In the first chapter of Job we have a description of the kind of man that he was and of the tragedy that beset him. "...This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen and 500 donkeys. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East." (Job 1:1-3) Job was dear to God because of his heart for Him. However, the Lord allowed the hedge that was around Job to be removed to prove to Satan that he would remain faithful.
Initially, all of Job's livestock and servants were taken from him by the Sabeans, the Chaldeans and a fire. Then all his children were killed by a "mighty wind." Job's response indicated the depth of his honor and love for the Lord. "At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.'" (Job 1:20-21)
This Scripture came to mind on Thursday as I processed what is happening in our world and in my own family and circle of close friends. Most of us are following our presidential guidelines for the war on Coronavirus by quarantining ourselves for two weeks. In the United States alone, as of today there are over 30,000 people who have contracted the virus and 400 who have died from it. Communication with family and friends is being done primarily by telephone or social media platforms. Fear and panic has struck many as we can see by empty shelves at the grocery store. Our financial means of support is being stretched. Travel by any means of public transportation has come to a halt. We do not know what the future holds. And yet, amid all of this, life and death go on.
I was contemplating the fragility of life and remembering that we have no guarantees for tomorrow as I received notice that the husband of a dear friend died in his home of an unexpected heart attack. My friend is left shocked and devastated and unable to have a memorial service with friends to comfort her because of the virus that is spreading around the world. The same day that my friend died, we received news of the birth of a great grandson. Samuel Dillon was brought into this world and speaks to us of new life and encouragement. Even the meaning of his name brings joy. Samuel means "heard of God." It reminds me that God hears our cries for help in our time of need. Scripture confirms this. Look at 2 Chronicles 7:14 to see God's prescription for help when the times are dark. "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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land."
Especially during seasons like these, we must remember that every day is a gift from God. We cannot count on tomorrow, so we must make the most of today. Job said this very thing: "Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed." (Job 14:5) Psalm 90 is described as a prayer of Moses. In Verse 12 he asks God, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." King David repeats this in Psalm 39. "Show me, Lord, my life's end and the number of my days...Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure." (Verses 4-5)
As Christians we need to focus on the eternal and live our lives to bless the Lord. While we are on earth, we have only one opportunity to live for the purpose for which we were made. Let us take every day as a gift from God to love and serve Him and to do the same for those around us. Don't miss an opportunity to say, "I LOVE YOU!" to your family and friends.
In the final chapter of Isaiah, the Lord asks a key question: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?" (Isaiah 66:1-2) The glory of the Lord comes wherever He rests and brings with it revival.
When we look back to 1 Chronicles 21 and 22, we see that King David purchased the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite so that he could build an altar to the Lord and sacrifice burnt and fellowship offerings on it to stop the plague that was killing the people of Israel. As he sacrificed, "The Lord answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering." (1 Chronicles 21:26) After this, David said, "The house of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel." (2 Chronicles 22:1) David made extensive preparations for the construction of the temple because his son, Solomon, called a man of peace and rest, was the kind of person God wanted to build His house.
All the officials of Israel were summoned to assemble at Jerusalem where David announced his plans. Solomon was commissioned to build the house of the Lord and to lead God's people in His ways. First Chronicles 28:12 tells us that David "gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind." The temple was built on Mt. Moriah, where the Lord appeared to David. There was great rejoicing and a spirit of unity with the people of God as they gave and gathered all the supplies needed for building the temple. On the day when it was dedicated "fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offerings and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple." (2 Chronicles 7:1-2)
The temple made with hands was eventually destroyed. But God had a plan for a new type of temple. Paul explains it: "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands." (Acts 17:24) He told the Corinthians, "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16) In Chapter 6, Verses 19-20, he gives more details: "...You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body." The Spirit of the Living God took up residence in the spirits of His people. Wherever the Spirit dwells there is glory and potential for revival. For this to happen our souls must bow to our spirits so that the Holy Spirit has priority and we follow His leading.
