In early 1776 Thomas Paine brought the idea of independence from Great Britain to the forefront of the colonists in America through his document called "Common Sense." Its two main points were independence from England and creation of a democratic republic. By July 2, our Founding Fathers decided to declare that independence and on July 4, 1776, America was born. The Declaration of Independence declared that a separation from England was justified to secure our "God-given rights." Later, John Adams said, "The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity."
Indeed, Christianity had a profound influence on our Founding Fathers. Many of them recognized that for democracy to be successful the nation's people would have to be educated in the morals and values of Christianity and that the Bible would be the text from which they should learn these. Because of this, many schools were established to teach the principles of the Bible and to encourage faith in God in the country's young people.
The American landscape is full of churches that were planted to worship God and help grow up generations of individuals with strong faith. I believe that without a powerful base of citizens with a strong faith in God America would have failed. It was the faith of the generations that came before us that helped them endure hardships and gave them the willingness to sacrifice for a better tomorrow.
Attacking the faith of the Christian community has been, and continues to be, a strategy of the evil one. It is amazing that we have been able to prevail. Some might take exception with this idea, but I believe that it is the faith of the Christian community that will save the nation of the United States from destruction. There is a remnant of Believers that has taken a stand to defy the attacks of evil. There will continue to be challenges to our Christian activities in the future, but our stand on the foundation of righteousness and justice will be the key to our success.
How should a Christian mark Independence Day this year? May I suggest that we bind together in prayer. Let us repent for the sins of our nation. We must ask God to forgive us for not putting Him first and following His ways. We must acknowledge that we have turned away from the Lord's commandments and justified the sin in our lives. Those who serve our country in government or military need our prayers for protection and blessing. They also need to understand the truth, for it is the truth that will set them free. (John 8:32) For those who are deceived, we must pray for them to be awakened and that salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ would be theirs. It is imperative that we call on the mercies of God to shield and protect the Church in this hour and that she would be strong in shining God's light and love brightly. Expressing our thanksgiving is a must! Let us ask God to awaken and revive our nation so that we will be leaders in proclaiming the goodness of God to the world. We should remember God's promises to us through His Word, especially the one that tells us He will never leave or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:8) Here is what Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians: "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ." (Verse 6)
Harvests are linked with God's feasts. In ancient Israel, before the yearly summer wheat harvest began, the people of God would gather in Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot (The Feast of Weeks). It marks the beginning of the great wheat harvest. Before the harvest actually took place, the Jews would go out into their fields and pick the best of the crop to bring as an offering to the Lord at the Temple. They used their initial harvest to make two loaves of bread that would be used as a first fruits offering or Bikoreem. Obviously, these loaves contained leaven, signifying sin. It is thought that two loaves could represent the two houses of God (Judah and Ephraim) who both fall short of the glory of the Lord. They could also stand for Jew and Gentile or the Old and New Testament. Either way, they were used as a wave offering at the Temple.
Shavuot also became a celebration of the giving of Torah. It was during this period that the children of Israel would have been at Mt. Sinai where Moses received the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments and other laws. God had commanded the Jews to count seven full weeks from the second day of Passover to determine the exact day when they would bring Him an offering of first fruits (the new grain). (Leviticus 23:15-21) After celebrating, all the people would go out to the fields and reap their great summer harvest.
Is it any wonder that God chose this festival as the time when he would pour out His Spirit on the disciples and those gathered with them in the Upper Room? The church calls this day Pentecost (meaning 50 days). At the Pentecost celebration 2,000 years ago, God was offering the first fruits of the harvest to come. He was giving a demonstration of the spiritual empowerment for those who became part of the Kingdom of God. Three thousand souls were added to the ranks of Christianity that day. It was a mighty beginning! In some circles, this day is designated as the day that the Church became the Bride of Christ. Hebrew tradition encourages the groom to bring a gift to the bride. On this day, our bridegroom, Jesus, gave to His bride, the Church, the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is only the Spirit-filled Believer that is able to go out and fulfill the commission they are given to bring life to the lost.
