Preparing a Bed of Thanks
The harvest feast shared between the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Native Americans in 1621 may have been one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in our country. The second Thanksgiving celebration occurred in 1623 at the end of a season of drought. It started with a religious fast called for because the drought had been so long. It was during the Civil War, in 1863, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the United States should celebrate an annual Thanksgiving in November. Lincoln entreated all Americans to ask God to "commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife" and to "heal the wounds of the nation."
As we sat at our Thanksgiving tables this year, I wonder how many of us remembered to ask God to care for the mourners and sufferers and to heal the wounds of our nation. What we have lived through in the year 2020 has brought much suffering and loss. We certainly do need to lift to the Lord our fellow men and women for God's tender mercies to be poured upon them. Between the plagues, election intrigues, economic instability, and the necessity for people to quarantine from one another, the stress is over the top.
Let us remember that one of the best ways to deal with stress is to give God thanks! There is always something that we can give thanks for. The Old and New Testaments are filled with admonitions to give thanks. "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever." (1 Chronicles 16:34) "I will give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds." (Psalm 9:1) "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift." (2 Corinthians 9:15) "And in the midst of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God's perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 - TPT) When we give thanks to the Lord, we activate His action.
I recently listened to Chuck Pierce of Glory of Zion International speak on what happens when we come before the Lord with grateful hearts. Let's look at 2 Kings 4:8-37. Here is the story of a well-to-do woman from Shunem. (Shunem means two resting places.) The woman invited Elisha to stay at her home for a meal. Realizing what a blessing Elisha was, the woman and her elderly husband decided that they would build a small room on their roof for Elisha with a bed, table, chair, and lamp. This was the woman's way of honoring Elisha and thanking God for his presence. Elisha desired to show the Shunammite woman his gratitude and prophesied that she would have a son the following year. This happened just as it was said.
The boy grew until one day he experienced an awful headache and died. His mother carried him up to the prophets room and "laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out." (Verse 21) She saddled a donkey and rode him to Mount Carmel (fruitful field) to talk with the man of God. Elisha returned to Shunem and found the boy "lying dead" on his bed. Twice Elisha stretched out on top of the boy laying "mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, and hands to hands." (Verse 34) The boy awoke and was returned to his mother.
In her acts of kindness, the Shunammite woman not only prepared a place for Elisha to rest but also "prepared the way for the Lord." Elisha's bed was built because the woman had a heart of gratitude. She wanted to bless the man of God. Chuck Pierce tells us that we must be like her in preparing a bed of thankfulness to the Lord. Not only will this bed glorify the Lord, but it also gives us a place to lay all our distress. Lay all your distresses on your bed of thankfulness and watch as the Lord breathes life back into them.
The prophet Ezekiel watched as the Lord brought new life into the dry bones of Israel. God told Ezekiel, "...I will put breath in you, and you will come to life, then you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:6) It is time for us to prepare our beds of thankfulness. Let's join the Psalmist in declaring, "You turn my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever." (Psalm 30:11-12)
Chuck Pierce of Glory of Zion International says we are in a season of "RE." God is resetting, re-firing, and renewing His Church. If you follow the Hebrew calendar, you know that we moved into the ninth month called Kislev, meaning trust, rest, and security. It is associated with the letter "SAMEKH" which is a picture of a circle. This month we come full circle from last year and can have a second chance at missed opportunities. In addition, we should be on guard so that we break out of any old cycles that are unproductive.
The constellation Sagittarius (the archer) is in the night sky and reminds us that it is time to fight against empires and cultures that are not in agreement with the Kingdom of Light. Here is a celestial reminder that Benjamin, Jacob's youngest son and the only one born in the Promised Land, was a gifted archer. Although this is a month for rest and hope, we must develop our war strategies. These will come through prophetic revelation, dreams, and experiences that guide us into our call.
Observing the battles presently being fought in our country, we could be easily discouraged. According to the news media, Covid 19 cases are increasing and fighting, caused by political differences, abounds. But whose report do you believe? (Isaiah 53:1) The month of Kislev points us in the right direction. As we develop war strategies to take down our enemies, we take an offensive position so that we can maintain peace amid conflict.
One way that God encourages us is through dreams. Reading through the Torah portions for this month (Genesis 28-44), we see that two major dreamers are highlighted: Joseph and Jacob. Dreams are not always easy to understand. God's desire is that we pursue Him for revelation. Daniel 2:28 tells us, "There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries." Just like He revealed Jacob's true identity as Israel through a dream so that he would birth a nation, He will reveal our identities and the purpose for our lives as part of the Body of Christ. ("Show us, O Lord, how to make a difference in this world for the glory of Your Kingdom during this season.")
I wonder! Could this be the season God is using to redeem His Church to bring her back into full agreement with Him? Is He rekindling our desire for prayer and worship that brings us into greater intimacy with Him and puts us into His army to transform our nation? All of us must shine the light of the Lord brightly so that we dispel the darkness. We are part of a mighty army to re-establish justice and righteousness.
