnecessarily seek to provoke its subjects, nor to disrupt commerce. The most favorable time for a census to be held would be after the harvest season, for much of the Empire was agrarian, and getting the crops harvested was as important to Rome as it was to her subjects. The final harvest of the year was the grape harvest which occurs just before the Feast of Tabernacles. Let us look to some further Scripture evidence of the birth of Christ. One great clue is found in John’s gospel.
And the Word became flesh, and [skenoo – tabernacled] among us…
The Greek word skenoo is found in this passage. Strong’s Concordance defines this word in the following way:
skenoo (skay-no’-o); from NT:4636; to tent or encamp, i.e. (figuratively) to occupy (as a mansion) or (specifically) to reside (as God did in the Tabernacle of old, a symbol of protection and communion)
During the Feast of Tabernacles the Jews were instructed to construct booths, or dwelling places, outside their homes. These were primitive affairs of boughs and branches as defined in Leviticus.
“Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your God for seven days.”
These booths were constructed everywhere and anywhere that they could find room to construct them.
So they proclaimed and circulated a proclamation in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the hills, and bring olive branches and wild olive branches, myrtle branches, palm branches and branches of other leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.” So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. The entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them.
E.W. Bullinger, in appendix 179 of The Companion Bible provides this insight.
The word tabernacled here receives beautiful significance from the knowledge that “the Lord of Glory” was “found in fashion as a man,” and thus tabernacling in human flesh. And in turn it shows in equally beautiful significance that our Lord was born on the first day of the great Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, viz. the 15th of Tisri, corresponding to September 29 (modern reckoning).
The Circumcision of our Lord took place therefore on the eighth day, the last day of the Feast, the “Great Day of the Feast” of John 7.37 (“Tabernacles” had eight days. The Feast of Unleavened Bread had seven days, and Pentecost one. See Lev. 23).
Many other authors and teachers have set forth evidences of the Feast of Tabernacles as the date of the Messiah’s birth. Eddie Chumney in The Seven Festivals of the Messiah writes of this matter. He uses the more traditional Hebrew word Sukkot when speaking of Tabernacles.
As we have stated earlier in this chapter, the Feast of Sukkot is called “the season of our joy” and “the feast of the nations.” With this in mind, in Luke 2:10 it is written, “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings [basar in Hebrew; otherwise known as the gospel] of great joy [Sukkot is called the ‘season of our joy’], which shall be to all people [Sukkot is called ‘the feast of the nations’].” So, we can see from this that the terminology the angel used to announce the birth of Yeshua were themes and messages associated with the Feast of Sukkot.
I will give one final testimony in this matter of Christ being born on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. This also has bearing on the tradition that depicts Christ as being laid in a manger, which is assumed to be a feeding trough for barn animals. Following are the words of Andy Thomas.
Why was there no room at the inn? Bethlehem is only about 5 miles from Jerusalem, and all the men of Israel had come to attend the festival of Tabernacles as required by the law of Moses. Every room for miles around Jerusalem would have been already taken by pilgrims, so all that Mary and Joseph could find for shelter was a sukkah. And in a normal sukkah there is a “bread trough” for the celebrants to store their food. It can be, also, translated as a “manger.” Since Jesus Christ is the BREAD OF LIFE, it would make sense that He was laid in the “bread trough” or “manger” in the sukkah they were staying in.
This is indeed a marvelous testimony. The Son of God came to tabernacle among men. He was born on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, and because there was no other room available, His parents found lodging in a sukkah, or booth, constructed for this feast. The “bread that came down from heaven” was laid in the “bread trough” in the sukkah where the bread would have been kept to feed those dwelling there.
“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” So Yahshua said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”
During the years of Christ’s ministry He never owned a home. He spoke the following words to one who expressed a desire to be His disciple.
And Yahshua said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Now, I don’t want readers to run out and say Joseph Herrin told them it is a sin to dwell in a house, or to own property. That is not what I am suggesting. My intent is to demonstrate that the Bible is filled with examples of men and women who were called of Yahweh to adopt what were considered alternative lifestyles in their days. When the majority of people were living in houses or permanent dwellings, Yahweh directed a remnant of His people to adopt a different mode of living.
A question I would encourage you to ponder is “How did you arrive at the mode of living you have adopted?” Were you led there by the example of parents and the society around you, and perhaps your own desires? Or were you led to it by the Spirit of Christ? If we truly have the mindset of being aliens and strangers in this world, how different might our lives be from the majority of men and women in the society we abide in? This world is NOT our home.
