Every four years we experience a leap year which means that we have 366 days in the year instead of 365. It actually takes 365.242190 days for the earth to orbit the sun. Without the adjustment, the seasons "drift." So, one day is added to our calendars at the end of February. The Hebrew calendar also has a leap year. However, it is necessary for their calendar to have an entire month added to it so that their holidays fall in the proper season. The Bible makes it clear that the first month (Nisan) is to occur in the spring and the seventh month (Tishrei) during the fall harvest. In addition, since the Hebrew calendar is lunar, and our calendar is solar, the leap year helps correct the imbalance between the two calendars. There are seven leap years every nineteen years in the Hebrew calendar.
The last month on the Hebrew calendar is Adar. Since this is a leap year, we have an extra Adar month. Though Purim is celebrated during Adar II, we should still connect to the aspects of this month during Adar I. Adar means strength. God tells us in Isaiah 40:29-31, "He gives strength to the weary and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youth grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." (NAS) What a promise!
Earlier in Isaiah 40 it explains that all creation should make a way for the Lord as His Word "stands forever." (Isaiah 40:8) He comes to comfort His people and assures them of this: "Behold, the Lord God will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him." (Isaiah 40:10 - NAS) The chapter goes on to rejoice in the characteristics of the Lord that include the truth that He made all creation, and that justice, knowledge, and understanding are His. Verse 18 asks an important question: "To whom will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him?" (NAS) "Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars. The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name. Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing...Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired; His understanding is inscrutable." (Verses 26 and 28 - NAS)
God gives strength to us through joy. As it says in Nehemiah 8:10, "The joy of the Lord is our strength.” This word was given to God's people after Ezra the priest read the law to them. Verse 12 of Chapter 8 tells us that all the people "celebrated with great joy, because they understood the words that had been made known to them." Since God is the Word (John 1:1) this explains Psalm 16:11. "...In Your presence is fullness of joy." (NAS)
Isn't it wonderful that during this leap year we can focus on having two months of strength and joy? Being in the Lord's presence is the key to both gifts.
Shevat, the eleventh month on the Hebrew religious calendar, usually occurs during January and February on our calendar. Its name has an interesting origin in the Akkadian language. The Jews became familiar with it while they were in captivity in Babylon. Its meaning, to strike, refers to the heavy rains that pour down during the month. The constellation in the sky during Shevat corresponds well with the meaning of the month's name. It is Aquarius, the water bearer. The first time Shevat is mentioned by name in the Bible is in the book of Zechariah, Chapter 1, Verse 7: "On the 24th day of the eleventh month, the month of Shevat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah..."
Occurring in the middle of this month is what the Jews call Tu B'Shevat or The New Year of Trees. Thus, Shevat is known as a month of renewal, rebirth, revival, and regeneration. The New Year of Trees occurs on the fifteenth day of this month and is considered a minor holiday in Israel. Dried fruits are always on the menu for this celebration. Also, placed on a plate would be the fruit of the seven species mentioned in the Torah: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. Jews that celebrate Tu B'Shevat are reminded of their duty to care for the natural world.
Shevat 15 was the original date when tithes from fruit trees were to be given to the priests. Rabbis determined that fruit which blossomed before the 15th of Shevat would be called produce of the previous year. The fruit that blossomed before this date was produce of the rains from the previous year and should be tithed along with the crops of the previous year. The New Year for Trees date is also used for the purpose of calculating the age of trees for tithing. According to Leviticus 19:23-25, the fruit from trees may not be eaten during the first three years. On the fourth year, the fruit must be given to God. By the fifth year, one may eat the fruit of their trees.
It is significant that the Bible talks about the way humankind should be rooted and grounded and that through the cultivation of strong roots of faith, we can produce fruit for the Kingdom of God. Both Jeremiah 17:7-8 and Psalm 1:3 instruct us to be like trees "planted by streams of water, which yield its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither..." The purpose of a tree is to provide fruit to bring life to others. We also have been blessed to be able to give our spiritual fruit to others so that they can grow in Christlikeness.
Hope is given to the people of Israel and all of us who are grafted into the family of God through the words of the prophet Jeremiah. "In those days and at that time, I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line; He will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it is called: ‘The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’” (Jeremiah 33:15,16)
How exciting it is that we have been grafted into the olive tree to share in the nourishing sap from the root! (Romans 11:17) We are called to be trees "planted by the water that never fail to bear fruit.”
