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."
Yearly, an organization called HaYovei (The Jubilee) has been helping farmers with small properties in the regions of Judea and Samaria harvest their grapes. A recent story by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz in "Biblical News" told about the organizations faithfulness in bringing more than 3,000 Christian volunteers from 30 countries to Israel for the past 15 years. As they helped pick grapes, these Christians breathed life into the Biblical prophecy in Isaiah 61:5. "Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards."
This year was different from all others. Israel's Health Minister placed travel restrictions on the country so that their borders were closed to all non-citizens. It is reported that about 400 tons of grapes were in danger of rotting on the vines because of the restrictions. The leaders of HaYovei pulled out all the stops to get the Israeli government to relax their regulations. Eventually, 50 volunteers were permitted to enter the country as long as they committed to staying for three months, with the initial two weeks being set aside for quarantine. On September 2, the first group of volunteers began harvesting the grapes. Pickers came from The United States, Canada, and Germany.
When the harvesters are finished, it is expected that approximately 500 tons of grapes from 10 farms in the Biblical heartland will have been picked. Some of the HaYovei volunteers are motivated by the prophecy in Ezekiel 36:36. "Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate..." Although the volunteers may not proselytize, their generosity in assisting with the harvest demonstrates the love of God.
What a blessing it is to be alive during a time when so much Biblical prophecy is coming to life! The grapevine is a symbol of the Jewish people. As the grapes mature, so are the Jewish people as they come to know their Messiah. God told King Hezekiah to look for a sign from Him. "This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year, sow and reap, plant vineyards, and eat fruit. Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." (Isaiah 37:30-32) I would imagine that the Jews who own the vineyards in Israel's heartland and the Christians who are helping with the harvest will join together to celebrate and give thanks to God (the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) for bringing in the crop.
The Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) began on Friday evening. Saturday, September 19, is the first day of the new year and Tishrei, the seventh month on the Jewish calendar. Typically, families gather together in their synagogues and read Leviticus 23:23-25 and Numbers 29:1-6. They also read the story of Abraham taking Isaac to Mt. Moriah to sacrifice him as instructed by the Lord. (Genesis 22) God rewarded Abraham's obedience and provided a ram as a substitute sacrifice. It is the ram's horn that is blown on the New Year as a reminder of Father Abraham's obedience to God. Those farmers in Judea and Samaria who have help with harvesting their grapes have another reason to celebrate God's goodness.
The "Grapevines" continue to thrive despite efforts by the enemy to kill them. God is invested in and committed to HIs covenant with the Jewish people. He has made and kept His promises to His people and uses the Christian community to help in their fulfillment. "...New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills, and I will bring my people Israel back from exile. They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them." (Amos 9:13-15)
As the Jews celebrate their new year, we as Christians should be praying for their prosperity and taking our places as harvesters for the Kingdom of God. God looks with favor on those who help His chosen ones.
After Covid 19 hit our country, my church decided to hold services outside. The worship team and pastor minister under a large, 2-story front entrance porch. The congregation sits facing the front of the building either in a tent on the parking lot or on the lawn. As my husband and I worshiped together on the lawn, we have a great view of the building and the steeple that rises to the sky above. The history of the architecture of American churches goes back to when our nation was settled. One of the first buildings the pioneers constructed in their villages was the church. It was the center of all activities. Worshiping God was their chief priority. Most of the churches built had a steeple that was topped with a spire. It symbolized the church's heavenly aspirations.
When I sit at one of our services and look at the front of our church, my eyes are instantly drawn to the steeple. Recently, I noticed that hornets have been very busy over the summer, because there is a huge hornet's nest at the juncture of the steeple and the spire. The hornets chew wood to build their paper-like structures. The teardrop-shaped nest only has one opening for the hornets to enter and leave. Fortunately, the nest attached to our church steeple is so high that we do not have to be concerned about an attack by the hornets. In addition, fall and cooler temperatures are approaching. The nest will deteriorate over the winter. I began to wonder how a hornet determines where it will build its nest. My research shows that they look for a location that has cracks in it so they can firmly attach their nest. It is recommended that homeowners caulk and seal any cracks in the sides of their buildings so that hornets will not attempt to build their unwanted structure.
As I looked at the nest on our church steeple, I felt like God was telling me that there is prophetic significance to this picture. There is a battle going on between good and evil in our world today. Sadly, much of the Church has compromised their position and allowed the enemy to have his way. We are warned about this in Ephesians 4:27: "...Do not give the devil a foothold." Just as the hornets built their nest in the cracks of our steeple, the devil found cracks in the foundation of our churches and has built a nest so that he can operate inside the life of the church to influence her decisions for evil. Our country has bought into the lies of the enemy and has made decisions that are directly opposite of the commandments in Scripture and the foundations upon which our nation was formed. The Church cannot continue to compromise! The soul of our nation is at stake, and the country needs the prayers and actions of the saints to bring it back into alignment with the intentions of our founding fathers. This could be the Church's greatest hour of achievement or failure for the Kingdom of God.
