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.
"One of the greatest lies of Satan is that we don't have enough time to pray. However, all of us have enough time to sleep, eat, and breathe. As soon as we realize that praying is as important as sleeping, eating, and breathing, we will be amazed at how much time will be available to us for prayer." (p. xix) This is a quote from David Yonggi Cho's book, Prayer That Brings Revival. I could not let the passing of this man of prayer go by without looking at his life and extracting some of the gems he left to guide us in our walk with the Lord. Cho died on September 14, 2021, at the age of 85, after spending since July 2020, in the hospital because he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.
Raised a Buddhist in South Korea in a poverty-stricken family, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis at the age of 19 and given four months to live. It seems God had other plans and sent a high school girl to visit him daily while he was sick so that she could tell him about Jesus. Cho watched as she prayed for him and saw tears streaming down her cheeks. Her act of compassion touched him so much that he agreed to read the Bible. Jesus met him during his sickness, and he rose from his deathbed within six months. Convinced that Jesus is the only true God, Cho attended the Assemblies of God Bible School and graduated in 1958.
It was Pastor Cho's desire to build the largest church in Korea. He started small with just a few people. With no building, he obtained an old American service tent, pitched it next to a dump, and began to pray. As he specifically verbalized his needs to God, what he described began to come to him. By 1980 there was a physical building, 150,000 church members, and 10,000 home groups. His church eventually became the largest church in the world. On page 113 of his book he writes, "Everyone who is willing to wait upon the Lord can be qualified to carry out the great task before them because the source of their strength is not natural but spiritual." Indeed, prayer was the foundation of his ministry. He devoted hours of each day in prayer to the Lord.
Since the foundation of his church was prayer, Pastor Cho felt the need to develop a place near the church strictly for prayer and fasting. Established in 1973, it became known as Prayer Mountain and can accommodate up to 10,000 people. The site is close to the border of North Korea. Each year about 100,000 Christians visit Prayer Mountain to pray and fast. There are 214 individual prayer grottos carved out of the mountainside. Each grotto is meant for one person and contains only bare essentials—a light and fan. In addition to the grottos, there are outdoor spaces on the hilltops and chapels where groups of people can pray inside. The constant sound of prayer can be heard all around Prayer Mountain. Pastor Cho, when asked about the secret to the success of his church exclaimed, "I pray, and I obey.” Amen! My husband is one of the thousands of Christians who spent time in prayer in one of the grottos. Not only this, but he also had a personal visit with Pastor Cho who prayed for him. This humble man has inspired millions of people to devote themselves to prayer.
As I read Pastor Cho's story about starting his church in a tent, I thought about Moses, who used to pitch a tent outside the Israelite camp. (Exodus 33:7) It was called "The Tent of Meeting" because the Lord met Moses there "face-to-face." Then, I remembered how Jesus went up on a mountainside to pray and meet with Father God at the end of the day or before ministering. (Matthew 14:23) Perhaps Pastor Cho was inspired by these stories in the Bible. He certainly has drawn the multitudes to Jesus. Another quote from his book, Prayer That Brings Revival, gives Cho's perspective on prayer. "Prayer creates a personal change in your life. Nothing you can do will benefit you more than prayer. Through prayer you create an account balance in your favor in God's spiritual bank. Through prayer, you will benefit spiritually, mentally, and physically." (p. 34) Pastor Cho wrote from experience!
We should take heed of Pastor Cho's words of wisdom. He says, "As air is the breath of life, so prayer is the breath of faith." We must build our faith through our dedication to prayer. It is life changing!
During the five years that my friend lived in Afghanistan she heard many heart-wrenching stories about how hard it was to live in a country that followed Sharia law. Yet she was there to share the truth of the love of Jesus and the hope that He brings for them. Currently, we are looking at what seems like a hopeless situation in Afghanistan. The people of this country find themselves in the clutches of a terrorist organization with no respect for human dignity or freedom. They are watching the destruction of their lives and are horrified by the possibilities for the future. Please let this letter encourage you to pray.
