When Paul wrote to the people in the church in Thessalonica he reminded them of his love for them. "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." (1 Thessalonians 2:8) When you share your lives with someone you open a window to your soul and produce a harvest from the seed you plant. When you praise God with the Body of Christ God will bless you with the harvest. "May the people praise You, O God; may all the peoples praise You. Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us." (Psalm 67:5-6)
When I look at these two Scriptures they remind me of a time when I experienced them. In early November, 2007, my friend Donna treated me to a trip to Visalia, CA where her friend Maureen lives. Maureen's church was having a conference called "Created to Worship." While I enjoyed the conference and was encouraged by it, the treasure that I found during my visit was the new friendship that blossomed. Maureen graciously welcomed me into her home and included me in her life. I quickly discovered that she and I had several common loves--love of God and love and appreciation for His Plant Kingdom. Our common bonds drew us closer to one another.
Maureen's home was surrounded by a walnut grove. Donna and I arrived around harvest time. I learned that the yield and quality of nuts from Maureen's grove was consistently better than surrounding groves. Not only does she conscientiously care for her trees, but she prays over them. She praises the Lord, blesses and thanks Him for the harvest to come. My fondest memory of our visit is of spending an afternoon sitting in the sun at Maureen's picnic table at the edge of the walnut trees cracking open the walnut shells. Of course, one must eat some of the nuts as the shells are cracked open:) Honestly, those walnuts were the best one I have ever tasted!
What I just shared with you came back to me as a surprise package arrived in my mail box. The box was large and heavy. I had no remembrance of having placed an order for something. I asked myself, "Who could be sending me a package?" The heaviness of the box made me think it might be books. I carried it upstairs to my condo, and as I placed it on the floor I saw the return address label. Maureen sent me a portion of her walnut harvest.
I am delighted with this priceless gift from Maureen. You see, she not only shared her walnut harvest but also opened a window to my soul as I renewed my memory of our time together and contemplated what grew within me through sharing her life. I continue to taste of the fruits of her labor and want to share them with my loved ones.
It is through simple moments of sharing our lives with others that God opens our souls and comes to join us. I believe this is one of the reasons that He tells us to celebrate His feasts with one another. Next week is The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). God's people build booths on the first of seven days. The booths are decorated with fruit placed on palm fronds and poplar branches. Everyone will remember together how their forefathers lived in the open when God brought them out of Egypt and will celebrate His goodness in providing for every need. God says, "Be joyful at your Feast...For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete." (Deuteronomy 16:14-15)
This week take time to notice the beauty of creation and thank God for drawing near. Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles by giving God a portion of your harvest and joyfully praise Him for calling us to His banqueting table for everlasting fellowship with Him.
Throughout the Bible we can see that the number 7 is important to the Lord, and the 7th day, 7th month and 7th year have been dedicated to Him. Seven represents completion, perfection, fullness and rest. The fall feasts take place during the 7th month of Tishrei and are meant to bring us into communion with Him so that we can experience His glory. In fact, the word "Tishrei is associated with the Hebrew letter LAMED which signifies the aspiration to return to the absolute source." (A Time to Advance, Chuck Pierce)
The appointed times of the 7th month (Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles) are the climax of where God has been leading us since Passover, in the first month. Even though Tishrei is the 7th month in the reckoning of months, in regard to years, it is the first month of the year. This makes it an extremely significant month as we can experience the fullness of the Lord when we tabernacle with Him, and revelation for the year ahead by returning to our Source. I find it interesting that Tishrei is associated with the constellation Libra (the scales). These scales picture the deeds of men being weighed and judgments released. It is between the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) that God's people are to get right with Him. These 10 days are called "The Days of Awe."
Tishrei is the month of double blessing, and we are meant to be fruitful and multiply. It is associated with the tribe of Ephraim that means "double fruit." When Ephraim was born his father Joseph said, "...God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering." (Genesis 41:52) It seems to me that we are in a season of overflowing fruit since we are not only in the month of double fruit but also the year of double fruit--Jubilee. This is a time to press in for intimacy with the Lord. I believe He blesses a hungry pursuer. We must become like the woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. She pressed in through a large crowd to touch the cloak of Jesus and was healed by her faith. (Mark 5:25-34) I believe there will be fruit for us also as we press in to touch Jesus during this time.
Since Tishrei is the beginning of the autumn season our days are getting shorter and the moon is the predominant source of light in the sky. The reflected light of the moon impacts how we grow crops, how we harvest, the way we work and the way we plan recreation. As we launch into the New Year we must be sure that our plans align with the Lord's plans. It is a time when we should check our lives to be sure they are well balanced and that our hearts and minds are cleansed from any negative thoughts or bitterness.
The feasts of Tishrei are for resting from regular work, cleansing ourselves, fasting and feasting, and meeting the Lord in glorious celebration. The trumpet sounds that begin on Rosh Hashanah continue throughout most of this month. We can read about these times in Leviticus 23 and Number 29. An interesting sidelight is that Noah's ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat on the 17th day of the 7th month. (Genesis 8:4) It was on the 21st day of the 7th month that the word of the Lord came to the prophet Haggai. This is what he said: "'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the Lord Almighty. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the Lord Almighty." (Haggai 2:9) The Lord desires to fill His Church with His glory. We play a key role in preparing the way for the revealing of the glory of the Lord. He wants to display His glory in you, dear ones. Let us join with the Lord in what He is doing during this season.
We sang a song in church today that I believe is anointed and appointed for such a time as this. The time that we live in is dark and unsettled. We do not know what the future holds. Shakings are taking place all around the world. Yet,we need not fear if our lives are built on The Cornerstone, Jesus Christ. Absorb the truths in this song, “Cornerstone.”
“My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly trust in Jesus’ name.” (Chorus: “Christ alone, Cornerstone. Weak made strong in the Savior’s love. Through the storm, He is Lord, Lord of all.”)
When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil; my anchor holds within the veil. (Chorus)
When Christ shall come with trumpet sound; Oh may I then in Him be found. Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless, stand before the throne.” (Chorus)
Both the prophet Isaiah and Zechariah talk about The Cornerstone. “From Judah will come The Cornerstone (foundation stone), from Him the tent peg, from Him the battle bow, from Him every ruler.” (Zechariah 10:4) Our Messiah is called The Cornerstone because of the key role He has in constructing God’s plan of salvation for all nations. Wikipedia says that “The cornerstone or foundation stone is derived from the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.” The cornerstone provides a secure foundation for every other stone laid on top of it and beside it. The Cornerstone will not be shaken. This is how the prophet Isaiah puts it: “So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious Cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.’” (Isaiah 28:16)
Peter quotes this verse in Chapter 2, Verse 6. He also describes the spiritual component for the Body of Christ. “As you come to Him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God, and precious to Him—you also, like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5) In the book of Ephesians Paul also uses the image of the cornerstone as the foundation for God’s people who are building the holy temple of God. “…You are…fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief Cornerstone. In Him the whole building is jointed together to become a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:19-21)
Another component of the cornerstone is that it unites and strengthens two walls. God’s plan for His temple is to unit both Jew and Gentile (two walls). Paul says, “His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.” (Ephesians 2:15) The Cornerstone is in place to bind together Jew and Gentile—the two walls of the Church.
In Israel, the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, or Feast of Trumpets, has already begun. In the United States the celebration will begin at sundown today. In the midst of uncertainty, God wants us to trust in Him for the future. As it says in Isaiah 33:6, “He will be the sure foundation (stability) for your times…” We are secure on the Chief Cornerstone, our Messiah. Praise God!
Joan E. Mathias