In order to receive the 10 Commandments from the Lord, Moses ascended Mt. Sinai and stayed there for 40 days. Unfortunately, the Israelites became impatient and turned their backs on God. This affront to God occurred during the 4th month on the Hebrew calendar--Tammuz. Aaron the priest was asked to make an idol to "go before" the people (Exodus 32:1) He instructed them to remove their gold earrings and oversaw the forming of a golden calf which they worshiped.
The sin that was embraced set into motion the most difficult time period on the Jewish calendar where disasters befall the Jewish people year after year during this time frame. It is recorded that on the 17th of Tammuz Moses came down from Mt. Sinai after God told him what the people were doing. Despite all the miraculous encounters with the Lord, the people sinned against Him. Moses was able to convince God not to destroy His people before he came down from the Mountain. God dealt with the sin of the Israelites without completely destroying them. However, the damage was done. A downward spiral that started on the 17th of Tammuz ended with the 9th of Av. This date is infamous for the calamities that have occurred.
In some commentaries the Egyptians that accompanied the Israelites out of the land of bondage are blamed for their negative influence. It is suggested that they convinced the Israelites to take part in idol worship. To place blame on the Egyptians is a cop-out as the people of God are the ones who made the ultimate decision. The decision by the Israelites led to the anger of God and Moses toward these people and opened the door for continuing disasters.
During the same time frame in Tammuz as the building of the golden calf, the Israelites sent 12 spies into the Promised Land. Even though they saw that the land produced abundant fruit and grain, they allowed their fear of giants in the land to taint their report. Ignoring God's promise to give them the land of Canaan, all but Joshua and Caleb gave a bad report. (Numbers 13) We must understand the lessons of Tammuz to stop any cycles of destruction in our own lives.
The two sins committed by the Israelites were this: worshiping idols and giving a negative report. How many of us unwittingly do this? Our lifestyles do not make God the number one priority. Our mouths confess agreement with the kingdom of darkness, opening the door for the demonic to operate in our lives. The lessons of Tammuz are clear. We must love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and with all our souls and with all our strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5) And, we must declare the truth of God's Word.
Today we begin the month of Tammuz. Let us make a concerted effort to place God first and to speak in agreement with Him.
In our region fresh strawberries are available for only about five weeks out of the year. Now is that season! There is no comparison between those berries picked from the field while they are at the perfect ripeness and those that are picked too early and shipped to grocery stores. Honestly, I do not know how the local stores sell their shipped-in strawberries when the ones just picked from the local field are available! The color, juiciness and flavor of the "home grown" berries is beyond comparison!
The berries in the grocery store may appear to be ready for eating but tasting them is a great disappointment. Why are the local strawberries so superior to the others? I believe it has everything to do with timing. Let's refer to Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 11. "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven...He has made everything beautiful in its time..." There is a time for picking and eating strawberries. It cannot be rushed. One must wait until the berries are fully ripe if they want the best flavor and juiciness.
Jesus demonstrated the importance of timing and producing appropriately when He was leaving Bethany with the disciples. "The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to find out if it had any fruit. When He reached it, He found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then He said to the tree, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again'..." (Mark 11:13-14)
A quick reading of this passage makes one ask, "If this was not the season for figs, why would Jesus curse the tree?" We must look at everything that is happening with this tree. The tree appeared to have something to give because it was in full leaf. Figs start to be produced on the branches before the leaves are fully formed. There should have been some figs on that tree since it was full of leaves. Jesus cursed the fig tree because it held an empty promise.
Interestingly, the fig tree is used to represent the nation of Israel. Jesus was giving His disciples an object lesson. Judgment will come to those who appear to be fruitful but are not. The people of Israel cannot be fruitful unless they acknowledge Jesus/Yeshua as their true Messiah. This is the same for every Believer.
Jesus said, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last..." (John 15:16) We must stay connected to the Lord and His Word to grow and product fruit in the right way and in the right time. The disciples were sent out to "feed the nations" with God's Word when they were "ripe" (after being filled with the Holy Spirit). The Lord is looking for "ripe fruit" in us. He is growing us up and will send us out when we are ripe and ready to feed the nations.
Spring rains soften the ground and help produce fertile feeding areas for robins. I love to watch these birds as they hop around a yard, cocking their heads to peer at the grass. God has made robins with exceptional vision and a keen sense of hearing. Scientists have discovered that robins use both of these senses in their hunt for worms.
