Rest is such an important part of the life that God wants us to live! He modeled that for us during creation. "Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating He had done." (Genesis 2:3) The Lord set up cycles of rest—weekly, monthly, yearly, and every seven years. Not only were the people to rest, but also their animals. (Exodus 23:12) In addition, there is provision for the land to rest. "But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards." (Leviticus 25:4)
The Scriptures on the land resting came to life for me as we drove past fallow fields on the way to church. Where fields were full of stalks of corn in early fall, they are bare in the spring. A field is left bare without a crop for a season so that it will produce a healthier and more vigorous crop in the season to come. "Fallowing" helps to increase the nutrients in the soil and increase the moisture in the sub-soil. The structure of the soil also improves. Another benefit to fallowing is that it disrupts the life cycles of pathogens because the host plant has been removed. Today, resting farmland is part of a crop rotation technique that farmers use. When the end of the resting period comes a cover-crop is often planted and tilled into the soil to replenish nutrients.
Observing the fallow fields reminded me that at the beginning of the Hebrew year 5782 (sunset on September 6, 2021) it will be the beginning of a Sabbatical year on the Hebrew calendar. Called the Shemitah year, it is the seventh year of a seven-year agricultural cycle and is still observed in contemporary Judaism. The Hebrew word Shemitah means release. During this year, the land is to be left fallow. Anything that grows voluntarily may be eaten, and at the end of the year, all debts are to be forgiven. Releasing the land from having to produce a crop is extremely beneficial to the soil and to the crops that will grow in the future.
God's call on humankind is to be fruitful for His Kingdom. One of the keys to fruitfulness in humans is rest. Repeatedly, the Lord reminded the Israelites of their need for rest. He told Moses, "The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed." (Exodus 31:16-17)
The Lord is a gardener and tends to the soil of our hearts. Just as rest for the land makes it more nutritious and productive, rest for our bodies makes them healthier and improves the ground in our hearts. Rest brings peace for our minds and hearts. It replenishes us with energy. When we rest from our labors and the thoughts in our minds, giving ourselves time to focus on the Lord, we enhance our relationship with Him. He intentionally set up patterns of rest for His children. Stepping into God's rhythms of rest can transform our lives. Let's be more intentional about seeking the Lord for ways to rest in His presence.
People from many nations gathered in Jerusalem for what was called "The Festival of First Harvest," or "The Festival of Weeks," or "Shavuot." This is one of three festivals where God told the Jews to come to Jerusalem. Offerings to the Lord were to be abundant, starting with an offering of new grain. Where yeast was forbidden at Passover, it was to be used in baking for the Feast of Weeks. "From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the Lord." (Leviticus 23:17)
Those who gathered to celebrate the Feast took the first and best of their harvest to bake two yeast-filled loaves to present as an offering to the Lord. Those two loaves, the Jews believe, represent the two tablets given to Moses on Mt. Sinai and the two loaves of bread offered in the Temple. There is more to the picture, in my opinion. Leaven, or yeast, represent sin so the loaves with yeast are a picture of both Jew and Gentile who are sinners in His sight. However, this changes when we accept the Son of God as our Savior through faith in Him. Our confession and belief open the Kingdom of God to all of us.
It took the Israelites 50 days to walk from Egypt to Mt. Sinai where they would receive the Word of God. Once entering the Promised Land, they harvested their crop of wheat 50 days after Passover. It was on the same day that the Jews would have been celebrating "The Festival of Weeks" (seven weeks and one day) that God ordained that He would pour His Spirit on those who waited for His perfect time. Indeed, as the Lord's followers waited in Jerusalem on this special day, another harvest was about to begin. The Word given at Mt. Sinai was to nurture obedience in His people for He was looking for a harvest of souls. The Holy Spirit poured out "on the crop" was the catalyst needed for the harvest of souls. Peter addressed the crowd of people who waited, and Acts 2:41 tells us, "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number that day."