Ephesians 6:10-18 describes how we are to prepare for spiritual warfare. Here are these verses in The Passion Translation: "...Be supernaturally infused with strength through your life union with the Lord Jesus. Stand victorious with the force of His explosive power flowing in and through you. Put on God's complete set of armor provided for us, so that you will be protected as you fight against the evil strategies of the accuser! Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms. For they are a powerful class of demon-gods and evil spirits that hold this dark world in bondage. Because of this, you must wear all the armor that God provides so you're protected as you confront the slanderer, for you are destined for all things and will rise victorious. Put on the truth as a belt to strengthen you to stand in triumph. Put on holiness as the protective armor that covers your heart. Stand on your feet alert, then you'll be ready to share the blessings of peace. In every battle, take faith as your wrap-around shield, for it is able to extinguish the blazing arrows coming at you from the Evil One! Embrace the power of salvation's full deliverance, like a helmet to protect your thoughts from lies. And take the mighty razor-sharp Spirit-sword of the spoken Word of God. Pray passionately in the Spirit, as you constantly intercede with every form of prayer at all times. Pray the blessings of God upon all His believers." May the message of this passage become a reality in our lives.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...and God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." (Genesis 1:1, 3) What is light? John 1:4 says light is life. "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men." According to the dictionary, light is something that makes vision possible. It is "visually perceived radiant energy." Light is called electromagnetic radiation because its wavelengths vary and carry different amounts of energy. Western Washington University's website says, "Our brains interpret waves by assigning different colors to different wavelengths," Violet and blue carry short wavelengths and more energy than long wavelengths of red and burgundy.
The colors blue, red, and purple are talked about frequently in the Bible and represent different aspects of God's nature. Red represents passion and speaks to us of sin and redemption. It is the color of blood that Jesus shed for our forgiveness. Blue is seen in nature—the sky and water—and represents the Holy Spirit, divine revelation, and peace. Purple is the color of royalty, majesty, nobility, and kingship. This past week I was reflecting on the significance of these colors and how the combination of red and blue create purple.
Exodus 39:1 says, "From blue, purple, and scarlet yarn they made woven garments for ministering in the sanctuary..." This refers to the clothes of the priest who ministered to God. When the priests of Israel asked for gifts to construct the Tabernacle one of the prescribed offerings was "blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen." They were used in the making of the Tabernacle curtains and veils.
In his devotional, The Book of Mysteries, Jonathan Cahn gives us an interesting perspective on the three colors used in sewing cloth for the priests clothes and the Tabernacle curtains and veils. He says, "The Tent of Meeting was the place of the joining, the reconciliation, the meeting of two realities, God and man...Blue is the color of the sky, the heavens...representing the heavenly, God...In Hebrew, the word for man is Adam. Adam comes from the Hebrew word for red. Red is the color of the Middle Eastern earth from which man came. The scarlet red is the symbol of sin and guilt. Red is the color of man...Purple is the joining of blue and red. And so, it speaks of the joining of God to man, heaven to earth...the joining of all that is holy to all that is not...so totally joined that God will appear as sin." Jesus came from heaven to receive our sin. He joined humanity to make us one with Him. How fitting that He was covered with a purple robe by the mocking soldiers (John 19:2) as He made heaven and earth, God and man, blue and red one—purple!
As I look at the chaos in our country and the division among people with different beliefs, my heart is grieved. Our two main political parties have claimed red and blue to represent them. There is little hope for seeing the joining of these parties. Differences in beliefs create friction while demons desire to cover us in darkness so that no colors will be visible. Where does the Body of Christ fit into the drama that is being played out in the United States today? We must call forth the light! We must take our authority as children of the Most High God to break off every curse and trauma laid on humanity. We must release the sound of our voices to call forth God's healing and restoration. We must remember that we were made in God's image and are co-creators with Him as we release the sounds of worship to our righteous God. We must affirm God's original plans and purposes for us to be a people of love and a godly nation that shines forth His light and life.
With God's help, there will be a way where their seems to be no way. Call forth an awakening that sets the captives free and brings them into their destiny. Join with the chorus of Believers to declare, "I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of His righteousness..." (Isaiah 61:10) I wonder...Could the color purple prevail?
