The Hebrew calendar is one to encourage the culture of the Kingdom of heaven here on earth. It brings to our attention weekly, monthly, and yearly seasons of rest and times to connect with the Lord. These times are meant to bring us closer to Him. To do this, we must set priorities and need to ask ourselves, "What is my highest priority?" How intentional are we at setting aside special times to seek greater intimacy with the Lord? We have an opportunity this evening at sundown to join with our Jewish brothers and sisters in the celebration of the New Year 5783. After all, we have a common history with them. In Leviticus 23 we find a list of the Feasts of the Lord, and we are told in verse 4, "These are the Lord's appointed festivals, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times." We also see throughout the New Testament that Jesus kept these feasts.
The spring feasts are a reflection of the Messiah's appearance on earth and His death and resurrection. The late spring feast demonstrated the power of the Holy Spirit as He poured it out on those who were gathered in Jerusalem. The fall feasts are thought to be the time when Messiah will return to earth to fulfill the Feast of Tabernacles. He will come for the pure and spotless bride called The Church and take her to heaven for eternal fellowship.
Rosh Hashanah means "Head of the Year" and is also referred to as the Feast of Blowing (Yom Teru’ah) or Trumpets. It begins on the first day of the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar called Tishri. For two days sacred assemblies take place, and the shofar (ram's horn) is blown 100 times each day. It is thought to be the day that God created the world and announces the beginning of the fall feasts and what is called "The Ten Days of Awe." These days are meant for self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting. From Biblical times, these ten days have been set apart as a time for preparation of Yom Kippur or The Day of Atonement. The Israelites would gather as their High Priest went into the presence of the Lord in the Holy of Holies, the innermost sanctuary of the Temple. Here he would present sacrifices and prayers to the Lord on their behalf. During the final celebration, the harvest of the fields is brought in, booths are built for families to live in for seven days so that they are reminded of God's care for their ancestors in the desert, time is set aside to rest and fellowship, and offerings of thanksgiving are brought to the Lord.
In the book The Messianic Church Arising by Robert Heidler, the yearly feasts are called a "Cycle of Blessing." Robert writes, "The fall feasts provide the pattern for revival for any individual or nation. The fall feasts were given to create a pathway into God's glory." Here is what each feast is meant to do:
The Feast of Trumpets: A wake-up call
The Days of Awe: A time for seeking Him
The Day of Atonement: A day to be restored
The Feast of Tabernacles: A week to experience glory
Robert continues. "...I believe Tabernacles is the key feast for the church today. We live in a day when God wants to draw us into His presence in a unique way. It is a time for His power and blessing to be poured out. He wants us to experience His glory."
Our wake-up call comes this evening. We are being called into a new season. We are being called to awaken. God is ready to meet us. Are we ready to meet Him? We can join our Jewish brothers and sisters in the Spirit by remembering our blessings, confessing and repenting of our sins, and bringing the Lord a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. This will set us on a path of blessing for the new year.
The word "kadosh" in Hebrew is holy. Its meaning is sacred, devout, pure, spotless, and untainted. To be holy requires one to be set apart and separated from the typical pattern of life. From the beginning, it was God's desire to have a special people that were separated unto Him. He began to implement His plan through Abram. (Later Abraham) In a divine encounter, Abram was instructed to "Leave it all behind.” and "Follow me." (Genesis 12:1-2 - TPT) God gave him a promise if he would follow Him. "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:2-3)
Later, a covenant was made between God and Abraham as the meaning of being separated from the other nations became clearer. The covenant required that every male be circumcised. This would be a physical sign of separation. The people God called to be separated from other nations became known as the Israelites. After they were rescued from slavery in Egypt, God gave them commandments and told their leader, Moses, "...Though the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:5-6) God set before the children of Israel commandments and laws to follow and put in place a tribe of people who would be consecrated to serve Him. In Israel there were twelve tribes. The tribe of Levi was separated out from the others. They owned no property, and dressed differently, and their daily provisions were supplied by the other tribes.
The name Levi means joined or attached. Indeed, he and his tribe were joined to God and had the privilege of ministering in the tabernacle. Out of this tribe God called the priests (Cohanim) who were the sons of Aaron. Priests from this order would minister to the Lord and were the only ones chosen to minister in the Most Holy Place. We see levels of ministry or separation being formed. Each separation came with a cost. The people of Israel were taught how to live and knew they could not participate in the ways of the world. The cost for the tribe of Levi was that they had no inheritance and no land. They were expected to depend entirely on the Lord. Priests had additional requirements and instructions to abide by. When Rabbi Jonathan Cahn writes about these restrictions, here is what he says: "The greater the calling, the greater the separation. The greater the separation, the greater the limitations. But the greater the limitations and requirements, the greater the ministry, and the greater the blessing."
