The harvest feast shared between the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Native Americans in 1621 may have been one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in our country. The second Thanksgiving celebration occurred in 1623 at the end of a season of drought. It started with a religious fast called for because the drought had been so long. It was during the Civil War, in 1863, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the United States should celebrate an annual Thanksgiving in November. Lincoln entreated all Americans to ask God to "commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife" and to "heal the wounds of the nation."
As we sat at our Thanksgiving tables this year, I wonder how many of us remembered to ask God to care for the mourners and sufferers and to heal the wounds of our nation. What we have lived through in the year 2020 has brought much suffering and loss. We certainly do need to lift to the Lord our fellow men and women for God's tender mercies to be poured upon them. Between the plagues, election intrigues, economic instability, and the necessity for people to quarantine from one another, the stress is over the top.
Let us remember that one of the best ways to deal with stress is to give God thanks! There is always something that we can give thanks for. The Old and New Testaments are filled with admonitions to give thanks. "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever." (1 Chronicles 16:34) "I will give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds." (Psalm 9:1) "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift." (2 Corinthians 9:15) "And in the midst of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God's perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 - TPT) When we give thanks to the Lord, we activate His action.
I recently listened to Chuck Pierce of Glory of Zion International speak on what happens when we come before the Lord with grateful hearts. Let's look at 2 Kings 4:8-37. Here is the story of a well-to-do woman from Shunem. (Shunem means two resting places.) The woman invited Elisha to stay at her home for a meal. Realizing what a blessing Elisha was, the woman and her elderly husband decided that they would build a small room on their roof for Elisha with a bed, table, chair, and lamp. This was the woman's way of honoring Elisha and thanking God for his presence. Elisha desired to show the Shunammite woman his gratitude and prophesied that she would have a son the following year. This happened just as it was said.
The boy grew until one day he experienced an awful headache and died. His mother carried him up to the prophets room and "laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out." (Verse 21) She saddled a donkey and rode him to Mount Carmel (fruitful field) to talk with the man of God. Elisha returned to Shunem and found the boy "lying dead" on his bed. Twice Elisha stretched out on top of the boy laying "mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, and hands to hands." (Verse 34) The boy awoke and was returned to his mother.
In her acts of kindness, the Shunammite woman not only prepared a place for Elisha to rest but also "prepared the way for the Lord." Elisha's bed was built because the woman had a heart of gratitude. She wanted to bless the man of God. Chuck Pierce tells us that we must be like her in preparing a bed of thankfulness to the Lord. Not only will this bed glorify the Lord, but it also gives us a place to lay all our distress. Lay all your distresses on your bed of thankfulness and watch as the Lord breathes life back into them.
The prophet Ezekiel watched as the Lord brought new life into the dry bones of Israel. God told Ezekiel, "...I will put breath in you, and you will come to life, then you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:6) It is time for us to prepare our beds of thankfulness. Let's join the Psalmist in declaring, "You turn my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever." (Psalm 30:11-12)
Chuck Pierce of Glory of Zion International says we are in a season of "RE." God is resetting, re-firing, and renewing His Church. If you follow the Hebrew calendar, you know that we moved into the ninth month called Kislev, meaning trust, rest, and security. It is associated with the letter "SAMEKH" which is a picture of a circle. This month we come full circle from last year and can have a second chance at missed opportunities. In addition, we should be on guard so that we break out of any old cycles that are unproductive.
The constellation Sagittarius (the archer) is in the night sky and reminds us that it is time to fight against empires and cultures that are not in agreement with the Kingdom of Light. Here is a celestial reminder that Benjamin, Jacob's youngest son and the only one born in the Promised Land, was a gifted archer. Although this is a month for rest and hope, we must develop our war strategies. These will come through prophetic revelation, dreams, and experiences that guide us into our call.
Observing the battles presently being fought in our country, we could be easily discouraged. According to the news media, Covid 19 cases are increasing and fighting, caused by political differences, abounds. But whose report do you believe? (Isaiah 53:1) The month of Kislev points us in the right direction. As we develop war strategies to take down our enemies, we take an offensive position so that we can maintain peace amid conflict.
