Psalm 62:1 - "Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress. I will never be shaken." Soul rest is a deep rest where we follow the example that God gave us after creating the universe. "...On the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done." (Genesis 2: 2-3) Our bodies and souls were designed to need rest. In fact, every creature that God placed on earth needs rest. God called the day of rest the Sabbath because we are to stop our normal routines and direct our thoughts and actions toward Him. The fourth of the Ten Commandments says, "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." (Exodus 20:8)
The Greek word for rest is "anapauo" and its definition includes several possibilities such as refresh, rejuvenate, reinvigorate, and revitalize. Notice the "re" at the beginning of each word which means "anew." These words can apply not only to mankind and the creatures of the world but also to the land. God's instructions to the children of Israel concerning the land are explicit: "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 your crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest." (Leviticus 25:2-5) The Jews call this year the Shemitah year.
In His instructions, the Lord makes provision for all people. He is aware that the poor and needy are in a position of not being able to provide for themselves or their families. Their daily existence is a struggle that makes it difficult for them to rest. In Leviticus 25:35 we see where God makes provision for them. "If any fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you." How would a farmer who is ready to harvest his fields help the poor and the stranger so that they could rest from their worries? Leviticus 19:9 gives instructions on this: "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over the vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God."
Jonathan Cahn of Hope of the World Ministries teaches that the Hebrew word for harvest is "Katzeer." He tells us that God's children need to learn the law of the Katzeer which says that we should not reap the ends or corners of our land but leave them for the poor and the stranger so that they may be fed. Since most of us are not farmers, how does this law apply to us? It has to do with our mindset. It requires us to have faith in God that there will always be more than enough. What does this look like? It means making a choice to give away portions of our possessions like time, energy, money, and love. These are the corners of our fields. When we give to others in this way God fills our cups to overflowing and makes our harvests spectacular.
On the Jewish calendar, the first month of the civil year and the seventh month of the religious year coincide. The seventh month is called Tishrei, meaning beginning. Seven is the number of completion or perfection, so it is significant that the three fall feasts occur in this month. The New Year occurs on the first day of this month. The celebration, also known as Rosh Hashanah or The Feast of Trumpets, occurs at sundown on September 15 on our calendars. The shofar, an instrument made of a ram's horn, will be blown to call the Jews together so they can consider the past year and look at the year ahead. The sound is meant to awaken the souls of those who hear it so that they are prompted to return to God. The horn brings to remembrance the ram that Abraham offered to God as a sacrifice in place of his son, Isaac. It is also a reminder for God's people to remain humble in the face of a holy God.
Another name for the Jewish New Year is "The Day of Judgment." It begins the fall feasts. These feasts are meant to lead those celebrating into right standing with God. Joel 2:1 commands, "Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill." The shofar is sounded 100 times at Rosh Hashanah. Not only does it call for a gathering of God's people, but it also reminds them to go to war against anything that is contrary to God's truth. We should be encouraged by the words of Joel 2:12-15. "'Even now,' declares the Lord, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.' Rend your heart and not your garments, return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and He relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing...Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, and call a sacred assembly."
God is focused on our redemption. The New Year is to be a time for a reset for all of humanity after a time of self-reflection and repentance. The number of the year is one that speaks to us about the Lord's intentions. In order to follow what many of the prophets are saying about the year to come, we must understand that every letter in the Hebrew alphabet is a picture that conveys a message and has a numerical value. 5784 is the number of the New Year. The fourth Hebrew letter is "Dalet" and has a pictographic meaning of a door or portal. God created the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day, and their light separates us from darkness. These celestial bodies indicate our times on the calendar. Thus, our Creator regulates our times and seasons, and Tishrei is meant to demonstrate the linking of time and authority.
Let us look at all the numbers of this year: Five is the number of grace. Seven is the number of perfection. Eight is the number of new beginnings. And four is the number of a door. We are four years into the decade of the 80s. This number 80 is the seventeenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet and is the picture of a mouth. It is called "Pey" and is associated with speech and other functions of the mouth like blowing. What does this say to us as we consider the year 5784? Remember that God created the world with His spoken word. Since we are made in His image, our sounds have power as did His. We have been given the power to bless or curse. Proverbs 18:21 tells us, "The tongue has the power of life and death..." Then we have Psalm 81:10 that promises, "...Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." God is the one who fills us with good things!