Around the world there are churches contending for revival and wondering what it will take for God to dwell in their presence. Sid Roth, in his book The Incomplete Church, asks some interesting questions: "What would the church be like today if we started from scratch and just followed the Scriptures? What would happen if we removed all tradition from Judaism and Christianity, and Jews and Christians came together as one? Let me introduce you to the Glorious Congregation--the emergence of the One New Man--Yeshua!"
God is looking for a house where He can come and dwell. He is looking for a people who will dwell in unity. (Psalm 133) "For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of two, thus making peace...In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit." (Ephesians 2:14-15, 21-22) Sid Roth says, "His objective is to 'gather together in one all things in Messiah.' (Ephesians 1:10) When the wall between Jew and Gentile is removed, the spiritual temple, God's dwelling place, will be restored, and this One New Man will release resurrection power to the Church that Paul calls 'life from the dead.'" (Romans 11:15) As we worship together in unity, God's glory will return. How I hunger for such a day! Will you join me in prayer for God to knit us together as One New Man so that His glory can be released in our midst?
God instructed Elijah to go to the top of the "mountain of God," Mt. Horeb, while He passed by. A powerful wind that shattered rocks, an earthquake and then a fire confronted Elijah, but the Lord was not in any of them. Finally, their came "a gentle whisper." This is how the Lord came to Elijah. (1 Kings 19:11-13)
The Lord still speaks in a gentle whisper, desiring us to stop our activities and be still before Him so that we can hear what He has to say. He has much competition through our world that is filled with sounds. Many individuals cannot walk down the street without plugged in ear buds. Computers and TVs offer us a plethora of talk shows where we can listen to people's opinions on numerous subjects. We are talking and texting our friends throughout the day and night. Have we remembered to set aside time to heed the voice of the Lord?
Our relationship with the Lord is dependent on hearing Him, and our well-being is dependent upon hearing and obeying Him. After crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites were introduced to the character of God. They began to see His characteristics manifest before them. The first one was Jehovah Rapha, the God who Heals. As God healed the bitter waters at Marah, He told them, "If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, I will not bring any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord who heals you." (Exodus 15:26) Notice the keys to good health: Listen carefully and Obey (Do what is right).
These directions are repeated in Deuteronomy 28. When Moses told the children of Israel the key to God's blessings, he said this: "If you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all nations on the earth, and all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obeyed the voice of the Lord your God." (Verses 1-2, NKJV) We must hear the voice of the Lord to know how to be obedient. Notice also that these instructions were the first ones that God gave to the Israelites after they came out of Egypt. In His economy, the things He places first have priority.
Jeremiah the prophet had to correct the children of Israel concerning their priorities and activities as written in Chapter 7 of his book. He stood at the gate of the Lord's house and declared, "Hear the word of the Lord...Reform your ways and actions...You are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless...The Lord declared, 'I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer.'" (Verses 2, 3, 8, 13) The Lord spoke through Jeremiah when He said, "For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people.'" (Verses 22-23, NKJV)
Jesus affirmed the instructions in the Old Covenant when He said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:22) As Believers we are in covenant with God. Our part is to listen for His voice and then obey His instructions. May I suggest that not only does this tell us that we should regularly set aside time just to hear from the Lord but should also be listening for His still small voice as we go throughout our days. We carry the Presence of God wherever we go and have opportunities to demonstrate His love to others as He directs us into situations and tells us how to reflect His glory. Let us tune ourselves to the Lord's frequency so that we can hear Him and obey.
Perhaps you remember a story that broke in 2004 about a sheep that was lost for six years. He ran away from his home in Bendigo Station, New Zealand, and hid in caves. "Faith Inspired" recently posted the story on Facebook. Named Shrek, he was one of a flock of 17,000 Merino sheep. This breed does not shed their fleece, unlike other breeds. After six years of growing wool he was unrecognizable as a sheep. He could hardly see because there was so much fleece in his face. We are told how dangerous it is for a sheep to carry such a weight of fleece. Shrek was shaved with his fleece weighing in at 60 lbs. A normal weight for sheep's fleece is just under 10 lbs. Dave Thomas, Head of Sheep Studies at the University of Wisconsin warned how dangerous it is for a sheep to carry so much weight for the following reasons: (1) Heat stress commonly occurs in the summer. (2) The weight creates mobility issues. (3) Vision is impaired. (4) If the sheep fall over, they may not be able to get off their backs.
