Transformation of our Nation
In his book, An Appeal to Heaven, Dutch Sheets writes about synergy and calls it "multiplication of power through combined effort." Synergy operates in both the physical and spiritual realms. By following God's decrees and obeying His commands, the Israelites could experience this multiplication. Here is what the Lord told them: “Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you." (Leviticus 26:8) God desires for the generations to connect with one another (Psalm 78:4-6 and 145:4) and promises to bless unity (Psalm 133). Dutch encourages us to put ourselves "into the story line God is writing" because this "allows us to tap into the strength and life of what He did years ago." It is critical for us to connect with our past to find our future.
As we can read in Scripture, God partnered with the children of Israel to help them establish a godly nation that honored Him. He told Moses, “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you." (Exodus 34:10) I believe that God partnered with our founding fathers as He did with Israel. The intent of the pilgrims was to establish a country "for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith." (Mayflower Compact, 1620) It was His delight to bless those who first came to American with a godly vision.
On July 4 we will celebrate Independence Day--a day that came about because of the courage of our forefathers to take on the British to battle for freedom. General George Washington, commander of the troops during the American Revolution, spoke about our dependence on the Lord for success in the fight for independence.
The battle for our nation still rages, but it now comes from within. As Dutch says, "The dream of our forefathers "to partner with God to release the light of His Word to all nations" has been perverted by our cravings for "money, possessions and pleasure...We are no longer feeding on the dream; the dream is feeding on us...Giants in our land--abortion, violence, racism, numerous addictions and sexual perversions--all are strongholds ruling and destroying America...Many of our leaders now deny America's true history and oppose her Creator."
You may ask, "Is there hope for our nation?" I believe that there is if the Christians of this nation would band together in unity, agreeing in prayer and connecting and building on the foundation of previous generations. In his book, Dutch asks us to join in an appeal to heaven and to take our place in the synergy of the ages. He encourages us with these words: "If we return to a faith that God and His redeeming power are bigger than our weaknesses and failures, we will defeat the over-fed giants of our day. If we can believe that through the blood of Jesus, God's mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13), and that He who began a good work in us can finish it (Philippians 1:6), we'll prevail...If we return to covenant with the God of our fathers, embracing the destiny He planned for us, Olam (Everlasting God) will deliver us from the spiritual giants robbing us of our calling and inheritance."
Dutch admonishes us: "Never discount the power of God's redeeming love." The transformation of our nation will come as we obey God's Word 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 will I hear them from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
While attending an out-of-town wedding, my husband and I were treated to an unexpected, magnificent display of beauty. Our hotel room faced the east side, and our bed was next to the window. At 5:45 am we awoke to see the horizon "painted" in a deep reddish orange. As time went on, the colors changed so that the skyline had a peach hew and the sky was dotted with peach-tinted clouds. We watched the sky transform until the golden-orange sun began to rise from the horizon at 6:40 am. As the sun traveled higher into the sky it turned a dazzling white and became so bright that we had a hard time looking at it directly. Eventually, the sun covered the earth with its warm light.
Habakkuk 3:4 tells us that the splendor of the Lord is "like the sunrise..." He is described uniquely by Matthew, Mark and Luke in the passages titled "The Transfiguration." Peter, James and John go with Jesus to the top of a mountain where they saw Moses and Elijah. Mark describes what happened:
"...There He was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them." (Mark 9:2-3) Here is Matthew's description: "There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light." (Matthew 17:2) Luke 9:28-29 says, "...He took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning."
When I contemplated these verses and the way the sun rises in order to illuminate the earth, I remembered that the higher the sun rises, the more area it impacts. By mid-morning the sun is high in the sky, and the land below is being warmed by its rays. The same manifestation takes place when the Son of God is lifted high. The higher we raise Him, the more impact He has.
Do you want to impact the world around you for the Kingdom of God? We can do this by lifting Jesus high. How do we do this? Worship! Exalt the Lord! Here are some admonitions from King David in the Psalms: "Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His holy mountain, for the Lord our God is holy." (Psalm 99:9) "So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and His praise in Jerusalem when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord," (Psalm 102:21-22) "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth." (Psalm 108:5)
We can partner with God in changing the world around us by exalting the Lord. As we lift Him high in worship, the rays of His glory shine down on us to transform us so that we become glory carriers, changing the atmosphere wherever we go.
Recently, on Instagram, there was an advertisement for a "Kangaroo Pocket T-shirt." The pocket in the front of the shirt is meant to hold a 7 to 15-pound baby. He or she goes in feet first and can lay its head on dad to be close to him. Of course, it is being advertised just in time for Father's Day. I am reminded of how important it is for a dad to be in touch with his child.
How many of us grew up with a father who was distant and unable to give us affection or tell us, "I am proud of you," or "I love you"? My guess is that this is normal for many. Slowly, the enemy of our souls has stolen the father identity from men. In doing so, he has made us doubt God's identity as our father and ours as His children, made in His image. It is my opinion that of all the names God has, Father is the most important. This was demonstrated by Jesus who taught His disciples to pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name." (Matthew 6:9) In addition, Jesus made His relationship as a Son to Father God known to all He spoke to.
As I think about the T-shirt that is being marketed and picture of the baby tucked inside, close to his father's heart, I am reminded that this is the way Father God wants us to be with Him. He is always available and close by. In Jeremiah 33:3 He extends an invitation to His children: "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." The Psalmist knew how important he was to God and was amazed by it. "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" (Psalm 8:3-5) Yes, Father God is mindful of us and desires relationship with us!
