"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.
There is no question that America's origins are rooted in a passion to recover and live out the Christianity of the New Testament." So writes Eddie Hyatt in his book, America's Revival Heritage. He continues: "The first generation of immigrants to America were normally vibrant in their faith and passionate in their vision for a revival of New Testament Christianity. Their children and grandchildren, however, while retaining many of the outward forms of worship and doctrine, tended to lose the vitality and vision of their parents and grandparents. As former generations passed from the scene, the original passion for Christian reform and renewal passed away with them, and succeeding generations were left "having a form of godliness but denying its power.'" (2 Timothy 3:5)
As we celebrate the 245th anniversary of the birth of our nation, we can see that the concerns raised by Eddie Hyatt about the vitality of our faith continue. The activity of many of our churches confirms Hyatt's assertion that passion for the Lord and His ways is waning. A segment of our society is attacking anything that interferes with their liberal point of view. Their agenda includes erasing the truth of how our nation was founded. They find faith in Jesus and His Word offensive. They seem to know that if they rewrite history, they can control the future.
Here is the truth: America was founded for the glory of God. Public education was instituted to teach our children the fear of the Lord and the ways of the Word of God. Our mandate from the Lord is to grow in our relationship with Him and our understanding of His ways so that we can spread the Gospel around the world and bring light to the darkness. Those who wrote the Declaration of Independence got their words and ideas from the Bible. This document has impacted human rights around the world according to Mr. Hyatt. We should note that 27 of the 56 founding fathers were trained as ministers. And, the motto of the American Revolution—"No King but King Jesus"—had an obvious spiritual emphasis.
John Adams, one of our founding fathers, left no doubt where the ideas for our Declaration of Independence came from. He said, "The general principles on which the founding fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity." We, as the people of God, must be at the forefront of the movement to protect our history and to acknowledge that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was active in intervening on our behalf. He used Bible-believing people to fight for the independence of our nation and established a godly way of life that would spread the Good News of His love and care for us.
I grew up in the 1960s and remember when prayer and Bible reading were outlawed in public schools. The Church let it happen, and it continued unchallenged. Those who initiated the fight against Christian practice in schools through the Supreme Court were not satisfied with their judicial win. Hyatt writes, "...These radical secularists now seek to remove any vestige of Christian influence from the public square. An undeniable part of their strategy is to rewrite and reinterpret America's past and to disseminate their revisions through a government-run educational system."
Psalm 33:12 tells us this: "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose as His inheritance." We must do what we can to be sure that our history is not rewritten and that our future in America is secured through prayers and living godly lives. Here is how Eddie Hyatt summarizes this: "A government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people, can only be sustained by a people who are continually revitalized in their faith and in their commitment to moral principles. This means that a nation that was birthed out of Spiritual awakening can only be sustained by a people who are continually awakened and revitalized in their faith...We will either have revival or we will have revolution; we will either have Spiritual awakening or we will have societal chaos. Both history and Scripture teach us that the future of America rests squarely on the shoulders of the professing Christians of this nation." There is no doubt that we are in a battle for the soul of our nation. We must renew our passion for the Lord and cry out for a Spiritual awakening that will transform America back to its intended purpose!
First known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated three years after the end of the Civil War. It became an official federal holiday in 1971. An organization of veterans established the day as a time for our nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers and flags. Gradually the holiday evolved into a day of remember and honoring military individuals who died in all the wars. Throughout the United States, parades are held, red poppies are worn in remembrance of fallen soldiers (started during WWI), gatherings with picnics are organized, and trips are taken because of the long weekend.
I read that at times Memorial Day has been used as a day to remember fallen heroes who did not die on a traditional battlefield. So, I would like to use this letter to remember and honor a man who I consider a hero of America. The Reverend Robert Hunt, a clergyman of the Church of England, was appointed as chaplain for 105 men and boys who sailed from England to Cape Henry, Virginia. After 144 days at sea, the crew landed on the southern edge of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The landing spot was named Cape Henry in honor of the Prince of Wales, Henry Frederick.
