One of the major Jewish feasts occurs during the month of Sivan—the third one on the Hebrew calendar that began on Friday. The very meaning of Sivan—bright—is significant for this event. Seven weeks after the exodus from Egypt, Shavuot (also called the Feast of Weeks) or Pentecost (Greek for fifty) occurred. This celebration marks the completion of the time frame between Passover and Shavuot that is meant to be a time for God's people to prepare for the giving of Torah--a time of refinement through introspection and giving thanks daily (counting the Omer). For me personally, it has been an honor to spend this time between Passover and Pentecost counting the blessings God has poured out upon me. He is truly an awesome God!
When we look upon this time frame we should remember that Shavuot or Pentecost contains three focuses: (1) According to Exodus 34:22 God's people are to celebrate the Feast of Weeks with a firstfruits offering from the wheat harvest. In a non-agrarian society this is done with thanksgiving and by giving a gift to God. In this way, we are giving Him thanks for His physical provision. (2) The Jewish people celebrate Shavuot as the time when God gave Torah or the revelation of His Word to them. On the day that God gave Torah He made a covenant with the people of Israel. He told them, "...Although the whole earth is mine you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:5-6) (3) God remembers His covenant with His people and understood how important it would be for Him to help us comprehend the Torah. Messianic believers and Christians celebrate this month as the one when the Holy Spirit (Ruach Ha-Kodesh) was given. This outpouring of the Spirit is for the working of His power as described in Acts 2. On Pentecost God manifested His presence in a tangible way and sealed the covenant He made with His people.
The third month is celebrated as the time of the birth of the Church or the Bride of Messiah. Just as God made a covenant with His Church, promising us His love forever, a bride and groom make covenant with one another. Appropriately, Sivan is known as the wedding or covenant month. In his book, A Time to Advance, Chuck Pierce suggests that we read Song of Solomon. The Lover of our Souls calls us to greater intimacy with Him and draws us into the Holy of Holies. This is the place where God's glory dwells in all of its brilliance. This is truly a month of brightness!
Since this is the month of weddings, it seems like the right time to share a personal thanksgiving with you. The Lord has seen fit to bring an amazing, godly man into my life. We have been growing in our love for one another and have taken the first step in making a life-long covenant with one another. Jac and I are to be married in October. I believe it is so fitting that I went to look for a wedding dress and found one on Friday, the first of Sivan. My joy and thanksgiving to the Lord are overflowing!
God wants us to remember that He is always with us to bring physical provision, revelation of His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. More than this, remember that He is a covenant-keeping God. Jesus gave His disciples a way to remember His covenant. He told them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." (Luke 22:15) Today this Passover meal is what we call Communion. "And He took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after the supper He took the cup saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.'" (Luke 22:19-20) We are heirs of the covenant of God--an unbreakable and irrevocable one! All the praise and honor belongs to Him!
For the past couple of years I have been taking my grandson Ben to different playgrounds in our area. He has been attracted to the monkey bars as he has observed older children moving across the span of bars one hand at a time. Wanting to be able to accomplish the feat of swinging from bar to bar from start to finish, he would ask me to hold him up to help him grab hold of the first bar. Then he wanted me to stay with him to catch him in case he fell. Each time he got on the bars his strength and endurance increased. This past week he tasted victory! The playground at Makefield Elementary School has monkey bars with 20 loops to swing across. One by one he moved—slowly, carefully—until he accomplished what he has wanted to do for a long time. We celebrated his mastery of the monkey bars. Go Ben!!
As I reflect on Ben's victory I see that he demonstrated some disciplines that helped him accomplish success. Every time we went to a playground Ben practiced on the monkey bars--getting stronger and stronger. With the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul talked about the importance of practicing. "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:9)
Another trait that Ben exhibited is perseverance. The writer of Hebrews tells us, "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised." (Hebrews 10:36) After describing the people of great faith in the Bible, he also gives us this advice: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." (Hebrews 12:1-2)
This leads us to one other discipline that is so important—keeping our eyes fixed on the goal. Ben knew what he wanted to accomplish and kept his goal before him. Paul describes well the journey of a Christian moving step by step toward the goal that God has laid before us. "...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)
Let us practice, persevere and keep our eyes fixed on the goal. Jesus is our role model. He will lead us on the path that leads to victory!
