Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has been the mainstay of the organization Samaritan's Purse. They have delivered 178 million shoeboxes to 170 countries and territories in that time. Every shoebox contains gifts and a few essentials for day-to-day life. Most important, however, is the telling of the Gospel to the children who receive the boxes. Each child is invited to participate in discipleship classes called "The Greatest Journey."
A pastor in Guam told those who visited his island with shoeboxes, "We're seeing salvation come not just to one or two children, but to families through Operation Christmas Child." Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18:16-17) God knew that the joy and faith of children would have an impact on those around them. So, these boxes given to children have the potential to transform entire families. Here is another exciting fact written about in the newsletter: "Over the past two years, God has used this project to plant more than 2,000 churches in 73 countries." Wow!!
The focus of this month's newsletter from Samaritan's Purse is testimonies of children and adults who received or gave shoeboxes. One young man from a kingdom in southern Africa called Lesotho lost both his parents and grandmother by the time he was 11 years old. This sad and lonely little boy was encouraged through receiving the gift of a shoebox and by hearing the Gospel at a local church. Years later he reports that he still carries the comb that was in his shoebox. Here is his testimony: "It is a reminder that God knows my needs. Even the little things can bring joy. God used the shoebox to give me hope and to fill my brokenness. I had a desire to know Him more, and I surrendered my life to Him. Today, I have eternal life in Christ because of His love for me."
There is a 24-year old woman named Amanda in Pennsylvania who is packing almost 1,000 shoeboxes this year. The number of boxes is amazing in itself, but what is more amazing is that she packs the boxes from her wheelchair. She believes in prayer and prays for each child who will receive a gift from her. She said, "I want them to feel loved and know that Jesus is the reason we packed them."
From the impoverished nation of Burundi came a thank you note sent by one of the church workers: "As I think of those who are packing the boxes, frankly I have tears in my eyes. How can someone from a different continent think of someone on another continent in Africa? All I can do is pray for them, that the Lord will continue to cover them with His love—each one who packs boxes. Some day we will all rejoice together when one day the Lord says, 'Well done, my faithful servant.' That will be you, that will be me, and we will rejoice in this work."
Franklin Graham, the organization's leader, says, "Many are desperately looking for comfort and peace, and we want to do all we can to help them find eternal hope in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I'm thankful that God has given us a simple yet powerful way to do this—by packing shoebox gifts for Operation Christmas Child, sending them overseas in the name of Jesus, and handing them out to millions of children through our global church network." "Shoebox gifts can go to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8)—even places that missionaries can't reach right now. Operation Christmas Child is a global missions opportunity that can be done safely at home...I hope that you and your church have already started packing shoebox gifts this year. Remember that the most important thing you can put into a shoebox is your prayers."
More details about this vital ministry can be found on their website at samaritanspurse.org/occ. Why not help by packing a shoebox, donating money and/or praying?
During the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles the Israelites cut branches from three different trees--the palm, the myrtle, and the willow. The branches were an integral part of their celebration that included remembering their wilderness journey. According to Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, the people were reminded of the desert plains by the palms, the desert mountains by the myrtle, and the desert brooks that gave them water by the willow. Yearly, the Jews celebrate the journey of life as they remember the wilderness times that led them to the Promised Land.
The Feast of Tabernacles is a celebration of the harvest and a time of remembering God's provision and protection in the wilderness. It is referred to as "The Feast" because it is the culmination of all the Biblical holy days and is a time to meet with God. It actually points toward the culmination of God's redemptive plan and represents the final stage of His plan of salvation. The Feast is a fore-shadow of the millennial kingdom. The prophet Zechariah tells us that "The Feast" or Sukkot, will be celebrated in the millennial kingdom: "Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, The Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the people of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The Lord will bring on them the plague He inflicts on the nations that do not celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles." (Zechariah 14:16-18)
The feasts of the Lord were appointed by God before Jesus was born. We can read how they were celebrated in the Old Testament. However, they would have lacked authority because they were not celebrated under the authority of the name of Jesus. Now, we can see Jesus revealed in the feasts. We must look forward to that day when He returns as a triumphant King on a white horse. (Revelation 19:11) Believers from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue will worship Him, waving palm branches before Him.