After landing on April 26, 1607, Rev. Hunt gathered the band of men together to give God glory for their successful trip and to pray to Him as they established a settlement in the New World. Bob Long, of Rally Call Ministries, researched Rev. Hunt's prayer which was an offering of covenant to God. He says of the prayer, "It was heartfelt, deliberate, and offered with appropriate spiritual protocol. The embryonic nation was now in true covenant with God. The wooden cross, planted in the sand beside their kneeling prayer, witnessed their dedication of the land to God and the covenant oath with which they did it."
Here is Rev. Hunt's prayer of Covenant with God: "We do hereby dedicate this Land, and ourselves, to reach the People within these shores with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to raise up Godly generations after us, and with these generations take the Kingdom of God to all the earth. May this Covenant of Dedication remain to all generations, as long as this earth remains, and may this Land, along with England, be Evangelists to the World. May all who see this Cross remember what we have done here, and may those who come here to inhabit, join us in this Covenant and in this most noble work that the Holy Scriptures may be fulfilled."
What a prayer! What a legacy for us to remember! The Church must make known the foundation upon which our nation was established. We must not allow the agenda of those who want to take hold of our nation for their own agenda to expand any further. It is time for the Church to take a stand to agree with God and the covenant that we made with Him. Bob Long reminds us that God is a covenant-keeping God, He remembers how and why America was established. "The foundational prophetic prayer is actually not well known, but its significance cannot be overstated. God has not forgotten this original covenant entered into with Him! Is He heartbroken with America? Yes. Angry? Perhaps. Is it too late for America to be saved? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Will there be an awakening in the hearts of the American people and a return to our original Covenant with God? YES!"
While prophesizing at a leadership meeting, Bob declared this statement from the Lord: "I have not turned away from the covenant this nation made with Me, but this nation has turned away from it. The cry of a remnant in this generation has been heard, and I am raising up a new wave of prophets to call this nation back to America's original covenant...I am shaking all things. I am raising up more who will join the remnant. I am raising up more who will increase the volume of My call to your nation to return to Covenant. I am raising up more of those who will reveal My Son to the multitudes, that hearts may turn to Me. A remnant shall be strengthened, and a nation shall be shaken, that it may be awakened!"
The Psalmist reminds us that God "remembers His covenant forever, the promise He made, for a thousand generations." (Psalm 105:8) This should give us comfort. Yet, we must also remember our roots and the covenant our nation made with God in 1607. It is time for us to cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit in our nation. Revival is beginning and will grow. God wants American to return to our roots and to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth. From the beginning, our nation was to be a place for people to worship the one true God, to teach our children and generations to come of the worthiness of the Lord, and to spread the gospel through the world. Let us embrace this worthy call!
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.
Jeremiah had the unenviable task of trying to keep Israel off the path of evil and on the path of good. God met him at the Potter's house to demonstrate that Israel is in His hands like clay in the potter's hands. God said, "If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down, and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it." (Jeremiah 18:7-10) Because of their idols, God's people had forgotten Him, and God was grieved. Jeremiah was frustrated with the people of Israel, not only for their unfaithfulness to the Lord, but also for the way they accused him falsely: "Should good be repaid with evil? Yet, they have dug a pit for me..." (Jeremiah 18:20)
As in the days of the Bible, so are the days of our times. We have fallen into a pit of destruction and are believing lies spoken by the enemy of our souls. Like Jeremiah, the prophet Isaiah also had to speak to God's people about their disrespect for the Lord. In chapter 5 of Isaiah's book, we find the "woes and judgments" against Israel. Look at Verse 20: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."
