Humility is the key that opens the door to favor. This is so vibrantly demonstrated in the story of Queen Esther. Her entire life was laid down to honor God. As an orphan she was raised by her cousin Mordecai. Together, they were carried into exile from Jerusalem to the citadel of Susa, located in the Persian empire. Today this territory is in southwestern Iran. Esther's true Hebrew name was Hadassah, meaning myrtle. This low-growing tree can be found in high places. Like the meaning of her true name, Hadassah was moved from her lowly surroundings to the high place of the king's palace where she was groomed, along with other beautiful women from the kingdom, as a possible queen for King Xerxes. She took on the Persian name of Esther (meaning star) to conceal her Jewish identity.
Hadassah submitted herself to Hegai, the head of the king's harem. For one year she was refined with beauty treatments of perfumes, cosmetics and the oil of myrrh (an oil used to prepare bodies and representing purification and dying to self). At the completion of her time with the harem, Hadassah would be taken to the king's palace to spend one night with him. Afterward she would take up residence with the king's concubines and would not see him again unless summoned by name. Can you imagine how Hadassah must have felt with all that she faced? And yet, she was cooperative and loving so that she won the favor of those who cared for her. Hadassah was a perfect picture of her Hebrew name and blossomed while preparing for one night with the King. It is interesting to note that the flowers on the myrtle tree are white (representing purity) with purple borders (representing royalty) and are extremely fragrant. This humble woman of God was crushed to produce a sweet fragrance. She was destined to win the king's favor and became Queen Esther, the star! She rose to a high place in the kingdom of King Xerxes through her beautiful humility.
In the outskirts of the palace, at the king's gate, Esther's loyal caregiver, Mordecai, kept vigil. She was in regular contact with Mordecai and continued to follow his instructions. During her tenure as queen, King Xerxes appointed a man named Haman to a position higher than all the other nobles in the kingdom. He was an Agagite, a descendant of Agag who was an enemy of Saul and the nation of Israel. Isn't it fascinating that Mordecai was from the tribe of Benjamin like Saul? The ancient battle between the Jews and Agagites was renewed. Mordecai refused to kneel down to Haman. In a fit of anger, Haman decided to kill Mordecai and all the Jews in the kingdom on a set date. They "cast the pur" (lot) to select the 12th month (Adar) and the 13th day on the Hebrew calendar, and a decree explaining this edict was sent to all the provinces.
Can you see how God positioned Esther for "such a time as this?" She proved her faithfulness to Him. Once again, she would need to take up a position of humility and die to self in order to save her people. She was asked to petition the king and plead for mercy for the Jews. Esther would be risking her very life by revealing her heritage as a Jew and by approaching the king without being summoned. She agreed to approach the king in the inner court and gave Mordecai the following instructions: "Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16)
Esther prepared for her assignment by humbling herself before God. She needed His favor more than anything else. I wonder if she knew that her Persian name was a prophetic sign for her life. This wise and brave woman would "shine like the brightness of the heavens" (Daniel 12:3) as she laid down her life to become a light in the darkness to save the Jews. The day set aside to annihilate the Jews became a day of celebration called Purim. King Xerxes extended his gold scepter to Esther. Haman's evil plot was exposed, and he was put to death. The days meant for slaughter became days of victory for the Jews. A decree was written: "...And these days of Purim should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die out among their descendants." (Esther 9:28) We have much to learn from Hadassah/Esther. Humility brings the favor of the King of kings and leads us to a shining victory!
He was a godly man of faith who wanted to see his people freed from oppression. He quoted Scripture in his speeches. He encouraged peaceful protests and was resolute in his mission. Martin Luther King Jr. was eventually killed for his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. But, his dream did not die. He left us his "I Have a Dream" speech as a picture of the goal and an inspiration for the future.
Peppered throughout the "Dream" speech are words that come from Scripture: "We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." (Amos 5:24) We should remember that the foundations of God's throne are righteousness and justice. (Psalm 89:14) "I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope." This portion of the speech was taken from Isaiah 40:4-5.