In a recent post from "All Israel News," Joel Rosenberg wrote about the history of Afghanistan. It was not until 1747 that Afghanistan became a nation-state. Before that the region was ruled by kings. The country was largely ignored by the world until 1979 when the Soviets invaded. With the help of American aid in the early 1980s (money and weapons), the Afghans were able to chase the Soviets out of the country. Had the United State continued to help the Afghans with humanitarian relief, perhaps the picture of this country would be different today. Without resources to help the many refugees who live in country, The Afghan leadership fell. Mohammed Omar, who Rosenberg calls "a ferocious and fanatical mujadeen commander," created the Taliban, an extreme jihadist organization. The Taliban took over the Afghan government and decided to thank Allah for their victory by establishing an Islamic country governed by Sharia law. Later Osama bin Laden would join with the Taliban forces to plot the 9/11 attacks on the United States. In the meantime, terror was unleashed on the Afghan people. They lived in fear! Here is Rosenberg’s description of Afghan lives just before 9/11: "Their children were being recruited for jihad or forced to do unspeakable things in the name of Allah. Hope was fading quickly. Depression was rising; drug use was rampant. The country was becoming the world's No. 1 source of opium and heroin, and there seemed no way out." Here is what women faced: They were treated with total lack of respect and were expected to live in forced marriages as slaves. With Taliban ruling, women were publicly punished for working or not wearing a burqa by stonings, whippings, and hangings.
After the 9/11 attack on the United States, life for the Afghan people changed again. As the US poured troops and bombs into the country and set up a new government, the freedoms for the Afghans began to return. It was during this time that my friend was able to go into the country to live among the people and share the Good News. New lifestyles were established throughout Afghanistan. The US government set up a military network to train Afghan soldiers to fight and protect the land and people. For 20 years there was a US presence that gave the Afghans a sense of security. As we have seen, however, all this ended abruptly a few weeks ago with the pullout of US troops. The Afghan military collapsed as a Wall Street Journal article describes: "In the week of President Biden's withdrawal, the US pulled its air support, intelligence, and contractors servicing Afghan's planes and helicopters. That meant that Afghan military simply couldn't operate anymore." With the Taliban fully in control, chaos, fear, and terror reign over the Afghans who helped the American military, those who profess to be Christian, and others who understand the ramifications of being ruled by a terrorist organization.
Sadly, terrorist organizations throughout the world are feeling empowered to start their own terror campaigns as they observe the destruction of America's credibility. The Americans have opened a door for evil to enter with no fear of reprisal. In his second letter to the Church in Thessaloniki, Paul wrote, "And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one...May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance." (2 Thessalonians 3:2-5) Let us pray this and a prayer written by Joel Rosenberg that is below. Please pray for the Afghans in any way that The Spirit leads you.
"We must pray that they (Afghan Christians) will be lights in the darkness, that in both their conduct and their speech they will be witnesses of the true and glorious hope, redemption, transformation, and eternal salvation they have experienced by placing their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And we must pray that Afghan Muslims who are terrified of being enslaved or slaughtered by the Taliban will see the hope in their Christian neighbors, and ask why their neighbors have hope amid such horror, and that the Christians will be brave enough to explain the good news of Christ's great love and mercy with clarity, simplicity and trusting in the power of the Word of God—not their own wisdom or cleverness—to convince and persuade." We must not be silent! Light will prevail over darkness as we battle in the Spirit!
God speaks to me through His creation. Such was the case this past weekend when we went to visit the Delaware Bay and learned about what is considered one of the top 10 environmental phenomena on the planet. We found an abundance of horseshoe crab shells on a narrow beach at the edge of the Delaware Bay. As I began to research the reason for this, I was treated to information that confirms my faith in a God who cares for every creature He created. "The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountain from His upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of His works. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate--bringing forth food from the earth...All creatures look to You to give them their food at the proper time...I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praises to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to Him as I rejoice in the Lord." (Psalm 104:12-14, 27, 34)
Horseshoe crabs, I read, are older than dinosaurs and one of nature's oldest creatures. Millions of horseshoe crabs migrate from the ocean to the Delaware Bay in the spring. The warm sand that surrounds the shallow waters of the Bay is perfect for incubating the eggs of the females. They come to shore when the moon is full, making the tides high. The males attach themselves to the back of the females who drag them ashore to fertilize the eggs. During each tide cycle the female may lay four to five clutches of eggs or about 100,000 eggs. When the sands are disturbed by the females' repeated trips to the shores, the clutches of eggs are split apart, and millions of eggs are washed into the water. This is the reason for another phenomena at the Delaware Bay.