The ten days between Rosh Hashanah (The New Year) and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) are called The Days of Awe because the Jews believe their actions during these ten days can alter the decree God writes about them in His heavenly book. I believe we have a great opportunity to walk through new doors in the year to come. Perhaps this is time for us to experience growth in a new dimension—the fourth or spiritual dimension. Believers have legal access to the spirit realm. Ephesians 2:6 confirms this: "God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." Could the declaration of our faith move us into a season of creation that we have not seen before? We must embrace the promises of God by declaring them so that the door of blessing and opportunity is open for us. Let it be!
In just two weeks, the Jews will be celebrating their New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Central to their celebration is the reading of the story of Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, at the command of God. Because of his act of faith in God, Abraham has become known as The Father of Faith. He began to demonstrate faith when God first spoke to him at the age of 75. God said to him, "Go from your country, your people, and your father's household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:2-3) Abram, as he was known then, put feet to his faith and set out for the Promised Land.
Abram had another encounter with God when he was 99 years old. God said to him, "As for me, this is my covenant with you. You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations." (Genesis 17:4-5) To seal the promise God was making, He required all males to be circumcised as a sign of this everlasting covenant.
Faith was to become the key for all nations to be part of the family of God. That faith must be established through our belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and died for our sins. If we make this decision, the righteousness of Christ is given to us. Romans 4:9 tells us that "Faith was credited to Abraham as God's righteousness!" (TPT) Faith in God and righteousness go hand-in-hand. Romans 4:3, in The Passion Translation, explains this. "Because Abraham believed God's words, his faith transferred God's righteousness into his account."
Romans 4 also makes it clear that this righteousness is available to every person on the face of the earth. Look at Romans 4:10-11. "How did he (Abraham) receive this gift of righteousness? Was he circumcised at the time God accepted him, or was he still uncircumcised? Clearly, he was an uncircumcised gentile when God said this of him! It was later that he received the external sign of circumcision as a seal to confirm that God had already transferred His righteousness to him by faith, while he was still uncircumcised." (TPT)
God's promises to Abraham were ultimately fulfilled through Jesus Christ who is in Abraham's line. Notice that God did not select a perfect man in Abraham. We can see the mistakes that he made and sins that he committed. He learned through these and grew in faith. The ultimate test of his faith was when he was told to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. He traveled approximately 50 miles to Mount Moriah and had an abundance of time to reconsider what he was about to do. But Abraham demonstrated that he loved God more than he loved the promise. Through his commitment to follow God's command, he was rewarded with blessings that confirmed his faith in God.
We can be assured that our faith in God will be tested. That is the only way for it to grow. God wants to increase His righteousness in our "accounts" through increasing our faith. Why else would He send his Son to earth to die? "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) It seems to me that when we pass our tests, we get a double bonus: increased faith and righteousness.
In 1989, missionary and Christian author, Elisabeth Elliot published a book titled On Asking God Why. I was drawn to it immediately, because my inclination is to ask Him this very question. I do not know about you, but I rarely receive the answer to my why questions. However, I now find myself in a season where I want to ask that question again. All the catastrophic events that are happening around the world lead me to that place of asking "Why?" There is the fire in Maui, the floods in Southern California and Norway, the migrant crisis around the world, those people who take advantage of children and young adults by placing them in slavery, the killing of millions of babies through abortion, the terrorist organizations that torture and kill those who do not agree with them, the Christian communities that are being destroyed around the world, and more.
We can find innumerable plights in our world that draw us to chip away at our Christian foundation and belief that God is good. Shakings are a part of life. But as Christians, we must use them to embed our anchors even more deeply into the truth of God's love for us. Christ alone is our Rock and the One who sacrificed everything for us.
