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.
"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)
Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) is considered the holiest day on God's calendar and begins this year on the eve of September 15. It is called a Mo'edim or divine appointment with God. There is no day like it, and it is celebrated by the Jewish people with fasting and prayer. On the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei) on the Hebrew calendar, the shofar is blown to signify the beginning of the new year and the "Ten Days of Awe," a time of remembrance, contemplation, and repentance that culminates on Yom Kippur.
God initiated this special day to be one like no other. It was the only day when He allowed the High Priest of Israel to enter the Most Holy Place in the Temple by rending the veil. It was on Mt. Sinai that God gave Moses instruction on how to live by giving him the ten commandments, the laws concerning servants, personal injuries, property protection, justice and mercy, the Sabbath, and the annual festivals. After a covenant was made between God and the Israelites, He gave them instructions on how to make a sanctuary for Him. The Ark of the Covenant was to be placed in the Most Holy Place and was protected from everyone with a barrier or thick veil. It was constructed of acacia wood overlaid with pure gold. Two cherubim were made with hammered gold and connected to the cover of the ark at either end. The wings of the cherubim spread upward so that they overshadowed the cover. (Exodus 25:10-22)
Leviticus 23:26-28 gives instructions on how to live on Yom Kippur. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Be careful to celebrate the Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the same month—nine days after the Festival of Trumpets. You must observe it as an official day for holy assembly, a day to deny yourselves and present special gifts to the Lord. Do not work during the entire day because it is the Day of Atonement, when offerings of purification are made for you, making you right with the Lord your God.’” (NLT) The Lord made it clear to Moses that his brother, Aaron the high priest, could not go into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain at any time or he would die. He could only enter once a year, and first he had to bring a sin and burnt offering. He had to bathe with water before putting on his garments made of pure linen. He had to take with him a censer of burning coals from the altar, two handfuls of finely ground, fragrant incense, and blood from the sacrificial bull and goat to sprinkle on the front of the atonement cover. The blood was to cleanse the Israelites from their sin. (See Leviticus 16)
Did you ever wonder how this blood sacrifice on the mercy seat between the wings of the cherubim came about? We must look back to original sin that came from Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:24 tells us this: "After He drove them out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life." The cherubim of the ark were patterned after those placed at the entrance of the Garden of Eden. God would not be content to leave things this way, however. He has always desired face-to-face communion with all His children. God had a plan to remove the veil or barrier between us and Him. It was the shed blood of Jesus that permanently overcame the barrier.
Today we look at the blood of our Messiah as the sacrifice that makes the way for us to go behind the veil. His sacrifice gives us permission to go there anytime and as often as we desire. Hebrews 10:19-22 confirms our position of favor. "Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain that is His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings..." On Yom Kippur let us remember the invitation that God gives to us all year long through the blood of His Son. Let us honor the sacrifice that has been made for us by pursuing a relationship with the Lord.
Can you imagine asking God to give you a son year after year? That is what Abraham and Sarah did. And it was not until Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 years old that their desires were fulfilled. What a test of faith and perseverance they endured! But God had a plan and a perfect time for the birth of Isaac. Abraham and Sarah would know for sure that only God's power and love brought about the birth of their son Isaac. As God was announcing His plans, He said, "But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year." (Genesis 17:21)
Now imagine how much Abraham and Sarah loved Isaac and how they protected him from difficulties and controversies because he was their only child. Is it possible that Abraham loved Isaac more than he loved God? We do not know, but we do know that God tested Abraham's faith. "Take your son, your only son—Yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will show you." (Genesis 22:2 - NLT) Scripture tells us that Abraham got up early the next morning to prepare for the journey in immediate obedience to God. The trip from Beersheba to Moriah was about 50-60 miles and took three days. When they arrived, Abraham instructed his servants to remain a distance from their final destination. He said, "I will worship and then we will come back to you." (Genesis 22:5) Abraham placed the wood on his son while he carried the fire and knife.
At their destination, Abraham built an altar, tied his son, and laid him on the wood. As Abraham lifted his knife to kill Isaac, an angel of the Lord called to him and told him to stop because He could see Abraham feared God. God had provided the ram in the thicket. It was caught by its horns. The ram was sacrificed instead of Isaac, and Abraham called the place, "The Lord Will Provide," (Jehovah Jireh). Genesis 22:14 tells us, "And to this day it is said, 'On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.'"
