"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him." (Psalm 34:8) This is a good Scripture to meditate on during the 11th month of Shevat. There is both a natural and spiritual component to this verse. Food is meant to nourish our bodies. We can follow the example of Daniel when he was taken to Babylon. "Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way." (Daniel 1:8) An experiment was set up. Daniel and his friends ate only vegetables and drank only water. At the end of ten days they were healthier than the other young men who were drinking wine and eating the king's rich food.
The Word of God, "eaten regularly," is also meant to produce good health in us. It points us in the right direction because, as the Bible tells us, "Every word of God is flawless..." (Proverbs 30:5); "...the word of our God stands forever." (Isaiah 40:8) Jesus understood the importance of God's Word. He said, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)
As if to confirm God's desire to have us take in good food, He appointed the tribe of Asher to be associated with the 11th month. Some of the most fertile land in Canaan, along the seacoast between Tyre and Carmel, was the inheritance of Asher. This is the very area where Jesus disclosed that He is the "Bread of Life." Cana in Galilee is also the place where Jesus turned the water into wine.
Jacob prophesied over his son Asher, whose name means happy or fortunate. "Asher's food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king." (Genesis 49:20) Moses delivered a word to Asher to confirm God's favor on him and to direct his future. "Most blessed of sons is Asher; let him be favored by his brothers, and let him bathe his feet in oil. The bolts of your gates will be iron and bronze, and your strength will equal your days." (Deuteronomy 33:24-25) God blessed Asher with food, mineral resources, many children, peace with other tribes, and security from enemies. (A Time to Advance, Chuck Pierce) The members of this tribe were part of the rear guard. They were considered greatly favored by God because they were blessed with so many children and became the largest tribe.
Shevat is the month to declare our blessings are coming and to meditate on the nourishment that God provides for our future. Likewise, we are to pay attention to the ones "planted in our field," particularly those who provide water for us. In evaluating this, we are to remember the next generation and to put into place a plan to sustain them. Aquarius, the water carrier, is the constellation that is tied to the 11th month.
As we think about all of these Shevat highlights, let us remember that the Hebrew symbol for the month is TZADIK, meaning the "righteous one." This month we need to build upon the foundation of our Lord Jesus. He is a "sure foundation" for our times (Isaiah 33:6) and the "precious cornerstone for a sure foundation." (Isaiah 28:16) As we trust in Him we will be like trees "planted by the water" that will "never fail to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8) Let us remember that "the fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever." (Isaiah 32:17)
Without the breath of the Lord we would only be dust of the earth. (Genesis 2:7) That thought came to me this week as I watched a very talented man transform limp, rubber balloons into captivating creatures. He had a large black bag divided into sections. Each section was filled with different colored balloons. One by one, he pulled out a balloon, took a deep breath and then breathed into it. At times he would blow and then twist the balloon, blow again and twist again as he shaped each balloon and then tied them together. The end result was spectacular! I watched him create a dog, cow, monkey and a man sitting on a motorcycle. It was his breath that gave his creations life. He made his creatures for our enjoyment, but I saw in him a deep satisfaction each time he finished a creature. He told me that he travels all over the world training others in his craft.
The Psalmist understood the importance of the breath of God in us. In Psalm 39:11 he says, "Each man is but a breath." Indeed, Father God lovingly blew His breath of life into man and womankind, placing His Spirit within and making each individual unique. In several chapters in the book of Job we can read what Job's friend Elihu said about the breath of God. Two stand out to me: "The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life." (Job 33:4) "But it is the Spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives us life and understanding." (Job 32:8) God's breath gives us life and understanding. When we comprehend the significance of His breath we must give Him praise. "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord." (Psalm 150:6)
The prophet Ezekiel had a demonstration of how the breath of the Lord can transform dry bones. The Hebrew word for breath here is ruwach, meaning a powerful/violent exhale that releases the energy of life. God instructed Ezekiel to prophesy life to the dry bones in the valley. As he did so they came together, "but there was no breath in them." (Ezekiel 37:8) Next God told him to "prophesy to the breath." (Verse 9) As Ezekiel prophesied the breath entered the slain and "they came to life and stood on their feet--a vast army." (Verse 10)
God has been raising up an army of Believers since the days when Jesus walked on the earth. The book of John tells how Jesus commissioned His disciples. He is the One who brought the breath of Father God to earth. He said to His disciples, "'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.' And with that He breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" (John 20:21-22) Jesus knew that our Heavenly Father had plans to blow on them again and gave them instructions to wait in Jerusalem for the gift that God promised. They would be endued with power from the Holy Spirit so that they could witness to the ends of the earth. We read in Acts 2 how the ruwach of God came upon them on the day of Shavuot/Pentecost. Luke reports the following: "Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting...All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit..." (Acts 2:2, 4)
We still need the breath of God to fill us. This involves waiting on the Holy Spirit for refilling with the power and energy of heaven. As we are filled up we can release His life-giving breath to those who are around us. This is our mandate! We are partners with God in raising up an end-time army for the Lord.