In Scripture, Job was the first one to ask the why question. And who could blame him? He was a wealthy man of integrity who offered burnt offerings to God every morning. God pointed this out to Satan and asks him to notice how Job was blameless and feared Him. Here is Satan's reply: "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?" "...But now, stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." (Job 1:10,11) A plethora of losses began to plague Job, and eventually Satan afflicted his body with painful sores. His friends came to sit with him, and it is said of them that "...they could hardly recognize him..." (Job 2:12) In his suffering, Job began to ask why questions of God: "Why did I not perish at birth and die as I came from the womb?" (Job 3:11) "Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul?" (Job 3:20) "Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?" (Job 3:23) The Psalmist also asked the question why. Here is one: "Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?" (Psalm 74:1)
Elisabeth Elliot helps give us some insight into asking the why question: "There would be no sense in asking why if you did not believe in anything. The word itself presupposes purpose. Purpose presupposes a purposeful intelligence. Somebody has to have been responsible. It is because we believe in God that we address questions to Him. We believe that He is just and that He is love, but that belief is put to severe strain as we wrestle with our pain and perplexities, with our position in His ordered universe." (Page 12)
Psalm 22, a psalm of David, prophetically asks a question that would be repeated by Jesus while He was on The Cross. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Verse 1) Both Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 quote Jesus as calling out to His Father: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Of course, Jesus knew about the agony of His death before He came to earth. So why did He ask the question? God used the death of His Son to redeem us so that we could spend eternity in heaven with Him. Jesus was bridging the gap between His sinless Father and sinful people. Perhaps He was quoting Psalm 22 because those witnessing the crucifixion would have been familiar with it.
Elisabeth writes, "Christ's radical diminishments—His birth as a helpless baby and His death as a common criminal—accomplished our salvation..." (Page 19) When we have no explanation for what is happening around us, we look to God. Elisabeth says, "It's got something to do with that great principle of loss being the route to gain, or diminishments being the only way we can finally be enlarged, that is conformed to the image of Christ." (Page 20) What is the bottom line for a Christian? We must be able to live with the mystery of God and trust in Him who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. He is transforming us into the image of His Son, and it is our responsibility to cooperate with Him even if we do not have the answers to our why questions. As we trust in the Lord, it is precious to Him.
"A Haven in Time"—that is what the month of Elul is called. We entered into this sixth month on the Hebrew calendar on Thursday evening. Why is Elul called a haven? It is because our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, appointed this time as one where His mercy and forgiveness are extended to us in a personal way. If we look back at the history of the children of Israel, we see that the prior two months (Tammuz and Av) are known for the sins committed against the Lord. Because of their sins of lust and unbelief, the Israelites built the golden calf and refused to enter the Promised Land. Elul is meant as a time for repentance and redemption.
Today, God reaches out to us even in the midst of our sin. His overwhelming desire for intimacy with us overrides any anger over our disobedience. During Elul, He extends the opportunity for us to prepare for the high holy days of the next month through repentance now. The Lord extends mercy in a very personal way by making Himself more accessible to us. The Jewish people say of Elul: "The King is in the field." God's desire for intimacy with us is so great that He leaves His heavenly dwelling to come to earth and make Himself accessible in the field of our lives. We have an entire month when the Lord is here to remind us of His loving kindness and love.
For me, it is particularly significant that God picked the month of Elul to send the angel Gabriel to tell Mary about God's plan to use her to birth His son. "In the sixth month, God send the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary...the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.'" (Luke 1:26-27, 30-31) "...So, the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35) During the month of Elul, God took His first step to put into motion His plan for His Son to come to earth to live in a tent of flesh for 33 years. John 1:14 describes what happened: "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." The Passion Translation gives us a good visual of John 1:14. "And so the Living Expression became a man and lived among us! And we gazed upon the splendor of His glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father overflowing with tender mercy and truth."
God's desire has always been to dwell with us. Look back to Exodus 25. In this part of Scripture, the Lord instructs Moses to build Him a tabernacle. Verse 2 says, "...You are to receive the offering for Me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give." The purpose for the tabernacle is described in Verse 8. "Then have them make a sanctuary for Me, and I will dwell among them."
It is hard to imagine such a loving God. The Lord made the ultimate sacrifice for us so that we could live with Him for eternity. "This is love: He loved us long before we loved Him. It was His love, not ours. He proved it by sending His Son to be the pleasing sacrificial offering to take away our sins." (1 John 4:10 - TPT)
During Elul, God gives us an invitation to experience deeper measures of HIs love. It is so fitting that the name Elul is a Hebrew acronym, "Ani L'dodi V'dodi Li" which means "I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine." (Song of Solomon 6:3) Should we not respond positively to God's loving invitation for intimacy? Let us be sure that our hearts are clean, open, and prepared to experience Him in this haven in time.
