The Fire of Pentecost
The mention of fire in the Bible brings to mind images of light, cleansing, and power, and frequently represents God. In Deuteronomy 4:23-24 we read about how Moses warned the children of Israel. "Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that He made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God." If we look back to the days when God called Abram to the land of Israel, we see that He made a covenant with him and came as fire in the process. "When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. (of the animals for sacrifice) On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram..." (Genesis 15:17-18) In Abram's day it was a custom to light a torch when a covenant was being made. God was making a promise to Abram to give him the land of Israel as an inheritance. The fire moving through the pieces of the sacrifice represented God.
The glory of God was manifest through fire during all of Moses' visits to Mount Sinai. Exodus 19:18 tells us, "Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire." During one of his visits to The Mountain of the Lord, God gave Moses instructions for Aaron and his sons regarding the tabernacle altar. "The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out." (Leviticus 6:13) It was the fire that consumed the sacrifice. The prophet Elijah demonstrated the power of the One True God to the prophets of Baal and all the people of Israel. A bull was placed on the altar of the prophets of Baal and one on the altar of Elijah. Elijah declared, "The god who answers by fire—he is God." (1 Kings 18:24) A pillar of fire guided the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land. This pillar of fire also gave protection to the Israelites when the Egyptian army pursued them. "Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them." (Exodus 14:19)
The familiar image of fire from the Old Testament is repeated in the New Testament. Before Jesus left the earth and returned to His Father, He instructed His disciples not to leave Jerusalem. He had a gift for them. "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8) Jesus knew that many people would be coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot. His followers had been counting the weeks from Passover to the celebration of the wheat harvest and the giving of Torah. Another aspect was about to be added to this festival.
As the disciples waited in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, "Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit..." (Acts 2:2-4) Fire came again, as it did throughout the history of the children of Israel, to deliver them from fear and to empower them to move into God's mission to build His church with both Jew and Gentile.
Today is that day when the Church celebrates Pentecost or Shavuot. We have also been given the gift of power through the Holy Spirit so that we can carry God's Spirit to the world. Let us keep the flames of the Spirit burning through our humility and worship of the One True God. Pray, "Lord, set our hearts on fire so that we become blazing torches to bring the nations to You."
May 18 cannot slip by without my acknowledgement of my mother’s 100th birthday. What a privilege it is to have a 100-year-old mom who is still sharp in mind and physically well! She has been given good looks so that no one would know she is 100. However, she loves to share her age with others since reaching such a landmark! In Scripture, the number 100 represents a full measure, and that she has received.
Mom's life was not easy. She lost her dad at age seven, which required her mother to go to work. My grandmother, mom and uncle lived frugally and from the generosity of others. But God graced her and my uncle with higher-than-average intelligence, and they prospered. The hardships Mom endured in growing up gave her resilience, persistence, and spunk that continues today. One of my favorite stories about Mom is when she came into her eighties. She determined to take her income tax to a professional accountant to be checked after years of figuring it by herself. The gentleman was so impressed that he offered her a job.
As a widow, my grandmother had to trust in God for every need. She always sang the Lord's praises and knew His compassion for the widow and fatherless. "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling." (Psalm 68:5) When I think about my grandmother's walk with the Lord, Psalm 84:11-12 comes to mind: "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor, no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you."
I can trace the godly heritage of my family back several generations, and do not take this blessing lightly. As it says in Psalm 25:12-13 (TPT), "Who are they that live in the holy fear of God? You will show them the right path to take. Then prosperity and favor will be their portion, and their descendants will inherit all that is good."
The largest benefit of coming from a God-fearing family is that I have a mom who prays for me and my family and friends. When my girls have a need, frequently they will make me aware of it, and then I will say, "We better call Grandmom." We know that my mom will storm the gates of heaven until her prayers for her family are answered.
Today I stand in gratitude for the inheritance I have received through my mom. I aspire to emulate her prayer life and thank God for the wonderful gift He gave me in my mother.
Prayers of the Remnant
Have you wondered what has happened to the Bible-believing, Christ-loving people of the United States? They are not gone! Perhaps they are a remnant; however, they are alive and well and are praying and working in the background. Proof of this recently happened in two applications.
