A recent letter from Mitch Glaser, President of Chosen People Ministries, touched my heart. Referring to the brutal attack on the Jews in Israel by Hamas, he expressed his desire to be thankful to God even though he is grieving deeply. I quote Mitch: "It is hard to believe we are entering the season of Thanksgiving. It seems so inappropriate to be thankful at this moment in time. I will admit I am having trouble thanking God in light of these last several weeks. I know the apostle Paul wrote, 'In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.'" (1 Thessalonians 5:18 - NKJ)
"These are my people," Mitch continues, "a nation called by the Sovereign and all-powerful God for His holy purposes." He asks some challenging questions: "How can we come to grips with what happened and be thankful? How can we keep ourselves from being consumed by hatred and a desire for vengeance? How can we be grateful during this season of Thanksgiving in light of these tragic events? The answers are all the more elusive because of the graphic nature of the crimes appearing so often on social media, the news, and websites replaying the horrors, not letting us forget...Yet, I know God wants me to be grateful—not for what happened, of course—but for His grace and mercy we find on the path of suffering."
As I reflect on the raw truths shared by Mitch, I recall the wisdom that is shared by Elisabeth Elliot in her book, A Path Through Suffering. She explains that the meaning of suffering can only be understood in the context of The Cross. We must pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. (Luke 14:27) We must look to Him for the next grace that we need in life. We can stand on the promises of God. Elisabeth encourages us: "We have our Father's promise, linking the pain to an unimaginable glory: 'If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.'" (2 Timothy 2:12)
God desires for us to become more Christlike. Suffering was a landmark of Christ's life. The Psalmist writes, "Show me Your ways, Lord. Teach me your paths." (Psalm 25:4) Our time on earth is designed to help us know Christ more so that we grow up like Him. When we share in His sufferings, we increase in our understanding of Him and our intimacy with Him. Willingness to praise the Lord in our sufferings makes us Kingdom partners with Him so that we demonstrate His life and love to those around us.
When we go back to Mitch's original questions about giving thanks while we suffer, we must look at our situations from both an earthly and heavenly perspective. Is it possible for us to look at suffering as a divine opportunity? Let us visit the foot of the Cross and remember the suffering of Jesus on our behalf. Here is the opening to thanksgiving. Thanksgiving and praise lead to worship. And, when worship is offered in our pain and suffering, it rises to the throne of God in heaven as sweet incense. Because it is offered sacrificially, this form of worship draws the Lord near to us. The intimacy we then have with Him is without comparison. Heaven is a place of peace and joy, so sacrificial worship can only take place on earth. Thus comes our opportunity!
God understands our suffering. He sent His Son as a Redeemer. Somehow the Lord will redeem our trials and afflictions so that His glory falls. Like Mitch, I am grieved and overwhelmed with sorrow for the agony of the Jews in this hour. However, God has not left us without a remedy. We have the gift of prayer so that we can lay our burdens at His feet. He is the one from whom we draw breath. As our Shepherd, He restores our souls and leads us on paths of righteousness for His name sake...He is with us. His rod and staff comfort us. He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies...Surely goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23 – NIV)
In just two weeks, the Jews will be celebrating their New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Central to their celebration is the reading of the story of Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, at the command of God. Because of his act of faith in God, Abraham has become known as The Father of Faith. He began to demonstrate faith when God first spoke to him at the age of 75. God said to him, "Go from your country, your people, and your father's household 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 people on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:2-3) Abram, as he was known then, put feet to his faith and set out for the Promised Land.
Abram had another encounter with God when he was 99 years old. God said to him, "As for me, this is my covenant with you. You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations." (Genesis 17:4-5) To seal the promise God was making, He required all males to be circumcised as a sign of this everlasting covenant.
Faith was to become the key for all nations to be part of the family of God. That faith must be established through our belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and died for our sins. If we make this decision, the righteousness of Christ is given to us. Romans 4:9 tells us that "Faith was credited to Abraham as God's righteousness!" (TPT) Faith in God and righteousness go hand-in-hand. Romans 4:3, in The Passion Translation, explains this. "Because Abraham believed God's words, his faith transferred God's righteousness into his account."