(Jeremiah 17:8) In addition, we are called to be "...oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor." (Isaiah 61:3) Let's celebrate this month of Shevat by rooting deeply into the soil of the Lord's truth so that we bring forth fruit and display His righteousness.
Prophecies abound in the Old Testament about Christ's birth, life, and death. One that stands out is Psalm 22, because it blends predictions of both of Messiah's comings. It reminds us of His birth and that the birth of Yeshua, our Savior, was a precursor to His death. It gives a detailed description of the horrific death of Jesus on the Cross. Footnotes in The Passion Translation of the Bible tell us that 33 prophecies from Psalm 22 were fulfilled when Jesus was on the Cross. I find this particularly fascinating as Jesus lived on the earth for 33 years. Finally, it prophecies the birth of sons and daughters of the Lord, spiritual seed who will serve the Lord.
As we contemplate the birth of our Savior and rejoice in HIs coming during this season, we must remember what the Lord sacrificed in the humility of coming to earth as a baby. At his birth He was wrapped in cloths like the lambs who would be sacrificed at the Temple. Afterward He was laid in a manger (a feeding trough). I wonder about the level of consciousness that Jesus had while lying in the manger. Was He contemplating what would happen to Him in 33 years?
Jesus would be moved from the manger to a cross. Later He would remember His Father's care for Him as a baby. "Lord, you delivered me safely from my mother's womb. You are the one who cared for me since I was a baby. Since the day I was born, I've been placed in your custody. You've cradled me throughout my days. I've trusted in you, and you've always been my God. So don't leave me now; stay close to me! For trouble is all around me, and there's no one else to help me." (Psalm 22:9-11 - TPT)
The description of the horrors perpetrated against Jesus are not for the faint of heart. Our minds cannot comprehend the torture He endured. Jesus cried out, "But look at me now; I am like a woeful worm, crushed, and I'm bleeding crimson. I don't even look like a man anymore. I've been abused, despised, and scorned by everyone..." (Psalm 22 6,7 - TPT) That peaceful manger scene we look at during the Christmas season would change as the devil plotted to destroy the Son of God through cruel and calculated means.
There is hope revealed in the prophecy of Psalm 22. Between verses 21 and 22 the powers of darkness have been defeated and the glorious resurrection of Jesus took place. "Save me from all the power of the enemy, from this roaring lion raging against me and the power of his dark horde. I will praise your name before all my brothers; as my people (The Church) gather I will praise you in their midst." (Psalm 22:21, 22 - TPT)
The Lord's desire for intimacy with the individuals He created was accomplished as He brought Jesus from the cradle to the Cross. We, His spiritual children, are included in the prophecy: "From the four corners of the earth, the people of the world will remember and return to the Lord. Every nation will come and worship Him. For the Lord is King of all, who takes charge of all the nations...They will come and worship this worthy King! His spiritual seed shall serve Him. Future generations will hear from us about the wonders of the Sovereign Lord. His generation yet to be born will glorify Him. And they will all declare, 'It is finished!'" (Psalm 22:27-31 - TPT)
We are His spiritual seed! Our celebration of the birth of Christ must include the celebration of His death and resurrection. Our responsibility as His seed is to be rooted and established in His love and to grow in that love so that we can spread it throughout our communities. We must understand that the manger of His love will lead us to our own cross that brings with it death and resurrection life. During this season, may God pour out His abundant love on us so that we are filled with wonder and awe at the plan of God for our salvation.
We cannot contemplate the birth of Christ without looking to His death and resurrection. They will forever be joined together with the overarching purpose of Love. Love brought Jesus to earth so that He could demonstrate the personality of Father God and then pay the penalty for our sins. Like the sacrificial lambs offered as sin offerings, He had to become as one of them—spotless and pure. He was the only acceptable offering.
Jesus is called the Son of God and the Son of Man. He shared God's nature and represents His intentions. "This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: Not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:9, 10) Jesus is God in His mercy form. He came to satisfy the justice of God.
Jesus Himself told us that He is the Good Shepherd in John 10:11. "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." We should be interacting with this Shepherd King. "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; No one will snatch them from my hand." (John 10:27, 28) God allowed the prophet Ezekiel to identify the Lord as Israel's Shepherd. "'You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God,' declares the Sovereign Lord." (Ezekiel 34:31)
The prophet Isaiah also explains what is to come. "Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14) When an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph to confirm that Mary would conceive a son who comes from the Holy Spirit, we are told, "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet." (Matthew 1:22) We are encouraged by Jesus Himself in John 15:9. "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love." Immanuel is such a comforting name for Jesus who is "God with us."