A recent visit to a salmon hatchery in Alaska gave me a new-found respect for the way these fish were designed. There are several varieties of salmon (King or Chinook, Sockeye, Coho, and Pink), each unique in their appearance. However, all of them have the same characteristic of being able to orient themselves toward their original home when it is time for them to spawn. God has built into them their own global positioning system. Scientists believe that salmon navigate through the earth's magnetic field similar to the way a compass operates. It takes a salmon about one year to imprint by learning the smells and chemical nature of their surroundings during the first year of their lives.
As young fish, salmon migrate to the ocean where they gain the majority of their body mass. In their feeding grounds they consume foods that are high in carotenoids, which is the pigment that is stored in their flesh and gives them the pink-orange color. After spending two to five years in the ocean, their homing instinct becomes strong, and they begin their journey back to the place where they were born. It is believed that in addition to using the earth's magnetic field, salmon are conscious of the day length, the sun's position, water salinity, and temperature gradients. They travel from June through August in order to spawn between August and November. Salmon return to the stream where they were born because they know it is a good place to spawn. They have the ability to swim against the current, and it is reported that they can jump as high as twelve feet. Their homing instinct is so strong that if they get off track, they die.
If God designed salmon with such a homing instinct, can you imagine how He designed us as His children? Each of us has a God-given destiny that is meant to draw us into intimacy with Him. Acts 17:26-28 confirms the Lord's intentions for us. "From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, 'We are His offspring.'"
Coming to know the Lord personally is like finding our way home. The salmon come home to spawn so that the life of their species continues, and then they die. We come home to have everlasting life with the Lord and to join all creation in worshiping Him. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) The prophet Jeremiah describes the "GPS system" that is a part of God's people: "In those days, at that time...the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the Lord their God. They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces toward it. They will come and bind themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten." (Jeremiah 50:4-5)
Romans 1:19-20 describes the way God designed us. "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 you understand the invisible. So, then, this leaves everyone without excuses." (TPT)
May I encourage you to use your internal "GPS System" to increase your intimacy with the Lord? All of us have an amazing blessing to be able to have a personal relationship with The Creator and Sustainer of all life. The Lord wants to spend eternity with us and calls us to stay on track as we make our way on His path of life.
Did you ever read a book that you could not forget? Such is the case for me with a fiction story that had a plausible plot. The hero of the book worked for the federal government on their main computers in Washington D.C. He gave one of the computers the task of bringing peace to the earth. It determined that the only way to accomplish this task would be for it to take over the world. It began to hypnotize many key people so that they would obey its commands. Country by country succumbed to its power. After multiple struggles, the story's hero was able to overcome the computer.
The remembrance of this story came to my mind as I read Jonathan Cahn's word called "The Rise of the Machine Master" in his August devotional. He reminds us that America has been in the process of paganization for the last 60 years and that one of the main characteristics of this culture is the worship of idols. He defines idol worship as worshipping our own creations. The prophet Isaiah describes what this looked like in his day: "Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made." (Isiah 2:8)
The apostle Paul used the Greek word "techne" when he spoke to the people in Athens, Greece, about their idols. (Acts 17:16-34) This is the word from which we derive the word "technology." Is it not technology that we serve today? We are being "mastered" through our I phones, computers, and I pads. I notice how many of our teenagers lack social skills. Could it be because they have been taken over by technology? Jonathan Cahn suggests that when we serve idols (technology) we become like what we serve, and they become more human. Psalm 115 warns of this: "But their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands...Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them." (Verses 4 and 8)
A recent subject of frequent discussion is that of artificial intelligence. Here we have computers taking over the function of thinking or being able to simulate human intelligence to perform tasks or solve problems. Because computers can analyze large amounts of data in a short period of time, they can make decisions like the human brain, but in shorter periods of time. Scientists have warned that artificial intelligence is a dangerous technology. The question is being asked: "Could this lead to the destruction of humanity?" God forbid!