One cannot miss the distinctive look of a barn swallow as it flits by. On Monday, as my grandson Ben and I were walking from our car into a local pharmacy we saw and heard two of them. Their steel blue tops shimmered and their rusty-colored throats and creamy underparts stood out and helped us identify them.
Originally, barn swallows built their nests on rocky ledges or tree trunks. However, today much of their nesting takes place on building rafters or ledges. Their nests are made in the shape of a cup and consist of mud reinforced with grass and lined with feathers. The constant chattering of the two birds made Ben and I look up. The ceiling of the pharmacy porch has several hanging lights on it, and sitting on top of one of them was the nest that two birds had made.
The swallows chose a protected spot in the warmth and light for their nest. The Lord brought to my mind what the Psalmist wrote about the sparrow and swallow. "My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young--a place near Your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; they are ever praising You. Selah.” (Psalm 84:2-4)
We, like the swallows, can have a bright, warm and protected spot to dwell in when we choose to "nest" in the shelter of the Most High. "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.'" (Psalm 91:1-2)
Just as the swallows will have light and warmth for themselves and their young, we can have these benefits by drawing near to the Lord. The light of God's love is so necessary in today's dark world, and He promised to give us light as we stick close to Him. "...I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness." (John 8:12) The writer of Ecclesiastes realizes the importance of staying connected to others. He says, "If two lie down together, they keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?" (Ecclesiastes 4:11) And the best connection we can make is with the Lord.
The Lord has room for every one of us in His shelter. He calls us to draw close to Him for protection, warmth and light. May our confession be that of the Psalmist: "I long to dwell in Your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah. For You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name." (Psalm 61:4-5)
It seems to me that the flowering dogwood trees are especially beautiful this year. I see this popular native tree planted in many residential landscapes as well as growing at the edge of the woods in our region. This is the season for the dogwood to bloom. The white and pink flowers stand out as they rest on and fill the horizontal branches of the dogwood trees.
Like the flowering plants, we also have seasons to bloom. As we spend intimate time with our heavenly gardener He fills us and "we bloom." He waits for us to issue Him an invitation. "Awake, north wind, and come, south wind! Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread abroad. Let my lover come into His garden and taste its choice fruits." (Song of Solomon 4:16) Abiding in Him brings spiritual fullness and beauty.
It is God who began the good work in us by creating each one of us uniquely for His divine purposes. The Psalmist conveys this thought in Psalm 139. "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Verse 14) We were created to live in the fullness of the Lord and to blossom and bear fruit. "This is My Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." (John 15:8)
Once our frames are "planted" we play a part in the way we will grow by the decisions we make. God placed Adam and Eve in a garden with two trees--the "tree of life" and the "tree of knowledge of good and evil." It is in this place that Adam and Eve had to make a choice. Had they made the right one they would have been brought into the Lord's higher purposes. However, in choosing the "tree of knowledge" they made clear their desire to live life independent of the Lord. Had they chosen the "tree of life" they would have demonstrated their desire to be submitted to and dependent upon the Lord. Likewise, the decisions we make on a daily basis effect our spiritual growth. As we make decisions in favor of the Lord we will experience His fullness.
How do we maintain the Lord's abiding presence in our lives? This requires us to embrace the life that Jesus modeled. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25) Which tree do we really want to eat from? Are we making ourselves available to the Lord through our daily decisions? Does the Lord feel welcomed into our presence?
We must set aside our own ways in order to follow Him. To develop a sensitivity to the things that are spiritual and to have a deepening of our spiritual capacity we must issue an invitation to the Lord. "Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my door, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord." (Proverbs 8:34-35) By yielding ourselves to Jesus we allow Him to live His life through us. "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step (walk) with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:25)
Our heavenly Bridegroom desires to abide with us in intimacy. He wants to bring us into a season of blooming. It is only during our times of closeness with the Lord that He imparts His life to us. And the life of Christ within us brings on spiritual growth so that "we blossom" with fragrant, beautiful flowers that attract the attention of the world and draw them toward Jesus.
Joan E. Mathias