In order for Jesus to be "God with us," He had to humble Himself to come to earth so that He could become one of us. He came not just to be with us, but to be our Savior. His ministry on the earth would only last for three years. The culmination of that time was at the end, when He willingly died for our sins so that He could be our Savior. Not only has He saved us, but He also redeemed us. He came to reverse the curse of sin and death and to free us from the power of evil. That is why He has the name Redeemer.
As we can see from some of the names Jesus is called, He came to earth to fulfill the mercy of God. He is the sharer of God's nature as the Son of God. His role as our Good Shepherd and Savior has been accomplished, and His title, Redeemer is still being accomplished. Romans 8:34 assures us that, "...Christ Jesus who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." What part does God want us to play in all of this? We should see that as children of God, we are also being sent. "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." (John 20:21)
This season should be one of great awe and wonder for us as we contemplate the miraculous events of our Savior and Redeemer's life. This should also be a season of great gratitude for the humility and love that has been shown us. All praise and honor belong to Him.
"Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning...Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the Lord from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come." (Exodus 27:20,21) This command from the Lord is repeated in Leviticus 24:2-4. "Command the Israelites to bring you the clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning continually...Aaron is to tend the lamps before the Lord from evening till morning, continually. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. The lamp on the pure gold lampstand before the Lord must be tended continually."
Keeping the light burning was the main responsibility of the priests in the Levitical tribe. We can well imagine the horror of the Jews when their Temple in Jerusalem was taken over by Antiochus Epiphanes and desecrated. Antiochus demanded loyalty to the Greek culture from the Jewish people. He went as far as to erect a statute of himself in each town in Israel and demanded the Jews to bow down and worship it.
A family of Levitical priests called the Maccabees, led by Mattathias, refused to comply, and began a revolt. Guerrilla warfare was waged for several years beginning in 167 BC. Through their hard-fought battle, the Maccabees defeated the Syrian Greeks and retook Jerusalem and the Temple. Since the altar had been defiled by the sacrifice of a pig, they removed all of its stones and built a new one. Then, they set about to relight the seven-branched menorah with only one day of oil remaining. To their delight, it burnt for eight days, the length of time needed to cure a fresh batch of olive oil. This victory has been celebrated ever since at The Festival of Hanukkah, which is also called The Festival of Lights.
Actually, Hanukkah means Dedication, as the Jews rededicated the Temple and its service to God. Since the lampstand remained lit for eight days, Jewish families light their miniature menorahs that now have eight branches plus one additional elevated branch in the center. The center candle, called The Shamash or Servant, is used each night to light the other candles. This tradition has significance for those who are Christians. There is symbolism in this ceremony that may be missed by those who do not know Messiah, Yeshua. The center candle represents Him. Is it not fitting that the Shamash lights all the other candles? Let us also remember that the number eight stands for new beginnings and sanctification. As the Servant of the Lord, Jesus is the Light of the World. He is the one who illuminates everyone. As the eternal flame that does not go out, He continues to light one candle at a time until all of us are lit.
Jesus celebrated Hanukkah as it tells us in John 10:22. It was during this festival that he declared His divine identification. Since the physical Temple no longer exists, Believers in Jesus have become the Temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19), each illuminated by the Shamash. During this season of Hanukkah, we must rededicate our temples through the burning of our oil and the shining of our lights. It is the oil of the Holy Spirit that ignites our lights. "...Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) Our oil supply is unlimited and will keep our flames burning brightly in our hearts endlessly.
“Tis the Season" is a phrase frequently heard in our society during the weeks before Christmas. The singing of "Deck the Halls" is an annual tradition when we are reminded, "Tis the season to be jolly!" Indeed, it refers to the festivities of the holiday season. However, it was originally used in connection with warm weather and the celebration of springtime. I would like to put a new spin on this phrase by connecting it to the celebration of Advent. This word is from the Latin "adventus," meaning "coming" or "arrival." The four weeks before Christmas are meant for us to prepare for the birth of Christ. It is a season for waiting, reflection, and expectation.
