It was on May 14, 1948, that the modern State of Israel was birthed after the British Mandate over Palestine came to an end. President Harry Truman announced recognition of this new State. Leaders of other countries would follow his lead. Shortly after the proclamation of the Jewish State an attack of Moslem armies from the south, east and north came and tested the ability of the fledgling State to protect herself. It was the first of many battles that would be fought by the Jewish State. That is one of the reasons why there was such a celebration over the 70th anniversary of Israel that took place on May 14, 2018.
The number 70 is significant in Israel's history. Some of its meanings include a time prior to increase, breaking off the last season and restoration. You may recall that the Israelites had to serve the king of Babylon for 70 years. Jeremiah had prophesied: "'When 70 years are completed for Babylon I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:10-11) Israel has completed 70 years as a state. They have been blessed with prosperity and protection by the Lord because of the covenant He made with Abraham. God always keeps His promises!
Seventy years of statehood for Israel was not the only event celebrated last week. The United States Embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This move was an agreement with Israel and a declaration that Jerusalem is their capital. After 70 years, President Trump made it happen. These momentous events occurred during the 50 days from Passover to Shavuot (to the Jewish people) or Pentecost (to the Church). Isn't it significant that this week of celebration is being capped off by Shavuot or Pentecost? It is also significant that the Church's Greek calendar coincides with the Jews' Hebrew calendar. Rarely do these two celebrations (one from the Old Covenant and one from the New) occur on the same day.
When we look at history, three significant events took place on the same day in different years. The wheat crop of the Israelites would have been mature 50 days after Passover, so they were required to come to the temple with two baked loaves of bread made from the harvested wheat. The loaves were to be presented to the Lord as a firstfruits offering of thanksgiving. (Leviticus 23:15-17) According to Jewish belief, the feast of Shavuot was also the anniversary of the day that the Israelites arrived in Sinai and Moses received the Word of God or Torah. (If one cuts a loaf of bread in half, would the front of the pieces not look like the tablets upon which God wrote the Ten Commandments?) This special day of feasting, when the Jews would have been gathered in Jerusalem, was the day that God chose to pour out His Holy Spirit on those who gathered in an upper room and waited upon Him. Believers call this day Pentecost for 50.
Historically, when significant events occurred in Israel, significant moves of God occurred in the Church. Could it be that the Church is in store for a mighty move of God? The Lord desires relationship with us. The prophet Hosea's message is as powerful today as it was in the day of the Israelites. "Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth." (Hosea 6:3)
Today the Church is celebrating Pentecost. We have had a solid week of spring rain here in Bucks County, PA. Is the Lord ready to do in the Spirit realm what He has done in the physical realm? We are surrounded by lush, green plants--the result of all the rains. The Psalmist talks about the productive trees that are planted by streams of water. (Psalm 1:3) Like the trees planted by streams of water, let us plant ourselves in a place where we can receive God's spiritual rains. It is time to move into a season of fruitfulness. After 70 years, Israel is moving into a new season. Let us cry out to God for a fresh outpouring of His Spirit and a new season for His Church.
The first mention of the ancient city of Nineveh appears in Genesis 10:9-12. We are told that Nimrod, whose name means "we shall rebel," went to Assyria to build Nineveh. The book of Jonah calls it "the great city." It was known for its evilness, but in God's eyes, there is no one that cannot be redeemed. In His mercy and grace, He decided to send the prophet Jonah to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrians, to preach against the wickedness of the people. As we know, Jonah had judged the people of this city and wanted no part of God's desire to redeem them. God demonstrated the extraordinary lengths to which He will go to bring us back to Him. He orchestrated a violent storm so that Jonah would be thrown into the sea and swallowed by a huge fish. After three days and nights in the belly of that fish Jonah became willing to speak to the people of Nineveh. The fish "vomited Jonah onto dry land," (Jonah 2:10), the shores of his destiny. He was now prepared to deliver a powerful message that had been formed through God's intervention and backed up with a mighty testimony.
"Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. He proclaimed, 'Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned,' When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in dust." (Jonah 3:3-6) The king decreed that neither man nor beast could eat or drink and that all should urgently call on God and give up their evil ways. (Jonah 3:7-9) As a result of their actions, God had compassion and did not bring destruction upon them. The repentance of the Ninevites may have lasted about 100 years; however, they eventually returned to their evil ways. God sent another prophet, Nahum, to tell Judah that their days of oppression would come to an end and that the Ninevites would be destroyed.
The plains of Nineveh and their surrounding cities are located in modern day Iraq. In the many years since the days of Jonah, there has been a Christian remnant. Franklin Graham, leader of Samaritan's Purse, wrote about the "historically Christian cities on the Nineveh Plains" in his most recent newsletter. Here is what he wrote when comparing his visit from last year and this year: "Neighborhoods had become battlefields, churches were charred, and all the families had fled. Even though ISIS was losing battles, it looked like the terrorists might have won their war to drive out Christians from Iraq. What a difference it was this Easter! In the largest Christian town of Qaraqosh, the cleaned-up streets were decorated with olive branches and filled with joyful Believers who celebrated the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ along with the rebirth of their city."
Samaritan's Purse is investing in the future of the Iraqi towns that were once Christian. A gentleman named Yousif, whose home was rebuilt and is now the project manager for the Samaritan's Purse rebuilding project, gave his opinion: "This is the only thing you can do to keep Christianity here. Christianity is in danger now. Believers have been persecuted. They feel that there's hate and that they're unwanted. The only thing to connect them with their country is their homes." Franklin reports, "One pastor told us, 'When the evil one comes, it may look like he has the victory, but that's not the end of the story. The cross is. We stand firm in our faith. Why? Because our Lord says, ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?' (Romans 8:31 - NKJV) With God's help, Samaritan's Purse will do all we can to lift up the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Nineveh Plains."
Amid their suffering, the people of the Nineveh Plains are lifting up the Cross as their testimony of God's faithfulness. We should do likewise. "We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice for we trust in His holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You." (Psalm 33:20-22)
"Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." (Isaiah 59:1-2) This is the word of the Lord to God's people through the prophet Isaiah. The Lord points out the problem and then begins to explain the solution. In the end, He comes as our Savior to offer eternal life with Him. "No one calls for justice; no one pleads his case with integrity...The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths...We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows...The Lord looked and was displeased that there was not justice. He saw that there was no one, He was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so His own arm worked salvation for Him, and His own righteousness sustained Him. He put on righteousness as His breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped Himself in zeal as in a cloak." (Isaiah 59:4-17)
The Lord's concern for His people is obvious in Isaiah 59. He sees their sin and wants redemption for them. His great love brings Him to the conclusion that they cannot be saved apart from Him. He is ready to go to war against the enemy of their souls. Isaiah completes the prophecy: "'So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. The Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,' says the Lord. 'As for me,’ says the Lord, ‘this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My Words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendant's descendants,' says the Lord, 'from this time and forevermore.'" (Isaiah 59:19-21- NKJ)
Sin had separated man from God; however, in God's great love and amazing grace, He forged a plan that meant He would have to sacrifice everything. His plan involved the sacrifice of His own Son. Isaiah tells the entire story of the sacrifice in Isaiah 53. Here is what verse 11 and 12 tell us: "After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life and be satisfied; by His knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong, because He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."
We find the declaration of the Lord regarding sin in Isaiah 43:25. "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remember your sins no more." Isaiah gives us a picture of how the Lord's redemption changes the appearance of sin: "...Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." (Isaiah 1:18) The prophet Jeremiah also addresses the issue of sin and how the Lord deals with it: "...For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Jeremiah 31:34)
The New Testament confirms what is said in the Old and gives us more details. The writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah word for word in Hebrews 8:12. Not only did God take our sins, but He gave us something in return. "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) In order for us to obtain this righteousness the Lord requires something from us. "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:22-24) Here is the bottom line: "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." (Romans 4:25)
How grateful we should be that a gift that is so magnanimous and eternal was given freely to all who believe. We have been saved from eternal damnation and given a future in the heavenly realms with our Savior. Our future is as bright as the glory of God, and what is waiting for us is beyond our imagination. (I Corinthians 2:9)
Joan E. Mathias