In western North America there is a specie of pine tree called the Lodgepole Pine. Native Americans used the poles from this tree for the framework of their tipis since the wood is long, straight and lightweight. These pines grow in areas that are prone to forest fires, and, in fact, need the fire to maintain a healthy population.
Fire is the means by which a forest of these trees regenerates. The fire consumes the understory of dead and decaying vegetation and leaves behind a carbon-rich soil that is perfect for germinating seeds. The Pine depends upon the heat of the fire to melt the resin that seals the seed behind the pinecone scales. The cones are called serotinous because seeds are released in response to fire, an environmental trigger. Large quantities of seed fall to the ground, germinate on the seedbed prepared by the fire and produce a dense stand of new Lodgepole Pines. They frequently grow so dense that other species cannot grow.
We, like the Lodgepole Pine, need the fire of the Holy Spirit to transform us into healthy Christians who resemble our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. This fire has a two-pronged affect: refining and purifying. The prophet Malachi says of the Lord, "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness." (Malachi 3:3) The goal of the Holy Spirit fire is to transform us into the likeness of Christ so that we can stand before a holy God. What transpires on earth is preparation for that day. We must give permission to the Holy Spirit to work within us.
In 1997, when the Airport Christian Fellowship was in the middle of a move of the Spirit that affected the world, worship leader Ruth Fazal put out a CD called Fire of Love. One of the songs is entitled, "Lord, Light the Flame."
"Lord, light the flame of my heart, so I may live for You. O let it burn deep and bright, that I may shine Your light. Come cleanse and purify, the sin within me, let it die. And let me live in Your fire; O Holy God, that's my desire.
Lord stir the fire in my heart, that I may live for You. O Jesus, pour out Your love, that I may love You too. Go deep within me now, O Holy Spirit, come with power. And let me live in Your fire; O Holy God, that's my desire."
If we want to grow in intimacy with the Lord, we must call out to Him to place His flame/fire in our hearts. We must live in His fire to be cleansed and purified by the burning love of our Savior. The Lord is looking for a company of holy priests (1 Peter 2:5) and a radiant Church/bride without stain or wrinkle. (Ephesians 5:27) The fire of God is meant to transform the Church so that Jesus becomes her first priority. Then we will see the wonders and miracles of heaven coming to earth.
God reveals Himself to us in the midst of fire. He is described this way in the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Revelation. John the Baptist prophesied that the Lord would come to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Luke 3:16) And indeed, we read in Acts 2 how the Holy Spirit came as tongues of fire on God's disciples. One day we will stand before a holy God "whose eyes are like blazing fire." (Revelation 2:18) Will we be able to look Him in the eyes? Will He see a bride who is transformed (a partaker of the divine nature) and consumed with passion for Him?
A few weeks ago, as I was reading Psalm 23, I was arrested by two words in verse 3: "He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name sake." This week, as I re-read Psalm 23 I felt compelled to investigate this verse more closely. First of all, the word "guide" is interchanged with the word lead in different versions of the Bible. It means to escort and show the way. There are many definitions for the word "in." Some found in Webster's New World Dictionary include contained by, amidst, inside, within, affected by. As I read these definitions I pictured myself walking in a space that is easy to walk in, protected, warm, surrounded by light and filled with a spirit of joy and expectation for good. I am following our Shepherd who delights in leading us into the paths He has already chosen for us to walk in for He knows they are best for us. He leads us into His paths.