One way that God encourages us is through dreams. Reading through the Torah portions for this month (Genesis 28-44), we see that two major dreamers are highlighted: Joseph and Jacob. Dreams are not always easy to understand. God's desire is that we pursue Him for revelation. Daniel 2:28 tells us, "There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries." Just like He revealed Jacob's true identity as Israel through a dream so that he would birth a nation, He will reveal our identities and the purpose for our lives as part of the Body of Christ. ("Show us, O Lord, how to make a difference in this world for the glory of Your Kingdom during this season.")
I wonder! Could this be the season God is using to redeem His Church to bring her back into full agreement with Him? Is He rekindling our desire for prayer and worship that brings us into greater intimacy with Him and puts us into His army to transform our nation? All of us must shine the light of the Lord brightly so that we dispel the darkness. We are part of a mighty army to re-establish justice and righteousness.
Ephesians 6:10-18 describes how we are to prepare for spiritual warfare. Here are these verses in The Passion Translation: "...Be supernaturally infused with strength through your life union with the Lord Jesus. Stand victorious with the force of His explosive power flowing in and through you. Put on God's complete set of armor provided for us, so that you will be protected as you fight against the evil strategies of the accuser! Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms. For they are a powerful class of demon-gods and evil spirits that hold this dark world in bondage. Because of this, you must wear all the armor that God provides so you're protected as you confront the slanderer, for you are destined for all things and will rise victorious. Put on the truth as a belt to strengthen you to stand in triumph. Put on holiness as the protective armor that covers your heart. Stand on your feet alert, then you'll be ready to share the blessings of peace. In every battle, take faith as your wrap-around shield, for it is able to extinguish the blazing arrows coming at you from the Evil One! Embrace the power of salvation's full deliverance, like a helmet to protect your thoughts from lies. And take the mighty razor-sharp Spirit-sword of the spoken Word of God. Pray passionately in the Spirit, as you constantly intercede with every form of prayer at all times. Pray the blessings of God upon all His believers." May the message of this passage become a reality in our lives.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...and God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." (Genesis 1:1, 3) What is light? John 1:4 says light is life. "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men." According to the dictionary, light is something that makes vision possible. It is "visually perceived radiant energy." Light is called electromagnetic radiation because its wavelengths vary and carry different amounts of energy. Western Washington University's website says, "Our brains interpret waves by assigning different colors to different wavelengths," Violet and blue carry short wavelengths and more energy than long wavelengths of red and burgundy.
The colors blue, red, and purple are talked about frequently in the Bible and represent different aspects of God's nature. Red represents passion and speaks to us of sin and redemption. It is the color of blood that Jesus shed for our forgiveness. Blue is seen in nature—the sky and water—and represents the Holy Spirit, divine revelation, and peace. Purple is the color of royalty, majesty, nobility, and kingship. This past week I was reflecting on the significance of these colors and how the combination of red and blue create purple.
Exodus 39:1 says, "From blue, purple, and scarlet yarn they made woven garments for ministering in the sanctuary..." This refers to the clothes of the priest who ministered to God. When the priests of Israel asked for gifts to construct the Tabernacle one of the prescribed offerings was "blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen." They were used in the making of the Tabernacle curtains and veils.
In his devotional, The Book of Mysteries, Jonathan Cahn gives us an interesting perspective on the three colors used in sewing cloth for the priests clothes and the Tabernacle curtains and veils. He says, "The Tent of Meeting was the place of the joining, the reconciliation, the meeting of two realities, God and man...Blue is the color of the sky, the heavens...representing the heavenly, God...In Hebrew, the word for man is Adam. Adam comes from the Hebrew word for red. Red is the color of the Middle Eastern earth from which man came. The scarlet red is the symbol of sin and guilt. Red is the color of man...Purple is the joining of blue and red. And so, it speaks of the joining of God to man, heaven to earth...the joining of all that is holy to all that is not...so totally joined that God will appear as sin." Jesus came from heaven to receive our sin. He joined humanity to make us one with Him. How fitting that He was covered with a purple robe by the mocking soldiers (John 19:2) as He made heaven and earth, God and man, blue and red one—purple!
As I look at the chaos in our country and the division among people with different beliefs, my heart is grieved. Our two main political parties have claimed red and blue to represent them. There is little hope for seeing the joining of these parties. Differences in beliefs create friction while demons desire to cover us in darkness so that no colors will be visible. Where does the Body of Christ fit into the drama that is being played out in the United States today? We must call forth the light! We must take our authority as children of the Most High God to break off every curse and trauma laid on humanity. We must release the sound of our voices to call forth God's healing and restoration. We must remember that we were made in God's image and are co-creators with Him as we release the sounds of worship to our righteous God. We must affirm God's original plans and purposes for us to be a people of love and a godly nation that shines forth His light and life.