Romans 4 also makes it clear that this righteousness is available to every person on the face of the earth. Look at Romans 4:10-11. "How did he (Abraham) receive this gift of righteousness? Was he circumcised at the time God accepted him, or was he still uncircumcised? Clearly, he was an uncircumcised gentile when God said this of him! It was later that he received the external sign of circumcision as a seal to confirm that God had already transferred His righteousness to him by faith, while he was still uncircumcised." (TPT)
God's promises to Abraham were ultimately fulfilled through Jesus Christ who is in Abraham's line. Notice that God did not select a perfect man in Abraham. We can see the mistakes that he made and sins that he committed. He learned through these and grew in faith. The ultimate test of his faith was when he was told to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. He traveled approximately 50 miles to Mount Moriah and had an abundance of time to reconsider what he was about to do. But Abraham demonstrated that he loved God more than he loved the promise. Through his commitment to follow God's command, he was rewarded with blessings that confirmed his faith in God.
We can be assured that our faith in God will be tested. That is the only way for it to grow. God wants to increase His righteousness in our "accounts" through increasing our faith. Why else would He send his Son to earth to die? "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) It seems to me that when we pass our tests, we get a double bonus: increased faith and righteousness.
"A Haven in Time"—that is what the month of Elul is called. We entered into this sixth month on the Hebrew calendar on Thursday evening. Why is Elul called a haven? It is because our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, appointed this time as one where His mercy and forgiveness are extended to us in a personal way. If we look back at the history of the children of Israel, we see that the prior two months (Tammuz and Av) are known for the sins committed against the Lord. Because of their sins of lust and unbelief, the Israelites built the golden calf and refused to enter the Promised Land. Elul is meant as a time for repentance and redemption.
Today, God reaches out to us even in the midst of our sin. His overwhelming desire for intimacy with us overrides any anger over our disobedience. During Elul, He extends the opportunity for us to prepare for the high holy days of the next month through repentance now. The Lord extends mercy in a very personal way by making Himself more accessible to us. The Jewish people say of Elul: "The King is in the field." God's desire for intimacy with us is so great that He leaves His heavenly dwelling to come to earth and make Himself accessible in the field of our lives. We have an entire month when the Lord is here to remind us of His loving kindness and love.
For me, it is particularly significant that God picked the month of Elul to send the angel Gabriel to tell Mary about God's plan to use her to birth His son. "In the sixth month, God send the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary...the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.'" (Luke 1:26-27, 30-31) "...So, the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35) During the month of Elul, God took His first step to put into motion His plan for His Son to come to earth to live in a tent of flesh for 33 years. John 1:14 describes what happened: "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." The Passion Translation gives us a good visual of John 1:14. "And so the Living Expression became a man and lived among us! And we gazed upon the splendor of His glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father overflowing with tender mercy and truth."
God's desire has always been to dwell with us. Look back to Exodus 25. In this part of Scripture, the Lord instructs Moses to build Him a tabernacle. Verse 2 says, "...You are to receive the offering for Me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give." The purpose for the tabernacle is described in Verse 8. "Then have them make a sanctuary for Me, and I will dwell among them."
It is hard to imagine such a loving God. The Lord made the ultimate sacrifice for us so that we could live with Him for eternity. "This is love: He loved us long before we loved Him. It was His love, not ours. He proved it by sending His Son to be the pleasing sacrificial offering to take away our sins." (1 John 4:10 - TPT)
During Elul, God gives us an invitation to experience deeper measures of HIs love. It is so fitting that the name Elul is a Hebrew acronym, "Ani L'dodi V'dodi Li" which means "I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine." (Song of Solomon 6:3) Should we not respond positively to God's loving invitation for intimacy? Let us be sure that our hearts are clean, open, and prepared to experience Him in this haven in time.
A recent visit to a salmon hatchery in Alaska gave me a new-found respect for the way these fish were designed. There are several varieties of salmon (King or Chinook, Sockeye, Coho, and Pink), each unique in their appearance. However, all of them have the same characteristic of being able to orient themselves toward their original home when it is time for them to spawn. God has built into them their own global positioning system. Scientists believe that salmon navigate through the earth's magnetic field similar to the way a compass operates. It takes a salmon about one year to imprint by learning the smells and chemical nature of their surroundings during the first year of their lives.
As young fish, salmon migrate to the ocean where they gain the majority of their body mass. In their feeding grounds they consume foods that are high in carotenoids, which is the pigment that is stored in their flesh and gives them the pink-orange color. After spending two to five years in the ocean, their homing instinct becomes strong, and they begin their journey back to the place where they were born. It is believed that in addition to using the earth's magnetic field, salmon are conscious of the day length, the sun's position, water salinity, and temperature gradients. They travel from June through August in order to spawn between August and November. Salmon return to the stream where they were born because they know it is a good place to spawn. They have the ability to swim against the current, and it is reported that they can jump as high as twelve feet. Their homing instinct is so strong that if they get off track, they die.
