When the Israelites had traveled through the wilderness and were preparing to enter the Promised Land, God gave them reminders of their journey, instructions on how to live their lives, and promises for the future. The book of Deuteronomy is filled with these. We can read what God told them about the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 11:10-12. "The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end."
Throughout the time that they were moving toward Mt. Sinai God was drawing His people to Himself by revealing who He is and what He had in store for them. He told them, "Now, if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:5-6) He wanted a people who were set apart and formed in His identity. One of the concepts that was introduced to the Israelites was that of firstfruits. It required them to be dedicated to celebrating it at the beginning of the grain harvests and was an act of worship. They needed to go into their fields to select the first and best stalk of grain to present to the priests as an offering to the Lord. The firstfruits offerings were brought to the priests during the three primary feasts and at the beginning of each new month. The principle is that the first of everything belongs to the Lord—crops, livestock, and children. By giving the first part of their blessing to God, they were dedicating and sanctifying the rest.
The Israelites learned much as they spent 50 days traveling to Mt. Sinai where God would give them the law and a new identity as a people. On the Jewish calendar they moved during the end of the month of Nisan and the entire month of Iyar. The second month, Iyar, became a time of transition for them as they were led into a new level of relationship with the Lord. He introduced them to His nature. First, God showed them that He is Jehovah Rapha, the God who Heals. Then He introduced them to His names Jehovah Jaira, the God who Provides, and Jehovah Nissi, the Lord, my Banner of Victory. As they moved from Passover redemption to the place of praise and giving the Lord a firstfruits offering, they learned about keeping covenant.
God was indeed faithful to His children and eventually demonstrated to them that He was willing to give everything in an act of sacrifice that reverberates through the ages. God gave His Son, Jesus, as an offering of redemption. He was crucified, but resurrected, and became a firstfruits offering Himself. First Corinthians 15:20 says, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." It is no coincidence that Jesus, our Passover Lamb, was resurrected on the day of firstfruits, when the children of Israel would have been presenting their Passover barley sheaf to the priests who lifted it up before God as an offering to Him.
How does this relate to us today? God has given us His very best in the sacrifice of His Son. Just as the children of Israel brought their first and best to God, we can use this time up until Pentecost to present a daily offering to the Lord. A way for counting God's goodness was introduced to the Israelites. We can read about it in Leviticus 23:15-16. From the first day of a firstfruits offering, they were to count 50 days and then present God with another firstfruits offering during Shavuot, called Pentecost by the Church. Today this is called counting the Omer. As they counted, it was important for God’s people to remember the goodness of God. Like the children of Israel, let's be dedicated to giving the Lord a daily thanksgiving for His goodness and love between now and Pentecost.
A question is posed at the beginning of the song "Wonderful, Merciful Savior." "Who would have thought that a Lamb could rescue the souls of men?" But that is what was done by the Lamb of God! We see foreshadows of the Lamb of God throughout the Old Testament beginning in Genesis when Adam and Eve sinned. By eating the forbidden fruit their eyes were opened and "they realized that they were naked." (Genesis 3:7) Another way to say this is that they experienced shame, so much so that they tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves. But man could not cover his own sin. God had to provide them with "garments of skin." (Genesis 3:21)
Specific instructions were given to the Israelites in Egypt when God was going to deliver them from bondage and death. "...On the 10th day of the month each man is to take a lamb for his family...The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect...Take care of them until the 14th day of the month when all the members of 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 doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs." (Genesis 12:3, 5-7) The blood of the lamb was the covering that was needed to protect the children of Israel from the plague of death.
It was on Mt. Moriah that Abraham took his son, his only son, whom he loved, and offered him as a burnt offering at the request of God. (Genesis 22:2) At the moment he was about to slay him, God provided a ram for the sacrifice. The binding of Isaac is called "the Akedah" in Hebrew and the story is retold in synagogues across the world on Rosh Hashanah.
In Isaiah 53 we read the foretelling of the substitutionary atoning sacrifice of the Messiah. Verse 7 compares him to the sacrificial lamb: "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth."
When asked by the priests and Levites who he was, John the Baptist told them, "I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" (John 1:23) John was the one who prepared the way for Jesus and identified Him so that all the world would know the call of God on His life. "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) Those who practiced animal sacrifice so that those who violated the Mosaic law could approach God must have been shocked by the statement of John the Baptist. How could John compare Jesus to the sacrificial lambs?