With God's help, there will be a way where their seems to be no way. Call forth an awakening that sets the captives free and brings them into their destiny. Join with the chorus of Believers to declare, "I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of His righteousness..." (Isaiah 61:10) I wonder...Could the color purple prevail?
"There is an all-out attempt to finally turn our nation from God and His original plans for us." So says Dutch Sheets, pastor, author, and warrior for God's plans and purposes in the United States. In addition, he writes, "There is an evil attempt to keep what is true, righteous, and holy from coming to the surface of awareness in our nation; however, we are coming to the moment when it will no longer be withheld." It has become obvious that what God ordained for our nation must be fought for. All of this has not caught God by surprise. He has in place what we will need to "fight the good fight of faith." (1 Timothy 6:12)
First, there is a network of well-respected prophets in the United States that agree in their prophecies for our country and its leadership. Those who honor God and His Word and who partner with Him in His plans and purposes find favor with the Lord. We must come along side of these God-appointed prophets to pray in their words. This is what God told the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, when his nation was being threatened by vast armies of the enemy: "Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in His prophets and you will be successful." (2 Chronicles 20:20)
Secondly, it seems like the Church is awakening and finding her voice. She is reconsidering the way that she walks. The prophet Jeremiah reminded his people that they had forgotten God. "...They burn incense to worthless idols, which made them stumble in their ways and in the ancient paths." (Jeremiah 18:15) Jeremiah declared God's word to return to the ways of Israel's forefathers: "Stand in the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls..." (Jeremiah 6:16) The wind of change is in the air. God is aiming His church back onto the right paths and the foundation of HIs unchanging truth.
Thirdly, there is a groundswell of people who are remembering our history and our call from God. Our nation was birthed in prayer! Author, Dr. Peter Lillback did exhaustive research on our nation's first president. His book of over 1,100 pages, titled George Washington's Sacred Fire, is filled with the prayers of our founding fathers. Lillback records Washington's thoughts and prayers and devotion toward Almighty God. He tells us this: "In his first Inaugural Address, Washington explained that an experiment had been entrusted to the American people. What was at stake in America's experiment in self-government was the 'preservation of the sacred fire of liberty.' This 'sacred fire' had been entrusted to Americans by heaven. Liberty's flame was sacred or holy because it was sustained by heaven's 'eternal rules of order and right.'" (Page 711)
Finally, just as Esther was placed in the king's palace to partner with God in saving her people "for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14), we were also placed on earth at this time and place to partner with God in the turning of our nation back to Him. The prophet Isaiah says it well in Chapter 33:5-6. "The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high; He will fill Zion with His justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure." Our responsibility is to join the groundswell of prayer and to declare and decree God's plans and purposes for our nation to prevail.
God uses unorthodox ways to demonstrate His nature and purposes. So it was with Hosea the prophet. His name means "Jehovah (The Eternal One) is Salvation or Deliverer," and he lived among God's chosen people during a period when their leadership encouraged a materialistic, immoral, and unjust lifestyle. God watched as His people, chosen to live a godly lifestyle as an example to the entire world, and to be God's bridge of redemption to the pagans, were totally unfaithful to Him. They prostituted themselves to the very ones they were called to bring to the Redeemer.
Imagine how you would feel if God said to you, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord." (Hosea 1:2) Hosea's adulterous wife, Gomer (meaning completion), bore him two sons and one daughter who were named by God: Jezreel (God plants or sows), Lo-Ruhamah (not loved), and Lo-Ammi (not my people). Hosea's life was to represent the heart of God in loving the unfaithful.