If God designed salmon with such a homing instinct, can you imagine how He designed us as His children? Each of us has a God-given destiny that is meant to draw us into intimacy with Him. Acts 17:26-28 confirms the Lord's intentions for us. "From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, 'We are His offspring.'"
Coming to know the Lord personally is like finding our way home. The salmon come home to spawn so that the life of their species continues, and then they die. We come home to have everlasting life with the Lord and to join all creation in worshiping Him. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) The prophet Jeremiah describes the "GPS system" that is a part of God's people: "In those days, at that time...the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the Lord their God. They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces toward it. They will come and bind themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten." (Jeremiah 50:4-5)
Romans 1:19-20 describes the way God designed us. "In reality, the truth of God is known instinctively, for God has embedded this knowledge inside every human heart. Opposition to truth cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance, because from the creation of the world the invisible qualities of God's nature have been made visible, such as His eternal power and transcendence. He has made His wonderful attributes easily perceived for seeing the visible makes you understand the invisible. So, then, this leaves everyone without excuses." (TPT)
May I encourage you to use your internal "GPS System" to increase your intimacy with the Lord? All of us have an amazing blessing to be able to have a personal relationship with The Creator and Sustainer of all life. The Lord wants to spend eternity with us and calls us to stay on track as we make our way on His path of life.
Can we agree that God used King David to inspire several generations? He continues to touch generations through the Psalms that he has written. I wonder, however, if he had in mind saving the Psalms as an encouragement for his children and a legacy for generations to come. Although most of them demonstrate praise and worship, there are also those that talk about pilgrimage, petitioning God, or confessing a lament. They are a picture of David's relationship with God that shows us transparency and honesty. Psalm 139, for example, was written when David was contemplating God's love for him in the way he was made. He expressed contempt for God's enemies, and yet realized that he could have had sin in his own life. So, he invited God to search and know his heart. "...Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way of everlasting." (Verses 23-24)
When David was coming to the end of his life he appointed his son, Solomon, to be king over Israel and to oversee the building of a temple for the Lord. He gave a charge to Solomon: "...Be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to Him, and keep His decrees and commands, His laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the Lord may keep His promises to me: 'If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their hearts and souls, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.'" (1 King 2:2-4)
In David's desire for his son to succeed, he spoke words of advice directly to Solomon and left the Psalms for him to read. Because he asked God for wisdom, Solomon became the wisest man on earth; however, he had a soft spot that would become his undoing. 1 Kings 11 tells us that he loved many foreign women. "They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, 'You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.' Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love." (1 Kings 11:2)
The Bible reports, "So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely as David his father had done." (1 Kings 11:6) Solomon's behavior was so offensive that God raised up adversaries against him so that the end of his life was fraught with battles. When he died, his son, Rehoboam, was appointed king. What kind of legacy did this father leave for his son? There is the written legacy through the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon, but his actions did not agree with his written words. His legacy was one of idol worship; the demonstration of his love for God was not obvious to Rehoboam. When he began his reign over Israel, the Kingdom was torn from his hands because he followed the wrong path of leadership. Rehoboam lost the loyalty of ten tribes of Israel. Idol worship became the trademark of his day.
We could continue to look down the family line of David to see how each successive son behaved. Needless-to-say, the legacy of a father can impact generations for good or bad. Our prayer for our fathers and men who have influence on subsequent generations should be for them to develop a heart like God's. The apostle Paul told the Thessalonians, "For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting, and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His Kingdom and glory." (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12) Paul's heart toward those he visited was like God's heart of love toward us. All of us can develop this kind of heart as we connect with the Lord in greater intimacy with Him to leave a legacy of love.
The one who created the heavens and the earth existed before there was creation. Genesis 1:1 used the Hebrew word Elohim which translates God, Mighty Creator, Omnipotent Power. With His breath He made everything from nothing, spoke order into chaos, and light into darkness. Elohim is the plural form of El that gives recognition to the truth that He is a Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On the sixth day "God created man in His own image..." (Genesis 1:27) His desire was and is to fill our lives with blessings. Psalm 102:27 tells us about the infinity of God. "But you remain the same, and your years will never end."