The enemy is attacking the Church's foundation. For seven months our lives have been severely restricted through government regulations meant to protect us from Covid 19. At this point they have been softened somewhat; however, it appears as though they will continue through the rest of the year. They hit at the heart of the Church--worship and fellowship! In addition, fear has struck many—not only fear of sickness, but fear of violence that is ravaging our cities. Rage and anarchy have been unleashed by those who want to control our nation in an unholy agenda.
I praise God for the churches that are standing their ground! They found the cracks in their foundations and are filling them. They are leading their congregations in repentance and return to lives of purity and love. They see that God has given us a period of grace. But I wonder how long this grace will last. Peter gives us good advice for this season: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your bothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (1 Peter 5:8-9)
Paul gives us solid advice in Colossians 4:2-6. "Be faithful to pray as intercessors who are fully alert and give thanks to God...Walk in the wisdom of God as you live before the unbelievers, and make it your duty to make Him known. Let every word you speak be drenched with grace and tempered with truth and clarity. For then you will be prepared to give a respectful answer to anyone who asks about your faith." (TPT)
The number 40 is significant to God. The first time we see it in the Bible is in Genesis 7:4 when God tells Noah, "Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made." After escaping from Egypt, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Exodus 16:35 says, "The Israelites ate manna 40 years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they left the border of Canaan." When Moses was talking with God, "he stayed on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights." (Exodus 24:18, 34:28) After Gideon and his tribe subdued the Midianites, "the land enjoyed peace 40 years." (Judges 8:28) When the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord they were delivered "into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years." (Judges 13:1) David reigned as king of Israel for 40 years. (2 Samuel 5:4) Likewise, his son, Solomon, reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel 40 years. (1 Kings 11:42)
Joash reigned as king of Israel for 40 years and used this time to repair the temple. (2 Kings 12:1) Through Jonah, God told the Ninevites that they had to repent within 40 days or Nineveh would be destroyed. (Jonah 3:4) Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days and nights. (Matthew 4:2) Satan tempted Him during that 40-day period. (Luke 4:2) After His death and resurrection, "Jesus appeared to His disciples over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God." (Acts 1:3) As we can see from the Scriptures above, 40 is the number of probation and testing that ends in victory or defeat.
The Jewish people have established a 40-day period between Elul 1 and Tishrei 10 (Yom Kippur) as a time for repentance. It is a time to turn from evil and turn towards good. It takes its name from the Hebrew root word "shoov" which means return. These days are called The Teshuvah--the days of turning, fasting, and repentance. The 40 days are meant as a time of preparation for the upcoming new year that begins at sundown on September 18. It is in this season of turning from sin that one moves toward the Lord. The key word here is return. Throughout the Scriptures, prophets and apostles called to God's people to repent and return. Let's look at some of them:
"'Return (Teshuvah) backsliding Israel,' says Adonai. 'I will no longer frown on you, for I am merciful,' says Adonai...'Return (Teshuvah), O backsliding children,' declares Adonai..." (Jeremiah 3:12, 14)
"Yet even now, turn (Teshuvah) to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping and lamenting. Rend your heart, not your garments, and turn (Teshuvah) to Adonai, your God..." (Joel 2:12-13)
"Come, let us return (Teshuvah) to Adonai. He has torn, but He will heal us. He has smitten, but He will bind us up." (Hosea 6:1)
"Return to Me (Teshuvah) and I will return to you." (God's Teshuvah) (Zechariah 1:3)
Turn away (Teshuvah) from your sins, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 3:2)
"Repent (Teshuvah), therefore, and return (Teshuvah)--so your sins might be blotted out." (Acts 3:19) ("Teshuvah" Scriptures taken from the Messianic Jewish Bible—Tree of Life Version)
This is the season when we should be inviting the Holy Spirit to show us what needs to change in our lives. We need to be mindful of the decisions we make and the actions we take. I find it fitting that two giants in the faith, Franklin Graham and Jonathan Cahn, have selected September 26 as a day of national repentance (Teshuvah) in Washington, D. C. The event is called "The Return" and is meant to be a National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance. It falls the day before Yom Kippur. Jonathan Cahn explains that America is in a pivotal moment in time. We have turned away from our foundations and call good evil and evil good. The Biblical template shows us that after a nation is warned by God, it has a window of time to repent. September 26 has been designated as a day of prayer, fasting, and repentance for ourselves and the nation. It happens to be the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower on the shores of America and 40 days before the presidential election. Let us join Christians in our nation in humbly coming before the Lord and crying out for His mercy.
As the summer draws to a close the flowers planted in the spring are pushing out their last blossoms before the frost does them in. One of my favorite annuals, growing on my deck, is a Mandevilla vine. Its oblong leaves are shiny green, and its trumpet-shaped flowers have 5 pure white petals with a pale pink blush at their base and a yellow throat. The vine grows aggressively from many different shoots, with the new growth frequently intertwining. Yesterday I found three of the shoots circling an oblong flower bud ready to break open. This would not have been possible had I not freed the bud from the restricting tendrils. I must be vigilant in keeping the new grow from choking the flowers.