The story is of particular interest to the Jews at the beginning of the New Year (Rosh Hashanah). Genesis 22, called the Akedah in Hebrew, or the "Binding of Isaac," is read. They link the blowing of the ram's horn to the ram that was provided to Abraham for sacrifice in place of Isaac. As the shofar is blown, it reminds them of Abraham's obedience. The Jews believe that Abraham's descendants are pardoned based on his merit.
God's promise to Abraham that his descendants would come through Isaac may have helped Abraham go through with the binding of Isaac and raising of his knife to kill him. Hebrews 1:19 suggests this: "Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death." In any event, the story of Isaac reminds us of God's mercy, grace, and provision for sin. We see continuity between the Old and New Testament. Father Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac in obedience to Father God, and Father God was willing to sacrifice His only son Jesus to redeem us from our sins. The story of the sacrifice of Isaac is a prophetic picture of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
May I suggest that we reread the story of the Binding of Isaac in Genesis 22 during the Jewish New Year. As we do, let us remember how the Lord taught Abraham that forgiveness of sin does not come through our sacrifice but through that of the Lord, Yeshua, Jesus. Let us also repent for our sins, bless the Lord for His provision, and pray that the Jewish people will come to know the truth of their Messiah in this New Year.
God's three main feasts--Passover Pentecost, and Tabernacles--are shadows of Messiah. The Fall Feasts prophecy the Lord's second coming and paint a picture of Christ's return to bring His Bride unto Himself. Each feast has a specific spiritual transaction for us that draws us closer to God. Passover brought redemption, Pentecost brought the Holy Spirit, and Tabernacles looks forward to the second coming of the Lord.
The cycles ordained by God are for rest and refreshment and increasing intimacy with the Lord. All of them are wrapped around the number seven and occur weekly, monthly, and yearly. As we align ourselves with God's cycles of life, His blessings are poured out upon us. When we keep God's divine appointments we will walk in a blessed lifestyle. Let us keep in mind that God's intent is for His church to celebrate His feasts forever. Leviticus 23:37 talks about the fall feasts and says, "This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live." Sadly, many Christian churches today have moved far away from God's appointed times of rest and celebration except for the weekly one. Is it not time for us to change our mindset? Paul gives us advice in Romans 12:2. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..."
Just as the Church has Advent, a time of preparation to celebrate the birth of Messiah, the high holy days of the Fall Feasts begin in the sixth month on the Hebrew calendar, called Elul. From the beginning of Elul until the 10th day (Yom Kippur or The Day of Atonement) in the seventh month called Tishrei, there is a time of preparation for meeting the King. Preparation includes repentance, forgiveness, and submission to the Lord. The first day of Tishrei begins the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) or "The Head of the Year." At the beginning of this New Year the shofar will be blown to announce the year 5782 and the beginning of the Sabbatical year called The Shemitah.
The importance of the number seven in God's world is demonstrated by the times of rest that He appoints for His people. Like our rest on the seventh day of the week, we are also to rest and celebrate during the Fall Feasts in the seventh month of the year. Once every seven years a Sabbatical year occurs where God directs His people and their land to rest. There is a dual purpose in this year to improve the condition of the land and to increase the faith of those who follow God. It is so appropriate that the meaning of the seventh year of rest, Shemitah, is release. Here are some of the benefits of releasing the land and our care to the Lord: When the farmer "fallows" (leaves bare) his field, he is setting it up to produce a healthier and larger crop in the season to come by increasing the nutrients in the soil, increasing moisture in the sub-soil, and disrupting the life cycle of pathogens. As we follow God's directions in Scripture by resting at His designated times, we also set ourselves up for an increase in faith and trust in the Lord. I find it interesting that Genesis 22, the story of Abraham's obedience to God when he was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, is read at the celebration of Rosh Hashanah. This story introduces us to the concept of substitutionary atonement for those who trust in God to provide for every need.
The Jews will be celebrating the New Year 5782 beginning at sunset on September 6. They will rest from their daily work to celebrate the faithfulness of God in their lives and in the lives of their ancestors. Their time will be spent in contemplation, repentance, and prayer. Through the grace of God, Gentiles have been grafted into "The Vine," God's family. Romans 11:17 confirms this: "...Though a wild olive shoot, you have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root…” Joining in this celebration could only be a blessing for us. If we position ourselves before the Lord to follow HIs times and seasons listed in the Old Testament, there will be an increase in intimacy with Him, and He will help us determine a direction for the year to come.
God still calls us to remember what He has already done through His Son, Jesus, and to rehearse for what is yet promised. We have an opportunity to prepare for the Jewish New Year and pray for the fulfillment of God's promises that all Israel will be saved, and that the world will come to know our Messiah as Savior.