Here are some interesting facts to consider that make this year's celebration of Pentecost particularly exciting. In Song of Solomon 8:4 the bride says, "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you..." I learned from Rabbi Jonathan Cahn that the word "charge" in Hebrew is "shaba." Shavuot comes from the root word shaba. Therefore, Pentecost could be called "the day of charging." We are charged to live a life of commitment to God by His Spirit. He gave us the power and authority to live an anointed life of joy, praise, and victory that impacts everyone around us.
I believe that the glory of God is magnified during times of the feasts when communities gather to glorify Him and remember what He has done. There are seasonal portals opened to the heavens where the supernatural activity of God is increased. We are called to recognize God's special seasons by setting ourselves apart to worship Him and to advance His Kingdom. I am anticipating a breakthrough. Every seven years God commands His people to rest and watch Him pour out provision and revelation in abundance. This is called the Shmita year, and we are currently in that year. In addition, both Shavuot and Pentecost fall on the same day. This rarely happens—usually only every ten years. Also, look at the year we are in. It is 2022! Two is the number of agreement, one accord, and union (as in marriage). This is a year of the double portion. Let us not miss our appointment to meet with the Lord. These "kairos" or opportune moments are opportunities to bring heaven to earth. This is our time to advance the harvest as we welcome revival to the earth.
Tomorrow, we celebrate a day called "Memorial Day." The end of the Civil War, in 1865, was the impetus for the establishment of the country's first national cemetery. Also, John A. Logan, who was the leader of the Northern Civil War Veterans called for a day to commemorate the sacrifices of the veterans of the Civil War. This holiday evolved as one to remember all American service people who died in any military conflict. Originally known as Decoration Day, it became an official federal holiday in 1971.
It is because we want to honor, respect, and recognize our soldiers that we remember them. Because of their sacrifices we live in a land of freedom. We cannot take these freedoms for granted. We must recall the reasons for their sacrifices and live God-honoring lives. Our history is rich with stories of how God established our ancestors to be shining lights for Him. He knows how important it is for us to recount the times when He showed His mighty hand on our behalf. Over 200 times the Bible uses the word "remember." The Lord does not want us to forget the way He cared for our forefathers or the covenant that He made with them. Generations later God still keeps His covenant and tells us to remember.
In Exodus 6:5 God assures the Israelites that He remembers the covenant He made with them. This remembrance brought Him to lead the Israelites out of bondage. They saw many signs and wonders including the opening of the Red Sea so that they could walk to the other side, the drowning of the Egyptians who pursued them, and the provision of water, bread, and quail in the wilderness. It was so important to God that the Israelites and subsequent generations remember what God did for them and the covenant He made with them that he designated a time at the beginning of each year to retell the story of His faithfulness. We call this remembrance Passover. God told His people, "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you..." (Deuteronomy 15:15) "...for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste—so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt." (Deuteronomy 16:3) "Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you." (Deuteronomy 32:7)
The stories of the Lord's goodness and faithfulness were to be shared regularly; one generation was to tell the next generation, and they in turn would tell the next one. "Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles and the judgments He pronounced..." (1 Chronicles 16:12) It is not only important to tell of what God did, but to teach His commands to the next generation. "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commands that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
Like the soldiers we honor on Memorial Day, let us give honor to God for all the victories He has given to our ancestors and to us. We want to learn the lessons our ancestors learned so that we do not repeat any mistakes that they made. We want to remember the faithfulness of God. God's willingness to send us a Savior and a Redeemer point to His commitment to our futures. The events of the past are meant to give us hope for the future. Through respecting the Lord, remembering His covenant, and making a commitment to live a life that honors Him, we set into place a future rich in the abundant blessings of the Lord. Let us remember His love and faithfulness.
"So, God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27) On this Mother's Day let us remember that God included special aspects of His personality in women. The characteristics of a "noble wife" are written about in Proverbs 31. These are to be demonstrated to a women's entire family. I would like to highlight a few to show the valuable contribution a wife and mother can make to the Kingdom of God.