Christians are called priests unto the Lord. Each of us is called to fulfill a unique purpose of God and His Kingdom. That means our separation to walk in our calling requires us to be distinctly different. We must separate ourselves from sin, the ways of the world, and the flesh. How do we view ourselves? We have been sanctified and consecrated to the purposes of the Lord. We have a different standard than the rest of the world. As members of His church, we are called the ecclesia, which means "called out ones." The only way for us to fulfill our callings is to separate ourselves from the expectations of the world. We must let God set the standard for our lives, a standard that requires holiness.
Why would the sixth month on the Hebrew calendar be referred to as "a haven in time"? To answer this question, we must look back at the last two months, Tammuz and Av. The fourth month, Tammuz, is remembered as the time when the Israelites sinned by building the golden calf and worshiping it. Av, the fifth month, is known as the low point on the Hebrew calendar. It was during this month that the children of Israel decided to receive a negative report from the ten spies who searched out the Promised Land. Their sin of unbelief and negative confession put them under a curse. This has allowed Israel's enemies to destroy what they are attempting to build.
Now comes the sixth month—Elul. God is so in love with His children that it is painful for Him to be separated from them. Hence, Elul has been designated as the month of repentance, mercy, and forgiveness. Our Heavenly Father gives us an opportunity to repent for past sins so that He can extend mercy and forgiveness. And, He has decided to do this in a very personal way! He wants us to prepare ourselves for a face-to-face meeting with Him.
The Jewish people say that this is the month that "The King is in the field." Most of the year the King lives in a palace, separated from his people. But during this one month the King left His palace to be with His people. He selected this time to set up His tent in the field of His people so that He could make Himself accessible to us. His heart is set on tabernacling with us, and, as a sign of this passion for intimacy, the Hebrew letter for the sixth month is Vav, which pictures a tent peg or nail.
Let us take God's eagerness for connection with us a little further. His yearning for intimacy is the reason He sent Jesus to earth. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." (John 1:1 and 14) The word dwelling is the word for tent or tabernacle. Jesus left His throne to live in our fields. For 33 years the King lived in the fields on the earth. He lived in a tent of mortal flesh during that time so that we could relate to Him more closely. He came to extend mercy and forgiveness and to show everyone what love looks like. Jesus did that by dying on the Cross, by allowing the nails to attach Him to that Cross and making a way for us to spend eternity with Him. That way is through repentance of our sins and acceptance of His offering to be Lord over our lives. We become His dwelling place forever as we receive Him into our hearts.
The King's delight to walk in the fields with us is so strong and beautifully expressed in several passages in the book Song of Solomon. He calls to us as expressed in Song of Solomon 2:14. "...Show me your face, let me hear your voice." Song of Solomon 6:3 is actually a Hebrew acronym for "Elul." "I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine..."
It is time for us to pursue the King as He comes to walk in our fields. We must open our ears to hear what He has to share about our fields as He guides us with wisdom and kindness. He wants to provide for every one of our needs. As it says in Matthew 6:33, "But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." The Lord is here to remind us of His love and desire for us. We must respond with open arms that welcome Him. This is truly "a haven in time."
Have you ever thought of the verb "steward" in the context of pain, suffering, and sorrow? Bill Johnson, Senior Pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California, taught me about this concept. In a recent sermon he preached after the death of his beloved wife, Beni, Bill spoke about the mystery of life and death and how it impacts our relationship with God. He made it clear that we cannot reevaluate what God is like because of loss.
Mark 10:15 quotes Jesus: "Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Jesus affirmed child-like faith to His disciples. Bill explains living with mystery in relationship to childlikeness. "The inability to live with mystery is your resistance to childlikeness. It is childlikeness that gives us access to dimensions and realms of the Kingdom that you can't get any other way. Childlike faith trusts no matter what."
Pain and loss, Bill says, presents us with an opportunity. "We only have one opportunity to steward a moment of pain." This word steward really caught my attention. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the verb steward with the following words: manage, supervise, direct, handle, oversee, tend. I believe Bill is suggesting that we redeem our pain by directing it into a time of worship. He explains that the best way to mourn is through hope. Those of us who know Jesus understand that with Him there is always hope. He is the Redeemer! Let's look at Romans 5:2b-5. "And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirt, who has been given to us."