What weight Shrek carried without a shepherd to care for him! This wanderer could represent any Christian who strays from our Shepherd. David, the writer of Psalm 23, writes about the Good Shepherd: "The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing." In Hebrew the word is Roi which means "watches over." We are blessed that God saw our great need for someone to watch over us. God gave His only Son, Jesus, to be the Lamb who laid down His life for us and the Shepherd who brings us home when we stray. Here is how Isaiah 53:6-7 expresses it: "We all like sheep, have gone astray, each has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
In mercy God calls us back to Himself. He wants us to remain in His flock so that He can lead us beside quiet waters and restore our souls. He guides us on paths of righteousness for His name sake. We need not fear evil for His rod and staff comfort us. (Psalm 23:2-3) A beautiful picture of our Shepherd is painted in Revelation 7:17. "For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
Our cave-hiding sheep, Shrek, carried a horrible burden from the weight of his fleece because he stayed away from his shepherd for so long. The Lord spoke to our issue of carrying unnecessary burdens in Matthew 11:28-30. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is all in as it tells us in John 10:14-18. "I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen, I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason the Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord..."
Christ our Shepherd, extends amazing love to us with a promise to care for us and lead us into our destiny. We belong to Him! Recognize that He spares nothing for our welfare. Let's not be like Shrek and carry unnecessary burdens that keep us from our Shepherd whose loving care will cause us to prosper and flourish.
God never intended for His people to be too secure in one place. He knows that it is through the journeys of life we will grow in our trust and understanding of Him and closeness to Him. The forefathers of Christianity written about in the Bible were always moving. The first journey we read about is one that was inspired by God. "The Lord had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. 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 peoples on earth will be blessed through you.'" (Genesis 12:1-3) Abram was faithful and went to the land of Canaan, as the Lord led. Here, Abram’s life of trusting in God grew.
And God proved Himself trustworthy by miraculously allowing Abram (now called Abraham) to impregnate his wife Sarah in her old age. Sarah bore a son who they named Isaac. When Isaac matured and was ready to start his own family, Abraham sent his senior servant on a journey to find Isaac a wife. Abraham told his servant that God would send His angel before him to help in finding the proper wife. (Genesis 24:7) Isaac's son Jacob also went on a journey to find a wife. He set up a pillar at a place where he rested in the city of Luz and called it Bethel—"The House of God." He promised to serve God and return to Him a tenth of everything that God gave him. (Genesis 28:18-22)
Joseph, the favorite of Jacob's 12 sons, took an unexpected journey to Egypt because his jealous brothers sold him into slavery. God was faithful to Joseph, pouring His favor upon him so that he was placed in a position of leadership and influence just under Pharaoh. During a time of great famine, Joseph's brothers came to him to purchase grain. This journey led to the restoration of their relationship with one another and to a new homestead for the family of Jacob (Israel). The family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob grew, producing fear in the Egyptians, so that they took them as slaves
After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God set into motion a plan whereby Moses would lead his people out of Egypt on a journey to the Promised Land where they established homes but forgot their God who had led them to freedom. God's plan for another journey formed long ago when the sin of Adam and Eve paved the way for all mankind to be separated from God. His chosen people were still sinning when God ordained that the ultimate journey would take place! The Son of God was to leave His heavenly throne to come to earth and live among His people. His life on earth would end with His death on a cross to satisfy the wrath and holiness of Father God. Jesus was the spotless Lamb of God who came to become a sacrifice for our lives so that we could have eternal life with Him.
We think of another significant journey that took place as we remember the Christmas story. Wise men from the east—probably Persia or present-day Iraq—may have been reading Daniel's writings that identified the time of the coming of the Christ child. As they studied the stars, they found the Lord's star and took a journey to Bethlehem to worship this King.
