On September 26, 400 years ago, the pilgrims set sail for America in their ship, the Mayflower. They came seeking freedom to restart their lives and to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Many on the ship lost their lives; those who did not persevered. With faith and fortitude, they pressed on toward the goal to win the prize for which God had called them. (Philippians 3:14) Those who landed on the shores of America were the seed of our nation. Before disembarking and putting down their roots in the new land, they signed a document that has become known as the Mayflower Compact. It was a covenant made with God and with each other that expressed the idea of self-government with "just and equal laws...for the general good of the Colony." The Compact expressed deep faith and belief in God and would serve as a foundation for the Constitution of the United States.
I believe that the Christian community will agree that our nation has fallen far from the original intentions of the pilgrims who signed the Mayflower Compact. Early in the year, two of our leaders in the faith came to the same conclusion separately and selected September 26 as a day for people of faith to gather in a solemn assembly on the National Mall to pray. Franklin Graham called his event "The Washington Prayer March" while Jonathan Cahn called the event "The Return." The date God led these men to choose also happens to be 40 days before the presidential election. Franklin Graham says, "The only hope for America is God. Prayer is our most important weapon. It allows us to go directly to the King of kings, directly to stand before the throne of grace and make our petitions known before God."
In the Bible we see that there is great significance to both the number 40 and 400. The flood, Moses and God's meetings, Christ's temptation in the wilderness, and His post resurrection ministry all took place in a 40-day period of time. Of course, the Israelites were in the desert for 40 years. Hence, the number 40 represents a time in the wilderness and preparation through trials and testing. In Genesis 15:13 we see that God foretold of the bondage of the Israelites for 400 years. He delivered them from bondage after 400 years. It seems that whenever God wanted to prepare a nation for His purposes it took 400 years. Could it be that the convergence of two major events in the life of our country is a sign that God is about to change our nation?
I believe that The Return and The Washington Prayer March were strategically planned by God to occur exactly when they did. They fell in the middle of the 10 Days of Awe—the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur where repentance for sins occurs. In addition, these events landed on a day called "Shuvah" on the Jewish calendar, a day annually set aside to return to God through repentance. In fact, the meaning of the word "Shuvah" is "Return." When Jonathan selected September 26 for "The Return" he had no idea that it would fall on Shuvah. Another interesting "coincidence" is that the preset Scripture to be read in synagogues on this day is Joel 2:15. "Blow the shofar in Zion! Proclaim a holy fast. Call for a solemn assembly." (The Complete Jewish Bible) And blow the shofars they did!! Jonathan led an entire army of people in blowing their shofars. The sound penetrated my soul. There were so many convergences at this gathering that we must conclude that it was God inspired.
Before the event, Jonathan Cahn told an interviewer, "God doesn't want to judge. He doesn't! He's long-suffering. Look at all we've done and what we do in His face. Look at the millions that have been killed, the unborn children who've been killed. God doesn't want to, but He has to deal with evil. But his heart is for salvation. His heart is that none should perish. God is calling to America: 'America, return to me, and I will return to you.' I believe that's the heart of God. The movement and chance we have before us now may never come again. If we don't return now, we may pass the point of no return."
There are those who seek to destroy our Judeo-Christian foundations. It is up to Christians to take a stand and return to our Biblical roots. We have this one moment in history that could turn the course of our nation and impact our descendants for generations to come. All the signs point to the fact that God is up to something. We must come into agreement with His plans to transform and reshape our nation. Let us take God up on His promise 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 I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
Yearly, an organization called HaYovei (The Jubilee) has been helping farmers with small properties in the regions of Judea and Samaria harvest their grapes. A recent story by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz in "Biblical News" told about the organizations faithfulness in bringing more than 3,000 Christian volunteers from 30 countries to Israel for the past 15 years. As they helped pick grapes, these Christians breathed life into the Biblical prophecy in Isaiah 61:5. "Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards."
This year was different from all others. Israel's Health Minister placed travel restrictions on the country so that their borders were closed to all non-citizens. It is reported that about 400 tons of grapes were in danger of rotting on the vines because of the restrictions. The leaders of HaYovei pulled out all the stops to get the Israeli government to relax their regulations. Eventually, 50 volunteers were permitted to enter the country as long as they committed to staying for three months, with the initial two weeks being set aside for quarantine. On September 2, the first group of volunteers began harvesting the grapes. Pickers came from The United States, Canada, and Germany.