God found Himself in a position of having to punish the children of Israel for chasing after other gods and abandoning their commitment to Him. Verse 12 of Chapter 4 says, "A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God." In his book, Hosea describes some of the detestable behaviors engaged in by the people of God during his day. "They practice deceit, thieves break into houses, bandits rob in the streets." (Hosea 7:1) "They speak about me falsely. They do not cry out to me from their hearts." (Hosea 7:13-14) "Israel has rejected what is good...They set up kings without my consent..." (Hosea 8:3-4) "Israel has forgotten their Maker..." (Hosea 8:14) "But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors, the roar of battle will rise against your people…” (Hosea 10:13-14)
Does Hosea's description of his times sound familiar? They do to me! We are living in a day that is characterized by our vile behaviors and affections to other gods. The spirit of prostitution appears to be alive and well. From His people Israel, God was looking for a repentant lifestyle. God said, "...Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears...For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:4, 6) While God had some harsh words for Israel, He also had some words of compassion. He remembered the time when they were faithful to Him: “When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree..." (Hosea 9:10) Early fruit on a fig tree was considered especially delicious. When God found Israel in the desert He was overtaken by her appearance and taste. He confessed, "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel...My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused." (Hosea 11:8)
Mitch Glaser, Ph.D., wrote a book titled God's Plan and Purposes for the Jewish People. He makes some interesting points that are worth repeating: "The Scriptures never suggest that Israel's disobedience would outlast God's grace...Instead, when God wants the nation to repent and again receive His blessings, the Lord would do what was necessary to turn the people back to Him. The book of Hosea proclaimed the message to Israel that God was not going to reject them, but would wait for, or even initiate, their repentance." (Page 23)
God's compassions toward Israel have never failed. I believe He has those same compassions toward the United States of America. He is the One who helped establish our country through guiding Christopher Columbus to our shores. He brought the pilgrims to our lands so that they could establish a country with righteous foundations and freedom to worship the One True God. The Lord said of Israel, "I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon, he will send down his roots…” (Hosea 14:4-5) God is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) Let us call out to Him for healing, restoration, and revival that our nation will return to Him and be like the early fruit on a fig tree.
My message this week has been inspired by some life cycles. I have been contemplating God's faithfulness and the evidence of His attention to our lives. The Lord is gracious and compassionate, always drawing us closer so that we can see life through His eyes. He uses everything we experience to strengthen our understanding of His amazing love for us and what it means to live in the Kingdom of Light. He loves all of creation and has set times and seasons for each. (Ecclesiastes 3:1) Changing seasons are meant to give us unique encounters with different aspects of the Lord's character.
Three years of marriage to my wonderful husband, Jac, is worth celebrating and thanking the Lord for His goodness. We decided to do so by taking a trip to Bushkill Falls in the Poconos. One cannot travel this time of year without being in awe of God's creation. Hillsides full of evergreens and deciduous trees bearing leaves of golden yellow, rust, red and brown are like painted pictures that take your breath away. It was only seven months ago that the trees were beginning to push out their new leaves for the season. Quickly the leaves matured so that they could fulfill their God-given purpose—to supply food for the plants through photosynthesis. Having completed their job, the leaves give us a final gift by going out in a blaze of glory. What a blessing it is to live through these cycles of life!
As my husband and I walked through the forest at Bushkill Falls, we were delighted by a native, multi-stemmed shrub that does things differently than most others. The Common Witch Hazel is native to the moist soil of the PA woodlands and is growing in abundance at the side of the waterfalls. They display their yellow, spider-like flowers in the fall along with their yellow leaves, looking quite beautiful next to the bold, green leaves of the native rhododendron. God surely does have beauty for every season. Listening to the sound of the waterfalls and seeing the clear water splashing down on the rocks reminded us of Psalm 42:7-8. "Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day, the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me--a prayer to the God of my life.”
We came home filled with awe and wonder at the magnificence of God and the precision by which He orders the seasons of the earth. However, we were about to experience the completion of another life cycle. Sixteen years ago, my daughter, Laura, told me about a skinny cat she saw who was eating out of her college dumpster. She begged me to allow her to bring the cat home for adoption. Not wanting the responsibility of caring for an animal, I directly said "No!" God had other plans. That night He gave me a dream in which I was holding a gray cat with gold eyes. I heard Him say, "I want you to adopt the cat." Waking up, I started a conversation with God that went like this: "Why would you ask me to adopt a cat who I do not want?" "Because, through this cat I will show you beauty for ashes. I will take the ashes of your life and transform them into something beautiful." I told Laura that I wanted to see the cat. Of course, she was the cat that God showed me in my dreams. We named her Cinder. After taking her to the vet for de-worming and cleaning, she joined me at my condo and became my constant companion.