Could it be that King recognized the mission of Jesus Christ to set captives free and so quoted the prophets that told of the coming of this King who would fight for the weary and oppressed and bring hope to the hopeless? As the apostle Paul writes to the Galatians, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." (Galatians 5:1) Jesus Christ Himself made His mission known when He stepped into the synagogue in Nazareth and read from the scroll of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)
Freedom in every realm of our lives is a God-given right since we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and his life, death and resurrection. However, many of us are not walking in complete freedom. The battle for our freedom is a spiritual one. God gives us direction on how to obtain freedom. Here are the words of Jesus: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free...So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:32,36)
Yearly, on Christmas Day in Washington Crossing, PA, the story of George Washington and his troops crossing the Delaware River to march to Trenton is re-enacted. The Continental Army attacked the Hessian garrison on Christmas in 1776. They overcame freezing rain, snow, ferocious winds, an ice-choked river and a long, cold march to Trenton to win the battle against the Hessians. The victory helped to bolster the sagging morale of the army so that they continued to fight the British and their allies.
One year later, the troops were in Valley Forge from December 1777 to June 1778. When they arrived, the cold and hungry troops built log huts to live in during the months to come. There is a legend that one of the soldiers at the Valley Forge encampment was a Jew who encouraged George Washington. Author Stephen Krensky was so inspired by this story that he wrote a book called Hanukkah at Valley Forge. Interestingly, in the year 1777, the first night of Hanukkah fell on Christmas Eve. The story is told that the lone Jewish soldier waited until the other soldiers were sleeping before he set up his Menorah. He lit the first candle and wept. As he was walking around the huts, George Washington saw the soldier and stopped to ask him why he was crying.
The Jewish soldier explained that he was crying out to God for the success of the troops. He had experienced persecution in his hometown in Europe and came to American to escape from it. He assured Washington that he would be victorious in his campaign because God is on the side of the righteous, just as He was with the small band of men led by the Maccabees who overtook the large Greek army. It was God who granted them a miraculous victory because of their faith in Him. This story served as an inspiration for Washington to move forward against the British. Doesn't this sound like the fulfillment of Isaiah 49:6? "I will make you a light for the Gentiles that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth."
The legend continues that the same Jewish soldier was at home in the Bronx in New York a year later. On the first night of Hanukkah, the veteran placed a Menorah in his windowsill with one candle lit. After hearing a knock at the door, he opened it to find George Washington on his front step. Washington said to him, "There is that fabulous light, the Hanukkah light! That flame and your remarkable words kindled a light in my heart on that dark and bitter night. We were in a tight situation then, and your words encouraged me so! They spurred me on with new hope. You will soon be awarded a Medal of Honor from the United States of America for your bravery in Valley Forge, but tonight you will receive a personal memento from me." The General then placed a gold medal on the table. Engraved on it was a Menorah with one candle burning. These words were inscribed on it: "As a sign of thanks for the light of your candle. George Washington."
Here we have the Jewish vet reminding Washington of the faithfulness of God. The size of the army coming against these small bands of soldiers was not important. What was and is important is the abilities of our God and His delight in helping us. Scripture talks about quite a few battles where the armies of the Israelites were so much smaller than the armies of their enemies. One example is when the Assyrian army came against King Hezekiah and his people. Here is what he told them: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him. There is greater power with us than with him." (2 Chronicles 32:7)
Tonight, Jews all over the world will be lighting the final candle on their Menorah and will remember the faithfulness of God and His miraculous power to help them re-take the temple in Jerusalem. There will always be forces of evil who attempt to defeat and discourage the people of God. But here is the truth from John 1:5. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." Our Lord still fights for us when evil attacks. Be confident in the Lord's faithfulness and His miraculous power on our behalf.
God never intended for His people to be too secure in one place. He knows that it is through the journeys of life we will grow in our trust and understanding of Him and closeness to Him. The forefathers of Christianity written about in the Bible were always moving. The first journey we read about is one that was inspired by God. "The Lord had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.'" (Genesis 12:1-3) Abram was faithful and went to the land of Canaan, as the Lord led. Here, Abram’s life of trusting in God grew.