Rabbi Jonathan Cahn writes about Isaiah 5:20 in his April mailing called "Sapphires." He says, "A culture, a civilization, or a nation that deems evil to be good, will deem good to be evil. And so, America's fall from God began with the toleration of evil, calling evil good. But that was only the first stage. In the second stage, the viewing of good as evil becomes more prominent. We are now there! We are now witnessing an increasing progression towards censorship, silencing, and attempted abolition of anything and anyone that stands in the way of the new morality--namely traditional values, biblical values, Christians, ministries, the word of God." He goes on to tell us how he experienced this silencing himself. Jonathan was led to record a message to Joe Biden at the time of his inauguration. In two days, it had a million views, and then it disappeared. Google "deemed the message too dangerous" because of its spiritual and moral content. Through his writing, Jonathan taught me a new term called "Shadow Banning." This means a message will be banned in a way that one is completely unaware that it is being done. He explains that "forces are manipulating systems in what amounts to covert persecution."
Just as God watched over the nation of Israel and brought them prophets to speak the truth, He watches over us. "From His dwelling place He watches all who live on the earth." (Psalm 33:14) "For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction." (Psalm 1:6) There is a day of reckoning coming as it says in Romans 1: 18-20. I like The Passion Translation: "For God in heaven unveils His holy anger breaking forth against every form of sin, both toward ungodliness that lives in hearts and evil actions. For the wickedness of humanity deliberately smothers the truth and keeps people from acknowledging the truth about God. In reality, the truth of God is known instinctively, for God has embedded this knowledge inside every human heart. Opposition to truth cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance, because from the creation of the world, the invisible qualities of God's nature have been made visible, such as His eternal power and transcendence. He has made His wonderful attributes easily perceived, for seeing the visible makes us understand the invisible. So then, this leaves everyone without excuse."
How can we partner with God to win the battle of good over evil? It is time for us to strengthen our relationship with the Lord. We must be rooted and grounded in His love, built up in Him, and strengthened in our faith. (Ephesians 3:17, Colossians 2:7) We must soak in His presence so that we are filled with His Spirit. We must not allow fear of evil to have a place in our lives. Jesus warned us about the evil that would beset us. The Psalmist wrote, "...I will fear no evil, for You are with me...(Psalm 23:4) We must remember that God placed us on earth for such a time as this. We are part of His mighty army. We must be aligning our lives with His plans and purposes, interceding for our nation, pleading for God's mercy, calling forth revival, and declaring the truth. We must keep our eyes on the goal, "being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that we may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light." (Colossians 1:11-12) We have our marching orders; let us put on our battle gear!
How did a colony of mealy bugs end up infesting my orchid plants? This is the question of the week that I had to answer. When I bring a new houseplant into my collection, I check it for bugs. Apparently, when I brought in a new orchid plant for my window shelf, I did not look carefully enough. Attached to the base of the underside of one of the flowers was a white, cottony speck. Since its color matched the flower, it slipped in without my seeing it. Female mealy bugs lay up to 500 eggs in a sac that is attached to the plant. In the case of my orchid, she went to work by embedding her sac of eggs at the juncture of the leaves. One leaf overlays the other in a whorl, and it is easy to tuck a miniscule sac that looks like dust into the leaf juncture so that it is undetected.
All I had to do was allow one bug in with my collection of orchids. They slowly began to travel from plant to plant. I noticed that several of the orchid leaves were looking deformed and that their tissues were beginning to break down. The infestation was so bad that I could not save my plants, and I had to do a complete cleansing of the trays they sat on. It was interesting for me to see that the violets that sit with them were not touched. Violet foliage is very "hairy" and unappealing to the bugs. One of my violets I have had since the early seventies. I am so please that it continues to "stand its ground" and grow.
There is an analogy in this scenario for all of us. We must not let our guards down. "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing in the faith..." (1 Peter 5:8-9) I believe that the enemy has targeted the United States for destruction as this nation was founded on godly principles and is meant to be a land where people worship the Lord, grow in His ways, and share their faith with the world. The devil is shrewd. He did not come in full force with guns blazing but slowly infiltrated our lives so that he could eventually take over. Souls of individuals are being invaded, one by one. But we must not be naive about what is at stake. There is a global agenda to remove all traces of Christianity.
