God instructed Elijah to go to the top of the "mountain of God," Mt. Horeb, while He passed by. A powerful wind that shattered rocks, an earthquake and then a fire confronted Elijah, but the Lord was not in any of them. Finally, their came "a gentle whisper." This is how the Lord came to Elijah. (1 Kings 19:11-13)
The Lord still speaks in a gentle whisper, desiring us to stop our activities and be still before Him so that we can hear what He has to say. He has much competition through our world that is filled with sounds. Many individuals cannot walk down the street without plugged in ear buds. Computers and TVs offer us a plethora of talk shows where we can listen to people's opinions on numerous subjects. We are talking and texting our friends throughout the day and night. Have we remembered to set aside time to heed the voice of the Lord?
Our relationship with the Lord is dependent on hearing Him, and our well-being is dependent upon hearing and obeying Him. After crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites were introduced to the character of God. They began to see His characteristics manifest before them. The first one was Jehovah Rapha, the God who Heals. As God healed the bitter waters at Marah, He told them, "If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, I will not bring any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord who heals you." (Exodus 15:26) Notice the keys to good health: Listen carefully and Obey (Do what is right).
These directions are repeated in Deuteronomy 28. When Moses told the children of Israel the key to God's blessings, he said this: "If you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all nations on the earth, and all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obeyed the voice of the Lord your God." (Verses 1-2, NKJV) We must hear the voice of the Lord to know how to be obedient. Notice also that these instructions were the first ones that God gave to the Israelites after they came out of Egypt. In His economy, the things He places first have priority.
Jeremiah the prophet had to correct the children of Israel concerning their priorities and activities as written in Chapter 7 of his book. He stood at the gate of the Lord's house and declared, "Hear the word of the Lord...Reform your ways and actions...You are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless...The Lord declared, 'I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer.'" (Verses 2, 3, 8, 13) The Lord spoke through Jeremiah when He said, "For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people.'" (Verses 22-23, NKJV)
Jesus affirmed the instructions in the Old Covenant when He said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:22) As Believers we are in covenant with God. Our part is to listen for His voice and then obey His instructions. May I suggest that not only does this tell us that we should regularly set aside time just to hear from the Lord but should also be listening for His still small voice as we go throughout our days. We carry the Presence of God wherever we go and have opportunities to demonstrate His love to others as He directs us into situations and tells us how to reflect His glory. Let us tune ourselves to the Lord's frequency so that we can hear Him and obey.
"Don't burn your bridges!" Has anyone given you that advice? It sounds good on the surface but there are situations where burning the path to the past would be a demonstration of commitment to the future. Such was the case with the prophet Elisha.
After a victory over the prophets of Baal, Elijah retreated in fear. God was not finished with him, however, and revealed Himself to Elijah through the sound of a gentle whisper. Then, He gave him instructions, including anointing Elisha as his successor. Elisha was found plowing his field. "He was plowing with 12 yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the 12th pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him." (1 Kings 19:19) In Biblical times, the cloak was one of the most important pieces of clothing a person could own. It served many purposes—being used for protection against weather, bedding, a place to sit, a way to carry belongings, or a pledge for a debt. In this case, it represented the mantle of Elijah's calling from the Lord as a prophet. By transferring it to Elisha, Elijah was passing his responsibility and God's power to him.
Elisha knew full well what was happening to him. "...Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. 'Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,' he said, 'and then I will come with you.' Elijah asked, 'What have I done to you?'" (1 Kings 19:20) Elisha went back and did exactly what we are told not to do. He burned any bridge to the past. "He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to following Elijah and became his servant." (1 Kings 19:21)
It is interesting that there were 12 pair of oxen since 12 is the number of apostolic fullness and divine government. Elisha realized that the call on his life had changed. He proved it by burning the plowing equipment and sacrificing the oxen to feed his family and friends. Think about this scene and the prophetic nature of it. Remember that plowing is the first step toward harvest. Elisha would be plowing, planting and harvesting new ground. He positioned himself for the future by sacrificing everything from the past. There would be no retreating to the old lifestyle. He was all in!