God gave us His first and best gift—His Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice so that we could have everlasting life with Him. This poured out love is never ending. The best way for us to connect with His love is through worship. Worship expressed in difficulties and sorrow and during times of inexpressible pain is what puts us into His Presence. Bill says, "Answers don't fix the problem; Presence does." True worship presents the Lord with an offering that costs us something.
Didn't Jesus model this for us? His pain and suffering on the Cross were unimaginable! He experienced separation from God and yet He trusted Him. His last words were, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." (Luke 23:46) Jesus knew that His Father is always good and would use the seed of His death for a great harvest. We must follow HIs example by stewarding our moments of pain when they present themselves to us. We must embrace childlike faith and trust the Lord to redeem our pain. Remember, in heaven we will not be able to worship in pain. Bill says this "privilege" only comes on earth. He continues: "Worship is expressing joy in loss and celebration in pain. I must honor Him as the Healer that I know He is even when I do not see it. He does not owe me an explanation. I must give Him an offering that costs me."
Job 13:15 begins, "Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him..." We have a reason to embrace hope, as Bill explains. "Every loss and disappointment can become a seed that brings increase. God uses our crisis's to help us grow. Jesus takes our pain and loss and gives them to God. He will plant them and will be glorified by the blessing." Bill prayed a prayer for all of us: "May you be blessed with courage to lean into mystery and experience who He is as an unfailing, unchanging Father who is always good!" Amen!
Romans 15:4 says, "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope." One of the distinct qualities of God's people is that they have hope. God sent His Word to plant that in us. The Bible is more than a book, as it tells us in John 1:1-5. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
You may ask, "What is the purpose of the Bible?" I believe that one of the main purposes is to give us revelation of God's nature and character and His desire for relationship with us. His desire for intimacy with us is so great that He used the beginning of the Book to show us our sinful condition and His plans for redemption. Our need for a Savior is why He sent His perfect Son to redeem us. He assures us of His ability to enact His plan of salvation through the stories in the Bible that tell of His loving care and power to overcome the schemes of the enemy, and to set us on the right path for eternal life.
A song written by Elevation Worship has inspired me and affirmed my hope in the Lord. It tells us how the world will never satisfy us but that His love overcomes our weaknesses and failures. While it is true that HIs love gives us hope, it is also true that His power is supernatural and changes our surroundings to give us access to God's Kingdom. Let's look at the words to the song, "Graves into Gardens."
"I searched the world, but it couldn't fill me. Man's empty praise and treasures that fade are never enough. Then You came along and put me back together, and every desire is now satisfied, here in Your love.
Chorus: Oh, there's nothing better than You. There's nothing better than You. Lord there's nothing, nothing is better than You.
I'm not afraid to show You my weakness. My failures and flaws, Lord You've seen them all, and You still call me friend. 'Cause the God of the mountain is the God of the valley. There's not a place Your mercy and grace won't find me again.
Bridge 1: You turn mourning to dancing. You give beauty for ashes.
You turn shame into glory. You're the only one who can.
Bridge 2: You turn graves into gardens. You turn bones into armies.
You turn seas into highways. You're the only one who can. You're the only one who can.”
God's love for us and its accompanying power operate together to transform our lives. Declaring HIs power and love will change our atmosphere and bring about hope for the present and the future.
"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.
God's still small voice whispered one word into my soul. It was a word I do not use so I questioned what I was hearing. Then I heard it again: "Resolute!" I checked the meaning: "Determined, fixed and firm in purpose, steadfast, faithful." Next, I looked up the word in the Bible concordance. Bingo! It became obvious that God wanted me to write about the journey Jesus took to the Cross. Luke 9:51 in the NIV says, "As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem." The Amplified Version puts a little more meat on the bones of this verse: "Now when the time was almost come for Jesus to be received up to heaven, He steadfastly and determinedly set His face to go to Jerusalem." Finally, we have The Passion Translation that fills in any missing pieces for our understanding of what Luke wanted to convey. "Jesus passionately determined to leave for Jerusalem and let nothing distract Him from fulfilling His mission there, for the time for Him to be lifted up was drawing near."
A footnote in The Passion Translation explains, "His exaltation into glory was through the sacrifice of His life on Calvary's cross. Nothing would turn Him aside from being our Sin-Bearer and Redeemer." In my opinion, our author, Luke, seems to have understood the scope of the mission of Jesus more completely than the writers of the other gospels. Luke must have also comprehended that Jesus knew His mission on earth from the very beginning. Imagine Jesus as a young boy reading Holy Scriptures that described His life and death! He would have seen the prophetic nature of the Psalms and remembered their author, David.