We start Elul, the sixth month on the Hebrew calendar, at sunset tonight. The name Elul is a Hebrew acronym, "Ani L'dodi V'dodi Li, meaning "I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine." (Song of Solomon 6:3) This being the sixth month, we should look at the picture that represents the Hebrew letter for six or Vav. Vav is a picture of a tent peg or nail used to make something secure. Indeed, God wants us to be secure in our relationship with Him and did something spectacular to show us how much He loves us and desires to be in our company.
What did God do that is so amazing? Luke 1:26-27, 30-31, gives us the answer. "In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary...The angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.'" The angel went on to give more details of this immaculate conception and God's intent for His life. “…So, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
Could Mary's pregnancy that begins in the month of Elul be why the Jews say, "The King is in the field?" I believe God appointed this time for us to connect with Him in such an intimate way that we will never doubt His great love for us. To confirm this in the heavens, He placed the constellation Virgo (The virgin) in the night sky. Elul is a month of nurturing or mothering. I think it is no accident that Rebekah gave birth to her twins, Jacob and Esau, during Elul.
Contemplate with me what a woman does when she learns she is pregnant. A time of preparation begins so that the baby can be welcomed and cared for in the best way possible. Since this is the season when "The King is in the field" should we not be prepared to meet Him? He welcomes our approach. He demonstrated His love for His people during this month by allowing Moses to return to Mount Sinai for a second set of tablets. He truly is a God of mercy! Elul precedes the month of Tishrei, when the fall feasts are held. An invitation is given to all of us to join the Lord for these feasts.
The manifest presence of the Lord is described perfectly in John 1:14. "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." Dwelling is a name for tent or tabernacle. He tabernacled among us. Imagine the King of all creation leaving HIs perfect heavenly throne to be with us! Such love! "This is love: Not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:10) It is time for us to remember the nail that secured our King to us. Isn't it significant that the Lord was nailed to the Cross? He was attached and secured to the Cross because of His amazing love for us. That love should lead us to repentance, which leads to God's mercy and fruitfulness for our lives. What an awesome God we serve!
The Olympics originated in Olympia, Greece about 3,000 years ago. They started as a religious festival honoring Zeus in the 8th century BC and continued until the 4th century AD. In 393 AD, Christian Emperor Theodosius The First banned "pagan" festivals, which ended the Olympics for almost 12 centuries. The first modern Olympics took place in 1896 in Athens with 12 participating nations. Fire became part of the ceremony during the 1928 Summer Olympics. Inspired by the ancient Greek drawings and writings of Plutarch, Dr. Carl Diem of Germany introduced the Torch Relay. It was not until 1938 that the flame also became part of the Winter Olympics.
The flame was meant to emphasize the link between the ancient and modern games. In the ancient ceremonies, the flame was kindled using a type of crucible positioned to face the sun so that its rays concentrated on one spot and set fire to dry grass. Today there is a ceremony in Olympia, Greece where a parabolic mirror catches the sun's rays to ignite a flame. Several months before the games a flame is lit, and a torch relay begins where runners move from region to region until the torch reaches its destination of the host country. This Torch Relay is meant to express the handing down of the fire from generation to generation.
In the Body of Christ there is a remnant of Believers in Jesus who understand the importance of keeping the flame of the Lord burning. The first covenant made by God with man came through the Father of our Faith, Abraham, or Abram. In this unilateral covenant, God gave Abram a dream where a smoking pot and flaming torch passed between animals cut in half as a sacrifice. A smoking pot was a small clay container shaped like a beehive, 2' to 3' in diameter, and called a "tannur" in Hebrew. The flaming torch signified the holy presence of the Lord moving among HIs people. "Lapped" is the Hebrew word for the flashing light.