The Passover season is upon us. The Jewish people will be remembering how each Israelite household in Egypt brought a perfect lamb into their homes from Nisan 10 to 14. Imagine how each family must have become attached to their lamb as they lived with him, only to turn around and kill him as a sacrifice to protect them. Christians are remembering the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem this weekend. To fulfill what was spoken by the prophets, He entered riding on a colt of a donkey. Crowds followed Jesus shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" (Matthew 21:9) Afterward, Jesus entered the temple where He would be questioned and scrutinized. For four days, "The Lamb of God" was examined. He was then chosen as the Sacrificial Lamb.
It is the love of God that nailed Jesus to the Cross. He was the sacrifice that purchased our souls. He is our Redemption. The Lamb of God is described in Revelation 5:6, 9-10. "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders...And they sang a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." We are those that Jesus purchased for Father God. We are part of God's Kingdom and priests to serve Him. It is ordained that we shall reign in victory. How can we not praise Him?
Yearly the Jews commemorate the time when God freed the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. They tell the story at a Passover Seder which means "order." Today's Seder has changed from the original Passover meal. As families and friends gather together, they use a guide called the Haggadah which means "The Telling." To help us remember the events of the children of Israel in Egypt and on their way to cross into the Promised Land, the Seder uses symbols.
Many Christians do not realize that when Jesus broke bread and shared it and the wine with the disciples at the Last Supper, he used the same elements shared at the Passover feast. There is an interesting mystery concerning the matzah (bread with no leaven) that is used in the service. At the beginning of the Seder, the leader lifts up three pieces of matzah. Why three? Could it be that they represent the Trinity? (Father, Son and Holy Ghost)
The matzah itself is striped and pierced like Jesus at the crucifixion. Think about this interesting part of the ceremony: The middle piece of matzah is removed and lifted up to be broken in half. This piece is called the "Afikomen," a Greek word meaning, "that which comes after." The larger piece of broken matzah is wrapped in a white linen napkin and hidden. So too, the body of Jesus was wrapped in white linen and hidden away in a tomb.
At the end of the Seder the young ones search for the hidden matzah so they can bring it back to those at the table. The Seder cannot be completed without the Afikomen. When it is found it is unwrapped and passed around so that all may partake of it. Can we assume that the Afikomen represents Jesus? I think so! The Messiah, Jesus, is the One who must still come to His people. He comes to everyone. He is the one who who led His disciples in the Passover feast at the last supper before His death. "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, 'Take it; this is my body.' Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,' He said to them. " (Mark 14:22-24)
Romans 11:25-26 gives us insight into God's plan to reveal Himself to all mankind. "...Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written, 'The deliverer will come from Zion; He will turn godlessness away from Jacob.'"
None of us can be complete without our Messiah, Jesus. He is revealing Himself to many through signs, wonders, and miracles. Let us pray for the eyes of the Jewish people to be opened as they celebrate their Passover Seders next week. The Lord is not willing for anyone to perish. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Did you ever think that when God placed you on the earth, He may have done so for you to accomplish one specific purpose? He planned the time and place that you would live. (Acts 17:26) He knew the circumstances that would surround you, the battles you would have to fight, and the thoughts that would go through your head. Consider that His divine purpose for you includes plans to elevate you and bring you closer to Him as you pursue victory. Perhaps you are in a battle right now and are facing a giant that seems impossible to defeat. I always say, "The greatness of the call determines the fierceness of the battle." Be conscious of the gifts you use to fight your battle, because through them God will reveal your destiny and will bring you into greater intimacy with Him.