According to an explanation of Psalm 22 in The Passion Translation, it contains 33 prophecies that were fulfilled when Jesus was on the Cross. The Psalm begins with the cry that He made while on the Cross. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but You do not answer, by night, and am not silent." (Verses 1-2) This cry would have reminded Jesus that He would be separated from His holy Father because He was bearing our sins. In verses 6-8 we read about the character of the crowd around Him. "But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 'He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue Him..." The description of the horrors of the Cross continues: "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned into wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death." (Verses 14-15) "...They have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." (Verses 16-18)
David's lament is quite detailed and shockingly brutal. Yet Psalm 22 ends with words that I think would be encouraging and remind Jesus of the goal for His suffering. "Posterity will serve Him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn—for He has done it." (Verses 30-31) Psalm 110 is another prophetic psalm of David. Look at verses 1-3: "The LORD says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.' The LORD will extend Your mighty scepter from Zion; You will rule in the midst of Your enemies. Your troops will be willing on Your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn, you will receive the dew of Your youth."
Jesus did confirm with His Father, while in the Garden of Gethsemane, that the Cross was the only way to accomplish His mission. "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done." (Luke 22:42) He was strengthened by an angel sent from heaven, and when He finished praying; Jesus resolutely gave Himself into the hands of those who would nail Him to the Cross. How could He do this? Because of HIs Love! Love gave Him the strength, courage, and determination to accomplish the mission. "...For the joy set before Him He endured the Cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:2-3) We are the joy set before Him!
We are told in Hebrews 12:2 that Jesus is the "author and finisher of our faith." (NKJV) The Passion Translation says it this way: "We fasten our gaze onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith's perfection." It is faith that enables us to endure life on earth because we believe God's Word for something more. The introduction of the book of Hebrews in The Passion Translation explains faith. "Biblical faith claims a confidence beyond our own because it rests in the character of God, the foundation of our faith. Part of practicing faith is persevering in it."
To truly understand what faith is we must look at the Biblical definition of it and to the language in which it was written—Greek. Hebrews 11:1 gives us the definition of faith: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (NKJV) Understanding the meaning of substance is our key to interpreting this passage correctly. Substance is the translation of the Greek word "hypostasis." Hypostasis is made up of two different Greek words: "Hupo" means under, and "histemi" means to stand. So, substance is not the object we hope for but that which stands under us and supports our faith. We may ask, "What is this foundation that stands and supports us and gives us assurance?" It is the Word of God. The Word of God is the evidence that we need to believe God.
If we look at chapter 11 of Hebrews, we find reminders of our fathers and mothers of faith who lived their lives in obedience to God because they believed His words. The words "By faith" are used in the verses that introduce us to the actions of everyone called out in Hebrews 11. Let us look at some of these verses and substitute the phrase "Believing God" where the words "By faith" are used.
Hebrews 11:4 - "By faith (Believing God) we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." In other words, we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God.
Hebrews 11:7 - "By faith (Believing God) Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family." Remember that Noah spent 120 years building an ark because he believed God.
Hebrews 11:8 - "By faith (Believing God) Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going."
At times, God uses tests to develop our faith. This was the case when Peter walked on water. In Chapter 14 of John Wright Follette's book, Broken Bread, he explains how this happened in Peter's life. The disciples were in a boat on the sea of Galilee when a severe storm arose. At the fourth watch, Jesus came to them walking on the waves. Peter asked for a word confirming the presence of Jesus. "Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water." Jesus responded, "Come." (Matthew 14: 28-29) Follette says that Peter "walked upon 'Come.'" This word was Peter's word that he could stand upon. As long as his focus was on the evidence, he could walk on water. When fear and unbelief came in Peter began to sink.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:1-3) God has given us the foundation to stand on. He also makes it known that "Without faith (Believing God) it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6 - NKJV) Let us believe God for our promises. Persevere and be confident because faith rests on God, the foundation of our faith!
Like a sentinel on watch, it stands high in the sky for all to see during the fourth watch. (3 am to 6 am) After the sun disappears from the earth at the end of the day, it is the first star to appear in the sky. Even though it has two showings, it has been dubbed "The Morning Star" as it shines so brightly at 3 am, the darkest time of the early morning, until the sun rises on the earth.