I have no regrets. Cinder was faithful to greet me at the top of the stairs every time I came home. In her early years, she would amuse me by doing "calisthenics" on the open staircase. She loved to sleep next to me on the bed until my husband joined us. Jac would joke with me and say, "Beauty has arrived. It is time for ashes to go." Cinder's season of life came to an end on Friday. She had been losing weight and struggling with bad health. I delayed the inevitable. Thursday night God gave me another dream. It was time for Cinder's life to end. Even though the vet told us we were doing the best thing for Cinder, my heart broke. I am grateful for the years I had with her.
Seasons come and go. There is beauty and ashes. And, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, "He has made everything beautiful in its time." (V. 11) An artist by the name of Josh Baldwin recently wrote a song that seems appropriate to repeat. Here is part of it: "All throughout my history, Your faithfulness has walked beside me. The winter storms made way for spring in every season from where I'm standing. I see the evidence of Your goodness, all over my life, all over my life. I see Your promises in fulfillment, all over my life, all over my life." Let us remember that no matter what season we are living in, God is by our sides orchestrating events, changing times and seasons, and drawing us closer to Him. What more could we ask for?
Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has been the mainstay of the organization Samaritan's Purse. They have delivered 178 million shoeboxes to 170 countries and territories in that time. Every shoebox contains gifts and a few essentials for day-to-day life. Most important, however, is the telling of the Gospel to the children who receive the boxes. Each child is invited to participate in discipleship classes called "The Greatest Journey."
A pastor in Guam told those who visited his island with shoeboxes, "We're seeing salvation come not just to one or two children, but to families through Operation Christmas Child." Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18:16-17) God knew that the joy and faith of children would have an impact on those around them. So, these boxes given to children have the potential to transform entire families. Here is another exciting fact written about in the newsletter: "Over the past two years, God has used this project to plant more than 2,000 churches in 73 countries." Wow!!
The focus of this month's newsletter from Samaritan's Purse is testimonies of children and adults who received or gave shoeboxes. One young man from a kingdom in southern Africa called Lesotho lost both his parents and grandmother by the time he was 11 years old. This sad and lonely little boy was encouraged through receiving the gift of a shoebox and by hearing the Gospel at a local church. Years later he reports that he still carries the comb that was in his shoebox. Here is his testimony: "It is a reminder that God knows my needs. Even the little things can bring joy. God used the shoebox to give me hope and to fill my brokenness. I had a desire to know Him more, and I surrendered my life to Him. Today, I have eternal life in Christ because of His love for me."
There is a 24-year old woman named Amanda in Pennsylvania who is packing almost 1,000 shoeboxes this year. The number of boxes is amazing in itself, but what is more amazing is that she packs the boxes from her wheelchair. She believes in prayer and prays for each child who will receive a gift from her. She said, "I want them to feel loved and know that Jesus is the reason we packed them."
From the impoverished nation of Burundi came a thank you note sent by one of the church workers: "As I think of those who are packing the boxes, frankly I have tears in my eyes. How can someone from a different continent think of someone on another continent in Africa? All I can do is pray for them, that the Lord will continue to cover them with His love—each one who packs boxes. Some day we will all rejoice together when one day the Lord says, 'Well done, my faithful servant.' That will be you, that will be me, and we will rejoice in this work."
Franklin Graham, the organization's leader, says, "Many are desperately looking for comfort and peace, and we want to do all we can to help them find eternal hope in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I'm thankful that God has given us a simple yet powerful way to do this—by packing shoebox gifts for Operation Christmas Child, sending them overseas in the name of Jesus, and handing them out to millions of children through our global church network." "Shoebox gifts can go to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8)—even places that missionaries can't reach right now. Operation Christmas Child is a global missions opportunity that can be done safely at home...I hope that you and your church have already started packing shoebox gifts this year. Remember that the most important thing you can put into a shoebox is your prayers."
More details about this vital ministry can be found on their website at samaritanspurse.org/occ. Why not help by packing a shoebox, donating money and/or praying?