It is God's desire that we become people who search and move in His direction. Psalm 84 is a great encouragement for us in this regard: "Blessed are those who strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage." (Verse 5) We see how those who followed the Lord and journeyed with Him received amazing blessings. I believe that during this season we too should be setting our hearts on pilgrimage so that we come closer to the King that we worship.
A sentiment on a Hallmark Christmas card has touched my heart, and I would like to share it with you:
Christmas reminds us we're all on a journey...toward meaning, toward hope, toward love and lasting peace.
As we journey through this season, I am asking God to give us those things that touch our hearts, renew our spirits, and bring blessings to our world!
May our celebration of the birth of Christ take us to new places of revelation of His great love for us!
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning." (John 1:1-2) It was the Word released in the breath of God that created the universe.
To the Jews, God's involvement in the world is the meaning of the "Word." We see in this verse that God planted Jesus on the earth to be His personal presence. It was through the parable of the sower (Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8) that Jesus explained how the Word ("Good Seed") would produce a large crop when it is planted in good soil. Seed receives life and nourishment from the ground in which it is planted. Likewise, the Word planted in us comes to life, grows and multiples when we give it room. The enemy of our lives wants to sow bad seed into us. Just as seed uses up what is in the soil, so the enemy's "seed" depletes us if we allow it to root. How do we give enemy seed room to grow? This happens if we allow unforgiveness, bitterness, judgments, fear or lust, etc. to dwell in us.
Let's think about this in relation to the season that is upon us. The next four weeks are called "Advent"—a time for us to prepare for the celebration of the coming of the Christ child. In fact, one of the Christmas carols we sing reminds us to do this: "Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing." We must remember that the birth of Jesus is the season for the coming of the Good Seed—God's Word—being planted into every heart that will receive it.
In preparing for the planting of the Word, first we should recognize our need to do so. Earthly passions must be set aside so that we focus on our Savior. The Shunammite woman written about in 2 Kings 4:8-17 demonstrates how to prepare room for a carrier of the Spirit of God. She recognized that God's Spirit lived in the prophet Elisha. Desiring more, she spoke to her husband: "I know this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. Let's make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us." (Verse 10)
See how the woman prepared for every need that Elisha might have by providing a place for him to rest, eat and study? Elisha, of course, stayed with the Shunammite on several occasions and was so touched by her generosity that he wanted to give something back to her. She had few physical needs because she was "well-to-do." However, she had no son. Elisha called to her and said, "About this time next year you will hold a son in your arms." "The next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her." (Verse 16, 17)
Elisha demonstrated the heart of the Lord in his gift to the woman. When we prepare for the Word and give place for it, the Lord gives back to us in ways that are "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." (Ephesians 3:20) Now is the time to prepare the soil of our hearts to receive the Word, the Living Christ. We cannot allow the distractions of season to interfere with our preparations. We want the Word to be deeply rooted within us. I believe that as we do this the Lord will reward us with treasures from heaven far beyond what we can imagine.
The Lord's appointed festivals are first described in the book of Leviticus, Chapter 23. The Feast of Tabernacles is particularly unique because it last for seven days and God's people are instructed to live in temporary shelters for seven days as their ancestors did when they were brought out of Egypt. Leviticus 23:40 tells us, “On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees--from palms, willows and other leafy trees--and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days." Here is how Deuteronomy 16:15 describes this joyful festival: "For seven days celebrate the festival...for the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete." Reading through the Old Testament, one can see how faithful the Israelites were to follow the law when it came to celebrating the feasts. The exiles who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple settled in and "began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it..." (Ezra 3:2) In the seventh month they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. (Verse 4)
In my opinion, the most interesting reading concerning the Festival of Tabernacles occurs in Nehemiah 8:14-16. "They found written in the Law...that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month...'Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees to make temporary shelters'--as it is written." The unique part of the festival celebration with Nehemiah is that they cut branches from the olive tree and the wild olive tree. What a picture of the apostle Paul's dissertation on grafted in branches!