And God proved Himself trustworthy by miraculously allowing Abram (now called Abraham) to impregnate his wife Sarah in her old age. Sarah bore a son who they named Isaac. When Isaac matured and was ready to start his own family, Abraham sent his senior servant on a journey to find Isaac a wife. Abraham told his servant that God would send His angel before him to help in finding the proper wife. (Genesis 24:7) Isaac's son Jacob also went on a journey to find a wife. He set up a pillar at a place where he rested in the city of Luz and called it Bethel—"The House of God." He promised to serve God and return to Him a tenth of everything that God gave him. (Genesis 28:18-22)
Joseph, the favorite of Jacob's 12 sons, took an unexpected journey to Egypt because his jealous brothers sold him into slavery. God was faithful to Joseph, pouring His favor upon him so that he was placed in a position of leadership and influence just under Pharaoh. During a time of great famine, Joseph's brothers came to him to purchase grain. This journey led to the restoration of their relationship with one another and to a new homestead for the family of Jacob (Israel). The family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob grew, producing fear in the Egyptians, so that they took them as slaves
After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God set into motion a plan whereby Moses would lead his people out of Egypt on a journey to the Promised Land where they established homes but forgot their God who had led them to freedom. God's plan for another journey formed long ago when the sin of Adam and Eve paved the way for all mankind to be separated from God. His chosen people were still sinning when God ordained that the ultimate journey would take place! The Son of God was to leave His heavenly throne to come to earth and live among His people. His life on earth would end with His death on a cross to satisfy the wrath and holiness of Father God. Jesus was the spotless Lamb of God who came to become a sacrifice for our lives so that we could have eternal life with Him.
We think of another significant journey that took place as we remember the Christmas story. Wise men from the east—probably Persia or present-day Iraq—may have been reading Daniel's writings that identified the time of the coming of the Christ child. As they studied the stars, they found the Lord's star and took a journey to Bethlehem to worship this King.
It is God's desire that we become people who search and move in His direction. Psalm 84 is a great encouragement for us in this regard: "Blessed are those who strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage." (Verse 5) We see how those who followed the Lord and journeyed with Him received amazing blessings. I believe that during this season we too should be setting our hearts on pilgrimage so that we come closer to the King that we worship.
A sentiment on a Hallmark Christmas card has touched my heart, and I would like to share it with you:
Christmas reminds us we're all on a journey...toward meaning, toward hope, toward love and lasting peace.
As we journey through this season, I am asking God to give us those things that touch our hearts, renew our spirits, and bring blessings to our world!
May our celebration of the birth of Christ take us to new places of revelation of His great love for us!
Like last year, this year our celebration of the birth of Christ occurs in the middle of Chanukah. When events on the Jewish calendar converge with events on the Church's calendar, I like to look at the similarities between them. Both these events land in the month of Kislev, the ninth month on the Jewish calendar. Since Kislev is associated with the Hebrew letter SAMEKH, which pictures trust and support, it is time for us to do just that in our relationship with the Lord.
The constellation Sagittarius, the archer, appearing in Kislev, reminds us that this is the month to develop our warfare strategies for the season ahead. We must "fight against empires and cultures,” as Chuck Pierce says in his book, A Time to Advance. And, it is important that we trust God to guide us and give us mercy. Psalm 23:5-6 says, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
During the time when the Temple was overtaken by the Syrian-Greek army the flame of the candelabra had been extinguished and the altar defiled. There was little hope for the future; times were dark. Likewise, at the time when Christ was to be born the darkness of oppression covered the people. But God had a plan. With His help, warfare strategies were developed to overcome the enemy.
A group of Jewish patriots called the Maccabees had hope and developed a battle plan to retake the Temple. They bravely fought and defeated the Greek army to free their people from tyranny and re-establish worship in the Temple. As they set about to cleanse it, they realized there was only enough purified oil for the lampstand to burn for one night. Miraculously, it burned for eight. God arranged for the light to continue burning and followed them with goodness and mercy.