Prayer that Turns our Nation
"There is an all-out attempt to finally turn our nation from God and His original plans for us." So says Dutch Sheets, pastor, author, and warrior for God's plans and purposes in the United States. In addition, he writes, "There is an evil attempt to keep what is true, righteous, and holy from coming to the surface of awareness in our nation; however, we are coming to the moment when it will no longer be withheld." It has become obvious that what God ordained for our nation must be fought for. All of this has not caught God by surprise. He has in place what we will need to "fight the good fight of faith." (1 Timothy 6:12)
First, there is a network of well-respected prophets in the United States that agree in their prophecies for our country and its leadership. Those who honor God and His Word and who partner with Him in His plans and purposes find favor with the Lord. We must come along side of these God-appointed prophets to pray in their words. This is what God told the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, when his nation was being threatened by vast armies of the enemy: "Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in His prophets and you will be successful." (2 Chronicles 20:20)
Secondly, it seems like the Church is awakening and finding her voice. She is reconsidering the way that she walks. The prophet Jeremiah reminded his people that they had forgotten God. "...They burn incense to worthless idols, which made them stumble in their ways and in the ancient paths." (Jeremiah 18:15) Jeremiah declared God's word to return to the ways of Israel's forefathers: "Stand in the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls..." (Jeremiah 6:16) The wind of change is in the air. God is aiming His church back onto the right paths and the foundation of HIs unchanging truth.
Thirdly, there is a groundswell of people who are remembering our history and our call from God. Our nation was birthed in prayer! Author, Dr. Peter Lillback did exhaustive research on our nation's first president. His book of over 1,100 pages, titled George Washington's Sacred Fire, is filled with the prayers of our founding fathers. Lillback records Washington's thoughts and prayers and devotion toward Almighty God. He tells us this: "In his first Inaugural Address, Washington explained that an experiment had been entrusted to the American people. What was at stake in America's experiment in self-government was the 'preservation of the sacred fire of liberty.' This 'sacred fire' had been entrusted to Americans by heaven. Liberty's flame was sacred or holy because it was sustained by heaven's 'eternal rules of order and right.'" (Page 711)
Finally, just as Esther was placed in the king's palace to partner with God in saving her people "for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14), we were also placed on earth at this time and place to partner with God in the turning of our nation back to Him. The prophet Isaiah says it well in Chapter 33:5-6. "The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high; He will fill Zion with His justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure." Our responsibility is to join the groundswell of prayer and to declare and decree God's plans and purposes for our nation to prevail.
Early Fruit on the Fig Tree
God uses unorthodox ways to demonstrate His nature and purposes. So it was with Hosea the prophet. His name means "Jehovah (The Eternal One) is Salvation or Deliverer," and he lived among God's chosen people during a period when their leadership encouraged a materialistic, immoral, and unjust lifestyle. God watched as His people, chosen to live a godly lifestyle as an example to the entire world, and to be God's bridge of redemption to the pagans, were totally unfaithful to Him. They prostituted themselves to the very ones they were called to bring to the Redeemer.
Imagine how you would feel if God said to you, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord." (Hosea 1:2) Hosea's adulterous wife, Gomer (meaning completion), bore him two sons and one daughter who were named by God: Jezreel (God plants or sows), Lo-Ruhamah (not loved), and Lo-Ammi (not my people). Hosea's life was to represent the heart of God in loving the unfaithful.
God found Himself in a position of having to punish the children of Israel for chasing after other gods and abandoning their commitment to Him. Verse 12 of Chapter 4 says, "A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God." In his book, Hosea describes some of the detestable behaviors engaged in by the people of God during his day. "They practice deceit, thieves break into houses, bandits rob in the streets." (Hosea 7:1) "They speak about me falsely. They do not cry out to me from their hearts." (Hosea 7:13-14) "Israel has rejected what is good...They set up kings without my consent..." (Hosea 8:3-4) "Israel has forgotten their Maker..." (Hosea 8:14) "But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors, the roar of battle will rise against your people…” (Hosea 10:13-14)
Does Hosea's description of his times sound familiar? They do to me! We are living in a day that is characterized by our vile behaviors and affections to other gods. The spirit of prostitution appears to be alive and well. From His people Israel, God was looking for a repentant lifestyle. God said, "...Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears...For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:4, 6) While God had some harsh words for Israel, He also had some words of compassion. He remembered the time when they were faithful to Him: “When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree..." (Hosea 9:10) Early fruit on a fig tree was considered especially delicious. When God found Israel in the desert He was overtaken by her appearance and taste. He confessed, "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel...My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused." (Hosea 11:8)
Mitch Glaser, Ph.D., wrote a book titled God's Plan and Purposes for the Jewish People. He makes some interesting points that are worth repeating: "The Scriptures never suggest that Israel's disobedience would outlast God's grace...Instead, when God wants the nation to repent and again receive His blessings, the Lord would do what was necessary to turn the people back to Him. The book of Hosea proclaimed the message to Israel that God was not going to reject them, but would wait for, or even initiate, their repentance." (Page 23)
God's compassions toward Israel have never failed. I believe He has those same compassions toward the United States of America. He is the One who helped establish our country through guiding Christopher Columbus to our shores. He brought the pilgrims to our lands so that they could establish a country with righteous foundations and freedom to worship the One True God. The Lord said of Israel, "I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon, he will send down his roots…” (Hosea 14:4-5) God is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) Let us call out to Him for healing, restoration, and revival that our nation will return to Him and be like the early fruit on a fig tree.
Joan E. Mathias