The Church calls the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out "Pentecost" which means 50. I do believe that it would be wise for us to also remember that the Jews call this day "Shavuot." Rabbi Jonathan Cahn gives us some insight on the origin of this word. He directs our attention to Song of Songs 8:4 where it says, "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you..." Charge, in Hebrew, is the word "Shaba" which is the root of Shavuot. Consequently, Shavuot or Pentecost is to be the "day of charging." Rabbi Cahn says, "When God gave the Spirit, He was giving us a charge of entrustment, responsibility, and to live a Spirit-filled life...The Spirit in your life is a sign of God's commitment to you, and by the Spirit you are called and anointed to live a life of your commitment to God. The Lord has charged you, by the Spirit, to live a life of victory, praise, joy, and triumph. You have the power. Now go out and live a life worthy of the one who has so been charged."
Beginning at sunset, Shavuot or Pentecost will be celebrated. We can honor this significant day by asking the Lord to fan the flames of the Holy Spirit within us. We can remember and thank the Lord for His indescribable gift because without the sacrifice of Jesus there would be no Holy Spirit. And we can activate our call to go out into the world to share the love of God because we have been charged to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.
When the Israelites had traveled through the wilderness and were preparing to enter the Promised Land, God gave them reminders of their journey, instructions on how to live their lives, and promises for the future. The book of Deuteronomy is filled with these. We can read what God told them about the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 11:10-12. "The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end."
Throughout the time that they were moving toward Mt. Sinai God was drawing His people to Himself by revealing who He is and what He had in store for them. He told them, "Now, if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:5-6) He wanted a people who were set apart and formed in His identity. One of the concepts that was introduced to the Israelites was that of firstfruits. It required them to be dedicated to celebrating it at the beginning of the grain harvests and was an act of worship. They needed to go into their fields to select the first and best stalk of grain to present to the priests as an offering to the Lord. The firstfruits offerings were brought to the priests during the three primary feasts and at the beginning of each new month. The principle is that the first of everything belongs to the Lord—crops, livestock, and children. By giving the first part of their blessing to God, they were dedicating and sanctifying the rest.
The Israelites learned much as they spent 50 days traveling to Mt. Sinai where God would give them the law and a new identity as a people. On the Jewish calendar they moved during the end of the month of Nisan and the entire month of Iyar. The second month, Iyar, became a time of transition for them as they were led into a new level of relationship with the Lord. He introduced them to His nature. First, God showed them that He is Jehovah Rapha, the God who Heals. Then He introduced them to His names Jehovah Jaira, the God who Provides, and Jehovah Nissi, the Lord, my Banner of Victory. As they moved from Passover redemption to the place of praise and giving the Lord a firstfruits offering, they learned about keeping covenant.
God was indeed faithful to His children and eventually demonstrated to them that He was willing to give everything in an act of sacrifice that reverberates through the ages. God gave His Son, Jesus, as an offering of redemption. He was crucified, but resurrected, and became a firstfruits offering Himself. First Corinthians 15:20 says, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." It is no coincidence that Jesus, our Passover Lamb, was resurrected on the day of firstfruits, when the children of Israel would have been presenting their Passover barley sheaf to the priests who lifted it up before God as an offering to Him.
How does this relate to us today? God has given us His very best in the sacrifice of His Son. Just as the children of Israel brought their first and best to God, we can use this time up until Pentecost to present a daily offering to the Lord. A way for counting God's goodness was introduced to the Israelites. We can read about it in Leviticus 23:15-16. From the first day of a firstfruits offering, they were to count 50 days and then present God with another firstfruits offering during Shavuot, called Pentecost by the Church. Today this is called counting the Omer. As they counted, it was important for God’s people to remember the goodness of God. Like the children of Israel, let's be dedicated to giving the Lord a daily thanksgiving for His goodness and love between now and Pentecost.
Yearly the Jews commemorate the time when God freed the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. They tell the story at a Passover Seder which means "order." Today's Seder has changed from the original Passover meal. As families and friends gather together, they use a guide called the Haggadah which means "The Telling." To help us remember the events of the children of Israel in Egypt and on their way to cross into the Promised Land, the Seder uses symbols.