A noble woman is "Clothed with strength and dignity....She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs in her household and does not eat the bread of idleness...a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." (Verses 25-27, 30) Mothers play countless roles for their families that require sacrifice on their part. Since they are first to connect with their children, they frequently have a stronger bond with them. They organize the day, including establishing routines, responsibilities, and disciplines. A mother's special role in the development of her children cannot be denied. Since she usually spends more time with the kids, it is easier for her to have an influence on them. By listening, teaching, and demonstrating her love for her children and husband she will impact their behavioral development.
One of the key roles of a Christian mother, in my opinion, is to point her children toward Christ. She plays that role in teaching godly truths and giving the family a spiritual heritage. The apostle Paul pointed this out to his "dear son" Timothy: "I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also." (2 Timothy 1:5) In a sense, mothers are spiritual gatekeepers of the family faith.
On April 15, 2022, Tom and JoAnn Doyle wrote an extremely interesting article for "All Arab News" entitled, "Why are so many Muslims celebrating Easter this year?" They started their article by writing, "Did you know that one of the major threats to the religion of Islam today is the number of women who are committing their lives to Christ and leaving Islam?" They tell us that Jesus has not forgotten the women of Islam. He is appearing to them as "the man in the white robe" and identifying Himself as Jesus. He tells them that he has died for their sins and that He loves them. The love that Jesus imparts to these women compels them to pledge their allegiance to Him. When this happens, the entire family is impacted.
As an example, the Doyles tell a story about a woman named Maha. (Cover name) She shared, "I could not wait to go to bed at night! I never felt this kind of love from my own father or from anyone else in my entire life." Maha has boldly embraced faith in Jesus despite the fact that her brother is a senior leader in Islamic State and has vowed to kill her. She has recently led seven of her family members to Christ and was baptized with them. The Doyles wrote that a women's "spiritual influence is a natural overflow of who God created them to be in the first place. The man may be called to lead the family, but a mother's influence is what marks a family." Because of these Christian women, the Doyles report the following: "Islam is in crisis. Whole families are jumping ship to follow Jesus."
Let us praise God for these courageous women who have "become super spreaders of Jesus' message of love and forgiveness in the Muslim World." I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Lord for giving me a mother who, along with my dad, oversaw my growth in the Christian faith. She will be turning 99 on May 18 and still carries the fragrance of Christ. May we all pray for our mothers and mothers around the world and ask God to help them display the qualities of a Proverbs 31 woman. Also, let us pray that the Muslim mothers who are boldly taking a stand for Jesus will be protected and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
In the center of the Garden of Eden there were two trees called the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When God placed Adam in the Garden, He warned him not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9, 17) Because Adam and Eve ate from this tree their close relationship with God changed. God made a covering for them from animal skins. Then an interesting conversation took place in heaven: "And the LORD God said, 'The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever.' So, the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken." (Genesis 3:22-23)
It is not until the book of Revelation that we read again about the tree of life. The Lord sent a message to the church at Ephesus that said, "To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." (Revelation 2:4) Adam and Eve were barred from eating of the tree of life because of their sin. They tried to hide from Him, but God, in His mercy, kept them from eating of the tree of life so that they would not have to spend eternity hiding from Him. God cannot be in the presence of evil and so He had to make a way to redeem what had happened in the Garden of Eden.
Another tree was brought into the picture. The "seed" of this tree was planted before time began on earth. God makes refences to its shape throughout the Old Testament—the shape of a cross. The pattern of the cross was shown to His people in the construction of the tabernacle, in the bronze snake on the pole, and in the pattern that the Israelites camped. Jesus spoke about it to those who followed Him. When He was explaining to His disciples that He would be killed and raised from the dead on the third day, He spoke about the cross: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25) Every one of us has a cross to bear. However, as we die to self, we come alive; as we surrender, we win.
Jesus knew that the cross He was to die on would be a tree of life for all of us. By partaking of this Cross, we are partaking of the fruit of the tree of life, which includes new and everlasting life with Him. The fruit of the covering of the blood of Jesus over our sin is what allows us to partake of eternal life with Him.
The final chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, describes the tree of life in heaven. A river flows from the throne of God. "...On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse..." (Verses 2-3) "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city." (Verse 14) The tree of life waits for those who have been made righteous through the blood of the Cross of Jesus. In essence, this Cross is the Tree of Life.