Think of this: One day and one person can change the world and the future. When we tap into our destinies the power of heaven will come to earth to help us accomplish the goal that God has placed before us. It is fitting that we read the story of Esther in this month. It appears to me that she was a person that God sent to earth for one specific purpose: to make the king of Persia happy so that He would join her in saving her people, the Jews. Esther, along with her parents and cousin Mordecai, was part of the company of exiles brought to Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar. When Esther's parents died, she was adopted by Mordecai. She was then selected to be part of the harem of King Xerxes of Persia at a time when a Jew hater named Haman, the kings highest official, was plotting to kill all the Jews in the empire. Because of her beauty and sensitivity to the king's desires, Esther was crowned queen. Mordecai asked her to take advantage of her position and beg for the king's mercy for the Jews. He posed this question: "Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14 - NLT)
Adar 13 was the date set by Haman to murder all the Jews in the Kingdom. We are presently in the month of Adar, which means strength. It is the last month on the Hebrew calendar and is associated with joy and a time of unexpected reversals. It is a time for uncovering hidden truth. I hope that these Adar characteristics give you hope as they do me. We have a moment in time where we can participate in the transformation of our own nation. God wants us to join in a prayer of unity for justice and righteousness to prevail in it. Never doubt that our presence as Bible-believing, God-loving people who dispense the fruits of the Spirit to those around us can make a difference. I believe that we are here "for such a time as this." We are on assignment to use the gifts within us to carry out God's call on our lives. Adar is the month to develop our war strategies against the enemy. Doing so helps to stop our fears ad gives us the ability to move into the fullness of the next season. The spiritual new year holds blessings for us. Let's be joyful about who God made us to be as we pursue our identities in the Spirit.
We see the attributes of the month of Adar played out in the Feast of Purim that occurs in the middle of the month. The enemy set a date for the destruction of the Jews, but God used a single Jewish girl, walking in her God-given destiny, to save her people and to transform that date into one of great joy and celebration. For three days, Esther stirred up her courage and prepared for her meeting with the king by spending time in fasting and prayer. Mordecai and the Jews of Susa joined her. She demonstrated to the Lord that her relationship with Him was more important than anything else by dedicating these three days to pursuing His direction. And, as she assured herself of God's faithfulness, she was able to prepare to go before King Xerxes without fear, saying, "And if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16)
Of course, Esther did not perish! The king extended his golden scepter to her, Haman's evil plan was exposed so that he and his family were destroyed, Mordecai was promoted, and the Jews transformed the focus of sunset on the 13th to sunset on the 15th of Adar to joy and celebration. These days are called Purim because Haman originally set the date for the demise of the Jews by casting dice or "pur." Even today Purim is celebrated by the Jews. They recognize the importance of one day and one person placed on the earth "for such a time as this." What is our holy purpose—the call of God on our lives? Let us pursue Him, our Maker and Creator, and live out our God-given destinies. Let us be the people God created us to be "for such a time as this."
“Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken."
(Psalm 55:22) What a promise for today! Shaking is going on all around us, but those who are rooted and established in the Lord's love will not be shaken and will grow strong and produce fruit. This truth is so appropriate for the Hebrew month we have just entered--Sh'vat--the 11th month on the spiritual calendar. Sh'vat's theme is "His Righteousness is My Foundation." The 15th of Sh'vat is called the "New Year for Trees" or Tu B'Sh’vat. Rabbis use this date to determine the beginning of the agricultural cycle for Biblical tithes of fruit. Those who grow fruit trees know the most important part of their job is ensuring that the trees have strong, healthy root systems. Farmers go to great lengths to prepare their land. They improve the soil texture and structure by loosening it and adding organic matter for nutrients. When a seedling is planted the soil around the roots is tamped and watered to eliminate air pockets and secure the plant. The seedlings may be staked to keep them firmly in the soil until their roots are established.
Imagine that you are a fruit tree and could select the place where you will be planted. Wouldn't we all look for a place that is near water and that has rich, well-textured soil? We would look for a place where our roots could grow strong to anchor and keep us stable. Two Scriptures talk about this very thing:
"Blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." (Psalm 1:1-3) "But 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. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
Here is a question we must answer. How we answer it will reveal the strength of our spiritual roots: What are we meditating on, taking in, and following? The above Scriptures make it very clear that we must be consuming God's Word of Truth and trusting in it and His never-ending faithfulness. Though the world around us is shaking, we can be assured that the Lord will hold us fast. A worship team named Selah sings a song titled, "He Will Hold Me Fast." Please Google this and listen to the powerful music, and let the words encourage and lift you up. In the meantime, meditate on the truth of these words that you can read below:
"When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast; When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold through life's fearful path; For my love is often cold; He must hold me fast.
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast; For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.
Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast; Precious in His holy sight, He will hold me fast.
He'll not let my soul be lost; His promises shall last; Bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast.
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast; For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.
For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast; Justice has been satisfied; He will
hold me fast.
Raised with Him to endless life, He will hold me fast, 'Till our faith is turned to sight, when
He comes at last!
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast; For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.”