We are in a new year and a new decade. What is God calling you to pursue? What do we need to "burn" so that we do not look back and can be free to press on to the call of God for the future with everything that is in us? We must look to our Messiah and His goal for us. Here is advice from the apostle Paul: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14) Jesus also warned those who would follow Him: "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62) There is always more ground to plow in the place where you are called to plant and harvest. Let us move forward as the Lord leads us.
Fruit trees were very important in the Jewish culture. In fact, on the 15th of Shevat (the 11th month) they celebrate "The New Year for Trees," known as Tu b'Shevat. Tomorrow is that day, sometimes called Rosh Hashanah for Trees. We see in Deuteronomy 20:19 that people are compared to trees. The chapter includes instructions on how to go to war. God's people were not to cut down fruit trees when they laid siege to a city. The question is asked in Verse 19, "Are the trees people, that you should besiege them?" Fruit trees were planted so that their fruit could be eaten.
The main reason this holiday was established was so that God would be correctly honored with the fruit the trees produced. Leviticus 19:23-25 tells us this: "When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it must not be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the Lord your God." The purpose of the new year is for calculating the age of trees for tithing. Each tree is considered to have aged one year as of the 15th of Shevat. If you plant a tree any time before the 15th of Shevat it begins its 2nd year on the 15th. But if you plant a tree two days later, for example, it does not reach its 2nd year until the 15th of Shevat the following year.
What does this mean for us? When Jesus spoke to His disciples, He told stories to make His point. It was common for Him to talk about trees and compare them to humanity. In Matthew 7:15-20 He warned His disciples to watch out for false prophets. How were they to recognize them? They would do so by the fruit they produced. Good trees bear good fruit, but bad trees bear bad fruit. He repeats this theme of judging a tree by its fruit in Matthew 12:33. "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree will be recognized by its fruit."
In Psalm 1 we are compared to fruit trees and told that the Lord blesses those who delight in His law and meditate on it day and night. "That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers." (Psalm 1:3) Verse 6 tells us that "The Lord watches the way of the righteous." The prophet Jeremiah repeats this theme. "But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
What we take in impacts our fruit. We need to be all about producing strong roots through our faith and commitment to the Lord, for strong roots produce good fruit. What we partake of can produce nourishment which strengthens us. Let's be aware of what we are eating and drinking. It is the Word of God and the Living Water that strengthen our roots and help us to grow in righteousness. Righteousness needs to be our foundation.
We must ask ourselves, "What kind of fruit are we producing?" Are we producing a crop that will feed the next generation? What kind of "trees" are planted in our fields? Are they bearing good fruit, or do they need to be cut down? The Lord is our Righteous Savior (Jeremiah 23:6)—Jehovah Tsidkenu—"The Lord our Righteousness." As we partake of Him, our Daily Bread and our Living Water, we will produce a bounty of good fruit.
Perhaps you remember a story that broke in 2004 about a sheep that was lost for six years. He ran away from his home in Bendigo Station, New Zealand, and hid in caves. "Faith Inspired" recently posted the story on Facebook. Named Shrek, he was one of a flock of 17,000 Merino sheep. This breed does not shed their fleece, unlike other breeds. After six years of growing wool he was unrecognizable as a sheep. He could hardly see because there was so much fleece in his face. We are told how dangerous it is for a sheep to carry such a weight of fleece. Shrek was shaved with his fleece weighing in at 60 lbs. A normal weight for sheep's fleece is just under 10 lbs. Dave Thomas, Head of Sheep Studies at the University of Wisconsin warned how dangerous it is for a sheep to carry so much weight for the following reasons: (1) Heat stress commonly occurs in the summer. (2) The weight creates mobility issues. (3) Vision is impaired. (4) If the sheep fall over, they may not be able to get off their backs.