Do not miss the significance of the week of celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles; it is rich in symbolism. Contemplating these times appointed by God can bring us into a deeper communion with Him. We must celebrate our journey of life. The wilderness is a symbol for our life on earth now, and the Promised Land is a symbol of heaven. That is our goal! Rabbi Cahn says, "Remember, in heaven, you will give thanks for the heavenly road you're walking on right now, on your way to the Promised Land."
Why not pause and reflect on your journey during this season? Life is full of struggles, sorrows, and disappointments along with times of joy, fruit bearing, and harvest. God's plan for us is written about in John 15:8. "This is my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit..." The journey is meant to strengthen us and point us in the direction of our ultimate destination—Heaven! Let us meet with the Lord during this kairos (opportune or strategic) time at the table He sets for us. It is time to feast with Him as we look for His victorious return!
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.
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.
America was preparing to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1876. A 35-year old rector of a small Episcopal church in Brandon, Vermont, thought that the country should have a new national hymn for the occasion. Daniel Crane Roberts introduced the song he wrote to his parishioners on July 4, 1876, and they sang it together at their Brandon village church. Later, there was a National Centennial Observance to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution. Roberts' song was selected as the official hymn for the event. The words remind us of the rich heritage of our country and how God was a part of the foundations. It is called "God of Our Fathers."
God of our fathers, whose almighty hand leads forth in beauty all the starry band; of shining worlds in splendor thru the skies, our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.
Thy love divine hath led us in the past, in this free land by Thee our lot is cast; be thou our ruler, guardian, guide and stay; thy word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.
From war's alarms, from deadly pestilence, be Thy strong arm our ever-sure defense; Thy true religion in our hearts increase; Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.
Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way. Lead us from night to never ending day; fill all our lives with love and grace divine, and glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.
The words of this song are powerful! Can you imagine the delight it gave God when it was first sung? It includes praise, thanksgiving, confession of our need for Him, requests for His presence, and truth. To me, it seems like the perfect song for us to sing today. We have strayed from our country's foundation and are in desperate need of God's continued guidance, defense, and peace. Without the Lord in charge, I believe our nation is doomed.
I found an interesting quote on the Internet from John Mathison of Leadership Ministries. He says, "The first two colonies established in American made it clear that they were being established for 'the glory of God and the propagation of the Christian faith.'" How far we have fallen from their intent! How we need the breath of God to blow upon us and bring us back into His fold!
In Genesis 18:23-25 we read how Abraham spoke to God about saving Sodom on behalf of the righteous. He asked, "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?...Far be it for you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked..." Abraham began to test God, asking Him if He found 50, then 45, then 30, then 20, and finally 10 righteous, would he still destroy Sodom. Each time, the Lord would relent. When Abraham asked about saving the city for only 10 people, here is how God responded: "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." (Genesis 18:32)
How merciful is God that he would have saved all of Sodom for the sake of ten righteous people! We need to join together in a chorus of repentance, humility, and worship to ask for God's mercy on the United States. Perhaps He will have compassion on us and bring our nation back to its intended purpose. Psalm 33:12 says, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance." I believe that God chose our nation, along with Israel, to represent Him on the earth. Join me in interceding for our country. Surely, we have more than 10 righteous in our nation. Let's bow before the God of our fathers to remind Him of our past and plead for our future.
"Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad." Can we give an Amen to this truth written by Anne Geddes? Fathers are so important that there is an organization called the National Fatherhood Initiative whose vision is for every child to grow up with an involved, responsible, and committed father. They tell us this: "Underlying many of society's most pressing challenges is a lack of father involvement in their children's lives." According to the U. S. Census Bureau, one in four children live without a father in their home. There are countless other children who live with a father figure who is physically present but emotionally absent. Their fathers are in their lives but not a part of it so that the relationships are toxic.
Statistics put out by the U. S. Census Bureau on our fatherless generation are extremely concerning. Children in this situation are at a four times greater risk of living in poverty and are two times more likely to drop out of high school. These children are more likely to suffer from abuse and neglect, to abuse drugs and alcohol, to become behavioral problems, to commit a crime and to go to prison. Daughters are seven times more likely to become pregnant as teens. Comments from wounded, fatherless individuals found on the Internet are telling. Here are a few of the milder ones: "I tell people I don't know my father, because I am afraid to say that he jumps in and out of my life when he wants...And it hurts." "No matter how old you get, the hole in your heart created by your father's absence still aches—especially on Father's Day." "My father was a Christian, but he had no time for me."