There is an ecological connection between the horseshoe crabs and migratory shore birds. From the first week of May through the second week of June shorebirds migrate to the Delaware Bay. The Bay is a critical habitat to more than 400 species of birds, and it is estimated that between 425,000 to one million of them converge on this sanctuary yearly. A yearly migration takes place between different regions of South America and the Artic territories where millions of birds breed. The birds only make one major stop to refuel during the middle of their 8,000-mile trip. Their flight burns many calories, so there is a need for them to rebuild their fat reserves. In order to complete their migration, they need to double their weight. Horseshoe crab eggs provide just what the birds need to rebuild their fat reserves. In one day, the eggs help the birds regain four to nine percent of their body weight. It is common to see a huge congregation of birds pecking at the shorelines of the Bay during the full moon when the high waters are awash with horseshoe crab eggs. (Check out this web site for pictures and additional information: Delmph.org/shorebirds)
Isn't it magnificent to know that God cares for every creature on the earth and establishes within them patterns of behavior and cycles of life that bring them the provision they need? The Psalmist describes this in Psalm 145:15-16. "The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." Jesus teaches us not to worry about our lives in Matthew 6:25-27. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" We should be inspired by the yearly migration of the horseshoe crabs and birds. Let us remember the words of Jesus during times of difficulty. We are more valuable to Him than the birds and provision is waiting for us.
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.
What a wonderful gift I received this week! My partner in a weekly Bible study gave me a bouquet of lime-green hydrangeas cut from her garden. Hydrangeas are nostalgic flowers for me as they remind me of my grandmother's garden and a picture of me as a girl holding a bouquet of pink and blue hydrangeas.
I noticed that my friend cut the stems of the flowers at a 45-degree angle. This is one of the "tricks of the trade" that florists use to assure that the flower stem has maximum surface area to absorb water. Once a flower cutting is taken from the main plant, it will eventually die. The objective is to make the cut flower last as long as possible. Jesus told His disciples, "If you do not remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown away and withers...If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (John 15:6-7) We, like a cut flower, will die if we disconnect from Jesus.
Who doesn't enjoy having a beautiful bouquet of cut flowers in their home? Let's look at some of the other ways in which we can prolong the life of a cut flower, and how our lives in Christ Jesus can be refreshed and sustained. The right tool must be used to cut the stem of a flower. Regular scissors pinch the water channel of the stalk. A sharp knife or pruning shears should be the tool of choice. Also, cutting flowers under a steady flow of water keeps air pockets, that prevent water absorption, from forming. Stems should be plunged into a vase of clear, tepid water immediately after cutting according to The Old Farmer's Almanac. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that He met at Jacob's well that He is "living water." He said, "Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14) We must be sure to drench ourselves in living water daily.
To maintain longevity of cut flowers we must strip all leaves from the bottom part of the stem that would be under the water. Rotten plant material destroys the quality of the water. If the water becomes cloudy it means that bacteria is growing and can clog the stems. A splash of bleach in the water reduces the amount of bacteria in the water. It is also important to avoid placing a vase of flowers near fruit or vegetables since they give off ethylene gas which shortens the life of cut flowers. We too must not give the enemy of our souls access to our lives. We must say with the Psalmist, "But I trust in You, Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love." (Psalm 31:14-16)
It is helpful to place a small amount of sugar in the water as it feeds the flowers. It is also wise to change and refresh the water every few days. In addition, it is recommended that about one inch of the stem bottom be removed every three or four days. This assures that the water continues to penetrate the stem. Let us remember what it says in Psalm 104:27. "All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time." God is faithful to give us what we need when we need it. The Psalmist said to the Lord, "Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love, and have lived in reliance on Your faithfulness." (Psalm 26:2-3)
We must remember that "The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in HIs unfailing love." (Psalm 147:11) In Psalm 91:16 He says of the one who loves Him, "With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation." The Lord is the one who leads us beside quiet waters and refreshes our souls. (Psalm 23:2-3) When I look at a vase of freshly cut flowers, I think of our God who created them and how they are a testimony to His love and care. Psalm 119:175 comes to mind: “Let me live that I may praise You, and may Your laws sustain me."
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.
What do you do when your world falls apart and there is no way to put it back together again? Is there a way to redeem what has been lost? These questions come up during times of extreme loss, and I recall that healing comes through Father God alone, the only One who can identify with our losses. He demonstrated what love looks like—redemptive love—through His Son, Jesus. Words cannot answer our questions; the answer is Jesus, The Word!
Jesus relates to us in the lowest places of our lives. He sits with us in our pain; He suffers as we suffer. The prophet Isaiah paints a picture of this in chapter 53 of his book. "He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces; He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem. Surely, He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:3-5) For the love of God, Jesus endured the Cross. Why? Love makes a way for us to have relationship with Him and for us to spend eternity with Him in Heaven.