We must become aware of the idols that we serve so that we can break the bondage that they place us in. Christ came to the earth to bring us freedom and set us free from these bondages. Remember, whatever consumes our thinking will become more powerful in our lives. Let's be sure to use our time wisely and take the advice of Paul when he says, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things...and the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8-9 - NKJV)
"Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4) I can testify to the truth of this Scripture. God knows what is in our hearts, and He cares about what we carry there. For years I have carried the desire to visit Alaska in my heart. He knew it and put together a plan that would allow me to realize this desire. Along with my husband, I spent the middle two weeks of July in an environment that stunned us. Author of the book Alaska - Saga of a Bold Land, Walter Boreman, describes the landscape this way: "What you notice first, and what remains with you long afterward, is the scale. Here is a land where superlatives abound, and comparisons are few. Here is a land that dwarfs almost any wilderness you have known...Alaska is 615,230 square miles of rugged mountains, grinding glaciers, seemingly endless tundra, broad rivers, and rushing streams--larger than all but 17 of the world's countries..."
When I look back, it is hard for me to select a favorite location in this land of "Wows!" Our first stop in Fairbanks, Alaska, contained several treasures, my favorite being Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge. Here we found a huge field covered in the yellow flowers of the mustard plant. The majestic scene was framed in the back by mountains. We were entertained by a flock of Sandhill Cranes as we took in the landscape before us.
From Fairbanks we made our way southwest to Denali National Park that holds the crown jewel of mountains, Mt. Denali (or McKinley) with a height of 20,320 feet. The snowcapped peaks remain that way year-round, and on a clear day you can see them from miles away. We were told that only five percent of the visitors to Alaska get to view the top of the mountain as it is usually shrouded in clouds. On our day in Denali Park we started with clouds, but by mid-day they were lifting, and we had a glorious view of the snow-capped mountain.
Another treasure of the Alaskan wilderness is its many glaciers. We were able to see three of them in Glacier Bay National Park that can only be accessed via boat or plane. As we slipped into the Bay, mountains came down to meet the tropical-colored water. Since we came so close to the glaciers, we could feel the cool breezes from the ice. Over the years, these glaciers have advanced and then retreated again. Margerie Glacier calved (released a wall of ice into the water) as we were there. My favorite glacier, however, is Mendenhall Glacier, part of the Juneau Icefield. It sits at the back of Mendenhall Lake in Tongass National Forest. The blue spectrum of the rainbow appears in all the cracks of the glacier. That, against the white snow, makes for a magnificent landscape.
I have shared only a portion of our trip that has given us memories for a lifetime. But one cannot take all of this in without giving glory to the One who created it. I know from Scripture that God created the heavens and the earth with His spoken Word. I am overwhelmed with the scale and majesty of it! I want to leave you with verses from Psalm 65. "Praise awaits You...You who answers prayer, to You all people will come...God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth...who formed the mountains by Your power...The whole earth is filled with awe at Your wonders...The grassland of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing..."
Our hearts are full of awe as we have experienced such an awesome part of God's creation. It causes us to bow in worship, because not only has He made this, but has given us a new-found respect for Him that compels us to worship Him forever.
It is common for different emotions to partner with one another. For example, Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that, "The joy of the Lord is our strength." When we have joy based on the truth that the Lord is our salvation, refuge, and guide, an inner strength grows in us. On the other hand, when we look at negative emotions, fear frequently travels with doubt and unbelief. This combination was a major problem for the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt. God made promises to all of Israel that have become known as the "Five I Wills." (1) "I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians." (2) "I will free you from being slaves to them." (3) "I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment." (4) "I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God." (5) "I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession." (Exodus 6:6-8)
God proved His faithfulness to the Israelites by bringing plagues upon the Egyptians that did not touch them. In addition, He brought them out from under the yoke of slavery with plunder. In a mighty show of power, the Lord opened the Red Sea for all of Israel to walk through and then drown the armies of Egypt. In celebration, the Israelites sang, "The Lord is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation." (Exodus 15:2) Guiding His people with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, He was with them every step of their journey. He healed the bitter waters of Marah, so that they could have drink. He brought them manna daily. He helped defeat the Amalekites. At Mount Sinai, they were given God's commandments to follow, and they made a covenant with God. "We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey." (Exodus 24:7)
When the Israelites reached Canaan, at the Lord's command, Moses sent twelve leaders of the tribes of Israel into the Promised Land to investigate. After exploring for 40 days, they returned with a report. Ten of the leaders spread a bad report and doubt that led to fear concerning God's promises arose. Psalm 78:11 says, "They forgot what He had done, the wonders He had shown them." Psalm 106:13 reports, "But they soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His plan to unfold." The bad report from the explorers caused the people to lose faith in God. They doubted their ability to occupy their God-given inheritance. Unbelief and fear overrode faith, and they refused to move forward into the land that God had promised them.