What weight Shrek carried without a shepherd to care for him! This wanderer could represent any Christian who strays from our Shepherd. David, the writer of Psalm 23, writes about the Good Shepherd: "The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing." In Hebrew the word is Roi which means "watches over." We are blessed that God saw our great need for someone to watch over us. God gave His only Son, Jesus, to be the Lamb who laid down His life for us and the Shepherd who brings us home when we stray. Here is how Isaiah 53:6-7 expresses it: "We all like sheep, have gone astray, each has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
In mercy God calls us back to Himself. He wants us to remain in His flock so that He can lead us beside quiet waters and restore our souls. He guides us on paths of righteousness for His name sake. We need not fear evil for His rod and staff comfort us. (Psalm 23:2-3) A beautiful picture of our Shepherd is painted in Revelation 7:17. "For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
Our cave-hiding sheep, Shrek, carried a horrible burden from the weight of his fleece because he stayed away from his shepherd for so long. The Lord spoke to our issue of carrying unnecessary burdens in Matthew 11:28-30. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is all in as it tells us in John 10:14-18. "I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen, I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason the Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord..."
Christ our Shepherd, extends amazing love to us with a promise to care for us and lead us into our destiny. We belong to Him! Recognize that He spares nothing for our welfare. Let's not be like Shrek and carry unnecessary burdens that keep us from our Shepherd whose loving care will cause us to prosper and flourish.
What adjectives go through your mind when you think of a snake? How about evil, poison, death, craftiness and betrayal? For me, it is all of these. I don't even like to look at snakes and avoid the snake house at the zoo. Interestingly, snakes are also a symbol of fertility, life and healing. But I have been following the most recent news on the virus that started in Wuhan, China. The Coronavirus is so named because it appears like a crown under a microscope. Its "protein codes" are most similar to those carried by bats and snakes. Researchers believe there is a strong possibility that the virus jumped from bats to snakes and from snakes to humans. This is because there were snakes in the fish market where scientists believe the virus started. The Coronavirus is transmitted through the air. Its method of movement is called zoonotic transmission because people acquire the virus directly from an animal.
My research on the Coronavirus was taken from two scientific journals. On January 22, 2020, "Scientific America" and "New Scientists Newsletter" wrote about the virus. Here is something interesting that I found: The snake is the host for the virus however, the virus must go through genetic mutations in order to infect humans. The Taiwanese or Chinese Krait is a highly venomous snake and is what was being sold in the Wuhan market. The medical community is still trying to learn more about the virus since so many people have been infected with it. They are looking for ways that it can adapt to both cold-blooded and warm-blooded hosts.
As I was praying about this dire situation, I remembered that the children of Israel were also impacted by snakes. After they were freed from bondage in Egypt, Moses led them through the wilderness as instructed by God. The Israelites began to grumble and spoke against God and Moses. They said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!" (Numbers 21:5) I am in dismay as I read this. Where is their gratitude? Where is their respect? God did not take kindly to their insolence. "Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, 'We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.'" (Numbers 21:6-7)
God did answer the prayer of Moses, giving him unique instructions. "'Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.' So, Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived." (Numbers 21:8-9) What was God trying to do with this solution? I believe He was pointing us to Jesus. Just as the bronze snake was lifted up on a pole Jesus would be lifted up on a cross. The pole represented the Cross and the bronze snake judgment. God provided a means for deliverance through admission of sin and faith in His way to redeem His people from death.
The children of Israel were condemned to death because of their sin. The serpent was a symbol of their sin and death. All who looked on the representation of sin with eyes of faith were healed. We too have been condemned to death by God because of our sin. Jesus came to save us by becoming sin on the Cross. God ordained that all who look at Jesus in faith will be redeemed from death. "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."
(1 Corinthians 5:21) Let us take time to thank and worship the Lord for His amazing sacrifice. Even before the time of Moses, God had a plan to redeem us. "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life."