I grew up in a time that seems so innocent compared with today. One example is that stores were closed on Sundays (Blue Laws) and families spent time with one another. Sunday was a day dedicated to God. How quickly all that has changed. There has been a war on the very fabric of our nation. Slowly, things have changed until we look around and say, "How did we get here?" The "bug" has laid her eggs and attacked our culture so that it is unrecognizable. The family is broken, abortion is sanctioned, our God-given identities are questioned, lifestyles that permit sexual promiscuity and perversion are celebrated, moral values have been redefined, education of our children has taken a wrong turn as liberal teachers attempt to control their minds, liberalism has permeated the church, and the very foundation upon which our nation was built is being destroyed. We have allowed the enemy's agenda to take over by compromising and being complacent as we watch the fabric of our nation being shredded.
So, what is the bottom line? We cannot allow complacency or compromise. God has fit us for battle. He chose to bring heaven to earth through a people dedicated to Him. Each of us needs to be a light in the darkness. We must take a stand and fight for what is right in God's eyes. We must declare, "Not on my watch!" God calls us to intercessory prayer as we take the authority He has given to us in the name of Jesus. It is time for us to put on our battle gear and follow the ways of Jesus to destroy the works of the devil. We must be like violets standing against the mealy bugs. We must see ourselves as warriors and release the Word of God over our lives, our homes, our country, and the world. Here is the apostle Paul's advice: "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 this 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." (1 Corinthians 10:3-5) We must be vigilant, prepared to go to battle with the truth of God's word, the love of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit. The victory is ours if we follow through!
A question is posed at the beginning of the song "Wonderful, Merciful Savior." "Who would have thought that a Lamb could rescue the souls of men?" But that is what was done by the Lamb of God! We see foreshadows of the Lamb of God throughout the Old Testament beginning in Genesis when Adam and Eve sinned. By eating the forbidden fruit their eyes were opened and "they realized that they were naked." (Genesis 3:7) Another way to say this is that they experienced shame, so much so that they tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves. But man could not cover his own sin. God had to provide them with "garments of skin." (Genesis 3:21)
Specific instructions were given to the Israelites in Egypt when God was going to deliver them from bondage and death. "...On the 10th day of the month each man is to take a lamb for his family...The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect...Take care of them until the 14th day of the month when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs." (Genesis 12:3, 5-7) The blood of the lamb was the covering that was needed to protect the children of Israel from the plague of death.
It was on Mt. Moriah that Abraham took his son, his only son, whom he loved, and offered him as a burnt offering at the request of God. (Genesis 22:2) At the moment he was about to slay him, God provided a ram for the sacrifice. The binding of Isaac is called "the Akedah" in Hebrew and the story is retold in synagogues across the world on Rosh Hashanah.
In Isaiah 53 we read the foretelling of the substitutionary atoning sacrifice of the Messiah. Verse 7 compares him to the sacrificial lamb: "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth."
When asked by the priests and Levites who he was, John the Baptist told them, "I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" (John 1:23) John was the one who prepared the way for Jesus and identified Him so that all the world would know the call of God on His life. "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) Those who practiced animal sacrifice so that those who violated the Mosaic law could approach God must have been shocked by the statement of John the Baptist. How could John compare Jesus to the sacrificial lambs?
The Passover season is upon us. The Jewish people will be remembering how each Israelite household in Egypt brought a perfect lamb into their homes from Nisan 10 to 14. Imagine how each family must have become attached to their lamb as they lived with him, only to turn around and kill him as a sacrifice to protect them. Christians are remembering the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem this weekend. To fulfill what was spoken by the prophets, He entered riding on a colt of a donkey. Crowds followed Jesus shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" (Matthew 21:9) Afterward, Jesus entered the temple where He would be questioned and scrutinized. For four days, "The Lamb of God" was examined. He was then chosen as the Sacrificial Lamb.
It is the love of God that nailed Jesus to the Cross. He was the sacrifice that purchased our souls. He is our Redemption. The Lamb of God is described in Revelation 5:6, 9-10. "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders...And they sang a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." We are those that Jesus purchased for Father God. We are part of God's Kingdom and priests to serve Him. It is ordained that we shall reign in victory. How can we not praise Him?
Joan E. Mathias