God's plan to overcome darkness and bring freedom for the oppressed was to ultimately be done through Christ Jesus. He came to shine His light in the darkness and to defeat Satan and the kingdom of darkness. His battle strategy includes us, His Church. Victory is promised through the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony and not loving our lives as much as to shrink from death. (Revelation 12:11)
As we look back in history, we see that God has always been faithful to His people. He is trustworthy and sent Jesus as the Lord of Hosts, Light of the World, Prince of Peace and Redeemer to help us develop battle strategies and lead us in triumphant procession (2 Corinthians 2:14) and who "made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God..." (2 Corinthians 4:6) It is time for us to develop our strategies for the New Year and to look to the One who leads us in victory and follows us with goodness mercy.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning." (John 1:1-2) It was the Word released in the breath of God that created the universe.
To the Jews, God's involvement in the world is the meaning of the "Word." We see in this verse that God planted Jesus on the earth to be His personal presence. It was through the parable of the sower (Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8) that Jesus explained how the Word ("Good Seed") would produce a large crop when it is planted in good soil. Seed receives life and nourishment from the ground in which it is planted. Likewise, the Word planted in us comes to life, grows and multiples when we give it room. The enemy of our lives wants to sow bad seed into us. Just as seed uses up what is in the soil, so the enemy's "seed" depletes us if we allow it to root. How do we give enemy seed room to grow? This happens if we allow unforgiveness, bitterness, judgments, fear or lust, etc. to dwell in us.
Let's think about this in relation to the season that is upon us. The next four weeks are called "Advent"—a time for us to prepare for the celebration of the coming of the Christ child. In fact, one of the Christmas carols we sing reminds us to do this: "Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing." We must remember that the birth of Jesus is the season for the coming of the Good Seed—God's Word—being planted into every heart that will receive it.
In preparing for the planting of the Word, first we should recognize our need to do so. Earthly passions must be set aside so that we focus on our Savior. The Shunammite woman written about in 2 Kings 4:8-17 demonstrates how to prepare room for a carrier of the Spirit of God. She recognized that God's Spirit lived in the prophet Elisha. Desiring more, she spoke to her husband: "I know this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. Let's make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us." (Verse 10)
See how the woman prepared for every need that Elisha might have by providing a place for him to rest, eat and study? Elisha, of course, stayed with the Shunammite on several occasions and was so touched by her generosity that he wanted to give something back to her. She had few physical needs because she was "well-to-do." However, she had no son. Elisha called to her and said, "About this time next year you will hold a son in your arms." "The next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her." (Verse 16, 17)
Elisha demonstrated the heart of the Lord in his gift to the woman. When we prepare for the Word and give place for it, the Lord gives back to us in ways that are "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." (Ephesians 3:20) Now is the time to prepare the soil of our hearts to receive the Word, the Living Christ. We cannot allow the distractions of season to interfere with our preparations. We want the Word to be deeply rooted within us. I believe that as we do this the Lord will reward us with treasures from heaven far beyond what we can imagine.
Rabbi Jonathan Cahn reminds us that the Bible calls us to be people of thanksgiving. When we realize how much God has given to us, it is easy to do that. The major festivals in Israel were to give thanks to God. Cahn also tells us that "Thanksgiving in America is based on Sukkot, the Hebrew feast of tabernacles." This festival lasts for seven days and nights. The people are to dwell in booths to remember how God provided for them for their entire journey in the wilderness. And they are to give thanks to Him for His faithfulness.
As Believers, we can continue to give thanks and praise to God for His goodness and faithfulness.
However, His most precious gift, the one that stands above all others and is a game changer for our lives, is the gift of salvation and eternal life. Even though it is undeserved, this gift was given to us freely. There isn't any work we can do or price we can pay for it. This priceless gift cost God everything! It is God's desire that every one of us accept what He did in sacrificing His Son, Jesus, so that all of us will have eternal life. A recognition of the magnitude of this gift should compel us to live lives dedicated to Him.
