The historical event called Chanukah or Festival of Dedication should speak to the Church in this season. The chaotic, volatile, and corrupt days we are living in are similar to those that the Jews were experiencing in 165 BC. When the Assyrian army invaded Jerusalem darkness began to overcome light. Jews were forbidden by the Assyrians from practicing their faith. Called "Hellenization," the invaders' goal was to absorb the Jews into the Greek culture. Some among the Jews were embracing the alternative lifestyles and living outside of Godly boundaries. This led to persecution of those Jews who were trying to live according to God's ways. Those who were faithful to God's laws were caught in a trap.
The final straw came when the priests were required to bow down to idols and the altar of the Temple was defiled as a pig was sacrificed on it. A priest named Mattathias and his son, Judah, were so distressed by this unconscionable act that they gathered a small army of men who engaged in guerilla warfare for three years. On Kislev 25 they were able to overtake the Assyrian army and reentered the defiled Temple. Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the Temple. After the Levite priests relit the lampstand (Menorah), they discovered that there was only enough oil to burn for one day. It took the priests eight days to make fresh oil, and miraculously, this is how long the lampstand burned. The Lord intervened to keep the lights burning. Hence, Chanukah is also called The Festival of Lights (Hag ha-urim).
Symbolically, the Chanukah Menorah has eight candles with a ninth one in the center. Called the "Servant Candle" or "Shamash," its job is to light the other eight candles. The Shamash is the first candle to be lit during Chanukah and is then used each night to light the other eight candles. The prophet Isaiah foretold of a man of God who would come as a servant. "See, my servant will act wisely, He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at Him—His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and His form marred beyond human likeness—so He will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of Him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand." (Isaiah 52:13-15) It is no accident that the middle candle is called "The Servant" and is used to light the others.
Jesus, the Servant of God, is "the true light that gives light to everyone..." (John 1:9) He told a crowd of people, "I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) The position of the Shamash on the Menorah is significant. Not only is it in the center, but it sits higher than all the other candles. The higher a light sits, the greater its impact. We see how Isaiah prophesied about the lifting up of the Servant. Jesus confirmed His position and His calling in John 12:32. 'And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." In verse 36 Jesus gives this admonition to His followers: "Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light."
The candles of the Menorah were lit with anointing oil, a sign of separation and holiness. The name Jesus Christ is significant in both Hebrew and Greek. Messiah (Hebrew) and Christos (Greek) mean the Anointed One. Our Lord provides the oil of anointing and the light! He is the Shamash that ignites our flames and lights up our lives. Do you see the prophetic significance of the Menorah for the Church? The eight-day celebration of The Feast of Dedication should speak volumes to us. Let us remember the themes of Chanukah: Dedication, The Faithfulness of God, and The Victory of Light over Darkness. Let us also pray for our Jewish brothers and sisters who will light the first candle on their Menorahs tonight. May their eyes be opened to the truth that the Servant Candle is a representation of their Messiah who calls them to faith in Him.
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving and a time to look back at God’s consistent faithfulness to America. Those who traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to begin a new nation were guided by the Lord to establish a place where He would be worshiped, and freedom of religion would be practiced. One of the meanings of the noun pilgrim is "a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons." Our national holiday had its origins from the 1621 autumn feast held by the Pilgrims and the local Indians. The feast was meant to celebrate the harvest and the blessings of the past year. Included in the first Thanksgiving were 53 Pilgrims made up of four women, 14 young boys and girls, 13 infants and young children, and 22 men according to David Barton, the founder of Wall Builders. They joined 90 Indian warriors from the Wampanoag tribe. For three days they dined on game, vegetables, corn bread, and berries. In between eating, they engaged in competitions including running, wresting, and shooting. As students of the Bible, the Pilgrims sought to apply its principles. They spent time thanking God for delivering them from a land of persecution and bringing them to America where the native people taught them how to survive and prosper in their new land.
Looking back to the time when the Pilgrims were instituting a way of life in the "New World," we can see that their civil government started with the Mayflower Compact. Their belief in equality for everyone was demonstrated when all the passengers on the ship signed the Compact. Jon Hamill, a descendant of a Pilgrim and co-founder of Lamplighter Ministries, described the atmosphere when the original signers of the Compact gathered together: "The move of the Holy Spirit was with them. In fact, when they wrote the Mayflower Compact...they said, 'In the presence of God, and one another.' They honored the presence of God, knowing that God had sent them apostolically across the waters to found a nation in freedom, to found a nation in covenant with Christ."