Every person was made for love. A father, as the head of a family, should be displaying unconditional love, understanding, support, protection, encouragement, guidance, and friendship. He should be taking time to listen to his children and to communicate with them. Sons need a role model while daughters need an example of how their future husband should treat them. It seems that absence of a father figure in homes has become a generational issue and breeds children who are angry, fearful, anxious, and unforgiving. This crisis of children with hardened hearts offers the demonic realm a playground from which to operate. Our fatherless generation needs someone to stand in the gap for them. That is why we must point these brokenhearted individuals to their Father in heaven. Here are some of the descriptions of our Heavenly Father from the Bible.
Father God stands ready to save us from our sorrow. "The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion." (Psalm 116:5) When Jesus came to earth, He had the audacity to call God “Father.” The religious leaders of the day did not comprehend that their greatest need was for a father who loved and cared for them. To be good leaders, they needed to be totally dependent upon God. Even in the model prayer that Jesus taught, we are told to begin by saying, "Our Father in heaven." As we come to our Father in heaven, we can rest assured that He will provide for our daily needs.
What part can we play in presenting our heavenly Father to those on earth? We must acknowledge that we are totally dependent on Father God for every need and ask Him to stand in the gap if we have an earthly father who has not demonstrated God's qualities for a father. We must be ready to forgive our earthly fathers where they have fallen. We must pray for inadequate fathers and those who have been wounded by them. For those of us who have or had godly fathers who have blessed us, we should thank them and thank God for them. Let's walk in such a way that our lives reflect Father God's characteristics. Finally, if you are a father, evaluate your relationship with your children and look to Father God to help you to be His representative on earth.
For 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus spent time teaching His disciples truths from the Kingdom of God. Before He ascended into heaven, "Jesus instructed them, "Don't leave Jerusalem, but wait here until you receive the gift I told you about, the gift the Father has promised. For John baptized you in water, but in a few days from now you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5) Two words stand out to me in this passage: wait and baptized. Acts 1:4-5 is saying, "If you wait (remain or tarry), then you will be baptized (immersed or drenched) in the Holy Spirit." The instructions require an action on the part of the hearer. The disciples were required to wait for 10 days after Jesus left them, and before the promise hit. Today we call the time when the Holy Spirit poured out in power Pentecost because it was 50 days from the day of the resurrection of Jesus. Those who waited had no idea how long they would be in the same place. God blessed those who persevered.
Waiting is an action word as explained in Proverbs 8:34-35. "Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord." The disciples were waiting in an upper room in Jerusalem for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. They had to listen to and obey what Jesus told them. They were also watching for the appearing of His Spirit. This is what waiting looks like.
Jesus wants His disciples to make themselves available to Him. While we wait the Lord awakens our senses and prepares us for what is to come. The more we wait, the more we cultivate a deeper understanding of Him, the Source of Life. This enable the Lord to enlarge our spiritual capacity. He wants to take us from the natural realm to the supernatural realm. Psalm 27:14 gives us great encouragement. "...Don't give up; don't be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting--for He will never disappoint you!" (TPT)
Because they waited and obeyed what Jesus told them, the reward for the disciples was their baptism in the Holy Spirit. If you have ever been to a baptism service, you will recall that the person being baptized is completely immersed into the water. Every part of their body is saturated with water. The symbolism of the ceremony is rich. Going under the water is symbolic of dying to the old life and coming up in newness of life in the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost everyone who had waited in the upper room was transformed. In Acts 2:4 it says, "They were filled and equipped with the Holy Spirit and were inspired to speak in tongues—empowered by the Spirit to speak in languages they had never learned." (TPT) The wind of the Spirit overtook those who waited so that they became more like Jesus—God's intended outcome for this encounter. The writer of Acts describes the new community of Believers: "...Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion, and coming together regularly for prayer. A deep sense of holy awe swept over everyone, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. All the Believers were in fellowship as one body, and they shared with one another whatever they had. Out of generosity, they even sold their assets to distribute the proceeds to those who were in need among them." (Acts 2:42-45 - TPT)
The prophetic community of our day has been declaring that this year we will have a Pentecost like none we have experienced before. We have anticipated that God is doing something new. We are being called to arise and awaken. It is time to move from fear to faith. Since today is Pentecost Sunday, the day celebrated by the Church, let's open our hearts to the new thing God wants to do in us. We are beginning to move out from our places of quarantine into the world around us. We must be aware of the opportunities God is giving us to share His Kingdom with others. It will take boldness and courage to move out into new territories. Perhaps we will see the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in power.