I realize that my life and experiences cannot be taken as a rule of law for all Christians. What I would suggest is that some insight, and cause for reflection may be gained by examining the experiences of my life for I believe the Holy Spirit has directed me. When I was ten years old, in 1971, I was baptized as a believer in Christ. For the next 28 years I lived a life of a Christian who was more focused on the things of God than most believers of my generation, but at the same time I had not fully yielded myself to the direction of Yahweh. It was not until 1999 when Yahweh spoke to me and said He could take me no further unless I gave Him full control of the direction of my life and its manner of living that I finally accepted the cost of a surrendered life and agreed to go WHEREVER He directed and to do WHATEVER He required of me.
The year 1999 marked a great turning point in my life. Even as one century was ending, and a new one beginning, I made a great transition. I had owned three different homes in the years leading up to 1999. Since 1999 I have not owned a home. When I surrendered to the Father, one of the first things He instructed me to let go of was my house. Along with this went the furnishings and a large accumulation of material possessions. In short order the Father transitioned me, my wife, and my two children from living in a 2,000 square foot home to a 28 foot long motorhome (approximately 200 square feet of living space). Like Abraham, we were uprooted. We had no permanent dwelling. This also gave us much liberty to move around. We could go wherever the Lord sent us. I have little doubt this is how the Father intended for us to remain as I find myself living a very similar alternative lifestyle to this very day.
I began this particular post with the thought in mind to write about some practical aspects of alternative living. I had noted previously that this series would be an unusual mixture of the spiritual and the natural (relating to practical matters of daily living). I did not anticipate writing what precedes this point in this post, but I believe the Spirit of Christ wanted it to be shared to cause some of His people to consider the life they are living and how they arrived there.
Moving on to more mundane matters relating to alternative living, I want to share some information on alternative ways of doing some very common things. Some of the more basic needs people have in their daily lives are storing food, washing clothes, heating water, and heating or cooling their living space. Let’s begin with storing food.
It was not until 1913 that refrigerators for homes were first built. For about a century and a half before this people used iceboxes to keep food chilled or frozen. This involved using blocks of ice inside of an insulated space to preserve the freshness of food. Not coincidentally, this method is still used very commonly among people who go camping. It is a primitive method of preserving and cooling food and drinks that is not dependent upon a steady supply of electricity. An insulated cooler is a typical item people carry when they go camping.
If you live far enough north or south of the equator where there is a permafrost layer to the ground, you need not be concerned about keeping things cool. You can just dig a hole in the ground and keep your perishable foodstuffs there. This method works to varying degrees anywhere there is soil that can be excavated. The closer to the equator you get, you will find that a hole dug in the ground will not provide as cold of temperatures, but it will still provide a significant amount of cooling compared to storing things above ground. A century ago it was quite common for people to have root cellars. These were rooms under the ground that a person could walk down into where they stored produce and canned goods. I remember visiting my grandparents home in upper Washington state and being asked to retrieve food items from her root cellar.
If you lead a nomadic life, and camp in areas where you can dig a hole in the ground, you can bury a plastic or rubberized trash can in the ground. The trash can will keep out water, dirt, and bugs, while putting it into the ground will protect the contents from high outdoors temperatures. This can be a good means of storing raw fruits and vegetables.
Trash Can Root Cellar
You can also use a camping cooler, or a barrel for a root cellar. If you are more permanently located, some people have buried old refrigerators or non-working freezers in the ground and used them as root cellars. Some foods you can store in a root cellar are: Apples, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Leeks, Parsnips, Pears, Potatoes, Rutabagas, and Radishes. You can also place the foods you have canned yourself into a root cellar for long term storage. If you have questions about what can be stored in this way, do a search on the Internet. There are abundant resources for this type of information.
Canning, drying, and salting foods are other means of preparing perishable goods for long term storage. Certain fruits and vegetables, particularly those with a high water content, do not store very well in their natural state. Many people use food dehydrators to remove the moisture from their foods (fruits vegetables, meats). You don’t need electricity to dehydrate foods. Before the use of electricity became common, people for millennia used the heat of the sun for drying their foods. This is still one of the chief ways of drying foods. You can build your own solar food dryer at a reasonable cost with little trouble. All you need to do is build a box out of wood, metal, plastic, etc., paint the interior flat black, make some trays using some type of screen or wire mesh material, make a lid for the box out of clear plexiglass, lexan, etc., install some air vents using screen to keep out bugs, and set it up to face the sun. Following is an example of one design for building a solar food dryer.