Placed within each one of us is a deep desire to be in relationship with God. His qualities are demonstrated by the father in the story of the prodigal son. The youngest of two sons insulted his father by requesting that he be given his share of the family estate immediately. He left with his fortune and proceeded to squander it in wild living. In dire straits, he took a job feeding pigs, which would not be acceptable in the Jewish culture. Eventually, he came to his senses and returned to his father, ready to acknowledge his sin and ask for a position of slave in his father's house so that he could be fed.
In this part of the story, Jesus uses this father's behavior as an example of the way Father God treats His children. This father would not be influenced by the culture of the day and kept a vigil for his son. The people of his town would have been ready to punish and banish the son from his family and community. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) However, this dad spots his son in the distance and lifts his robe to run toward him even though Middle Eastern men do not run in public or expose their legs. He was more interested in saving his son than preserving his dignity in front of the town people. (Luke 15)
The father in this story extended grace to his son and celebrated his return with a party. Our Father in heaven loves us even when we may be distant from Him. His arms are always open and ready to welcome us. He loves to pour His affections on us and to hold us tightly just like the baby in the "Kangaroo Pocket T-shirt." Why not ask Father God for the grace to see yourself as His child and for the revelation of His fatherly heart? He longs to embrace us so that He can impart His love to us.
The Gift of Shavuot
Shavuot (The Feast of Weeks) was one of the festivals where God required the Israelites to go to the Temple to present Him with an offering. "Count off 50 days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord. From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the Lord." (Leviticus 23:17) "When you have entered the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for His Name." (Deuteronomy 26:1-2)
Two offerings are given during the Feast of Weeks--what the Greeks called Pentecost. The firstfruits offering was to thank God for His bounty and is the word Bikkurim in Hebrew. The fruits to be placed in the basket, talked about in Deuteronomy, included the seven species of Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, dates. It took the Israelites seven weeks to travel from Egypt to Mt. Sinai where God confirmed His covenant with them by beginning to give them Torah. So, Shavuot became a duel celebration: One to thank God for the harvest and one to thank Him for the 10 Commandments. It also celebrates the renewal of their commitment and dedication to God.
If we compare the offering of Passover with the Offering of Shavuot, we see a distinct difference. Yeast was strictly forbidden during Passover. "Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the 14th until the evening of the 21st day." (Exodus 12:17-18) As we see in Leviticus 23:17, the Israelites were to bring two loaves of bread, "baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the Lord."
Why do you think yeast, or leaven, was allowed in the second feast when it was not allowed in the first? May I make a suggestion? The focus of Passover was the sacrifice of the pure and spotless lamb. God would send His Son years later so that Believers could see that He is the pure and spotless Lamb without sin (leaven). However, during Shavuot God was preparing His chosen people to receive into their fold Gentiles who would follow Jesus/Yeshua. The Israelite community looked at the Gentiles as sinful--full of leaven. Could the two loaves of bread containing yeast represent the Jew and Gentile?
The disciple Luke wrote about a time when Jesus was trying to explain what God's kingdom looks like. Jesus said, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." (Luke 13:20-21) Those who know their Messiah are to "infect" the world around them with the love of God to bring them into the Kingdom of God. The love of God is for everyone; God's kingdom is all inclusive.
So, God chose Shavuot to demonstrate the power of His Kingdom by bringing the Holy Spirit into the lives of those who were waiting in Jerusalem. Three thousand were added to their number in one day. (Acts 2:41) The book of Acts reveals to us how God began to bring the Gentiles into His family. Saul, who became Paul, had a ministry to the Gentiles, and Peter was given a vision confirming that God intended to transform pagans, so they became members of His Kingdom. (Acts 10:27-35)
Today, Sunday, Jew and Gentile are celebrating Shavuot or Pentecost. Let us join the celebration as we have been marked to join the Kingdom of God. Let us cry out for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit to empower us as those who were empowered on the day of Pentecost.
The Covenant of Mt. Sinai
Sivan, meaning bright, is a significant month on the Jewish calendar primarily because the second major feast of the Lord occurs on the 8th and 9th day of it. Seven weeks the Israelites traveled from Egypt to Mt. Sinai, the place where God would define His covenant with them and give them the Ten Commandments. The feast of Sivan is called Shavuot which means weeks. (The Greek word for this feast is Pentecost for 50 days.) "In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on the very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai." (Exodus 19:1)
At Mt. Sinai, God swore an eternal oath to the children of Israel, consequently, Shavuot also means oath. Jewish sages compare what took place to a wedding between God and His people. When the Israelites accepted God's commandments, they became His chosen people. Moses was instructed to give them a message from God: "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation..." (Exodus 19:4-6) From these verses, we can discern how important this covenant was to God. The children of Israel agreed to keep covenant with God, so Moses was given the Ten Commandments. This is known as Matan Torah—"The Giving of the Torah."
Look how God took His people from the barley harvest of Passover to the wheat harvest of Shavuot. See how His people went from slavery to liberation so that they could know and celebrate being chosen by the God of their fathers. As they committed and dedicated themselves to God, they were to show the world the goodness of God. The Lord had set into place a way for the entire world to be won to His love and mercy. His plan was for the nation of Israel to shine forth His glory for everyone to see.
A day would come when God would enact a new dimension of His plan by sending His Son, Jesus, to earth so that everyone could come to know Him personally, and He would redeem us from the curse of destruction and death and give us eternal life with Him. Through the disciple Peter, we see in the New Testament words that are like the ones God declared over His people when He met them at Mt. Sinai. "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:9-10)
The God of Israel not only made an unbreakable covenant with the Israelites but made a way for us to be a part of that covenant. We enter the month of Sivan tomorrow evening at sundown. Use this month to worship the Lord and give thanks for how He made a way for us to be part of His royal priesthood and holy nation. Let us give thanks for the giving of Torah and for the harvests in our lives and declare the praises of the One who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light!
Joan E. Mathias