"Keep on giving your thanks to God, for He is so good! His constant tender love lasts forever!" (Psalm 118:1 - TPT) The theme expressed here is a common one in "The Passover Hallels." (Psalm 113-118 and Psalm 136) In these Psalms, God's people give Him praise and thanksgiving for the way they were saved from their enemies and given provision for life and victory in their battles. The ultimate battle is the one against the sin that separates us from God. But God thought of everything. He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth to become the sacrificial Lamb. His death on the Cross brings freedom to all who embrace what He did to restore intimacy with Father God.
Psalm 118 goes on to say this: "The very stone the masons rejected as flawed has turned out to be the most important capstone of the arch, holding up the very house of God. The Lord Himself is the one who has done this, and it's so amazing, so marvelous to see!" (Verses 22-23 - TPT) "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes." (Verses 22-23 - NIV) Comparing these translations of the Bible, their seems to be a difference in what Jesus is called. Is it Capstone or Cornerstone? Jonathan Cahn provides us with an answer to these differences in his Book of Mysteries.
The Hebrew word for cornerstone (the foundation stone that holds a structure together) is Rosh Pinah. But this Hebrew word has two meanings; the second one being capstone. (the finishing stone or top stone that protects what is below it) Both translations are correct yet incomplete. Jesus became both. He referred to Himself as the Rosh Pinah in Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10-11, and Luke 20:17. In these Scriptures we read how Jesus just finished telling the people the parable of the tenants, which describes how a landowner planted a vineyard and then rented it to some farmers. When the owner sent his servants to collect some of the fruit at harvest time, the farmers beat and/or killed the servants. Eventually, the owner sent his beloved son, who was killed. Jesus quotes Psalm 118. "The stone the builders rejected has become the Rosh Pinah." Jesus continues to give an expanded explanation: "Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed."
Today we can see, as we read Psalm 118 at Passover, that in His death, Jesus became the Capstone, the stone that brings completion. He is the Capstone for all of us who come to Him. And, His resurrection is our Cornerstone. He is what begins our life as Christians and what holds us together. Death and resurrection—Capstone and Cornerstone!
In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul reminds us that we are "no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of His household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone." (Ephesians 2:20) Peter the disciple calls us living stones, like our Messiah: "As you come to Him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: 'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.' Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, 'The stone the builders rejected has become the Rosh Pinah,’ and 'A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.' …But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:4-9)
As we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Savior, let us give Him thanks and praise. "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever...The Lord is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation. Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous. 'The Lord has done mighty things!' …I will give thanks, for You answer me; You have become my salvation." (Psalm 118:1, 14-15, 21 - NIV)
Bible preacher, Derek Prince once said that the most important faith declaration for deliverance is this: "When we keep the Feast of Passover, we are making this faith declaration that we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb." The power of Yeshua is in His blood! This is why Satan hates our declaration: He is helpless when we are under the cover of Yeshua's blood.
The enemy has been waging a battle against the celebration of Passover for centuries. We can read how Passover was lost even in Biblical days. When the children of Israel and Judah were unfaithful to the Lord, they stopped celebrating the Passover. When a king who did "what was right in the eyes of the Lord" came to power he would oversee the purification of the temple, re-establish sacrifices and worship and begin the celebration of Passover anew. Such was the case during the reign of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30:2-5) and Josiah. (2 Kings 23:21-23) The restoration of Passover celebrations brought the power of the blood back to the people and restored their relationship with God and blessings from Him.
Sadly, the church also gave up the celebration of Passover. Look back to the 4th century and see how Emperor Constantine made it illegal to celebrate Passover and changed the date for the celebration of the Lord's resurrection to the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. The Roman church was pressured by the government to discontinue celebrating Passover, and they followed the mandate. I believe that is why many churches have lost their power in the world today. God delivered His people from bondage in Egypt and said to them: "The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you...This is a day you are to commemorate; for generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance." (Exodus 12:13-14)
It was the blood of the Passover lamb that protected the children of Israel from the destroyer. Each family selected a spotless lamb on the 10th of Nisan. Only lambs from Bethlehem could serve as Passover lambs. After obtaining their lamb, a family would come down the Mount of Olives and enter Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate. How appropriate it is that on the 10th of Nisan Jesus, born in Bethlehem, came down the Mount of Olives and entered Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate! Today we call this Palm Sunday and remember how the crowds of people shouted "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the King of Israel." (John 12:13) Just as the lambs for Passover had to be inspected for any imperfections, Jesus was examined by the Pharisees and Sadducees at the temple. They could find no fault with Him as they attempted to trap Him with their questions.