Many Christians do not realize that when Jesus broke bread and shared it and the wine with the disciples at the Last Supper, he used the same elements shared at the Passover feast. There is an interesting mystery concerning the matzah (bread with no leaven) that is used in the service. At the beginning of the Seder, the leader lifts up three pieces of matzah. Why three? Could it be that they represent the Trinity? (Father, Son and Holy Ghost)
The matzah itself is striped and pierced like Jesus at the crucifixion. Think about this interesting part of the ceremony: The middle piece of matzah is removed and lifted up to be broken in half. This piece is called the "Afikomen," a Greek word meaning, "that which comes after." The larger piece of broken matzah is wrapped in a white linen napkin and hidden. So too, the body of Jesus was wrapped in white linen and hidden away in a tomb.
At the end of the Seder the young ones search for the hidden matzah so they can bring it back to those at the table. The Seder cannot be completed without the Afikomen. When it is found it is unwrapped and passed around so that all may partake of it. Can we assume that the Afikomen represents Jesus? I think so! The Messiah, Jesus, is the One who must still come to His people. He comes to everyone. He is the one who who led His disciples in the Passover feast at the last supper before His death. "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, 'Take it; this is my body.' Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,' He said to them. " (Mark 14:22-24)
Romans 11:25-26 gives us insight into God's plan to reveal Himself to all mankind. "...Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written, 'The deliverer will come from Zion; He will turn godlessness away from Jacob.'"
None of us can be complete without our Messiah, Jesus. He is revealing Himself to many through signs, wonders, and miracles. Let us pray for the eyes of the Jewish people to be opened as they celebrate their Passover Seders next week. The Lord is not willing for anyone to perish. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Jeremiah the prophet frequently spoke with the Lord and listened to His explanations of the future for Judah. His emotions were conflicting: He was angry that his people lied, committed adultery, and worshiped idols, but at the same time, he had compassion on them. He was truly an advocate for his people. After listing their sins, the Lord posed a question to Jeremiah: "Should I not punish them for this? Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?" (Jeremiah 9:9) The Lord's conclusion is the following: "I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins." (Jeremiah 9:11) "It is because they have forsaken my law, which I set before them; they have not obeyed me or followed my law, instead, they have followed the stubbornness of their hearts..." (Jeremiah 9:13-14)
At the time when Babylon came to Judah their evil king, Jehoiachin, was only 18 years old and reigned for only three months. Jeremiah had warned the young king that the Lord was not pleased with him and that he would be handed over to King Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah was the only prophet that told the truth. He was in a constant battle with the false prophets. Just as Jeremiah prophesied, the people of Judah were overcome by the Babylonians, and many were taken into exile to Babylon. Afterward, Jeremiah had a vision of two baskets filled with figs. One basket was filled with fresh, ripe figs while the other was filled with rotten ones. The rotten figs represented those people who remained in Jerusalem or who left for Egypt. God made it clear that those in exile would be cared for. "I will watch over and care for them, and I will bring them back here again. I will build them up and not tear them down. I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them hearts that recognize me as the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly." (Jeremiah 24:6-7 - NLT)
Encouraged by the Lord's words, Jeremiah wrote to the captives in Babylon with instructions to move forward with their lives and to pray for their captors. His letter to the exiles is contained in Jeremiah 29. "This is what the Lord of Heaven's Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives He has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: 'Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.'" (Jeremiah 29:4-7 - NLT)
The Lord continued to give details of the plans He had for His people in captivity. "'You will be in Babylon for 70 years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,' says the Lord. 'I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.'" (Jeremiah 29:10-14 - NLT)
We cannot allow discouragement or dire circumstances or distressing situations to overcome us. We must move forward knowing that God is with us. "He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) Many of us are discouraged by the way our country seems to be headed and about the decisions our government leaders are making. Let's be encouraged (brought to courage) by the truth that nothing can separate us from the love of God. He has plans for our future. The exiles in Babylon were told to pray for the welfare of the nation where they lived. They were instructed to continue living their lives in the way they did in Jerusalem. We need to take these instructions to heart. Let us continue to live our lives in the fear and admonition of the Lord and to pray for those who are leading us at this moment. At the appointed time, the glory of the Lord will cover the earth and revival will spring up. We will see the transformation of our world as many come to know our Savior. The way we live our lives can be a testimony of God's love and peace to those who do not know Him yet. Our prayers will make a difference. The Lord looks for agreement from us for His plans for a hope and a future for us. Let us bring heaven's plans to earth!