May we take in everything that God has for us so that His love and care keep us stable and secure, producing much fruit.
How far would you travel and how much difficulty would you endure if you were really hungry and knew you could receive bread from a certain place? Our nation is living through hard times caused by the plague called Covid. Many are sick and finding themselves living in poverty from the ramifications of this virus. On the nightly news we see people in cars lined up for hours as they wait for a bag of groceries.
Through the centuries many populations have gone through times of hunger—both physical and spiritual. The prophet Amos talked about a day when "a famine of hearing the words of the Lord" would come. (Amos 8:11) When people find themselves without something they are used to or need they begin searching for a way to obtain it. Scripture is full of stories of individuals who were set on going to a place whose name means "House of Bread" or Bethlehem. Their journeys were directly connected to the life of Jesus--"The Living Word," "The Bread of Life," "The Redeemer." The prophet Micah prophesied about the significance of Bethlehem: "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 old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2)
The tribe of Judah received Bethlehem in their inheritance from the Promised Land. After they became established in this territory, there was a time of famine. The family of Elimelech and Naomi left Bethlehem and moved to Moab so that they could get food. Their sons married Moabite women while there. After 10 years in Moab, all the men died, leaving their women as widows. Naomi's daughter-in-law, Ruth, insisted on staying by her mother-in-law's side even though Naomi was returning to Bethlehem. Ruth told her, "Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16) They arrived in Bethlehem during the barley harvest.
Because Ruth was willing to make the journey, there was a new life waiting for her, filled with promise. She was noticed by Boaz from the clan of Elimelech as she gleaned in his field. Boaz became her husband, and she became part of the genealogy of Jesus by bearing a son named Obed (Servant of Worship) to Boaz. He became the father of Jesse who was the father of King David. When God decided to appoint a new king to replace Saul, the prophet Samuel was instructed by God to go to the city of Bethlehem to anoint David as the king of Israel. David went from tending sheep to tending God's people.
From David, 14 generations passed to King Jeconiah, meaning "Established of the Lord." During his reign, the Israelites were exiled to Babylon, after which 14 more generations were birthed. (See Matthew 1) At the end of that run of 14 generations Jesus was born of the virgin Mary from Nazareth. His earthly father, Joseph, was a descendant of David. When Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census would be taken of the entire Roman empire, Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem exactly at the time when Mary gave birth to Jesus. Because there was no guest room for Joseph and Mary, Mary gave birth in a room meant for animals. She wrapped the Son of God in cloths and laid Him in a manger. (Luke 2:7)
Shepherds who were tending their flocks in the fields nearby were told about the birth of a Savior in Bethlehem by an angel of the Lord. They made the trip to Bethlehem and were filled with praise and glory for God after seeing the baby laying in a manger. Magi from the east also took a long journey to Bethlehem to worship Jesus. After seeing His rising star in the sky, they followed that star to the place where Jesus was. Being overwhelmed with worship, they gave him their treasures.
Much fruit came from every trip that was taken to Bethlehem. In fact, the region of Bethlehem is called Ephrathah, meaning fruitful. The trips required sacrifice however, all were rewarded. "The House of Bread" fed every visitor. During this season, I believe that we are being called to make a spiritual journey to Bethlehem. Our year has been difficult. A "famine," so to speak, has overtaken us. However, God wants to prepare us for a new season—one of blessing where we will be filled with the Bread of Life that revives us and brings us into a time of greater intimacy with the Lord. We can visit The House of Bread by calling out to the Lord and asking Him to nourish and sustain us with the Bread of His Holy Presence. We must tell Jesus we are hungry for more of Him. He is the answer to every difficulty and the source of eternal life.
A small army of dedicated Jews is all that was needed to take back the temple in Jerusalem from the Syrian Greeks. King Antiochus Epiphanes, ruler of the Greek empire, had a goal to unify his kingdom by making Hellenism the only acceptable culture. Judaism was outlawed. Jews were executed for observing their Sabbath and Feasts or for circumcising their baby boys. The Temple became a place where pigs were sacrificed to the image of the god Zeus.
A priest named Mattathias and his five sons led the Jewish rebellion against the Syrian Greek empire. One of the sons, Judah, was nicknamed The Hammer or "Maccabee" in Hebrew. Consequently, the revolutionaries became known as The Maccabees. It took the rebels over three years to obtain victory. When they re-entered the Temple, they found only a one-day supply of consecrated oil to light the Menorah. The Maccabees decided to light the Menorah even though it would have taken eight days for the priests to consecrate more oil. Miraculously, the Menorah kept burning for eight days. Since that time, the Jews celebrate Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication, or the Feast of Lights for eight days beginning on Kislev 25.