When the harvesters are finished, it is expected that approximately 500 tons of grapes from 10 farms in the Biblical heartland will have been picked. Some of the HaYovei volunteers are motivated by the prophecy in Ezekiel 36:36. "Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate..." Although the volunteers may not proselytize, their generosity in assisting with the harvest demonstrates the love of God.
What a blessing it is to be alive during a time when so much Biblical prophecy is coming to life! The grapevine is a symbol of the Jewish people. As the grapes mature, so are the Jewish people as they come to know their Messiah. God told King Hezekiah to look for a sign from Him. "This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year, sow and reap, plant vineyards, and eat fruit. Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above. For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." (Isaiah 37:30-32) I would imagine that the Jews who own the vineyards in Israel's heartland and the Christians who are helping with the harvest will join together to celebrate and give thanks to God (the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) for bringing in the crop.
The Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) began on Friday evening. Saturday, September 19, is the first day of the new year and Tishrei, the seventh month on the Jewish calendar. Typically, families gather together in their synagogues and read Leviticus 23:23-25 and Numbers 29:1-6. They also read the story of Abraham taking Isaac to Mt. Moriah to sacrifice him as instructed by the Lord. (Genesis 22) God rewarded Abraham's obedience and provided a ram as a substitute sacrifice. It is the ram's horn that is blown on the New Year as a reminder of Father Abraham's obedience to God. Those farmers in Judea and Samaria who have help with harvesting their grapes have another reason to celebrate God's goodness.
The "Grapevines" continue to thrive despite efforts by the enemy to kill them. God is invested in and committed to HIs covenant with the Jewish people. He has made and kept His promises to His people and uses the Christian community to help in their fulfillment. "...New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills, and 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." (Amos 9:13-15)
As the Jews celebrate their new year, we as Christians should be praying for their prosperity and taking our places as harvesters for the Kingdom of God. God looks with favor on those who help His chosen ones.
After Covid 19 hit our country, my church decided to hold services outside. The worship team and pastor minister under a large, 2-story front entrance porch. The congregation sits facing the front of the building either in a tent on the parking lot or on the lawn. As my husband and I worshiped together on the lawn, we have a great view of the building and the steeple that rises to the sky above. The history of the architecture of American churches goes back to when our nation was settled. One of the first buildings the pioneers constructed in their villages was the church. It was the center of all activities. Worshiping God was their chief priority. Most of the churches built had a steeple that was topped with a spire. It symbolized the church's heavenly aspirations.
When I sit at one of our services and look at the front of our church, my eyes are instantly drawn to the steeple. Recently, I noticed that hornets have been very busy over the summer, because there is a huge hornet's nest at the juncture of the steeple and the spire. The hornets chew wood to build their paper-like structures. The teardrop-shaped nest only has one opening for the hornets to enter and leave. Fortunately, the nest attached to our church steeple is so high that we do not have to be concerned about an attack by the hornets. In addition, fall and cooler temperatures are approaching. The nest will deteriorate over the winter. I began to wonder how a hornet determines where it will build its nest. My research shows that they look for a location that has cracks in it so they can firmly attach their nest. It is recommended that homeowners caulk and seal any cracks in the sides of their buildings so that hornets will not attempt to build their unwanted structure.
As I looked at the nest on our church steeple, I felt like God was telling me that there is prophetic significance to this picture. There is a battle going on between good and evil in our world today. Sadly, much of the Church has compromised their position and allowed the enemy to have his way. We are warned about this in Ephesians 4:27: "...Do not give the devil a foothold." Just as the hornets built their nest in the cracks of our steeple, the devil found cracks in the foundation of our churches and has built a nest so that he can operate inside the life of the church to influence her decisions for evil. Our country has bought into the lies of the enemy and has made decisions that are directly opposite of the commandments in Scripture and the foundations upon which our nation was formed. The Church cannot continue to compromise! The soul of our nation is at stake, and the country needs the prayers and actions of the saints to bring it back into alignment with the intentions of our founding fathers. This could be the Church's greatest hour of achievement or failure for the Kingdom of God.
The enemy is attacking the Church's foundation. For seven months our lives have been severely restricted through government regulations meant to protect us from Covid 19. At this point they have been softened somewhat; however, it appears as though they will continue through the rest of the year. They hit at the heart of the Church--worship and fellowship! In addition, fear has struck many—not only fear of sickness, but fear of violence that is ravaging our cities. Rage and anarchy have been unleashed by those who want to control our nation in an unholy agenda.