After destroying life on earth because of its wickedness, God started again with Noah and his family and demonstrated that He is the God who keeps covenant with His people. Nations were birthed from Noah's sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. From Shem's family came Abram and another covenant with God. God said, "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 the earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:2-3) Abram was blessed with abundant provision through God. To broaden Abram's understanding of Elohim, God said to him, "Do not be afraid Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward." (Genesis 15:1) The covenant God made with Abram (who He renamed Abraham, meaning "Father of a multitude") was sealed with a sign. Every male was to be a sign of the covenant through circumcision. In the generations to come, all male children would be circumcised on the eighth day. (Genesis 17:12) Eight is the number of new beginnings.
The story of Abraham and his relationship with God was verbally shared through the generations. However, when the children of Israel were detained as slaves in Egypt, much of what had been handed down from generation to generation was forgotten. After 430 years of oppression and slavery, God appointed Moses to lead them to the Promised Land and used the events of their journey as a way to reintroduce His character. This took place during the second month on the Hebrew calendar. This month has two names: Iyar and Ziv, which means radiance. We are in the first week of this month and can learn from the Israelite journey. Since this month is linked with light it is time for us to ask God for revelation and to radiate God's glory as we learn more about Him.
As we look back at the events of this month, we can see that God's desire is for greater intimacy with His children. One of ways that we can accomplish this is through getting to know His names. With multiple names, we have multiple ways to relate to Him. Worship leader Paul Wilbur wrote a song called "The Diamond Turns." He asks the question: "Who is like You Oh Lord among gods? Who can worship as You shine? Who could even know in just a single gaze all the glory of Your face?" God is like a diamond with multiple facets. He is radiant; His light is blinding! Every facet of the Lord is unique and meant to help us in our journey on earth.
Again, let's look back at the children of Israel and see how they were developing a new level of relationship with God as they traveled. They saw that God would fight for them as He opened the Red Sea. In the Song of Moses they sang, "The Lord is a warrior." (Exodus 15:3) Then they learned that God is Jehovah Rapha (The God who Heals) when he purified the bitter waters of Marah. God led them as a shepherd so that they became familiar with His name Yahweh Rohi. As they grumbled about the lack of food, God provided manna for sustenance and called Himself Jehovah Jaira (The Lord Will Provide). When they went to battle against the Amalekites, the Lord fought with Joshua and the troops and helped Moses hold up his hands in victory through the battle. Moses built an altar to His name, Jehovah Nissi. (The Lord is My Banner)
With God everything is personal. May I suggest that we investigate some of the names of God during this month of radiance. As we get to know Him more intimately, we will radiate HIs light and glory.
Why is it that some children seem to be born with a predisposition toward a specific focus in life? My only explanation for this is that God makes it part of their DNA. Such was the case for Evan Roberts, a young revivalist from Wales with an unquenchable passion for the presence of the Lord. Born on June 8, 1878, he was part of a family of Calvinist-Methodists. I surmise that God intended this to be, so that his hunger for revival would be encouraged. As was the case with most men who lived in Southern Wales, Evan's father worked in the coal mines. When he was in a mining accident, Evan was taken out of school to work in the mines. However, his love of the Lord and of God's Word was the foundation upon which he built his life. His Bible went to the mines with him daily. He even shared a Scripture with the workers as they went down into the mine and encouraged them to meditate on it during the workday.
It was at age 13 that Evan had an encounter with God at his church named Moriah Chapel. He became obsessed with living a life that pleased the Lord and regularly asked himself the question, "What would Jesus do?" Evan's life as a teenager was marked by fervent prayer. His dedication to God and desire for intimacy with Him brought him spiritual power. He felt called to enter full-time ministry and focused his long prayers on asking God to bring revival to his Welsh community. He told the congregation at Moriah Chapel, "I have reached out my hand and touched the flame. I am burning and waiting for a sign." (Page 82, God's Generals by Roberts Liardon)
On October 31, 1904, Evan's 13-year prayer burden was answered. He saw the fruit of his prayers through a revival that broke out among a group of young people who received Christ as their personal Savior. While the Holy Spirit was poured out in the southern part of Wales, God orchestrated revival in villages in north Wales. At Moriah, Evan shared his belief that God had promised to save 100,000 individuals. Revival meetings took place nightly. Those who attended the meetings were instructed by Evan to "Pray, believe, and wait." He also told them to pray a specific prayer: "Send the Holy Spirit now for Jesus Christ's sake."