If we look back in history to 323 to 171 BC, we see that some of the Jewish people were adopting the more liberal lifestyle of the Gentiles around them by ignoring Torah and inciting others to join them. The pattern of moral decay within Israel led to severe oppression and persecution of the Jews. What started as an alternative lifestyle for some of the Jews became a state-mandated way of life. There is so much to learn from history! Do you see the repetition of the pattern of moral decay in our own society? There is a warning in Hebrews 2:1 against drifting: "We must pay the most careful attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." Almost without perception, the Church has embraced worldly ways in an attempt to increase their following. The results are devastating. We see the ways of the world becoming normal. Compromise is the order of the day, while we need to be more firmly rooted and built up in Jesus. (Colossians 2:7)
The enemy of our souls has been at work. The time that we live in is chaotic and volatile. Our freedoms and rights to worship the Lord are being stolen from us. We are in a season of darkness. What is being done in the dark must be exposed to the light. Could there be a more perfect time for us to carry the light of Jesus into the world? Jesus used the time of the Festival of Dedication to reveal that He is the Son of God. When He spoke to Nicodemus about salvation He said, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:19-21)
While speaking to the crowds of people, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) We who believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world carry His light. Our prayers for our lives, our churches, and our nation can change the course of history. Let us use this season to keep the fires of our prayers burning. Ask the Lord to help us focus on Him and to remove the old mindsets that keep us in bondage. Pray that our churches will be cleansed and restored in purity and power. Pray that our nation and its leaders will walk in the truth and take a stand against the enemies of God. Ask the Lord for HIs miraculous provision of light and truth and His guidance on the path of righteousness. He is faithful to those who dedicate their lives to Him. We can be assured that light will be victorious over darkness.
Chuck Pierce of Glory of Zion International says we are in a season of "RE." God is resetting, re-firing, and renewing His Church. If you follow the Hebrew calendar, you know that we moved into the ninth month called Kislev, meaning trust, rest, and security. It is associated with the letter "SAMEKH" which is a picture of a circle. This month we come full circle from last year and can have a second chance at missed opportunities. In addition, we should be on guard so that we break out of any old cycles that are unproductive.
The constellation Sagittarius (the archer) is in the night sky and reminds us that it is time to fight against empires and cultures that are not in agreement with the Kingdom of Light. Here is a celestial reminder that Benjamin, Jacob's youngest son and the only one born in the Promised Land, was a gifted archer. Although this is a month for rest and hope, we must develop our war strategies. These will come through prophetic revelation, dreams, and experiences that guide us into our call.
Observing the battles presently being fought in our country, we could be easily discouraged. According to the news media, Covid 19 cases are increasing and fighting, caused by political differences, abounds. But whose report do you believe? (Isaiah 53:1) The month of Kislev points us in the right direction. As we develop war strategies to take down our enemies, we take an offensive position so that we can maintain peace amid conflict.
One way that God encourages us is through dreams. Reading through the Torah portions for this month (Genesis 28-44), we see that two major dreamers are highlighted: Joseph and Jacob. Dreams are not always easy to understand. God's desire is that we pursue Him for revelation. Daniel 2:28 tells us, "There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries." Just like He revealed Jacob's true identity as Israel through a dream so that he would birth a nation, He will reveal our identities and the purpose for our lives as part of the Body of Christ. ("Show us, O Lord, how to make a difference in this world for the glory of Your Kingdom during this season.")
I wonder! Could this be the season God is using to redeem His Church to bring her back into full agreement with Him? Is He rekindling our desire for prayer and worship that brings us into greater intimacy with Him and puts us into His army to transform our nation? All of us must shine the light of the Lord brightly so that we dispel the darkness. We are part of a mighty army to re-establish justice and righteousness.