As worms move just below the surface of the ground they make small changes in the soil and grass. Robins can see this. When we observe robins cocking their head to one side they are using their monocular vision (each eye can operate independently) and turning one eye to look more closely at the movement of the ground. In addition, worms moving through the ground cause small particles of soil to rub together. Robins can actually hear the noise! Worms are important for robins to eat as they help develop strong muscles and feathers. A web site called "TheSpruce.com" says that the American Robin may eat up to 14' of earthworms in a single day. Don't you love how God made these creatures perfectly to find exactly what they need?
Contemplating this thought, I realize that God also made us perfectly in order to find exactly what we need--more of Him! Like the robin, we must use the senses that God has placed within us, being willing to wait, watch and listen. The ability to watch and listen for the Lord is cultivated as we practice and our sensitivity to Him increases. It is the Lord who will enlarge our spiritual capacity as we wait upon Him. "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." (Psalm 27:14)
Jesus quoted Scripture (Deuteronomy 8:3) to Satan in the wilderness. He said, "Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4) Indeed, it is spiritual food that we desperately need and that feeds us. Our senses must be tuned to a spiritual wave length in order to engage with the Lord. God alone can and will satisfy us. "The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time." (Psalm 145:15)
The prophet Isaiah instructs, "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn." (Isaiah 51:1) The Psalmist tells us, "...Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Come my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord." (Psalm 34:10-11) The book of Proverbs has several verses instructing us to wait on, watch for and listen to the Lord. My favorite one comes from Proverbs 8:34-35. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord."
The Lord desires to feed us; He has promised to do so. "The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame..." (Isaiah 58:11) John the disciple explains how Jesus told the Jews that His own body would be living bread for us to eat. "For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him...The one who feeds on me will live because of me. (John 6:55-57)
We are made by God to have communion with Him. Everything we need to pursue and find Him is in place. Now we must be intentional in waiting, watching and listening so that He will come and feed us and draw us into a more intimate place with Him.
Psalm 84:5 tells us that blessing comes to those whose strength is in the Lord and who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. Every pilgrimage includes seasons with challenges meant to mature us in our faith and trust in the Lord. An integral part of every journey is times of sacrifice.
Different types of sacrifices are written about in the Old Testament. There was a sacrificial system in place that was meant to teach God's people about His great love and forgiveness. Five different sacrifices are talked about in Scripture: burnt offering, grain offering, fellowship offering, sin offering and guilt offering. All of these sacrifices were pointing God's people toward Christ. Since Jesus became our ultimate sacrifice there is no need for these offerings any longer. However, we are to follow the example that He set for us. "Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'" (Matthew 16:24)
The day of Pentecost occurred on the Jewish pilgrim feast called Shavuot. The Jews came to the temple to celebrate the day that God gave the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai. This day was celebrated by bringing God a sacrificial gift according to Deuteronomy 16:9-10. "Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the Lord your God has given you."
When I think about the abundant blessings that God has poured out upon me I wonder how my offering can begin to show my gratitude. And yet God considers obedience as a sacrificial offering. The God-fearing Jews who were in Jerusalem to honor God on Shavuot were sacrificing time and sowing seeds of worship to Him. Their obedience resulted in God's delight in pouring out His supernatural power through the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church. The Church calls this day Pentecost. This year the anniversary of Shavuot occurred on Wednesday. Today is what the Church calls Pentecost Sunday.
When we consider giving the Lord an appropriate sacrifice we must ask ourselves what kind of relationship we want with Him. If the answer to that question is that we want a more intimate and personal relationship with Him, we must deal with our carnal nature and crucify the flesh. "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." (Galations 5:24 - KJV) If we desire to go all the way with Christ, there is a cross to carry.
For me, the story of Abraham and Isaac demonstrates the type of sacrifice that God is looking for. Is it not interesting that God gave Isaac to Abraham in a supernatural way and yet Abraham was required to show his unconditional love for God by sacrificing Isaac? God blesses us with gifts. He is the one who gives us material for sacrifice. We must be willing to lay down those things that separate us from our highest purpose in God. The pain involved in this process is real; He understands. He is the one who did not spare His own Son.
How hungry are you for a full revelation of God's love and power? What is God asking you to place on the altar? I want to speak for myself. The blessings God has given to me are lavish and undeniable. He has made me aware of the material for sacrifice that is intertwined in the blessings. There will be pain in my offering. This is characteristic of true sacrifice. I have a choice to make. What I know is this: He is worthy of everything!
Joan E. Mathias