Israel is frequently referred to as an olive tree. The people of Israel are the branches. Paul recognized that many of his people did not receive the good news of Jesus as Lord. (Romans 10:16) Because of it, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear..." (Romans 11:8) "Because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” (Romans 11:11) Paul uses an analogy, describing the Jews as olive branches and the Gentiles as wild olive branches. "If some of the branches have been broken off, (Jews) and you, though a wild olive shoot, (Gentiles) have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourselves to be superior to those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you." (Romans 11:17-18)
One day the olive tree will flourish with the natural branches and the wild branches both grafted in. We read in Ephesians 2:15 that God's "purpose was to create in Himself one new man..." Jew and Gentile will live together in peace, both reconciled to God. As the Jews in Nehemiah's day laid the branches of the olive tree and wild olive tree on the top of their temporary shelters they would have been looking up at a picture of the future. One day Jew and Gentile together will worship the King of kings during this festival. (Zechariah 14:16-19) When and how this will come to pass is unclear. What is clear is that we will be worshiping The Lamb together in joyful celebration. What a day this will be!
The journey of the children of Israel through the wilderness for 40 years is recalled during the celebration called The Feast of Tabernacles, Ingathering or Sukkot. That celebration will begin at sundown tonight and is the greatest harvest feast of the year. The Jews build and dwell in temporary shelters called sukkahs or booths. The tops are open and covered with tree branches that allow those dwelling in the booths to see some of the stars in the sky. For seven days they have their meals or sleep in these temporary shelters. The Jews are taught to pray that God will send rain for the coming year since none falls between May and October.
In Israel, the borders of the Sea of Galilee have shrunk because of drought. Much of the land is desert and, its inhabitants are keenly aware of their need for water. On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles the Temple priests performed the Water Libation or Pouring Ceremony. During this time, impassioned prayers were lifted to God by worshipers for abundant rain. It is significant that water was collected from the Pools of Siloam (meaning sent or sending forth) and brought to the Temple in Jerusalem where the priest would pour it out, along with wine, onto the altar. While this pouring was taking place, the people and the priests sang Isaiah 12:3-6. "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. In that day you will say, 'Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for He has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.'"
For those of us who know Jesus as Savior, this Scripture is particularly meaningful. Yeshua is the Hebrew word for salvation. For us to have the abundant life that He offers we must draw deeply from the "wells of Salvation." The wells of Yeshua will never run dry. In fact, here is what He proclaimed: "Then on the most important day of the feast, the last day, Jesus stood and shouted out to the crowds--'All you thirsty ones, come to me! Come to me and drink! Believe in me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says!' Jesus was prophesying about the Holy Spirit that believers were being prepared to receive..." (John 7:37-39 - TPT)
Just as the Israelis cry for the physical rain, we must use this season to cry out for the rains of the Spirit to saturate us. Yeshua has already poured out blood and water from His side as He hung on the Cross. He was poured out like a drink offering so that we could have eternal life. He wants us to draw deeply from Him for deep calls unto deep.
We were designed to go from strength-to-strength (Psalm 84:5) and from glory-to-glory. (2 Corinthians 3:18) God's desire is to release blessings into our lives so that we can grow in our understanding of who we are as His children. Growth happens in cycles, which is one of the reasons God ordained for us to follow His Biblical calendar. As we align ourselves with the Lord's timing and purposes, we will grow to be more like Him. The cycles God set up are meant to lead us into greater intimacy with Him and higher levels of blessing.
Psalm 84:5 says, "Blessed are those who strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage." Holman's Dictionary defines pilgrimage as "a journey, especially a religious trek to a site at which God has revealed Himself in the past." In the Old Testament we can see how the Israelites went to Bethel, Gilgal, Shiloh, Beersheba and Mt. Horeb in their quest to find God. After David relocated the ark to Jerusalem, it became the place to go to commune with the Lord. Three times a year adult male Israelites were required to appear before the Lord for the major feasts. (Exodus 23:14-17, 34:18-23, Deuteronomy 16:16) These three journeys to Jerusalem are known as the "pilgrim feasts."
Those who have traveled to Jerusalem know that the City sits on a high elevation. In the journey to honor God one had to go up. This is called "Aliyah" or "the going up." In every year, season and circumstance of our lives, we are called upward. We must always choose the higher path as it leads to greater strength and greater glory.