Did you ever think that when God placed you on the earth, He may have done so for you to accomplish one specific purpose? He planned the time and place that you would live. (Acts 17:26) He knew the circumstances that would surround you, the battles you would have to fight, and the thoughts that would go through your head. Consider that His divine purpose for you includes plans to elevate you and bring you closer to Him as you pursue victory. Perhaps you are in a battle right now and are facing a giant that seems impossible to defeat. I always say, "The greatness of the call determines the fierceness of the battle." Be conscious of the gifts you use to fight your battle, because through them God will reveal your destiny and will bring you into greater intimacy with Him.
Think of this: One day and one person can change the world and the future. When we tap into our destinies the power of heaven will come to earth to help us accomplish the goal that God has placed before us. It is fitting that we read the story of Esther in this month. It appears to me that she was a person that God sent to earth for one specific purpose: to make the king of Persia happy so that He would join her in saving her people, the Jews. Esther, along with her parents and cousin Mordecai, was part of the company of exiles brought to Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar. When Esther's parents died, she was adopted by Mordecai. She was then selected to be part of the harem of King Xerxes of Persia at a time when a Jew hater named Haman, the kings highest official, was plotting to kill all the Jews in the empire. Because of her beauty and sensitivity to the king's desires, Esther was crowned queen. Mordecai asked her to take advantage of her position and beg for the king's mercy for the Jews. He posed this question: "Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14 - NLT)
Adar 13 was the date set by Haman to murder all the Jews in the Kingdom. We are presently in the month of Adar, which means strength. It is the last month on the Hebrew calendar and is associated with joy and a time of unexpected reversals. It is a time for uncovering hidden truth. I hope that these Adar characteristics give you hope as they do me. We have a moment in time where we can participate in the transformation of our own nation. God wants us to join in a prayer of unity for justice and righteousness to prevail in it. Never doubt that our presence as Bible-believing, God-loving people who dispense the fruits of the Spirit to those around us can make a difference. I believe that we are here "for such a time as this." We are on assignment to use the gifts within us to carry out God's call on our lives. Adar is the month to develop our war strategies against the enemy. Doing so helps to stop our fears ad gives us the ability to move into the fullness of the next season. The spiritual new year holds blessings for us. Let's be joyful about who God made us to be as we pursue our identities in the Spirit.
We see the attributes of the month of Adar played out in the Feast of Purim that occurs in the middle of the month. The enemy set a date for the destruction of the Jews, but God used a single Jewish girl, walking in her God-given destiny, to save her people and to transform that date into one of great joy and celebration. For three days, Esther stirred up her courage and prepared for her meeting with the king by spending time in fasting and prayer. Mordecai and the Jews of Susa joined her. She demonstrated to the Lord that her relationship with Him was more important than anything else by dedicating these three days to pursuing His direction. And, as she assured herself of God's faithfulness, she was able to prepare to go before King Xerxes without fear, saying, "And if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16)
Of course, Esther did not perish! The king extended his golden scepter to her, Haman's evil plan was exposed so that he and his family were destroyed, Mordecai was promoted, and the Jews transformed the focus of sunset on the 13th to sunset on the 15th of Adar to joy and celebration. These days are called Purim because Haman originally set the date for the demise of the Jews by casting dice or "pur." Even today Purim is celebrated by the Jews. They recognize the importance of one day and one person placed on the earth "for such a time as this." What is our holy purpose—the call of God on our lives? Let us pursue Him, our Maker and Creator, and live out our God-given destinies. Let us be the people God created us to be "for such a time as this."