According to Rabbinic tradition, the children of Israel refused to enter the Promised Land on the ninth of Av. This refusal set into motion yearly disasters, including the destruction of the first and second temple, that all occurred on the ninth of Av. The writer of Hebrews describes God's decision concerning the future of the children of Israel who were rescued from Egypt. "So, God swore an oath that they would never enter into a calming place of rest all because they disobeyed Him. It is clear that they could not enter into their inheritance because they wrapped their hearts of unbelief." (Hebrews 3:18-19 - TPT)
The month of Av begins this week; the ninth of Av is on July 27 this year. It would be beneficial for us to remember His faithfulness in our lives, and to meditate on the promises that God has given us. If we find doubt or fear arising, we must resist it and, by faith, claim His promises. It is faith that conquers doubt. Although the Jews mourn on this day, they also proclaim God's greatness. "You turn my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever." (Psalm 30:11-12)
As I walked down the driveway to my boss's office, I saw something that looked impossible. In a small crack between the foundation of the building, the driveway, and the sidewalk there was a stunning, deep pink petunia blooming as though it was living in perfect surroundings. Apparently, a small seed from the pot of flowers that sat on the front stoop of the house the year before had blown into the crack and lodged itself there for the winter. Its perseverance paid off, and when the warm weather began, the seed shell broke open, and roots grew. Those roots produced the petunia plant and the beautiful flower.
This amazing picture gave me great hope as I began to think about other seeds that have been planted. In Scripture, the word seed has different definitions. If we go back to the days of Abram in Genesis, we see that the Lord referred to Abraham's descendants as seed. "Yahweh brought him (Abram) outside his tent and said, 'Gaze into the night sky. Go ahead and try to count the stars.' He continued, 'Your seed will be as numerous as the stars!'" (Genesis 15:5 - TPT)
Not only can seed refer to descendants, but it can also refer to the Word of God. The seed is planted in the "ground" of our hearts. God designed all of us to produce fruit when His Word is planted and germinates. He also expects us to partner with Him in seed sowing. "Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening, let your hands not be idle." (Ecclesiastes 11:6a) The apostle Paul explains to the church at Corinth that we are servants of God, each with a task. "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow." (1 Corinthians 3:6)
May I encourage those of you who are praying for prodigals to come home? When I think of them, I think of the seeds that they carry. I am well aware that parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends intentionally plant seeds in their loved ones who have left the faith or who never fully embraced it. Let us remember that once a seed is planted, it does not go away! In the natural world, the shell of a seed must be broken before it begins to root. When I think of the petunia seed that brought forth the beauty held within it in an almost impossible situation, it reminds me that the seeds planted in hard hearts of God's children will also beak forth and produce fruit. Jesus, when he told those He ministered to not to worry, He pointed to the flowers. "...See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." (Matthew 6:28-29)
Perhaps our prayers for the prodigals in our lives should include asking the Lord to break open the shells surrounding the seeds that are already in their hearts. Then, let us pray that those seeds planted by our prayers are used to soften our loved ones' hearts. When the ground around a seed is soft, we have optimum conditions for growth. As the seeds begin to break and root, God will help them to grow. Be encouraged! God is a gardener. The first family was placed in the Garden of Eden. God continues to place each of us in ideal growing conditions for the fruit that He desires to harvest. He is all about collaborating with us to break up the hard ground so that the fruit of righteousness is forthcoming.
Joan E. Mathias