The three pilgrim feasts in the calendar year include Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. A transaction and growth occur as we celebrate each one, and the journey mirrors the walk through the Tabernacle. At the first stop to the Outer Court we meet with the Passover Lamb who redeemed us and cleanses us so that we are ready for the next stop. Without the atonement and cleansing there cannot be the anointing by the pouring out of the Spirit of God. The second stop in the Holy Place is where we receive provision for our journey and empowerment by the Spirit of God. Now we are ready to travel to the most blessed season of our journey. It is the time when we get to come into the Presence of God—to tabernacle with Him in the Most Holy Place and to celebrate with joy the glory of the Lord.
Tonight, Jews will begin celebrating the three fall feasts—The Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. This month is one of great celebration for God's people as they blow the shofar 100 times in their worship service. This is a season to celebrate what God has already done and to rehearse what has been promised. (Believers recognize that Passover and Pentecost have been fulfilled, but the fall feasts remain to be fulfilled.)
The blowing of the ram's horn during Rosh Hashanah (Head of the Year) is done as a call to repentance. Genesis 22 is traditionally read in synagogues—the story of God providing a substitute atonement for Isaac after Abraham placed him on the altar of sacrifice. Ten days after the Feast of Trumpets, the most holy day on the calendar is celebrated—the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. Even though the Jews read about the substitutionary atonement provided for Abraham, many do not understand that the ultimate sacrifice was already made on Passover through the blood of Messiah Yeshua.
All of us need to set our hearts on pilgrimage so that we can grow closer to God. As vessels that carry God's glory, we carry the light of His love on our journey so that we bring others into God's Kingdom. One day the Lord will return for His Bride, the Church, to the sound of the trumpet. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) We want to be ready!
If we were to study the growth cycle of different kinds of plants, we would be in awe of the systems that God developed for them to mature into beautiful specimens. Such is the case for the sunflower. Have you ever driven by a field of sunflowers with their golden heads all facing the same direction and wondered why? There is an internal mechanism in these plants that enables them to turn to the sun. The scientific term is "heliotropism"--"helio" meaning sun and "tropism" meaning turn. This is also called "solar tracking."
The sunflower only has a single blossom so its goal is to grow a head that can produce as many seeds as possible. Inside the green parts of the plant is a hormone called "auxins" that are sensitive to light. The auxins migrate to the shaded part of the stem and behind the bud head to stimulate cell growth so that the shaded side of the plant grows longer and faster than the rest of the plant. Then the flower head follows the arc of the sun. At night, it repositions itself so that it is east facing and can begin the process of following the sun all over again in the morning. Note that even on a cloudy or rainy day the sunflowers still follow the sun.
By turning its face toward the sun, the sunflower takes full advantage of the light for photosynthesis, the process whereby it obtains energy for growth. Once the flower matures, it no longer tracks the sun but faces east all the time. By facing east, the flower is warmed by the morning sun and attracts pollinators, primarily bees, who travel from head to head and fertilize the centers so that they produce seeds. Is this not fascinating?
I see a correlation between the sunflowers and our growth as Christians. First, God planted each of us in the ideal place for relationship with Him. "...He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:26-27) Then, He placed within us the desire to worship. Everyone has their own "auxins," so to speak. David recognized this and expressed it in Psalm 27. "My heart says of you, 'Seek His face!' Your face, Lord, I will seek." (Verse 8) In Psalm 105:4 it says, "Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." Even when we go through dark times and the Lord is not so visible, we need to turn toward Him to help us in our time of need.
As we seek the Lord and find Him, we will be growing in the likeness of Him. God delights in watching us produce the fruits of His Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22. (Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) It is through our growth in the Spirit that we will begin to plant seeds in others so that the Lord will have a magnificent harvest. When seed is planted in good soil it "produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." (Matthew 13:23)
One day the Lord will return for His harvest. Scriptures tells us He will come from the east and all of us will face toward Him, our Lord and Master. Matthew describes how it will look: "For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthews 24:27) What a glorious day it will be! We must keep facing the Son to be ready for that day.
Joan E. Mathias