There is no doubt that a Christian heritage formed the basis for our country. As America prospered, those from other nations began to take note of her successes. Dr. Ben Carson, in his book, America the Beautiful, shares that in 1831 a Frenchman named Alexis de Tocqueville came to decipher the secrets of America's success. He wrote, "I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors...in her fertile fields and boundless forests, in her rich mines and vast world commerce, in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if American ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."
Alexis also wrote, "The religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention...In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reign in common over the same country." I think we can see evidence that 400 years after the first Thanksgiving and the enactment of the Mayflower Compact, our foundations are under attack. Religion and freedom are marching in opposite directions. The model for the laws incorporated into our Bill of Rights and the basis for all education—the Bible—has been cast aside. We must ask ourselves why many of today's pulpits are not flaming with righteousness and the goodness of America is compromised. The foundations of America must be rebuilt! It is time for us to embrace the legacy that the Pilgrims left for us. This Thanksgiving we should be on our knees in repentance for our cavalier attitude toward God and His Word. It is time for us to shore up our foundations with prayer and declarations from the Bible. Jesus told His disciples, "Men always ought to pray and not lose heart." (Luke 18:1 - NKJ) We must thank God for our Christian heritage and be faithful in our prayers for our nation and the church.
From the time he was a young man, John Wright Follette's life was dedicated to the Lord. He was an obedient servant of Jesus who used his talents and abilities (singer, musician, teacher, preacher, artist, and poet) to bless many. Broken Bread is a book that records his messages centered on the Lord Jesus where he shares revelation on the meaning of God's Word. One of the chapters titled, "What do you do with your second choice?" grabbed my attention. Follette writes, "Nearly everyone has had to take a second or third choice as far as life's course was concerned. They have had to take the fragments and pieces of their first choice in life, which has been shattered, mend them together and make a success." The concept presented by Follette is that if we allow the Lord to break our self-will, the broken pieces can be used to create something beautiful that serves Jesus and draws us closer to Him.
How many of us can relate to Follette's supposition on the course of our lives? To confirm it, he tells the story of the famous artist, Whistler. Whistler's first choice was to be a soldier, but his studies at West Point were shut down when he flunked chemistry. He moved on to his second choice, engineering, and failed to make the grade for this career. Finally, he pieced his hopes together and started painting. The rest is history. He was meant for his third choice. The apostle Paul had an experience with God where he was shifted from his first choice to another. Seeing the darkness in the town called Bithynia, Paul was convinced that he should preach there. However, this is what Acts 16:7 records: "They tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to." Follette explains that Paul was "checked abruptly by God. He thinks he has to go to a certain end of the earth, but the Lord says, 'I want you at another end.'" "Paul's first choice is ruined, His ambition, though godly and spiritual, is thwarted." Paul went down to the seaport of Troas where he waited. Here God revealed his plans for him through a vision where a man was begging Paul to "Come over to Macedonia and help us." (Acts 16:9) God's plan was to change the entire direction of Christian missions and move it from the East to the West.
Follette asks some questions that would be good for us to ponder: "Can you take a second or a third choice and make it an opportunity in your life? Is your touch with God and the power of the Holy Spirit in your life strong enough to take that broken first choice and out of it make a splendid chance where God can come in and be glorified afresh?" Paul was not discouraged by the abrupt change of plans because he was dedicated to the will of God in his life. The life of Jesus demonstrates the same sequence of events. Follette says, "His first great desire was a ministry among His own people...But 'His own received Him not.' He wanted Israel, but that Bithynia never opened to Him. He found Calvary instead—His Troas. What did He do? He made Calvary, made Troas, to become the doorway to Macedonia and to all the ends of the earth."
If we are willing to collect the broken pieces of our first choice, with God's direction, we can use them to make something divine. It seems that brokenness is part of God's process for transformation. Remember the lad who brought his lunch (five loaves and two fish) to a gathering with Jesus. He had to give up all he had to see how Jesus would use the broken pieces of his lunch to feed 5,000. Missionary to Peru, Ruth Stull, says, "If my life is broken when given to Jesus, it is because pieces feed a multitude, while a loaf will satisfy only a little lad."