We are celebrating what Jesus did for us in going to the Cross. We are in awe of the power of God to raise Jesus from the dead. What else can we do but worship and praise Him for the Tree of Life waiting for us in heaven?
More than five hundred years before Christ was born the prophet Zechariah wrote about the triumphant, yet humble entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. "Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey's colt." (Zechariah 9:9 - NLT) This description of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem should have helped the Pharisees see what was happening. However, their own agenda made them blind to the truth. They watched the Son of God ride into Jerusalem to shouts and songs of praise. They knew this was the man who had raised Lazarus from the dead and performed many miracles. Yet, they plotted to destroy Jesus, because they saw him as a threat to their religious order.
The Pharisees were not the only ones who were blind. Jesus' own disciples lacked understanding of what was happening before their eyes. John writes, "His disciples didn't understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into His glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about Him." (John 12:16 - NLT) After spending three years with Jesus, one would think that they would have realized the prophetic fulfillment that was happening. Perhaps they were caught up in the excitement of the crowd.
Many people had traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover as this was one of the "pilgrim" feasts. The crowd missed what Jesus was telling them by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey's colt. They were looking for the Messiah, one who would overthrow the Romans who oppressed them. They threw their prayer shawls and cloaks on the ground along with cut palm branches. They shouted "Hosanna!" which means "O save or bring the victory, Lord." This repeated call came directly from Psalm 118:25-26. "O God, please come and save us again; bring us your breakthrough victory! Blessed is this one who comes to us, the sent one of the Lord. And from within the temple we cry, 'We bless you!'" (TPT) Palm branches were a symbol of triumph and victory over death. When kings returned to their homeland after winning a battle, his people would wave palm branches as a symbol of victory.
Jesus is a King; He is the King of kings! But His kingdom is not of this world. Earthly kings rode in chariots or on a stunning horse, not a donkey. A donkey is known as an animal of peace. Jesus entered on one because He was triumphant without the spilling of blood. Also, the common person would have been more able to connect to this symbol. God came to serve and save the oppressed. Scholars point out that one of the reasons Jesus rode on a colt never ridden before is because of the prophecies in Zechariah 9:9 and Genesis 49:11. Jacob gave the Genesis prophecy to Judah, the family line from whom Jesus came: "Binding his donkey to the vine, and his donkey's colt to the choice vine." (NKJV) Here is another interesting sign: Jesus came into Jerusalem alone. Most victorious kings come with an entourage. However, we know that Jesus had to go to the Cross for us alone. His accomplishment would be victory for all of creation!
I learned an unfamiliar word this week. “Pareidolia” is the tendency to impose an interpretation onto what one sees according to the way they want to see it. It is a preconceived notion and drawing conclusions based on it. I think we could say that the Pharisees, the disciples, and the crowd could be identified with this word. The Pharisees failed to see their Scriptures fulfilled and so plotted to kill the Son of God. The disciples did not understand the nature and mission of their King but would be transformed after Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. The crowd would quickly turn from crying "Hosanna!" to shouting "Crucify Him!" when they learned that Christ's mission was different from what they expected. Jesus came armed with love even though He was given dominion, power, and majesty over all creation. He came to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. Let us open our eyes to see the truth and worship our amazing King who came in humility and love to give us life with Him forever.
One of the most significant months on the Hebrew calendar is Nisan. We are in it now. It is the first month on the Biblical and seventh month on the civil calendar. God told Moses that he was to create a calendar based on the cycle of the moon. "While they were still in the land of Egypt, the Lord gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron: 'From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you.” (Exodus 12:1-2) There are many celebrations in the month of Nisan, so it is known as one of repentance, redemption, and miracles. Rose Chodesh (Head of the Month) began when the sliver of the new moon was visible and was commemorated in every month. The new moon was a symbol of new beginnings and of rejoicing in the truth that God would provide for the needs of His people for the entire month. To demonstrate their trust in God, the Jews brought a "first fruits" offering to the Temple which was the first and best of their crops, orchards, or flocks. Rose Chodesh is still celebrated today. Festivals that were initiated during the month of Nisan were Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits.