"The Morning Star" is actually the planet Venus reflecting the light of the Sun. Since its orbital pattern is elongated, there are times when it is closer to the sun than others. We can see Venus where the sun rises in the morning and where it sets in the evening. I read that Venus can be seen in the southeast sky at dawn. During the month of February, I have delighted in rising early to see this bright light expel the darkness around it. The other stars pale in comparison. "The Morning Star" rises higher when the Lord begins to paint red-orange and pink washes over the lightening morning sky. After the Sun rises higher in the sky, "The Morning Star" eventually fades from view.
Is it any wonder that this is one of the names of Jesus? "I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star." (Revelation 22:16) The prophecy of Balaam foretold of this in Numbers 24:17. "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel..." In ancient times, the star was thought of as a harbinger of the sunrise and a signal of the dawn of hope. Was it the Morning Star that led the Magi to the Christ child? I wonder! Wasn't the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem a sign of a new day dawning? He is the Light of the World. He says, "...Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John8:12)
Christ's disciple, Peter, was brave enough to lay down his fishing nets to follow "the Star." In his second book, Peter reminds his readers that he was an eyewitness to the majesty of Jesus and heard the voice of God say that He loves Jesus and is well-pleased with Him. "And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." (2 Peter 1:17-19) The bright "Morning Star" stands ready to set us on a new course. His plans and purposes come with presence and power and lead us into victory against the enemy of our souls.
Darkness would like to overcome us and send us down the wrong path, but God stands by. The Psalmist reminds us: "...even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you." (Psalm 139:11-12) And Zechariah's song after the birth of John the Baptist declares God's purposes in sending Jesus: "And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace..." (Luke 1:76-79)
Let the "Morning Star" remind us that Jesus is the light that ushers in a new day. He is our point of reference in the darkness and the one who helps us navigate the storms of life. The disciples learned this when they were attempting to cross Lake Galilee. "Their boat was tossed about by the high winds and heavy seas. During the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came to them, walking on the waves!" (Matthew 14:24-25 - TPT) All became calm when He stepped into the boat. The response from the disciples was to worship Him. The bright "Morning Star" should be a reminder for us of the faithfulness of the Lord to bring on a new day. Job 22:26-28 gives advice on how to start the day: "For then you will have your delight in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. You will make your prayer to Him, He will hear you, and you will pay your vows. You will also declare a thing, and it will be established for you: so light will shine on your ways." (NKJV) We must lift our faces to the Lord, our Bright Morning Star, and walk in the light of His glory on the path that He has already prepared for us.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6 - NKJ) I could not think of a better Scripture for the New Year! Since God is beyond understanding (Job 36:26) we may wonder why He acts the way He does. Have you ever said, "If I were in charge of running the world, things would be different."? As human beings, we want to see the immediate punishment of those with evil, selfish purposes. But the prophet Isaiah tells the children of Israel that the wicked "turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will freely pardon." (Isaiah 55:7)
In Isaiah 55:8-13, the word of the Lord is spoken through the prophet: "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper, and instead of the briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord's renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever."
When God looks at us, He sees our potential and the way He intended our lives to be. He has good plans for every human being on the face of the earth. In Matthew 18:10-14, Jesus is telling the story of the wandering sheep. He explains that the shepherd will leave the 99 to go look for the one that has wandered off. Then He says, "In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish." (Matthew 18:14) The disciple Peter reminds us that "...With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:8-9) Do you see the lengths that God goes to in order to save everyone?
In my opinion, there is no place in the Bible that makes God's long-suffering clearer than in Genesis 15. The Lord is establishing a covenant with Abram, later to be called Abraham. God says, "After four generations your descendants will return here to this land (Canaan) for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction." (NKJ = "for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.") The Amorites, mountaineers in the land of Canaan, were descendants of Ham. They were known as fierce warriors who worshiped false gods. They despised God's goodness and refused to repent. Despite this, the Lord told Abram that He would give them more than 400 years before judgment would fall. One must wonder how God waited so long to enact punishment. Leviticus 18:25 describes the land of Canaan. "The land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants." The bottom line is that God keeps track of the measure of our sin. Everyone is given time for the grace of God to prevail, but there will be a day of reckoning.
Here are some encouragements for our new year, 2022, based on the thoughts above: The God of Israel is the God of all the earth. "He does great things beyond our understanding." (Job 37:5) "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love." (Psalm 103:8) "The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made." (Psalm 145:9) "Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore, He will rise up and show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!" (Isaiah 30:18) As we launch into the New Year, we must remember that the God of Israel is our God who has a history of love and mercy and compassion for all people. If we trust in, acknowledge, and wait upon Him, we need not fear. He will direct our paths.
Joan E. Mathias