Once the food is dried, it should be stored in airtight containers (freezer bags, glass jars, tupperware, etc.) and stored in a cool, dry location out of direct sunlight. Store it in your trash can root cellar if you don’t have another location that fits these criteria.
Another ancient method of food preservation is salting. Oftentimes salting is done using a combination of salting and solar drying. Many civilizations have dried fish in this manner for centuries.
Drying Salted Fish in Indonesia
Many cultures hang fish on lines suspended over poles for drying in the sun and open air. You can dry a wide variety of meats by salting and drying them. They should then be stored in a cool, dry location out of the sun. Details on how to salt and dry various meats can be found online. A smoker, or a smokehouse, is another ancient and traditional means of preserving meats.
There are times when we may find that we would like to have refrigeration, or even a freezer, and block ice is not available. Unless you have ready access to the electric power grid, or a sufficient source of gas to run a propane refrigerator/freezer, you need to consider the most power efficient methods of running a refrigerator or freezer. If, like me, you are using a solar auxiliary power system that is rather modest in its power capacity, you want the most efficient freezer or refrigerator you can get.
There are models you can purchase that have these characteristics in mind. Some of the most power efficient are the 12 or 24 volt DC powered freezers and refrigerators. One well regarded manufacturer is Sundanzer, though their appliances are a bit pricey.
Sundanzer Solar Ultra Efficient 50L DC Refrierator or Freezer
The 50 liter (52 quarts) model freezer above retails for about $650. Its rated power consumption is 24.5 amp hours per day. Their refrigerator of the same size has an average power consumption of only 9.6 amp hours per day. Sundanzer offers a range of sizes for their refrigerators and freezers. The Edgestar 80 quart freezer I purchased is similarly power efficient due to its abundant insulation and efficient compressor motor. It runs on AC or DC power, and costs around the same price new as the Sundanzer model above.
Perhaps you want a large refrigerator that is energy efficient. One alternative idea many people with solar power systems have opted to use is to purchase a large capacity chest type freezer and use it as a refrigerator. Chest type freezers are more energy efficient than standard refrigerators for a number of reasons, and they can be purchased fairly cheaply.
A chest type freezer such as the one pictured above, is normally better insulated than a refrigerator. Also, cold air sinks while hot air rises. Because the lid is at the top of a chest freezer, the cold air tends to stay in the freezer when the door is opened. This is not true when you open a refrigerator door. All the cold air in an upright refrigerator or upright freezer pours out the door when you open it. This allows warmer air to rush in causing the compressor to run to cool it back down.
Chest type refrigerators are difficult to find. My Edgestar Freezer/Refrigerator is unusual in that it has a user adjustable thermostat that spans a wide temperature range to enable it to function as either a freezer or refrigerator. Most freezers have thermostats that are limited in range which will not permit the user to set the temperature above freezing. The less expensive chest freezers rarely ever have the ability to set the thermostat high enough to use them as a refrigerator. There is a work around, however. Backwoods Solar sells an external thermostat that allows a user to turn any chest freezer into a refrigerator.
The freezer plugs into the thermostat, and the thermostat plugs into the wall. It comes with a temperature probe that goes inside the freezer. Using this external thermostat, the compressor will be switched on and off to keep the temperature inside the freezer at refrigerator temperatures. The thermostat sells for $110. Add this to a large capacity freezer that costs $200-$300, and you have a much more energy efficient refrigerator at a reasonable cost. It still runs on 110 volt AC power, however, so if you have a solar power system an inverter would be needed.
You can make a fridge or freezer more energy efficient depending on how you use it. Placing it in a cool location out of direct sunlight will make it run less. Opening the door less often, and holding it open for only brief periods of time, will reduce its power usage. Also, a freezer or refrigerator should be kept full, or nearly full. If you don’t have enough groceries to fill it up, put some milk jugs filled about 3/4 full with water in them. Once the water reaches the temperature the fridge or freezer is set to, it will help maintain that temperature when the door is opened. You should also insure that there is plenty of ventilation space around a fridge or freezer, and if you can access the outside heat evaporation coils, you should keep them clean. A layer of dust on the coils acts just like a blanket, keeping the heat from being able to radiate out and away from the fridge or freezer.
If you feel you need an upright refrigerator, you can purchase an upright freezer and convert it to refrigerator use with the same external thermostat mentioned above.
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