Ephesians 6:10-18 describes how we are to prepare for spiritual warfare. Here are these verses in The Passion Translation: "...Be supernaturally infused with strength through your life union with the Lord Jesus. Stand victorious with the force of His explosive power flowing in and through you. Put on God's complete set of armor provided for us, so that you will be protected as you fight against the evil strategies of the accuser! Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms. For they are a powerful class of demon-gods and evil spirits that hold this dark world in bondage. Because of this, you must wear all the armor that God provides so you're protected as you confront the slanderer, for you are destined for all things and will rise victorious. Put on the truth as a belt to strengthen you to stand in triumph. Put on holiness as the protective armor that covers your heart. Stand on your feet alert, then you'll be ready to share the blessings of peace. In every battle, take faith as your wrap-around shield, for it is able to extinguish the blazing arrows coming at you from the Evil One! Embrace the power of salvation's full deliverance, like a helmet to protect your thoughts from lies. And take the mighty razor-sharp Spirit-sword of the spoken Word of God. Pray passionately in the Spirit, as you constantly intercede with every form of prayer at all times. Pray the blessings of God upon all His believers." May the message of this passage become a reality in our lives.
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!
On September 26, 400 years ago, the pilgrims set sail for America in their ship, the Mayflower. They came seeking freedom to restart their lives and to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Many on the ship lost their lives; those who did not persevered. With faith and fortitude, they pressed on toward the goal to win the prize for which God had called them. (Philippians 3:14) Those who landed on the shores of America were the seed of our nation. Before disembarking and putting down their roots in the new land, they signed a document that has become known as the Mayflower Compact. It was a covenant made with God and with each other that expressed the idea of self-government with "just and equal laws...for the general good of the Colony." The Compact expressed deep faith and belief in God and would serve as a foundation for the Constitution of the United States.
I believe that the Christian community will agree that our nation has fallen far from the original intentions of the pilgrims who signed the Mayflower Compact. Early in the year, two of our leaders in the faith came to the same conclusion separately and selected September 26 as a day for people of faith to gather in a solemn assembly on the National Mall to pray. Franklin Graham called his event "The Washington Prayer March" while Jonathan Cahn called the event "The Return." The date God led these men to choose also happens to be 40 days before the presidential election. Franklin Graham says, "The only hope for America is God. Prayer is our most important weapon. It allows us to go directly to the King of kings, directly to stand before the throne of grace and make our petitions known before God."
In the Bible we see that there is great significance to both the number 40 and 400. The flood, Moses and God's meetings, Christ's temptation in the wilderness, and His post resurrection ministry all took place in a 40-day period of time. Of course, the Israelites were in the desert for 40 years. Hence, the number 40 represents a time in the wilderness and preparation through trials and testing. In Genesis 15:13 we see that God foretold of the bondage of the Israelites for 400 years. He delivered them from bondage after 400 years. It seems that whenever God wanted to prepare a nation for His purposes it took 400 years. Could it be that the convergence of two major events in the life of our country is a sign that God is about to change our nation?
I believe that The Return and The Washington Prayer March were strategically planned by God to occur exactly when they did. They fell in the middle of the 10 Days of Awe—the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur where repentance for sins occurs. In addition, these events landed on a day called "Shuvah" on the Jewish calendar, a day annually set aside to return to God through repentance. In fact, the meaning of the word "Shuvah" is "Return." When Jonathan selected September 26 for "The Return" he had no idea that it would fall on Shuvah. Another interesting "coincidence" is that the preset Scripture to be read in synagogues on this day is Joel 2:15. "Blow the shofar in Zion! Proclaim a holy fast. Call for a solemn assembly." (The Complete Jewish Bible) And blow the shofars they did!! Jonathan led an entire army of people in blowing their shofars. The sound penetrated my soul. There were so many convergences at this gathering that we must conclude that it was God inspired.
Before the event, Jonathan Cahn told an interviewer, "God doesn't want to judge. He doesn't! He's long-suffering. Look at all we've done and what we do in His face. Look at the millions that have been killed, the unborn children who've been killed. God doesn't want to, but He has to deal with evil. But his heart is for salvation. His heart is that none should perish. God is calling to America: 'America, return to me, and I will return to you.' I believe that's the heart of God. The movement and chance we have before us now may never come again. If we don't return now, we may pass the point of no return."
There are those who seek to destroy our Judeo-Christian foundations. It is up to Christians to take a stand and return to our Biblical roots. We have this one moment in history that could turn the course of our nation and impact our descendants for generations to come. All the signs point to the fact that God is up to something. We must come into agreement with His plans to transform and reshape our nation. Let us take God up on His promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14. "If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
Joan E. Mathias