Excitement wells up in me when I see that the 2022 Jewish and Gregorian calendar coincide. Passover Eve and Good Friday both occur on April 15 so that means Resurrection Sunday and Firstfruits also coincide. A long time ago, Satan put it in the heart of man to separate the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus from Passover. Satan hates Passover because it truly is the celebration of Jesus and the covering of His blood. During the fourth century, Emperor Constantine decided to merge Christianity with paganism, and he made it illegal for Christians to celebrate Passover. This was done by The Council of Nicea in A.D. 325. Constantine removed Jesus from the context of Passover and changed the date for the celebration of Resurrection Sunday to the spring festival of the pagan fertility goddess Ishtar, also known as Eastre.
Through the centuries the church councils continued to make celebrating Passover illegal and in A.D. 345 they even pronounced a curse on Christians who dared to commemorate Passover. Satan continues to place evil thoughts toward Jews and Passover through the hearts of humankind. Why? Because there is power in the shed blood of Jesus, and when we connect with God through Passover remembrances, He blesses us. There is a connection in the events of Passover and the One whose life was sacrificed for our deliverance. God intended for the events before and during Passover to be a foreshadow of the events of His Son's last days on earth.
Jesus is aptly called our Passover Lamb. On the 10th of Nisan each family would bring a spotless lamb into their home. During the days of Jesus, only a lamb from Bethlehem was acceptable for the Passover sacrifice in Jerusalem. The lamb was carefully examined for four days to be sure there were no defects. Jesus would have been at the Temple during these four days, being endlessly questioned by the teachers of the Law. However, they found Him faultless and without blemish. Part of the tradition after the Israelites were delivered from Egypt, was that their homes had to be cleansed of any leaven (Impurity) as a remembrance that during the first Passover the children of Israel left Egypt in such hast that their bread did not have time to rise. Jesus was filled with zeal for His Father's House. Before Passover He entered the Temple and cast out the moneychangers (leaven). On the 14th of Nisan, the lambs were led to the altar and bound for everyone to see. Jesus was led to Calvary and bound to the Cross at this same time. It was 3 p.m. when the throats of the sacrificial lambs were cut by the high priest. After completing his job, the priest would cry out, "It is finished!" Jesus, our Passover Lamb and High Priest, crucified with common criminals, likewise called out at 3 p.m., "It is finished!" In Greek it would be "tetelistai" or "The debt has been paid in full!"
There is such a strong bond between Passover and Easter that one must wonder how the Church buckled in allowing the dates to change. Perhaps in this year, where the two celebrations occur during the same time frame, the blinders will be removed from our eyes, and we will be able to see God's plans in demonstrating the details of the sacrifice of Jesus to take away our sins so that we may have eternal life with Him.
The enemy of God has always wanted to kill the seed of Messiah, the Jews. Down through the ages, evil people have risen to power who have annihilated large segments of the Jewish population. But God has never taken His eyes off His people and has redemptive plans in place. Part of the Jewish heritage is the remembrance of their sorrows and joys. They will celebrate Purim this week and remember the victory of the Jews over an evil person named Haman. God led an orphaned Jewish girl named Esther into the palace of the king at just the right time. Even though God is never mentioned in the book of Esther, we see His hand at work in the circumstances that arise.
Esther's parents were exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon where they died. She had been adopted by her cousin, Mordecai, a Jewish official living in Susa, one of the capitals of Persia. The call on Esther's life began to manifest when King Xerxes chose her as his queen. Through the help of Mordecai, she became aware of a plot to kill the Jews by the King's second in command, Haman. Esther was called upon to save the lives of her people. As Mordecai told her, "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14) Esther told Mordecai to gather all the Jews in Susa to fast and pray for her for three days. She did likewise with her maids.
What Esther was being asked to do was to go before the King on behalf of her people. It was a life and death assignment because it was illegal to go before the king without being summoned. God orchestrated every step that Esther took so that she gained the favor of the King and victory over her enemy. We must understand that Esther was battling with a demonic spirit that overtook Haman and whose compelling desire was to destroy Jews. Let us look more closely at its origin: First, Haman's name means tumult, commotion, and noise. A person with a Haman spirit behaves accordingly. Second, Haman was part of a people group, the Amalekites, who have a long-standing hatred of the Jews. The Bible contains several stories of battles between the Israelites and the Amalekites.