The origins of Advent are difficult to trace. Some say it began in the fourth and fifth centuries in Spain and Gaul as a season of preparation for baptism of new Christians during Epiphany, when the Magi visit Jesus. Others say it started in 380 AD during the Council of Saragossa--a series of bishops meetings in Spain to adopt eight canons of their faith. Still others say it had its origins in 480 AD when monks fasted every day of the Advent season. Most would agree that it was not until the Middle Ages that Advent was linked to Christmas. The Roman Catholics not only tied the birth of Christ to Advent, but also the second coming of Christ in the clouds after He judges the world.
Churches who use an ecclesiastical calendar celebrate Advent. They include Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and some Methodists. The Advent wreath, evergreens twisted into a circle with four or five candles, are used in many of these churches. Each candle is used to count off the weeks before Christmas. The wreath is meant to demonstrate that there is no beginning or end to God's love for the world. I read in Christianity.com that the wreath was created in 1839 by Johann Wichern, a German man who founded a children's home. He needed a way to help the children keep track of the time when Christmas would arrive. Advent begins on the Sunday closest to November 30.
The first candle lit on the wreath is called the Prophecy candle and stands for hope. The second one is the Bethlehem candle that calls for peace. The third candle is the Shepherd candle that represents joy. And the fourth candle is called the Angel candle which stands for love. If a fifth candle is included in the center, it is called the Christ candle that represents purity, light, holiness, and victory. It is lit on Christmas eve.
There are Scriptures typically read during the Advent season. These include Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6-7, Micah 5:2, Zechariah 9:9 and 12:10, and Malachi 3:1 All of these point to the awaited Messiah. Another verse that is read comes from Isaiah 40:31. "But those who hope in (wait upon) the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint." It is important that we do this waiting and hoping with expectation and that we reflect on the gift that God has given us. We should be reminded of God's great love for us in that the Son of God is Immanuel (God with us), and that the baby Jesus would grow up to become the sacrifice for the sins of all humanity. He did this so that we could spend eternity with Him in heaven. "He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death--even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:8-11) Hallelujah!
A recent letter from Mitch Glaser, President of Chosen People Ministries, touched my heart. Referring to the brutal attack on the Jews in Israel by Hamas, he expressed his desire to be thankful to God even though he is grieving deeply. I quote Mitch: "It is hard to believe we are entering the season of Thanksgiving. It seems so inappropriate to be thankful at this moment in time. I will admit I am having trouble thanking God in light of these last several weeks. I know the apostle Paul wrote, 'In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.'" (1 Thessalonians 5:18 - NKJ)
"These are my people," Mitch continues, "a nation called by the Sovereign and all-powerful God for His holy purposes." He asks some challenging questions: "How can we come to grips with what happened and be thankful? How can we keep ourselves from being consumed by hatred and a desire for vengeance? How can we be grateful during this season of Thanksgiving in light of these tragic events? The answers are all the more elusive because of the graphic nature of the crimes appearing so often on social media, the news, and websites replaying the horrors, not letting us forget...Yet, I know God wants me to be grateful—not for what happened, of course—but for His grace and mercy we find on the path of suffering."
As I reflect on the raw truths shared by Mitch, I recall the wisdom that is shared by Elisabeth Elliot in her book, A Path Through Suffering. She explains that the meaning of suffering can only be understood in the context of The Cross. We must pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. (Luke 14:27) We must look to Him for the next grace that we need in life. We can stand on the promises of God. Elisabeth encourages us: "We have our Father's promise, linking the pain to an unimaginable glory: 'If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.'" (2 Timothy 2:12)
God desires for us to become more Christlike. Suffering was a landmark of Christ's life. The Psalmist writes, "Show me Your ways, Lord. Teach me your paths." (Psalm 25:4) Our time on earth is designed to help us know Christ more so that we grow up like Him. When we share in His sufferings, we increase in our understanding of Him and our intimacy with Him. Willingness to praise the Lord in our sufferings makes us Kingdom partners with Him so that we demonstrate His life and love to those around us.
When we go back to Mitch's original questions about giving thanks while we suffer, we must look at our situations from both an earthly and heavenly perspective. Is it possible for us to look at suffering as a divine opportunity? Let us visit the foot of the Cross and remember the suffering of Jesus on our behalf. Here is the opening to thanksgiving. Thanksgiving and praise lead to worship. And, when worship is offered in our pain and suffering, it rises to the throne of God in heaven as sweet incense. Because it is offered sacrificially, this form of worship draws the Lord near to us. The intimacy we then have with Him is without comparison. Heaven is a place of peace and joy, so sacrificial worship can only take place on earth. Thus comes our opportunity!