He was a godly man of faith who wanted to see his people freed from oppression. He quoted Scripture in his speeches. He encouraged peaceful protests and was resolute in his mission. Martin Luther King Jr. was eventually killed for his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. But, his dream did not die. He left us his "I Have a Dream" speech as a picture of the goal and an inspiration for the future.
Peppered throughout the "Dream" speech are words that come from Scripture: "We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." (Amos 5:24) We should remember that the foundations of God's throne are righteousness and justice. (Psalm 89:14) "I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope." This portion of the speech was taken from Isaiah 40:4-5.
Could it be that King recognized the mission of Jesus Christ to set captives free and so quoted the prophets that told of the coming of this King who would fight for the weary and oppressed and bring hope to the hopeless? As the apostle Paul writes to the Galatians, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." (Galatians 5:1) Jesus Christ Himself made His mission known when He stepped into the synagogue in Nazareth and read from the scroll of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)
Freedom in every realm of our lives is a God-given right since we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and his life, death and resurrection. However, many of us are not walking in complete freedom. The battle for our freedom is a spiritual one. God gives us direction on how to obtain freedom. Here are the words of Jesus: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free...So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:32,36)
Do you see the beginning of a new year and new decade as an opportunity to examine the call on your life and the assets you possess? I do. Let us remember that each of us is unique in the gifts and callings placed within us by God. Our time on earth has been establish by God. "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." (Acts 17:26) "Man's days are determined; You have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed." (Job 14:5) The Psalmist recognized the blessing he had been given by God. "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." (Psalm 16:5-6)
How do we take possession of our inheritance and produce a harvest that blesses God, those around us and the generations to come? First, we must recognize that we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, one of expansion and increase. Bill Johnson, Senior Pastor of Bethel Church in California says, "Our very purpose in life is intertwined with the in-breaking of God's Kingdom and the unveiling of God's glory." Second, we must live our lives according to God's commandments. This means putting God first (Matthew 6:33) and allowing Him to lead us. Paul the Apostle had the right perspective. "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now, as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or death." (Philippians 1:20) We must live according to an eternal perspective, honoring Christ in every decision we make and action we take. In addition, we must become students of the Lord's plans and purposes for our lives. We must evaluate our gifts and the territory that God has called us to possess. We must set goals for our lives through intimacy with the Lord that brings revelation of our part in bringing His Kingdom to earth.
We have been assigned a territory on earth where we will have the greatest impact for the Kingdom of God. The gifts He has given to us are seeds to be planted in our territories. Unfortunately, the kingdom of darkness is scheming to destroy the good seed we plant in our land. Remember that Satan's plan is to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10) After Moses died, Joshua was called to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land and to take possession of it. Here is what God said to Joshua: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9) This is a word for us! There will be battles as we possess the land and plant seed in the territory we have been ordained to take. We must courageously battle the enemy. Jesus has encouraged us with these words: "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
We have a vital role to play in the establishing of God's Kingdom on the earth. If every person took responsibility for their territory and planted their seeds so that they take root and produce fruit, we would see an explosion of the Lord's glory throughout the earth. Our world is in desperate need for the "sons of God to be revealed." (Romans 8:19) Let's make 2020 and the decade to come the season for the earth to be "filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:14)
In his books and devotionals, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn enlightens us about the times and seasons and patterns of life in ancient Israel. He studies these patterns because they are a harbinger for the United States. We, like Israel, were established as a godly nation, and God judges both of us in a certain way.