I am reminded of a Japanese art form called Kintsugi. The process includes collecting the broken pieces of pottery and reconstructing them so that they turn into something beautiful. The mending is done by cementing the pieces of the pot together with visible gold seams. This art form is built on the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections, one can create an even stronger, more magnificent piece of art. Brokenness is part of our lives. However, as we submit the broken parts to Jesus, He will make us better and draw us closer to Himself. 1 Peter 5:10 says it well: "And then, after your brief suffering, the God of all loving grace, who has called you to share in His eternal glory in Christ, will personally and beautifully restore you and make you stronger than ever. Yes, He will set you firmly in place and build you up." (TPT) We must ask ourselves a question: Are we willing to sacrifice our first choices so that God can use the broken pieces of our will and transform us into a vessel of beauty fit for the Master's use? Follette's chapter on second choices concludes this way: "Out of the broken fragments of my first choice I shall mend together a most glorious opportunity in which God may rest and delight Himself."
Jesus had much to teach His disciples before He left the earth. Knowing the frailty of humankind, He promised that Father God would send the Holy Spirit to remind them of everything He said. He also promised to leave them peace: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27) When Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, the disciples were launched into a new level of faith and trust in the Lord. Holy Spirit is still with us to guide and empower us. It is important for us to remember this, especially this month, the ninth on the Hebrew calendar. Called Kislev, the name of the month is derived from the Hebrew word for security and trust. While the eighth month was the month of the flood, this month is the one of the rainbow when God made a covenant with Noah and his family. That covenant is an everlasting one, meant for us today. For Noah and his family, the ark was a place of peace and rest during the storm. Jesus is now our ark during the storm, our abiding place of peace.
I love the stories in the Bible of those who were able to overcome overwhelming obstacles and win unwinnable battles through trusting in the Lord. One of my favorite accounts is of Gideon against the Midianites who invaded Israel like a swarm of locusts. When all of Israel cried out to the Lord, He selected an unlikely person to crush the Midianites. After questioning the angel of God to see if he was for real, "Gideon built an altar to the Lord and called it The Lord is Peace." (Judges 6:24) An army from four of the tribes of Israel joined Gideon to fight the enemy in the Valley of Jezreel. Wanting the Israelites to know that they had no part in the victory God was about to give them, He reduced the size of the army from 32,000 to 300 soldiers. The opposing army was so huge that it is reported in Judges 7:12 that "their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore." But here is what it says in Psalm 60:12 and Psalm 108:13, "With God we will gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies." As the Israelites blew their trumpets, broke their jars with torches inside, and gave a shout, the Midianites fled and turned on one another with their swords. What an unlikely victory!
Do you ever wonder if these types of miracles still happen? I can tell you most assuredly that they do! God is fighting for His people so that we can have peace in the battle. On October 28, Vision for Israel posted an uplifting reflection from an Israeli pilot who participated in the 1973 Yom Kippur war. War erupted on this most sacred day on the Hebrew calendar. Both the northern and southern borders were attacked on October 6, 1973, by Syria and Egypt. Since the attack took place on Yom Kippur, most of the Israeli soldiers were at home with their families. Here is the testimony of the Israeli pilot who flew over the Sinai: "I saw from the cockpit the incomparable balance of power, hundreds of enemy army tanks, and thousands of Egyptian solders approaching and fighting. On the Israeli side, there were very few military forces to provide protection for the borders. From above it seemed shocking! It could end in a Holocaust and the destruction of an entire state, the State of Israel. I did not believe what I saw...But suddenly I see an amazing spectacle! Masses of Egyptian soldiers returning towards Egypt, tanks retreating. Some of the enemy fighters raised a white flag and surrendered, and I do not understand what was happening. I'm stunned and ask myself, what's going on down there?"