Revival spilled out on to the streets and into homes, workplaces, and shops. Many traveled from England and Scotland to participate in the Wales revival. The bulk of their meeting time was filled with singing. But Evan was convinced of the priority of prayer. He said, "We may sing all night without saving. It is prayer that tells, that saves, and that brings heaven down among us. Pray, friends, pray!"
The consistent, fervent, unending prayers of a young man transformed the southern part of Wales and spread revival around the country and into others. Evan believed that the Holy Spirit of God would bring revival as the prayer bowls in heaven were filled. Oh, how I desire to see that conviction fall upon our nation! I believe that only the Lord can change the destructive path we are on and bring us back to the godly foundations from which we have fallen. Evan Robert would pray: "Bend the church and save the world. Bend me. Bend me." Let us join together in this prayer to fill the bowls in heaven so that they overflow and pour revival upon us.
The eleventh month on the Hebrew calendar, Shevat, started one week ago. Tzadik is the letter in the Hebrew alphabet for this month and symbolizes "The Righteous One." Jeremiah prophesied the coming of the Righteous One in chapter 23 of his book. The chapter is titled "The Righteous Branch." "'I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,' declares the Lord. 'The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which He will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.'" (Jeremiah 23:3-6)
This description of our Savior as the Branch is quite interesting to me since on the fifteenth of Shevat the Jews celebrate what they call, "The New Year of the Trees" or "Tu B-Sh'vat." Rabbis used this date to determine the beginning of the agricultural cycle for Biblical tithes of fruit. The most important part of a tree's structure is its root system. The roots feed the branches that produce leaves and fruit. Their job, in addition to anchoring the tree, is to take in water and nutrients that help the branches grow healthy and strong and produce good fruit. That is why the location for a tree is critical. Farmers prepare their soil by adding organic matter to it. They may also look for a planting location near the water so that their trees can be well irrigated.
Did you know that in the prophetic realm large, leafy trees represent powerful and prosperous kingdoms? (The Prophets Dictionary, by Paula A. Price, PhD) Chuck Pierce's book, When God Speaks, says that trees also represent people. Kingdoms are made up of people, each one making a contribution to their kingdom. As children of the Kingdom of Light, we must be rooted in fertile soil. Colossians 2:6-7 gives us directions on where to root. "So then, just as you receive Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." If we are rooted in Christ then we take in His love and righteousness and are destined to produce good fruit, "...fruit that will last." (John 15:16)
We, as children of the Most High God, (El Elyon) are made in the image of the Lord, Our Righteous Savior. Why is righteousness so important? It means we are in right standing with God and conformed to His image. Our righteousness in God comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Our goal is to become like Him. It is available to us as it says in Romans 3:21-22. "But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through Jesus Christ to all who believe."
There is a promise in Mathew 5:6 for those of us who desire to be like our Savior. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." Are we firmly anchored in Him? Do we take in all the good He has for us? How productive are we? In this month of Shevat, let us be especially mindful of where we are planted, what we take in, and how we use what our Righteous Lord provides so that we can produce good fruit for the Kingdom of Light. God bless you.
In the region of Moriah on Mt. Zion, two significant events took place. This spot, chosen by God, is one where burnt offerings were offered to Him. This type of offering gave off smoke that ascended to heaven. The purpose of the burnt offerings was to make atonement for the people and to present an aroma pleasing to the Lord. (Leviticus 6) Two individuals in the family line of Jesus were told to ascend the mountain for the purpose of giving God burnt offerings. We should note that since the location was on a mountain, one had to go up. Abraham, the Father of our faith, was the first one to ascend the mountain with his son Isaac. He had been instructed to offer his only son as a burnt offering. The Hebrew word for burnt offering used in this Genesis 22 story is "Olah." Rabbi Jonathan Cahn explains, "Olah is the whole offering because it ascends."
Years later, King David found himself in the same place where Abraham had ascended to present God with a burnt offering. David had committed a sin against the Lord by taking a census of his fighting men. A plague was sent to the land of Israel as a punishment for David's sin. Seventy thousand people died until God had mercy on them. David was instructed to "Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite." (2 Samuel 24:18) "David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered his prayer on behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped." (2 Samuel 24:25) 1 Chronicles 22:1 tells us God's intention for this spot. "The house of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel."