We can read the prescribed way that the leaders of Israel were to take a census in Exodus 30:11-12. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them.'" Here is the bottom line: God wanted His people to trust Him in all things. The small ransom required (a half shekel) was to support the service of the Tent of Meeting and became part of the Israelite worship of God. When King David made plans to take a census of the fighting men in his ranks without collecting the half shekel, Joab, the commander of the army, asked him, "Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?" (1 Chronicles 21:3) Joab was overruled and spent nine months and 20 days counting the troops. After receiving the report, David was conscience-stricken. "And he said to the Lord, 'I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.’" (2 Samuel 24:10) However, the Lord's anger rose, and He instructed David's seer, Gad to tell him the ramifications of his action.
It is interesting to note that God gave David the opportunity to select the punishment for Israel. His choices were three years of famine in the land, or three months of fleeing from Israel's enemies, or three days of plague. David told Gad, "Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men." (2 Samuel 24:14) The plague in Israel took 70,000 lives. When the angel of the Lord was about to ravage Jerusalem, the Lord became so distressed that he said, "Enough! Withdraw your hand." (1 Chronicles 21:15)
We must remember that Jerusalem was at the heart of God's plans for HIs people. The angel of death was stopped at the very site where God wanted the temple to be built—the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. David told him that he would like to purchase the threshing floor so that he could build an altar of sacrifice to the Lord to stop the plague. Araunah generously offered to give David the oxen for the burnt offering, the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. Here is David's reply: "No, I insist on paying full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing." (1 Chronicles 21:24) David paid for the site and sacrificed burnt and fellowship offerings to God. As he called on Him, "The Lord answered him with fire from heaven."
(1 Chronicles 21:26)
It is the place of costly sacrifice where the fire of God falls and destruction ends. It is the place where God's mercy is poured out, and we position ourselves for the future. There is much significance to the site God chose for David’s costly sacrifice. It is Mt. Moriah, whose name means "seen by Jehovah."
Our heavenly Father sees us through the lens of our destiny. If we look back to Abraham, we see that God selected David’s altar for another costly sacrifice. Abraham was instructed to take his only son, Isaac, to Mt. Moriah where he would lay him on the altar as a sacrifice. His willingness to trust God to make good on His promise gave Abraham the faith he needed to bind Isaac to the altar. Both Abraham and David saw God's judgment and mercy meet on Mt. Moriah, the site God had chosen for the temple to be built before time began. Indeed, shortly after David had his encounter with the Lord, he began to make preparations for the building of the Temple on this holy land. He said, "The house of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel." (1 Chronicles 22:1)
Does what happened to David and the people of Israel have any significance for us today? Here are the results of my contemplations: (1) I believe that The United States of America has been ordained by God as a godly nation whose purpose is to worship Him, to show other nations the generosity of God through blessing them with costly sacrifices, and to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. (2) I believe that God is grieved by the way we have pulled away from our godly roots, established by our forefathers. Our habit of counting our resources instead of trusting in the Lord must be put to an end. (3) I believe we could experience the mercy of God being poured out upon us if we laid costly sacrifices before Him. Would our investments in Kingdom ministries and fervent prayers for revival catch His attention? I think so! Oh God, "Will you not revive us again that your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your mercy, Lord, and grant us Your salvation." (Psalm 85:6-7 - NKJV)
During the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles the Israelites cut branches from three different trees--the palm, the myrtle, and the willow. The branches were an integral part of their celebration that included remembering their wilderness journey. According to Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, the people were reminded of the desert plains by the palms, the desert mountains by the myrtle, and the desert brooks that gave them water by the willow. Yearly, the Jews celebrate the journey of life as they remember the wilderness times that led them to the Promised Land.
The Feast of Tabernacles is a celebration of the harvest and a time of remembering God's provision and protection in the wilderness. It is referred to as "The Feast" because it is the culmination of all the Biblical holy days and is a time to meet with God. It actually points toward the culmination of God's redemptive plan and represents the final stage of His plan of salvation. The Feast is a fore-shadow of the millennial kingdom. The prophet Zechariah tells us that "The Feast" or Sukkot, will be celebrated in the millennial kingdom: "Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, The Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the people of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The Lord will bring on them the plague He inflicts on the nations that do not celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles." (Zechariah 14:16-18)
The feasts of the Lord were appointed by God before Jesus was born. We can read how they were celebrated in the Old Testament. However, they would have lacked authority because they were not celebrated under the authority of the name of Jesus. Now, we can see Jesus revealed in the feasts. We must look forward to that day when He returns as a triumphant King on a white horse. (Revelation 19:11) Believers from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue will worship Him, waving palm branches before Him.