The Bible is full of writings that show us how to give thanks to the Lord. Let's look at some of these Scriptures:
King David made sure that thanksgiving to God was part of the lifestyle of his people. He wrote many prayers and psalms that the priests were to use as they sang and declared God's goodness. "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. Cry out, 'Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to Your holy name, and glory in your praise.' Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting." (1 Chronicles 16:34-36)
"Praise be to You, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; You are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from You; You are the ruler of all things. In Your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now our God, we give you thanks, and praise Your glorious name." (1 Chronicles 29:10-13)
Notice that these prayers of thanks have a prophetic flavor to them. They were written before the days of Jesus, The Savior, but clearly point to Him. Jesus demonstrated giving thanks to God whenever He shared a meal with someone. Consider this: He even gave thanks for the sacrifice He was going to make for us in the communion meal He had with His disciples. "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is My body.' Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'" (Matthew 26:26-28)
We are meant to be people of praise and thanksgiving. Let us use this season to remember all the blessings we have received from the Lord and give Him all the honor and glory for the abundance He has poured out upon us.
The Lord's appointed festivals are first described in the book of Leviticus, Chapter 23. The Feast of Tabernacles is particularly unique because it last for seven days and God's people are instructed to live in temporary shelters for seven days as their ancestors did when they were brought out of Egypt. Leviticus 23:40 tells us, “On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees--from palms, willows and other leafy trees--and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days." Here is how Deuteronomy 16:15 describes this joyful festival: "For seven days celebrate the festival...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." Reading through the Old Testament, one can see how faithful the Israelites were to follow the law when it came to celebrating the feasts. The exiles who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple settled in and "began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it..." (Ezra 3:2) In the seventh month they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. (Verse 4)
In my opinion, the most interesting reading concerning the Festival of Tabernacles occurs in Nehemiah 8:14-16. "They found written in the Law...that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month...'Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees to make temporary shelters'--as it is written." The unique part of the festival celebration with Nehemiah is that they cut branches from the olive tree and the wild olive tree. What a picture of the apostle Paul's dissertation on grafted in branches!
Israel is frequently referred to as an olive tree. The people of Israel are the branches. Paul recognized that many of his people did not receive the good news of Jesus as Lord. (Romans 10:16) Because of it, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear..." (Romans 11:8) "Because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” (Romans 11:11) Paul uses an analogy, describing the Jews as olive branches and the Gentiles as wild olive branches. "If some of the branches have been broken off, (Jews) and you, though a wild olive shoot, (Gentiles) have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourselves to be superior to those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you." (Romans 11:17-18)
One day the olive tree will flourish with the natural branches and the wild branches both grafted in. We read in Ephesians 2:15 that God's "purpose was to create in Himself one new man..." Jew and Gentile will live together in peace, both reconciled to God. As the Jews in Nehemiah's day laid the branches of the olive tree and wild olive tree on the top of their temporary shelters they would have been looking up at a picture of the future. One day Jew and Gentile together will worship the King of kings during this festival. (Zechariah 14:16-19) When and how this will come to pass is unclear. What is clear is that we will be worshiping The Lamb together in joyful celebration. What a day this will be!
The journey of the children of Israel through the wilderness for 40 years is recalled during the celebration called The Feast of Tabernacles, Ingathering or Sukkot. That celebration will begin at sundown tonight and is the greatest harvest feast of the year. The Jews build and dwell in temporary shelters called sukkahs or booths. The tops are open and covered with tree branches that allow those dwelling in the booths to see some of the stars in the sky. For seven days they have their meals or sleep in these temporary shelters. The Jews are taught to pray that God will send rain for the coming year since none falls between May and October.
In Israel, the borders of the Sea of Galilee have shrunk because of drought. Much of the land is desert and, its inhabitants are keenly aware of their need for water. On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles the Temple priests performed the Water Libation or Pouring Ceremony. During this time, impassioned prayers were lifted to God by worshipers for abundant rain. It is significant that water was collected from the Pools of Siloam (meaning sent or sending forth) and brought to the Temple in Jerusalem where the priest would pour it out, along with wine, onto the altar. While this pouring was taking place, the people and the priests sang Isaiah 12:3-6. "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. In that day you will say, 'Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for He has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.'"