God understands our suffering. He sent His Son as a Redeemer. Somehow the Lord will redeem our trials and afflictions so that His glory falls. Like Mitch, I am grieved and overwhelmed with sorrow for the agony of the Jews in this hour. However, God has not left us without a remedy. We have the gift of prayer so that we can lay our burdens at His feet. He is the one from whom we draw breath. As our Shepherd, He restores our souls and leads us on paths of righteousness for His name sake...He is with us. His rod and staff comfort us. He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies...Surely goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23 – NIV)
The last of the fall feasts, The Feast of Tabernacles, is the culmination of all of the biblical holy days. It is also called "The Feast of Ingathering" because it is a time of harvest. This feast is a picture of the Kingdom of God to come. But before this joyous time of celebration there is the repentance of Yom Kippur. Repentance is what leads us to joy and peace. Messiah Yeshua experienced the Cross before the resurrection. He took up this Cross for us so that we could live in His glory.
In remembering God's faithfulness to them in the wilderness, the children of Israel built temporary shelters called Sukkahs. Seven days they dwelt in their shelters to remind them that God wants us to dwell under the tabernacle of HIs peace. Though the sukkah represents the wilderness season, the branches of fruit placed on it represent the bounty of the Promised Land. This is a season of joining together heaven and earth. The wilderness is our life on earth and our journey to the Promised Land, while the Promised Land itself is the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Sukkah also represents a place to tabernacle with God. Here is an interesting fact to consider: The Sukkah, or temporary dwelling, was originally made from broken branches. The Apostle Paul writes about the Jewish people being broken branches from the Olive tree. These "branches" were broken off of the Olive tree (a symbol for the Jews) because of their unbelief. And here is the benefit to the rest of world: "Because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” (Romans 11:11) It is God's desire that all nations come to Him. Isn't it interesting that the "broken branches" are integral in the salvation of the nations? They make room for all nations to come to the Lord and then those nations draw the "broken branches" back to Him.
The prophet Zechariah gives us a glimpse of the future when the Lord will gather all the nations in Jerusalem. "On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem...The Lord will be king of the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and His name the only name...Then the survivors from all nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles." (Zechariah 14:8, 9,16)
God desires to tabernacle with everyone from every tribe, and tongue, and nation. Through the disciple John He paints a beautiful picture of life in the New Jerusalem that is so connected to the Feast of Tabernacles. "Look, God's tabernacle is with human beings. And from now on He will tabernacle with them as their God. Now God Himself will have His home with them--'God-with-them' will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and eliminate death entirely. No one will mourn or weep any longer. The pain of wounds will no longer exist, for the old order has ceased." (Revelation 21:3, 4 - TPT)
Friday at sunset began the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. It will be celebrated for seven days. Should we not join in this celebration of joy and peace in remembering that Jesus/Yeshua will reign with us for eternity and that the earth will become the tabernacle of God?
On the Jewish calendar, the first month of the civil year and the seventh month of the religious year coincide. The seventh month is called Tishrei, meaning beginning. Seven is the number of completion or perfection, so it is significant that the three fall feasts occur in this month. The New Year occurs on the first day of this month. The celebration, also known as Rosh Hashanah or The Feast of Trumpets, occurs at sundown on September 15 on our calendars. The shofar, an instrument made of a ram's horn, will be blown to call the Jews together so they can consider the past year and look at the year ahead. The sound is meant to awaken the souls of those who hear it so that they are prompted to return to God. The horn brings to remembrance the ram that Abraham offered to God as a sacrifice in place of his son, Isaac. It is also a reminder for God's people to remain humble in the face of a holy God.
Another name for the Jewish New Year is "The Day of Judgment." It begins the fall feasts. These feasts are meant to lead those celebrating into right standing with God. Joel 2:1 commands, "Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill." The shofar is sounded 100 times at Rosh Hashanah. Not only does it call for a gathering of God's people, but it also reminds them to go to war against anything that is contrary to God's truth. We should be encouraged by the words of Joel 2:12-15. "'Even now,' declares the Lord, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.' Rend your heart and not your garments, return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and He relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing...Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, and call a sacred assembly."