I have written before about the power of the tongue for good or evil. The tongues of many Believers were used at the United States Capitol at the end of April for the good of our country. Volunteers read the entire Bible around the clock. Established in 1990 by Dr. John Hash and Dr. Corinthia Boone, the event is meant to "draw attention back to the Bible." The current organizers of this event, Seedline International, say that this "tradition recognizes the Bible is at the heart of America's founding principles, and should be voiced at the heart of the nation." Many do not realize the significance of this yearly event. By proclaiming God's Word at the seat of our national government, we are coming into agreement with the Kingdom of God and reaffirming our commitment to the Lord's truth.
Another significant event that has been taking place since 1952 is the National Day of Prayer. President Harry Truman signed into law a bill calling for the annual observation of this day of prayer on April 17, 1952. There had been spotty observations of national prayer since 1775 when the Continental Congress announced "a day of public humiliation, fasting, and prayer." George Washington proclaimed a day of prayer and thanksgiving in 1789. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln found the need for a national day of humility, fasting, and prayer during the Civil War. Thankfully, we can count on having prayer for our nation yearly because of the law passed by the Congress and signed by our president.
This year's National Day of Prayer was based on James 5:16. "...for tremendous power is released through the passionate, heart-felt prayer of a godly believer!" (TPT) Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, co-host of this year's event, said that "our prayers for our nation are more important now in 2023 than ever before in American history...The 2023 National Day of Prayer carries an incredible amount of spiritual and moral weight as it pertains to the advancement of this idea we call the American experiment." The National Day of Prayer leadership gave some suggestions on how to pray. "We are praying for an awakening in America. We are praying for unity. We are praying for repentance. We are praying for hope; we are praying for truth to overcome the lies, for love to silence hate, and for America's problems to become America's testimony."
Revelation 5:8 tells us, "...the four living creatures and twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God's people." Our prayers and declarations of God's Word will make a difference in the personality of our country. Let us praise God that are godly traditions are still being carried out in the United States and that the remnant of Believers will fill the bowls in heaven with their prayers that will return us to our godly foundations.
Israel's Diamond Jubilee
In 1948, Iyar 5 on the Hebrew calendar, and May 14 on our western calendar, the nation of Israel was born. David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, stood in a Tel Aviv art gallery to read the nation's Declaration of Independence and declare that the Jewish State would be called "Israel." Long ago, God chose the Jewish people to demonstrate His promise-keeping character to the world.
If we look back to the time when the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land and drove out the unrighteous nations, we see that they forgot the way God provided for, empowered, and protected them. They quickly rebelled and angered the Lord to such a degree that He declared, "I will scatter you among the nations..." (Leviticus 26:33) Indeed, this is what happened several times. AD 70 was known for a huge dispersion when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and scattered the Jews around the world.
The Jewish people are tenacious and clung to the promises of God through their years of exile. Amos 9:14-15 was one of these promises. "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..." For centuries, the Jews made aliyah (immigration to Israel). When Germany initiated World War II, aliyah came to a holt and six million Jews were killed before the war ended. The importance of having a homeland for the Jews became obvious. So it was, in 1948, that the Jewish dream of having their homeland restored became a reality.
The young nation would immediately face a battle as five surrounding Arab nations with well-trained soldiers and abundant equipment came against them. It was only through a miracle of God that Israel prevailed. The question asked in Isaiah 66:8 was answered with a resounding "Yes!" "Can a country be born in a day, or a nation be brought forth in a moment?" Since 1948, Israel has been challenged by enemy forces on several occasions. With God's help they have prevailed and built Israel into one of the most prosperous nations in the world.
Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, said it well: "In Israel, in order to be a realist, one must believe in miracles!" And the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is just that--He has been their consistent help and deliverer. He has guided them and helped as Israel transformed a once inhospitable region into a garden. According to the book Israel, 75 Years of Miracles, this small nation has "become a world leader in science and technology and in health and medicine."
We should celebrate this 75-year anniversary with the people of Israel as this nation is God's demonstration of His faithfulness and love for a people He calls His own. God continues to gather His people back from the lands where they were scattered. The covenant He made with Abraham has been kept, and the land and people will continue to thrive beyond this Diamond Jubilee.
Joan E. Mathias