The Israeli pilot heard the story from the Egyptian side: "As the Egyptians advanced toward Israel, they suddenly saw masses of Israeli soldiers. They were sure they were falling into a trap from which they wouldn't come out alive...Out of fear and anxiety they decided to surrender. I knew that there is a God in heaven, that He guards us with all His angels. Thanks to His defense and intervention we were able to win the difficult and bloody war." The formerly unbelieving pilot who gave this testimony became an observant and God-fearing Believer after the miracle he saw that day. For those of us who are facing a serious conflict, be assured that the same God who delivered Israel in 1973 will also deliver us. Let this be an encouragement for us to have increasing levels of peace and trust in the Lord amid our circumstances, especially during this month of Kislev.
The Poconos, an upland region of the Allegheny Plateau, was named by the Munsee Indians, a subtribe of the Lenape Indians. Its original name was “Pokawahne,” which means "Creek Between Two Hills," referring to the Delaware River. The land is an optimum habitat for Hemlock trees who thrive in moist soil, shaded areas, and steep gorges and ravines. Cornell University scientists call the Eastern Hemlock the "foundation specie" of the Poconos forest. It grows along with mixed hardwoods like maple and black birch and is considered the cornerstone of the hardwood forests. Because of this, the Hemlock tree is the PA state tree. The dominant Hemlock exerts a major influence on all other living things that share its environment, including plants, animals, birds, and fish. One can smell the fresh, clean air when they are in a forest dominated by this tree. The unique soil and water conditions make a home for native rhododendron, spicebush, viburnum varies, ferns, Mayflower, and the evergreen groundcover called Partridgeberry. Those who study ecosystems in the USA note the many benefits of the Hemlock tree:
1. Giver of aesthetic beauty
2. Contributor to good air quality (Hemlocks filter pollutants by capturing and storing large amounts of
CO2 and releasing O2 into the environment.)
3. Provider of food and habitats for birds and animals
4. Improver of water quality (Shallow roots filter runoff and keep water clean by preventing sedimentation and filtering pollutants. Decomposition of acidic needles changes the makeup of soil and water.)
5. Provider of shade for the streams and aquatic life (Shade keeps the water cooler and more
oxygenated and keeps snow from melting until later in the spring, maintaining cooler temperatures.)
6. Source of shade for native plants
Sadly, our Pennsylvania native tree is under attack from a small, aphid-like insect brought into our country from Asia. The Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (HWA) was discovered in the United States in 1951. By 2002 the HWA had infested Hemlock trees from Georgia to New Hampshire. In 2002 the Hemlocks in the Poconos were showing signs of decline from the HWA infestation. The insects suck the sugar from the veins of the trees so that they are unable to produce new growth. The foliage becomes pale and grey in appearance and eventually dies. Researchers have found that the decline of the Hemlocks cause decomposition of the forest floor. In addition, water temperatures are increasing, allowing algae to grow in the streams. This negatively affects the trout that need clear, cool, unpolluted water to survive.
Last week, as my husband and I walked through the Pocono Mountain area called Dingmans Ferry, God began to show me an analogy between the Church and the Hemlock tree. Just as the Hemlock is the foundation specie of the Pocono forest, the Church should remain the foundation or cornerstone of our nation. That is how the Church was positioned when The United States was established. The roots of the Church are planted in the love of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:17) and must remain here. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that our foundation comes from the Spirit of the Lord that rises from the stump of Jesse. "The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord...In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to Him, and His resting place will be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:2, 10)
Like the HWA attacks the Hemlock to keep it from growing, we have an enemy who is attacking the Church to keep Her from growing. The Psalmist asks a question: "When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psalm 11:3) It is true that those with a liberal agenda scheme to destroy the moral foundation of our nation. However, our God is aware of what is happening. He loves justice. He longs "to be gracious to us and to be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress...He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure." (Isaiah 33:2, 6) The future of our world is dependent on us (The Church) being salt and light. Our prayers make a difference! As children of God, we should be transforming the environment around us so that we exert a major influence on those who live around us. We are the Foundation for our nation!
From the time that fruit-producing crops are planted, farmers look forward to the harvest. Their desire is to prepare an environment that is ideal for optimum fruit production. This refers to the size, quality, and quantity of the harvest. Honestly, the best farmers do everything they can on earth to prepare the growing area and then look to God in heaven for His blessing on their crops. Our Divine Farmer planted each of us in the environment that is most beneficial to produce fruit. Jesus explains this in John 15. "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." (Verses 1 and 2)
Remember when the 12 men, one from each tribe of the children of Israel, were sent into the Promised Land? They were to explore Canaan to determine the kind of land that the people lived in. They were to investigate the type of soil that was there--whether fertile or poor. Their final instruction from Moses was this: "Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land." (Numbers 13:20) Chapter 13 of Numbers describes what the explorers discovered. "When they reached the Valley of Eshkol (meaning cluster), they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs." (Verse 23) Can you imagine the size and quality of the fruit?
