On my way to church I pass a vineyard with rows of grapevines. Each vine is tied to a wire that runs from post to post. The vines must be tied to the wire so that the weight of the fruit does not break the branches. I watch every year as the owner of the vineyard cares for his vines. By September I see them covered in a white mesh. The fruit has begun to develop its full color which is an indication that it will be ripe in a few weeks. The mesh is used to protect the maturing fruit from the birds. The birds can smell the sweetness of the fruit and flocks of them will peck the grapes and destroy the crop. The gardener must hang the mesh over the tied up vines and tack it to the posts.
The owner of the vineyard has tended his grapevines all year so that they will produce fruit that matures to its fullness. He will not allow flocks of birds to come and quickly destroy what he has cared for. Isn't our heavenly Father just like the owner of the vineyard? I would think that this is one of the reasons Jesus taught his disciples the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven through the analogy of the grapevine and the vineyard.
Our Creator tends us just like the gardener tends his vineyard. Each of us was made to bear fruit. "But I chose you and appointed you so that you might bear fruit, fruit that will last..." (John 15:16) Through every season of or lives He is there to encourage and protect us. Here is what the Lord says about His people: "Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it." (Isaiah 27:2-3) God has a plan for His vineyard as expressed in Verse 6. "In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit."
Back in the day when God changed Abram's name to Abraham He was talking about fruit. "I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you." (Genesis 17:6-7) When God found the fruit of His vineyard (His people) being attacked, He took drastic measures to protect it.
There was only one sure way for God to protect His people. He sent His Son to cover them—to cover us. In fact, He calls His Son "a branch." "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from its root a Branch will bear fruit." (Isaiah 11:11) Jesus was being groomed to bring heaven to earth and to be the atonement cover over God's people. He would be nailed to a wooden post like the cover over the vineyard. Through His death and resurrection the sins of God's people would be covered and their fruit protected. He bore the curse of the law in order to bring the blessing of the Abrahamic covenant to all nations.
The sacrifice of Jesus for the atonement of our sin was not only a sweet-smelling aroma to God (Ephesians 5:2); it was the cover that protected us from the destruction of the enemy and brought us to a place of reconciliation with God. John 15:8 explains: "This is to my Father's glory; that you bear much fruit; showing yourselves to be my disciples." Praise God that we are the recipients of His glorious plan. He has us covered!
Faith like a Child
Last week my grandson Jack got a new Bible and was so excited to show it to me on Monday morning. He and brother Ben wanted to read about the battle of Jericho. After reading the story, the three of us went down to the basement to "build Jericho" with blocks. The plan was to build Jericho and then march around it like the children of Israel did after they entered the Promised Land. After completing their building project, the boys picked up their shofars and began to march in a circle around Jericho. Six times they circled the city once. On the seventh time they circled the city seven times and then shouted.
While all of this was going on I am having a quiet conversation with God. You see, Jack said to me, "Gee, I don't want you to knock down Jericho. I want you to let God do it. Your job is to pray!" You better believe I prayed! My faith could not begin to match Jack's faith. In the end, Ben kicked down Jericho—much to Jack's disappointment. I guess you could say that God used Ben to knock it down.
Acting out the events from the days of Joshua and the battle of Jericho reminded me of some principles that we must live by in order for us to take our own Promised Lands. God has a Promised Land for every single one of us—a place of destiny where we can shine and demonstrate the glory of God. However, we also have an enemy who will do whatever he can to stop us from taking our Promised Land. When we allow our flesh or the enemy tactics to get in the way this impedes us from reaching our destiny.
Indeed, the Israelites who left Egypt and were old enough to fight in battle (except for Joshua and Caleb) died in the wilderness because they did not believe the promises of God. God had Joshua lead the next generation into the Promised Land. The priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the Jordan River, and the Lord rolled back the water to a town named Adam. (Joshua 3:16) The waters were held back until the entire nation of Israel crossed over to the other side.
Next, God had the Israelites make preparation for conquering the land. They had to turn their attention to Him and remember that it is God who empowers them to take the land. They did this by building a memorial of 12 stones from the Jordan River, by re-establishing covenant with Him in the act of circumcision, and by celebrating Passover.
Just as the Israelites had to fight a battle upon their entrance into Canaan, we will have to fight in order to take our Promised Land. The enemy of our souls does not want us to be victorious, because in our Promised Land we will be fruitful for the Kingdom of God. We can count on a battle; however, God has given us keys to victory: We must have faith and trust in what God tells us, and we must obey Him completely. (Read Joshua 1:1-9)
Jesus knew the importance of these characteristics and pointed to a child as an example. He said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3) You see, a child has the faith to believe in what God says, even if it seems impossible, and the desire to follow Him in complete obedience. May we all have such faith!