It is thought that the passing of these two objects between the two halves of a sacrifice represent the manifestation of God and confirm the covenant that He was making with Abram and all of Israel. God showed Abram that his descendants would go through suffering before He would give them an inheritance of the Promised Land. Here is how Genesis 15:17-18 describes what took place: "When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, 'To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates—'"
After the Israelites spent 400 years in slavery to the Egyptians, God prepared a deliverer to lead them out of bondage. The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses "in flames of fire from within a bush." (Exodus 3:2) While traveling through the wilderness, the children of Israel constructed a tabernacle that became the center of their lives. "So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels." (Exodus 40:38) God made it clear to Aaron the priest that burnt sacrifices were to be offered to Him daily. He was told, "The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out...The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out." (Leviticus 6:12-13)
Believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have been handed the mandate to keep the flame of God burning. Today that flame represents our unabandoned worship of the Lord—a lifestyle of sacrificial love of God and those around us. Just as the flame of the Olympics symbolizes the link between the ancient and modern games, the flame of God has been a consistent symbol of our priestly duty to keep the flame of worship alive. In addition, just as the flaming torch is handed down from one person to another until it reaches its destination, we must keep the flame shining brightly and pass it from one generation to the next. Let us think back on the introduction of the flaming torch to Abraham, remember how fire has been used by God to refine and define His people, and recommit and choose to select a lifestyle of sacrificial worship that pleases God and draws Him closer to us.
Most of the Church is unaware of the history of this time-period and how it can affect them. Last week we entered the month of Av on the Hebrew calendar. Today is the 9th of Av, a date that is so significant for the Jewish people that many will spend the day fasting and mourning. This date has proved to be consistently difficult throughout the years. It all began when the 12 spies (one from each tribe of Israel) went in to scout out the promised land. The men went in fully knowing God's promises to them. "The Lord said to Moses, 'Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites.'" (Numbers 13:1) When the group returned it was during the month of Av. Ten of the 12 spies gave a negative report, claiming that the Nephilim that they saw were too strong for the Israelites to overcome. Fear fell on the entire camp. Joshua and Caleb tried to quell their fears by telling the people that the protection of the giants is gone, "but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid." (Number 14:9)
Moses became an advocate for God's chosen people, reminding God of His character. "The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the 3rd and 4th generation" (Numbers 14:18) The Lord forgave them, however there were ramifications for their sin of unbelief. "...As sure as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me 10 times--not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it." (Numbers 14:21-23) God let them know that the curse they declared over themselves would manifest: "...I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: In the wilderness your bodies will fall--every one of you 20 years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me...Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home...Your children will be shepherds here for 40 years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. For 40 years--one year for each of the 40 days you explored the land--you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you." (Numbers 14:28-34) The 10 men who came back from the Promised Land with a bad report were struck down and died of a plague.
Here is what the Church needs to understand: The camp of Israelites committed the sins of unbelief, dishonoring God, disobedience, and unfaithfulness. Their sins set in motion years of consequences for God's people because they spoke curses over themselves that agreed with the kingdom of darkness and gave the demonic permission to operate in their lives. Repentance for these sins has not taken place and so destruction continues to take place to this day. The negative history of the days past tries to repeat itself during this season. As Hosea 4:6 tells us, "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." With the string of disasters occurring during this same time frame you would think that the "light bulb" would go on. Some of the major disasters included destruction of the 1st and 2nd temples, destruction of Jerusalem, crusades against the Jews--killing many, expulsion from England, Spain, and Portugal, the beginning of WWI, deportation of the Jews to the Treblinka concentration camp, and expulsion from Gaza.
We are committing the same sins as the Jews in the wilderness committed. The enemy of our souls wants to defile and devour us. "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith..." (1 Peter 5:8-9) The Church must be aware of the pattern of destruction that exists and be intentional in aligning Herself with the truth of God's Word. We, as members of the Church, must be on-guard against the attack of the enemy and not allow him to destroy our spiritual temples or our trust in the Lord. We must come into agreement with the promises of God over our lives, stirring our faith to believe in them. God has given us power and authority in His name. We are under the blood of Jesus. Let's be awakened to these truths.
May I also suggest that we make this time one in which we pray for an awakening in our hearts and those of our Jewish brothers and sisters. We should be praying for the peace of Jerusalem. (Psalm 122:6) Let's also examine ourselves to be sure that we are walking in love and honoring the Body of Christ. Let us break any agreement we have made with the powers of darkness by confessing and renouncing the sin of cursing ourselves. Our repentance will surely open the door for God to pour out His blessings upon us. Let us stir our faith to declare and believe in the promises the Lord has given to us.
Rest is such an important part of the life that God wants us to live! He modeled that for us during creation. "Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating He had done." (Genesis 2:3) The Lord set up cycles of rest—weekly, monthly, yearly, and every seven years. Not only were the people to rest, but also their animals. (Exodus 23:12) In addition, there is provision for the land to rest. "But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards." (Leviticus 25:4)
The Scriptures on the land resting came to life for me as we drove past fallow fields on the way to church. Where fields were full of stalks of corn in early fall, they are bare in the spring. A field is left bare without a crop for a season so that it will produce a healthier and more vigorous crop in the season to come. "Fallowing" helps to increase the nutrients in the soil and increase the moisture in the sub-soil. The structure of the soil also improves. Another benefit to fallowing is that it disrupts the life cycles of pathogens because the host plant has been removed. Today, resting farmland is part of a crop rotation technique that farmers use. When the end of the resting period comes a cover-crop is often planted and tilled into the soil to replenish nutrients.