What is the Lord looking for from us? He wants a fruitful harvest. Let's look at our position in relationship to Father God and Jesus. Go back to John 15 and see that Jesus is the vine and Father is the vinedresser or tender of the grape vines. We are branches. Grapevine branches are tied to trellises or propped up with sticks in the natural world. The vine branches need a maximum amount of sunshine and good air circulation to produce the maximum amount of fruit. Like the branches on the vine, Jesus props us up when we are having difficulties and sets us in a place where we can take in the maximum amount of Holy Spirit.
What is the fruit that God is looking for and where does it grow? The Lord's fruit grows in our character, and it consists of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22) Notice the first fruit on the list. This is key! Without love we are nothing! (1 Corinthians 13:2) As Jesus was talking to His disciples He said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34-35) Notice that the grapes come in a cluster. Isaiah 65:8 has something to say about this: "As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes and people say, 'Don't destroy it; there is still a blessing in it'..." Wine is made from multiple clusters of grapes. We need to be connected to one another for successful ministry to the world. It is the new wine that is produced for the harvest of nations.
Here is a key to remember about the fruit harvest. Harvest happens every year. After one harvest there will be another. God looks for many seasons of fruitfulness in our lives. The fruit in our lives is ripened through our relationship with Jesus. As we become more like Him, our fruit gets larger and sweeter and juicier. God uses every season in our lives to increase our fruitfulness. I pray that we "may live a life worthy of the Lord and bless Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God." (Colossians 1:10)
New World Order--term that makes me shutter! This plan for repressive measures to eliminate any dissent from a socialist/liberal point of view moves forward to disarm and conquer anyone who disagrees with a globalist agenda. Some say that there is an elite group of people working behind the scenes to orchestrate a series of crises to devastate the population so that they can achieve world domination. Wealth and power seem to be their goal. The alleged conspirators plot to create a New World Order through a one-world government. There are a multitude of theories about secret societies plotting to take over governments to control the future. I take solace in the truth that God (The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) is in control. He is Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent. He knows all, sees all, and already has a plan for our future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
The wise writer of Ecclesiastes writes, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." (1:9) All we need to do is to look back in history to see a similar plan by the people on the earth in the days of the Old Testament. They all spoke the same language. "Then they said, 'Come, let's build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world." (Genesis 11:4 - NLT) God was not happy with their agenda and said, "Come, let us go down and confuse their language so that they will not understand each other. (Genesis 11:7) "That is why it was called Babel--because the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth." (Genesis 11:9)
How do you think the Lord is responding to the behind-the-scenes agenda of those pushing a New World Order? Proverbs 28:22 has something to say about this: "The previous generation has set boundaries in place. Don't you dare move them just to benefit yourself." (TPT) Boundaries were part of God's plans. When the children of Israel were entering the promised land, He gave them specific directions on where their boundaries would be established. (Numbers 34, Deuteronomy 32:8-9)
Christians are told to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (Mark 16:15) We cannot do this without a firm understanding of our identity--who we are in Christ. The demonically inspired Tower of Babel was meant to keep us from knowing our identity. God made each of us uniquely, and He marked out our appointed times in history and the boundaries of our lands. (Acts 17:26) Author and pastor Rick Joyner wrote, "You can't have true unity without distinctions. God wants us to understand and honor the uniqueness we have. We have to be free to be who we are and how God made us and honor other's heritages and how He made them." Rabbi Jonathan Cahn gives more clarity to the meaning of boundaries through the Hebrew interpretation. "In Hebrews, the word for landmark or boundary is the word "Gebul." It means border or limit, line and parameter. The word for ancient is "Olam." But it doesn't only mean ancient, it also means continuous, everlasting, and eternal. So, the verse could be translated as, 'Do not move the eternal boundaries, the everlasting parameters.' Man is trying to move God's eternal boundaries...We see attempts to redefine the parameters of gender, motherhood, fatherhood, manhood, womanhood, childhood, morality, ethics, right and wrong, the nature of humanity, and the sanctity of life. The Scripture warns that people and civilizations who seek to alter the Lord's everlasting parameters will suffer repercussions."