Cleome Seed/God's Seed
The promises of God to Abraham are repeated in Scripture multiple times. God spoke to Abraham: "'Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them.' And he believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:5-6 KJV) I was thinking about this promise as I was working in the garden on Wednesday. There is a flowering annual that has been springing up there for 10 years. It is a whimsical looking plant that produces its flowers and new seeds all at the same time and is aptly named the Spider Flower or Cleome spinosa. The palm-shaped, finely-cut leaves decorate the stem that grows to 5' in height.
The colorful part of the Spider Flower head bursts forth in shades of white, pink or lavender. As the blossoms fade, string bean-like seed pods sprout around the stem in all directions like spider legs. The pods are filled with lines of seeds, and as they dry the pods open up and spill their seed all over the ground. Already, new plants are springing up in the garden where I work. I know that the ground is holding new seed for the spring so that the plant can transform the garden with its bright and colorful flowers.
God intended that His children, like the Cleome, would seed and grow into people of beauty. After the great flood God met with Noah and his family. "And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth.’” (Genesis 9:1 - KJV) God made a covenant with Noah and Abraham and Moses to be their God. He gave His people commandments to follow, asked that they love Him with all their hearts and promised to love them all of their days. He brought the Israelites out of Egypt, "to be unto Him a people of inheritance..." (Genesis 4:20 - KJV)
The Lord's plan has always been to have a people that loved Him with all their hearts, souls and minds and who would share the love of God with the nations around them. They were instructed to share the testimonies of God with their "seed" (the next generation) so that the Word of God would spread across the world and the family of God would grow.
God chose the tribe of Judah to bring forth the perfect, imperishable seed—"the living and enduring Word of God," our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:23) As God planned, the Living Word would endure forever and the generations to come (the seed of God's family) would praise the Lord. As the Psalmist declares, "Praise ye the Lord. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in His commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon the earth: The generation of the upright shall be blessed." (Psalm 112:1-2 - KJV)
Through the seed of His Son, God has established an everlasting kingdom and His dominion endures through all generations. (Psalm 145:13) New seed was produced through faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul says, "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29) We, the seed of God, can transform life around us if we bloom where we are planted and display the beauty of our Savior.
We begin the sixth month, Elul, today. It is so important for us to embrace what the Lord has for us during this time period. This is the last month of the old year where we prepare ourselves for the fall feasts--Rosh Hashanah (The New Year), Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), and Succot (The Feast of Tabernacles). The yearly cycle of the Lord's feasts is meant to bring us into intimacy with Him. If we have followed the Lord's leading we have been prepared to enter the Most Holy Place where we can tabernacle with God.
What I love about this month is that the Lord does not sit and wait for us to come to Him; He comes to us. Elul is the month where God makes Himself especially accessible. The Hebrew people would say, "The king is in the field!" Do not miss this! During Elul the King of kings comes to where you live. Look for the manifestation of the Lord in your home, workplace and church. He wants to be part of your daily activities.
Here is the way I picture it. The King has been eagerly waiting for our visit. But, He is so excited about the prospect of being with us that He decides to come to us and participate in our daily lives. He observes what brings us joy. He sees what we need. He comes to give us an invitation to meet at His place where He has prepared a lavish table for us.
God has always desired to dwell among His people. In Exodus 25 God is giving Moses instructions on how to build the tabernacle. The Hebrew word for this is mishkan which comes from the verb meaning "to dwell." The word could be translated "dwelling place" or "habitation." And, in fact, Jesus coming to earth is a perfect picture of how the King left His world to tabernacle or dwell among us.
It is interesting to me that Elul is linked with the Hebrew letter YOD which means "God has appointed mercy from His hand." Indeed, if we look back to the days of Moses we can see how God extended mercy to the Israelites. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai he was so angry with the people for worshiping the golden calf that he threw the tablets God had engraved to the ground so that they broke to pieces. He went back to the Lord to make atonement for the Israelites and asked God to have mercy on His people. Then God invited Moses to return to Mt. Sinai with two new stone tablets so that He could rewrite the words of His covenant on the new tablets. In addition, He tells Moses that He is the Lord who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness. (Exodus 34:6)
God has always desired fellowship with us--so much so that we were created in His image. It started in the Garden of Eden where God made Adam and Eve living beings. His great joy was walking in the cool of the evening with the people He created. He still delights in fellowshipping with us and has set up Kairos times to manifest His Presence. This is the month to run to Him. The passion to connect with the Lord is expressed by the Shulamite and Daughters of Jerusalem in Song of Solomon 1:4. "Draw me! We will run after you!" (AMP) The Lord is waiting for us to acknowledge Him. Run to Him!
Joan E. Mathias