For those of us who know Jesus as Savior, this Scripture is particularly meaningful. Yeshua is the Hebrew word for salvation. For us to have the abundant life that He offers we must draw deeply from the "wells of Salvation." The wells of Yeshua will never run dry. In fact, here is what He proclaimed: "Then on the most important day of the feast, the last day, Jesus stood and shouted out to the crowds--'All you thirsty ones, come to me! Come to me and drink! Believe in me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says!' Jesus was prophesying about the Holy Spirit that believers were being prepared to receive..." (John 7:37-39 - TPT)
Just as the Israelis cry for the physical rain, we must use this season to cry out for the rains of the Spirit to saturate us. Yeshua has already poured out blood and water from His side as He hung on the Cross. He was poured out like a drink offering so that we could have eternal life. He wants us to draw deeply from Him for deep calls unto deep.
We were designed to go from strength-to-strength (Psalm 84:5) and from glory-to-glory. (2 Corinthians 3:18) God's desire is to release blessings into our lives so that we can grow in our understanding of who we are as His children. Growth happens in cycles, which is one of the reasons God ordained for us to follow His Biblical calendar. As we align ourselves with the Lord's timing and purposes, we will grow to be more like Him. The cycles God set up are meant to lead us into greater intimacy with Him and higher levels of blessing.
Psalm 84:5 says, "Blessed are those who strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage." Holman's Dictionary defines pilgrimage as "a journey, especially a religious trek to a site at which God has revealed Himself in the past." In the Old Testament we can see how the Israelites went to Bethel, Gilgal, Shiloh, Beersheba and Mt. Horeb in their quest to find God. After David relocated the ark to Jerusalem, it became the place to go to commune with the Lord. Three times a year adult male Israelites were required to appear before the Lord for the major feasts. (Exodus 23:14-17, 34:18-23, Deuteronomy 16:16) These three journeys to Jerusalem are known as the "pilgrim feasts."
Those who have traveled to Jerusalem know that the City sits on a high elevation. In the journey to honor God one had to go up. This is called "Aliyah" or "the going up." In every year, season and circumstance of our lives, we are called upward. We must always choose the higher path as it leads to greater strength and greater glory.
The three pilgrim feasts in the calendar year include Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. A transaction and growth occur as we celebrate each one, and the journey mirrors the walk through the Tabernacle. At the first stop to the Outer Court we meet with the Passover Lamb who redeemed us and cleanses us so that we are ready for the next stop. Without the atonement and cleansing there cannot be the anointing by the pouring out of the Spirit of God. The second stop in the Holy Place is where we receive provision for our journey and empowerment by the Spirit of God. Now we are ready to travel to the most blessed season of our journey. It is the time when we get to come into the Presence of God—to tabernacle with Him in the Most Holy Place and to celebrate with joy the glory of the Lord.
Tonight, Jews will begin celebrating the three fall feasts—The Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. This month is one of great celebration for God's people as they blow the shofar 100 times in their worship service. This is a season to celebrate what God has already done and to rehearse what has been promised. (Believers recognize that Passover and Pentecost have been fulfilled, but the fall feasts remain to be fulfilled.)
The blowing of the ram's horn during Rosh Hashanah (Head of the Year) is done as a call to repentance. Genesis 22 is traditionally read in synagogues—the story of God providing a substitute atonement for Isaac after Abraham placed him on the altar of sacrifice. Ten days after the Feast of Trumpets, the most holy day on the calendar is celebrated—the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. Even though the Jews read about the substitutionary atonement provided for Abraham, many do not understand that the ultimate sacrifice was already made on Passover through the blood of Messiah Yeshua.
All of us need to set our hearts on pilgrimage so that we can grow closer to God. As vessels that carry God's glory, we carry the light of His love on our journey so that we bring others into God's Kingdom. One day the Lord will return for His Bride, the Church, to the sound of the trumpet. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) We want to be ready!
Joan E. Mathias