As Believers in Jesus Christ, we must protect the Lord's boundary lines. It is our responsibility to uphold the standards set forth for us in Scripture. We cannot allow the government or society or our education system to dictate the boundaries for what is right and wrong. We are answerable to the Lord and to keep His standards and truth. We must live as people of God, each with our own assignment to spread the love and truth of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is our call! This is our mandate! We have a sphere of influence where we can take a stand for truth and justice and fight for the preservation of the boundary lines put in place by our Lord. We must see ourselves as soldiers on the battlefield. Let us be encouraged by 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
Two messages from God are brought to light during the eighth month on the Hebrew calendar, Cheshvan. We see them through the story of Noah and the great flood. Cheshvan can be a month of judging or a month of grace. God demonstrated both, and He gives us a choice.
From the time of creation until the days of Noah, God observed the behaviors of mankind. He was so grieved by the wickedness of humanity that He expressed regret for making human beings. "So, the Lord said, 'I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.' But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." (Genesis 6:7-8 - NKJ) From these verses we can glean both themes for the month of Cheshvan.
The Bible explains in Psalm 89:14 that righteousness and justice are the foundation of God's throne. Psalm 47:8 tells us that "God reigns over the nations; God is seated on His holy throne." Isaiah 5:16 prophesies, "But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by His justice, and the holy God will be proved holy by His righteous acts." How could a holy God who builds His foundation on righteousness and justice endure the evil of the people of Noah's day? He could not! "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God." (Genesis 6:9) This being the case, God gave Noah directions on building an ark to protect him and his family.
While a time of judgment was placed upon the earth, Noah experienced the grace of God. The Lord told him, "I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you." (Genesis 6:17-19) On the 17th of Cheshvan Noah and his family entered the ark and the floodgates of heaven were opened, "And rain fell on the earth 40 days and 40 nights." (Genesis 7:12) One year and 10 days later, on the 27th of Cheshvan, God instructed Noah to come out of the ark.
The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma of a burnt offering that Noah prepared for Him and established a covenant with him. A promise was made by the Lord: "Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood..." (Genesis 9:11) A sign was given: I have set My rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember My covenant between Me and you and all living creatures of every kind." (Genesis 9:13-14) Since Cheshvan is the eighth month on the Hebrew calendar, isn't it interesting that this number represents new beginnings.
Judgment led to grace—grace that endures to the present day. This month is a reminder that God's grace is never-ending. "Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:16-17) God's love for us is so great that He nailed His Son to a cross so that His blood was shed for the remission of our sins. "He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (2 Timothy 1:9-10) In view of God's sacrificial love for us, should we not follow His call on our lives to be holy as He is holy? We have a choice. Let us choose grace.
"There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens...a time to plant and a time to uproot." (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2) Where plants and seeds are concerned, fall is the ideal time to put them into the ground. There are several reasons for this: moderating temperatures, lower humidity, moisture availability, and more time for roots to get established before summer heat causes stress and weeds try to take over. The best way to ensure that grass, shrubs, or trees prosper is to help them build a sturdy and extensive root system. Strong roots enable plants to endure during stressful seasons.
A procedure for helping grass seed to grow healthy root systems is called aeration. In this process, thousands of small plugs of turf and soil are removed from the lawn. If there is a buildup of thatch (a layer of organic debris that accumulates where the stem and root meet) it becomes a barrier to the benefits for a healthy lawn. Aeration reduces thatch and creates a path for water and nutrients. It goes together with over-seeding (the seeding of existing turf areas). The holes in the lawn give seed a place to settle in and protect it from winds that might blow it away or water that might wash it away. It is amazing how lawns are transformed into lush, thick, green carpets after this process is applied.