When Jesus arrived at the Temple, He cast out the money changers to cleanse His Father's house. Today, part of the Passover preparation includes removing all leaven (representing sin) from the home. A candle is used to search for any impurities. On the 14th of Nisan the lambs were taken to the altar for public display and then bound to it at 9:00 am. As the lambs were being bound, Jesus, our Passover Lamb, was nailed to the Cross at Calvary. At 3:00 pm the high priest cut the throat of the sacrificial lamb and declared, "It is finished!" Both the sacrificial lambs and our Passover Lamb poured out their blood at the same time. And Jesus also declared at 3:00 pm, "It is finished!" The Greek meaning for this is, "The debt has been paid in full."
At the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, when He approached John the Baptist, John said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) The blood shed by our Passover Lamb was placed across the doorposts of our hearts to stop judgment and death and provide redemption. As it says in Leviticus 17:11, "Without the shedding of blood, there is no atonement." We should meditate on the truth that the blood of the lamb that protected the Israelites from the destroyer was a precursor to the blood of our Passover Lamb, Yeshua, that continuously protects us from the destroyer of our souls. (1 John 1:7) Let us declare, “I am redeemed by the blood of the Lamb out of the hand of the enemy."
When a new year is about to take place, do you look to the past to see what has happened and then to the future to determine what you could accomplish? I think the practice of setting informed goals helps us in being able to chart the course for our lives. Perhaps this is what God was thinking when He established a yearly cycle for His people beginning with Nisan. This first month was planned for the deliverance of the children of Israel from slavery to the Egyptians and victory in taking the Promised Land where freedom would be theirs.
Presently, we are at the beginning of the month of Nisan. If we look at the book of Exodus during this time period, we see how God was showing the Israelites His power by sending plagues and natural disasters upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians. We can relate to some of those plagues. East Africa and South Asia are battling billions of locusts that are destroying their crops and livelihoods. And, of course, thousands have died around the world from Coronavirus. The disease is taking its toll on our physical bodies, our economies and our way of living life.
When God was about to send the plague of the death of the firstborn throughout Egypt, He told His people to begin a new cycle of life. Nisan was to be the first month of the year for them. He told Moses the following: "Tell the whole community of Israel that on the 10th day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household...The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the 14th day of the month, when all the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs… This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord's Passover." (Exodus 12:3, 5-7, 11)
After the Isralites selected their lamb, slaughtered it on the 14th of Nisan and spread the blood on the door frames, they were to stay in their homes until morning. They would be protected by the blood of the lamb. The destroyer would pass over the doorways covered by the blood; the Lord would protect them. After 430 years of bondage in Egypt, the children of Israel were set free to begin their journey to the Promised Land. A Passover meal has been celebrated ever since this first one. Jesus celebrated it with His disciples before His crucifixion. Today Christians call this meal communion.
I would like to suggest that the quarantine that we are now experiencing may have the unexpected outcome of bringing us freedom from the bondages of our age. God's people are meant to be different from the rest of the world. This time alone is a time of rest where we can repent of our worldly lives, remember the Lord's deeds for all humankind, and look to Him, our Redeemer, to lead us on paths of righteousness and to a life filled with purpose. When we accepted Jesus as our Lord, the blood of the Passover Lamb (Jesus) was placed over our hearts. And Jesus demonstrated and admonished us to practice taking the meal called communion so that we remember Him.
My husband and I have come to understand how important our daily practice of taking communion is to our relationship with the Lord and for our protection and healing. Daily we remember the Lord's benefits by declaring the beginning of Psalm 103. "Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." Then we remember that Jesus is our Passover Lamb and that "He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) The Lord wants to set us free from the bondage of this world and lead us into our promised lands. Let's use this time of seclusion to draw closer to Him and watch as He leads us triumphantly out of bondage and into a life of victory and Kingdom authority.
Joan E. Mathias