The enemy of our souls acts somewhat like these choking vines. He targets anything new and beautiful in our lives, attempting to choke it out. With restrictions binding us, we are unable to bless others, because we are fighting for our own lives. Just as new flower buds on the Mandevilla vine break open daily to swell and reveal their lovely pristine petals and calyx, God gives us new possibilities to reflect His beauty daily. We must push against the enemy attacks to share the Lord's beauty in our lives.
I discovered this summer that squirrels love to eat the Mandevilla leaves and flowers. One evening I came home to find a squirrel sitting on my deck chair with an entire shoot in its paws. He was eating one leaf at a time and saved the flower buds for dessert. Ugh!! I will not allow this enemy of my beautiful vine to destroy it. There is a yardstick by my door that I use to chase the squirrels. My persistence has helped in keeping them away.
What have I learned from my experience with this vine? A Christian receives attacks from within and without just like the Mandevilla vine. Vigilance is mandatory! The enemy attacks when we are unaware. He may come upon our physical or our emotional wellbeing. He attempts to incapacitate us through the frequency and nature of his attacks. His strategy is to wear us down. Along with vigilance, we must have persistence. This will stop the enemy of our souls from developing strongholds. If we give him an inch, he will take a mile. Cutting him off before he gets rooted into our souls will benefit us in our battle.
The wonderful news is that we do not fight our battles alone. The Gardner of our souls is vigilant and persistent—always ready to come to our aid. He teaches us how to fight the fight. Paul gave Timothy this advice: "Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confessions in the presence of many witnesses." (1 Timothy 6:12) Paul also gives us advice in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
Jesus wants us to capture the hearts of the people of this world through our beauty that reflects Him. He is ready to fight with us in the battle against the enemy of our souls. Let us join Him in being vigilant and persistent so that we overcome the enemy and spread the Good News.
The sixth month of the Spiritual year on the Hebrew calendar is also the 12th month of the physical or civil year. Six is represented by the Hebrew letter Vav which is a tent peg or nail used to connect or make something secure. The Hebrew letters Yod or Bet are for 12 and represent leadership and government. I find the conjunction of these two letters interesting, especially when we consider the times and seasons we are in. We truly need our government and leadership to be secured or pegged to the King of kings.
We have just entered the month of Elul when it is said, "The King is in the field." God is especially accessible to us during this time before the high holy days of the seventh month of Tishrei. Elul is when He offers us special access so we can meet Him face to face. How we need an encounter with the Lord! Elul could be called "a haven in time." It is when we should look back to assess what has happened and prepare for the holy days ahead. During Elul, it is said that the holy visitation of God comes in the mist of our daily lives.
Picture yourself working in a field. How would you feel if the King of your nation came into your field? Wouldn't you feel a change in the atmosphere around you? At the same time, we would be honored that the King came into our environment on our terms, so to speak. Let this remind us that every effort we make should be directed toward bringing God's presence into what we do. Every realm of our existence should have a goal of transforming each aspect of life, so it becomes a dwelling place for our king. Ordinary life is meant to be intertwined with godliness so that it brings honor to the King.
Elul should remind us that our world is God's dwelling place. As the King's kids, this is our season to refine our relationship with Him. Daily repentance would accelerate this process. The prophet Isaiah encourages us this way: "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near." (Isaiah 55:6) The month of Elul is when one is to assess the year gone by and prepare for the high holy days of Tishrei. (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succot) It is said that God relates to us in a more tangible way during Elul. Therefore, we should evaluate our past, repent for our sins, and prepare for the future. Take advantage of the fact that we can approach the King in our own fields, because He comes to encourage us. It is said that here "the holy meets the mundane." I believe it is meant to be a season when the King spurs us on to do good works and to get to know Him more intimately through prayer and Bible study.
The story of the King in the field should remind Christians of how Jesus left the comforts of heaven and came to earth to demonstrate His love and die for our sins. The shepherd boy David was a prototype of this. He went from his father's house into the field to tend the sheep. He became a worshiper of God, playing his harp and singing songs to the Lord as he tended the sheep. It would be from his line, the tribe of Judah, that our Messiah would come. Jesus was indeed a King who left his throne to become the Passover Lamb and "The King of the Jews." (Matthew 27:37)
King Jesus, Yeshua, is our Messiah. He came so that those who seek Him would find Him. (Matthew 7:8) He came into our field for 33 years, taught us the lessons of heaven, and gave us a picture of life in heaven with Him and Father God. Before dying for our sins, He let us know that there is a table prepared for us in heaven, and that we can have life everlasting with the King of kings and Lord of lords. This King invites us to come into His presence as He draws very close to us. Jesus presents us with this haven in time as we get ready for the high holy days of Tishrei. God wants to meet us in the everyday affairs of our lives. He wants intimacy with us. The letters of Elul actually form an acronym for the words of Song of Solomon 6:3. "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine." Look for the King in your lives during this month, and rejoice that He delights in being with us.
Joan E. Mathias