The Lord's desire is for us to have relationship with Him and to live lives that reflect His nature. He chose one man to form a nation to represent Him. "For I have chosen him (Abraham), so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just…” (Genesis 18:19) As the children of Israel were being led to the Promised Land, God told them, "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples of the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession. The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other people, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath, He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.” (Deuteronomy 7:6-9)
Reading through Scripture, we learn that the children of Israel frequently broke covenant with God and strayed from His commands. He always warned them of the consequences of their disobedience. Then He gave them a time period of grace in which He held back the full force of His judgment and wrath. If the nation did not return to a godly way of living during the grace period, God's judgment fell. Rabbi Jonathan's January 2020 devotional tells the story of Israel's northern kingdom and how God warned them to return to Him and follow His ways. The nation did not take the warning seriously and used up their grace period without changing. God lifted His hand of protection from over them and allowed the Assyrians to destroy them.
After looking at different times in the Bible when God extended grace to the children of Israel, Jonathan has discerned that God's period of grace for America may be ending in the year 2020. Our spiritual and moral decline is noticeable and flies in the face of the nation's Judeo-Christian foundation. Jonathan points out that the year 2020 is the 400th year since the Mayflower journeyed to the shores of America and the pilgrims made a covenant with God. 400 is a number of significance in the Bible where situations for Israel changed.
Jonathan also points out the significance of the number 19 in the Bible. In the year 605 B.C. the Babylonian army invaded the kingdom of Judah to make their first strike—a limited one—against them. Nineteen years later (586 B.C.) when nothing changed, the Babylonians returned in full force and destroyed Judah. (Jeremiah 52:12) On September 11, 2020, it will be 19 years since the terrorist attack on the twin towers.
Could this be the year when our nation will see calamity and destruction? Or, could this be a year when revival will hit? As we begin the year 2020, I believe it is our obligation to pray for a national turning to our Godly roots. Let us pray that God will revive each of us and that we will be part of a company of Christians leading the people of America back to our Judeo-Christian foundation.
Yearly, on Christmas Day in Washington Crossing, PA, the story of George Washington and his troops crossing the Delaware River to march to Trenton is re-enacted. The Continental Army attacked the Hessian garrison on Christmas in 1776. They overcame freezing rain, snow, ferocious winds, an ice-choked river and a long, cold march to Trenton to win the battle against the Hessians. The victory helped to bolster the sagging morale of the army so that they continued to fight the British and their allies.
One year later, the troops were in Valley Forge from December 1777 to June 1778. When they arrived, the cold and hungry troops built log huts to live in during the months to come. There is a legend that one of the soldiers at the Valley Forge encampment was a Jew who encouraged George Washington. Author Stephen Krensky was so inspired by this story that he wrote a book called Hanukkah at Valley Forge. Interestingly, in the year 1777, the first night of Hanukkah fell on Christmas Eve. The story is told that the lone Jewish soldier waited until the other soldiers were sleeping before he set up his Menorah. He lit the first candle and wept. As he was walking around the huts, George Washington saw the soldier and stopped to ask him why he was crying.
The Jewish soldier explained that he was crying out to God for the success of the troops. He had experienced persecution in his hometown in Europe and came to American to escape from it. He assured Washington that he would be victorious in his campaign because God is on the side of the righteous, just as He was with the small band of men led by the Maccabees who overtook the large Greek army. It was God who granted them a miraculous victory because of their faith in Him. This story served as an inspiration for Washington to move forward against the British. Doesn't this sound like the fulfillment of Isaiah 49:6? "I will make you a light for the Gentiles that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth."
The legend continues that the same Jewish soldier was at home in the Bronx in New York a year later. On the first night of Hanukkah, the veteran placed a Menorah in his windowsill with one candle lit. After hearing a knock at the door, he opened it to find George Washington on his front step. Washington said to him, "There is that fabulous light, the Hanukkah light! That flame and your remarkable words kindled a light in my heart on that dark and bitter night. We were in a tight situation then, and your words encouraged me so! They spurred me on with new hope. You will soon be awarded a Medal of Honor from the United States of America for your bravery in Valley Forge, but tonight you will receive a personal memento from me." The General then placed a gold medal on the table. Engraved on it was a Menorah with one candle burning. These words were inscribed on it: "As a sign of thanks for the light of your candle. George Washington."