God is focused on our redemption. The New Year is to be a time for a reset for all of humanity after a time of self-reflection and repentance. The number of the year is one that speaks to us about the Lord's intentions. In order to follow what many of the prophets are saying about the year to come, we must understand that every letter in the Hebrew alphabet is a picture that conveys a message and has a numerical value. 5784 is the number of the New Year. The fourth Hebrew letter is "Dalet" and has a pictographic meaning of a door or portal. God created the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day, and their light separates us from darkness. These celestial bodies indicate our times on the calendar. Thus, our Creator regulates our times and seasons, and Tishrei is meant to demonstrate the linking of time and authority.
Let us look at all the numbers of this year: Five is the number of grace. Seven is the number of perfection. Eight is the number of new beginnings. And four is the number of a door. We are four years into the decade of the 80s. This number 80 is the seventeenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet and is the picture of a mouth. It is called "Pey" and is associated with speech and other functions of the mouth like blowing. What does this say to us as we consider the year 5784? Remember that God created the world with His spoken word. Since we are made in His image, our sounds have power as did His. We have been given the power to bless or curse. Proverbs 18:21 tells us, "The tongue has the power of life and death..." Then we have Psalm 81:10 that promises, "...Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." God is the one who fills us with good things!
The ten days between Rosh Hashanah (The New Year) and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) are called The Days of Awe because the Jews believe their actions during these ten days can alter the decree God writes about them in His heavenly book. I believe we have a great opportunity to walk through new doors in the year to come. Perhaps this is time for us to experience growth in a new dimension—the fourth or spiritual dimension. Believers have legal access to the spirit realm. Ephesians 2:6 confirms this: "God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." Could the declaration of our faith move us into a season of creation that we have not seen before? We must embrace the promises of God by declaring them so that the door of blessing and opportunity is open for us. Let it be!
July 4, 1776, 247 years ago, our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence with two main objectives: (1) A declaration of independence from Great Britain, and (2) a declaration of dependence upon Almighty God. Its writers used the Bible as their example. I wonder how they would feel about the chaos that has ensued in our country. It seems we have endless battles between Christians and non-Christians whose opinions are opposite when it comes to the evidence of a Creator and creation. Moral absolutes are being challenged by those who say there is no such thing. Yet, on the day of America's birth a bell was rung that had a Scripture inscribed on it from Leviticus 25:10. "Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof." That bell remains as a testimony to the foundation from which our nation was established--The Bible.
Our 30th president, Calvin Coolidge (who was born on July 4, 1872), said it well when he looked into the future of our nation. "The foundation of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country." Sadly, I see these words beginning to bear fruit. Let us not forget that the Bible was the foundational book used in our schools at the dawning of America. Those of us who hold to the truths upon which our country was established must come into agreement with our forefathers. Dutch Sheets, in a post written on June 22 entitled "God Needs Our Agreement," confirms this. He reminded us of the importance of agreeing with previous generations.
Dutch shared interesting information about the foundations of our schools. He wrote, "One hundred six of America's first one hundred eight colleges and Universities were founded on the Christian faith. Students at Harvard and Yale were required to read Scriptures twice daily. Harvard's founders stated: 'All knowledge without Christ is vain.' Its motto was 'For Christ and The Church.' Yale's founders stated that 'Every student shall consider the main end of his study is to know God in Jesus Christ...' Princeton's motto was 'Under God's Power She Flourishes.'...Noah Webster, who published the first American Dictionary of the English language in 1828 said, 'Education is useless without the Bible.'...Webster also said, 'The principles of genuine liberty, and of wise laws and administrations, are to be drawn from the Bible and sustained by its authority. The man, therefore, who weakens or destroys the divine authority of that book may be accessory to all the public disorders which society is doomed to suffer.'"
There is a remnant of people in the United State who understands and believes in the foundational truths upon which our nation was established and on the precepts and commandments that are the underpinning of our Constitution. We must declare these truths in agreement with the generations that came before us. We cannot allow the loud voices of descension to override truth. The future of our nation depends upon us. In a post from June 21, Dutch Sheets reminded us of the powerful hymn written by Martin Luther titled, "A Mighty Fortress is our God." I would like to highlight a line from the third verse. "And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God has willed HIs truth to triumph through us..." Triumph occurs through our declaration of truth. We must take every opportunity God gives us to make truth known. We can take heart from the words of Scripture: "Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him." (Proverbs 30:5)
Joan E. Mathias