Do not miss the significance of the week of celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles; it is rich in symbolism. Contemplating these times appointed by God can bring us into a deeper communion with Him. We must celebrate our journey of life. The wilderness is a symbol for our life on earth now, and the Promised Land is a symbol of heaven. That is our goal! Rabbi Cahn says, "Remember, in heaven, you will give thanks for the heavenly road you're walking on right now, on your way to the Promised Land."
Why not pause and reflect on your journey during this season? Life is full of struggles, sorrows, and disappointments along with times of joy, fruit bearing, and harvest. God's plan for us is written about in John 15:8. "This is my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit..." The journey is meant to strengthen us and point us in the direction of our ultimate destination—Heaven! Let us meet with the Lord during this kairos (opportune or strategic) time at the table He sets for us. It is time to feast with Him as we look for His victorious return!
On September 26, 400 years ago, the pilgrims set sail for America in their ship, the Mayflower. They came seeking freedom to restart their lives and to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Many on the ship lost their lives; those who did not persevered. With faith and fortitude, they pressed on toward the goal to win the prize for which God had called them. (Philippians 3:14) Those who landed on the shores of America were the seed of our nation. Before disembarking and putting down their roots in the new land, they signed a document that has become known as the Mayflower Compact. It was a covenant made with God and with each other that expressed the idea of self-government with "just and equal laws...for the general good of the Colony." The Compact expressed deep faith and belief in God and would serve as a foundation for the Constitution of the United States.
I believe that the Christian community will agree that our nation has fallen far from the original intentions of the pilgrims who signed the Mayflower Compact. Early in the year, two of our leaders in the faith came to the same conclusion separately and selected September 26 as a day for people of faith to gather in a solemn assembly on the National Mall to pray. Franklin Graham called his event "The Washington Prayer March" while Jonathan Cahn called the event "The Return." The date God led these men to choose also happens to be 40 days before the presidential election. Franklin Graham says, "The only hope for America is God. Prayer is our most important weapon. It allows us to go directly to the King of kings, directly to stand before the throne of grace and make our petitions known before God."
In the Bible we see that there is great significance to both the number 40 and 400. The flood, Moses and God's meetings, Christ's temptation in the wilderness, and His post resurrection ministry all took place in a 40-day period of time. Of course, the Israelites were in the desert for 40 years. Hence, the number 40 represents a time in the wilderness and preparation through trials and testing. In Genesis 15:13 we see that God foretold of the bondage of the Israelites for 400 years. He delivered them from bondage after 400 years. It seems that whenever God wanted to prepare a nation for His purposes it took 400 years. Could it be that the convergence of two major events in the life of our country is a sign that God is about to change our nation?
I believe that The Return and The Washington Prayer March were strategically planned by God to occur exactly when they did. They fell in the middle of the 10 Days of Awe—the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur where repentance for sins occurs. In addition, these events landed on a day called "Shuvah" on the Jewish calendar, a day annually set aside to return to God through repentance. In fact, the meaning of the word "Shuvah" is "Return." When Jonathan selected September 26 for "The Return" he had no idea that it would fall on Shuvah. Another interesting "coincidence" is that the preset Scripture to be read in synagogues on this day is Joel 2:15. "Blow the shofar in Zion! Proclaim a holy fast. Call for a solemn assembly." (The Complete Jewish Bible) And blow the shofars they did!! Jonathan led an entire army of people in blowing their shofars. The sound penetrated my soul. There were so many convergences at this gathering that we must conclude that it was God inspired.
Before the event, Jonathan Cahn told an interviewer, "God doesn't want to judge. He doesn't! He's long-suffering. Look at all we've done and what we do in His face. Look at the millions that have been killed, the unborn children who've been killed. God doesn't want to, but He has to deal with evil. But his heart is for salvation. His heart is that none should perish. God is calling to America: 'America, return to me, and I will return to you.' I believe that's the heart of God. The movement and chance we have before us now may never come again. If we don't return now, we may pass the point of no return."
There are those who seek to destroy our Judeo-Christian foundations. It is up to Christians to take a stand and return to our Biblical roots. We have this one moment in history that could turn the course of our nation and impact our descendants for generations to come. All the signs point to the fact that God is up to something. We must come into agreement with His plans to transform and reshape our nation. Let us take God up on His promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14. "If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
Joan E. Mathias