I praise God for the churches that are standing their ground! They found the cracks in their foundations and are filling them. They are leading their congregations in repentance and return to lives of purity and love. They see that God has given us a period of grace. But I wonder how long this grace will last. Peter gives us good advice for this season: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your bothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (1 Peter 5:8-9)
Paul gives us solid advice in Colossians 4:2-6. "Be faithful to pray as intercessors who are fully alert and give thanks to God...Walk in the wisdom of God as you live before the unbelievers, and make it your duty to make Him known. Let every word you speak be drenched with grace and tempered with truth and clarity. For then you will be prepared to give a respectful answer to anyone who asks about your faith." (TPT)
The number 40 is significant to God. The first time we see it in the Bible is in Genesis 7:4 when God tells Noah, "Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made." After escaping from Egypt, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Exodus 16:35 says, "The Israelites ate manna 40 years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they left the border of Canaan." When Moses was talking with God, "he stayed on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights." (Exodus 24:18, 34:28) After Gideon and his tribe subdued the Midianites, "the land enjoyed peace 40 years." (Judges 8:28) When the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord they were delivered "into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years." (Judges 13:1) David reigned as king of Israel for 40 years. (2 Samuel 5:4) Likewise, his son, Solomon, reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel 40 years. (1 Kings 11:42)
Joash reigned as king of Israel for 40 years and used this time to repair the temple. (2 Kings 12:1) Through Jonah, God told the Ninevites that they had to repent within 40 days or Nineveh would be destroyed. (Jonah 3:4) Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days and nights. (Matthew 4:2) Satan tempted Him during that 40-day period. (Luke 4:2) After His death and resurrection, "Jesus appeared to His disciples over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God." (Acts 1:3) As we can see from the Scriptures above, 40 is the number of probation and testing that ends in victory or defeat.
The Jewish people have established a 40-day period between Elul 1 and Tishrei 10 (Yom Kippur) as a time for repentance. It is a time to turn from evil and turn towards good. It takes its name from the Hebrew root word "shoov" which means return. These days are called The Teshuvah--the days of turning, fasting, and repentance. The 40 days are meant as a time of preparation for the upcoming new year that begins at sundown on September 18. It is in this season of turning from sin that one moves toward the Lord. The key word here is return. Throughout the Scriptures, prophets and apostles called to God's people to repent and return. Let's look at some of them:
"'Return (Teshuvah) backsliding Israel,' says Adonai. 'I will no longer frown on you, for I am merciful,' says Adonai...'Return (Teshuvah), O backsliding children,' declares Adonai..." (Jeremiah 3:12, 14)
"Yet even now, turn (Teshuvah) to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping and lamenting. Rend your heart, not your garments, and turn (Teshuvah) to Adonai, your God..." (Joel 2:12-13)
"Come, let us return (Teshuvah) to Adonai. He has torn, but He will heal us. He has smitten, but He will bind us up." (Hosea 6:1)
"Return to Me (Teshuvah) and I will return to you." (God's Teshuvah) (Zechariah 1:3)
Turn away (Teshuvah) from your sins, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 3:2)
"Repent (Teshuvah), therefore, and return (Teshuvah)--so your sins might be blotted out." (Acts 3:19) ("Teshuvah" Scriptures taken from the Messianic Jewish Bible—Tree of Life Version)
This is the season when we should be inviting the Holy Spirit to show us what needs to change in our lives. We need to be mindful of the decisions we make and the actions we take. I find it fitting that two giants in the faith, Franklin Graham and Jonathan Cahn, have selected September 26 as a day of national repentance (Teshuvah) in Washington, D. C. The event is called "The Return" and is meant to be a National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance. It falls the day before Yom Kippur. Jonathan Cahn explains that America is in a pivotal moment in time. We have turned away from our foundations and call good evil and evil good. The Biblical template shows us that after a nation is warned by God, it has a window of time to repent. September 26 has been designated as a day of prayer, fasting, and repentance for ourselves and the nation. It happens to be the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower on the shores of America and 40 days before the presidential election. Let us join Christians in our nation in humbly coming before the Lord and crying out for His mercy.
Joan E. Mathias