A small army of dedicated Jews is all that was needed to take back the temple in Jerusalem from the Syrian Greeks. King Antiochus Epiphanes, ruler of the Greek empire, had a goal to unify his kingdom by making Hellenism the only acceptable culture. Judaism was outlawed. Jews were executed for observing their Sabbath and Feasts or for circumcising their baby boys. The Temple became a place where pigs were sacrificed to the image of the god Zeus.
A priest named Mattathias and his five sons led the Jewish rebellion against the Syrian Greek empire. One of the sons, Judah, was nicknamed The Hammer or "Maccabee" in Hebrew. Consequently, the revolutionaries became known as The Maccabees. It took the rebels over three years to obtain victory. When they re-entered the Temple, they found only a one-day supply of consecrated oil to light the Menorah. The Maccabees decided to light the Menorah even though it would have taken eight days for the priests to consecrate more oil. Miraculously, the Menorah kept burning for eight days. Since that time, the Jews celebrate Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication, or the Feast of Lights for eight days beginning on Kislev 25.
If we look back in history to 323 to 171 BC, we see that some of the Jewish people were adopting the more liberal lifestyle of the Gentiles around them by ignoring Torah and inciting others to join them. The pattern of moral decay within Israel led to severe oppression and persecution of the Jews. What started as an alternative lifestyle for some of the Jews became a state-mandated way of life. There is so much to learn from history! Do you see the repetition of the pattern of moral decay in our own society? There is a warning in Hebrews 2:1 against drifting: "We must pay the most careful attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." Almost without perception, the Church has embraced worldly ways in an attempt to increase their following. The results are devastating. We see the ways of the world becoming normal. Compromise is the order of the day, while we need to be more firmly rooted and built up in Jesus. (Colossians 2:7)
The enemy of our souls has been at work. The time that we live in is chaotic and volatile. Our freedoms and rights to worship the Lord are being stolen from us. We are in a season of darkness. What is being done in the dark must be exposed to the light. Could there be a more perfect time for us to carry the light of Jesus into the world? Jesus used the time of the Festival of Dedication to reveal that He is the Son of God. When He spoke to Nicodemus about salvation He said, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:19-21)
While speaking to the crowds of people, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) We who believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world carry His light. Our prayers for our lives, our churches, and our nation can change the course of history. Let us use this season to keep the fires of our prayers burning. Ask the Lord to help us focus on Him and to remove the old mindsets that keep us in bondage. Pray that our churches will be cleansed and restored in purity and power. Pray that our nation and its leaders will walk in the truth and take a stand against the enemies of God. Ask the Lord for HIs miraculous provision of light and truth and His guidance on the path of righteousness. He is faithful to those who dedicate their lives to Him. We can be assured that light will be victorious over darkness.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...and God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." (Genesis 1:1, 3) What is light? John 1:4 says light is life. "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men." According to the dictionary, light is something that makes vision possible. It is "visually perceived radiant energy." Light is called electromagnetic radiation because its wavelengths vary and carry different amounts of energy. Western Washington University's website says, "Our brains interpret waves by assigning different colors to different wavelengths," Violet and blue carry short wavelengths and more energy than long wavelengths of red and burgundy.
The colors blue, red, and purple are talked about frequently in the Bible and represent different aspects of God's nature. Red represents passion and speaks to us of sin and redemption. It is the color of blood that Jesus shed for our forgiveness. Blue is seen in nature—the sky and water—and represents the Holy Spirit, divine revelation, and peace. Purple is the color of royalty, majesty, nobility, and kingship. This past week I was reflecting on the significance of these colors and how the combination of red and blue create purple.
Exodus 39:1 says, "From blue, purple, and scarlet yarn they made woven garments for ministering in the sanctuary..." This refers to the clothes of the priest who ministered to God. When the priests of Israel asked for gifts to construct the Tabernacle one of the prescribed offerings was "blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen." They were used in the making of the Tabernacle curtains and veils.