Observing the fallow fields reminded me that at the beginning of the Hebrew year 5782 (sunset on September 6, 2021) it will be the beginning of a Sabbatical year on the Hebrew calendar. Called the Shemitah year, it is the seventh year of a seven-year agricultural cycle and is still observed in contemporary Judaism. The Hebrew word Shemitah means release. During this year, the land is to be left fallow. Anything that grows voluntarily may be eaten, and at the end of the year, all debts are to be forgiven. Releasing the land from having to produce a crop is extremely beneficial to the soil and to the crops that will grow in the future.
God's call on humankind is to be fruitful for His Kingdom. One of the keys to fruitfulness in humans is rest. Repeatedly, the Lord reminded the Israelites of their need for rest. He told Moses, "The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed." (Exodus 31:16-17)
The Lord is a gardener and tends to the soil of our hearts. Just as rest for the land makes it more nutritious and productive, rest for our bodies makes them healthier and improves the ground in our hearts. Rest brings peace for our minds and hearts. It replenishes us with energy. When we rest from our labors and the thoughts in our minds, giving ourselves time to focus on the Lord, we enhance our relationship with Him. He intentionally set up patterns of rest for His children. Stepping into God's rhythms of rest can transform our lives. Let's be more intentional about seeking the Lord for ways to rest in His presence.
People from many nations gathered in Jerusalem for what was called "The Festival of First Harvest," or "The Festival of Weeks," or "Shavuot." This is one of three festivals where God told the Jews to come to Jerusalem. Offerings to the Lord were to be abundant, starting with an offering of new grain. Where yeast was forbidden at Passover, it was to be used in baking for the Feast of Weeks. "From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the Lord." (Leviticus 23:17)
Those who gathered to celebrate the Feast took the first and best of their harvest to bake two yeast-filled loaves to present as an offering to the Lord. Those two loaves, the Jews believe, represent the two tablets given to Moses on Mt. Sinai and the two loaves of bread offered in the Temple. There is more to the picture, in my opinion. Leaven, or yeast, represent sin so the loaves with yeast are a picture of both Jew and Gentile who are sinners in His sight. However, this changes when we accept the Son of God as our Savior through faith in Him. Our confession and belief open the Kingdom of God to all of us.
It took the Israelites 50 days to walk from Egypt to Mt. Sinai where they would receive the Word of God. Once entering the Promised Land, they harvested their crop of wheat 50 days after Passover. It was on the same day that the Jews would have been celebrating "The Festival of Weeks" (seven weeks and one day) that God ordained that He would pour His Spirit on those who waited for His perfect time. Indeed, as the Lord's followers waited in Jerusalem on this special day, another harvest was about to begin. The Word given at Mt. Sinai was to nurture obedience in His people for He was looking for a harvest of souls. The Holy Spirit poured out "on the crop" was the catalyst needed for the harvest of souls. Peter addressed the crowd of people who waited, and Acts 2:41 tells us, "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number that day."
The Church calls the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out "Pentecost" which means 50. I do believe that it would be wise for us to also remember that the Jews call this day "Shavuot." Rabbi Jonathan Cahn gives us some insight on the origin of this word. He directs our attention to Song of Songs 8:4 where it says, "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you..." Charge, in Hebrew, is the word "Shaba" which is the root of Shavuot. Consequently, Shavuot or Pentecost is to be the "day of charging." Rabbi Cahn says, "When God gave the Spirit, He was giving us a charge of entrustment, responsibility, and to live a Spirit-filled life...The Spirit in your life is a sign of God's commitment to you, and by the Spirit you are called and anointed to live a life of your commitment to God. The Lord has charged you, by the Spirit, to live a life of victory, praise, joy, and triumph. You have the power. Now go out and live a life worthy of the one who has so been charged."
Beginning at sunset, Shavuot or Pentecost will be celebrated. We can honor this significant day by asking the Lord to fan the flames of the Holy Spirit within us. We can remember and thank the Lord for His indescribable gift because without the sacrifice of Jesus there would be no Holy Spirit. And we can activate our call to go out into the world to share the love of God because we have been charged to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.
Joan E. Mathias