Galatians 3:29 refers to Believers in Christ Jesus as Abraham's seed. "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise." As Abraham's seed, we are assured that God will plant us in ideal conditions for our growth and prosperity. He wants us rooted and established in His love. (Ephesians 3:17) Let us look back at God's original plan. Mankind was created with the dust of the ground and the breath of God. (Genesis 2:7) It was in the Garden of Eden that He placed Adam and Eve so that they would have the perfect place to live and grow and prosper in their relationship with the Lord. However, sin entered the picture, and He was forced to remove Adam and Eve from the Garden. As time went on, Scripture tells us that "The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain." (Genesis 6:6) God decided to destroy all of life except for Noah and his family, who were found righteous, and the animals that he gathered. A flood was sent that eradicated every living person, animal, and plant that was not protected in the ark. After the waters receded, a new covenant was made between Noah and God, and Noah was given these instructions: "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth." (Genesis 9:1)
From Noah's son Shem came Abram (Genesis 11:10) who would be called Abraham. His line would be the one through which God would make an eternal covenant. God told Abraham, "That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore, and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies." (Genesis 22:17-KJV) Nothing would stop the growth of this seed and the manifestation of the promises of God from generation to generation! From Abraham's seed came the Davidic line—the line of our Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah the prophet declared that God would make an everlasting covenant with His people and that "Their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: All that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed." (Isaiah 61:9 - KJV)
We are the seed of God, blessed to be planted by the Divine Gardener in an environment where we can root and grow in His love. Let us praise Him for the way He nurtures us. May we grow to glorify Him.
"Be joyful at your festival," it says in Deuteronomy 16:14 about the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. How could we not celebrate this festival that is a picture of the Lord sitting at our table of rejoicing with us? Some prefer to say that the Lord will tabernacle or dwell with us. I find the details of all that happens during Sukkot particularly fascinating this year, because it is a Shemitah year—a year of rest. Leviticus 25 shares how God's people are to live during the seventh year. "When you enter the land, I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord," (Verses 2-4) "You may ask, 'What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?' I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years." (Verses 20-21) Here we have God's promise to be faithful to us as we are faithful to His Word.
A report written by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz in Biblical News on March 16 explains an interesting application of this requirement as it pertains to the Pool of Siloam, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the water libation ceremony (Nisuch Hamayim) performed in the Temples in Israel. The water libation ceremony is part of the oral tradition handed down from Moses. Water was collected daily from the Pool of Siloam in golden vessels and brought to the Temple. This ceremony was one of extraordinary joy as those who escorted the priests to the Pool would sing and play musical instruments. When all the people returned to the Temple, water and wine were poured on the altar as a sacrifice that accompanied their worship of God. When the libation ceremony was repeated by the worshipers every day, the excitement built until the seventh day when the joy and celebration was at its height.
It is significant that Tabernacles is celebrated at the end of the dry season. Israel has no rain for approximately six months. The pouring out of the water on the altar is a significant sacrifice every year. Prayers asking for the rains to come during the next six months are part of the libation ceremony. Those prayers were answered by God in a dramatic way this past year. It is reported that two years ago a contingent of Kohanim (priests), Levites, and Jews descended to the Pool of Siloam in the Old City of Jerusalem to collect water for the libation ceremony. They were shocked that there was barely enough water to fill their golden vessels. The good news is that after six years of drought, God blessed Israel with such an abundant rainy season that the Pool of Siloam is overflowing. The Sea of Galilee was also at its lowest level in many years and has recovered to such an extent that it is within 12 centimeters of being full.
Bountiful crops cannot occur in the sixth year without bountiful amounts of water. Here is where God made good on His promise: "I will send such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years." (Leviticus 25:21) We can count on the faithfulness of God. He is a promise keeper who loves to bless us with "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." (Ephesians 3:20)
God is beyond understanding! He is faithful to His promises and made that clear to His people when He was teaching them not to worry. "Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap; they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds." (Luke 12:24) Our world is in turmoil with cataclysmic and destructive events, evil agendas to destroy our families and our nation, and increases in sickness and death. Israel is in the thick of a battle for her life, and yet God provided rain for the Pool of Siloam. How much more does He care about us? Be joyful! One of the Hallel Psalms read at the Feast of Tabernacles is Psalm 118. The end of this Psalm is so encouraging: "The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar...Give thanks to the Lord, for He is Good; His love endures forever." (Verses 27 and 29)
Joan E. Mathias