Here we have the Jewish vet reminding Washington of the faithfulness of God. The size of the army coming against these small bands of soldiers was not important. What was and is important is the abilities of our God and His delight in helping us. Scripture talks about quite a few battles where the armies of the Israelites were so much smaller than the armies of their enemies. One example is when the Assyrian army came against King Hezekiah and his people. Here is what he told them: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him. There is greater power with us than with him." (2 Chronicles 32:7)
Tonight, Jews all over the world will be lighting the final candle on their Menorah and will remember the faithfulness of God and His miraculous power to help them re-take the temple in Jerusalem. There will always be forces of evil who attempt to defeat and discourage the people of God. But here is the truth from John 1:5. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." Our Lord still fights for us when evil attacks. Be confident in the Lord's faithfulness and His miraculous power on our behalf.
God never intended for His people to be too secure in one place. He knows that it is through the journeys of life we will grow in our trust and understanding of Him and closeness to Him. The forefathers of Christianity written about in the Bible were always moving. The first journey we read about is one that was inspired by God. "The Lord had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go 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 peoples on earth will be blessed through you.'" (Genesis 12:1-3) Abram was faithful and went to the land of Canaan, as the Lord led. Here, Abram’s life of trusting in God grew.
And God proved Himself trustworthy by miraculously allowing Abram (now called Abraham) to impregnate his wife Sarah in her old age. Sarah bore a son who they named Isaac. When Isaac matured and was ready to start his own family, Abraham sent his senior servant on a journey to find Isaac a wife. Abraham told his servant that God would send His angel before him to help in finding the proper wife. (Genesis 24:7) Isaac's son Jacob also went on a journey to find a wife. He set up a pillar at a place where he rested in the city of Luz and called it Bethel—"The House of God." He promised to serve God and return to Him a tenth of everything that God gave him. (Genesis 28:18-22)
Joseph, the favorite of Jacob's 12 sons, took an unexpected journey to Egypt because his jealous brothers sold him into slavery. God was faithful to Joseph, pouring His favor upon him so that he was placed in a position of leadership and influence just under Pharaoh. During a time of great famine, Joseph's brothers came to him to purchase grain. This journey led to the restoration of their relationship with one another and to a new homestead for the family of Jacob (Israel). The family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob grew, producing fear in the Egyptians, so that they took them as slaves
After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God set into motion a plan whereby Moses would lead his people out of Egypt on a journey to the Promised Land where they established homes but forgot their God who had led them to freedom. God's plan for another journey formed long ago when the sin of Adam and Eve paved the way for all mankind to be separated from God. His chosen people were still sinning when God ordained that the ultimate journey would take place! The Son of God was to leave His heavenly throne to come to earth and live among His people. His life on earth would end with His death on a cross to satisfy the wrath and holiness of Father God. Jesus was the spotless Lamb of God who came to become a sacrifice for our lives so that we could have eternal life with Him.
We think of another significant journey that took place as we remember the Christmas story. Wise men from the east—probably Persia or present-day Iraq—may have been reading Daniel's writings that identified the time of the coming of the Christ child. As they studied the stars, they found the Lord's star and took a journey to Bethlehem to worship this King.
It is God's desire that we become people who search and move in His direction. Psalm 84 is a great encouragement for us in this regard: "Blessed are those who strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage." (Verse 5) We see how those who followed the Lord and journeyed with Him received amazing blessings. I believe that during this season we too should be setting our hearts on pilgrimage so that we come closer to the King that we worship.
A sentiment on a Hallmark Christmas card has touched my heart, and I would like to share it with you:
Christmas reminds us we're all on a journey...toward meaning, toward hope, toward love and lasting peace.
As we journey through this season, I am asking God to give us those things that touch our hearts, renew our spirits, and bring blessings to our world!
May our celebration of the birth of Christ take us to new places of revelation of His great love for us!
Joan E. Mathias