The Jewish people who lived in Israel were required to "go up" to Jerusalem to present their offerings to the Lord at the temple built on this sacred spot. Scripture tells us multiple times that Jesus went up to Jerusalem to the temple. Ultimately, He would go up the mountain to become the very offering that ascended into the heavens. Actually, the entire life of Jesus was an "olah." Jesus did this by offering His life as a sacrifice. He died to His own will and gave Himself completely to Father God, becoming a forerunner for us.
In King David's Psalm 24 there is a question that we should pay attention to: "Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place?" The Passion Translation says it this way: "Who, then, ascends into the presence of the Lord? And who has the privilege of entering into God's Holy Place?" Here is the answer: "Those who are clean—whose works and ways are pure, whose hearts are true and sealed by the truth, those who never deceive, whose words are sure. They will receive the Lord's blessing and righteousness given by the Savior-God. They will stand before God, for they seek the pleasure of God's face, the God of Jacob." (Psalm 24:4-6 - TPT)
Proverbs 30:4 also asks a question: "Who has ascended into heaven and descended?" (NKJV) The Hebrew word for ascended in this verse is "Olah." Jesus was sent to earth as an offering that would ascend into the heavens. He is our model for how to live life on earth—how to be an "Olah." He gave up everything to ascend as a whole offering. He was exalted as He bowed low. We are called to live as Jesus did, dying to the flesh and giving ourselves completely to God. It is the only way to go up!
The Feast of Tabernacles, which begins tonight, is a time of remembering God's faithfulness to the children of Israel while they were in the wilderness. Yet this celebration is also for remembering how the Lord brought them into the Promised Land. The sukkah (a temporary dwelling made of broken branches) represents their wilderness journey. However, fruit is present in the branches to represent what was to come in the Promised Land. We could look at this time as one that joins together the wilderness with the Promised Land. Rabbi Jonathan Cahn says that the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles is a joining together of the wilderness with the Promised Land. We, as children of God, could say heaven and earth are being joined together. How appropriate that Jesus taught His disciples to pray, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)
For God to have more intimacy with us (His greatest desire) there needs to be a connection between heaven and earth. That is one of the reasons that the Lord set up times and seasons for special meetings with Him. All of His feasts come to a culmination during the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. The name of this feast should draw us back to the first time God spoke to Moses and instructed him and the Israelites to construct a tabernacle for Him where He would dwell in their midst. (Exodus 25:8) The Hebrew word "Shakan" means to dwell. The first time this word appears in Scripture is in Genesis 3:22-24. God had to bar Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden after their sin, so He placed cherubim at the entrance. They were to dwell at the entrance to guard the way to the Tree of Life. In this case, the dwelling of the cherubim was an act of kindness.
The desire of God to dwell with His people is shown in many places in the Bible. Exodus 29:45-46 says, "Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them..." God calls the place where He abides with His people the "dwelling for His Name." (Deuteronomy 12:11) The prophet Joel ends his book with a statement that tells us where God will dwell with His people on earth: "The Lord dwells in Zion!" (Joel 3:21) The tabernacle was the temporary structure where God dwelt with His people. Once Israel settled in the Promised Land, they build a permanent structure called the Temple. This edifice was built by Solomon, and God instructed Israel to walk in His statutes and keep His commandments so that He could live among them. He said, "And I will live (dwell) among the Israelites and will not abandon my people, Israel." (1 Kings 6:13)
As explained by Psalm 74:7, the Lord's instructions were not followed. "They defiled the dwelling place of Your name." This did not stop the Lord's pursuit of His people. He is compelled to draw near to us. Look at Zechariah 8:3. "I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem..." The prophets consistently declare that God will dwell among His people. Isaiah 7:14 explains the great lengths that God goes to for intimacy. "Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call Him Immanuel," meaning God with us. The gospel of John brings clarity to this: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." The Feast of Tabernacles is our reminder of God's great desire to dwell with us. Jesus/Yeshua is the tabernacle of God among us. He desires to tabernacle with us. He encourages us to use this season as one to sit in His presence and dine from His table of delights. John 14:23 takes us back to what God said to His children in the wilderness. "...Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home (dwelling place) with them."
Not only are we meant to dwell with the Lord, but we are a dwelling place for His Holy Spirit. Let us use this week called The Feast of Tabernacles to connect with the Lord by setting aside time to contemplate His goodness, listening for His words of affirmation, and celebrating that He is, indeed, God with us, "Immanuel."
Joan E. Mathias