The Israelites first encountered the Amalekites, in an unprovoked attack, when they had just left Egypt and were weary and worn out. Moses responded by sending Joshua and his troops to fight them at Rephidim. He and Aaron and Hur watched the battle from a hilltop. Joshua was only successful when Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses to the throne of God. Praise God that the Israelites won the battle. (Exodus 17:8-16) In Judges 6 and 7 we see that the Amalekites joined forces with the Midianites to oppress the Israelites. God selected an unlikely candidate from the tribe of Manasseh to overcome the enemy. His name is Gideon which means "One who cuts down." Indeed, after conquering his own fear, he went on to defeat the enemy forces. Wanting to remove the Amalekites from the face of the earth, God instructed King Saul to kill every one of them at the city of Amalek. (1 Samuel 15) He did not follow instructions so that his successor, David, would have to fight them. They raided David's camp at Ziklag, burned everything to the ground, and carried off his wives, children, and flocks, along with those of his men. After strengthening himself in the Lord, David and his men were able to overtake the Amalekites and recover everything. (1 Samuel 30)
As we see, the spirit of Haman returned multiple times through the tribe of Amalek. Haman carried anger, hatred, pride, and arrogance which compelled him to destroy the Jews who he saw as a threat. His plot to destroy them began with the casting of lots (Purim in Hebrew). Through casting of the “pur,” a date to destroy the Jews was selected. Thankfully, Haman's plans unraveled when Esther bravely approached the King and followed the divine strategy from God. Haman was hung on the very gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.
We see the spirit of Haman manifesting throughout history in men and groups such as Herod, Hitler, and Hamas. The message of Esther is relevant for us today. The enemy of the Jews has also become the enemy of Christians. The spirit of Haman will try to defeat anyone whom God loves and blesses. Consider that we are on the earth for "such a time as this," just like Esther. God delivered the Jews during Purim. As they celebrate what God did for them, we should use this time to battle against the spirit of Haman in our culture that wants to destroy God's kingdom on earth. Let us call out to God for repentance and revival in this world. It is the Kingdom of Heaven that will overcome the kingdoms of this world.
Yearly, on the 15th of Shevat, the Israelis celebrate the "New Year of the Trees" or TuBi Shevat. The day is commemorated as Israelis spend time planting trees. When the Jewish pioneers came to the land of Israel, they found parts of it void of trees. Their decision to plant the naked landscape has produced much fruit.
In Scripture we see that people are compared to trees. The Lord calls us to look to our roots and to recognize our identities through Him and the Jewish people. "Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream..." (Jeremiah 17:7-8) In both the natural and spiritual realms roots are of critical importance. Tree roots anchor a plant, keeping it in place. It is through the roots that a tree is established. Roots are like the foundation of a building: The stronger the foundation, the more secure the top. Tree roots also serve the function of holding the soil around them together and preventing erosion when heavy rains come.
The tree with the strongest and healthiest root system will grow the fastest and produce the best top. Roots are the lifeline for a plant as they absorb water, minerals, and nutrients from the soil and disperse them to the branches and leaves above. Healthy soil that is moist but well drained and rich in organic matter is a necessity for healthy roots that function properly. At times, a tree's roots secrete compounds into the soil that affect its microorganisms, helps protect the plant from disease, and encourages the absorption capabilities of the roots. In addition, roots have the capacity to store nutrients and food for any future needs of the tree. If the ground around the tree freezes, the roots can still release what is stored to the top.
When we look at roots from a spiritual perspective those who know and love the Lord are encouraged in the Bible to plant themselves by rivers of living water so that they can grow up to be like the mighty oak tree of righteousness, a "planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor," that is written about in Isaiah 61:3. We, like the tree planted by streams of water, are called to bear fruit. As we see in Jeremiah 11:16, the Lord referred to His people as a "thriving olive tree." It is through the line of Abraham that the Church inherited the promises of God. Paul's discourse to the Romans in Chapter 11 explains how Jews and Christian Gentiles are represented by different types of olive trees. Jews are represented by the cultivated olive tree while Gentiles come from the wild olive tree. The Lord willingly makes room on the cultivated tree for the branches from the wild tree (Gentile Believers) to be grafted in by removing the "rebellious" branches of the cultivated tree.