The Lord came to earth to demonstrate the love of God and to experience what it was like to live like a man. He told us that our lives would be like His and that we are to live like He lived. Paul explains this in 2 Corinthians 1:5. "For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ." Jesus Himself told His disciples, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33b) Remember that God has not left us without promises. I am greatly touched by the promise He made to Israel (and us as His children) through the prophet Isaiah. "...Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..." (Isaiah 43:1-3)
Graham Cooke has an interesting perspective on the difficult seasons of our lives. This prophet of the Lord says, "Every circumstance is an opportunity to experience new levels of favor and faith in relationship with God. Our circumstances are not the problem. Our perception of our circumstances is the problem. Ask, 'What is God's truth in this situation?'" The Lord ordains victory for us in every situation. In Isaiah 42:3-4 and Matthew 12:20-21 we read this: "A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out till He has brought justice through to victory. In His name the nations will put their hope."
As we go through trials and tribulations, sorrows and difficulties, sickness and death, we have an advocate who leads us in mercy and truth. Jesus said, "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth..." (John 14:16-17) We must learn to trust in the unfailing love of the Lord to pull us through our difficult seasons. Make peace with the truth that we may never have our questions answered with words but know that The Word will be with us to comfort, strengthen, and love us. It is love that makes a way where there seems to be no way.
Let's look back in history to the time when the Israelites were camped at Mount Sinai. It was the month of Tammuz, the fourth on the Hebrew calendar. Moses went to the top of the mountain to talk with God and was long in returning to their camp. Impatience set in as the children of Israel were eager for immediate gratification. They asked Aaron to help them "make gods" who would go before them. What could have possessed them to sin in this way? They went so far as to give Aaron all their gold earrings received from the Egyptians as plunder so they could be used to form a gold calf.
We are presently in the month of Tammuz and must learn from the mistakes made by the children of Israel. Their desire for immediate satisfaction was so strong that they forgot to look back at the last three months and remember the way God performed miraculous wonders among them. He had freed them from bondage in Egypt, arranged for them to plunder the Egyptians, led them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, and opened the Red Sea so that they could walk through it unharmed. They watched the Lord fight for them as the Egyptians who pursued them were covered by the waters of the Red Sea. After their crossing, Miriam and Moses led them in a victory song that asked, "Who is like you--majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?" and declaring, "The Lord reigns for ever and ever!" (Exodus 15:11, 18) As they traveled, they saw the Lord make bitter waters sweet and were fed manna and quail from heaven. They watched water come from a rock when they camped at Rephidim. And they witnessed the defeat of the Amalekites and the building of the victory altar named "The Lord is My Banner" or "Jehovah Nissi." The Psalmist mourns their forgetfulness: "They did not remember His power--the day He redeemed them from the oppressor." (Psalm 78:42)
There is a reason why God's Word repeats over and over again the word "Remember." Deuteronomy 32:7 is one of many such verses: "Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you." Yet, God is a Redeemer and continues to encourage us to remember His power and His compassion. He wants us to use this month of Tammuz to look back on our own lives so that we can remember what He has done. This is important for us as individuals and for us as the nation of America.
As we review and contemplate the events of our lives, we can see how they are linked together. In doing this, we can discern the plan that God has for our lives. It is important to remember the battles we have fought, the blessings we have received, and the prophetic words that have been spoken over our lives. Each of us has a story that is to be included in God's plans and purposes for our lives. We want to avoid the snare of the golden calf by remembering the things that God has done and the promises that He has made. We cannot allow fear, insecurity, or impatience to overtake us for God is a covenant-keeping God, unchanging and faithful. He does things in His way and in HIs perfect timing.
Jonathan Cahn, a voice of wisdom for our times, wrote about remembering in his monthly devotional. In the May issue he wrote: "If an individual loses his memory, then he also loses his identify, and his ways, and his future. Thus, by erasing the past, one can create an altered future...And if you can rewrite the history concerning God, His Word, Messiah, the Gospel--you can create an un-Christian, anti-Christian future...In a time such as this, with massive forces seeking to erase remembrance, the past, and the foundations of God--we must all the more consciously set our task at remembering, all the more grounded in the Word, all the more rooted in our faith, and closer in prayer. This month, make this your aim."
Let us "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." (Hebrews 12:2) Let us remember our past and trust in God's goodness, faithfulness, and power. Let us be assured that God is using our life stories as testimonies of His goodness and faithfulness. And while we wait for His perfect timing, let us worship Him. As we worship the Lord, we affirm His perfect plan for us and declare to all of heaven and earth that He alone is worthy of our praise.
Joan E. Mathias