In his devotional, The Book of Mysteries, Jonathan Cahn gives us an interesting perspective on the three colors used in sewing cloth for the priests clothes and the Tabernacle curtains and veils. He says, "The Tent of Meeting was the place of the joining, the reconciliation, the meeting of two realities, God and man...Blue is the color of the sky, the heavens...representing the heavenly, God...In Hebrew, the word for man is Adam. Adam comes from the Hebrew word for red. Red is the color of the Middle Eastern earth from which man came. The scarlet red is the symbol of sin and guilt. Red is the color of man...Purple is the joining of blue and red. And so, it speaks of the joining of God to man, heaven to earth...the joining of all that is holy to all that is not...so totally joined that God will appear as sin." Jesus came from heaven to receive our sin. He joined humanity to make us one with Him. How fitting that He was covered with a purple robe by the mocking soldiers (John 19:2) as He made heaven and earth, God and man, blue and red one—purple!
As I look at the chaos in our country and the division among people with different beliefs, my heart is grieved. Our two main political parties have claimed red and blue to represent them. There is little hope for seeing the joining of these parties. Differences in beliefs create friction while demons desire to cover us in darkness so that no colors will be visible. Where does the Body of Christ fit into the drama that is being played out in the United States today? We must call forth the light! We must take our authority as children of the Most High God to break off every curse and trauma laid on humanity. We must release the sound of our voices to call forth God's healing and restoration. We must remember that we were made in God's image and are co-creators with Him as we release the sounds of worship to our righteous God. We must affirm God's original plans and purposes for us to be a people of love and a godly nation that shines forth His light and life.
With God's help, there will be a way where their seems to be no way. Call forth an awakening that sets the captives free and brings them into their destiny. Join with the chorus of Believers to declare, "I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of His righteousness..." (Isaiah 61:10) I wonder...Could the color purple prevail?
God uses unorthodox ways to demonstrate His nature and purposes. So it was with Hosea the prophet. His name means "Jehovah (The Eternal One) is Salvation or Deliverer," and he lived among God's chosen people during a period when their leadership encouraged a materialistic, immoral, and unjust lifestyle. God watched as His people, chosen to live a godly lifestyle as an example to the entire world, and to be God's bridge of redemption to the pagans, were totally unfaithful to Him. They prostituted themselves to the very ones they were called to bring to the Redeemer.
Imagine how you would feel if God said to you, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord." (Hosea 1:2) Hosea's adulterous wife, Gomer (meaning completion), bore him two sons and one daughter who were named by God: Jezreel (God plants or sows), Lo-Ruhamah (not loved), and Lo-Ammi (not my people). Hosea's life was to represent the heart of God in loving the unfaithful.
God found Himself in a position of having to punish the children of Israel for chasing after other gods and abandoning their commitment to Him. Verse 12 of Chapter 4 says, "A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God." In his book, Hosea describes some of the detestable behaviors engaged in by the people of God during his day. "They practice deceit, thieves break into houses, bandits rob in the streets." (Hosea 7:1) "They speak about me falsely. They do not cry out to me from their hearts." (Hosea 7:13-14) "Israel has rejected what is good...They set up kings without my consent..." (Hosea 8:3-4) "Israel has forgotten their Maker..." (Hosea 8:14) "But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors, the roar of battle will rise against your people…” (Hosea 10:13-14)
Does Hosea's description of his times sound familiar? They do to me! We are living in a day that is characterized by our vile behaviors and affections to other gods. The spirit of prostitution appears to be alive and well. From His people Israel, God was looking for a repentant lifestyle. God said, "...Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears...For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:4, 6) While God had some harsh words for Israel, He also had some words of compassion. He remembered the time when they were faithful to Him: “When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree..." (Hosea 9:10) Early fruit on a fig tree was considered especially delicious. When God found Israel in the desert He was overtaken by her appearance and taste. He confessed, "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel...My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused." (Hosea 11:8)
Mitch Glaser, Ph.D., wrote a book titled God's Plan and Purposes for the Jewish People. He makes some interesting points that are worth repeating: "The Scriptures never suggest that Israel's disobedience would outlast God's grace...Instead, when God wants the nation to repent and again receive His blessings, the Lord would do what was necessary to turn the people back to Him. The book of Hosea proclaimed the message to Israel that God was not going to reject them, but would wait for, or even initiate, their repentance." (Page 23)
God's compassions toward Israel have never failed. I believe He has those same compassions toward the United States of America. He is the One who helped establish our country through guiding Christopher Columbus to our shores. He brought the pilgrims to our lands so that they could establish a country with righteous foundations and freedom to worship the One True God. The Lord said of Israel, "I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon, he will send down his roots…” (Hosea 14:4-5) God is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) Let us call out to Him for healing, restoration, and revival that our nation will return to Him and be like the early fruit on a fig tree.