The roots of the Christian faith are firmly established in the Hebraic soil of Judaism. Christianity was birthed through Judaism. God established His covenant through the linage of Abraham that includes David and Jesus, who is called "The Root of David." And it is through Jesus Christ that we become joint heirs of God's promises. Our spiritual identity comes from our Jewish roots. Paul called this a "mystery" in Ephesians 3:16. "This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body and sharers together in the promises in Christ Jesus." In Galatians 3:29 he says, "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
Since we know the function and benefit of healthy roots naturally, how should this impact us spiritually? I believe that the Church, for the most part, has disconnected from its Hebraic roots. How is she surviving? She must quickly reconnect with her roots. This can be done by improving the "soil" around her. The Church must make it a priority to bless Israel and the Jewish people. The Lord is our common "Blesser." It is imperative that we get to know Him more intimately so we can carry His Spirit wherever we go. Our goal should be to remove the walls of separation between Jew and Gentile so that we can unit as "One New Man"—a glorious olive tree ready to feed the world. Let us make this a matter of fervent prayer.
Sprinkled throughout the Old Testament are signs that point to Jesus, the Messiah. In the New Testament we see the fulfillment of these words. Some of the most astonishing words were spoken to the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem. "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." (Luke 2:11-12 - NKJ) Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus the prophet Micah made two statements that pointed directly to the Savior and the places that would be impacted by His birth. "As for you, watchtower of the flock (Migdal Eder), stronghold of Daughter of Zion, the former dominion will be restored to you; kingship will come to Daughter Jerusalem." (Micah 4:8) "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2)
Is it not fitting that Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem (Joseph's hometown) to register for the census that was being taken? As they neared Bethlehem, they would have passed Migdal Eder (The Tower of the Flock) which sat in the middle of the six miles between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. There were special sheepherders, called Levitical Shepherds, at this location. They would have come from the tribe of Levi and were chosen and trained to care for the flock of sheep that produced the sacrificial lambs for the Temple. The Tower had two levels and two purposes. Midgal Eder was initially used as a military tower to defend Bethlehem. The shepherds used the second story as a watch tower to look out for the sheep and protect them from predators and wild animals. The first story of the Tower had another purpose. Shepherds would bring the pregnant ewes into the Tower for birthing. Babies were swaddled at birth so that they did not harm themselves. Then they were laid in a manger until they calmed down.
One year-old male lambs would be herded to Jerusalem for Passover on a day called the Day of Lambs. Here the priests would inspect them and choose those without spot or blemish. During Passover, a lamb was needed for every household. Jenee Baldwin wrote in "The Dawson Creek Mirror" on December 25, 2019, that 250,000 sheep would have been needed each year to accommodate Passover. Every firstborn male lamb was marked as holy and set aside for sacrifice. When born, only the lambs born at Migdal Eder would be wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger.
The need for blood sacrifices came about in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned. Blood was required to cover sin. A covenant was made with cutting and shedding of blood for life is in the blood. The flocks at Migdal Eder were considered sacred. They were meant to atone for sin and make peace with God. The birth, life, and death of Jesus is linked with the lambs destined for the Temple. He was born among the Temple flocks, wrapped in priestly cloths after being born in a stable, and placed in a manger (a feeding trough). Prophecy was fulfilled at His birth. He was a sign from God that the "Perfect Lamb of God" came to end animal sacrifices for He was the ultimate sacrifice.
After the three-year ministry of Jesus was completed, the Lamb of God was nailed to a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem. His blood was spilled while the priests would have been slaughtering the Passover lambs. Jesus was born to die and restore our covenant with God. "And this will be a sign to you," the angel said to the shepherds. The sign still speaks to us today! Jesus came to give us everlasting life. John the Baptist called it out: "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) Our celebration of Christmas is intertwined with Passover. God's gift to us is one that keeps on giving. Eternal life has been imparted to us who accept and believe and receive the Sign.
Joan E. Mathias