"We are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture." (Psalm 100:3) Phillip Keller, in his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, writes about the ways in which people behave as sheep and how Jesus is the perfect One to shepherd us. Keller writes, "No other class of livestock requires more careful handling, more detailed direction, than do sheep. No doubt David, as a shepherd himself, had learned this firsthand from tough experience. He knew beyond dispute that if a flock was to flourish and the owner's reputation was to be held in high esteem as a good manager, the sheep had to be constantly under his meticulous control and guidance."
Sheep, left to their own devices, will follow the same trails and destroy the ground around them, polluting it so that parasites can infect the areas where they feed. The good shepherd has a plan to keep his flock on the move, bringing them fresh "manna" for each day. Keller says, "No other single aspect of the ranch operations commanded more of my careful attention than this moving of the sheep...A pattern of grazing is worked out carefully in advance so that the sheep do not feed over the same ground too long or too frequently...He (the shepherd) knows where his flock will thrive and he is aware of where the feed is poor. So he acts accordingly."
So too our Shepherd. He is well aware of our behavior patterns and of the places where we will thrive and the places that are destructive. That is why He guides/directs us into the paths of righteousness--the places where He has already walked. He asks us to follow Him even though the road may be difficult. He says, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34)
Jesus has walked the ground of heaven and earth. He has prepared the paths for us to walk in--the paths of righteousness. We must lay down the self-life and surrender unconditionally to the Lordship of Jesus so that He can show us the way. After all, He is the way! (John 14:6) Doing this, we will reflect His character and His name and demonstrate that Jesus is the King, worthy of worship.
The only way this walk is possible is through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. As Paul tells us, "No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit," (1 Corinthians 12:3) and "Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you--guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." (2 Timothy 1:14) We are God's people, the sheep of His pasture. Let us praise Him forever; from generation to generation let us recount His praise. (Psalm 79:13)
AYIN is the Hebrew letter associated with the month we entered last week--Tevet (the 10th month). It pictures a spring or well and an eye. It is important that we see with spiritual eyes in order for new life to flow like a fresh spring. We must be aware of the enemy's schemes to discourage us by trying to get us to focus on the evil that surrounds us. The 10th month is an ideal time to break the power of evil by declaring the truth as God reveals it to us through His Spirit.
This is a time to develop a spiritual hunger for the Lord that transcends physical circumstances. Our relationship with the Lord can be enhanced by dedicating time with Him. Fasting is a discipline that cleanses the body and clears the way for us to focus on the Lord. The desire is to develop a single vision toward the Lord that will bring us into a higher realm of relationship with Him. The Lord wants to have first place in our lives. This is a time to realign our priorities as we begin the New Year.
How do we see things from God's perspective? I would suggest that we ask Him to give us eyes to see what the Spirit of the Lord is doing. We will not receive unless we ask. (Matthews 7:8) Paul gives us direction on this in Ephesians 1:18-19. "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe..."
The word "know" in this Scripture means to see and understand. God wants us to understand the hope of our calling and the riches and power available to us. The Holy Spirit living within us gives us the ability to see from a heavenly perspective. We must learn to focus on Jesus, the one who is the source of our spiritual vision and who sheds light on heaven's point of view. When we see with the eyes of our heart we see things from God's perspective and we see what He can do with situations on earth.
As our vision begins to develop, the Lord will give us increasing revelation. Then it is our job to pursue the vision. On December 25 John Belt, founder and leader of Overflow Global Ministries, wrote about how the wise men, because they knew the times and seasons, went on a "treasure hunt pursuit of the Lord." They had a revelation of the need to worship Jesus and laid everything else aside to seek the King of the Jews. John says, "When God shows us things it is an invitation to come and seek Him with greater intensity..."
As we begin the New Year let us be mindful of what the Spirit is saying. We are already into the Hebrew year 5777. The picture that corresponds with this number is of a sword. There is no doubt that we are in a battle! Yet, as we cleanse and rededicate our temples, respond to the invitation to pursue Him, see and declare things as He sees them using the sword of the Lord (His Word), and stand for our inheritances, we will see victory. In fact, I believe there is potential for great victories in this season.
Remember, as we are watching for God's perspective, He will be watching over His Word to perform it. He promises us that "It will not return to Him empty but will accomplish what He desires." (Isaiah 55:11) The eighth day of Hanukkah, the time of increasing light, is today--January 1, 2017. Eight is the number of resurrection life and new beginnings. In this season, let us follow the exhortation of Jeremiah: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and you will find rest for your souls." (Jeremiah 6:16)
Joan E. Mathias