We can read the prescribed way that the leaders of Israel were to take a census in Exodus 30:11-12. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them.'" Here is the bottom line: God wanted His people to trust Him in all things. The small ransom required (a half shekel) was to support the service of the Tent of Meeting and became part of the Israelite worship of God. When King David made plans to take a census of the fighting men in his ranks without collecting the half shekel, Joab, the commander of the army, asked him, "Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?" (1 Chronicles 21:3) Joab was overruled and spent nine months and 20 days counting the troops. After receiving the report, David was conscience-stricken. "And he said to the Lord, 'I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.’" (2 Samuel 24:10) However, the Lord's anger rose, and He instructed David's seer, Gad to tell him the ramifications of his action.
It is interesting to note that God gave David the opportunity to select the punishment for Israel. His choices were three years of famine in the land, or three months of fleeing from Israel's enemies, or three days of plague. David told Gad, "Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men." (2 Samuel 24:14) The plague in Israel took 70,000 lives. When the angel of the Lord was about to ravage Jerusalem, the Lord became so distressed that he said, "Enough! Withdraw your hand." (1 Chronicles 21:15)
We must remember that Jerusalem was at the heart of God's plans for HIs people. The angel of death was stopped at the very site where God wanted the temple to be built—the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. David told him that he would like to purchase the threshing floor so that he could build an altar of sacrifice to the Lord to stop the plague. Araunah generously offered to give David the oxen for the burnt offering, the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. Here is David's reply: "No, I insist on paying full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing." (1 Chronicles 21:24) David paid for the site and sacrificed burnt and fellowship offerings to God. As he called on Him, "The Lord answered him with fire from heaven."
(1 Chronicles 21:26)
It is the place of costly sacrifice where the fire of God falls and destruction ends. It is the place where God's mercy is poured out, and we position ourselves for the future. There is much significance to the site God chose for David’s costly sacrifice. It is Mt. Moriah, whose name means "seen by Jehovah."
Our heavenly Father sees us through the lens of our destiny. If we look back to Abraham, we see that God selected David’s altar for another costly sacrifice. Abraham was instructed to take his only son, Isaac, to Mt. Moriah where he would lay him on the altar as a sacrifice. His willingness to trust God to make good on His promise gave Abraham the faith he needed to bind Isaac to the altar. Both Abraham and David saw God's judgment and mercy meet on Mt. Moriah, the site God had chosen for the temple to be built before time began. Indeed, shortly after David had his encounter with the Lord, he began to make preparations for the building of the Temple on this holy land. He said, "The house of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel." (1 Chronicles 22:1)
Does what happened to David and the people of Israel have any significance for us today? Here are the results of my contemplations: (1) I believe that The United States of America has been ordained by God as a godly nation whose purpose is to worship Him, to show other nations the generosity of God through blessing them with costly sacrifices, and to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. (2) I believe that God is grieved by the way we have pulled away from our godly roots, established by our forefathers. Our habit of counting our resources instead of trusting in the Lord must be put to an end. (3) I believe we could experience the mercy of God being poured out upon us if we laid costly sacrifices before Him. Would our investments in Kingdom ministries and fervent prayers for revival catch His attention? I think so! Oh God, "Will you not revive us again that your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your mercy, Lord, and grant us Your salvation." (Psalm 85:6-7 - NKJV)
Joan E. Mathias